Cuckoos, Birdsong and SW France Weather March 2015


Easter Egg - made by local artist Catherine Smedley
Giant Easter Egg – made by local artist Catherine Smedley

Bonnes Pâques à tout le monde. I had hoped to report the cuckoo’s arrival, but it’s dragging its heels (or whatever cuckoos have) this year. A friend 10 km to the south said it had arrived over a week ago. We heard one yesterday evening in the Lot, north of us. But not a peep here. This is rather late.

The Statistics Freak (aka my husband, aka the SF), who records anything and everything, says the normal arrival date is 29th March +/- three days. The earliest we have heard one is 25th March; the latest is 11th April, so it still has a few days’ grace.

Dawn chorus

However, we have heard hoopoes already. And the dawn chorus makes up for the lack of cuckoos, gathering in intensity for the past few weeks. Normally, a robin starts, followed by a blackbird, and then the rest join in. I love waking up to that sound.

Now that the clocks have gone forward, the evenings are drawing out. This means it is darker in the morning, but you feel it’s going in the right direction. Nonetheless, Segolène Royal, the environment minister, is setting up a commission to decide if France should unilaterally abandon the change of hour in October and March. Why do they have to fiddle about with things? And why does France have to be different?

Weather for March

Now for the weather. Oh dear, another gloomy month. Everyone is saying that the winter has been long: not cold, but lacking in sunshine.

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 if we can’t decide. In March, there were:

Pluses – 9
Zeros – 11
Minuses – 11

The chart shows the percentage of plus days each March for the past 17 years (the line is the trend). Only two Marches have been worse than this one and one was the same.

Proportion of pluses in March over 17 years
Proportion of pluses in March over 17 years

March is a transitional month, weather-wise. You can get snow, frost, hail and gales, but also clement days with temperatures in the 20s C. Everything suddenly springs into life, including our lawn, which is approaching crisis length – and our tractor mower is in for a service.

First sign of spring - primadèla in Occitan
First sign of spring – primadèla in Occitan


It seemed as if it rained a lot in March, but actually, the rainfall was not much higher than the average: 78 mm compared to the 75 mm we would normally expect. The feeling that it was a wet month arises from the fact that it rained on 15 days, when you would normally expect it to do so on 11.

The rainfall for the year to date is almost spot on the average: 224.5 mm compared to 223 mm.

Rainfall 2015 to date
Rainfall 2015 to date

Frost nights

We had 5 frost nights in March, which is not excessive. Looking back, we have had up to 12 frost nights (2005 and 2010). The risk of frost is receding, but I won’t plant out my geraniums until mid-April.

Here’s a dicton (saying) about April:

Quand avril est froid et pluvieux, Les moissons n’en vont que mieux. If April is cold and wet, the harvest will be the better for it.

It’s too early to tell, but we’ve had a mixed bag so far: rain, sun and wind and a bit cool.

Have a lovely Easter.

You might also like:

The First Cuckoo
French and Corsican Easter Traditions
A Brief History of (French) Time
Seven Signs of Spring in SW France

Copyright © 2015 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved



  1. Happy easter monday. We live on the northern limit of the lot and i haven’t heard a cuckoo yet. But a bird was twittering away this morning but we couldn’t identify it! The black redstarts arrived on 21st march and have been singing from the rooftop ever since. I spotted cowslips blooming on 18th march. Did you know the french call it ‘cuckoo’. A sunny week forecast but we have had a frost this morning. A bientot, lynne


    • Thank you and Happy Easter Monday to you, too. You obviously keep records as well! I didn’t know that about cowslips.

      The redstarts are very active here, trying to build nests in the most inappropriate places, as usual.

      No frost here today, but it was chilly, and there’s a cold northeasterly, so no lunch outside today. 😦


      • Talk about inappropriate nest sites. Our house is ‘moyen age’ so stone built. When the plumbers put in the drain pipe from the shower they didn’t cement around it. As the first floor is quite high the redstarts clearly feel safe from our cats and build their nest alongside the pipe. Going into the shower after the babies have hatched you can hear the clamour of feeding time! 🙂


        • Our redstarts regularly try to build a nest on top of the tall bookcase in the small room off our bedroom, which is effectively at the top of the pigeonnier. They also try to build on on the parapet of the covered balcony (bolet). They are hopeless nest builders and invariably leave far more nesting material on the ground than they manage to put into the nest. Yes, feeding time is a very noisy occasion, especially when they are becoming fledglings!


  2. I heard a cuckoo here on April 2nd, but haven’t heard one since. There’s a movement afoot in the US to eliminate the time change as well. Personally, I like the longer evenings and don’t have that much trouble adjusting to the change.


    • Well, send your cuckoo over here. They are giving us the cold shoulder this year for some reason.

      As I said to Osyth, I like the time change, especially when it leads to longer evenings. I’m not quite so keen on the reverse.


  3. No cookoo here yet and we don’t have hoopoes but the sound of the dawn chorus is lovely even though I have no idea which bird is tweeting which song. I’m with the French for banning the hour change … I find it entirely disruptive and ridiculous. That said – I would be for everyone joining in rather than the French going solo. Have a lovely Easter and may the bunny (or the bell) bring you lots of chocs 🙂


    • The hoopoes are hooting away in earnest today. We had a nest of them nearby last year and saw the parents feeding the fledglings.

      I rather like the hour change, but then I don’t have to get up as early as people who have to travel to work.

      Not too much choc. This is the year I regain my figure (I said that last year).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it is so charming how you track the weather and the birds. We, too, have gone forward on the clock and I relish the longer days as we have had the snowiest winter in recorded history. The real story with this is that the first snow storm was January 25th. We were blessed all that white stuff in in 2+ months rather than the typical 4 months. It came so quickly and fiercely that they had to cart the crusty snow off of Boston streets to places they call ‘snow farms’. One such farm (pile) in south Boston is over 5 stories high and has a larger footprint than 2 Cirque du Soliel tents. It is massive.

    We kept our bird feeders full and I especially enjoy watching the red male Cardinals show up for a feed. I saw a robin a few weeks ago who looked at the snow cover and then looked at me as if to say, “What have you done?” They do not use bird feeders so I am concerned about them. I wish we had cuckoos. I never personally heard their song but looked it up on the web and it is distinctive.

    Here is to a verdant spring! Happy Easter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Judith. My husband just loves recording things! It means we have a reasonably reliable view of the weather here over nearly 18 years.

      I had heard how much snow you had in N America this winter. But I had never heard of snow farms before! What an amazing concept. I’m sure the birds appreciated being fed during that time. Someone else mentioned to me that there are no cuckoos in the States.

      Happy Easter to you.


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