Despite the inaccurately-identified marmots (ragondins – coypu… not quite so sweet and infrequently spotted) we still have an awful lot of visitors you just don’t get 750 miles north and west… last night’s etranger was une grande grenouille (frog, to you and I) who had decided to take up squatting rights in a recyclable bin we yoinked from Bury council. He was huge – so much so that when Steve went to lift the bin up, he felt the extra weight. Maybe he was taking umbrage at our ‘crapaud dans le trou’ of the other night. Toad in the hole might seem barbaric to him. On the other hand, he might well have escaped from ‘La Grenouillère’ – which if I’m not wrong means ‘the froggery’ and is about 2 miles from our house. Having said that, Steve was most perturbed when he was here on his own in spring to hear the frogs of the Tardoire sitting at the bottom of the castle croaking to one another. Not quite the death of a naturalist. He wasn’t quite as frightened as the young Seamus Heaney by the ‘great slime kings’.
I think a bunch of frogs sitting at the bottom of a fairy-tale castle is quite romantic. Maybe they are waiting for a princess to kiss them?
But M. Grenouille hasn’t been our only visitor de nuit. We have a nightly (free!) moth cinema. Some of those bad boys are huge! There was a beautiful black one with white markings, kind of like tiger-print. There are lots and lots of plain little ones. Some, unfortunately, are stuck to the ‘catch’ fly strips. I say ‘unfortunately’, but a big part of me thinks moths will get in my wardrobe and eat my clothes. I’m guessing it’s an Écaille Chinée – a marbled tortoiseshell Jersey tiger – but my botany skills leave a lot to be desired after the marmot incident. Many of the moths do amazing spiral dives and re-enact key battles from the Second World War. You could easily spend an entire night watching them (if you weren’t watching the last episodes of 24 Season 2 for the first time)
But the star of the show has to be ‘la chauve souris’ which is our resident bat. He brings his friends over at night to hunt around moth cinema. He lives in our petite grange and gets very annoyed when we disturb him. They fly really close to you when you’re out at night – quite spectacular!
Besides this we have any number of beetles, flies, mosquitoes and other insects. It’s all very Gerald Durrell!