A Disturbed Spring

A pair of black redstarts tried twice to build a nest. Their first attempt was on the top of a pair of builder's planks leaning against the wall beneath the terrace. The perambulating cats from the gîte over the lane could have easily clambered up and had them for breakfast. The birds abandoned that site and then built in a drain hole at the base of the courtyard wall. They appeared to be doing well, until we had a cloudburst and the water poured through in a great stream. I doubt if any nestlings survived. Then a wandering cat discovered the location and lay in wait. The female bird was caught!

It has been a bad season. For some time a cold north wind blew, and that was replaced by the rain. The central heating had to be put on well on to the end of April. But then the warmth came with the rain and many orchids flowered three weeks earlier than usual.

The chairman of the hunting group came by with a friend to discuss a plan about 'la chasse'. We tolerate the hunting and we are aware that to some extent the countryside which we enjoy is structured to accommodate the hunters. I dislike the attitude of some 'brits' here who say that will not allow hunters on their land. It happens that this visit moved the ideas on a bit. They want to make our land a reserve for three years for the protection of partridges. During that time they will not hunt over our land. Though as they said 'If the sangliers (wild boar) were to be a nuisance, they would come and deal with them.' That is unlikely! Although we have from time to time seen signs of diggings in the turf caused by sangliers, so far in three years we have not seen one specimen. We know that they are about but during the day they are so quiet that probably one can walk within a few yards and not know they are there.

The hunters are very concerned about the stock of game. It is in their interest to see that the populations are mainatined. The hunting of hares was stopped for some weeks this year to encourage their reproduction. We see one from time to time. They are remarkably beautiful with long black tipped ears. We also see deer. It is a joy to come down to the kitchen early in the morning and see a russet-red roe deer munching in the meadow opposite.

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