05 April 2007

Local fauna: the real thing

I have more pictures from the ZooParc de Beauval, but I'll save them for another time. Here's some of the wildlife that actually lives wild around Saint-Aignan. A little less exciting, certes, but no less beautiful.

Day before yesterday, it was warm enough for me to want to move some plants outdoors from their over-wintering location in the little sunporch we have at the front entrance to the house. I noticed this escargot sliding across a stone. No, I don't plan to eat it!

Escargot avec gendarme

The little red-and-black bug near the snail is called un gendarme in French. In England, it's called a firebug, I've read. Gendarmes like to live under linden trees (tilleuls) and under ours there are hundreds, even thousands of them whenever it gets warm and the sun comes out. They have an image plutôt sympathique in France, says the Wiki article.

Gendarmes gathering on a clay pot in the sun in mid-March

Firebugs don't fly, as far as I can tell, and are certainly gregarious. According to Wikipedia, they eat and digest plant matter, seeds, and the eggs of other insects, which all then gets recycled into the environment. They are not harmful in any way. Only very rarely do you find one inside the house.

It seems that French gendarmes
used to wear red-and-black uniforms.

Another animal that lives in significant numbers in the Cher River valley is the chèvre, or goat. They aren't wild though, and the reason people keep them is for the milk they produce and the good cheeses that can be made out of it.

A local goat enjoying a good nose rubbing by Walt

The local goat cheeses are excellent. You can buy them at different stages of maturity — frais, demi-sec, or sec (soft, medium, or hard) — and in different shapes — flat disks (ronds), logs (bûches), and heart-shaped (coeurs).

Local goat cheeses and local red wine. Thanks again to Cheryl
for the fine picture, which she took in a restaurant here in 2003.

In the way of real wildlife, we have the little roe deer that live all around our village and often graze in people's yards. In French, they are called chevreuils, and if that word resembles the word for goat (chèvre), it's because the deer resemble goats — they aren't much bigger.

A roe deer grazing in our back yard in August 2003

Last night around sunset we saw three chevreuils grazing in our neighbors' big yard across the street. There wasn't enough light to take a picture. Since we had our yard completely fenced in in 2004, the deer can't get in here to graze any more. And the new puppy won't be able to get out...

Wikipedia's article on roe deer says the word roe probably means "streaked, spotted," though the deer here don't look like that. It also says that roe deer are "primarily crepuscular," which must mean they come out of hiding to graze at dusk. I used to see them early in the morning all the time when I was out walking Collette.

Roe deer are also edible (as are goats). Our friends in Blois served roe deer venison when we went for lunch at their house a few weeks ago. And I've eaten goat at the local ferme-auberge ("farm inn"), which is a farm that operates a B&B and a restaurant.

1 comment:

  1. I think we have gendarmes in Wisconsin but the colors are reversed. Really!


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