Dordogne Butterfly Birdwatching

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Wildlife Guiding and La Cabane du Pommier

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Dordogne Wildlife Diary

  • Barnacle Geese in Helsinki

    During our recent Spanish holiday we had 5 days in Finland staying in the capital city Helsinki. Several things impressed me about the birdlife: the tame Jackdaws by the port (eastern subspecies complete with whitish collar) and Hooded Crows. Perhaps even more surprising were the numbers of Barnacle Geese in mid August. On the wetland reed marsh reserve at Viikki they were in their hundreds as well as being scattered elsewhere including the tourist isle of Suomelinna - the old 18th century island fortress - where a band of clip-winged birds did a good job of 'sheep-grazing' the short turf. Also at Viikki, a pair of Whooper Swans, a family of Fieldfares (by a bus stop at a block of flats) and my first Lesser Whitethroat in around 20 years were also memorable.

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  • Two-tailed Pasha

    This is a post about a butterfly in Spain where I spent most of my recent holidays - though it's nice to think that one day Two-tailed Pashas may grace the hillside of Dordogne - though we would need a lot more Strawberry Trees (caterpillar food plant) and significantly warmer temperatures.

    I saw these butterflies in the El Ports and Sierra Cardo mountains respectively in Catalunya inland from the Ebro Delta in late August. They really are stunning butterflies - very large, colourful and strong fliers. Like some other butterflies they are rather fond of rotting fruit and animal droppings amongst other things - personally I prefer the blackberries below!

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  • Mole Cricket

    These amazing creatures are becoming rare in Dordogne - and are nearly extinct in Britain. I was lucky enough to find one around ten years ago whilst running a wildlife holiday in Beynac. We were taking a short evening stroll and I found a Mole Cricket on the stone steps rising from the main road next to the river. I picked it up and it bit me hard - very painful! It wasn't easy to view at dusk either. However last week near Beynac I found another one at a pond which after being handled carefully, posed for photos in reasonable daylight. Normally they are nocturnal but the cloudy wet morning had perhaps encouraged the cricket to stay out. It really is quite a bizarre animal with these fabulous mole-like front feet, a great example of convergent evolution. They are great diggers and like damp pastures often near water bodies. I hope it isn't 10 years before I find another one!

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  • Hoopoes

    There seems to have been rather a lot of Hoopoes around recently - I guess with all the young leaving nests and before migrating south. On the first three days of the recent Travelling Naturalist wildlife holiday we saw at least one each day including this one in Saint Marcel du Périgord.

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  • Purple Emperor

    In Dordogne the Lesser Purple Emperor is quite a common butterfly at the right time of year and in the right habitat. Much rarer however is the Purple Emperor (also found in UK) which has a rather more northerly distribution. Recently whilst driving along a forest track at Bessède with a group we disturbed a large 'purple emperor' which didn't look quite right for a Lesser. I stopped the minibus and managed to get a couple of record shots...to confirm it was indeed a Purple Emperor - and my first in Dordogne. The white tooth mark on the lower wing emerging from the white line (exterior side) is charcteristic of the species. As you can see it had rather damaged lower wings.

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  • another helleborine...

    Back in May I was lucky enough to see this rare orchid on our property for the first time. It is a Small-leaved Helleborine. It doesn't look as glamorous as some orchids but it has an invisible charm that many orchids lack: a strong aroma - in this species, of vanilla.

    As usual with new orchid species here it was found by a guest staying in the gite. we were walking in a group and I walked straight passed it waffling about some bird song or other no doubt. Lucky for me that I have observant visitors here at Cabant!

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  • Egrets nesting at Mauzac!

    Well - it's finally happened. Egrets are nesting at Mauzac. Dordogne seemed to have been by-passed by egrets as various species have colonised UK. But after years of just a Grey Heron colony on the wooded island below the dam, there are currently Cattle Egrets with 6 occupied nests (and two unoccupied) plus a pair of Little Egrets with near-fledged young. There must be twenty or thirty Little Egrets about, many with breeding plumes. maybe next year the colony will increase. There is also a Great White Egret present in breeding plumage. Other herons and egrets maybe attracted to the colony site in future such as Night Heron and even perhaps Squacco Heron. Shown below is a Little Egret below the dam waterfall.

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  • Greater White-toothed Shrew deceased

    On a recent wildlife holiday I was running we came across this poor dead shrew on a quarry road. From the size and reddish/grey colour of the back grading into off-white below it looked like a Greater White-toothed Shrew. The scattered 'whiskers' along the tail are characteristic of the white-toothed shrews though difficult to see on the photo. It's not often you see these tiny mammals - unless predated like this one.

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  • Giant Peacock moth

    We went on a short break to Roussillon recently camping on the Med coast and found this fabulous moth at a motorway service station. Joseph saw it first and I went back to photograph it. Similar looking to the Emperor moth in UK it is much larger - and like the Emperor related to the exotic silk moths. Europe's largest moth it can look like a small bat when it flies. Pretty scary with those big 'eyes' to deter predators...

    Next thing Joseph found a Poplar Hawk-moth at the campsite!

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  • late orchids in Dordogne

    We are getting late in the season for orchids here in Dordogne but my friend Dutch botanist Corine Oosterlee showed me some species still flowering on a recent local fieldtrip. Red Helleborines were still in full bloom in her 'garden' a few days back. This is a species only found on a few sites in the UK.

    Elsewhere we found Pyramidal, Greater and Lesser Butterfly and Fragrant Orchids as well as Broad-leaved and Mueller's Helleborines. Not forgetting the leaves of a Twayblade! So not a bad collection.

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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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