When I looked out a few mornings ago a whole host of mud and straw huts had appeared, each one popping out of the water like an igloo.
The Ragondins are here and have made themselves comfy for the winter.
Ragondins are marsh-dwelling coypu. They are normally very shy and keep themselves well hidden and although they live here all year they are not easy to spot.
They live in holes on the riverbank but when the marsh floods the river banks disappear deep under the water causing the ragondins to lose their homes. Gradually their new huts appear as they gather sticks and straw to build a new lodge half under the water and half out in the dry.
In the eight years we have been here I have only come face to face with one just once. We were as shocked as one another; we both stopped in our tracks and stared at each other!! I stared back into those huge, watery brown eyes - and my first thought was that the ragondin looked as if it should have had an apron, mop cap and a shopping basket!!
Every morning a new lodge seems to have appeared by magic -so how many ragondin families are out there? They eat only vegetation and are no danger to any other living species.
Sadly, they are quite unpopular with the French farmers who claim that the ragondins cause flooding and block the water courses with their activities. They say that their large subterranean dens undermine the surrounding land and they will sometimes eat wheat if found nearby. Any excuse for the hunters!
Sometimes the hunters on the marsh will shoot anything that moves just for the fun of it - and I hate that! I have been tempted to creep out at night to drill holes in the boats they leave tied at the edge of the marsh by our gate! Can you imagine them all floundering in the water with their guns and all their hi-tech equipment in the mud? Sooooooooooooo tempting!
The regulations for hunters shooting on the marsh state that a hunter cannot fire his weapon 150 metres within the range of your home. I may have to move those huts even closer!
I am keeping very quiet about the new families that have arrived. I like my new neighbours!!
Bonne weekend mes belles