DORDOGNE BUTTERFLY BIRDWATCHING WILDLIFE DAY TRIPS AND TOURS

WILD

Dordogne

la roque gageac

Dordogne Wildlife Diary

  • 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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  • A large Cork Oak in Bergerac

    There's a fabulous large Cork Oak by the side of the road near us at Pombonne Park, Bergerac (see below). It must be around two hundred years old. This one was doubtless planted but the species's natural distribution reaches surprisingly close to Dordogne. I've seen young Cork Oaks (and Holm Oak) coming up naturally on areas of clear-felled Maritime Pine plantations in the Landes area of SW France (south of Bordeaux). It's a species best known from Portugal and western Spain (which together hold around 80% of the population), but it is also found around much of the western Mediterranean coastal zone both on the north and south sides. With temperatures rising it would seem likely that it will spread northward over the coming decades. This tree in Bergerac is protected by law and there is an information sign.

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  • A Hummingbird Hawk Moth knocking at the door...

    The weather here is finally changing for the better with an anticyclone set to sit over France for a week or two, it certainly feels like spring. Birds are starting to sing and early flowers are showing. Insects are also becoming active. I've seen the first butterfly since mid December and bumble bees buzzing around flowers during the rather warm sunny afternoons. However most surprising for me was a Hummingbird Hawk Moth on Tuesday last week inside our new house at Maurens where I was working. I heard a large insect banging against the front door window and thought it must be a shield bug or bumble bee....then I saw the moth. I've never seen one so early in the year but have read that they over-winter or hibernate in houses, old trees etc. After short bouts of flight it settled. With the sunny weather I thought it best to liberate it. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph it, but my friend Bob Gibbons who runs Natural History Travel kindly agreed to let me use a photo from his website. It's a lot better than mine would have been!

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  • 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 this male 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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David

Welcome to my Dordogne Wildlife Diary

In it you will find regular wildlife sightings in the d├ępartement of Dordogne, notably of birds and butterflies in southern Dordogne where I live. In adddition there will be occasional references to neighbouring d├ępartements 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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