Have you ever heard of a Southern Gatekeeper? No, me neither! I only discovered recently that they exist. I knew there was a Spanish Gatekeeper, which I'd seen once before in the Pyrenees Orientales near to the Spanish border. I thought then that I was seeing this butterfly in my garden, but having a look through my butterfly book I realised that I had in fact been seeing the Southern Gatekeeper, along with the regular Gatekeeper. There isn't a huge difference in how they look, other than the male Southern Gatekeeper has sex brands on the topside of its forewing, and underneath they lack the small spots that the regular Gatekeeper has. There's also a bit more of a Y shape in the pale coloration underneath. There's a side by side picture on Wikipedia here showing the difference in the underwing pattern between the two species.
The next discovery was really exciting! We had seen Praying Mantises in Provence a few years ago, but I was very surprised to discover one when I was deadheading the geraniums. I'm really finding some goodies in the flower pots around the pool - a wasp spider, Geranium Bronze butterflies, and a praying mantis - you wouldn't expect so much interesting wildlife there, would you?!! Wonder what will be next.... 😀
The following photos were taken with Keith's phone, which was the nearest thing to hand....
European Mantis (Mantis religiosa)
You can really see how well camouflaged they are as they are identical in colour to the leaves! K was amazed that I had even found it, but it moved, which is how I noticed it. It's worth clicking on the individual images to view them a bit closer, as they have an extremely scary alien-like head and eyes, and terrifying front legs (imagine being their prey, or indeed, their mate!).
A few days ago K spotted this crab spider on the tiles in our covered patio area. When I went out with my camera, it of course started to walk, so there I was on my knees, bum in the air, crawling along with it trying to get some decent shots. 😀
It walked along to the drain that runs along the patio stones beside the pool area, and took shelter beneath one of the metal rails. I could still see it though!
It's Heriaeus hirtus, a member of the Thomisidae family of crab spiders. Hirtus means hairy in Latin!
Last but not least, a Hoopoe flew into our neighbour's garden, which was wonderful to see. K had seen a few before but I missed them, so this is the first one I have seen since moving here! I was hoping to see more. Never mind, we have seen Bee-eaters in the vicinity of our village several times, so I'm not too upset. It's bloody brilliant living here!
(Credit for these photos goes to Keith, who took them through the kitchen window).
Talking of loving it here, we really do. I just love everything, love my new house, love the easy to manage garden, the pool (of course!) and the view. And love, love, LOVE living in the south of France! There is just SO much to explore here. It will take us years to explore just our own department, never mind the neighbouring depts. There's the Pyrenees, the Montagne Noir, the Haut Languedoc mountains, the Corbieres hills, the coastal area... and in normal times there is nearby Spain too! And of course the fauna and flora, so much of which is different. I feel so much better depression wise and feel joy again often. Life is good.