lizard-closeupThe animals we encounter in France are different from those I’ve dealt with in the U.S.

My parents lived in a mid-size city of about half a million people. With a wooded park nearby, deer often ambled onto a vacant lot one house over. Even some very big bucks.  Raccoons were a constant challenge. And the opossums! Squirrels were taken for granted.

As exotic as it gets

Here, on the edge of a little village that’s on the outskirts of a little city of 50,000, I see far less wildlife. Occasionally a fox or pheasant or quail. The hunting club gathers at the community center on Sunday mornings, with wild boars strapped to the hoods of their vehicles. We got all excited recently with a sighting of a single squirrel in the park. And a nest of hatchlings, below left, and a poor injured bird, right, had us cooing.

Around the house, the birds that woke us early in the spring seem to have fled the drought; with rain this week, we’re hoping they come back. In winter, we crumble up any leftover bread to sprinkle on the grass. In the mornings when I open the shutters, they are lined up atop the wall, looking at me, as if to say, “So? What’s taking you so long? How about some crumbs?”

mesangeA family of mésanges, or titmouse/chickadees, had nested amid the rafters of our  entry for years and were none too pleased when we enclosed it. They would click and cluck at us, keeping a distance of about a meter wherever we went in the yard, simultaneously fearless and wary.

Bats come out in the evenings. Sometimes when closing the west shutters against the approaching afternoon sun, I would disturb bats that had taken refuge against the cool  wall behind the shutters. They are such little balls of fur when they sleep.

gecko-2Mostly, though, have lizards galore. They occasionally get inside the house and panic. We try to get them back out without hurting them. Our kid has a knack for picking them up, which is amazing because they are so skittish and lightning fast.

lizard-in-handFor a while we had a huge lizard–at least a foot long–in a pile of rocks. It was great entertainment to watch the lizard peek out, then tear across the grass into the oleander along the wall, then reappear, twig in mouth, to streak back to the rock pile. We haven’t seen this lizard for some time, which is too bad. We’ve been told that a lizard like that in a garden ensures no vipers will take up residence.

Just as the appearance of the geckos is a sign of spring, we’ll know it’s winter when they stay hidden away.

What animals live near you?



22 thoughts on “Animal House

  1. Yes we are so lucky to have such wildlife around us, we too had large green lizards when we first came but they have now disappeared, I am just hoping that we have not destroyed their habitat by gardening too much, although we still have the small one’s, I love the way they freeze when we are near, pretending not to be there, as for bats I do not like them although I wouldn’t hurt them. We also have deer and wild boar, we feel blessed.

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  2. On the roof terrace and courtyard lots of lizards hiding in the stones. Bats at night. Colonies of hirondelles.
    A family of Griffin vultures live on the hill behind and fly over gracefully en masse.

    We also saw an eagle, VERY close, which I plan to post about..

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  3. We also have geckos. Little brown ones….very shy and only outside. The tree frogs are about an inch in diameter and a brilliant emerald colour. The wonderful loud croak makes up for their small size. Humming birds are special. In summer there two different varieties. The Rufous and the Annas. Here on the West Coast the Anna Hummingbirds stay all winter. We keep the feeder close to the window so that it is a constant pleasure. We also have the usual deer and rabbits and raccoons. Those are not a constant pleasure.

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    1. I think the deer are always magnificent, even though they eat gardens. The rabbits are cute, too. Raccoons less so.
      You really know your birds! It’s something I wish I had learned. Bravo to you!


  4. In a Southern US city with lots of green spaces, there are deer. Occasionally they crash through the back yard, which turns on the paranoia lights a previous owner installed on the deck. And there are rabbits and squirrels and feral cats, and something that dug up my potted dill and scattered dirt all over.
    I’ve occasionally seen possums and raccoons and foxes. Also black snakes and spiders, but prefer not to get too up close and personal there.
    Lots of birds: Cardinals, robins, hawks of various kinds, ravens, crows, blue jays, the occasional goldfinch. And yesterday, when I looked out the back door, I was startled to see what I thought was a gigantic bug at eye level — a hummingbird, with a beautiful green necklace and chest.

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  5. Funny, I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto and never saw as much wildlife as we do here in France. It was around us, for sure, but somehow we kept the outdoors out and the indoors in. In France, we live with doors and windows open and see lizards galore, many more birds, rodents and even the odd deer. Never seen such a green little guy as you’ve got there, though!

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      1. I never saw a rat all the time I lived in Manhattan, although did once have a small mouse in a ground-floor apartment. Cockroaches, OTOH, were plentiful and frequently large. Having cats probably kept most of the possible visitors away.

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  6. mice galore! I had a satisfyingly violent dream about them last night after staying up late to clean out my pantry and move the surviving food into cooking pots. We had a raccoon one day, and I think that guy had something to do with my broken flower pots. My tomato plants were eaten alive. We got swarms of birds when my neighbors’ serviceberry tree fruited.

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  7. Such a beautiful lizard! I must admit, I do love the wildlife here in Canada….as a British person living here I’m thrilled that when we’re out mountain biking we’ll quite often see a bear and if we’re out on the ocean we might get lucky and spot orcas or humpbacks. In the city here there’s coyotes, racoons, skunks (which are very pretty actually), hummingbirds and many other varieties of birds hanging out for easy food. There’s even more opportunity to spot wildlife once you go further north and into the interior. I’m fascinated by the movement to ‘rewild’ europe, once home to so many more species than there are at present. I hope that movement continues…..

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