DORDOGNE BUTTERFLY BIRDWATCHING WILDLIFE DAY TRIPS AND TOURS

WILD

Dordogne

la roque gageac

Dordogne Wildlife Diary

  • Cattle Egrets

    There are plenty of Cattle Egrets about at present around Bergerac - and not always amongst cattle. Yesterday on route to Joseph's basketball match there were several in the vineyards at Gardonne. Around a hundred spend much of the winter between Castillon and Sainte Foy la Grande, sometimes accompanying cattle or horses. On a recent Limosa birding holiday I took the group to the marshes near the Pont d'Aquitaine at Bordeaux and there were plenty over there too. Yesterday I came home from town and a small regular flock were in the hay field opposite our lane entrance at Pombonne. This time I had the camera ready and got a few shots. They have a typical strutting gait with the head bobbing backwards and forewards. They are not so often seen by the waterside as the Great (White) and Little Egrets, partly because they are generally amongst vegetation, though it is not such an important habitat for them. Individual Great Egrets are often seen hunting in grassy fields but I never seen Little Egrets away from water unless they were flying.

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  • South African Ragwort

    I meant to photograph this species when I went up to Périgueux last autumn to get Audrey's car serviced. It grows along railway lines and roadsides much as Oxford Ragwort does in the UK, also an alien species. The wind-borne seeds of both species are spread along routes by the traffic. The South African Ragwort is quite a common species in SW France and at this time of year makes a wonderful splash of colour in some towns. Last week I was over in Bordeaux helping Audrey's sister to move house and as I walked from the tram station I found several plants, one of which I photographed. The peculiarity of South African Ragwort for me is that the leaves are long and thin unlike other species I am used to seeing.

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  • Wild Cyclamen

    From late summer until late into the autumn, Wild Cyclamen flower in many shady spots around Dorodgne including wild forest sites and mature gardens. At Beynac Castle there is a fine display in a garden by the eastern viewpoint. I was pleased to find a small colony in the garden (under a mature cypress tree) at our new house near Maurens. At our previous house in Mauzac there were a few plants in the woodland below the meadow adjacent to a spring.

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  • Cranes fleeing the cold up north

    The final waves of crane migration this autumn over SW France have started in the last few days as temperatures have dropped like a stone in NE France where snow and ice are setting in. I just went out to take the rubbish bins to the roadside for collection tomorrow morning and I heard the tell-tale bugling call away to the north. And they were soon almost overhead and heading away SW across Bergerac. I snapped a quick shot - only 71 this time but a nice V-shape skein. A "skein of cranes sounds" good to me! Always a thrill to see and hear...

    Yesterday evening at dusk I flushed a Woodcock in the wood near the car. I haven't seen one for quite a while in Dordogne but they are a common winter visitor and popular with hunters. They are not known to have nested in Dordogne.

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  • Late butterflies

    This time of year sees the last of the main butterfly flight period, although odd Red Admirals and Peacocks appear in mid winter on mild sunny afternoons. At present there are still small numbers of Speckled Wood, Wall Brown, Small White and Clouded Yellow. However rather surprising for late October were two Common Graylings up on Trémolat (and another the day before on the west coast near Arcachon) although the warm Indian Summer here has indeed maintained good levels of insect activity. I tried to get a decent shot of the Common Grayling at Arcachon but the focus fixed on the grass foreground (an old story!) - still there is enough to identify the butterfly.

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  • Stick Insect

    I remember at school years ago that there was a craze for a short period of having stick insects as pets - not that I had one sadly. They must have been Asian or perhaps African species I suppose. Coming to live in France I didn't realise there were native species (in fact 3) though they are not easy to see normally. The experts say search at dusk when they are more active and notably in bramble patches - conjures up an interesting scene!

    We were therefore lucky to find an adult stick insect in broad day-light recently on one of the shutters of our new home. The children were fascinated by it. And after some close-up study Joseph and Hannah "liberated it" in some bushes (we couldn't find the brambles!). The species in question is Clonopsis gallica, the French name is a bit more exciting than the English one: "Phasme Gaulois".!

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  • Crested Tit

    The Crested Tit is quite a common bird in Dordogne, especially where there are pines. Winter is a good time to see them in mixed species flocks when the leaves are down and birds are more visible. Just listen out for the soft slurred trill with the pitch of a Blue Tit, as you walk through the forest, and this should lead you to one. Our birds in Dordogne are the continental subspecies. The British subspecies, only found in the Scottish Caledonian Pine Forest, is a rather greyer brown with the underparts paler. Despite not being exactly colourful their head-dress is one of the most attractive of the small songbirds. Thanks to John Beaumont for the photo taken locally in Liorac Forest.

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  • 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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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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