a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Of Birds and Bees


All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair –
The bees are stirring – birds are on the wing –
And Winter, slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I, the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.

(Samuel Taylor Coleridge Work without Hope, 1825)

What can I say about our winter this year in France.  Well as they say here, ce n’était pas normal – or in plain English it was pretty miserable.  Generally it was not too cold, but cloudy and rainy – a bit like England, to be honest.  Then all of a sudden we had two days of winter, with temperatures dropping to minus 7 degrees Centigrade and a touch of actual snow.

As we were warned, Amelia and I had placed additional insulation on top and around of beehives.

Virollet Bee hives

But thankfully for our little girls, the following day the temperature rose by 20 degrees,! And the bees were rushing out in great numbers in search of pollen and nectar.


When we arrived in France on a permanent basis, we had very few birds visiting our garden.  The Robin was, of course, sure that this is his garden and we are only the new tenants.  He used to come every day at the beginning and even now he is the most friendly bird in the garden.

Robin at Virollet

I started feeding the birds on a regular basis (they eat more than five kilos of seeds every week!) and over the years we enjoy drinking our coffee and watching the birds on the patio.    Three years ago, my granddaughter on one of her visits here returned from a local fête having spent all her pocket money in buying two young doves.  She released them in our front garden and each year they seem to have raised two babies.  I see the older doves around our small hamlet, but the youngest ones visit us on a daily basis.

Doves at Virollet

I have been delighted to see that the two pairs of goldfinches that visit our garden have gained enough confidence to come to our patio regularly.  The blue tits, for whom I place the peanuts at this time of the year before they have young ones, looked at the goldfinches a bit suspiciously at first, but decided that there is enough for all.

Goldfinch sharing with blue tit

For the first time I have seen another new bird coming to the patio – a brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) or as is know here, a pinson du nord.

Brambling - Pinson du Nord

I do think that Brambling is rather beautiful.  However, another bird that is unknown to me – and hopefully someone can identify – is a really elegant lady-like bird.

Unnamed bird

The rain has brought back the water to the river Seudre running at the bottom of our garden.  Amelia literally dumped all surplus daffodils last year along the river bank, and they have awarded us with flower this year.

Virollet France (2)

But this is also beginning of the period when we start watching our hives in case they are thinking of swarming, and of course hoping to catch any new swarm that might be visiting our garden.  We have placed two six frames mini hives as traps, one at the bottom of the garden and one on top of the old chicken house, as there we have caught several swarms in previous years.

So we are set and ready.  Hurry up summer, we are tired of this winter.


30 thoughts on “Of Birds and Bees

  1. It is really nice watching birds in your own garden & feeding them like a family member !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. For those of us who live in a host country far away from our children and family members, our garden becomes our haven; our birds, as you say, our family. It is such a pleasure to watch them each day.
      – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Come to Toronto if you’d like a bit more snow – free of charge too, eh!

    Tom Atkinson

    Cats: Hepatica (ever curious), Barley (2007-2017): “the spirit of the dead will survive in the memory of the living”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Is that an invitation? We lived for some time outside Buffalo and enjoyed spending many weekends in Toronto. It was a wonderful city. We also experienced the blizzards and snow storms and so we know exactly what you are saying. But you are welcome to keep your snow – although I also remember the beautiful springs, which will not be far away for you. – Kourosh


  3. I think the unknown is a female siskin? I also agree that bramblings are very beautiful although I dont see them very often.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much, Philip for enlightening me. I just think those little birds are such a delight to watch. – Kourosh


  4. How delightful, and wonderful to see the bees bringing in pollen; for that of course suggests that you have a laying Queen – always a good sign. I wonder if your concern about swarming is not a little premature and whilst the bait hives can be a good idea (although they may not be your bees that they attract) I wonder if they are big enough – have a look at the Cornell University site – a 40 litre box has worked very well for me ( https://ecommons.cornell.edu/handle/1813/2653.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Andrew. In this part of France the most common type of beehive is the Dadant design with ten frames. The bait hives we use here is a six frame which worked very well, both for capturing new arrival swarms and making artificial swarm from our own bees. After 2 to 4 weeks we then transfer them to the full hive. Last year we collected ten swarms in these bait hives. See attached link to one swarm I collected a couple of years ago.

      Many thanks for sharing your experience


  5. She is a Siskin. What a lovely post, especially the robin. My daffodils are stunted by the exceptionally cold weather, but I am hoping they will eventually catch up with yours!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad that you confirm the siskin identification.
      Robin is always a winner for us too. And I do hope that Spring catches up for you quickly and your garden will be full of flowers.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I know how you feel. We might see as much as 18 inches of snow tomorrow, and that after all of it just melted.
    Nice that your granddaughter’s original birds had generations of offspring that still come.
    The daffodils along the river are beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I realize that the garden does need a good freeze every year – but NOT when my apricot tree has started to blossom – please. In any case I do hope that some of the blossoms on fruit trees survive and we will have some plum and apricot.
      – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Like plant specie, bird specie are regionally variable. Also, the common names are not as accurate as Latin names are. Goldfinches there are very different from goldfinches here.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful birds! I hope your bees do well this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We had much the same issue when we first moved here that the birds weren’t used to visiting the garden; the previous owner also had cats which couldn’t have helped; slowly over time more and more birds visit but I’ve never see your mystery bird.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The consensus is that the unknown bird is a female siskin.
      I am sure that we observe but do not “see” some of the more shy birds. Fortunately given time some get used to our presence and come closer realising that we are no danger to them even though we are bigger than the neighbour’s cat! – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

  10. What a beautiful post, and with such gorgeous images! The robin makes me feel quite homesick: Robins were my mother’s favourite birds and among the visitors to the garden that my brother and I fed all through our childhood. I’m going to pass on the info about bait hives to the beekeeper in my family – really interesting to read about them, and to follow the link from Andrew to the Cornell booklet. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sylvia. It is nice to hear from you again. Our bait hives has served us well in the last couple of years and each year we caught more than ten swarms. – Kourosh


  11. Lovely blog – I came on here to quickly research something on Celandines for a story I’m writing, and stopped for the rest! I believe the little green bird is a female Siskin? This is by far one of the most interesting nature and gardening reads I’ve found online so far.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. That is flattering. The bottom of the garden near the river is now full of celandines in flower. – Kourosh


  12. Great to see the bees busy on a spring day, observing and identifying the birds visiting the garden is a joy. We had bramblings vist during a Very cold winter, although not recently, they are attractive birds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The garden will never be the same without those pesky little feathered friend who eat all our cherries in summer! I am joking they are welcome to the garden and all the fruit that they eat. – kourosh


  13. Your photos are breathtaking! I love the diversity of birds you find near your home!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I have been thinking that perhaps the variety might have always been there, but I did not observe them well. It is like not seeing the wood for the trees. – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

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