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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.


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.