Birds in Brittany

posted 25 May 2005

Here in Finistère (French for "Land's End," the region Brest, Plouzané, and Plougonvelin are in), we've seen the usual starlings, sparrows, sea gulls, and pigeons, of course, and the rougequeue, rougegorge, merle, and pie bavarde, old buddies from Villefranche, are here too, but the changes in season and location have brought new acquaintances.

The Eurasian collared dove, ubiquitous in Villefranche, is quite scarce around here and is replaced by the much larger "pigeon ramier" (Columba palumbus, wood pigeon). Several times, we've seen a "geai des chênes" (Garrulus glandarius, jay). It's sometimes called the "geai bleu," but it's not much like our bluejay; the only blue on it is a patch on each wing, and it flies in a funny, hunched-over posture, displaying a broad white rump. On two successive days last week, I heard (but haven't seen) a "coucou gris" (Cuculus canorus, cuckoo). Talk about an unmistakable bird-call—it sounds exactly like a cuckoo clock! That's what I though it was until it flew overhead and off into the distance, cuckoo-ing all the way. I've also heard, just once, a white-throated sparrow! I though I must be mistaken, but later, I spotted it in the European bird guide—apparently, it wanders over here occasionally.

One evening, while we were out for after-dinner stroll, a thrush, probably a "grive musicienne" (Turdus philomelos, song thrush) seranaded us for quite a long while with a song almost as varied as a mockingbird's. The "martinets noirs" (swifts, Apus apus) are back, but the flock here is small and relatively quiet. Perhaps they'll become more vocal as the weather warms up—the sound of swifts screaming is the sound of summer in France for me. We have at least two species of swallows, the "hirondelle de fenetre" (Delicon urbica, swallow) and the "hirondelle de cheminée" (Hirundo rustica, chimney swallow). The latter turns out, surprisingly, to be quite a good singer! I've also seen a couple of blue tits, and we hear the coal tit all the time, but I've learned through long experience that 95% of all birds that sit still long enough for me to focus the binoculars are sparrows.

previous entry     List of Entries     next entry