birding diary                                                                                              most recent entry: 3 November 2019

The diary refers to birds seen at and around le Moulin du Chemin. Diary entries have been collected over several years. They are entered into a diary that spans only one year, to enable you to know which birds have been seen at any particular time in previous years.

WINTER 22 December to 21 March (according to French reckoning)

We would say the voice of the Golden Oriole is normally unmistakable - but we heard it each year between early January 2013, 2017 and 2019 at le Moulin du Chemin. At first we wondered about the unmistakeability of the Golden Oriole's voice since these birds had formerly been know in this area as a summer migrant. The temperature in early January is usually around 0°C.

When we first came to le Moulin in the early 1990's, it was said that the Golden Oriole was only seen south of Niort (40km south of le Moulin du Chemin and - surprisingly a three to five degrees warmer). In recent years the Golden Oriole has been common around le Moulin during the summer months.

January 2014 - An exceptionally warm January when most mornings, spring birdsong was evident, even in the earliest days, building considerably towards the end of the month.

12 January 2016 - Incredibly for this region, there were half a dozen Cormorant on a local lake, glimpsed form a car - unless I was mistaken.

23 January 2016 - A flock of about twenty White Cattle Egret were seen over nearby fields. The is the largest number seen by us in the region in 22 years. Early in 2017 there we fewer white cattle egrets and these were seen on fewer occasions. In late November and early December 2017 there seem to be a great number of white cattle egrets in the cattle pastures around le Moulin du Chemin. On one -5° morning in mid-December 2017 egrets were seen standing on the backs of the cattle.

25 January 2018 - A Mistle Thrush sang in the rain for the first time that we have heard at le Moulin du Chemin.

9 February 2011 & 12 March 2010 - we have been hearing, and occasionally seeing, Golden Oriole every few days, in the mornings. We are able to see them occasionally because of the lack of leaves as yet on the trees.

February 2014, 2015 and 2016 - Birds love the wet warm weather we are having, judging by the fantastique birdsong heard at le Moulin du Chemin each day.

February 2017 - The Dawn Chorus just as fantastique as previous recent years, although slightly removed due removal of foliage from between le Moulin du Chemin and the adjacent lake.

Images by aspiring professional wild-life photographer Joshua Comaish

Five or six White Egret were seen in our neighbour’s river meadow early February 2006 and in nearby Vernoux-en-Gâtine end of March 2006. None were observed later in the year, however on 9 Nov 2007 there were several white egrets on the field above Pierro's house, among Bernard's cows. By 12 Nov 2007 the number had increased to 80 or 100. Then there was a very cold spell and the number dropped to about 20. By 20 Nov there were still about 10 or 15 white egrets which were moving between three fields, including the original field. The white egrets were still here in mid January 2008. None were observed in 2009 and 2010 and two in 2011.

In living memory, prior to these sightings no white egrets were observed in the region. And the locals, who have names for regularly sighted birds, had no name for the white egret. Now they call it the white egret - an example of the English immigrant's influence on local culture.

A large snow white bird, the size and shape a Grey Heron - but perhaps a slight compared with a Grey Heron - and with the same mode of flight as a Grey Heron, was seen flying over a nearby lake on 24 January 2013 and has been seen periodically since (latest sighting at le Beugnon Fishing Lakes on 21 March 2017. This region is far from the normal range of the Great White Egret.

12 March 2011 - Black Woodpecker photographed in the woods of le Moulin du Chemin. In August 2017 glimpses of the Black Woodpecker have been seen around le Moulin du Chemin and it's distinctive voice and drumming have been heard periodically.












photo Joshua Comaish

White (long tailed) Tit are very evident around le Moulin in the cold winter months – end December to mid February

SPRING 22 March to 21 June

27 March 2017 the distinctive call of the Hoopoe was heard just after dawn at le Moulin du Chemin (for the first time actually at le Moulin du Chemin)

5 April 2019 the first Cuckoo of spring was heard at le Moulin du Chemin. They say that if you have money in your pocket when you hear the first Cuckoo of spring you will have money all year.

5 April 2019 - colourful Hoopoe were heard and then seen in the close vicinity of le Moulin du Chemin. The Hoopoe was displaying its large distinctive crest. When it flies it resembles the flight of a butterfly. The next day a pair of Hoopoe we seen at le Jinchères, 1km from le Moulin du Chemin.

15 April 2008 - a distinctive Barn Owl as seen flying in daylight not too far from le Moulin.

20 April 2015 - This photo was not taken at le Moulin although there are a few Coot in the region. However we cannot resist to share this striking picture here. It was taken on Lake Como in Italy.

photo Peter Roche 

20 April 2008 - Shamsa (Arabic word for sunshine) the Moulin Cat, dislodged the nest of a Grey Wagtail from the bank at the side of le Moulin. Regrettably she had eaten the eggs. The following week Shamsa brought home two Dunnock. Dunnock were formerly  called Hedge sparrows. Dunnock is a more reasonable name because dunnock are accentors not sparrows.

Shamsa was a female ginger cat and female ginger cats are very rare. It is said that a female ginger cat can fetch more than $30,000 in China. Perhaps the folk at le Moullin du Chemin should have followed the money in the interests of the dunnock.

footnote: Shamsa the cat was like sunshine. As noted above, Shamsa means sunshine in the Arabic language.

ultimate foot note: Shamsa passed away in 2017.

23 April 2010 - Bluethroat seen by guests at bird reserve on Ile de Ré, near la Rochelle 1hr 30mins from la Moulin.

25 April 2015 - Hoopoe photographed in our neighbours' garden.                                   photo Judith Prior

26 April 2008 - the first Cuckoo was heard at le Moulin. Luckily we had money in our pockets! If you didn't already know, this old wives tale says that if you have money in your pocket when you hear the first cuckoo you will have plenty of money all the year.

27 April  2008 - we had to slow-down in the car to avoid a Buzzard who was having difficulty making height on account of a 30cm to 40cm grasssnake in its claws, near the village of Pamplie.

29 April 2008 - after discussing with neighbours why they are invaded by swallows, swifts and martins while at le Moulin there are none, a single Swallow was seen darting over the pool and lake, when a Goshawk (also never before seen at le Moulin) spectacularly gave chase. The hawk failed to catch the swallow, the swallow fled and has not been back.

Last weeks of April 2007 - A wild Mallard with ten chicks in tow was seen on the stream at le Moulin. By 5 May there were only three chicks surviving, but by now they are getting quite large so the chances of survival are much better. By 15 May only two chicks have survived and they are still around on 21 May 2007.





photo Dave Laming

End of April 2007 - Grey Wagtail (who are yellow in summer) have a nest in the ivy on the lane leading to le Moulin. They are seen from time to time in spring and summer near the stream at le Moulin and also flitting across le Moulin's low pan tiled roofs.

First week of May: click here for Jane Turner's Moulin Sightings.

3 May 2010 - Recently fledged Tawny Owl photographed near le Moulin (right).

3 May 2007 - A Black Kite was seen at the turning to Puy-de-Serre just outside Vouvent. The kite was sectioning a field while hay was being cut. A common crow was seen to seize something mouse-sized and the kite spectacularly chased the crow, ducking and diving until the crow managed to land in a tree.

4 May 2007 - Partridge (red legged?) are often seen on lanes adjacent to fields and one was seen, unusually, in the village of Scillé on 4 May 2007.

First week of May 2007 - Swallow, Martin and a few Swift were very evident and are very abundant in early June.

In May 2007 Goldfinch are very much in evidence in on the lane verges. on 10 June what looked like a Yellow Finch was seen, but we were unable to identify it more accurately.

The daily dawn chorus at le Moulin is especially brilliant on account of le Moulin's abundant bird habitats, provided by woods and (organically farmed) pastures with ancient hedges as well as the lake and stream. The dawn chorus is first heard in early spring until the end of June or beginning of July. One first becomes aware of birdsong after the winter, in the middle of March with black birds and black caps very vocal. The dawn chorus becomes louder and louder each day until it reaches its maximum in May. At the beginning of June the dawn chorus has abated slightly.

13 - 20 May 2007 - Blackbird and Song Thrush are feeding young in the sweet chestnut copse on the lane between our neighbour Pierro's and the D128.The song thrush has often been seen anvilling snails on the tarmac surface of the lane. In June it is rare to be out of earshot of blackbirds, and song thrushes are becoming common, again.

The European Yellow Wagtail (with pale blue cheeks) were reported by a reliable Moulin guest on 24 May 2007.

bird fact: Owl vision Owls can turn their heads through 270° thanks to extra vertebrae as well as muscles that allow each vertebrae to move independently. The head-turning ability compensates for the fact that owls eyes can't swivel in their sockets like mammal eyes because owl eyes tend to be tubular rather than spherical. Forward-facing owl eyes increase binocular vision, allowing the possibility to see things in three dimensions. The tubular shape creates a bigger retina that allows more light to be captured.

A Tawny Owl's eyes are approximately one hundred times more sensitive to light than a human's. They can see a mouse in light equivalent to that of a single candle at 500m.

Birds have extra neck-vertebrae to permit them to preen (and to compensate for tubular-eye in owls). Owls have fourteen neck-vertebrae, ducks have sixteen and mute swans (the winners among birds) have twenty five, whereas humans and mammals generally have only seven neck-vertebrae.

John Lloyd & John Mitchinson in The Book of General Ignorance, Faber & Faber 2006

24 May 2015 - A pair of Swallows were in the Office and in the Utility Room at le Moulin, looking for a nesting place. We gently discouraged them and now they are entering a stable-building several times each hour. It is about ten years since we last saw swallows, swifts and martins on our property, ever since a grey hawk or harrier started to feed on them.

24 May 2007 - The first hot day of the year and Tawny Owls started their hooting at sunset and sunrise, and the following day ..... and then the weather became cooler! In previous years owls have been very much in evidence all summer.

28 May 2010 - Moulin guests were lucky enough to see a Golden Oriole at les Roches Broussignoux. We continue to hear them in the trees around le Moulin du Chemin.

28 May 2006 - Redstarts seen by Scillé Maire and on le Moulin’s chemin.

In the second week of June 2007, guest Dave Laming took these pictures of a Barn Owl, not far from le Moulin, and Fledgling Swallows at nearby Puy-du-Serre. Dave also reported seeing a pair of exotic Bee Eaters in a field near Maillé in the nearby Marais Poitevin.

At this period a call like that of a Guinea Fowl was heard from the woods adjacent to le Moulin. It could have been that a neighbour's escaped Guinea Fowl but we thought it more likely to be the noise made by a Pine or Beech Marten after mating. These animals are known to live in the vicinity of le Moulin.


bird fact: How songbirds stay alive and attractive The sexual-signalling 'badges' on the head and chest of songbirds have been shown to be more conspicuous to other songbirds than to their predators, allowing the songbirds to show-off without attracting the unwanted attention of hawks and crows. A study shows that sexual-signalling badges of songbirds such as gold crest, willow tit and long-tailed tit appear brighter to other songbirds than they do to predators in 80% of the cases studied.

Studies show that birds eyes have four colour receptors whereas mammals have only three. In songbirds the fourth receptor is sensitive to ultra violet light. In hawks and crows it is most sensitive to the violet end of the visible light range. By way of comparison, the difference in the ranges of sensitivity of these types of birds is greater than that between the green and red colour receptors in humans.

Anders Ödeen of Uppsala University in Sweden

3 June 2007 - several Turtle Dove were seen at Frontenay-Rohan-Rohan. They were also observed on the same Sunday in 06 when we went there for the cycle race. Collared Dove are becoming very common as well as Ring Dove (Wood Pigeon when I was a boy) and Stock Dove.

8 June 2019 -We were excited to see a mother Moorhen and five chicks on the little river that flow through the property. There have not been moorhen in this locality for twelve or fifteen years.

6 June 2007 - A bird that sounds like a the starting cough of a muffled chainsaw was heard again at le Moulin on following mornings. The sound (the bird, not the chainsaw) was first heard some years ago after one of le Moulin's horses was savaged by a large unidentified pray animal - we imagined the sound was that of a cougar in those days, but it's more likely to be some sort of Crow. Jay and Magpie are increasingly common. Common Crow, Carrion Crow, Rook and Jackdaw are all locally very evident.

Crows and Rooks

Some folk say that when you see a lot of crows together they are rooks

and when you see a solitary rook it is a crow.

10 June 2008 - the first Hoopoe ever to be reported at le Moulin was seen during aperitifs-at-seven, disappearing over the wisteria around the pool.

18 June 2006 - A pair of Swallows flew into le Moulin’s office, circled a few times and left. In 08 swallows were twice seen over le Moulin's picine. Each visit was for a short while before a white-with-black-speckles hawk disposed on one of them, the other left. Otherwise Swallows, Martins and Swifts are common in the region during their respective seasons.

SUMMER 22 June to 21 September

27 June 2019 Black Redstart are busy gathering food in the garden of lr Moulin du Chemin, for their young. This is the first time in twenty five years that Black Redstart have been active in the immediate vicinity of le Moulin du Chemin - pictured below.

Short Toed Eagle are reportedly seen in summer in the Marais Poitevin.

Montigue’s Harrier are reportedly seen in summer in the Marais Poitevin.

First week of July: click here for Robin & Mary Jones' Sightings.

15 August 2013 at St-Denis du Payré Bird-Observatory Moulin guests saw scores of Spoonbills, Cattle Egrets, Sacred Ibises, Black Winged Stilts, Sandpipers, Marsh Harriers, and others waders.

Second week of August: click here for Clare McKee's Sightings.

15 & 16 August 2011 - A Black Stork was seen to take-off from le Moulin's river field and was also seen wheeling over le Moulin with a group of buzzards who were displaying timidly-aggressive behaviour towards the black stork. Timidly-aggressive sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it a reasonable description of the way the buzzards were behaving. We have never seen a black stork in this region before this date. (Photo Ian Herridge)

27 August 2010 - A Purple Heron was seen flying over Scillé. There have occasionally been other sighting of  purple heron in the vicinity this summer.

The photo is of a purple heron who resided in the woods at le Moulin several years ago, apparently while recovering from an injury.


Last week of August and first week of September 2017 - a family of Hoopoe were oftern seen in our neighbour's garden and along the lane leading from le Moulin du Chemin to our neighbour's house.

A Black Woodpecker was heard and then seen on a lone oak tree from the garden of le Moulin du Chemin on 10 September 2017.

Buzzard (the local buzzard are known as Variable Buzzard are not unlike Honey Buzzard) are plentiful throughout the year and can be seen in many nearby locations. Buzzards are often seen circling above le Moulin and their plaintive mewing is a common sound in summer.

bird fact: Bird's breathing is 2½ times more efficient than that of humans  Birds breath air far more efficiently than mammals. When a bird inhales, air fills its lungs and also air sacs further inside its body. Upon exhaling, fresh air from the air sac replaces the air that was in the lungs. Consequently, the lungs have a constant supply of fresh air and can therefore extract two-and-a-half times as much oxygen as can a mammal.

from New Scientist 21 March 2009

"birds have two-cycle breathing system"

.... and we presume that is why canaries were taken into mines, because they also extract two-and-a-half times the quantity of noxious gases as humans and therefore circum two-and-a-half times more quickly than humans.


bird fact: How ducks and waders stay alive and waterproof The waterproof quality of ducks is well known. They maintain this quality by application of wax from the "preen gland" in their bills. The wax is usually a mono-ester, which carries an aroma that could attract predators. To cut the risk of predator attack when incubating, certain ducks and waders switch to less volatile (so harder to sniff out) bi-esters for preening. It is suggested that the biological cost of producing bi-esters is greater than that of producing mono-esters.

University of Groningen, Netherlands, gleaned from New Scientist 

Bar-tailed Godwit at Baie d'Aiguillon                                           photo Joshua Comaish

Several Yellowhammer were visible in the first weeks of March 2007 and through April and May in the hedgerows and fields around le Moulin, particularly on the left of the lane between la Basse Salmatière and la Vaud

Golden Oriole mostly heard, on account of foliage - throughout the early summer.

IHoppoe are fairly common, seen in pairs and occasionally with young in tow, in spring and early summer.

A young Hen Harrier with prey was seen on the Scillé-le Beugnon road, close to le Moulin. Hen Harrier are quite common in the region.

Blackcap are often seen and heard at the top of the willow in the garden of le Moulin in early spring & summer.

Last week of August: click here for Jeremy Galton's Sightings.

Green Woodpecker are seen and more often heard at Michenot’s Lake adjacent to le Moulin

25 August 2008 - a pair of Nuthatch were seen on an apple tree at le Moulin du Chemin.

A Black Stork was seen at le Moulin at end of August 2005

2 September 2010 - a Kingfisher was seen at le Moulin - an excellent view as the kingfisher turned in flight over the foot bridge at le Moulin. The picture is of another kingfisher, taken in nearby le Busseau by Dr Tom.

White Stork were seen near le Moulin for the first time in September 03. White Stork are more often seen in the nearby Vendée and particularly in the Marais Poitevin.

A Spotted Flycatcher was reported Jamie Walker at le Moulin as well as a Black Stork seen flying over le Moulin in the first week of September 2007. In the same week a Hobby was reported at the next property, 600m away at la Barelle.

17 September 2009 - a A Black Woodpecker was heard and then seen on  at la Boule, a couple of kilometres from le Moulin du Chemin (control-click for details)

A Red Legged Partridge photographed by Moulin guests in the Marais Poitevin, 19 September 2013, on the left.






Third week of September: click here for Sue and Brian Wilson's Sightings.







photograph Brian Wilson




AUTUMN 22 September to 21 December

9 November 2014 - twenty-one White Egret and a single Parthenaise Bull were seen in a cow pasture near le Moulin du Chemin. According to the old folk in the neighbourhood, White Egret were not seen in the region before 2003. In 2011 they disappeared, to reappear in 2014, according to our sightings.

5 December 2017 Crested Tits have been seen in the deciduous woods within a couple of hundred metres of le Moulin du Chemin. Writing about small birds, it reminds us to look out for Goldcrests and Firecrests which we have seen in previous years, but not recently.

5 December 2014 - A single White Heron was seen for the first time in the region flying up from the lake at le Moulin du Chemin. The sighting was confirmed by a neighbour, in his seventies and lived in the region all his life, who has never seen such a bird before.


We often see a small kestrels between la Basse Salmatière and Lavaud which we are pretty sure is a Lesser Kestrel on account of its Dijon-Mustard/golden colouring. The flight patterns are clearly more active that those of the common kestrel. Common Kestrel are seen often all year.



Maison d'Hôte: Carolynn Grimaldi,

2 Lieu-dit le Moulin du Chemin, 79240 Scillé, France

+33 (0)5 4995 9487


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