DORDOGNE BUTTERFLY BIRDWATCHING WILDLIFE DAY TRIPS AND TOURS

WILD

Dordogne

la roque gageac

Dordogne Wildlife Diary

  • Amazing Mazarine!

    This is one of my favourite blue butterflies - the Mazarine Blue. It's a bit smaller than most Common Blues but rather more elegant and understated. You see a hint of the amazing purple-tinged blue of the males upperwings in the photo below. The undersides are pale beige with just a neat simple arrangement of black spots with white surrounds - nothing fussy - but with a turquoise fringe at the base of the wings. I was pleased to find it recently in our little valley, a species I never found at our previous house in Mauzac. There seems to be a nice little colony here.

    It was once found in England and was recorded in many counties in the 18th and 19th centuries but was always scarce. Sadly by 1904 it was extinct. No convincing explanation of the reasons for its demise have been advanced. Its caterpillar foodplant is Red Clover in Europe which remains a very common plant in UK. It seems likely that changes in farming practices in the late 19th century in England sounded the death knell for the Mazarine Blue in England, whilst collectors perhaps helping to finish off the final colonies. Populations of butterfly species in small isolated colonies like the Mazarine Blue are always fragile. In addition those on the edge of their range, like the Mazarine Blue, often have very exacting requirements and are thus at great risk from environmental changes which can cause rapid declines in populations, often to extinction - first locally and ultimately nationally.

    Read more...

    0 comments

  • Fox Moth

    The other morning I went out to move the cars around so that Audrey could use my minibus for work - completing missing this moth as I crossed the front step! Audrey of course found it immediately. I realised it was an "eggar-type" moth but couldn't quite place it. A quick look at the guides confirmed it as a female Fox Moth. These dark grey individuals are also common in the north of UK, whilst in the south of England they are a reddish-brown. Female moths generally have thin wiry antennae like this species, whereas the males are feathered and are used for searching for females - by picking up their scent pheromones to guide them. Males are day-flying, whilst females are active by night. They are quite a common species in Europe...and rather beautiful.

    Read more...

    0 comments

  • Muguet

    The 1st May is the day in France when tradition dictates that you give sprays of Lily-of-the-Valley (or Muguet in French) to friends and family. A business has built up around this and sellers can normally be found in villages on this special day. The plant is grown commercially but this year with the Coronovirus lockdown, (or "confinement" over here) growers and sellers have lost all their trade. Hopefully next year everything will be back to normal. It grows as a native in north-east Dordogne but for us in the south, it's a northern species (like Beech, Ramsons, Bluebells and Common Foxglove etc.). Luckily for us, previous owners of our new house near Bergerac, planted some on the north-facing side of the house in the shelter of the roadside wall where they tick over nicely - see below). Flowering however was early this year with the warm spring, so most had finished flowering when a took my photo.

    Read more...

    0 comments

  • small fritillary time...

    The small fritillary season has started early this spring with the warm weather, and I am finding a good variety live in the varied habitats around our new house.

    First to emerge were the Weaver's (Violet) Fritillary as previously covered in this blog. Since then the pretty Marsh Fritllary (here on a Pyramidal Orchid) and the plainer orange Meadow Fritillary (similar to the UK Heath Fritillary) have appeared in the little limestone valley, whilst across in the sandy pine forest the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary in now on the wing. Not a bad start to the season which should see at least a couple more small fritillary species before the spring is out...

    Read more...

    0 comments

  • orchid bonanza !

    This spring I've decided to "re-wild" the garden a bit. Last year we arrived here in March and there was not much time to plan how to develop the garden for wildlife. This year there's plenty of time! I found two orchids species last year growing in the lawn and so, mainly based on these areas I've decided to let areas grow as wild grassland with a late cut (cuttings removed) in October/November. Hopefully that will help the flowers and invertebrates - and so everything else up the foodchain. I've been keeping an eye on orchid leaves coming up and found one particularly dense "mat" of leaves in what I call the "reserve area" (Green Lizard, various orchids found etc.) a month or so ago. Well this week they started flowering and they are Tongue Orchids! Not a particularly unusual species here in Dordogne (however I only saw one plant near our old house at Mauzac, on Cabant Hill). this species isn't tied to limestone like many orchids, but it is still very pleasing.

    Since then my son Joseph has found some other orchids (one was a broomrape) and he's marked them with a stick so I don't cut them when I mow the grass.

    Read more...

    0 comments

  • two little continental blues

    This week my local walks produced a couple of nice butterfly surprises along the little valley. These were two types of short-tailed blues. They are similar to the Small (or Little) Blue in UK and fairly common (at the right time and place) in Dordogne. The Short-tailed Blue seems to prefer damper habitats and the grand-sounding Provençal Short-tailed Blue, drier ones. However on dry sandy heathlands they seem equally common! There is one special feature to look out for and that is the tiny spot or spots at the base of the tail. In the Short-tailed Blue, there are often two red spots whilst on the Provençal cousin there is just a tiny black spot. The "tails" tend to be longer in the Short-tailed Blue and the males are bluer. The female Provençal has all-brown uppers, whereas the female Short-tailed Blue has touches of blue on her upper forewings. On the underside the marking on the edge of both wings are generally stronger on the Short-tailed Blue. Fortunately two posed for me!

    Read more...

    0 comments

  • Butterfly numbers increasing

    Here at home we are in what the French call "confinement" thanks to Coronovirus, so I am only able to do short walks locally. But this has helped me get to know the local area better and its wildlife. I have two walks, one to the south of the road along the border of a farm and through the sandy pinewoods and mixed woods mostly on a forest track, coming back up the hill from the valley bottom with a tiny stream by the minor road. The other is on the north side of the road walking briefly through the mixed woods and then into the head of a little valley and slowly dropping down towards the valley bottom of the first walk. The second walk takes me through some interesting damp meadows and the edge of a rough, part-wooded limestone slope. So far I have already seen 28 species, partly due to the very early and mild spring. A week or two ago I found a pretty female Holly Blue egg-laying on Dogwood by the road, whilst down in the valley along the base of the limestone slope, Weaver's Fritillaries were emerging, see photos below.

    Read more...

    0 comments

  • Western Green Lizard

    I tried to photograph our male Green Lizard in the garden last autumn, but by the time I got organised he had gone into hibernation. But this week (mid-March) he has emerged and lies on sunny days under the cirstus just as before, in the photo his head is on the left in the shadows. They are beautiful bright green lizards, larger than the commoner European Wall Lizards and more of a field edge species. The female (lower photo) is more marked and has a smaller head - she seems to prefer basking up high in the branches of a nearby lavender bush.

    Read more...

    0 comments

  • Great Grey Shrike

    It's unusual to find a Great Grey Shrike in Dordogne. They do occur occasionally in winter and seem to hang around for a few weeks or even months on a winter territory, before making their way back to breeding grounds in the spring. Normally if a "grey shrike" turns up in Dordogne it is a Southern Grey Shrike. These birds nest along the Mediterranean coast, whereas the Great Greys nest in the Massif Central and further east.

    A couple of weeks ago my friend Michel Hoare found a Great Grey Shrike near Beaumont, so whilst I was on a birding trip with a friend looking for Wallcreepers on the Vézère cliffs, we decided to make a short detour and return home via the shrike site. Following Michel's advice we checked the electric and phone wires and before too long found the bird. A fair bit paler than the Southern Grey Shrike but with very similar behaviour. Dropping down on the ground from the wire to capture prey before returning to the same position on the wire or nearby. As the sun was dropping low in the sky, it also semed to be basking in the sun to warm itself before going to roost. My friend Graham Lobley managed to get some photos of the bird to confirm the ID.

    Read more...

    0 comments

  • Forestry work at Cabant

    There seems to have been an increase in forestry activities these last few winters with the rise in popularity of woodburners. Although it looks a bit drastic immediately after the cut the trees coppice and re-seed and soon the woodland returns. In fact these clearings in the forest are important wildlife habitats for species which prefer a mixture of sun and shade including many butterflies such as Speckled Wood, Large Tortoiseshell, Lesser Purple Emperor, and one of out rearest butterflies: the Woodland Brown. Plants such as various orchids often appreciate a bit more light to complete their life-cycle.

    However I must say I was rather shocked when I visited our old house at Cabant near Mauzac recently to see so much of the woodland on the south side of the property had been cleared. Fortunately it will heal with time and the important limestone grasslands on the hilltop have been left largely untouched. However I still feel rather sorry for the new owners.

    Read more...

    0 comments

Photo crop (passport)

Web feed

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.

You are viewing the text version of this site.

To view the full version please install the Adobe Flash Player and ensure your web browser has JavaScript enabled.

Need help? check the requirements page.


Get Flash Player