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Creature Comforts

A Welcome Return Visitor

After our little sojourn in South Africa we have both become quite a pair of  twitchers.  One of the delights of Spring after a long cold winter is the arrival of the summer visitors.  This year the first to arrive was the Hoopoe, followed by the Cuckoo and then the Swallows.

My heart soars when I hear the wonderful songs of these birds for the first time in the year.  I know that the better weather is arriving and summer barbecues are on the horizon.

When we first arrived at Bellebouche our first sighting of the hoopoe was down the lane.  A pair were nesting and we would catch a glimpse of them occasionally and  hear their calls frequently.  Over the years they, and their progeny, have moved closer and closer until …

Hoopoe

One morning, while Adrian was making toast,  this little fellow flew to the window and looked in.  Adrian ran and grabbed his camera and took some photos before he disappeared.

Hoopoe

As I sat in the kitchen he returned back and seemed to be chasing a fly on the window.  The fly was on the inside but the hoopoe wouldn’t give up …

hoopoe

After a good 10 minutes he then flew off, only to return a few days later to tap on the window again.  We now have a pair , who visit nearly every day and sit on the barns opposite or patrol our lawns.

I can’t wait to see their young and hope they bring them to our garden to show them off !

Peeping Tom !

Sat enjoying a light snack after picking Adrian up from the airport.  He had a little work left before the weekend and was on a phone call when he pointed at the window.

Peeping Tom

This little creature was gawping in through the glass.  I dashed outside to take some photos.

Nosy Parker!

We are getting brand new windows at the beginning of October so he had better wipe his feet before walking across those panes !

What .... crisps and no beer !!

Who Are You Spotty?

I love my garden and working in it brings me up close and personal to a variety of critters.  I know the last few posts seem to have been on nothing but bugs but I just love their variety and beauty.  Except of course for spiders who give me the heebie geebies!

This little fella was sat watching me weed the beech hedge.  He really wanted to have his photo taken and moved in for an extreme close-up!

Unfortunately he got a little too close and fell off his perch.  I looked down for him and noticed that he had curled up and looked remarkably like a chicken dropping.  Aint nature great !!

I have searched through my European bug book and searched extensively on the internet but cannot find this critter anywhere.  If anyone knows what he will turn into – I would be extremely interested.

* UPDATE *

Thanks to Chris from http://www.planetepassion.eu/ who suggested it might be a sawfly larvae. Found this on the web after about an hour searching  http://www.flickriver.com/photos/70626035@N00/3694047151/.

Wish I had kept it in a glass jam jar like a school kid – oh well.  Next quest is which sawfly is it?

Absolem

While down on the potager preparing a new bed for the championship pumpkins we are planning to grow, I discovered some self seeded bulb fennel among the weeds.  Carefully removing the weeds from around these plants, I noticed a highly colourful caterpillar.

After grabbing the camera and taking a close-up I carried on weeding and eventually got the pumpkin plants in place.  We have handed out a number of seeds or plants to neighbours here, for them to raise their own pumpkins.  In the autumn we will host a pumpkin festival with curries, cakes, soup and beer all made from these orange jewels.  There will be a prize and trophy for the largest pumpkin raised so –  Let the games begin!

The following morning I downloaded the photos.  On showing Adrian the photo he remarked that it looked like an Alice In Wonderland caterpillar.

No hookah pipe but still an Alice In Wonderland caterpillar

I looked up the caterpillar in our highly thumbed insect book.  “Larvae on wild carrot, fennel, and other umbellifers”  – Bingo – Common Swallowtail butterfly.

I am not common I am unique !

There is nothing common about this startling little bug and the adult is also quite striking.

Flights of Night Time Fancy

On opening the shutters this morning – this delightful creature was sat between the window and shutters, protected from the night time rains.

Cream spot tiger moth

Cream Spot Tiger Moth

The colour of its wings a perfect match for the granite windowsill.

On closing the shutters tonight, this little creature had joined the Tiger Moth for company.

Muslin Moth

Muslin Moth

Its name – Muslin – meaning “delicately woven cotton fabric” – seems to be the perfect description for this delicate little moth.

Grus grus

Storm cleanup (now with added photos) was underway yesterday and the day was punctuated with several spectacular flybys of Cranes, en route from Africa to their summer breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Russia.

cranes overhead

Clicky piccy for biggy silhouetty.

The migration route brings them past here for just one or two days a year. You can hear them coming first from a good 4/5km away – they soon come into sight and what a sight. A cluster of 30-50 at a time in a delta formation which they seem to break every few km, they then cluster and reform a new ‘V’ and off they go. Adult birds have a wingspan as much as 2.4M so they’re very large animals. Their flight over Europe is spectacular when you consider the distances involved. I shot a few silhouettes as they were flying at quite some altitude and the snap above is as close to overhead as they came when I had a camera at hand. My flickr photostream has a few more.

Goldfinch

Not a new bird exactly… but the very first time I’ve had a chance to snap one up close. A pair were happily feeding up and down the driveway for a good five minutes and I managed to take some pretty close up snaps of them doing their thing.

Goldfinch II

Goldfinch shot through glass II

Surprise twitcher encounter part 2, Osprey

A spectacular autumnal Sunday afternoon and we nipped up the road to the Lac du Cebron for a little twitching activity. The lake has an excellent visitor facility and a specialist on hand on a Sunday afternoon. We were keen to validate a spotting of a bird we’d first seen previously in late September and then only a few days ago on October 7th.

Turns out that that bird was a Grande Aigrette and had arrived at the lake a few weeks earlier – we’d seen the same animal arriving and leaving as it flew through our hamlet.

And then, things took an utterly unexpected, exciting twist. There was a quick buzz of excitement as a Balbuzard Pecheur turned up and started hunting – an Osprey. The bird was hunting on the far shore and whilst it was in the air it was easy enough to spot by eye. (more…)

Surprise twitcher encounter part 1, Great White Egret.

Sitting out looking over the garden a few weeks ago and I spotted an unusual bird flying due North across the bottom of the garden. It looked for all the world like an albino heron. Similar size (if not a little bigger) similar distinctive flying style. Camera wasn’t at hand and as soon as I’d run indoors to collect it it had obligingly landed but we lost sight of it in a neighbouring field.

Ploughing through our limited selection of bird books (French and English) and nothing pops up. Oh well… just one of those things.

Fast forward three weeks and we’re once more sitting out and sure as eggs is eggs… the same bird flying back due South not 50M from it’s prior flight path… and YES it starts to make a landing manoeuvre. Running to grab my camera and I managed to get a few shots of it as it was landing in the hamlet.

Grande Aigrette / Great White Egret

Great White Egret flying through Bellebouche

It was BIG, definitely not in the books we had and definately not a little cattle egret that we’ve seen around. In the absence of any information to the contrary I was chalking it up to being some kind of Albino Heron.

Great White Egret / Grande Aigrette

Egret takeoff

We left it at that for a while and the mystery of what it really was (A great white Egret) was soon to be solved

Goodfella

Our neighbours Peacock has been doing the business with his ladies after he’d long given up trying to do the business with our ladies and we were on-hand for chicklet hatching duty for a couple of days.  Giving nature a helping hand? Well… I’m not sure I was helping a great deal at times but it all turned out quite well.

(more…)

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