DORDOGNE BUTTERFLY BIRDWATCHING WILDLIFE DAY TRIPS AND TOURS

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Dordogne

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Dordogne Wildlife Diary

  • Little Owl

    We are fortunate to have a pair of Little Owls nesting where we live near Maurens. It's a small arable hilltop amongst the forest wuith clearly enough open ground with trees, hedges and buildings for them to hunt successfully and nest. In early spring they are very noisy "whelping" at dusk. As I drove back home the other evening from Mauzac I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a football goal post at Saint Sauveur with a bobble on top - cue another Little Owl. They are in fact quite common across open flat or rolling land in Dordogne. Much rarer is the Scops Owl which can be found in summer on Faux Plateau, Verteillac Plain and the extreme east of the department, amongst hamlets and farmsteads usually with small woods or clumps of trees.

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  • Common Clubtail dragonfly

    This beautiful specimen had just emerged from it's exuva (pupal case) as we posed nearby for an end of holiday photo at Le Barrage Hotel, Mauzac (with Speyside Wildlife guests). The Common Clubtail is a common early season species along the rivers of Dordogne. The pale spots on the end of the heavily clubbed and thick abdomen are characteristic. The yellow soon turns green as the adult matures.

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  • Serin

    The bird they always said would colonise southern England when I was a kid (a few years back), but it never happened. A few pairs seem to nest fairly regularly along the south coast of England but it's never really gone beyond that. Across the channel they are a common bird in villages and some stay all winter in SW France. At our new home in Maurens we had birds around through the winter and now there are several pairs in the hamlet. Our heavily pollarded Lime provides good songposts for them.

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  • Egyptian Geese

    This is a pretty scarce species in Dordogne but a few feral pairs regularly nest. It's commoner in UK and these two adults with a gosling were photographed in Amsterdam last Tuesday by Audrey whilst on a short break with her mum and sister.

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  • Lime Hawk Moth

    We were inspecting the recent construction work of our new terrace when Audrey found this unfortunate moth by one of the shutters. It was barely alive and ants had already found it. The insect was in perfect condition apart from a mal-formed wing which must have been the cause of its demise. On first seeing it I thought it was perhaps a Poplar Hawk - but that is greyer or maybe an Oak Hawk - but then that is greener! Checking the guides I found it was in fact a Lime Hawk which makes perfect sense for up above it, spreading out over our terrace is a large 150 year old Lime tree! The underwing upperside has a beautiful salmon-pink colour just showing in the photo.

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  • Wood Whites

    In the spring here one of the first white butterflies on the wing is the Wood White. It's a rare species in UK but common here. It flies in several generations which span the spring to autumn period. It has a very characteristic slow, floppy flight, generally low to the ground. It looks so fragile and yet can hold it's own against a strong breeze, although in such conditions they seek out a sheltered spot to settle. The large dark spot at the top of the forewing upperside is only seen in flight. The rounded wings and mottled underside is easily seen when the butterflies settles. Eggs are laid on legumes such as Perrenial Pea and Bird's-foot Clover. In Dordogne it would appear that we only have the common species Leptidea sinapis.

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  • Bluebells in Dordogne

    Bluebell woods in England are one of the wildlife spectacles of the spring for many people. Over here in Dordogne we are a bit far south for the main range of the species. I've seen the cultivated sub-species hispanica locally in gardens and as escapees, but never the wild version Hyacinthoides non-scripta...until a couple of days ago when I cycled through the forest to the boulangerie at Queyssac. As I cycled back listening to the Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, as well as the odd Black Woodpecker or two, I noticed a nice display of blue Narrow-leaved Lungwort on the roadside - a species which likes a sandy element to the soil, which you find here in the Landais Forest. Then I suddenly realised I'd seen something else blue yet different and somehow familar. I back tracked and found a little colony of Wild Bluebells. Something I never thought I would see in southern Dordogne. Looking at the Aquitaine distribution map it's recorded in north-eastern Dordogne, north-eastern Gironde and the Charentes, but there are only a few scattered records further south. I don't think it ever forms the "bluebell woods" seen in England but finding a few plants like that was a nice little discovery.

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  • Tulips

    Ok these aren't Wild Tulips (shown below in our garden), but it's a reminder that it's the tulip season and are there are some interesting wine chateaux and orchard sites between Bergerac and Bordeaux with fine colonies. The origin of these tulips here may date back to Roman times when vines were imported from Italy. There are various species of red and yellow but also a delicate pink species. For details of where to see these glorious blooms see my recent "Croosbill Guides: Dordogne" written wth Frank Jouandoudet. There are also a few sites on the limestone causse with Wild Tulip ssp. australis in a more natural context. They are similar to those of my garden but with narrower strappy leaves and thinner more ragged flowers. At this time of year in Bergerac there is always a field of cultivated tulips on the old Bordeaux Road by Lidl. The tulips are sold in aid of the "Tulips Contra Cancer" charity.

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  • first orchids

    The first orchids are now blooming in Dordogne and the commonest early season species is the Green-winged Orchid which is found on most soil types. It can be found in large colonies on meadowland but I was pleased to find a few flowering on our lawn yesterday. Last year just after we bought the house I also saw a Lady Orchid in the garden, so hopefully more species of orchid will show as the season progresses. We are generally on sandy ground here but these are pockets of limestone too, which most orchids prefer.

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  • an early Painted Lady...

    There are quite a few butterflies flying here in Dordogne with the fine weather. Early in the week I found my first Scarce Swallowtail of the year here in the garden at Maurens. Late this afternoon I found a smallish nymphalid butterfly fluttering high up around the trunk of our large cedar. I did not have my binoculars initially and thought it probably a small Red Admiral so I went to get them and fortunately the butterfly was still there resting on a branch when I returned. In fact it was a little male Painted Lady, my first of the season. Two have already been recorded this year in Dordogne on the Faune Aquitaine website - at the end of February. Looking at the records for the other Aquitaine departments, there are several tens of records so far in 2019, which is more than normal. Perhaps we'll get another "Painted Lady summer" - you never know !

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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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