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Friday, 5 September 2014

La Pointe du Grouin revisited: Coastal butterflies and spiders

We are making the most of better weather after a rather dire August so took the opportunity to visit the coast again on Wednesday. After moules frites at Port Mer near Cancale, we went up the road to the nearby headland at la Pointe du Grouin, which is one of my favourite places for bug and butterfly hunting. There are still a fair few tourists around but it's hardly heaving with them now that the kids are back at school. It's not so great for wildflowers at this time as many have finished but there's enough for the later flying butterflies to feed on.

Post from last July all about this place, with loads of insects.

Views along the coast looking westward.

Not knowing much about coastal wildflowers I think these colourful
seed heads in the foreground are Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum).

A number of shrubs were covered in webs both from spiders and from Ermine moth caterpillars, which spin silks to protect themselves and clothe entire shrubs with their silken tents. But it was the Garden Spiders hanging in the shrubs which caught my eye as they are looking particularly big and colourful now!

Garden Spider or Cross Orb Weaver (Araneus diadematus).

This Cross Orb Weaver is snacking on something, with a wrapped up
dessert waiting for later.... I love it when they turn their buggy lunches into
something that bears no resemblance to the insect in its past life. :-)

Hoorah I found one hanging the other way around showing its beautiful markings!

An old looking boat (no I don't know anything about boats!)
sailing between the headland and Ile des Landes.

Butterflies again. We were here with my brother in late July and I also saw some Brown Argus (despite the name, it's a Blue in the Lycaenidae family) back then. As the only Blues (or Coppers) I've seen at home have been Holly Blues, then the tiny butterflies other than Skippers have been in short supply. I was pleased to see many Small Coppers and finally got the chance to get in close for some shots. There were Brown Argus flitting about with these Small Coppers but they didn't want me taking their photo except from afar! I also saw a Swallowtail, which considering there is tons of wild fennel growing on the headland shouldn't be surprising, but in July I checked out a number of plants for Swallowtail caterpillars and surprisingly didn't find a single one.

I saw some Brown Argus here back in July too.
This time, having seen quite a few Small Coppers about and often on the same plant
for size comparison, these Brown Argus were considerably smaller!

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) feeding on Ragwort.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) feeding on Ragwort.

And another Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) feeding on Ragwort! This one without chunks missing.
Of course I took tons of photos - I don't often get a chance to get right up close.

On the way home we stopped in at the fishing lake at Combourg as we go past it. This isn't the big lake which the Chateau overlooks but a smaller one with a footpath all the way around. There was more dragonfly life than bird life here but as usual, just like at home, the only dragonflies who would stop and pose were the ones that I already have photos of...... and the Hawkers just kept on flying around and around as per usual so no chance of a photo!

Something worrying I noticed here were the amount of very sad looking willow trees with brown leaves. I haven't heard of any insect or disease affecting willows like this - oaks, ash and horse chestnut, yes. Very disturbing.

Combourg's smaller lake, with Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
in the foreground.

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) with very tatty wings but still perfectly able to fly.

A fresher looking Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum).

I'm glad to say that both butterflies and dragonflies have perked up at home too this week thanks to some warmth and sun! Long may it last. :-)


  1. That pic of the Small Copper on the Ragwort is stunning! You must be so pleased with it. Great shots of the coast too. Glad to hear things are picking up over there. Doing OK here at the moment and I have two more surveys to run before the end of Sept x

    1. Thank you CT - I think they are probably the best photos I've got so far of Small Coppers .... or is it this fab Mac screen?!!! :-) Sept is usually a good month for butterflies so cross fingers for all of us that it stays reasonable weather with lots of sun. :-)

  2. Well you are faring better than us here in Kent for sun Mandy-we were promised 24-27deg on Friday with 'a mini-heatwave' but all we got was 19 deg and cloud. That coastal scenery does look stunning, there's something about the coast that's so appealing.

    Not seen either a Small Copper (Caps!) or an Argus Brown (or Argos Brown as I saw somebody describe it) all year but there's still a bit of time I guess. Those are lovely photos indeed of them.

    Just looking at the lake picture, I will be expecting some stunning autumn-colour photos from you later on ;-)

    1. Hi JJ - well actually the day at the coast was the only day with wall to wall sunshine. It's a bit of an odd mix here with black clouds rolling over for an hour or two, then clearing up and becoming sunny again. And it's not boiling hot, but pleasant. Not hot enough to think BBQs although we ought to and soon before it is too late! And there are still nothing like the amount of butterflies that there normally are at this time of year. Oh well I guess there's no point moaning as there are still plenty of bugs and I've noticed the Heineken hoverfly back again which is something I see in spring and autumn.

      I had a Brown Argus in my garden last summer and got some great macros of it so I'm not too worried - last year was a bumper year for butterflies including loads of new species. Here's the link to my butterfly round up for last year incl. the photos of my Brown Argus, Long-tailed Blue and Lesser Purple Emperor:

      We don't get nice autumn colours around here! Need beech forests, arboretums, or North America for that. :-(

      Anyhow after all that moaning thank you very much for your nice comment! :-)

    2. Well, we have had warmth but not really sun. Heard a discussion on Radio 4 today that was saying we should have a good two weeks though and maybe even an Indian summer into October-that would be nice.

      Sorry but that is a poor excuse about Autumn ;-) I don't live anywhere near any of those you mentioned, yet I always see lots ;-) Maybe not on the scale of some, but plenty of autumn colour.

    3. I hope so but that means the courgettes will just keep on growing! :-)

      OK I do have some trees which turn a nice colour here, but they don't all do it at once. And in the countryside it all depends on the weather and how wet or dry it is. If it is dry then a lot of leaves drop before it's really time to drop so they don't get a chance to colour up nicely. And oaks and many native trees just turn a boring brown colour. I saw much nicer autumn colour in England last year during the last two weeks of October than I see here. So there. :-p :-)

  3. Lovely shots of the Small Copper Mandy. I have not seen one this year.
    One or two Brown Argus. The Common Blue has perked up it bit recently, but not as many as previous years.

    1. Hi Roy and thanks. I would love to see the not at all common round here Common Blue! Usually only see a few a year anyway but none this year. And usually see at least a handful of Small Coppers - often late summer/early autumn so hopefully will see more of them! Plenty of Large and Small Whites though, eyeing up my brassicas, lol. ;-)

  4. Stunning photos again Mandy, there dose seem to be allot of these spiders about even over here, some are quite large..We have had a few foggy mornings, which shows up all the spider webs.

    1. Hi Amanda and thank you! Yes these spiders are pretty common everywhere but I really noticed them on the coastal bushes whereas at home they seem more hidden. We also had some slightly misty/dewy mornings and I love seeing the gazillions of webs that show up! :-)

  5. Wonderful post as always! So nice of the sun to cooperate :-) I remember last year's post but looked again. So enjoyable!

    The spider is so amazing...great shots! I'm trying to catch a Funnel-web Spider (a wolfie) in action in my Cactus garden but no luck so far. I'm thinking of doing a time-lapse as it might be the only way.

    1. Hi Marianne and thanks so much! I didn't share this post to facebook so a nice surprise to see you looking in. I'm now finding lots of these spiders at home because they are huge at the moment and one is living in front of my living room window and had a butterfly the other day! Good luck with your spider - hope you manage to capture it.