DORDOGNE BUTTERFLY BIRDWATCHING WILDLIFE DAY TRIPS AND TOURS

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Dordogne

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Dordogne Wildlife Diary

  • Ospreys

    Quite a few Ospreys pass through Dordogne on migration and the River Dordogne (for example on the Mauzac-Lalinde stretch) or the local reservoirs are good places to find them. Sometimes they hang around for several days or even longer. Other times you may see one circling higher and higher on a thermal until it sets off southward or flapping slowly, and not too high, onward perhaps to the next feeding or roosting stop - for example this one in the photo taken on the Faux Plateau by John Beaumont recently. We hope that before too long Ospreys will be nesting in Dordogne. There is plenty of good habitat, so hopefully it is just a question of time...

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  • Yellow Wagtails

    In spring and autumn plenty of Yellow Wagtails pass through Dordogne and a herd of cows or a recently ploughed field can produce a nice little flock. Even better if there are a few Cattle Egrets amongst to add to the animated scene. The Yellow Wagtails tend to be of the continental Blue-head Wagtail race. I've also seen quite a few "British" Yellow Wagtails which are yellow below and green above, but also Grey-headed Wagtail from Fenno-Scandinavia. I always wanted to get a photo of these birds but never managed it. Fortunately birder and photographer John Beaumont was on hand recently to kindly supply the goods. The bird below appears to be an autumn male Grey-headed Wagtail. I've seen a few in spring and the males were bighter yellow below and very dark grey on the head with black ear-coverts and no pale supercilium.

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  • Honey Buzzard migration

    Every late spring and late summer Honey Buzzards migrate in large numbers across Dordogne. Although I was aware of their migration from my own random sightings (and others posted on the Faune-Aquitaine website), it was my birder friend John Beaumont who really made me fully aware of the significance of the phenomenum this August. He's visited Dordogne for 20 years or so studying the local birdlife near Bergerac and one thing in particular that has interested him is the Honey Buzzard migration. He has a watch point up in the vineyards and over two weeks at the end of August he saw a total of about 500 birds pass through. Not quite Gibraltar numbers, but still pretty impressive. I joined him on a couple of mornings when we saw around 50 birds in total. It appears that his watch point is on a migration corridor and we discussed various theories on why this is the case: perhaps a combination of the proximity to attractive forest for safe roosting and proximity to good thermals to aid migration. John's photos below give an idea of the action!

    Not only Honey Buzzards but a variety of raptors and other species pass through such as Marsh Harrier, Black Stork and even a few waders!

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  • Special birds at Faux

    The Plateau de Faux is one of our top birding spots in Dordogne - and my friend John Beaumont on holiday here recently proved the point with these photos of two interesting migrant birds, first a Wryneck (below) at the reservoir near Issigeac...

    and secondly a female Montagu's Harrier hunting over a field near Issigeac.

    More of John's great bird photography - all taken locally in the last month or so - to come soon.

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  • Waders...

    Dordogne is not known for it's smaller wading birds. Being well inland, many waders migrate along coastal routes or overfly Dordogne. Only Common Sandpiper (which nests along upland streams) is frequently seen - mostly in autumn, winter and spring - on larger rivers and other water bodies. In the last 25 years a string of reservoirs have been contructed in the south of the department and adjacent Lot et Garonne - along the Dropt valley which drains into the River Lot. As a result more smaller wading birds (and other waterbirds) have been recorded including unusual species. Dunlin, Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank for example are regular in small numbers and species such as Little Stint, Avocet and Black-winged Stilt also turn up. I've found Turnstone, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit - all very rare maritime waders here in Dordogne. A UK birder, John Beaumont, who regularly visits Dordogne in late summer took this nice photo of a juvenile Black-winged Stilt at the Escouroux reservoir near Eymet.

    John also found six Glossy Ibis (his photo of three of them below) at the same site several days earlier - the second record for Dordogne. This just shows that with perserverance interesting waterbirds can be indeed found in Dordogne - John was visiting the reservoirs regularly during his two week stay often at the crack of dawn and re-visited them at different times of day!

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  • Tracks and signs

    When you walk through the countryside in Dordogne you will see plenty of Roe Deer slots, sometimes Badger, Fox, Wild Boar and marten prints as well as their scats. However on a recent walk with John Breeds ex-warden of Braunton Burrows NNR we found a few other items of interest. John noticed a cicada exuvia (pupal case) on the track - as I was looking for butterflies of course! They have an interesting lifecycle spending several years underground as larvae. The cicada song is very much the sound of high summer here and most notably in the Mediterranean and they require a summer temperature of 25°C or so before they start singing. First song is heard around early June in these parts.

    A little further on we came across several ant-lion nests like mini craters in the dry sandy soil. Normally the larva will be waiting below for ants or other small insects to fall into their trap providing them with a regular food supply. This one had a solitary bee visitor which we saw it poking it's head out of the hole several times! Not quite sure what it was up to. The adults are rather like giant damselflies (but with short antennae) and will also hold their wings out like a dragonfly. They sometimes fly into houses on a summer evening attracted by the lights. In Dordogne there are several species including one where the larva does not construct pit traps but lives in the soil and leaf litter like the cicada (and ascalaphid or owlfly) larva.

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  • A hotel visitor...

    Amanda at The Barrage Hotel in Mauzac (our hostess at the hotel for our wildlife holidays) sent a text the other day with a photo of a moth to identify. Unfortunately my phone doesn't do photos but eventually I saw it via Audrey's phone...and by then Amanda had worked out what it was: a Convolvulous Hawk-moth. A large sleek grey jet-shaped moth with a smart pink and black hooped body. It's a regular migrant each year from Africa and some reach UK. I liked the photo which Amanda sent me. She's very creative and imaginative with her cooking at Le Barrage...but could this really be a new starter on the menu?!

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  • Ebro Delta news !

    Our summer holidays often include a few weeks down in Spain by the Ebro Delta where Audrey's parents have a holiday house. There is always interesting wildlife about. I managed a few trips out and amassed 127 bird species at three sites: Lerida Plains, Sierra Cardo mountains and the Ebro Delta coastal belt. Best birds for me were Marsh Sandpiper and Lesser Grey Shrike. I must say that a day out with Steve West of "Birding in Spain", the English bird guide at Lerida, had something to do with my total species number and most of the rarer birds! The Ebro is always productive bird-wise with so much varied wetland habitat, even the rice fields have their herons, egrets, stilts and terns! We visited an excellent new visitor centre "Mon Natura Delta de l'Ebre" near the Tancada saltmarshes and lagoons on the south side of the river. There was a Night Heron on the wire to greet us. With European "Life" money they has doen great things restoring habitats and the old buildings.

    Whilst walking around the site and in particular looking for the rare endemic Iberian Tooth Carp (the subject of a conservation scheme here) in the saline pools, we saw many large bluish crabs which I did not recognise. After a bit of resereach on the web we found out that they were the Atlantic Blue Crab from the western shores of the Atlantic. An invasive species first noted in the early 20th century and now very common in many parts of the Mediterranean. Great for eating but perhaps not so good for the ecosystem. It has been the subject of a recent major study.

    Just before leaving for home I found this butterfly fluttering around the veranda windows. At first glance I thought it was a Common Gatekeeper as there were no strong markings. However the rather greyish-brown mottled hindwing underside with no spots show it to be a Southern Gatekeeper. This is a species restricted to the Mediterranean. The upperwings are very like a Common Gatekeeper.

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  • Dragons and Damsels

    We recently went to one of the popular local leisure lakes at St Méard de Gurçon run by the Conseil General (equivalent to a County Council in UK). It was mainly to meet up with Audrey's sister and to take the kids swimming. It's set up like a mini coastal beach resort with all facilities...including a sandy beach! Of course I got a bit bored on the beach and so went for a walk around the lake which took about 20-30 minutes. I was rather surprised to see so many Violet Dropwing dragonflies all around the lake - I must have seen between ten and twenty individuals. This species is spreading northwards in SW France. It's a common species in tropical Africa, I remember seeing strange purple dragonflies in Mauritius but never discovered what they were. The species was first recorded in Europe in Spain in the 1970s.

    Another common dragonfly - in fact a damselfly - around the lake was the Blue-eye (or Goblet-marked Damselfly). I see it regularly by the River Dordogne but many still waters too. The goblet mark is on top of the first two segments of the abdomen just below the thorax. The shape of the mark in this location is a good way to separate several of the blue damselflies. The Blue-eye also has characteristic black spear shaped marks pointing towards the head along the abdomen. Other species have blue eyes.

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  • Grizzled Skippers

    A couple of grizzled skippers on an animal scat showing the typical bold and heavy angular white markings on the underside. I put the species name without first word capitals as this may be one of two species: Pyrgus malvae (found in UK) or Pyrgus malvoides (southern European only). Dordogne is on the no-man's land boundary between the two species. I wouldn't want to say which these one's are without checking the genitalia. And as for the scat(s) I'll leave you to guess!

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David

Welcome to my Dordogne Wildlife Diary

In it you will find regular wildlife sightings in the département of Dordogne, notably of birds and butterflies in southern Dordogne where I live. In adddition there will be occasional references to neighbouring départements such as Lot et Garonne, Gironde, the Lot and places further afield. Check out the Faune-Aquitaine website for the latest wildlife sightings in Dordogne and Aquitaine.

Where possible I will add photographs to illustrate the entry. Many thanks to Margaret Mills (family photo) and Denis Cauchoix (birdwatcher photo).

I hope that you enjoy my diary and look forward to your comments.

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