a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Is it worth it?

26 Comments

We have always believed that we share the house and garden with the animals that frequent it ( see the old 2017 post “We give nature a home..”. In fact, they share their garden with us rather than the other way around.

A Barbastelle bat had been visiting us since 2016 (see “Return to the garden in March”) and recently we have noticed what we think is a common Pipistrelle bat behind the shutters and sometimes in our garden parasol. I did not think that roosting behind shutters in wet weather was an ideal site for the bats.

In the winter of 2019, Kourosh built and installed a bat box. We looked through the internet to get the best advice we could find on sizes and places and height to mount the box. You can see that the box has been placed on a sheltered spot. The problem is that access is difficult and so we were never sure if it was being used.

Last week Kourosh decided to get out his long ladder and have a look. The tell tale droppings on the ledge underneath the box was enough to reassure us that the box was being used.

After the installation of the first bat house, we realised that it would be difficult to monitor and also I had my doubts about the suggestion of such a high position for a bat box. After all, the bats had chosen the downstairs shutter and quite a narrow installation. Kourosh listened to my concerns and built me a MarkII bat house with the same interior width as the space behind the shutter.

The problem is that underneath the bat box MarkII it is difficult to see any droppings because of the flowers.

Once again Kourosh came to my rescue because there is no way you can see inside a long bat box. He had purchased a Potensic endoscope some years ago before even he had a smart phone. Now he was able to join it to his mobile phone and guess what!

The lower bat box had an occupant which you can see on this short (6 sec.) video.

I think it is a common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus). The best way to identify bats from a photograph is to look at their ears. Like many identifications from photographs, it is not exact and if anyone is more knowledgeable about bats I would love to hear from them. I believe that a more exact identification can be made using equipment that can detect their echolocation cries which are specific to the species of bat and these detectors are used by people who study bats.

Here, in the Charente Maritime, the fields for monoculture of vines, maize, sunflower and oilseed rape are increasing in size as hedges are cut to join up the fields and woodland is removed to create more arable land. This means less habitat for the bats and of course the flying insects that they consume. In addition, modern farm buildings offer less places for the bats to roost.

We were very happy with our discoveries and sat down to enjoy a morning coffee.

We needed to use the parasol because of the sun but when we opened it we found it was already in use.

I’ve turned this image to give you a less upside down image of the bat. Needless to stay, we had to get our sun hats to enjoy our coffee outside! Luckily, the bat does not always take up residence in the parasol.

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.

26 thoughts on “Is it worth it?

  1. Definitely worth it!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great result, such an interesting project and outcome. Also a timely reminder of a task I have never got round to but now will… Thanks for the reminder and tips how to get started. Not sure about the endoscope part though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kourosh bought the Potensic endoscope a good few years ago for something else and we plugged it into the computer. It can be plugged into the smart phone too which is much more flexible. It is not expensive and handy if you lose anything under large heavy furniture :). Amelia

      Liked by 2 people

  3. We have bats here near Carpentras and I also had them at my previous house in Roquebrun, and they seem to love shutters. A friend had a large maternal colony behind hers one year. We have mostly pipistrelles, the tiny ones, but there are a couple of others we have spotted. We have several bat boxes of different designs and its very hard to tell if they are in use. Droppings are your friend.
    bonnie in provence

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think droppings are a good marker to assure us that the boxes are being used. I would love to have a maternal colony behind my shutters. I once saw a maternal colony of bats in a crypt under a church in France. The roof was not very high and I could see the babies! A friend of a friend has bats in a farm building nearby. I am trying to get an invite to visit. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How lucky you are !
    Bravo for your work, it worth it !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes! Yes, it is worth it. We enjoy our twilight visitors, who soar in front of the house on summer evenings. The daytime patrol is for the dragonflies, but come evening, there’s a changing of the guard and the bats are in control. It’s only been a couple of years that the bats have entertained us. When we first arrived, there weren’t any. I don’t know if the difference is something we have done, or if the bats are recovering from White Nose. We have hesitated to put up bat houses, because “they” said it was not a good idea to provide housing in which they’d congregate–as it could lead to the spread of the disease. Instead, we sit back and enjoy the dance that nature offers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do agree that just as the dragonflies and bees make our summer days so special, then seeing the bats swoop past in the summer evenings to make them memorable. I do not think there are problems with the bats in Europe suffering too much from this disease, probably because they have a long standing resistance, it is a novel pathogen in the US and so the bats have suffered. Amelia

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  6. Yes it’s worth it leading to an interesting blog.
    What is interesting is that our governments new environment and agriculture programme now that we have left the EU will encourage the planting of new hedgerows and woodland.
    Hedgerows are at last recognised as important wildlife Corridors.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fascinating post, great job providing homes for bats. I have several behind an upstairs shutter – they will hibernate in the cave in the Winter.
    Your garden looks fantastic 👍🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you 🙂 I’ve only managed to attract mine one bat at a time. Do you mean cave as in wine cellar or have you got a cave in your garden? In the 18th century in the UK it was the fashion among the aristocracy to build grottoes in their garden. It would be lovely to have a secret grotto in the garden! You would need lots of large stones but I do not think that Kourosh would be up to it, unfortunately. Amelia

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  8. We have vats too. So sweet. They lodge behind our kitchen shutter, but we need to move them next year. Hopefully it won’t be too difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a great post! I loved seeing inside your bat box. I got my husband to read your post too and he is now determined to build boxes too and try a periscope. We have two pipistrelles under the house eves each year and I would love to encourage more as modern concrete life provided very little shelter as you so well said🦇🦇🦇

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good luck to your husband! I don’t think the sizes have to be exact so it leaves some latitude as it does not have to be perfect. A good project perhaps for later in the year and the weather keeps us inside. Amelia

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