Spring in the Dordogne

Posted by Luci Ackers on 7 March 2016
Related property: Constant
Spring in the Dordogne Hoopoe Swallowtail - photo by Daniel McCaughan Black kite

Spring wildlife in the Dordogne

The weather is warming, the sun's beginning to peak through and we'll soon be seeing new life start to appear on the trees. Spring is a fantastic time of year to venture outside and take advantage of the beautiful countryside.

The Dordogne is a stunning region, admired for its wide range of interesting habitats. With everything from dry rocky hillsides to arable farmland, diverse heathlands to riverbanks and wetland; it is little wonder that a huge variety of birds call it home. The area has been sliced through by the river, leaving high, impressive cliffs and the iconic Dordogne oak forest can be found throughout.

So what are you best to look out for?

Well it depends where you are, and nothing is set in stone when it comes to wildlife – birds do love to move around! But hopefully this rough guide will at least give you something to work from. Wildlife guide David Simpson helped pinpoint some of the key species that you'll want to look out for in the Dordogne this spring.

Woodland

If you're on a woodland walk keep your eyes peeled for the black woodpecker, which favours large stretches of mature woodland, and the middle spotted woodpecker, moving high up and constantly flitting from tree to tree. You'll most likely hear them before you see them.

Short-toed treecreepers will be skittering up and down the tree trunks, and you might catch sight of Bonelli's warblers singing away, or the odd hawfinch that has ventured in for food.

Buzzards tend to breed on the fringes of woodlands but will hunt more over the open farmland. So you may be lucky, but it's more likely you'll spot one of these elegant birds soaring over head when you're out in the open.

Wetland

The great white egret can be spotted fishing in the shallows of the rivers. The Dordogne Valley or the Vézère Valley both have an abundance of shoreline marshy areas that are teeming with life for them. The egret is a stunning bird if you do get to see one: brilliant white with that characteristic s-shaped neck.

While you're exploring the valley, and if the weather is good enough, keep your eyes peeled for the swallowtail. It is one of the earliest butterflies to appear in April and as well as grassland and reeds, the swallowtail also visits the the wetland habitats that hug the river bank.

Craggy areas and cliff faces

With the sheer cliff faces and rocky ledges that have been formed by the flow of the river, bird watchers have a good opportunity to spot those smaller birds that use the protection of the cliffs for their nest sites. 

You'll want to keep an eye out for black redstarts (pictured), nesting crag martins up under the protective overhang of cliff edges and rock sparrows, who tend to be found in rocky hilly areas with little vegetation.

In the distance, over the river valleys, see if you can spot a peregrine soaring high in the sky. They feed mainly on smaller birds and catch them in flight, so both distance and hight are key factors in their hunting success.

Scrubland, grassland and underbrush

A lot of smaller birds that feed on seeds and small insects prefer the more open areas of the Dordogne's countryside, where they can flit here and there. Dartford warblers are quite rare, but you might get lucky and glimpse one in the underbrush. You're likely to spot stonechats in the gorse and open heathland, tree pipits in shrubby grassland, cirl bunting in hedgerows, or the interesting looking hoopoe in bare or lightly vegetated areas and around cliffs; you might even see the beautiful black kite soaring over open countryside.

Remember it isn't always about the birds. Here you're in an excellent place to see some incredible wild flowers. Orchids are particularly prevalent and tend to do well in a range of habitats. Check for them in woodland areas as well as some of the wetter, marshland habitats.

Luci Ackers

Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.

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