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Bienvenue à La Belle Vilaine
Self-catering, holiday cottages on the South Brittany/Loire Atlantique border in France.
Friendly family run gite accommodation where dogs are welcome.

Nature Notes from La Belle Vilaine Gites, Brittany

November and December 2009 - scroll down page for these reports

New user-friendly archives - Easy access to all previous Nature Notes dating back to November 2005 -

Click here for a full (bi-lingual) list of Birds, Butterflies and Moths seen in our garden

Birdwatching holidays in South Brittany and Loire Atlantique. See bottom of page for details.

Possibility of Tuesday changeovers - trial period for cheaper ferry crossings. Contact us.

Use REFRESH button (on your tool bar) to ensure the page is up-to-date.

If you are planning a holiday and wish to know what species are possible at certain times of the year, please refer to the Archives page. As we now have 4 years of month-by-month archives and numerous photos of species recorded available we have decided to condense the Nature Notes into monthly report at the end of the month. Each report is now divided between the groups of species - Bird, Butterfly, Moth, Dragonfly and Mamal.
One of the best times of year to visit to see the wildlife is in April and May.


I will begin with an up-to-date sighting. On Sunday 10 th January, whilst out walking our dogs and in view of home, we heard the un-mistakable calls of a BLACK WOODPECKER. This species is resident here and we see and hear them sporadically throughout the year the last sighting I had was as I drove to work during November and Paul saw another on 12 th January. Without knowing the call you would have continued to walk by, but we spent a few minutes waiting and scanning the woodland from the road. Our patience soon paid off and Paul spotted our chap as he hammered on a dead tree. We were only about 100 metres from him and he continued his work un-deterred, moving from one tree to another. In the end we continued our walk leaving him to himself.


The weather was surprisingly warm throughout November and we didn't even light the wood burner until the end of the month! That also had an impact upon the number of winter migrants, such as Fieldfare, Redwing (which were both relatively scarce for the time of year) and Brambling, of which there was a round number! However, on 3 occasions we saw a Great White Egret very close to home. Jays and Red Squirrels were out and about in good numbers busy stocking up for the cold spell ahead. Little Owls were very busy during daylight hours calling from the chimney tops of the houses in our village. We also had good evening views of Barn Owls on several occasions and Tawny Owls continued to be heard at night too. Another regular visitor to the garden was the Black Redstart of which there were at least 3 flitting around the garden on several days.

As mentioned in my report for September and October, some butterflies were still on the wing in November notably Clouded Yellows and Red Admiral.

One other sighting worth mentioning was that of a Salamander unfortunately it was a rather flat specimen on the lane outside our house! We have seen live ones in the past, so this was not a surprise sighting for us.


December began well and we escaped the snow that other areas experienced towards the end of the month. (We had a couple of centimetres the Friday before Christmas, which thawed before the end of the day and that is all – still no snow to date – 12th January).

Numbers of Fieldfare increased dramatically, but the Redwing population continued to be lower than other winters. Still no Bramblings sighted, although Chaffinch flocks were large and numerous.

The stars of the show during December here at La Belle Vilaine were, undoubtedly, the Starlings. They had been about in increasing numbers from the last week of November and each evening we enjoyed their cacophony in the trees bordering our garden. They were busy stripping our Rowan trees of their red fruit and also feeding on the recently-ploughed field next door! We began estimating the numbers – 100, 300, 500 …… and then on Sunday, 6th December I managed to get the flock on video - see below. I’ll leave you to count them, but we reckon the numbers were into 4 figures by then. The flock headed off towards La Roche-Bernard, where there is a huge roost near the port on the river. The numbers visiting our garden rose as the “jungle drums” worked their way around the roost – which is, after all, one of the advantages of such behaviour. Safety in numbers, warmth and communication being the name of the game. A week later and the spectacle had ended – they had exhausted the supply of food here and followed other Starlings to pastures new each morning.

Cheryl had good views of a male Hen Harrier quartering the fields near her house, not far from here. We also had regular encounters with Crested Tits and Cirl Buntings this month. Lapwing numbers are high, with the usual wintering flocks. The Cattle Egrets currently number between 6 and 8 individuals feeding daily in the field at the bottom of the garden.

All but one or two of the above sightings were made either from our garden or whilst out walking our dogs in the lanes, woodland and along the river planes around our house. Sightings in December would have been better, had I not been stuck indoors for nearly 2 weeks with a throat infection, followed by a bad back!

Starling flock - garden - 6th December
Look in the bottom, left-hand corner of the screen. Listen for the loud “whoosh” as the flock changes direction.
La Belle Vilaine plant list - CLICK HERE .
Let us use our extensive local knowledge to help you to look for exciting species such as:
Bluethroat, Black Kite, Black-winged Stilt, Whiskered and Black Tern, Hoopoe, Black Woodpecker,
Red Squirrel, Camberwell Beauty, Swallowtail .... Click here for details of our last-minute deals for mid season breaks at low season prices.
Birdwatching breaks available all year.
White Stork breeding colony - see photos in July 08 Notes.
Moth trapping evenings for our guests here at La Belle Vilaine.

La Belle Vilaine
Self-catering, holiday cottages on the South Brittany/Loire Atlantique border in France.
Friendly family run gite accommodation where dogs are welcome.