The what skipper, I hear you cry? I certainly did, and I thought I was pretty clued up about butterfly species that I might expect to see in France. But no, I saw a lifer and I didn't even know it existed!!
Different habitat from at home is key here. K is a member of a shooting club and the location is beside a military base in a forest. Not just any kind of forest but at least in this spot, a very damp forest, which has green grass within even in the driest of summers. There are plenty of ditches which remain damper still and I usually see dragonflies here. Why am I going with K to his club? Well I have been shooting with him in the past and immediately saw that the surrounding area would be interesting to explore, and so on the rare occasions when the sun shines on a spring or summer Saturday morning, I go along, armed with my camera, to do a bit of shooting of a different kind! I have only been twice this summer which attests to the infrequence of sunny mornings, at least on Saturday!
This is the place where I saw the Chequered Skipper a few years ago which was very exciting, so I at least knew that species existed. The Large one is not quite so striking; in fact is rather drab on the upper side, but the underwing markings are beautiful. I couldn't get really close to it as it was very flitty, indeed it's flight pattern has been described as unique - it is very 'bobby' for want of a better word. I got to observe it for quite a while when it was too hard to take photos.
This butterfly is found on the western side of France and its habitat is in damp forest rides and clearings and marshy heathland. The larva feed on various grasses and the butterfly is on the wing from June to August.
Large Chequered Skipper (Heteropterus morpheus).
By contrast, here is the Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) that I saw here several times in May 2014. You can see that I managed to get a lot closer to this species!
Yes, that is my finger there. It was a magical moment. One of the pictures of it on my finger is in my banner image above.
I've seen other interesting butterflies here, as there are a number of disused tarmac roads round the back of the range, where sunlight penetrates and butterflies and other insects can be found around the edges on the flowers. The best place though is the (infrequently) mown grassed area where the archery targets are - here there are flowers in amongst the grass and taller wildflowers and bracken around the perimeter, which includes a ditch. The only downside is that we only get to come here in the morning, and often the bees and butterflies etc are only just waking up close to when we have to leave. I'm not sure about coming here in the afternoon, as although it is outside of the actual military camp it is primarily a part of it and the range is used by the police and military outside of the Saturday morning civilian club slot.
This is the place where I first saw a Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages), and as I have (for the first time) been seeing a number of them around my home territory, I am including an image that I took here in 2014. All my recent shots have been a bit rubbish. There are some skippers that like to rest on vegetation so it is quite easy to photograph them, and others that rarely do!
Back to last Saturday and for the first time I saw a Red Squirrel there. It was quite an amazing, if very brief, encounter. Now the moment I spotted the squirrel on the edge of the mown grassed area and started to try to focus on it, it was off.... and then I realised it was running towards me, so I just snapped and snapped (never mind camera settings!). It came really close, looked at me, seemed to realise that I was a human and not an archery target board, and then legged it!
It stopped one more time to check on me, then off it bounded again and my photos after that were of a blurred bushy tail. We used to have Red Squirrels living in our garden, but I haven't seen one in years now so this moment was all the more special for that.
Some dragonflies have been out and about these two times I have been here this month.
I think is a female Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum).
The following one I think is a male Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum). I haven't much time for IDing at the moment but it seems that Ruddys have black legs whereas Commons have black legs with a pale stripe. Here's a good link which helps with ID.
I was hoping to see, and was so pleased when it appeared... a Silver Washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia). Not the best specimen but never mind! I've since seen a tatty looking female in my garden. This one is a male.
I'll leave you with a piccy of me shooting my OH's Smith & Wesson revolver. I call it his Cowboy Gun. So be warned - don't mess with me!!
I won't have time to do any more blog posts before leaving for our MoHo trip to the Pyrenees and Spanish Mediterranean. This is our holiday that I planned whilst having chemotherapy - I decided we would have a decent holiday when it was all over and I had had some time to recover. Of course at the time I never imagined that we would have bought a motorhome and that our holiday would be in that! I have managed to extend the original 2 weeks to most of September now *big grin* - well we need to get our money's worth! - OK that is my excuse. :-)
So I won't be blogging whilst away but when I do have access to WiFi I will upload some photos to social media, so if you are interested you can follow me on the following sites to see the photos, which are all posted publically.
I am akaMillymollymandy and @MadameMoorhen
(I've never understood why one needs two names on Twitter)
I hope you all have a wonderful rest of summer and I will catch up with you in October! xx