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The warm climate and position make this a haven for wildlife. Quercy is on a natural migration route meaning there is a wealth of bird life, while the lush foliage and tranquil setting mean that La Maison Rose's gardens are rich in their own fauna. There is a colony of frogs around the pond in the lower garden, emerging to serenade diners on the terrace each evening.

These days they are also joined by tree frogs and the occasional toad. The flowers attract spectacular hummingbird hawk moths, which dart and hover above the flowers throughout the day, together with many butterflies including swallowtails.

The garden is rich in birds too, particularly those which feed on insects and are drawn here by the invertebrate life. Probably the most spectacular visitors are the golden orioles which have even chosen to nest here on occasion. These striking relatives of crows have a mellow yodelling call, but given their bright gold and black plumage are surprisingly elusive. The first glimpse is normally just a flash of yellow as the garish male slips out of sight. The secret now is to sit quietly - perhaps nestling into the creeper on the terrace and armed with a good book. Patience will pay off however, and the lucky watcher will be treated to close-up views of one of Europe's most beautiful creatures.

Quercy is on a natural migration route and spring and autumn are great times to watch migrating raptors including kites, falcons, eagles and ospreys. During the summer common and honey buzzards, red and black kites and kestrels are all resident in the area, but peregrines and even short-toed eagles can be seen from the terrace in good years. Quails and nightingales can be heard in season together with several species of owl.

We were particularly gratified to play host not long ago to a family of hoopoes. Despite their characteristic call (from which it gets its name) and gaudy colouring, they are surprisingly elusive and it took us several days before we could pin-point the nest, high in a tree next to the swimming pool.

Further away from the nest they are easier to spot, their black and white wings flashing as they fly in a bouncing fashion between the orchards below the house. Surprisingly, this extraordinary-looking bird is related to the kingfisher family, but it has little interest in water, preferring to search for its diet of insect larvae by probing the ground with its curved beak.

From mid-May a host of spectacular dragonflies emerge. They are completely harmless to man, but are fearsome predators of insects which they hunt in dashing flights over the lily pool. The broad-bodied chaser is surely one of the most attractive with its gaudy fluorescent blue body and shimmering silver wings, but it is only one of several spectacular local pond residents. They have very good eyesight and are wary of movement, but they use regular perches from which to mount their aerial attacks. Anyone keen to get a closer look need only wait by one of these to be rewarded within a few moments by a close-up opportunity. This was taken with a standard 28 - 80mm lens from a distance of about half a metre (two feet).

The woods play home to wild boar too, which rummage through the leaf mould for invertebrates and nuts. These are shy creatures and seeing these is also difficult, but early risers may catch a glimpse of a sow and her piglets rooting in the fields around dawn before disappearing into the woods for the day.