DORDOGNE BUTTERFLY BIRDWATCHING WILDLIFE DAY TRIPS AND TOURS

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Dordogne

la roque gageac

Dordogne Wildlife Diary

  • Ebro Delta news !

    Our summer holidays often include a few weeks down in Spain by the Ebro Delta where Audrey's parents have a holiday house. There is always interesting wildlife about. I managed a few trips out and amassed 127 bird species at three sites: Lerida Plains, Sierra Cardo mountains and the Ebro Delta coastal belt. Best birds for me were Marsh Sandpiper and Lesser Grey Shrike. I must say that a day out with Steve West of "Birding in Spain", the English bird guide at Lerida, had something to do with my total species number and most of the rarer birds! The Ebro is always productive bird-wise with so much varied wetland habitat, even the rice fields have their herons, egrets, stilts and terns! We visited an excellent new visitor centre "Mon Natura Delta de l'Ebre" near the Tancada saltmarshes and lagoons on the south side of the river. There was a Night Heron on the wire to greet us. With European "Life" money they has doen great things restoring habitats and the old buildings.

    Whilst walking around the site and in particular looking for the rare endemic Iberian Tooth Carp (the subject of a conservation scheme here) in the saline pools, we saw many large bluish crabs which I did not recognise. After a bit of resereach on the web we found out that they were the Atlantic Blue Crab from the western shores of the Atlantic. An invasive species first noted in the early 20th century and now very common in many parts of the Mediterranean. Great for eating but perhaps not so good for the ecosystem. It has been the subject of a recent major study.

    Just before leaving for home I found this butterfly fluttering around the veranda windows. At first glance I thought it was a Common Gatekeeper as there were no strong markings. However the rather greyish-brown mottled hindwing underside with no spots show it to be a Southern Gatekeeper. This is a species restricted to the Mediterranean. The upperwings are very like a Common Gatekeeper.

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  • Dragons and Damsels

    We recently went to one of the popular local leisure lakes at St Méard de Gurçon run by the Conseil General (equivalent to a County Council in UK). It was mainly to meet up with Audrey's sister and to take the kids swimming. It's set up like a mini coastal beach resort with all facilities...including a sandy beach! Of course I got a bit bored on the beach and so went for a walk around the lake which took about 20-30 minutes. I was rather surprised to see so many Violet Dropwing dragonflies all around the lake - I must have seen between ten and twenty individuals. This species is spreading northwards in SW France. It's a common species in tropical Africa, I remember seeing strange purple dragonflies in Mauritius but never discovered what they were. The species was first recorded in Europe in Spain in the 1970s.

    Another common dragonfly - in fact a damselfly - around the lake was the Blue-eye (or Goblet-marked Damselfly). I see it regularly by the River Dordogne but many still waters too. The goblet mark is on top of the first two segments of the abdomen just below the thorax. The shape of the mark in this location is a good way to separate several of the blue damselflies. The Blue-eye also has characteristic black spear shaped marks pointing towards the head along the abdomen. Other species have blue eyes.

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  • Grizzled Skippers

    A couple of grizzled skippers on an animal scat showing the typical bold and heavy angular white markings on the underside. I put the species name without first word capitals as this may be one of two species: Pyrgus malvae (found in UK) or Pyrgus malvoides (southern European only). Dordogne is on the no-man's land boundary between the two species. I wouldn't want to say which these one's are without checking the genitalia. And as for the scat(s) I'll leave you to guess!

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  • Jay

    A great looking bird and very common in Dordogne. Doesn't get the same bad press as the Magpie but in certain areas and at certain times is probably a significant predator of young small animals and birds. I was trying out my new Canon compact camera (40x optical focus) at home and was quite pleased with the result.

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  • Woodland Grayling

    The big grayling butterflies are still flying and I saw several whilst out with a friend near Beaumont. This one appears rather dark as it flies around and they are often quite inquisitive of humans and may settle on you for salt-sweat. This one is a Woodland Grayling, the similar-sized Great Banded Grayling has much brighter while bands on the upper wings. The woodland Grayling is also much darker below. When they settle like this on an oak tree trunk they are pretty well camouflaged.

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  • White Featherleg

    When we moved into temporary rental accomodation in Bergerac I didn't expect too much wildlife-wise but I have been pleasantly surprised. Most recently we have had an "invasion" of White Featherleg damselflies which seem to be everywhere in the long grass. An ivory white damselfly with very broad fore-leg tibia (the "feather-in-the-leg"). It is endemic to Iberia and SW France. This species isn't found in UK, but maybe soon with climate change...

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  • A nice collection of Faux birds

    I recently took a Swiss group out on Faux Plateau and despite hot sunny weather we did OK bird-wise. One of the party Martin Schoenberger, a photographer, took these photos below. In order of appearance: Hoopoe, Woodchat Shrike (female), Rock Sparrow and Stonechat. Thanks Martin!

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  • Reviews of our recently published Dordogne Crossbill Guide

    I've just received today the first two reviews of our new Dordogne wildlife guide book from English language newspapers in France: "The Connexion" and "The Bugle" (page 4). Both favourable I'm pleased to say. For readable versions of the reviews please click on the underlined newspaper names above.

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  • Emperors

    In Dordogne we have two species of Purple Emperor. By far the most common is the Lesser Purple Emperor which tends to be smaller, a brighter purple and the underside is less contrasty with a light brown wash especially on the hindwing. In SW France the variety "clytie" is common and this has an orange fringe to the upper wings and the white lines are also slightly orange. It is found almost anywhere in the countryside, especially near the emperor caterpillar foodplants, poplars and willows, in the valleys.

    By contrast the Purple Emperor is scarce and found in scattered colonies in the larger forested areas of Dordogne. It is a more northery species. They seem to stay higher in the trees unless tempted down by tree sap, rotten fruit or animal scats on the ground. My French friend and I have been out surveying for Woodland Brown recently and he captured these beautiful images of a freshly emerged female in the Forêt de Barade near Périgueux last week.

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  • Southern Small White

    We are always checking the "cabbage whites" on the dry stony grasslands at places like Condat and Saint Pompon for the rare Southern Small White. Thanks to my friends Dudley and Jean Cheesman who photographed this specimen we recorded one at Saint Pompon. I saw the butterfly but unfortunately for me it wouldn't settle! The size, shape and darkness of the markings help to identify it, together with an even dusting of grey cells over the pale yellow hindwing underside. With one spot on the forewing it's a male.

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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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