Great wine, the Hoopoe and Biodynamic agriculture

Updated: Apr 26

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.

Common hoopoe on a vineyard between Rolle and Morges / Huppe faciée sur un vignoble entre Rolle et Morges

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.

Mrs Red tail / Mme Rouge-queue
Black Redstart / Rougequeue noir (f)

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.

This is all observable on the terrain, and getting into the vineyards from Rolle is a question of minutes on an e-bike. So today seemed a good day to explore the "Birds & Wine" theme a bit further.

Krestel / Faucon crécerelle
Krestel / Faucon crécerelle

Never afraid of unrealistic challenges, out I went 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.

CH:Presence of Common hoopoe / Présence de la Huppe fasciée

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 not to 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.

Looking for food / En recherche de nourriture
Looking for food / En recherche de nourriture

Apart from this stroke of luck, most of my time has been dedicated to capture other winged creatures, with some nice - but I suppose not particularly surprising for my ornithologist friends and certainly incomplete - results.

Chateau de Rolle servant de décor à un frêne habillé de Linottes mélodieuses, Pinsons des arbres, Chardonnerets élégants et Bruants jaunes. Rolle castle serving as backdrop to an ash supporting Common linnets, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Yellowhammers
Rolle castle serving as backdrop to an ash supporting Common linnets, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and European Serins / Chateau de Rolle servant de décor à un frêne portant Linottes mélodieuses, Pinsons des arbres, Chardonnerets élégants et Serin Cenis

I nevertheless have the immense pleasure to introduce some of the common members of the Aves species one can typically spot in the area.


Illustrated above:

  • Mrs Black Redstart: always reassuring to meet spring after spring

  • Common Stonechat (m), beautiful songbird, similar to its cousin the Whinchat who completely disappeared from the swiss plains after loosing its habitat, to find a precarious refugee in on higher less intensively exploited fields