DORDOGNE BUTTERFLY BIRDWATCHING WILDLIFE DAY TRIPS AND TOURS

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Dordogne

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Dordogne Wildlife Diary

  • Lang's Short-tailed Blue

    I always hoped to find this species at our previous house in Mauzac but never did - though during our final season (2017) a guest found one by our letter box one early evening late in the season. I always check the smaller blues, skippers and fritillaries carefully in case there is something unusual amongst them, and this time I was rewarded with a very fresh female nectaring on mint in the little valley across the road from us. The underside is an unusual grey and white mottled pattern and there are a couple of small black spots adjacent to the little tail. The black spot is ringed by silver-blue and that is surrounded by a hazy reddish broader circle.

    Like the much more common Long-tailed Blue, it is one of the many small African blues and its distribution reaches Europe around the Mediterranean. From here it is gradually colonising SW France mainly along the coast. There are three generations a year and the latter ones are particularly numerous often leading to migration north of its normal range as far as Brittany and Alsace. Only one specimen has ever been observed in the UK: at Bloxworth in Dorset, 1938. Bloxworth is a famous site for rare blue butterflies as it was here in 1885 that the first acknowledged Short-tailed Blue was observed in the UK.

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  • Dropwings in Aquitaine

    On a recent walk in the little valley near the house I was pleased to find this Violet Dropwing. The species has colonised Aquitaine in the last fifteen or twenty years and is now quite common. It's originally an African species but presumably aided by climate chnage it is moving northwards.

    I was surprised to see recently (first recorded 2019 by René Brenguier) that another African dropwing has appeared in Aquitaine at Cambo-les-Bains not far from Bayonne on a tributary of the River Adour. It was previously only known from several Mediterranean departments. I wonder whether this will see a similar expansion through Aquitaine in the coming years? The male is a dramatic-looking insect with a bright red body and large orange patches at the base of the wings. Photo below taken from Faune-Aquitaine by René Brenguier.

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  • butterflies of Spain...and south-west France

    On my regular trips to Spain on holiday I regularly see Tree Grayling and Lang's Short-tailed Blue, both common species in Iberia. In Dordogne these two species are much more difficult to find. Tree Grayling is found in the extreme west of the department in the sandy pine woods and it is just hanging on on the dry limestone causse in the extreme east. Sightings of Lang's Short-tailed Blue are slowly increasing in the extreme south-west of the department. However if I travel to the west coast beyond Bordeaux both species are quite common. A week or so ago I was walking in a firebreak amongst the pines by Arcachon Bay where i came across several Tree Graylings and one Lang's Short-tailed Blue. Both are typically late summer / autumn species.

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  • a viper under the flower pot

    The other day I was working at our well trying to pull up the broken pump, hosepipe, weights and cable that all fell to the bottom the last time we tried, when the wire hauser broke with all these things within sight!

    In preparing the site I had to move a flower pot and a tomato pot. Under the flowerpot which had a tile to support it, I found this young Asp Viper (a southern adder) with typical adder markings down the back -although in France you need to remember that the Viperine Snake has similar back markings. However the eye is characteristic of an adder in France and UK with a vertical pupil rather than a round one. Also the nose is tuned up. I've rarely seem them in Dordogne but they are apparently quite common on heaths. They are very similar to the Northern Adder in UK. You need to know where and when to look to find them, like most snakes, but this time it was pure accident - although they do like to sit beneath tiles and clay pots, like lizards.

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  • more from our recent holiday in Galicia - an island visit

    As we waited on the quay at Baiona for the boat to take us out to the Cies Islands, a wading bird came to visit us. Rather shy but just about close enough to get a few shots! This Turnstone was losing it's bright summer plumage and presumably making its way back to southern shores for the winter. The crossing provided some interesting wildlife including Bottle-nosed Dolphins, Cory's Shearwater and a lot of Shags (the latter two breed on the islands). On the island itself we passed through a Yellow-legged Gull colony in the dunes and walking up to the viewpoint found another Ocellated Lizard in the forest.

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  • Ocellated Lizards...in NW Spain

    This lizard is a rare species in Dordogne and very hard to find in it's habitat of dry stoney causse grassland. I've only seen one - a juvenile at Trémolat a few years back.

    However on a recent trip to Galicia in NW Spain we found them surprisingly common in dunes, woodland, a rocky headland and a town park. These two were in the gardens of the fort at La Coruna, male on the right and the male can also be seen in the second picture alone. We were on a cycling tour of the city but had to stop the guides so that we could study and photograph them. One of the guides said "oh yes, they are common"! They are handsome beasts, particuarly the males with their blue spots on the flanks, and can grow to over half a metre including the tail - which makes up half it's total length. There are claims of some individuals nearly as long as a metre but these claims are probably exaggerated.

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  • another moth

    Just after we returned from holiday recently, this attractive moth appeared one evening as I was writing at the computer. It's a Green Silver-lines, also common in UK and frequents oak woodland.

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  • Broad-barred White

    This little beauty was on my van outside the house early the other morning. It's a Broad-barred White. A common species in the UK, on grassland. It reminds me - I must get the moth trap out one of these days...

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  • Two years too late...

    This was the species (Heath Lobelia) that should have appeared as a photo in the Dordogne Crossbill Guide published two years ago. It is such a pretty plant. Dirk Hilbers, the Director at Crossbill and myself were looking around for a photo of this lovely wildflower at the time and realised we didn't have one on our files, and the last flowering season before the book was to be published was over! It's an interesting plant as it is typical of the Atlantic region of Europe. In the Dordogne guide there is a map of Europe showing this and the two other biogeographical regions which occur in Dordogne: Continental and Mediterranean. In the end this species was represented by a small colour painting, with the Continental region being represented by a Black Woodpecker and the Mediterranean region by an Ocellated Lizard. See page 69 for more details!

    Last week-end we were over on the west coast on Arcachon Bay and I found an unusally dense colony of the species in the mown grassland around a model-aircraft runway, adjacent to the main aerodrome at Andernos-les-Bains. It was too good a chance to miss...even if two years too late!

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  • oriole on a plate...or a bird in the hand...

    Well OK, not quite on a plate, but certainly in the hand! I spent the day recently with friends who have a house across the little valley from where we used to live at Saint-Meyme-de-Rozens. We'd visited Faux Plateau and enjoyed the usual rich haul of birds including the plentiful Black-winged Kites etc. One species which proved elusive as always was the Golden Oriole. We heard them calling from the woodland canopy at three sites and were fortunate to catch brief glimpses at one site. But as usual it proved impossible to get a really good view and we had to be content with their beautiful fluty yodel of a song and occasional harsh cat-like calls.

    After a long warm day in the field we returned to my friends' house to see that a bird had hit their large patio window at the front door and it lay motionless feet-up on the stone below. Fearing the worst I picked it up, checked it over and found it very much alive. Ironically after our attempts to get a good view of a Golden Oriole it turned out to be a female or immature of this species. The rest of the family were still in the trees overhead calling, so I released it and with a wobble it flew off and re-joined them. Luckily no harm done. It's not often that you can get this close to an oriole unles you are a bird ringer. Female and immature Golden Orioles are rather greenish, whereas it is the male which is bright yellow with the black wings and tail.

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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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