Nature Notes

For those that love nature this page shows some of the wildlife around Peyraille…and some further afield in the mountains. Around the house you can see kestrels, hen harriers, sparrowhawks and buzzards. You can also see several types of owl and seasonal visitors like bee eaters, golden oriels, hoopoos and honey buzzards. One of the great attractions of the Pyrenees is it’s wildlife and in the mountains you can frequently see vultures – some of them like the Gypaete Barbu, (bearded vulture) extremely rare. Whilst picnicking with my friend , we saw two circling above us near the Pena Montagnese in February 2012. According to some sources, there are only 80 pairs left in europe.IMG_0115
Our dining area has a huge glass side and from here you can see all sorts of birds whilst you are having breakfast and during the evening we have a couple of resident owls that are frequently viewed from here. If you are seriously interested in birds of prey, one of the “must do’s” is to visit the Donjon des Aigles, a very well established falconry centre with a stunning flying display, near Lourdes.
To encourage owls to nest we have put up nesting boxes. The area is rich in food, but as people convert barns and modernise the old farms their natural nesting areas are under threat.
 The insect life is just as fascinating, and feeding on them are swallows and bats.
Our ponds create areas of humidity that attract lizards and salamanders. This one was on the wall of our new courtyard.
Here’s one of the nesting boxes I knocked up out of scrap building material. It comes complete with a ramp and a balcony!
In autumn and winter we have flocks of cranes flying over the house in large V formations and for several months we have a small herd of deer, that come into the garden and shelter at the end underneath the oak trees. From May through to September they are raising their young, and are so well camoflaged that they are difficult to spot.
In February 2012 whilst picnicking with a friend, 2 bearded eagles soared just over our heads. They are called gypaete barbus or Lammergeier in France and are very rare. There are only 100 pairs in the whole of europe. This pair were courting off the cliffs of the Pene Montanese. Their wingspan reaches almost 3 meters and they have a reputation for dropping bones from a height to obtain the marrow inside. They can swallow an entire lamb femur and their digestive juices will liquidise this in 24 hours.
May 2012, in deep forested countryside again not far from The Pene Montanese, spotted what I think was a lynx not far from a herd of sheep. Difficult to be precisely sure but as it leapt away in bounds, it’s front and back legs were definitely like those of a large cat, only this animal was the size of a large dog. Didn’t seem to have much of a tail. The camera, as always on moments like these, was in the boot of the car!!!!
5  IMG_0587 Helping damaged birds; in this case a sparrowhawk that crashed into one of the windows whilst hunting it’s prey. It recovered and flew off. IMG_0583IMG_7259
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and of course Custard and Rufus


and the nesting box was used, just beneath it I found this baby tawny owl just able to fly! Lovely eyes!
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Hoopoo birds often fly around the house and perch in the oak treesIMG_4050
and there are Hen Harriers in the fields next to the house too! IMG_4052

and a long, long time ago….even dinosaurs!!!

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