Tuesday, June 05, 2012


Inspired by Tim’s educational Aigronne Valley Wildlife blog, here’s a slice of the wildlife that we share our bit of Brittany with.  First up, a recording made back in March this year of  male and female Tawny owls calling to each other. (Photo of tawny owl by Nigel Blake)

The classic “twit-twoo” is, in fact, an impression of two tawny owls calling to each other.  The female calls “ke-wick” (the ‘twit’) and the male responds
"hoo-hoo-oo-oo-oo".  When you hear "ke-wick hoo-hoo-oooo" you are listening to a pair of tawnys.  Both can be heard in my recording.  (More detail on the calls)

Buying plants for our (then new) wildlife pond, Gabrielle saw plenty of frogs in and around the plant containers.  She joked to the owner, “can I have that one please as it seems as if it comes with a free frog?” Marie Mad laughed and said she was welcome to catch some if she could and gave her a jar.  Gabrielle installed five tadpoles into our nascent watery ecosystem—the pond is the endpoint of our grey water treatment system—and we hoped for the best.

We’d also introduced some roach and were then concerned that they were eating some of the other wildlife, decimating our population of diving beetles and having a go at some of the smaller newts.  We thought of cane toads and Australia; had we done the right thing?

The plant life has since expanded greatly, increasing places for smaller beasts to hide, and the pond seems to be in a healthy equilibrium.  We did see the odd green frog last year and then this year we heard them … and there’s a lot more than five!  Whether these have anything to do with Gabrielle’s five tadpoles or they have made their way to our pond independently, they seem very happy.  This recording (click on 'video' above) was made late one evening, from our bedroom window. 

This isn’t one of our own honeybees (see previous blog) but rather one of the many species of bumblebees.  Looking at its colouring and the hairy back leg, my best guess is that this is a Red-tailed cuckoo bumblebee  Bombus rupestris.  Please post a comment if you can confirm this or otherwise tell me what it is.

Last up on this nature trail of a blog is a walk in our woods having prepared ourselves by going through a French book on soil indicator plants (click to download as a pdf) translating the names into English and then went for a stroll to see what we could find.  Gabrielle’s a lot better than I at plant identification but even she found some plants new to her despite the fact that we've walked through these woods many times.  I’d never even heard of the yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon before but we found one and it suggests a fertile, moist soil that is only lightly acid or neutral in pH.  It is also known as an ancient woodland indicator species.
yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon