Raptors at the château

Of all the castles in the Valley of the Five Châteaux, here in the heart of the Greater Daglan Area, the one that looks most like it belongs in a fairy tale is Château des Milandes — known best as the former home of singer/dancer Josephine Baker. Here’s a look at it:

Milandes

Looking towards the front of Château des Milandes.

Château de Beynac (once owned by Richard the Lionheart) and Château de Castlenaud are both  imposing and severe, clearly communicating their military origins. Château de Marqueyssac is known less for the building and more for its huge gardens and lofty views over the Dordogne Valley. Château de Fayrac is lovely from a distance, but it’s privately-owned and closed to the public.

As for Château des Milandes, it’s accessible, beautiful, interesting (primarily because of the Josephine Baker story), and sometimes surprising. It’s located not quite 16 kilometres north of Daglan, or about five kilometres north of Castelnaud.

Two things about the castle are (to me) somewhat surprising. First is that it has quite a good café for a tourist attraction — serving “real food” instead of over-priced hot dogs and so on. In fact, the cassoulet I’ve eaten outdoors on the château’s charming terrace is among the best in the GDA (and I’m pretty much a cassoulet fanatic). The second surprise is that the château maintains an active aviary of raptors (birds of prey) and other birds, and puts on an entertaining 30-minute show for visitors.

My wife Jan and I have been to the château and seen the birds of prey show several times, and still enjoy it. What follows are a few photographs from our most recent visit this summer, starting with a barn owl swooping into view:

Owl

Swooping into view from our right.

And here’s our friend up a bit closer to us in the audience:

Wings down

Gliding in front of the crowd.

The professional falconers who run the show do a good job of involving the audience, particularly children — who can pet some of the birds. For example, here’s one of the falconers showing off a hawk:

Harris hawk

A boy is allowed to have a much closer look at this Harris hawk.

And here’s a kestrel, being introduced to members of the audience:

Kestrel

The kestrel is walked along a path in front of the audience.

Among the other birds in the château’s aviary is an eagle owl, the largest nocturnal bird of prey in Europe. Here’s one of the handlers showing off the owl:

Eagle owl

A handler is showing the audience the château’s eagle owl.

Finally, here’s the eagle owl in flight:

Flying owl

With the château in the background, the eagle owl shows off.

For the rest of September, the birds of prey show takes place at 11 a.m., and at 3 and 4:30 in the afternoon. In October, it’s on at the weekends only, at 3 and 4:30 p.m. And then, like so many attractions in the GDA, things close down for the winter. So enjoy the birds while you can. Or maybe just go for the cassoulet.

This entry was posted in Bicycling in the Dordogne, Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in the Dordogne, Tourist attractions, Weather in the Dordogne and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Raptors at the château

  1. John Ison says:

    I can imagine Jan would love these birds. I wonder what she thinks of them being captive and trained to entertain visitors.

  2. You’re right, John. She’s spent quite a bit of time after our visits, chatting with the keepers. We’re both quite “pro-zoo,” meaning that we favour the idea of animals being kept in enclosures, as long as they have space, are well cared for and well fed, and so on. Aside from protecting various species, some of which are in pretty short supply in nature, the idea is to get people (especially young people) interested in animals (including birds). The birds at Milandes are really “trained” in quite natural behaviours, such as flying from one post to another, or hunting. So all in all, both Jan and I are quite happy with their treatment.

  3. Lesley says:

    Our latest visitors spent a good time there this Sunday. Fed well and were impressed by the ‘castle’ and bald eagle & owls. We did not stay as it was hot and with the dog not admitted plus (I hope) current walking probs. of my other half we could not do the place justice.

  4. Thanks, Lesley. Glad to hear that your visitors agreed it’s a great place to visit. Cheers!

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