I’ve been birding in France for a couple of weeks, and even in the slow summer season it’s been magnifique! I’m based in St. Aubin Fosse Louvain (try saying that three times fast), a tiny town in Pays de la Loire, just a hair south of Normandy. There’s a great mix of rural habitats around, with a heavy emphasis on maize fields. There are plenty of scrubby/grassy fields, streams, small woods, and derelict farm buildings, all fringed by fruiting, ancient, and/or dying trees. Incidentally, as for my own habitat, I’m staying in a farm building that was built in 1664, and the conveniences haven’t improved too much since then, I imagine. With the building’s stone walls and slate roof being open to the elements on many fronts, it’s basically like camping!
The eerie and varied sounds of Tawny Owls calling to each other at dusk can be heard most nights, which is a real treat. On several occasions now I’ve seen them sweep silently past windows as the sun falters, between 10:00-10:45 p.m. I’m guessing the owls are filling up on a snack of moths before starting their night of serious rodent hunting. I was woken up last week at 3:30 in the a.m. to the sound of intense and ghostly Tawny screeches right outside my window. I made several recordings, and if I can ever figure out how to post the sound clips on this blog, I will do so. I’m such a luddite at times.
Other French summer treats have included Common and Black Redstarts lurking around farm buildings, several well-guarded Blackcap nesting sites, constant Common Buzzards overhead, singing Yellowhammers and Chaffinches at every turn, and a pair of nesting Spotted Flycatchers ten feet outside my bedroom window. And I shouldn’t forget about the spectacle of diving Northern Gannets that accompanied the Portsmouth – Caen ferry about 30 minutes out to sea on either end.
I haven’t really birded much further afield than my own little village, so I’m hoping to soon get out a bit more into the surrounding countryside to see what else is lurking in the scrub.