Atlantic, Continental and Mediterranean climates all influence the Dordogne, resulting in a fascinating mix of flora and fauna. Species with very different habitat requirements can be found in relatively close proximity, such as Dartford warbler, martagon lily, black-winged kite, woodcock orchid, black woodpecker, hoopoe, heath lobelia, Cleopatra and violet dropwing. These are all spread amongst a beautiful verdant hilly landscape with mixed farming, in some areas more rolling and open, in others more mountain-like. The varied geology – mainly limestone and sands, but including igneous and metamorphic rocks – adds to this diversity, especially for the plant life. A long history of human settlement, farming and land management dating back to prehistoric times has increased this diversity still further.

Having lived in the Dordogne for nearly 20 years, I have gradually got to know the best places to see wildlife. I’ve guided in the region for nearly 20 years and our Travelling Naturalist holidays have been running successfully for almost ten. Currently we have three holidays in the programme.

In March we have a winter birds tour where we search for wallcreeper, Alpine accentor and eagle owl along with commoner bird species; in sunny weather we may find a large tortoiseshell butterfly. In May there is a spring wildlife tour with a profusion of orchids such as fly and lizard, as well as a mass of other spring flowers. Birds include early summer visitors such as hoopoe and Bonelli’s warbler, while varied fritillary and blue butterflies add to the mix. We get up close to the river and black kites with a boat trip at Bergerac, and discover prehistoric paintings with a cave trip.

Finally, there is the June tour to enjoy summer birds such as red-backed shrike, golden oriole and honey buzzard plus a profusion of butterflies, dragonflies and wildflowers as midsummer approaches. In May and June 2019, we are fortunate to have the services of local botanist Corine Oosterlee on our tours.

All tours include insights into the area’s historical interest such as the caves and chateaux as well as less obvious features in the landscape. There is so much rich cultural heritage here, dating back millennia, that this becomes an essential and fascinating part of any walk in the Dordogne. Equally essential is sampling and enjoying the fabulous local cuisine and local food products. As such, we have planned a variety of restaurant meals and, when weather allows, picnic lunches.

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