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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
Oct - Dec 2008
New user-friendly archives - Easy access to all previous Nature Notes dating back to November 2005 -
CLICK HERE


La Belle Vilaine plant list - CLICK HERE .

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

Birdwatching holidays in South Brittany and Loire Atlantique. 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 fledged - see photos in July 08 Notes.
Moth trapping evenings for our guests here at La Belle Vilaine.
NEW!! Possibility of Tuesday changeovers - trial period for cheaper ferry crossings. Contact us.

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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 over 2 years of month by month archives available we have decided to condense the Nature Notes to cover each season. Any big changes in the wildlife we see will be reported on this first page.

October 2008 - We enjoyed lovely weather throughout the month - as is very often the case here in October. We had several species of butterfly still on the wing, including Wall, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Large White, Small Copper and Small Heath.
Birds in the garden included several sightings of Black Redstart and the Little Owl continued to visit its favourite post outside the kitchen window. In the woods the mixed flocks of tits had the usual Cresteds amongst them and the Jays were busily collecting thousands of acorns. Swallows continued to pass over on migration with dwindling numbers until none were seen during the last 10 days or so. Sandwich Terns were seen over the river. Cattle Egret began to move back to the area in larger numbers for the winter. Two Brent Geese were flying over the mouth of the Vilaine Estuary on Thursday 23rd and by the following week I was seeing larger numbers, but still only 15 at a time. A count of 7 Avocets feeding just before high-tide in Estuary, brightened up a lunch-hour picnic in the car towards the end of the month.

November 2008 - The surprise of the month came on Thursday 6th was a small flock of House Martins circling the chuch spire in Penestin. Hen Harriers (single females and then a pair) were seen on 3 occasions quartering the fields just behind our house. Black Redstarts continued to visit until mid-month. A Barn Owl called as it hunted just the other side of our hedgerow in the dark one evening and the Little Owl was surprised off it's usual perch early one morning as we let the dogs out. On sunny days throughout the month butterflies came out to enjoy the warmth - a Red Admiral was seen on Wednesday 26th. Redwings and Fieldfares finally arrived on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 respectively and set about stripping the berries of our Spindle Trees. The birdfeeder has remained empty throughout the summer months - the birds here seem to find plenty of food naturally (in contrast to our old garden in the UK) - we have now begun to feed them again and have very large numbers of Great and Blue Tits, Chaffinches (no Bramblings as yet) and Greenfinches. The Starling roost in La Roche-Bernard is well-attended at the moment, on Thursday 27 I parked-up and got out to enjoy the spectacle on my way to a lesson - there were thousands of individuals drawing amazing patterns in the sky just above my head.
As I was putting Gracie through her paces on the agility course in the garden on Wednesday 26th a Cirl Bunting was calling from a nearby post. A Firecrest has been a regular visitor to our hedgerow - again normal for the time of year. A badger crossed the road in front of my car on Wednesday evening as I drove home from work.

December 2008 - Exciting new species for our local woods ! Coal Tits (Mésange noire) - these lovely little birds were regulars in our garden in the UK, but since moving here 4 and a half years ago we haven't seen a single one .... until today (Saturday, 6th) when suddenly the usual mixed flock of tits (Long-tailed, Blue, Great and Crested) were complemented by about 6 individuals. It comes to something when the sight of Coal tits is more exciting than Cresteds, but that's life here! Also present were the usual Goldcrests, Nuthatches and a Great-spotted Woodpecker. Whilst we stood at our favourite vantage point high above the river Vilaine we heard the unmistakable call of a Black Woodpecker (Pic noir) calling up on the path we had just left.
Yesterday evening as I called Harry (our cat) in from the far end of our garden he and I were both surprised by a couple of
Barn Owls (Effraie des clochers). They were so busy with their dispute, calling loudly and even locking talons briefly, as they flew very low over the grass that they didn't seem to notice their astounded observers. This is a species that we regularly see and/or hear, but I have never witness such drama before. Also yesterday we began to see sizeable flocks of wintering Lapwings (Vanneau huppée) in the fields as we drove along not far from home.

Sunday 21st - As I write this update, through the window, I have my eye on a group of 15 CATTLE EGRET (Héron Garde-boeufs) which have been feeding in the next-but-one field but now appear to be thinking about settling for the night in 2 trees. Other highlights this week have been more sightings of Hen Harrier (Busard St. Martin), both male and females; the arrival of BRAMBLINGS (Pinson du Nord) and the increasing numbers of FIELDFARE (Grive litorne) and REDWING (Grive mauvis). Flocks of tits continue to have the same species mentioned and Goldcrests ( Roitelet huppé) are around in good numbers. So far this month we have heard Black Woodpeckers on 4 occasions in the woods near home. On our walk today we had good views of both Great and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers (Pic épeiche and épeichette) as well as a Short-toed Treecreeper (Grimpereau des jardins). A Cirl Bunting (Bruant zizi) sang for us as we walked back home along the lane.
On the Vilaine Estuary I have twice seen a Grey Wagtail (Bergeronette des ruisseaux) feeding alongside the resident Common Sandpiper (Chevalier guignette). Here also I had a high-count of 20 Avocet (Avocette Elégante).

Finally, an omission for the report at the beginning of this month 4 CHIFFCHAFF (Pouillot véloce) were feeding in a garden in the neighbouring village on the first Sunday of December.

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.