a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

A Regulus ignicapillus in the hand


Back door

Our dining room faces onto a small patio facing the front garden.  Water and food is placed on the patio for the birds to eat, drink, bathe and generally frolic for our amusement summer and winter.

We get large numbers of sparrows and tits with the flock mentality of one for all.  This means that when one is startled they all take off en mass.  Sometimes the startled birds lose their sense of direction and we occasionally hear a tell tale knock on the window.  Usually, they fly off but sometimes they are stunned.


The other day we heard the fateful rap on the window and ran to check that all was well.  A stunned bird was lying on the patio, so I picked it up and even I with my limited birding knowledge realised that it was not a sparrow.


It was completely stunned so Kourosh quickly took a few photographs and then dashed off for a cardboard box.  He found a conveniently small one and I placed the bird in the box and closed the lid and left it in a quiet place.  A couple of hours later we heard a scrabbling from inside the box.  We opened the box outside at the back of the house and the bird flew directly into the trees.

The dark box treatment is the best course to take to prevent a stunned bird from freezing in the winter or dehydrating in the sun of the summer.

Next we had to find out what it was!  I thought it might be a Goldcrest (the smallest British bird – I’m not sure why that stuck in my mind.)  I was on the right track though – it is in fact a Firecrest.  I think I have heard it in the back garden, it has a very distinctive call, you can listen to it here http://www.oiseaux.net/oiseaux/roitelet.triple-bandeau.html

My book on the birds of the Charente-Maritime calls it the Roitelet triple-bandeau and says that it nests in this region but can also migrate in winter.  It also identifies her as a female, the male having a bright orange stripe instead of the females more yellow stripe on the head.  I hope her disagreement with our window does not put her off nesting in the garden or visiting the patio.

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.

20 thoughts on “A Regulus ignicapillus in the hand

  1. Very cute little bird! Thanks for the lesson on knocked out birdies 😉


  2. Birds must do this everywhere, because I’ve seen them do it here too.


  3. Thank you for the dark box method!


  4. So lovely to hold these little wild birds in ones hand. Unfortunately it feels like their hearts will jump out of their breast. Quite often that is just what kills them – their heart. The box in a dark, quiet spot seems to calm them into recovery.
    A nice moment to see it fly into the tree.
    Hope you have more summer.


    • You are right, it is often the stress that kills little birds so the quicker they are placed somewhere dark and safe to recover their senses the better chance they have to recover. Amelia


  5. Ouch. I had to remove a mirror from our garden a few years ago as a goldcrest constantly fought its own reflection and I feared it would end up like your firecrest. D.


    • We have had blue tits repeatedly fighting with their reflection in the window and the car wing mirror at a particular time every day as the sun struck it. We get this particularly in the spring when the males are a bit feisty. Nice to watch the goldcrest, though 🙂 Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Years ago our local vet recommended the box treatment for downed birds when I had a young kestrel come down in our backyard (he didn’t hit a window, but kind of konked out after missing his prey). We had a large and inquisitive dog at the time so I put the bird in the box in the toilet — the only room the dog couldn’t access. I overnighted the bird, then gave it some small pieces of room temperature beef to buck up its strength. When it came time to release it, there were so many birds mobbing it, it didn’t want to go and came and hid under me. In the end I had to take it to the sports field and release it there in a more open area with fewer birds.


    • That is a lovely story and it must have been very interesting to actually watch how powerful the “mobbing” strategy can be. It is a special privilege to get close to wild creatures for a brief moment. Amelia


  7. Did she survive?


    • All it took was a little quiet and rest. When she started to move around in the box we took it outside (near the bushes and trees in the garden that I think she lives in) and opened the box. Kourosh was ready to take a photograph but she was much too quick for that. She sped off right into the trees apparently unharmed. Amelia


  8. I think you two should start your own “Animal Kingdom.” You seem to have the magic touch. Thanks, again, for sharing your adventures.


  9. The cutest little bird. I found a goldcrest in my greenhouse a few weeks ago. I didn’ t know about the box treatment for stunned birds, I’ m so glad that it recovered.


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