Spring, the green light...  

Spring is a naturalists' favourite season, it is the start of the superb days of observation that are so much appreciated by nature lovers.

The fruit trees begin this wonderful season, spreading far and wide the pleasant sweet smell of their white flowers, that are however such a contrast to the bitter taste of its wild fruit. For the people exploring the woods, curiosity most definitely did not kill the cat. This curiosity in fact means that they will come across some new discoveries along their way ... like this bird who behaves like a snake! On the edge of the fields, the flowers bring touches of colors here and there, like the red "cockscomb" for example. Is it just for our pleasure or does it have something to do with the return of insects? Should we continue to call them "little beasts" when we know that there are so significant? That's yet another unique feature of the Mediterranean…

Spring provides a certain spice to the days of botanists, ornithologists or entomologists, beginner's or professionals, and it is also the time for a small mammal to stretch its legs and venture outdoors!


The sweetness of the almond ...

When an almond tree begins to bloom, it's a sign that winter is coming to an end… It is indeed the first fruit tree to bloom, Almond for the domesticated variety and the sweetness of its almond obtained after cross-breeding it with a Prunus amygdalus , a wild variety. That of the late Georges Brassens couldn't have been the latter, otherwise the beautiful young lady who came to taste the almonds would certainly not have enjoyed them, as the song says… bitterness would have quickly chased her from the branches . The early flowering of this tree requires mild winters as our Mediterranean climate can offer and this is why this species grows well on our territory. Note that France still produced several thousand tonnes of almonds in 1990. Even if today almond growing is not what it used to be, the tree remains a key element of our landscapes, a treat for the eyes and the nose. As French singer Francis Cabrel once said, "it is an old crooked tree planted in the middle"... of our home.

A woodpecker like no other ... 

First of all its name, the Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx twisted) refers to the nomenclature typically used for this family of birds, for example the famous Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) or the more discreet Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dryobates minor). Then even if it is able to feed in the trees like all the woodpeckers that are morphologically adapted to life in the trees, it can also be seen feeding on the ground. For this reason, it is a very unique variety. It hops along, straightening its tail feathers ... There's no need to mention that it is insectivorous and even less a need to tell you what its favorite dish is, that's obvious! One last interesting fact about this curious bird is that to intimidate a possible predator, it is able to whistle like a snake, to wave in all directions, to twist its neck and even to play dead! Pretty impressive isn't it?

The language of flowers

After 8 years of marriage, we celebrate the anniversary of the Poppy... let's take this opportunity to paint a portrait of this pretty flower. Starting with its name, Poppy, or in French "Coquelicot" (Papaver rhoeas) is from the dear Rooster of France "Coq" and the red color of its crest, which was called"Coquerico" in old French. It is said to be a meadow plant. This means that we can admire it on the edge of cultivated fields. Finally, it is all relative since the herbicides used in cereal farming unfortunately harm this plant... Even though it has a number of benefits and uses: food, cosmetics, herbalism ...! This red variety is of course a worthy representative of the poppy family and therefore has narcotic virtues. There is a good reason that it is the symbol of Morpheus ... Greek God of dreams and sleep! But its symbolism is even stronger than that, and it reminds us of those who fell in combat during the First World War. Poppies grew on their graves and along the trenches.

Grasshopper, magic wand and "Amplificatum!" " 

During the spring holidays, we overheard a discussion between two children, one from the local area and the other from the Paris region:

"Oh you twit, where we live in the countryside, the grasshoppers are more than 10cm long!"

"Oh really?! ... In the south of France, you like to exaggerate don't you."

Well actually it's true! It's not always the case, I'll admit, but this time it is very true! And this famous Grasshopper is even the largest in Europe and a member of the orthoptera order. The Spiked Magician (Pedo saga) reaches 11cm when it's fully grown, 7 for its body and 4 for his ovipositor (saber-shaped organ allowing it to deposit its eggs in the ground). We are of course taking about the female! But since she does not need a male to reproduce and she only lays eggs which will give birth to females, the males are quite simply unknown in Western Europe. Well there you go!


Its spikes won't hurt you, as long as you leave it alone!

"Hilly Billy Hedgehog, prickles and spikes, these are the things that a hedgehog likes, A bowl of water and a slice of bread, A nice warm place to rest his head. When the summer's over and the leaves begin to fall, Hilly Billy Hedgehog curls up in a ball!"

This children's nursery rhyme says a lot about the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) and how they protect themselves from predators. They have a strong cutaneous muscle which allows it to stay in a ball without getting tired, and to stay like that for as long as necessary, to ensure its survival. They only assume this position when they are faced with extreme danger andthere is a series of stages before this one: straightening the bristles, lowering the head, going partly into a ball and finally forming a complete ball and protecting their head. It is then difficult to "unroll" everything! Unless you are a Badger (Meles meles). This is the only known animal capable of this feat.

Hedgehog in the fields or in cities, this cute little mammal is not lacking in bristles... It can have up to 6000 on its back!

Unfortunately this species is today highly endangered due to our cars, which are their number one cause of death... So when you're driving at night, keep your eyes open, slow down and try to avoid them!