There is a huge amount on offer to wildlife enthusiasts in the Ariège Pyrénées and below are just some of the highlights. Local guides can be booked to escort and inform you.
Known as the ‘Flower garden of Europe’, there are around 3300 plant species recorded in the Pyrénées with around 180 found nowhere else. Stunning wildflower gardens open up in the spring and different altitudes and different weeks give way to new blooms. Rare and delicate species are to be found for much of the year in rocky crevices at higher altitudes. Natures bounty is also plentiful in the spring and summer with wild berries and mushrooms being a well earned prize after a day walking.
A huge range of butterflies take advantage of the plentiful flowers, with perhaps July and August seeing the greatest numbers.
The magnificent Bearded and Egyptian Vultures, Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcons are all present as nesting pairs in the Ariège and a glance into the sky will often reveal something of interest. The cliffs of Le Sédour which we overlook, are banned to walkers and climbers between February and June to protect the nesting Vultures and Peregrins. Those with patience have a good chance of spotting these species from the comfort of our balcony.
Further afield, Griffon and Black Vultures, Bonelli’s, Booted and Short Toed Eagles and Black and Red Kites can be spotted at certain times of year. Europe’s largest owl, the Grand Duc, glides silently through the trees at night and several species of Woodpeckers can be heard tapping away during the day. The annual migrations attract much interest from birdwatchers who gather in the valleys known to be the main passing points through the mountains in the Spring and Autumn.
The Alpine and Common Chough, Snow Finch and Wall creeper are smaller, high altitude species rarely spotted outside of the Pyrénées.
Lizards and Snakes are common in the Ariège. Fire and Brook Salamanders, aquatic for the hottest part of the year, can be found above 1500m. A variety of Lizard species can be easily spotted basking in the Pyrénéean sun on the rocks around the house.
The Isard or Pyrénéan Chamois and the recently reintroduced Mouflon with its curling black horns are the most commonly seen large mammals, with the rarely seen wild boar also numerous. The timid and herbivorous native brown bear and the goat like Ibex have been hunted to extinction but bear numbers are on the increase with a reintroduction program. Around 20 bears are now present in the Pyrénées bred from Slovenian stock.
The Transhumance (moving of flocks to and from high mountain pastures for the summer) is a sight to behold and brings much festivity; the popular biannual agricultural fairs in Tarascon-sur-Ariège are timed to coincide with it.
Red and Roe deer and the Pyrénéean mascot, the Marmot, can all be found in the range. A keen eye and local knowledge will be needed to spot the elusive deer. Not so the once extinct Marmot which has been reintroduced very successfully. In the absence of greys, the red squirrel thrives here and can often be spotted in our garden.
A range of bat species emerge from the the caves of Calamès around dusk to feed on the insects around the street lights in the village.
There are plenty of wildlife themed visitor attractions in the Ariège. Areas of interest include, Snail farming and a unique collection of shells; Goats and the secrets of Mohair; Bison & Yaks, Reptiles, Bees, Butterflies, Birds, Eagles at Lordat Castle, Wolves, Lamas, Aquatic Life and a rare species park…..We can provide information on all these attractions and more.