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, Oct 9 2020 12:00AM
This toad turned up on our doorstep this morning (last Sunday) after heavy rain recently. Although it looks like a Common Toad Bufo bufo, the subspecies found on the continent has recently been given specific status as Bufo spinosus, hence the Spiny Toad. Apparently it was so named because of the spiny nature of the skin but I don't see or feel that - warty though for sure! Superfically it looks very like the UK species Common Toad but the irises are notable by their red colour. Other differences with the Common Toad are that the long thin parotid glands behind the eyes are more widely divergent and the larger inner metatarsel tubercules (skin nodules). The species seems widespread in this part of France but I never see more than one or two at a time. In NW England where I used to live and work Common Toads were very common with sometimes huge numbers at breeding sites.
By audave2505, Oct 4 2020 08:51AM
Last week I was out exploring new butterfly sites in my local area with a bird-watching friend from Bergerac, Claude. We were looking for the local "coteaux calcaire" (open limestone slopes ) in the northern Bergerac district as mentioned in a catalogue of Bergerac butterflies written in the late 19th century. Sadly most areas have been lost to housing, natural succession to woodland or to tree/vineyard planting. However around the nearby pretty village centre of Queyssac we found a large slope still open and grassy with charcteristic limestone flora. The town hall appears to mow it once or twice a year maintaining the habitat, which is great. We found eleven species of butterfly including plenty of Adonis Blues and Berger's Clouded Yellows. It was especially pleasing to find two Oberthur's Grizzled Skippers which are rather scarce in Dordogne. Definitely a place to check more carefully next year.
Claude also found a beautiful Swallowtail caterpillar.
We moved on to another meadow area mentioned in the 19th century catalogue not far away in the commune. We were pleased to find that it still existed - although in a reduced area, as the higher ground had been recently converted to vines. Fortunately what was probably always the more interesting area in the valley bottom has survived although it is now being invaded by scrub. Here we found fifteen species of butterfly including a more woodland component with several Southern White Admirals and Silver-washed Fritillaries. I was surprised to see a small rather drab damselfly here on a dead bramble stem - a Winter Damsel. This is a species which can be seen at almost any time in the year but is especially active in spring with a secondary peak in late summer/early autumn.
By audave2505, Sep 25 2020 08:00AM
I found this on our microwave a couple of days ago! When I first saw it I thought it might be a small pug or carpet moth. But when I looked closer I saw the amazing bird-like plumes. I did a quick bit of research on the web and found it immediately - a Twenty-plume (or "Many-plumed) Moth Alucita hexadactyla. And very beautiful it is too. I was aware of the plume moth group, which often have a curved T-shape form, but not this related species. Apparently it is a common species in gardens, hedgerows and woodlands both over here and in UK. However when it rests it can go un-noticed with its wings closed over its back. The wingspan is just under 2cm and each wing is divided into two sets of six "fingers" or "plumes". The antenae are about half the length of the forewing but they are hidden in the photo. The head with eyes and palps, stick out markedly from the wings. They fly from dusk and come to light. They can be disturbed by day from their larval foodplant honeysuckle and often hibernate in sheds and dense vegetation. Species details from the "Field Guide to the Micro Moths of Great Britain and Ireland" by Phil Sterling, Mark Parsons and Richard Lewington.
By audave2505, Sep 18 2020 08:00AM
I always hoped to find this species at our previous house in Mauzac but never did - though during our final season (2017) a guest found one by our letter box one early evening late in the season. I always check the smaller blues, skippers and fritillaries carefully in case there is something unusual amongst them, and this time I was rewarded with a very fresh female nectaring on mint in the little valley across the road from us. The underside is an unusual grey and white mottled pattern and there are a couple of small black spots adjacent to the little tail. The black spot is ringed by silver-blue and that is surrounded by a hazy reddish broader circle.
Like the much more common Long-tailed Blue, it is one of the many small African blues and its distribution reaches Europe around the Mediterranean. From here it is gradually colonising SW France mainly along the coast. There are three generations a year and the latter ones are particularly numerous often leading to migration north of its normal range as far as Brittany and Alsace. Only one specimen has ever been observed in the UK: at Bloxworth in Dorset, 1938. Bloxworth is a famous site for rare blue butterflies as it was here in 1885 that the first acknowledged Short-tailed Blue was observed in the UK.
By audave2505, Sep 11 2020 05:00AM
On a recent walk in the little valley near the house I was pleased to find this Violet Dropwing. The species has colonised Aquitaine in the last fifteen or twenty years and is now quite common. It's originally an African species but presumably aided by climate chnage it is moving northwards.
I was surprised to see recently (first recorded 2019 by René Brenguier) that another African dropwing has appeared in Aquitaine at Cambo-les-Bains not far from Bayonne on a tributary of the River Adour. It was previously only known from several Mediterranean departments. I wonder whether this will see a similar expansion through Aquitaine in the coming years? The male is a dramatic-looking insect with a bright red body and large orange patches at the base of the wings. Photo below taken from Faune-Aquitaine by René Brenguier.
By audave2505, Sep 2 2020 08:20AM
On my regular trips to Spain on holiday I regularly see Tree Grayling and Lang's Short-tailed Blue, both common species in Iberia. In Dordogne these two species are much more difficult to find. Tree Grayling is found in the extreme west of the department in the sandy pine woods and it is just hanging on on the dry limestone causse in the extreme east. Sightings of Lang's Short-tailed Blue are slowly increasing in the extreme south-west of the department. However if I travel to the west coast beyond Bordeaux both species are quite common. A week or so ago I was walking in a firebreak amongst the pines by Arcachon Bay where i came across several Tree Graylings and one Lang's Short-tailed Blue. Both are typically late summer / autumn species.
By audave2505, Aug 21 2020 09:00AM
The other day I was working at our well trying to pull up the broken pump, hosepipe, weights and cable that all fell to the bottom the last time we tried, when the wire hauser broke with all these things within sight!
In preparing the site I had to move a flower pot and a tomato pot. Under the flowerpot which had a tile to support it, I found this young Asp Viper (a southern adder) with typical adder markings down the back -although in France you need to remember that the Viperine Snake has similar back markings. However the eye is characteristic of an adder in France and UK with a vertical pupil rather than a round one. Also the nose is tuned up. I've rarely seem them in Dordogne but they are apparently quite common on heaths. They are very similar to the Northern Adder in UK. You need to know where and when to look to find them, like most snakes, but this time it was pure accident - although they do like to sit beneath tiles and clay pots, like lizards.
By audave2505, Aug 14 2020 06:00AM
As we waited on the quay at Baiona for the boat to take us out to the Cies Islands, a wading bird came to visit us. Rather shy but just about close enough to get a few shots! This Turnstone was losing it's bright summer plumage and presumably making its way back to southern shores for the winter. The crossing provided some interesting wildlife including Bottle-nosed Dolphins, Cory's Shearwater and a lot of Shags (the latter two breed on the islands). On the island itself we passed through a Yellow-legged Gull colony in the dunes and walking up to the viewpoint found another Ocellated Lizard in the forest.
By audave2505, Aug 7 2020 09:00AM
This lizard is a rare species in Dordogne and very hard to find in it's habitat of dry stoney causse grassland. I've only seen one - a juvenile at Trémolat a few years back.
However on a recent trip to Galicia in NW Spain we found them surprisingly common in dunes, woodland, a rocky headland and a town park. These two were in the gardens of the fort at La Coruna, male on the right and the male can also be seen in the second picture alone. We were on a cycling tour of the city but had to stop the guides so that we could study and photograph them. One of the guides said "oh yes, they are common"! They are handsome beasts, particuarly the males with their blue spots on the flanks, and can grow to over half a metre including the tail - which makes up half it's total length. There are claims of some individuals nearly as long as a metre but these claims are probably exaggerated.
By audave2505, Jul 31 2020 05:00AM
Just after we returned from holiday recently, this attractive moth appeared one evening as I was writing at the computer. It's a Green Silver-lines, also common in UK and frequents oak woodland.
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