Great wine, the Hoopoe and Biodynamic agriculture
Aggiornamento: 20 ott 2022
During our treks and customer events, we like to treat our guests with good wine and explain its origins. This offers opportunites to explore relationships between high quality local produce and biodiversity. Such conversations naturally flow into the fauna and flora observations one is more likely to enjoy in preserved land where economic imperatives are balanced with respect for nature. The Paccot family, owner of Domaine La Colombe in Féchy demonstrated that such efforts can find their reward. They gradually introduced biodynamic methods to their entire estate since 1999, pioneering on the topic in the region.
Meanwhile, fellow winemakers follow suit. And whilst the potential is huge with more to achieve, positive outcomes can be enjoyed by us mere mortals. First, Paccot's (and his peers) wines are excellent and internationally recognised. Secondly, strolling through the vineyards above my hometown Rolle is becoming more enjoyable. Pesticides, albeit still in use are less common, grass is not systematically burnt out of vineyard rows and life is getting some chances: better soil quality, flora diversity typical for extensive agriculture land, insects, birds, toats, weasels, small rodents, etc. This diversity is essential, helps in bringing resilience to ecosystems that in turn give more place to life. More and more people are working towards that aim.
Other conservation efforts such as favouring, e.g., mosiac landscapes (shrub, bushes & brambles, small forest patches) alongside the vineyards or in unexploitable ravines carved out by streams flowing from the Jura have contributed to this huge task. Such structures offer habitat, hideaways and food necessary to survive - and reproduce.
A common stonechat near the "Petit-Clos" plot of Domaine La Colombe / Un Tarier pâtre près de la parcelle "Le Petit-Clos" du domaine La Colombe
This is all observable on the terrain, and getting into the vineyards from Rolle is a question of minutes on an e-bike. Today seemed a good day to explore the "Birds & Wine" theme a bit further.
Used to unrealistic challenges, I went out with the humble goal to find the Common Hoopoe, one of the most beautiful - but rare - birds of Switzerland, classified "vulnerable" on the red list after having been present in the entire country in its better days. To be on the safe side, my fallback objective was to see how many species I'd be able to catch on camera in one afternoon.
As it happened, towards the end of the day, whilst laboriously trying to get a sharp image of the common stonechat illustrated above, the hoopoe made its appearance. Hardly believing my luck, I managed to not spoil this moment; the graal of the day awarded me with a nice pause (see title image), taking its time to decide where to land, probably to catch some juicy mole crickets for its nestlings.
Apart from this stroke of luck, most of my time has been dedicated to capture other winged creatures, with some nice - but not particularly surprising and certainly incomplete - results. I can nevertheless introduce some of the common members of the Aves species one typically spots in the area.
Already illustrated above:
The black redstart: always reassuring to meet spring after spring
Common stonechat (m), beautiful songbird, similar to its cousin the whinchat who disappeared from the swiss plains after loosing its habitat, to find a precarious refugee in on higher less intensively exploited fields
The kestrel - much more present in recent years thanks to successful conservation measures
Common linnet (m/f), both freshly back from a bath still busy grooming up. What a joy to see this bird largely victim of the "cleanlyess obsessions" imposed on our landscapes
Birds illustrated below:
European serin - an amazing yellow sight each time
Black redstart (m) - very common
Chaffinch - most common bird in Switzerland
Eurasian Buzzard, most thriving bird of prey
In trees surrounding the vineyards one can find, for example:
Chaffinch (m, f)
The European greenfinch
The Goldfinch (m, f)
The Blue tit
Black kite, ready to defend its nearby nest
To top the day, I was able to spot the rare wryneck. Far from perfect, I indulge in bragging about this shot of a bird that is not easy to spot.
The past was certainly much richer when it comes to numbers, species variety and biodiversity quality in general, and lots of efforts remain. "Shifting baselines", as explained by prominent Rewilding innovators such as Paul Jepson, remind us that our views are by definition biased by what we think to "be normal" based on how we experienced the world when we were born.
Other species one would commonly hear / see nearby these vineyards:
Green woodpecker / Pic vert
Common crane / Grue cendrée
Black-headed warbler / Fauvette à tête noire
Eurasian Blackbird / Merle noir
Red Kite / Milan royal