One thing I’ve noticed this year that I don’t remember seeing before is enormous flocks of birds circling around all the time – many thousands of palombes (wood-pigeons) fill the air in great sweeping flocks. And a very impressive sight it is too.
The palombe is also the most hunted bird in France, with special tree houses being built high in the woods so that hunters can shoot them more easily (hence lots of properties called palombier, incidentally).
At the moment the birds are so numerous that you could throw a couple of stones in the air and come away with tea for the family, so the hunters must be having a great time of it.
Anyway, yesterday out cycling with my local farmer friend he explained why there are so many this year. Apparently usually the palombes are migratory and head off to Spain in the winter, but this year cold weather in the Pyrenees has stopped them leaving, and they are staying here instead.
I didn’t realise that birds made that type of choice! It seems that in some parts of France the palombes always migrate in winter, in other parts not at all, and around here they choose whether to go or not. I don’t know how they decide – or what they do if some want to go and others choose to stay. Do they vote perhaps? Hold local elections? Who knows.
Meanwhile it seems that the pigeons arriving from further north have also only got this far – so Europe’s entire population of wood pigeons are now circling a small area of northern Lot-et-Garonne.
It was such an impressive sight yesterday that cars were pulled over to the edge of the road to see the flock in motion, and I was so distracted I cycled off the road and into a large pothole.
Talking about nature on the doorstep, we also had a fox outside the kitchen window yesterday. Not a nice bushy-tailed fox like in the picture-books, but a ragged diseased looking specimen that looked likely to contaminate the children and cats with all kinds of incurable diseases.
Certainly not the kind of fox to photograph and put on the gite website, unless we are trying to attract a team of rabies investigators.
Still, it’s always nice to see a bit of wildlife.