Dordogne Wildlife Diary
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.
By audave2505, Jan 15 2021 05:00AM
This beauty was sunning itself on our 10m high Italian Cypress one sunny afternoon a month or so before Christmas. I managed to get this quick snap before it flew off around the tree. I have a feeling that the tree was its hibernaculum. The leaves and branches are very dense and I can imagine there are places deep within by the trunk which are quite well insulated. I could be completely wrong - maybe it had just be disturbed in a nearby out-building!
By audave2505, Jan 9 2021 05:05PM
I had a walk around our plot today (Saturday 9 Jan) and found a few encouraging signs of spring. A pale violet in flower on the south-facing bank beyond our boundary hedge, some bitter-cresses and a wild strawberry flowering in sheltered sunny spots and four basal leaf rosettes of Lizard Orchids on the southern, more wild half of the lawn. In the photo you can see the orchid surrounded by cyclamen leaves - a species that ony finished flowering a month or two ago. I found other unknown orchid leaves possibly Greater Butterfly, but no sign yet of our Tongue or Green-winged Orchids or the Autumn Lady's Tresses. It has been cold and frosty most nights recently but the afternoons can be surprisingly warm in a sheltered sunny spot...but not enough for butterflies quite yet!
By audave2505, Dec 18 2020 03:00AM
This rather dull looking moth was hiding behind the house shutters when I opened them the other morning. It's actually a male Winter Moth and common both in France and UK. It is one of the Geometer moths of which the carpet moths are perhaps the best known. Carpet moths are a similar size and shape to this one but are generally piebald with dark and pale patches or broad bands.
It's one of the species with a flightless female which presumably produces pheromone scent to attract males.
By audave2505, Dec 11 2020 03:35PM
I popped down to my local DIY store in Bergerac this morning to pick up a door handle and as I drove into the car park I saw a medium-sized bird flying (or it seemed rather like "swimming like a dolphin") in tight circles around a small bush. I drove close by to get the camera out and take a shot once it settled. Even with me there it refused to leave. Unfortunately the light on a cold damp early morning in Bergerac was not good, and through the window the view was hopeless. Opening the window the bird flew from the top of the bush and landed lower down at the back of the bush. In the neighbouring bush at least two House Sparrows were hundled amongst the remaining leaves, chirupping madly. The Sparrowhawk (for that it was) just couldn't get at them and the sparrows had the sense not to fly - stalemate. As I tried to take a few more better photos, the hawk flew off to a nearby small tree, from which it soon flew away in to the distance. It was a small male and still quite brownish. A great view if I hadn't been trying to take photos...and the sparrows lived to fight another day!
By audave2505, Nov 27 2020 08:00AM
I found this rather sad long-dead insect whilst opening up the interior mosquito blinds for access to paint the window frames. The blinds were down most of the summer but somehow this beast must have become trapped between the window and the blind.
It's wingspan was nearly three inches. Its body had perished but when living it is long and thin and about the length of the wings. This is an ant-lion (probably Euroleon nostras one of the most widespread species in Europe with a toe-hold in UK at Minsmere and Holkham on the East Anglian coast). The winged adult looks rather like a large speckled-winged damselfly but with clubbed antennae.
It is the larvae which give the "ant-lion" name to the group. They live in tiny sand pits which they excavate, afterwards waiting half-buried at the base to finish off, with their impressive jaws; any unsuspecting small insects which falls in. Larval devopment can take up to two years, the grubs excavating bigger pits as they get larger. Whilst laying eggs on the sand surface, the female adult is actually in danger of predation by the grubs! When the larva are fully developed they pupate in the soil, to emerge as the winged adult a month or so later. Adults are nocturnal so are rarely seen except when they fly into houses on warm summer nights...to be found on an interior wall the next morning.
By audave2505, Nov 20 2020 09:00AM
I was very pleased to find this freshly emerged male Adonis Blue last Saturday 14 November - it seemed like a very late date to me.In fact I found three different males. Looking on the Faune Aquitaine website this is the latest they have been recorded in their datasets of Aquitaine. It was warm afternoon around 18°C with hazy sun. There were other species flying notably Clouded Yellows and Long-tailed Blues but also a few Berger's Clouded Yellows and Small Coppers amongst several others. With temperatures set to drop and the forecast more unsettled this may be the last week with a variety of species flying until next March - but I'll keep on looking for the last Adonis Blues of the year!
PS. Still one or two flying yesterday 21st November - a new record late date on the Faune-Aquitaine database. I can't believe there will still be any flying in December but who knows...
By audave2505, Nov 13 2020 05:00AM
Recently a friend living in Sainte-Alvère sent me this nice photo of a Midwife Toad he found whilst checking drains at his new house. It's a rather attractive olive-green colour compared to the grey indivduals I've seen back at our old house at Mauzac. The midwife of the name is the male who carries the female's eggs on his back for a couple of weeks before depositing them in a pond. The yellowish spawn strings are actually wrapped around the males hind legs. For such a small amphibian (adults are only about two inches long) they have some of the largest tadpoles. It's a very common species in Dordogne, at least around wooded hamlets in limestone country. The soft whistle is often mistaken for Scop's Owl, but that call is a louder and electronic-sounding short whistle. In Dordogne, Scop's Owls inhabit more open landscapes for example around Issigeac in the south-west.
By audave2505, Nov 6 2020 08:00AM
I was trying out a new camera yesterday and took this image of a male Common Wall Lizard - it shows the characteristic spotted body pattern quite well. Rather atmospheric too, sitting on guard at an old bird's nest, in a niche of our old barn - better as a large image though!
By audave2505, Oct 31 2020 11:07AM
I was in the garden a week or so ago proudly showing my new little plantation of blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes to Audrey, when she said "look along the flower border there's a little lizard". Assuming it was a Common Wall Lizard, which are very common here, I had a cursory glance and saw something rather dark and stocky. I fact Audrey remarked that it looked rather like an animal scat. I got by binocs and checked it: a juvenile Green Lizard. The first juvenile seen in the garden - thanks to Audrey of course who is much more observant than me...at least of things on the ground! So I just finished off some work I was doing else where in the garden and returned with a camera. Inevitably it had gone, the sun had moved round, it was warm enough and had retreated into the vegetation. I thought "oh well I'll just wait for the next sunny morning and photograph it then". Unfortunately bad weather set in and I didn't get a chance for several days to check the situation, but unfortunately it hadn't returned. I've tried since on sunny mornings and decided that we must have seen the lizard on its last basking session before hibernation. So I will have to wait until next spring now! Anyway to finish off my article, I photographed this stripy female Common Wall Lizard (the males are spotty) nearby lately, at least they are still basking on sunny days!
By audave2505, Oct 20 2020 07:08PM
A week or two ago I continued my butterfly surveys around northern Bergerac with a birdwatching friend Claude. He knows the area well - all the small roads tracks and paths - which makes it easier to find good butterfly habitat! This time we went across to Montagnac-la-Crempse, a couple of villages from Maurens. It was a sunny lunchtime and the temperature was just starting to get a little warmer after a fresh start. We parked in the pretty village centre and spoke to some of the staff who run an environmental centre here mainly for school groups but they also created and maintain an interesting "eco-garden" on the hillside. We set out along the valley path not expecting too much. A couple of Brown Argus in the "eco-garden" were nice and by the stream a Comma glided past, whilst on the hillside were plenty of Adonis Blues.
A little further on I noticed out of the corner of my eye a little golden brown butterfly fluttering amongst the bushes. As it settled on a Dogwood leaf I immediately recognised it as a recently emerged female Brown Hairstreak - a rather scarce and special late summer-autumn butterfly. We were fortunate as she was intent on egg-laying and not moving far. Amongst the Dogwood were young branches of Blackthorn, the caterpillar food plant of this species. Eggs are generally laid at the junction of branches. I clicked away with the camera whilst Claude watched the butterfly through his binoculars. She was very kind to us settling with wings open and closed, and allowing close approach for macro-photography. The photos show her golden underwing with subtle patterns and secondly with brown wings open showing large orange patches on the forewing (which the male lacks). It was only when I looked at the photo of the female with wings closed that I noticed the tiny white egg she had recently laid, adjacent to her head on the thin stem.
When we first moved to our former home in Mauzac I remember planting fruit trees on the terrace lawn one autumn (2nd November 2007 to be exact) when a rather tatty brown female Brown Hairstreak fluttered down to lay eggs on the Apricot tree whilst I was arranging the soil around the roots!
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