Self-Catering Holiday Gite Accommodation South Brittany France

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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.

Tues 26th Sept

OK, so I took the summer off - but now it's "La Rentrée" for part-time English Teachers and so I've woken up! Also an e-mail from a family in the UK who have booked 2 weeks here next July prompted me to re-start my nature notes - until then I thought it was only my parents who bothered to read my missives! If you do read these notes, then please contact me by e-mail from time to time to let me know I'm not wasting my time - thanks.

Highlights over the summer have been:- PINEMARTIN seen by Paul one morning on his way back from the boulangerie at St. Dolay - it crossed the road in front of him, only about a mile and a half from home. Needless to say I'm very envious! SWALLOWTAIL butterflies continued to show themselves until well into this month. CLOUDED YELLOWS are still about. HOOPOES were seen right up until the second week of September. BLACK KITES - becoming scarce now after frequent sightings all summer (I did catch sight of one last Thursday from the gîte window). RED SQUIRRELS were seen by several guests. Both PIED and SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS - one of each stopped-off in the garden, on the same day, en-route to warmer climes. REDSTART - one was present the day after the flycatchers. KESTRELS have had a very good season and we regularly saw a group of up to 6 individuals who seemed to be practising the flying skills together. CATTLE EGRETS were seen in good numbers on fields in the Loire Atlantique area and will now stay around for the winter. We have bought a small yacht and have been out on the river Vilaine frequently (hense the lack of nature notes!!!) where we have had several views of KINGFISHER and GREAT CRESTED GREBE, but still none of those elusive otters! I could go on, but better to leave it there and start again in October.

Wed 26 July The weather has continued to be extremely hot and dry, with the exception of a very impressive thunder storm yesterday evening. Today I saw a small-ish Fritillary in the garden - unfortunately I didn't have the camera to hand and it flew away - however, I think it may well have been a Meadow Fritillary. A SWALLOWTAIL butterfly flew over my head shortly afterwards and the Clouded Yellows continue to visit the garden frequently. There are still good numbers of Black Kite around and reports of Hoopoes continue to come in from friends and neighbours.
Wed 12th July Weather as yesterday. We found Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies along the river. A HOOPOE flew over the garden this morning and as we ate our lunch a SWALLOWTAIL butterfly flew past the window.
Tues 11th July Today has been hot and sunny again bringing out more butterflies. We walked down to La Fontaine De St. Cry and saw several butterflies including Camberwell Beauty, White Admiral, Queen of Spain Fritillary, Small Skipper (we think - it was certainly not a Large Skipper), Brown Hairstreak and Purple Hairstreak. We also found large numbers of Beautiful Demoiselle both mature and immature.
Mon 10th July After a rainy day yesterday, today the sun shone all day. And with the sunshine came a host of butterflies - many of them new to the garden list. The most exciting, for me, was the MAP BUTTERFLY which I had never seen before. Next a type of Skipper which I only saw briefly - maybe a Grizzled or Chequered. Also we had a SILVER-WASHED FRITILLARY - a huge orange butterfly and unmistakable. There was also a SWALLOWTAIL - which is quite a frequent visitor. Other butterflies included:- Brimstone, Gatekeeper, Brown Argus, Meadow Brown, Large Skipper, Large and Small White, Clouded Yellow, Small Heath, Comma and Peacock. That makes 16 species! To see photos of some of these (taken by me with our new camera today!) click on the link above.
Fri 7th July A cool day and quite overcast. We went down to the Grande Brière nature reserve this afternoon and saw a very large flock of Sacred Ibis (Ibis Sacré), 2 Spoonbills (Spatule blanche) and a NIGHT HERON (Bihoreau gris) which was very visible flying around and then perched in a tree and several Cattle Egret (Héron Garde-bœufs) in breeding plumage - these in the fields around St. Lyphard.
Birdwatching holidays South Brittany, France

Sacred Ibis (Ibis Sacré)
Birdwatching holidays  Loire Atlantique

A very distant Night Heron (héron Garde-boeufs)
Thurs 6th July

The weather has cooled slightly and there has been distant thunder but no rain. There are plenty of MARBLED WHITE (Demi-deuil) and CLOUDED YELLOW (Souci) around and yesterday a Large Skipper (Sylvaine) was also in the garden. Two Swallow's nests in Marie's barn have spiky-haired chicks - second broods this year, whilst their older brothers and sisters who fledged from the first brood are practising landing on the telephone wires (rather shakily!).

Fri 30 June Extremely hot! We took a walk along the river at Arzal and saw a WHITE ADMIRAL butterfly and 2 Black Kites. One of the Kites circled over the water for a few minutes as I followed it in my binoculars then, suddenly, it went into a dive and scooped up a fish from the surface which it took away into the trees! I have read about such behaviour, but had never witnessed it before.
Thurs 29th A very hot day - 30 degrees plus. Lately we have seen good numbers of Marbled White butterflies. I have heard Skylarks singing above the neighbouring field on several occasions lately - they have two broods and so I hope this means that they will have a second chance to successfully raise their young - many of their first brood would have succumbed to the blades of the harvesters.
Fri 23rd The sun has returned at last. Yesterday evening we were in the garden with friends (and their dogs on the agility course) when a HONEY BUZZARD flew over being mobbed by kestrels. I saw the same bird (I presume) again today circling above the road towards Nivillac.
Tues 20th We had several very hot days (up to 32 in the shade), but the weather turned again on Sunday afternoon. The local farmers have all been busy cutting the grass meadows for hay-making this worries me greatly, especially near the river, as I am not sure that the hundreds of nesting Skylarks, Pipits etc had fledged.
Wed 14th Cooler with some rain. Over the last few days we have had increasing numbers of Meadow Brown and Small Heath butterflies in the garden. Yesterday we had a CINNABAR MOTH and we have seen SWALLOWTAILS on a couple of occasions also. The Cuckoos continue to call daily and we have been watching two Carrion Crow chicks growing in their (very exposed) nest at the top of a dead tree in the neighbouring field.
Sun 11th Another sunny, heavy day with just a smattering of rain around midday. We spent the afternoon with a large crowd of friends at a local pic-nic area by a pond. Here we saw a Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellule Déprimé in French - "depressed dragonfly" which must be taken from part of its latin name "depressa" as he didn't look particularly unhappy!!!) and two Beautiful Demoiselles (Caloptéryx Vierge - again following the latin).
Fri 9th Still hot - 25 degrees in the shade still and it's 8.30 pm. We have seen both Clouded Yellow and Swallowtail butterflies in the garden today and during a walk around La Roche Bernard we saw our first Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the year (late - but maybe we haven't looked in the right places!). Paul surprised a large, green lizard basking on the compost heap at the bottom of our field/garden.
Thurs 8th The hot weather continues. We took the girls down to the river for a swim and walking back home saw a HOOPOE fly overhead. This was very close to the place we regularly saw a pair ealier in the year.
Mon 5th Over 25 degrees today. We now have Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper butterflies regularly but today's star of the show was a SWALLOWTAIL butterfly, which came to have a close look at us whilst we were eating our lunch on the terrace! There is a brood of blue tit fledgelings busily chasing their parents around the trees and I have seen both male and female Blackcaps collecting insects.
Sun 4th Hot and sunny at last! We spent the day at the Kerveney Lake near St. Dolay attending a fête. The lake was smothered in white lillies. On the way to the evening open-air disco and fireworks display we saw a Hoopoe.
Sat. 3rd
Normal service should now be resumed for the Nature Notes. The awful May weather coupled with an extremely hectic work schedule did nothing to inspire me to put "fingers to keyboard" (as opposed to "pen to paper", that is!!). There must have been a lot of casualties caused by the strong winds and heavy rain over the past 3 weeks, which seemed to be never-ending . It is almost certain, sadly, that our Kestrels' nest has failed - they have not been seen for over a week, where they should normally be busy feeding hungry chicks. It is not surprising, as they had chosen to nest very high up in the oak tree and would have had little protection from the elements. We will continue to watch just in case.
Thurs 1st
The sun is finally with us and with it has come the first fledgelings - Starlings and Sparrows.
Click here to see nature photos taken in our garden

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.