Saturday, April 12, 2014

Birds, Beasts and Beautiful Landscapes

Spring Idyll

All around us nature is stretching and wiping the sleep out of its eyes after a long winter nap. Renewal and reproduction are the predominant activities of the moment. That nest we noticed behind our clematis trellis is now inhabited by a female blackbird, called a merle here in France. She is a most patient and responsible parent. We peak out at her from upper windows using our binoculars and have taken a few photos with our telephoto lens. Day after day she rests in her beautifully constructed nest.

Female blackbirds are actually brown with tan speckles

Occasionally she flies away, presumably to get a snack, only to hurry back to her three blue eggs. The incubation period for her eggs is 10-19 days. She's been sitting there 12 days, so her time is drawing near.

Her male counterpart comes to sing to her every morning at six-thirty. I know this as the nest is right below our bedroom window. I guess he's giving her (and me) the wake-up call.

The singing that wakes me up each morning

Three beautiful large eggs rest at the bottom of the nest.

Father Blackbird swoops around the walls of the château waiting anxiously, I suppose, for news from the nest.

The castle walls provide little nooks and crannies where birds nest and hide. It's a riot of activity and noisy conversation there, especially at dusk.

Male blackbird clinging to the side of the château

Morning doves or tourterelles, as they're known here, are cousins of the pigeon and frankly not my favorite of birds. Their nests, as opposed to the merle's, are slap-dashed together and so shoddy, that sometimes they fall apart as the hen sits on them. More than once eggs have crashed down onto our terrace and created both heart ache and a very big mess. There is always one of these birds who insists upon building a nest every year in our wisteria on the front of the house, even if we remove the nests at the end of the season, they are never dissuaded. They always seem to win the argument which we are continually having with them. They are far too big for our modest wisteria vine, but they are nothing if not persistent. You have to admire them for that.

Morning dove overlooking the view of our valley

Sparrows, finches and other little birds seem to prefer nesting in very dense bushes which the castle provides in abundance. There must be many nests hidden in the dense shrubbery of the castle grounds as so many of them come and go from that location. I can hear their enthusiastic twittering just outside the back windows and watch as the bushes rustle and the purposeful little creatures flit from here to there, but it's impossible to see their nests. For little beings, they have very big voices.

Sparrow perched on the castle wall just below our back windows


Recently we took a day to enjoy spring landscapes in the Perche. Our new American friends who bought a bungalow just north of us were on their way back home to New York. While they were in town, taking possession of their new residence, Rick helped them with some remodeling. We wanted to see them one last time before they left. We gave ourselves some extra time to meander among the pretty fields and villages that make up the Parc Naturel du Perche.

We met a number of very friendly creatures along the way.

These ladies came over to greet us when we stopped by the farms where they were grazing

It is lambing season and if you have never seem baby lambs cavorting through the fields, you've really missed something!

Grazing sheep and lambs

The lambs jump straight up in the air like cartoon characters. They are among the most playful youth of the animal kingdom. You can't help but laugh out loud while watching them chase one another around.

Baby lambs with their mothers

Fruit trees this time of year are gracing the fields and road sides of the Perche. Although I am quite fond of the less common and showier pink or rose colored spring blossoms, I think the whites are still my favorite. They are in such abundance.

Trees in bloom

The typical Perche landscape is rolling hills with fields bordered by trees. In the spring the colza, or safflower paints the hills in bright yellow.

Green and yellow hills

The Perche has a number of charming villages. Nocé is right in the heart of the Parc Regional.

Entering Nocé where we stopped for a coffee

Perche architecture is rather grand in some villages. The stone buildings are covered with plaster, usually in various shades of yellow, orange or tan. Shutters are very often painted in a grey-green color.

At an intersection in St. Cyr la Rosière

The main "industry" in the Perche is farming, and there are some very grand old manoirs and ancient farm buildings.

A grand old farm in the Perche

I love these ancient stone estates. This area, which was once much more lively, is being resettled by organic gardeners and Paris-born idealists who are bringing back many of the old ways of producing food and making a very successful go of it. The Perche is having a kind of rebirth.

Another beautiful estate which was once a collection of farm buildings

The Perche is a well-kept secret that attracts initiated Parisians because of its proximity to the capital. It is very countrified, but in a most refined and elegant way!

Beautiful manoir in the middle of nowhere

Our friends Dawne and Dean found their cottage in one of the loveliest villages in the Perche, Maison Maugis. I've always loved stopping here to look at the château, which is right on the road through town. A wonderful botanical artist lives here and offers drawing courses.

Maison Maugis

The place is definitely atmospheric and the little houses that surround the castle are all typically Percheron and very charming indeed.

Maison Maugis cottage

Dawne is an amazingly energetic and creative woman with a lot of taste and ability for decorating. Dean is a talented craftsman. Together they make a very effective team. I do not have a before photo of their new house, but they certainly transformed it in the few weeks they were here from something rather ordinary to a cozy and very attractive space. I really am looking forward to their next visit to see what evolves. Meanwhile they were filmed by House Hunter's International TV and will be featured in an upcoming episode. As if that weren't enough, Dawne's photos were published in the latest issue of Pays du Perche Magazine, including the cover and a two-page spread. This our local high quality publication. Pretty impressive considering she's only owned a home here for a bit over a month! Both Dawne and Dean are professional photographers. You can understand my enthusiasm at having these new clever neighbors!

Dean and Dawne

Back on the home front, we continue to work on our garden project which is starting to take shape. Last time I posted a photo of pregnant cherry tree buds. Here is a shot from the same location a few weeks on.

Cherry blossoms

Our little corner garden has developed a lot in a couple of weeks. It was a matter of instant gratification as everything was transplanted from somewhere else in the garden, including the grass. Still, we have a couple of months before things reach their potential. Meanwhile we are creating a much bigger vegetable garden this year and building a garden shack/playhouse. I will keep you posted on our progress.

Rick enjoys his labors


  1. Your photos are always wonderful, but this time they are a special treat for us, since we love the Perche and will be there in May and June. Our first stop will be lunch at Le-Pin-la-Garenne.

    The photo of the pigeonnier and the manoir behind the open gate are very familiar to us. I’m hoping the garden there will be open. It’s been closed our last two trips.

    Needless to say, I envy you and your friends. I’ll be looking out for the Househunters episode, especially for the two properties they didn’t buy!

  2. Nancy, you should stop making such nice pictures and comments of the Perche ! I am afraid soon all american, australian and english people join and make new great invasions !

  3. pretty nice blog, following :)