France

Dordogne In Autumn

A 5-day, single-centre, small group birdwatching tour to southwest France

France Birding Tours with Limosa Holidays: A delightful late autumn birdwatching tour to the Dordogne in southwest France, seeking Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentor and other wintering birds, Black Woodpecker and Black-winged Kite. Our tour is designed and led for us by David Simpson, author of Birding Dordogne and the Crossbill (Wildlife) Guide to Dordogne - and one of the Dordogne’s many English residents who visited and, somehow, never left! Join us in France for some easy-paced birding enhanced by the autumnal colours of the picturesque Dordogne region, with its honey-coloured, stone-built villages and imposing chateaux set amidst a rich rural landscape.

Tour Dates & Prices

Sun 8th November 2020

Thu 12th November 2020

  • Spaces

Sun 7th November 2021

Thu 11th November 2021

  • Spaces

Tour Cost: 5 Days from £1195 inc return flights from London Gatwick

Deposit: £300Single Supp: £175Land Only: £1095Group Size: 7Leaders:  David Simpson

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Return flights - London Gatwick to Bordeaux, nonstop with British Airways
  • 4 nights accommodation in France, staying at a beautiful 18C manorial guesthouse by the Dordogne river at Lalinde
  • All main meals - dinners at local restaurants
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, local guides, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips, tolls and taxes
  • Map & Limosa checklist of birds

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks & other items of a personal nature

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights

Tour Cost: 5 Days from £1195* inc return flights from London Gatwick

Deposit: £300Single Supp: £175*Land Only: £1095*Group Size: 7Leaders:  David Simpson

* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Return flights - London Gatwick to Bordeaux, nonstop with British Airways
  • 4 nights accommodation in France, staying at a beautiful 18C manorial guesthouse by the Dordogne river at Lalinde
  • All main meals - dinners at local restaurants
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, local guides, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips, tolls and taxes
  • Map & Limosa checklist of birds

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks & other items of a personal nature

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights

Tour Highlights

  • Easy autumn birding in the beautiful Dordogne region of southwest France
  • Specialities in November include Black-winged Kite, Wallcreeper, Crag Martin and Alpine Accentor
  • Visits to Black Woodpecker roost site and a pre-migration gathering ground for Stone-curlew
  • Black-crowned Night Heron, Crested Lark, Dipper, Dartford Warbler, Rock Sparrow, Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting
  • Excursions to Le Teich and Bruges coastal and river marshland reserves near Bordeaux
  • NEW! 4 nights at a beautiful 18th century manorial guesthouse set beside the majestic River Dordogne
  • Small group tour - maximum of 7 participants
  • Expertly led by resident Dordogne naturalist and author David Simpson

Outline Itinerary

  • Morning flight from London Gatwick-Bordeaux. We visit Le Marais de Bruges at Bordeaux, before travelling east to our hotel. Night Lalinde

  • Three full days exploring the fields, forests and riverine cliffs of the lovely Dordogne. Three further nights Lalinde

  • We travel back west to Bordeaux today and visit Le Teich Reserve on the Atlantic coast. Evening flight Bordeaux-London Gatwick

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
Trip Reports
Pont de Mauzac at sunrise Dordogne France Daphne Watson 1118 ck card 2.jpg
Sunrise over the Pont de Mauzac - a handsome, ochre stone railway bridge, 254 metres in length © tour participant Daphne Watson

Around 10˚ of latitude due south of the UK sits the landlocked Dordogne département, in southwest France. The landscape feels instantly recognisable to British visitors whilst the weather is warmer and with more chance of an Indian Summer. For the naturalist there are a wide range of interesting habitats including dry rocky hillsides, arable plains, heathlands and wetlands. However, the area is dominated by oak forests set amongst mixed farmland with fine limestone meadows, cut through by the great River Dordogne beneath some impressive cliffs. Traditional farming and other land practices have left many wildlife habitats intact, making almost any location of interest.

November is a fine time for birding in the Dordogne. The region's winter visitors arrive, its resident birds are about in good number, and the climate can still be very comfortable.

Wintering alpine birds are a regular but little-known feature of the Dordogne in November, coming to the lower levels here to escape the harsh conditions in Europe's high mountains. If you know the sites (as David does), Wallcreepers can be relatively 'easy' to find on the cliffs and ancient buildings beside the main rivers - our previous groups have seen up to three birds in one day! Come early November, a few Alpine Accentors often accompany them about the rocky ledges, too. Peregrines and Ravens are also active in good weather, while Crag Martins - which only leave the Dordogne for a short period during the winter months - should still be cruising past the cliffs in the autumn sunshine.

With its extensive forests, the Dordogne is rich in woodpeckers, with up to five species to be found. The commonest species are Green and Great Spotted, but we will also visit woodlands that harbour the majestic Black Woodpecker and hope to see one at its roost. With sharp eyes, we could spot the tiny Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (which has a penchant for thinner branches in the treetops) and, with much luck, the elusive Middle Spotted - surely Europe's most attractive woodpecker and always a delight to see.

The localised Black-winged Kite is now becoming well established in this corner of southwest France, having spread northwards from Spain. A November visit adds chances of seeing Common Cranes, too - which migrate across this region in their thousands - and we will be present during the Red Kite autumn migration, as birds move south into Spain.

In November, there are plenty of other interesting ‘locals’ to watch out for on our travels - from Cattle Egret, Hen Harrier, Stone-curlew, Crested Lark and Dipper, to Cetti’s and Dartford Warblers, Crested Tit, Firecrest, Rock Sparrow, Hawfinch and Cirl Bunting.

If the sun smiles on us, there may be the chance of finding a few late butterflies – perhaps the last of the year’s Speckled Woods, Clouded Yellows, Red Admirals and even Long-tailed Blues. Late flowers are another bonus with many species flowering into the autumn here.

Excursions to Le Teich and the Marais de Bruges wetland reserves near Bordeaux will add variety and help to ensure our birding holiday both gets off to a good start and ends with a flourish, with a variety of waterbirds and passerines possible.

Guide David Simpson lives in the Dordogne and is author of the books Birding Dordogne and the Crossbill Guide to Dordogne. David designed and led our inaugural visit to Dordogne back in 2012 and has continued to lead all our trips there. Our November 2020 and 2021 tours will be our tenth and eleventh visits to the region with David. Set yourself up for the winter with this delightful late season tour to picturesque rural France!

black-winged kite brian small tabbed.jpg
As they continue to expand their range northwards from Spain, we now have a good chance to see Black-winged Kite in Dordogne © Brian Small, Limosa

Day 1
TO BORDEAUX & MARAIS DE BRUGES RESERVE

Our November birdwatching tour to southwest France begins with a late morning flight from London Gatwick to Bordeaux, where our guide David Simpson will be waiting to welcome us.

From the airport at Merignac, we travel a short distance across Bordeaux to reach the Marais de Bruges marshland reserve. At 262 ha., it’s one of the last surviving remnants of the Grand Marais de Bordeaux, a patchwork of pools, marshes, meadows, ditches, scrub and woodland. There are several kilometres of paths to explore with a selection of hides. A warden may be available to take us on a guided tour of the reserve.

The Marais de Bruges boasts a bird list of around 200 species, including a good variety of wetland birds which should see us off to a good start! White Storks nest here and there often one or two birds about in November. On the lagoons, we should see Shoveler and Teal along with a scattering of waders; Kingfishers patrol the ditches whilst Zitting Cisticolas and Water Rails inhabit the adjacent marshes. We'll stay until late afternoon before heading off eastward on the two-hour drive to Lalinde.

Early evening arrival at our beautiful, privately-owned 18th century guesthouse on the banks of the picturesque Dordogne River near Lalinde, which will be our base throughout. Night Lalinde

Day 2
WALLCREEPERS & MORE!

The spectacular riverside cliffs of the Dordogne harbour wintering Wallcreepers, which desert their high mountain haunts during the late autumn and winter months and can sometimes be seen here at close range. We will spend time today concentrating on getting good views of this incomparable little bird. Though patience is often required, our groups have enjoyed many superb views over the years - including several particularly photogenic individuals on the stone-tiled roof of a medieval church!

As we search for the crimson-winged climber, there should be plenty of other birds to enjoy. Crag Martins, Ravens and Peregrines inhabit the cliffs and, with any luck, we might add Alpine Accentor and Water Pipit, too. A handful of Black Redstarts and Serins remain in Dordogne during mild winters so we will keep our eyes peeled for them as well. Night Lalinde

Day 3
FOREST AND HEATHLAND DAY

Until comparatively recently, the Dordogne landscape was a much more open. However, since the 19th century progressive abandonment of traditional extensive grazing on the hills and marginal farming has led to a great increase in the area of woodland such that today nearly 50% of the département is classified as 'forest'. Indeed, to the visitor the overriding impression of the region is one of being largely wooded.

Although we have other woodland opportunities during the trip, today is our main 'forest and heath' day. We'll spend time visiting a variety of woodland sites - some dominated by oak, others by pine - searching for resident birds such as Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Crested Tit, Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper and Hawfinch. We will keep our eyes and ears open for the impressive Black Woodpecker too, with its loud and distinctive calls, and will visit a regular roost site hoping to see one returning home after its day’s work. Middle Spotted and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers are generally quieter and so often pass unnoticed but, once known, their distinctive calls help to locate them.

Amongst scrubby patches of heathland, we hope to find Dartford Warbler. In autumn, Red Kites pass through the region on their way south and we may also be lucky enough to see a flock or two of migrating Common Cranes. Evening return to our guesthouse hotel. Night Lalinde

Day 4
PLATEAU DE FAUX

The Plateau de Faux is one of the best bird-watching areas in the Dordogne, its landscape of fields, scrub, small woods and overgrown hedgerows contrasting with the well-wooded majority of Dordogne.

As we start our search for farmland and open country birds, perhaps a ghostly male Hen Harrier will quarter a field or a few Crested Larks, Woodlarks or Rock Sparrows may be found foraging on a recently tilled field. In autumn, perky Stonechats, and Cirl and Corn Buntings perch up prominently on the scrubby hedgerows.

This area of the Dordogne has been blessed by a recently established population of Black-winged Kite, which are slowly colonising from the south. We will spend time searching for one perched atop an isolated tree or hovering above an open field.

We will search for a regular pre-migration gathering of Stone-curlews, which favour larger fields in the area, as do the odd covey of Red-legged Partridges. If time allows, we will visit a nearby stream to look for Dipper and check a local reservoir for waterbirds before returning to our hotel for one last time. Night Lalinde

Day 5
LE TEICH COASTAL RESERVE, FLY LONDON

We leave our hotel at Lalinde after breakfast this morning and head back westward on a two and a half hour journey to the Parc Ornithologique du Teich, a bird reserve overlooking Arcachon Bay on the Bay of Biscay Atlantic coast.

Of international importance for its birdlife, Le Teich covers 110 hectares of coastal marshes with pools, reed beds, meadows, scrub and woodland. It is an 'RSPB style' reserve with an information centre, shop and restaurant and 6km of paths across the reserve to explore with many hides and viewpoints. The reserve's bird list is impressive, with more than 300 species so far recorded. Spoonbill, Black-crowned Night Heron, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit and Marsh Harrier are all possible here in November. We'll take a picnic lunch with us and spend the day here.

Our birding over, a 40-minute drive carries us back to Bordeaux Merignac Airport for farewells. Check-in around 6pm for our evening flight back to London Gatwick, where our November tour to Dordogne concludes.

Common Cranes Elizabeth Grynberg tabbed.jpg
Common Cranes pass through the Dordogne region every autumn as they migrate south into Spain © Limosa tour participant Elizabeth Grynberg

WHAT TO EXPECT
An easy-paced, autumn birdwatching tour to the Dordogne in southwest France, seeking Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentor and other wintering birds, Black Woodpecker and Black-winged Kite. It's a trip that's designed and led for us by David Simpson, author of the books ‘Birding Dordogne’ and the ‘Crossbill (Wildlife) Guide Dordogne’, and one of Dordogne’s many English residents who visited - and, somehow, never left!

November weather in Dordogne is changeable, but there are often sunny days with afternoon temperatures in the range of 5-15C (41-59F). Some rainfall is likely at this season and frosts are possible overnight.

BIRDS
80-100 species

ACCOMMODATION
4 nights accommodation in France, staying at Les Magnolias - a privately-owned 18th century manorial guesthouse set in beautiful park-like grounds, right on the banks of the Dordogne River and close by the bastide (fortified) town of Lalinde. All rooms are en suite.

This is such a wonderful spot, you may very well decide to spend the entire trip here!

MEALS
All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with dinner in Lalinde on Day 1 and concluding with lunch in France on Day 5. Breakfasts will be at the guesthouse, with our evening meals taken at nearby restaurants, adding to the appeal of this delightful tour. Lunches may be picnics or at a local auberge to sample the local cuisine ‘du terroir’.

Please note that David will take lunches and evening meals with the group but, as he only lives nearby, breakfasts will be 'sans David' - he will call by and pick you up from the hotel after breakfast each day.

WALKING
Easy. The scenery around here is beautiful and the location perfect for easy, relaxed birding, much of it possible on foot. Stout walking shoes or lightweight boots with good, corrugated soles for grip recommended.

TRAVEL
Return flights London Gatwick to Bordeaux Merignac, nonstop with British Airways.

Ground Transport By minibus.

firecrest brian small tabbed.jpg
Almost 50% of Dordogne is forested, and we'll spend time here searching for resident birds such as Firecrest © Brian Small, Limosa

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