Tim was peacefully looking out of the window this morning when he saw two crows escorting a large sparrowhawk off the premises. A very large sparrowhawk. Bigger, in fact, than the crows. In fact, it was a goshawk (accipiter gentilis) [autour des palombes]. We thought we'd seen one before, but weren't sure, although they are believed to nest in our commune. The English name derives from the anglo-saxon for "goosehawk", and the French name means "around the woodpigeons" - both these names give an impression of the size of prey the goshawk is capable of taking out. For this reason, the goshawk was popular in falconry. Here's a lovely picture from the BBC's Nature website.
In Britain, the goshawk was blamed for the death of game birds and, between the gamekeepers and the egg-collectors, became extinct in the 19th century. Escaped falconry birds and others from continental Europe have re-established a small population. They are still persecuted by the small number of egg-collecting criminal monsters.
In rural France, goshawks were treated as vermin (nuisibles) for their taste for creatures that humans like to eat, both wild and tame - "espèces gibier ou de basse cour". They have been protected since 1976, and their numbers are believed to be rising. This area has a great deal of their preferred open woodland habitat, and they have an excellent choice of prey - squirrels, rabbits, hares, voles, pheasants, partridges, pigeons, crows, starlings, thrushes.... but they are by no means common and it's lovely to know they are around. I love the expression la basse cour for the small domestic creatures such as fowl and rabbits that were so often to be the domain of the farmer's wife and children.
The Palace of the Dukes of Berry - On Monday I mentioned that Marguerite d'Angoulême was also known as Marguerite de Navarre and Marguerite d'Alençon. What I didn't say is that another of he...