Over at francethisway I have some sections that are more interesting to do, and some less so. My personal favourite section (and one of the favourites with visitors to the site) is the one about wildlife in France.
We don’t have an enormous amount of detail about each animal – there are better scientific and encyclopedic sources if you want to know how many teeth a red squirrel has – but if you want to tell a Red deer from a Roe Deer or a chamois from a marmot you would be in the right place.
So with that thought in mind, I thought I would develop that part of the site a bit over the next few weeks. First, as always, I had a look in the statistics to see which the most popular animals were. I would have guessed bear, wolf, deer, Camargue horses, the big stuff.
In fact, coypu (ragondin), red squirrels, wall lizards and hornets are what people want to read about, rather than wolves eating shepherds (or perhaps it was sheep), or whether to run away or play dead when you meet a bear in the Pyrenees.
So where does that leave me? I was thinking dolphins, visitors will want ants. I suppose if I start with the least attractive animals I can think of – rats perhaps – I will gets lots of eager readers, but if I write about a cuddly dormouse everyone will hit the back button and wonder why I bothered.
Funny thing is, we have a family of baby coypu living in our field at the moment, that I have been watching up-close. They are pretty darn unattractive, and I can’t begin to imagine who would want a coat made of their bristly fur (they were brought to France originally for their fur, and escaped into the wild shortly after). So what is the fascination with them I wonder?
They also have that slightly scary look about them, like the dogs in the Omen. They stare up at me with a cold, penetrating look that sends a terrible chill through my heart and makes me want to run away or burst into tears, and they are only the size of a kitten.
Back to the subject in hand, what I am supposed to do is monitor visitors as they drift through the site. Is someone who came looking for hornets more or less likely to book a holiday than someone looking for badgers, for example. This incredibly useful information would enable me to tweak the site accordingly, in ways I don’t understand but would make me richer if I did.
Unfortunately the statistics are large, complicated and difficult to follow, and monitoring them properly would be a full time job. So all I do is look at the total number of satisfied (or unsatisfied) visitors each day, and wonder if they were happy, or not as the case may be. How many visitors get as far as Wall Lizards and then leave the site without carrying on to read of Praying Mantises? No idea.
But do I want to write about coypu in France again? Err, no thanks. So I will stick to cuddly Alpine Marmots regardless of what the world demands. And Wall Lizards – next time the cat drags one in kicking and screaming (screaming very quietly, I have to admit) I’ll set up a webcam so you can all see just how lacking in interest they really are after the first few minutes. Then perhaps you’ll go take a look at the wolves and bears instead…
So don’t forget, when you are panicking about what wildlife you might meet when you come on holiday to France, wildlife in France is for great big ferocious animals as well as little titchy-tiny harmless ones.