a french garden

Lodgers

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Hierophis viridiflavus

Hierophis viridiflavus

When you live in an old stone house you have got to accept that you will not be the only occupant.  It’s just a matter of when you meet the other lodgers.

A head pops out of a hole

A head pops out of a hole

As usual I find myself looking into a hole when something starts looking back at me.

Testing the sunshine

Testing the sunshine

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to catch the little flickering black tongue that repeatedly tested the air.

Decision taken

Decision taken

I was please to see him come out as he will quickly return if he feels any movement.

Nearly out

Nearly out

You will note that precaution has won and the last little bit of the tail is still in the hole.  Well after that I must have moved and he was off like a shot back into the hole.

He does move fast and his speed is what gives him his common name of Western Whipsnake – fast as a whip.

We’ve had a couple of sunny days and he likes to sunbathe at the edge of the house.  He is well hidden by the bunches of white Alyssum that grow in the cracks, and O.K. the odd bit of chickweed too.  Reptiles and Amphibians of France say that they hatch at about 30 centimetres and that was my guess of his length although I am very surprised that they would hatch as big as that.  It would mean that my lodger is this year’s hatchling which seems  a bit early.

These snakes are common throughout France and we have seen larger ones before (A Snake in the House).  They are not aggressive snakes nor are they venomous so they are very welcome to share the garden with everybody else.

Another visit

Another visit

This picture was taken five years ago and the snake made a remarkably rapid retreat mounting the wall vertically and disappearing over the roof.

Bat on wall

Bat on wall

It was a month ago exactly that we had another visitor in almost the same position on the wall.  A bat took up residence behind the shutters of the living room window that we leave almost permanently in the open position.

The bat only stayed a couple of nights, probably put off by people taking photographs of him but I don’t really think that behind the shutters would have been a good site for a permanent roost.

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Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

34 thoughts on “Lodgers

  1. I love ‘your’ snake, Amelia. I often wish we had more species here in the UK. I haven’t seen an adder for years and I only have grass-snakes at the Priory – for which I’m very grateful. Dave

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  2. Lovely snakes, and I’m glad you don’t have the usual aversion to them. 🙂

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  3. Such helpful lodgers!

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  4. I am always amazed by how many true pests your lodgers help to manage. I was recently informed, which I did not realize, was that there are some plants only a bat can pollinate. I am trying to research this a little further.

    Great photos…

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  5. We have the Western whip snake in the garden here too, although I don’t often see them, I sometimes find their skins near roses they’ve used to help them shed their old skin. I saw astounded to see how easily they could climb the steps to the vegetable garden – so if one got into the house there would be no use in running upstairs to get away! Great images as usual Amelia, remind me what camers you use. Christina

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    • LOL . I had a vision of being chased upstairs by one of the snakes!
      I got a Canon 60D last Autumn. I don’t think the camera is so important as the lens. I just got a Canon 100mm Macro and I really like it for close-ups. I now have a chance to identify bees because I can get sharper pictures. I got a kit zoom lens with the camera but I find the distance part of the zoom i.e. for landscapes disappointing. It might be me though as I’m only learning. But the landscapes taken with our Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ18 are reasonable and its Macro function good. The difference in price between the two seems unjustifiably large.

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  6. I let the snakes live in my hen house…when they are there I do not have mice. Although, I only allow water snakes!

    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

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    • I’ve never seen a water snake although our land snakes will cross water if obliged to, I think. I’m sure the hens prefer the snakes rather than having to share their food with mice.

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  7. I am amazed that snake-lings have already hatched in your area. Incubation must be at least a month or more. Perhaps it was just a late hatch last summer and over-wintered under your stones?

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  8. Who needs pets when you have lodgers. They are beautiful. Okay, the bat isn’t exactly beautiful, but I still like it.

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  9. i don’t mind snakes but my grandmother would have been swaying in the top of your tallest tree if she had visited your garden and seen your other visitor.

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  10. What a variety of wildlife you have. Love the photos, especially the small bat.

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  11. I sometimes wonder if the BBC Natural History Unit could make a program or two just from the creatures to be found in crumbly old French houses – we have had all manner of rodents, a family of owls, blue tits, bats, baby grass snakes, a hornets nest and much more.

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  12. Very nice documentation of interesting guests.

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  13. Just after you posted this we had a “lodger” slither past the front door… a Viperine Snake [Natrix maura]…. “he” was probably on his way to the millstream.
    Like the Grass Snake… a close relative…. they are good swimmers…. but unlike the Grass Snake, they take fish!
    It was only a young one, 50cm at the max and only as round as my little finger.
    So, a bit older than yours…. but not by much….
    We get yours here too…. and the Grass Snake… but I’ve only seen the latter as road kill… sad… but… c’est la vie [ou mort?]
    One advantage of a huge meadow is that I can rake up the mowings into large, fermenting heaps… that gives them somewhere to lay at least.

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  14. Oh what a cute snake Amelia! With such proportionally big eyes it does look like a hatchling but it seems very early in the year. I’d love to see a wild snake in my garden, or a slow worm. I’ve got an elderly python in the house though. 😀 Lovely bat, too.

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  15. Nooo, no way. I am so happy these creatures doesn’t excist around my place… 😉

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  16. What delightful critters they are. We have bats that summer roost in the eaves but definitely no snakes! As my children might say, snakes are cool.

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  17. Pingback: Summer visitors | a french garden

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