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Monday, 3 April 2017

Butterflies seen during our Pyrenees holiday - Part 2

Continuing on with the butterflies that I saw whilst on holiday last September. These ones were all seen by the Mediterranean sea, both in France and in Spain.

Not a lifer but I don't see these Mallow Skippers (Carcharodus alceae) very often, and I only saw one other skipper whilst away, a Small Skipper up in the mountains; interestingly enough it was pudding close to the Adonis Blues.


10. I'm now not sure that the following two butterflies are the same species or not! It pays to double check before you post those original IDs that you noted. I think the butterfly on the right is a Rock Grayling (Neohipparchia statilinus), but am unsure of the one on the left which was taken in the same location. It doesn't help when the butterflies are very flitty and you don't have very good photos, or they are a tad worn. There were quite a few of these drab brown butterflies flying around the rocky headland next to our camp site at L'Escala. Despite such barren conditions I also saw Wall Brown, Small White and Painted Lady here.


11. Now this one definitely is a lifer and there were lots of them flying around this plant which is something exotic in the pea family. They are Lang's Short-tailed Blues (Leptotes pirithous) and they feed upon plants in the Fabaceae family, amongst others, so that helps with ID. They would not stand still and the shrub was huge, so taking photos was a bit hit and miss; better just to stand back and watch them and enjoy. So long as I can get a few photos for ID purposes then I'm happy. Do you see those two tiny electric blue spots by the little 'tail' though? Aren't they amazing!

I should mention that this and the following species seen on flowers were seen at the beautiful Botanical Garden of Cap Roig at Palafrugell, Costa Brava. If I ever get my A into G I will share photos that I took at this place as it was heavenly.


I'm going to throw a few moths into this post as this next one is just stunning. We also saw a couple mating on a path right beside our camp site, but I prefer this photo of one on a dahlia. It's Zygaena carniolica and it doesn't have a common name in English because presumably it isn't found in the British Isles.


I also saw quite a few of these little moths which were flitting about feeding on Lantana and Heliotrope (?not sure). Not a chance to ID it, unless anyone can help?


Back to the butterflies I include this blurry image as it's the first time I've caught a Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus) in flight and seen the topside of the wings! They always but always have their wings closed when they are perching on something.


I have taken some much closer photos of this butterfly in previous years but even here you can see its stunning green eyes!


Again, not a lifer as I've seen one in my garden, but seeing the regal Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia) in Spain is just icing on the cake.


12. I have saved the best till last. This butterfly was seen beside a beach at the far end of the Ebro Delta. Now I knew when I saw it that it was related to the famous Monarch butterfly because of that spotty body, but what it was I had absolutely no idea! I searched my European butterfly book but could only find a picture of the Monarch, as it can be found in Madeira, the Canary Isles and the Azores, where their foodplant, Milkweed, grows. However under the Monarch was a paragraph about the African Monarch .... and a google search showed that it was indeed the butterfly we saw! The African Monarch (or Plain Tiger) (Danaus chrysippus) is an African and Asian species which migrates across the sea to southern Spain. Lucky we saw them where we were as the Ebro Delta, despite being at the far southern tip of Catalonia, is still fairly north-ish. What a fabulous butterfly and not one I was ever expecting to see as I didn't know it existed!



So that makes 12 lifers seen, which is pretty darn good I'd say. We are heading down that way again in May so I hope to see some different species, as there should be plenty of wild flowers in bloom. Can't wait!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Butterflies seen during our Pyrenees holiday - Part 1

I have yet to see a butterfly this year so in the meantime, what better to do than to go through all my butterfly photos and notes from my holiday last September.

I saw a lot of lifers plus ones I've only seen once before, the vast majority being in the mountains or hills where it was green and there were flowers for them to nectar on. In the arid areas - and in September there are a lot - no or few wildflowers meant very few butterflies. Even so, part 2 of this post will feature the butterflies seen once we hit the Mediterranean. These following were in the mountains and foothills of the Ariege and the Pyrenees-Orientales. I'm only numbering the lifers in these posts (lifers being butterflies I've seen for the first time).

1. Number one lifer was at the bird reserve at the Arcachon basin however, a Southern White Admiral (Limenitis reducta), although no photo was possible.

Les Papillons d'Amaranthe, Lesparrou, nr Lavelanet, Ariege

This is a butterfly park but it also has a beautiful flowery garden which is open for you to walk around and spot the native butterflies. Oh, there were tons! I loved it better than the polytunnel with the exotic species. 

The butterfly below I've seen once before, in my own garden, but no less exciting. It's a Long Tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus).


2. This is the best photo I could get but I was still able to ID it from my photos - it's a Great Banded Grayling (Brintesia circe).


3. This butterfly was annoyingly flying low in a paddock with some goats so I couldn't get any closer. I think from being able to get a glimpse of the underwings, that this is a Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja). Even if it's not, it's still a lifer. And I did see a DG Fritillary later on!


4. More blues, this one being a Proven├žal Short-tailed Blue (Cupido alcetas).


Proven├žal Short-tailed Blue again, showing a bit of its upper wings.


5. I'll number this one as a lifer although I don't know what it is, and don't think it's a blue that I've seen before. I need to spend more time IDing but it's those two marks at the base of the front under wing that mean it's definitely not a Common Blue.....



Roadside ditch near the Chateau de Montsegur, Ariege

This ditch was teeming with butterflies as it was full of oregano and pond mint in flower. I could have stayed all day....

One of my blogging friends is going to hate me (you know who you are <grin>); this butterfly isn't a lifer but it's the first time I've seen the beautiful underwings of the Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia).


6. In the same place, Provence Chalkhill Blue (Polyommatus hispana), or possibly Chalkhill Blue - apparently it's very hard to tell the difference. The Provence one is usually a little lighter, and given where it was seen I'd like to think it was the former.



Eyne Valley, Pyrenees-Orientales

This valley (1600-1700m altitude) is supposed to be very rich in flora and thus insect life - I read somewhere that it has the most species of bumble bees in all of France. In September there were still wild flowers in bloom and whilst we only walked for about an hour an a half uphill we saw many species of butterfly.

7. I'm not 100% sure as I don't have a shot of the underwings, but think this is a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene). In any event, it's still a lifer!


Now here is a Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) for sure, and you will see from the blurry movement shot of the underwing how important it is NOT to delete all your blurry shots as they can be very important in helping you with ID!



8. Adonis Blue (Polyommatus bellargus). We were walking beside a small mountain river and in places where the soil was damp there were little clouds of butterflies puddling. This means taking minerals and salts from the soil. Upon reading more on the subject I hadn't realised it is just the males who do this - the minerals in the soil help brighten up their colours and thus make them more attractive to females. It might explain why I saw some Adonis Blues which were darker blue than others. I fell in love with these little butterflies.


9. I also saw several of these butterflies which I managed to partially ID after seeing more of them in another location. This one below is a female Ringlet of some sort, possibly the Autumn Ringlet. I hadn't realised there were so many different kinds of Ringlet and they have some very similar markings!


Mont Louis, Pyrenees-Orientales

The location here was also quite high, about 1500m, beside a mountain river in a forest of pines with open areas of grassland, with a few wild flowers still in bloom.

The same Ringlet as above but this is the male.


Next post to follow shortly. Now I'm itching to see some butterflies, it's been far too long!


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Rainfall data 2016

This has been the second driest year in the ten years that I've been keeping records (yes, ten whole years!). We either had loads of rain or very little. Autumn was so dry that my lake didn't refill completely until mid January 2017, which is the latest ever. I think during late summer the lawn was the brownest I've ever seen it. I just about managed to keep my plants happy by endless watering; again thank goodness for the 4,000 litre reservoir in the old septic tank, although I don't want to see my water bill as I used mains most of the time.

RAINFALL 2016: 

Jan  134.25
Feb   77.50
Mar  123.0
Apr   44.0
May  36.0
Jun   95.5
Jul    13.5
Aug  16.5
Sep  45.0
Oct   24.5
Nov  95.5
Dec  23.0

TOTAL:  728.25mm


Rainfall data since I started being geeky and keeping records:

2007:   944mm
2008:   878mm
2009:   867mm
2010:   757mm
2011:   663.75mm (over a quarter of which fell in December)

2012:   973.5mm 

2013:   969.75mm
2014: 1,067mm
2015:   769.5mm
2016:   728.25mm


P.S. Proper blog post coming soon; it feels really weird to have been ignoring my blog for so long, but I haven't been able to summon up any blogging energy.