DORDOGNE BUTTERFLY BIRDWATCHING WILDLIFE DAY TRIPS AND TOURS

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Dordogne

la roque gageac

Dordogne Wildlife Diary

  • Black Woodpecker

    This is the time to start looking for Black Woodpeckers (and indeed all woodpeckers) as the nesting season approaches and they begin to assert their territorial claims. They are more vocal but can be frustratingly discreet and difficult to see for such a large black bird. Over the last 20 or 30 years they have colonised Dordogne (from the north-east) and are now widespread through the woods and forest. Another good way to see Black Woodpeckers is to find their roosting holes (which can be near the previous year's nest hole) as we did for the Limosa birding holiday in November. This paid off with good sightings of two birds - one of which (the male with a full red crown) Mike Bye photographed on a plane tree.

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  • Brown Hare

    Faux Plateau is a great place for birdwatching but there is plenty of other interesting wildlife including orchids, butterflies and mammals. One mammal we regularly see is the Brown Hare and they are often quite confiding. They bound across a field and suddenly stop often not too far away allowing my groups to have a good view of them especially through the telescope. As in UK they are a hunted species in winter but numbers remain healthy. Beautiful backlit action photo by Simon Smith, a participant on the recent November Limosa birdng holiday in Dordogne.

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  • Red Squirrel at Le Teich

    Red Squirrels are common in France but not easily seen well. They are more arboreal than Greys in UK and so are often lost in the foliage high in a tree. Also they are not so bold as Greys. In autumn with leaves coming down and the squirrels collecting winter food supplies of nuts etc. you are more likely to see one scamper across a road as you drive or cross a track when you are out for a walk.

    During the November Limosa birding holiday we visited the excellent bird reserve at Le Teich on the Arcachon Bay. Apart from seeing plenty of waterbirds, one of our group, Mike Watson, found us a Red Squirrel whilst he waited on a bench in woodland as the group spent the last few minutes in the hides. The squirrel proved quite accomodating and we all had reasonable views with several of the group managing to take photographs, one of which (by Simon Smith) is shown below.

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  • Foxes and birds

    I've had an pearticular interest in Foxes and their relationship with birds ever since I was warden at Ravenglass back in the 1980s. There I think we convincingly showed that Foxes were at the heart of the collapse and extinction of the great Black-headed Gull colony and attendant terneries etc. There was some excellent work done by Niko Tinbergen and his Oxford Animal Behaviour Group (who camped annually at Ravenglas from the mid 50s to the mid 60s) showing the effectiveness of Fow predation on the ground nesting gulls and terns. I believe that a similar fate befell the Scolt Head gullery in Norfolk soon afterwards.

    On a recent Limosa birding holiday in November at Bordeaux we saw some fascinating duck anti-predator behaviour in a small lagoon as a Fox walked slowly around the edge of the water body partially concealed by vegetation. Once aware of this fact small groups of Teal and Shoveler nearby turned and swam towards the mammal but 'stayed at arms length' as if to show that they knew the Fox was there and were 'managing the situation'. In fact it was almost like they were threatening the Fox. Predators don't always get it their own way!

    Photo courteousy of Mike Bye, Limosa birding tour, Bruges Marsh, November 2018.

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  • Black-winged Kites now in Bergerac and beyond !

    Since they were first recorded in Dordogne in April 2012, the Black-winged Kite population has gone from strength to strength. Their stronghold was always Faux Plateau where there are probably around 6 pairs but more recently they have spread along the Dordogne valley westward adding another half dozen pairs or so. Bergerac airport is a regular haunt, I've watched them regularly around the airport before collecting clients for wildlife holidays and from the departure lounge before flying myself! With a similar life style to the Common Kestrel they do well in open country with woods and scrub often hovering or dropping down on prey from a post or tree. Although they were first recorded in 2012, they were several unofficial sightings in the ten years prior to this. A friend of mine who used to live in the valley near Belvès (at Siorac) saw two or three during this period. She was very familiar with these birds having lived and worked in East Africa as a professional conservationist for many years.

    Photo courteousy of Mike Bye: Faux Plateau, November 2018, Limosa Holidays tour.

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  • Cherry blossom

    I was up working at our new house near Maurens in the week before Xmas and noticed that the cherry tree in the garden was flowering which seemed rather early. Maybe it is a winter-flowering variety but I'm not sure. It has been generally mild here in SW France so far this winter and I heard a Blackbird singing in Bergerac in early December (exceptional), as well as several Mistle Thrushes more recently. The Serins in our garden at the new house are also singing regularly and haven't moved southwards. Not sure if these are good or bad omens for the rest of the winter! We'll find out soon enough...

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  • Asian Hornet nest

    I recently visited Issigeac to search for the Stone Curlew roost and where we parked there was a fine example of an Asian Hornet nest high in a mature tree. As we have now had several frosts this autumn there was no sign of activity despite sunny weather. Normally the colony dies except the queens which survive the winter and found new colonies in spring.I always think the nests are like a giant rugby ball but as this photo shows they are more like a giant water droplet! Over winter the nest are destroyed by bad weather and birds searching for grubs.

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  • Stone Curlews

    This year the autumn Stone Curlew roost has moved nearer to Issigeac (than Faux village). Just up the track from the cemetary we found a flock of 29 birds enjoying the late autumn sunshine two weeks ago.

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  • 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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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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