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Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it saved the French wasp

I was lucky enough to spend two weeks in south-eastern France during early November (it’s nice having connections!). Although I spent much of the time working on ecology assignments or trying out new recipes, I still had the chance to see some wildlife.

The first species seen were a couple of small birds – blue tits, great tits, a dunnock. Although these are fairly common species at home, I was still happy enough to watch them on the bird feeder, flitting back and forth, with the occasional squabble against each other. What surprised me was another bird, similar size to the blue tit and certainly of the same family – a crested tit! Although fairly common across Europe, in the UK they are only resident in the pine forests of Scotland. This was my first time seeing a crested tit so I was fascinated. With an unusual facial pattern, and its black and white crest, it is a distinctive species.

Crested tit on the bird feeder

Crested tit on the bird feeder

I’m lacking in equipment currently, so I don’t have a moth trap or sweep net, but I don’t let such things stop me from finding some invertebrates. A couple of butterflies were loving the warm sunshine (as was I, since London had been much colder!), such as the Painted lady below.

Painted Lady butterfly

Painted Lady butterfly

On the calmer nights, the window was often besieged by moths drawn in by the light. I managed to identify some, such as the Crimson Speckled moth (U.pulchella). However, I couldn’t find all in my moth identification book. Upon conversing with someone in the know, I found out that whilst the UK and France do share many species, the total number of moth species present in France is about twice as many as are present in the UK. Crumbs! Therefore some of the moth species remain unidentified (only for now though, as I’m determined to find out whom they are!).

Crimson Speckled moth ... caught in a wine glass! Well, naturally, I was in France!

Crimson Speckled moth … caught in a wine glass! Well, naturally, I was in France!

Unknown moth species (again in a wine glass!), possibly Streak, C.legatella?

Unknown moth species (again in a wine glass!), possibly Streak, C.legatella?

The moths weren’t the only nocturnal creatures about, there were also two animals in the courtyard who were rustling the fallen leaves and were very pleased when it rained later in my stay. These mystery rustlers were two rather large toads! And by large, I mean amongst the largest wild toads I’ve come across (thus not including exotic toads in zoos).

Not so impressed to see me

Not so impressed to see me

A number of other invertebrates were also found in and around the house, from small swarms of ladybirds loving the open window, an interesting red bug investigating my shoe and a rather odd looking red insect found in the sink! A noteworthy insect would be the wasp I found partway through my stay there. It had managed to get itself trapped in a small bottle, drawn in by the remaining sweet drink. You may have read a previous blog post where I mentioned that I have had a rather traumatic experience with wasps. However, curiousity about its identification overcame my fear and I rescued the wasp. I’m sure glad I did as I managed to capture this photo as the wasp recovered from its ordeal. If you were wondering, it is a common wasp apparently (V.vulgaris).

Wasp! Still makes me shudder

Wasp! Still makes me shudder

In conclusion, I had a lovely time in France and got to see some new species which is always nice. Below are a couple more creatures I came across. And in case you were wondering, I got the ecology assignments back – 80% and 90%, whoo!

Another unknown moth species. I reckon it is one of the Carpets, maybe a Mallow or Marbled? But might be a non-English spp.

Another unknown moth species. I reckon it is one of the Carpets, maybe a Mallow or Dark Marbled? But might be a non-English spp. And again, in a wine glass!

Ooh, pretty!

Ooh, pretty!

Everyone loves a blue tit

Everyone loves a blue tit

0 replies
  1. staceym
    staceym says:

    Some lovely photos, I would love to see a crested tit. Do you run a moth trap back here in the UK? I’m looking to start next year, but don’t want to be splashing out on anything expensive.

    What are your ecology assignments for? Congrats on the good marks!

    Reply
    • mgshersby
      mgshersby says:

      Not yet, but I’d love to get started on it next year. I’m in the process of persuading my dad to help me make one as I found some instructions for it. If you’re interested, I could try to find where I found it?

      The assignments were for an Aber Lifelong Learning Ecology course – I did five of them in spring (Madness, but I did manage to fit them around third year), and had an extension on a couple of assignments because of heading to South Africa.

      Reply

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