As a biologist and ecologist, as well as a Bahá'í, contact with the natural world and its beauties is very important for me. The natural environment of Brameloup and its vicinity is one of its attractions. Here I want to share some of beauty I have observed, the things I have discovered that pleased me, and some of the living things with which I share my environment. Most of the botanical beauty of my forest, particularly the wildflowers, is shown on the seasonal pages for Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.
The orchids and lilies are the most remarkable flowers (see also Spring and Summer) but there are many others, as well as a mixed forest of many kinds of trees: oak, maple, false acacia (Robinia), poplar, walnut, yew, beech, hazelnut, hawthorne and many ash. Ivy is a common ground cover and often reaches high into the trees as well. Mosses and lichens are also very common.
While there are mushrooms in the forest, I have never learned to recognize those that are safe to eat (except for a delicious morrel), and would not try. For beauty, it is the shelf fungi that grow from rotting wood that are the most aesthetically pleasing, but the bright colours of fungi on rotting wood are also spectacular.
Most tree trunks and many other surfaces have lichens (associations of fungi and algae) growing on them. When you look closely, they can be surprisingly beautiful.. . .
From butterflies and moths, to beetles, spiders, and grubs under the bark of fallen trees, insects are everywhere (not to mention mosquitos, mites, ticks, biting horseflies and blood-sucking deerflies that are less welcome dimensions of the natural world).. . .
There are different kinds of snails including some that are bright yellow, but the slugs are most common. They particularly like the flowers in my garden and voraciously consume any vegetables that I try to grow.
Since the river is not too far away, there are frogs and toads in the forest and garden. In the fall, I sometimes find black and yellow salamanders on my patio or in the garden..
Lizards are very common around the chalet, particularly on the balcony and patio. I found a brown garden snake sleeping under a tile, but it slunk away before I could photograph it.
There are numerous birds around the chalet, but they are not easy to photograph, except the babies in a nest under my balcony. There are occasional fallen nests. The numerous bird songs include blackbirds and cuckoos, and owls at night. My wildlife camera finally caught an owl visiting at night.
I have occasionally caught glimpses of mice, deer, foxes, martens, hares, squirrels and badgers at Brameloup, and often see their footprints along my paths and in the snow, but they and the birds are not easy to photograph except with a wildlife infrared camera. There have been some signs of wild boar (something dug up my tulip bulbs). Dormice (nocturnal fruit-eating animals about the size of a squirrel) were permanently resident in my chalet when I moved in, including nests with babies. They would often run around the rooms while I was in them. I finally closed all the openings, but they are still resident in the tool shed and build their nests in boxes. One family of dormice came to a tragic end in 2011 when all seven fell down a downspout and drowned in my rainwater tank, and two more drowned there in 2016, along with a marten. The mouse at right fell into a bucket, which made it easy to photograph.
In early spring, a squirrel busied itself building a nest in the tree next to my chalet. These photos were taken from my window..
Dormice were common in my chalet when I first bought it, running around the living room and nesting under the sink or in a box of tissues. It was only when I could close all the holes through which they entered that I could finally keep them outside. They were cute but not toilet trained, and ate any fruit left out.. .
At the far end of my property there are extensive badger dens with large heaps of soil like mine workings. The different entrances are regularly maintained, with the new soil from one creating a kind of chute like a bobsled run.. .
Some wildlife I only discover when they are dead. In mid-winter, I found a dead gopher on one of my forest trails, as well as a mole and a shrew. Gophers devoured most of my potato harvest and jerusalem artichokes in 2012, collecting many as a reserve for the winter in a hole at the end of the garden. Gophers are North American in origin, and have no local names in Europe, so I am surprised to find them in my garden. I also found a vole dying after being wounded by a predator, possibly an owl.. .