Hoopoes and SW France Weather April 2014 

Hoopoe on the prowl
Hoopoe on the prowl

Some of our summer visitors are quite exotic. The golden orioles are rarely seen, except as flashes of yellow and black in the treetops, but they make their presence known with parrot-like caws and whistles. The hoopoes are distinguished by their Red Indian headdress-like crests, their beaks like sabres and their “hoo-hoo-hoo” call. Their flight is distinctive, too, like a giant moth.

We often see hoopoes (Upupa epops) on the lawn, prospecting for grubs and worms. The one above was parading about the other day. I couldn’t get any closer for a shot, unfortunately, nor did it show its crest. They come here to breed, like other migratory birds, and then over-winter in Africa. In fact, we think they may have a nest close by since we often narrowly avoid mowing down a pair of hoopoes on the lane.

Here it is again, with the beak more in evidence:

Hoopoe showing its beak
Hoopoe showing its beak

Now for the weather post, which is late this month, owing to the SF having been away. I am not allowed to interfere with his weather stats in his absence in case I mess them up (more than likely). However, it’s quite apposite to post them today, the first of the three Saints-de-Glace, when the weather is notoriously chilly. Sure enough, there’s a biting wind from the north.

Weather assessment for April

This April was rather a good one. We had some lovely dry, sunny weather, except for the last week or so, when it reverted to type.

A quick reminder of our subjective weather assessment: we assign each day a plus if it’s fine, a minus if it’s bad and a zero if it’s indifferent or we can’t decide. In April, we had:

Pluses – 15
Zeros – 6
Minuses – 9

The graph shows the percentage of plus days each April for the past 16 years (the line is the trend).

Proportion of pluses April 2014
Proportion of pluses April 2014

Over that period, we have had four better and 11 worse Aprils. In fact, they seem to go in pairs – two good followed by two bad. Hopefully, this means that next April will be good, too.

Frost nights

We had no frost nights in April. The total for the winter was 26 frost nights, which is very low: the average is about 46. But it’s not the lowest. The prize goes to 2001 with 17 frost nights.


Our rainfall stats go back to August 2004. In April, we had 72 mm of rain compared to an average of 92.4 mm and it rained on 13 days compared to an average of 11.

The total rainfall so far is 372 mm. The average over 10 years is 315 mm, so it’s 18% ahead this year. This explains why it’s so green and lush.

Rainfall 2014 to date
Rainfall 2014 to date

To finish, the usual dicton (saying), of which the French are very fond:

Celui qui s’allège avant le mois de mai, Certainement ne sait pas ce qu’il fait.
He who lightens his load [here, I assume it means wears less clothing] before the month of May, surely doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Quite right: we’ve put the heating back on.

You might also like:

Les Saints de Glace: Myth or Reality?
Nightingales in Southwest France

Copyright © 2014 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. Really interesting. I saw one when I was in La Rochelle two weeks ago near to the cliff edge at Minime. First time I have seen a one in the wild as we don’t see then in South West England.


    • Hi Jackie, I think they are at the limit of their range in England and are becoming rarer. We think we have a pair nesting close to our house, since we keep seeing them pecking about on the lawn and flying around. Very exciting. I hope we see the chicks too – and desperately hope our cat doesn’t get them.


  2. Hoopoes are magnificent. We used to see them in our T & G days, but have never spotted any here in Hautes Pyrénées.
    As usual, thanks for the weather stats – always useful to remind us what we’ve been having and how it was in previous years.


    • They’re quite common around here but friends in the Lot say they never see them, so they obviously have their favourite spots.

      It’s been real Saints-de-Glace weather the past few days, with a cold north wind, but that’s forecast to change from tomorrow – for a few days, at least.


  3. Love your hoopoe photos, Vanessa. I shall think of you when we see tham in our next posting in Ghana…perhaps I may spot one which has been in your garden!


    • I wish I could have got closer shots of the hoopoe, but my camera has only a 20x zoom and I was shooting through a window! Nice to think that we might see the same one on different continents!


  4. The whole “dicton” is : “En avril ne te découvre pas d’un fil mais en mai fais ce qu’il te plaît”
    So far here in NW Aveyron, May has not been as warm as we could have expected according to this dicton…
    Thanks to your interesting posts I have learnt lots of things about this part of SW France that became my new home 10 months ago, congratulations !


    • I didn’t realise it was all one dicton – I thought they were separate, so thanks for that. May is often chilly in these parts, especially around the Saints-de-Glace. Thanks for your nice words about my blog. I hope you’ve found it interesting. I’m always pleased to have suggestions to write about, so if you find something interesting in NW Aveyron, do let me know.


  5. I love the name ‘les Saints de Glace’ – it makes even cold weather sound romantic! While our April here in the Haute Savoie was quite nice, our month of May so far seems to be continuing the colder trend. Any predictions for June and July?


    • Yes, I always think of them as the Ice Cream Saints. Here, it’s chillier, too. We don’t do predictions, I’m afraid – too dodgy! All I can say is that in the past few years, June has been pretty awful up to the 3rd week or so. I do hope it won’t be like that this year. We need some sun.


  6. We only seem to get one hoopoe at a time and never for very long. How nice to have some nesting near your house.
    Cold wind here too, sunny spells and good heavy rain in-between!
    Our vet told me a dicton last month: Au mois d’avril – N’enlève pas un fil. The same is going for May so far. Even had a fire the other night.


    • We’ve had fires the past few nights, since the evenings can be quite chilly. The weather’s forecast to improve from Wednesday – but we are in the middle of the Saints de Glace, where there is some evidence that the weather really does deteriorate for a few days for climatic reasons.


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