I was lucky enough to spend two weeks in south-eastern France during early November (it’s nice having connections!). Although I spent much of the time working on ecology assignments or trying out new recipes, I still had the chance to see some wildlife.
The first species seen were a couple of small birds – blue tits, great tits, a dunnock. Although these are fairly common species at home, I was still happy enough to watch them on the bird feeder, flitting back and forth, with the occasional squabble against each other. What surprised me was another bird, similar size to the blue tit and certainly of the same family – a crested tit! Although fairly common across Europe, in the UK they are only resident in the pine forests of Scotland. This was my first time seeing a crested tit so I was fascinated. With an unusual facial pattern, and its black and white crest, it is a distinctive species.
I’m lacking in equipment currently, so I don’t have a moth trap or sweep net, but I don’t let such things stop me from finding some invertebrates. A couple of butterflies were loving the warm sunshine (as was I, since London had been much colder!), such as the Painted lady below.
On the calmer nights, the window was often besieged by moths drawn in by the light. I managed to identify some, such as the Crimson Speckled moth (U.pulchella). However, I couldn’t find all in my moth identification book. Upon conversing with someone in the know, I found out that whilst the UK and France do share many species, the total number of moth species present in France is about twice as many as are present in the UK. Crumbs! Therefore some of the moth species remain unidentified (only for now though, as I’m determined to find out whom they are!).
The moths weren’t the only nocturnal creatures about, there were also two animals in the courtyard who were rustling the fallen leaves and were very pleased when it rained later in my stay. These mystery rustlers were two rather large toads! And by large, I mean amongst the largest wild toads I’ve come across (thus not including exotic toads in zoos).
A number of other invertebrates were also found in and around the house, from small swarms of ladybirds loving the open window, an interesting red bug investigating my shoe and a rather odd looking red insect found in the sink! A noteworthy insect would be the wasp I found partway through my stay there. It had managed to get itself trapped in a small bottle, drawn in by the remaining sweet drink. You may have read a previous blog post where I mentioned that I have had a rather traumatic experience with wasps. However, curiousity about its identification overcame my fear and I rescued the wasp. I’m sure glad I did as I managed to capture this photo as the wasp recovered from its ordeal. If you were wondering, it is a common wasp apparently (V.vulgaris).
In conclusion, I had a lovely time in France and got to see some new species which is always nice. Below are a couple more creatures I came across. And in case you were wondering, I got the ecology assignments back – 80% and 90%, whoo!