Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Parliament of owls

French Village Diaries wildlife in France long eared owl
Long eared owl

Our orchard has always been one of the most magical parts of our life in France. From the very first time I saw it, with the waist high grass trying to hide it’s treasures, to today, eleven and a half years later, I love it and the bounties it gives. The beauty of the blossom on the fruit trees, the harvests of cherries, plums, pears, apples, peaches, quince, hazelnuts and walnuts, the sturdy low branches Ed has enjoyed climbing and also the surprises it keeps on giving us.

I have been keeping ducks since 2005 and the reason I do is because of a surprise from the orchard; a lone male Muscovy duck who arrived in January 2005 and stayed, so we went to market and bought him some lady ducks, as you do in rural France. Once we had ducks, getting chickens seemed a logical thing to do and surprisingly Yum Yum, our first duck, wasn’t the only one to just turn up, Choccie, a brown Muscovy female joined our gang in November 2006. Brucie our goose was another orchard surprise, found as a fluffy yellow gosling, crying and scared one Sunday morning. Questioning our neighbours revealed they had seen an unknown bearded man enter through our locked gate and place the gosling in the orchard. This was in May 2009 but Brucie is still with us, laying large and delicious eggs, happy to live as an honoury duck and we still have no idea who left her or why. Such is life in a rural French village.

French Village Diaries goose orchard potager
Brucie the Goose and her first egg of 2016
I thought the most unusual sight I’d seen in the orchard was the male Golden Pheasant who popped in one day to show off his magnificent plumage, but then the owls arrived. 

French Village Diaries wildlife in France golden pheasant
Golden Pheasant
Whilst weeding in the potager last week I glimpsed the silent shadow of large wings overhead and then noticed big bright eyes watching me from the bay tree. When Adrian arrived home at the weekend I took him out to see for himself and prove I hadn’t dreamt it. As I walked towards the bay tree, owl, after owl, after owl took flight above our heads. It was an incredible experience and having never in my life seen a long eared owl in the wild, I feel really privileged to have at least ten of them now spending their days in our large bay tree.

French Village Diaries wildlife in France long eared owl in daylight flight
Long eared owl flying low over the orchard
I have spoken to Chris Luck, an expert on wildlife in France (find him on Facebook here), and I now know it is a common occurrence for many species of birds to flock together over winter and long eared owls have a preference for evergreen trees, like our bay. I had no idea this happened and although the orchard is a quieter spot over winter than in the summer, it’s not without it’s human interruptions. Their presence is such a privilege and although I should be busy tackling the weeds in the potager, at least I now have the perfect excuse not to do too much work out there as I don’t want to risk frightening them away.


A friend reminded me yesterday that the correct term to use is a parliament of owls, which I think is suitably important sounding for such an unexpected spectacle in our orchard. I’d certainly rather discuss the owls than anything currently going on in world politics.

This post has been linked to the Lou Messugo All About France blog link. Click here to read more posts.

Lou Messugo