I hardly came across any mammals on the Chemin except for the domestic kind, but wild flowers, birds and insects were abundant. Although many of the species I saw were familiar to me from the UK, there seemed to be a much greater diversity and distribution here in south-west France.
Birds of prey included buzzard, kite, kestrel, sparrow hawk and possibly an eagle. And the call of the cuckoo was the musical backdrop to the whole fortnight. Some more unusual birds I spotted were redstarts and shrikes — redstarts are only locally common in Britain, and shrikes very rare indeed. (Shrikes are also known as 'butcher birds' because of their habit of catching insects and small vertebrates, then impaling their bodies on thorns.)
The 'chirping' of crickets could be heard most days. This loud, rasping wall of sound is produced by the males when they rub one wing against the other to attract the females, a behaviour which is called 'stridulation'. I'm pretty certain they were crickets, and even saw one basking on a wall near Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole. However, checking the natural history websites, it seems crickets tend to 'stridulate' at night rather than in the daytime. What's going on here?
Buttercup, dandelion, ragged-robin, cuckoo flower, wild daffodil, white narcissus, bugle, spurge, tormentil, wood anemone, cowslip, wild strawberry, dog rose, stitchwort, campion, scabious, poppy, St John's wort, speedwell, yellow archangel, lungwort, vetch, clover, marsh marigold, violet, wild pansy, herb robert, oxeye daisy, peony, butterbur, honesty, selfheal, comfrey, broom, bird's-foot-trefoil, scarlet pimpernel, cow parsley...
... were just some of the flowers I found growing along the path. Lungwort (pulmonaria) is unbelievably common, whereas in England this tends to be mainly a garden flower. (Lungwort is so called because its spotted leaves were thought to resemble diseased lungs, and it was therefore used to treat pulmonary infections in the days of sympathetic magic. You can find a post I wrote on sympathetic magic here.) I also saw several different types of orchid, including the rare bee orchid, and later identified with delight herb Paris and pasque flower — both firsts for me.
(All images from Wikimedia Commons)