The weather has changed again and this week the fine weather turned colder and wetter as the wind came from north. The north wind brought new arrivals and we had our first flock of fieldfares arrive in the garden to feast on the fallen poire pears at the bottom of the orchard. In fact, after a quiet few months there is now great activity on all our bird feeders.

There seem to be greenfinches everywhere in the garden and particularly at our bird feeder tree where the black sunflower seeds are very popular. We also have chaffinches as well as blue and great tits and occasionally a flock of long tailed tits. They like the sunflower seeds but also the peanuts and fat balls.

There is also a great spotted woodpecker that arrives and scares off the other birds while having a go at the fat balls and peanuts. We have another feeder in our courtyard that is the domain of the house sparrows. We have a large number of sparrows who also nest here.

All these birds feeding also attracts our local sparrow hawk who regularly comes speeding across the courtyard looking for a sparrow and if he misses, there is always a chance of catching a bird in the orchard feeder. It is quite spectacular to see it fly low across the garden hoping for a meal. The smaller birds either dash for cover or gang up on the hawk and escort it off the premises!

We also get a number of other visitors, often during the night and we see the evidence of their activities. The grass trampled where an animal regularly visits; piles of droppings; plants and trees that have been nibbled and occasionally a pile of feathers where a kill has been made. We also hear the owls about the place. Occasionally we hear the little owls that nested during the summer and more frequently the call of tawny owls. There are quite a few around as the sounds come from different directions and different distances. Occasionally we hear them calling from the trees in our garden.

As night birds we don’t often see them. Although last week we had a surprise when we went to look at the memory card in our trail camera. To try to find out who visits our grounds and fields, we bought a trail camera which we set along our nature trail. It is programmed to be triggered by movement and in the daytime, takes good colour videos and photos. At night it has an infrared detector and flash lights to take black and white photos and videos.

We have been surprised at the number of animals that we have caught on camera but this week when we put the memory card into the computer we saw the image of a tawny owl which had dived in trying to catch a mouse or something. We caught it on camera. It was a bit close to the camera to get a clear image but we got a very definite image of a tawny owl. As the camera takes a video the bird is clearly flapping its wings and I can take a still photo and print it from the computer.

Tawny owl next to the trail camera

A month ago, we managed to capture a wild boar (on camera, not actually capture which would be a dangerous thing to attempt!) which had wandered onto the nature trail. We have not seen it since but we regularly get roe deer and a fox as well as frequent pictures of hares. We have one sighting of a stone martin (a bit like a polecat)

Fox on the trail camera

The camera is currently sited near to our hornets’ nest and so from time to time we get a hornet landing on the camera and triggering it to take a picture! Hornets look quite scary close up. The hornet’s will soon die off when it gets too cold and the queen will find somewhere to hibernate for winter and start a new nest in the spring. At the moment we have got the nest taped off to distinguish where it is at the bottom of the oak tree. Hornets are not aggressive and generally don’t bother people unless their nest is under threat.

We had another surprise last week when we saw a new animal running across the nature trail. It was a badger. The first we had seen although we did suspect that one visited as we saw the trail and where it had dug up a bee’s nest. We did not know for sure that it was a badger until the picture. The picture is not great as it was moving away from the camera but you can clearly see it is a badger.

Badger in the gloom

Deer in the day time on the trail camera

So, we are collecting a lot of pictures of wild animals that visit our grounds. The fox we have seen crossing our courtyard about an hour after it gets dark. As a result, we are shutting up the hens a little earlier as they go to bed just as it gets dark and we don’t want the fox meeting the hens.

The hens are very busy at the moment as they are on commission to produce some eggs for our neighbour Giselle. She has a number of hens and sells her surplus eggs. Occasionally she asks us if we can let her have some eggs if she can’t supply her orders. This week she came round for some and we were able to help her out. She often has orders from people who have second homes. She told us this week that some people from Paris who have a home here and buy her eggs said that they thought Giselle’s eggs a little on the small side. 

This was not a good idea as Giselle told them in no uncertain terms that she didn’t lay the eggs herself and that the hens decided on how big to lay their eggs! If her hens’ eggs were not good enough they should go elsewhere. We are now on commission to supply a dozen eggs for Giselle today for another Parisian family staying around here.  We may have to set up a La Godefrere cooperative!

It has now got dark and the hens have been safely locked away in the hen house. Our tasks completed for the day and it is now time for a little aperitif and putting the cottage pie in the oven. I have selected a nice Brouilly red wine to accompany our meal.

Bon appetit