Friday, 1 March 2013

Wildlife Watching in March in the Touraine du Sud

The big Violet Carpenter Bees Xylocopa violacea will emerge and start looking for nest holes. By of the end of the month we should have rust and black Mason Bees Osmia spp too. They'll be checking out smaller holes in the exterior walls of your house and outbuildings. Neither species does any harm to a building, and Mason Bees in particular are probably more important pollinators of fruit trees than Honey Bees Apis mellifera. Please do all you can to make their lives comfortable and safe -- installing a bee hotel will almost certainly be successful with Osmia spp and the later emerging leaf cutter bees Megachile spp.

Violet Carpenter Bee in a friend's garden.
Some Common Cranes Grus grus have already made the trip, but many will still be migrating throughout March (yesterday 17 000 birds were counted by a single observer to the south-west of us). While you are looking up you may also see Common Buzzards Buteo buteo, soaring in pairs, establishing pair bonds and making their mewing call (you will recognise it from its similarity to the standard hawk soundtrack in American films and television programmes).

Snakeshead Fritillary on the island in the River Indre at Pont de Ruan.
By end of the month lots of lovely things with be flowering: Cowslips Primula veris, Grape Hyacinth Muscari neglectum, Sweet Violet Viola odorata, wild pansies Viola tricolor, tiny Early forget-me-nots Myosotis ramosissima, blackthorn Prunus spinosa, sallows Salix spp , and most special of all, on water meadows -- Snakeshead fritillaries Fritillaria meleagris. The southern Touraine is home to the largest colonies in the world of this rare and declining plant. If you time it right (late March, early April) and it is a good year you can see hundreds of thousands of them in the wet grassland on certain sites near Chinon (on the Vienne between Savigny and where it joins the Loire at Candes St Martin).

Wild Grape Hyacinth in our orchard last year.
Remember to check yellow butterflies at this time. Brimstones Gonepteryx rhamni are a well known early spring species, but I've noticed that the first generation of Clouded Yellows Colias crocea also appears now too.

Brimstone butterfly.
The weather in March is normally cool (average maximum temperature 12°C), and days are often overcast (there is usually less than 150 hours of sunshine for the month).
The mairie will be distributing garbage bags at the salle des fetes in Preuilly on Tuesday 5 March. If you live in Preuilly, don't forget to pick up your allocation of yellow recycling bags and black household rubbish bags.
Loire Valley Nature Updates: a photo and information on Clustered Brittlestem Psathyrella multipedata has been added to the Psathyrellaceae Fungi (Inky Caps) entry.
A new Habitat entry, on Rural Tracks (chemins ruraux) has been added.


  1. Bravo pour ce récapitulatif ! Le mois de mars sonne le réveil de la nature et nous sommes tous impatients de voir prés et jardin s'animer!
    Bonne fin de semaine à vous!

  2. Nice summary... but don't forget to watch out for those mwho are leaving us:
    Flocks of Lapwings moving North - often accompanied by Golden Plover...
    flocks of Fieldfare, Redwing and Blackbirds also moving back North...
    the Blackbirds keeping company for only part of the way...
    The Siskin and Brambling will be heading that way too...
    But souther migrants will be doing the same thing... early warblers [Pauline heard a Chiffchaff this morning] and the Stone Curlews towards the end of the month...
    all is on the move from the beginning of this month through April and into May for the latest.

  3. And I forgot to mention that the winter vflocks of LBJs [the mixed flocks of small passerines] will soon be breaking up as they find nest sites.

  4. We can't wait to arrive at the end of March, so will hopefully be able to see the species you write and photograph so well...