DORDOGNE BUTTERFLY BIRDWATCHING WILDLIFE DAY TRIPS AND TOURS

WILD

Dordogne

la roque gageac

Dordogne Wildlife Diary

  • Where are the Dartford Warblers? They're here don't worry!

    I love these little heathland birds. The Dartford Warbler male is a smart bird with a beautiful Bordeaux claret bib, breast and belly with a cool slate grey back. The bib is sprinkled too with some very fetching little white spots. Without the long tail they would be pretty much the smallest bird in Europe.

    They live in dense ground cover searching for food most of the day (and roosting there at night) and you could easily be fooled into thinking none are present on a site. However on a sunny spring day, once one bird starts they will call (short and harsh) and sing (a little jerky and scratchy warble) often in short songflights. However taking their photo is never easy, hence this rather poor (but artistic?) silhouette through the scrub!

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  • The advantages of Black Woodpeckers...

    This photo of a fallen tree shows how useful Black Woodpeckers can be in the breakdown process of fallen wood. Their size and power means that they can literally take a tree apart searching for grubs to eat. Once the woodpeckers start many other smaller fauna and fauna lend a hand - in turn attracting animals which feed on them too, and thus enriching the forest.

    The same is true of nesting holes. Black Woodpeckers make several large oval-shaped holes with a deep wide cavity inside. They tend to prefer pine, beech, poplar or plane trees. Those unused or abandoned after nesting are often used by other species for nesting or roosting. In mountainous areas of Europe for example, the small Tengmalm's Owl use these holes.

    With Black Woodpeckers colonising Dordogne over the last twenty or thirty years from the northeast they have doubtless added to the biodiversity of the forests here as they are now widespread and relatively common. However they are always remarkably discrete and difficult to see for a large crow-sized bird capable of making a lot of noise when they want too!

    As Black Woodpeckers are spreading further westward and southward through France these large impressive woodpeckers are spreading a bit of biodiversity wherever they go!

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  • The iconic Large Tortoiseshell

    This is not the tortoiseshell butterfly you see on the garden buddleia which is actually rare in Dordogne but the larger golden cousin of the woodlands. The Large Tortoiseshell is common in Dordogne and the best time to see it is now (or even as early as mid February) when butterflies emerge from hibernation - like this battered little male. A later brood emerges in mid summer but relatively few are seen as they spent time in the treetops and soon retire to hibernation. Once found in UK though always scarce, it is now possibly making a comeback with butterflies regularly reported in recent years on the Isle of Wight. It is indeed a handsome butterfly with black underwings.

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  • the beautiful Snake's-head Fritillary

    A stunningly beautiful flower best seen up close. They are a March flower here of wet meadows generally by streams and small rivers. Often accompanied by Wood Anenome, Purple Toothwort, Tuberous Comfrey and Dog's Mercury. Heaven! These flowers were near the stunning Chateau de Bridoire in SW Dordogne.

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  • Fritillary caterpillar webs

    Like many moths some species of butterfly caterpillars construct silken webs for protection especially when they are small. These are Glanville Fritillary caterpillars with black spiky bodies and brown heads. At this time of year you see them in the grass by tracksides. The Glanville Fritillary is common in France perhaps not surprisingly with a very common caterpillar foodplant: Ribwort Plaintain - a garden 'weed'. So why is it only found on the Isle of Wight (and the immediate adjacent mainland) in UK? Probably it is at it's northerly limit for climatic reasons: temperature and sunshine hours but perhaps parasites etc. play a role.

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  • a friendly young Black-winged Kite

    UPDATE Monday 27 March: Yesterday we watched an adult Black-winged Kite, apparently on territory, on the agricultural plateau just north of Lalinde next to the D8 Périgueux road - the 'back road' to our old house at Saint Meyme de Rozens - a great surprise!

    This morning I was driving back home from a quick walk around one of my favourite spots on Faux Plateau at St Aubin de Lanquais (Black-winged Kite nest-building, 6 Stone Curlew, Hen Harrier etc.) and traversing the village when out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a rather pale 'Collared Dove' on a wire by the road. I thought 'hang on isn't that a Black-winged Kite?' So I stopped and looked back through my binoculars and saw that is was! A great photo opportunity, so I turned around and drove slowly back to the spot hoping that my car and the others occasionally passing wouldn't frighten the bird away. I got some initial photos but they weren't any good due to the angle and light. As I started the engine to move nearer the bird flew up, did a short circle and landed on the same wire a little further away. This time I stopped adjacent to the bird and it happily stayed put allowing me to snap away with my little Canon compact 40x optical zoom set on maximum. One shot of many was easily the best and a cropped version is shown below. It made me realise that with a tripod, unipod or such like you can get good results with birds using these little cameras. It was only when I got home to look at the photos that I realised the bird was a juvenile with pale fringing to the grey feathers.

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  • Hybrid Primrose x Cowslip

    Such a pretty flower which I gather is the hybrid of the Primrose and Cowslip. This is not the very similar Oxlip where the flowers all hang to one side (plus there are other more technical details which I can't easily follow not being a real botanist). It's a common plant where both the parent species grow at this time of year.

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  • Trélissac Orchid Reserve

    This is a little gem of a place on the outskirts of Périgueux (full details in my new Crossbill Guide to Dordogne - published in April). If you know the N21 main road into Périgueux from Limoges it's amongst the housing estates behind the long line of car showrooms and garages (I was having my VW minibus serviced so rather convenient for me!).

    The reserve doesn't look like much being set in a pine wood copse amongst the suburban houses of Trélissac by a bus stop on the Avenue de Jean Jaurès. But indeed it is much. A very well signed short path takes you on on circuit of this 'pinède' with information on species found plus the complex lifecycle of these stunningly beautiful little plants. In total there must be 20 or so species here between March and July from the flamboyant Lady Orchid to the more demeure helleborines. In autumn perhaps the Autumn Lady's Tresses too but this time I was too early in March - but I did catch the cowslips and primroses.

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  • early spring surprise !

    When I arrived at my botanist friend's (Corine Oosterlee) house in Trémolat on Monday (12 March) at 9.30am there was a summer visitor waiting to greet me - a Hoopoe. It was pottering about the track by the house and trying to dispatch a grub it had just caught. This was quite an early date for Dordogne but with warm southwesterly winds over the previous days it's perhaps not unexpected - in fact the next day I saw another at St Félix de Villadeix nearby. Anyway it was a great start to the day as we went out to check various routes for an up-coming walking holiday. Thanks Corine !

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  • Narrow-leaved Lungwort

    Down here in southern Dordogne we don't have the amazing Bluebell woods of England but we try to make up for that with other things like the range of orchids etc. However the early spring here with Primroses, Cowslips and Lady's Smock always remind me of UK and it's nice to see a bit of blue colour from this pretty flower: Narrow-leaved Lungwort (rare in UK) currently blooming in the leafless woods hereabouts. In late February last year I posted a photo of the broader leaved Common Lungwort taken in the Pyrenees, which is a common species in UK.

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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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