One mystery solved and a bogey bird is no more....

Though the only connection they have is the location. In this case it was on a south facing slope in Charente Maritime in the midst of the "Petit Champagne" vineyards providing some of the finest Cognac in France.

The mystery has endured since 2003 when, on that same slope, we acquired an ancient house with a modest garden in which is a healthy mature Hazel tree. We've been back there most autumns since and never seen so much as a single nut.  We were able to do an early July trip this year and found, to our considerable joy, a crop of the plumpest most beguiling Hazel nuts you've ever seen outside Kent. RESULT!  They were still pale green and nowhere near ready for harvesting but I was already planning a 2013 nut picking trip. Have a look at this.

and there were lots more like that....

A couple of days after this happy discovery I took a break from brushcutting to go and admire the crop (again) and heard a slight rustling in the Hazel Tree which I put down to a Blackcap which had been warbling away for a while. Then I heard the cracking sound.......

I peered into the foliage and saw movement; rather guilty sheepish looking movement. I then had to pop back indoors for the camera and to summon Mrs BNTS.  We returned briskly but stealthily and I was able to grab this shot of the culprit.













Tufty here looked a bit bemused by our appearance and looked us up and down thoughtfully. He decided that, on balance, discretion was probably the better part of valour and mooched unhurriedly away to the adjoining woodland with its inferior wild "noisettes" and this year's rather modest looking Walnut crop. It's an interesting small wood where "Couleuvres" (western whip snakes) bask and Golden Orioles call tantalisingly (and invisibly) from the top of the canopy.

Charente Maritime doesn't really have a regional cuisine unless you count Oysters and Mussels but there's nothing wrong with the avifauna. Loch Garten Ospreys seem to loiter around near the coast during autumn passage and Hoopoes occasionally visit the garden. This year Black Redstarts seemed to be back in charge with Common Redstarts apparently taking a year off. The Cirl Buntings occupied our Box hedge as usual and we had our first Serin jangling away (acoustically a little like a Corn Bunting) on the TV aerial. A Common Buzzard family never seemed to be far away. Linnets seemed to like the rose bush by the front door and were constantly flitting in and out of it. It was good to hear a purring Turtle Dove too which I spotted on a telephone wire across the vineyards.

Tufty was on a mission. For some reason he wanted those Hazel nuts while the kernels were the size of sunflower seeds - What a waste! Eventually he got used to us stopping by to glare at him, so I was able to capture him in better light and somewhat more exposed. He was rather hoping that folding his tail down would make him appear less conspicuous. Good luck with that then.....

Anyway - to the bogey bird. It was a lazy sunny lunchtime and I was on the point of slapping a bit of "Tartare" (Like Boursin but cheaper) on a baguette when Mrs BNTS remarked, rather enigmatically, "big bird". I pushed aside thoughts of a big yellow character from "Sesame Street" and thought "Black Kite or Buzzard?". The specimen in question hove into view with a complete absence of forked tail and mid-wing kink. Buzzard it was then, or was it? The wings and tail looked longer than normal and the wings were always held flat or slightly depressed. Female Hen Harrier? - Nope. No white rump and whenever did you see a harrier with an anhedral wing angle. Short toed Eagle? - Nope. They're almost white underneath. This one was "beige" and barred. Finally a young Honey Buzzard and another bogey bites the dust.   Sadly no photo so you'll have to make do with one of these that live conveniently beside coastal car parks on purpose built platforms:

And now I need a favour. I'm rubbish on Lepidoptera so if anyone can ID this one for us I'd be ever so grateful. The topside "zebra look" masks a vivid scarlet underwing that manifests itself startlingly in flight.


Every day a little more irate about bird of prey persecution, and I have a cat - Got a problem with that?

  • For me one of the delights of the Tour de France is admiring the french countryside en route. Your account just brought it all a little bit closer for me. Thanks for sharing it.

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  • In reply to Galatas:

    What a lovely post,

    it's great to read all about your life in France,

    I hope Tufty leaves you some Hazelnuts

    the way you write i can picture the beautiful country-side, it sounds gorgeous,

    thanks for telling us all about it.

  • In reply to sugar:

    At the final count on Sunday when we returned to the UK a single cluster of two hazelnuts remained. I don't suppose that it's still there.....  

    Every day a little more irate about bird of prey persecution, and I have a cat - Got a problem with that?

  • In reply to John B (not the sloop):

    Great post! The moth to me looks like a jersey tiger

    Warden Intern at Otmoor.

  • In reply to IanH:

    Looks that way Ian.  I've yet to find one in the UK.

    Every day a little more irate about bird of prey persecution, and I have a cat - Got a problem with that?

  • In reply to John B (not the sloop):

    Likewise! I was interested to read on the UK moths site they are thriving somewhere in London, they might make it up here to Bedfordshire someday!

    Warden Intern at Otmoor.

  • In reply to Lolly_24:

    Sounds like a very special spot and I am glad Lolly found this post,  she is doing a better job than me catching up on missed threads.  Hopefully you have now spotted a Jersey Tiger

    in the UK

    Caroline in Jersey

    Cin J

  • In reply to Germain:

    No Blighty based Jersey Tigers for me yet, but I live in hope......

    A minor postscript.... On returning to the UK I chanced upon a case study released by a mineral extraction company regarding measures taken to conserve nesting Bee Eaters at two of their gravel pits neither too far from my French retreat. Seems like I'll need to do some more exporing next summer.....

    Every day a little more irate about bird of prey persecution, and I have a cat - Got a problem with that?

  • In reply to Birdie Wild:

    Gorgeous photos and a brilliant read! Thank you!

    "All weeds are flowers, once you get to know them" (Eeyore)

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