Tuesday 31 May 2016

Cevennes Butterflies in Sunshine!!

Part 2 of the Butterflies seen in the Cevennes and after some cold days at last we had some warm sunshine!! Matt decided to leave the Florac area where we were based and try an area he had visited during his Duke of Edinburgh award. This area, Pont de Montvert was a bit more open and we were soon heading up a track onto the hills and we were then seeing butterflies. Several Skippers, a few Fritillaries and a big surprise in the form of a Chimney Sweeper moth. It was by far the best day we had and other bonuses included mating Orange-tip and a Speckled Wood, very different colour to our British version. Eventually we came to a meadow where we found some more Fritillaries which were so active we couldn't identify at that point. One was a Queen of Spain and it was whilst following this a fabulous Sooty Copper appeared. At this point it was the butterfly of the trip, although even better was to come!! After a while we headed back into the town where Matt spotted a Large Tortoiseshell on a Lilac tree. Although a bit worn it was a first for me so very pleasing to see. Then, whilst we were having a bite by the car a beautiful Scarce Swallowtail appeared, eventually nectaring on the road verge nearby. A drive along the valley produced a stunning Chequered Blue, which was a real beauty. Unfortunately it vanished before I could photograph it. As it had started to cloud up I then suggested to Matt that we should return to the meadow and see if we could catch the Fritillaries going to roost so we can identify them. Although it was a long walk back up the hill we were rewarded by a Fritillary flying much slower than earlier and it soon landed with wings wide apart before going to roost mode, showing it was a Weaver's Fritillary. This was the Fritillary I was most keen to see. Unfortunately we couldn't re-find the Sooty Copper but Matt did spot a Small Elephant Hawk Moth. I also found a different Grizzled Skipper type that I haven't as yet decided which one it is. A fabulous day and a fitting end to the trip, apart from the Camargue before the flight home. Well done to Matt for sorting out the trip and for finding so many birds and orchids!! We are even still talking to each other as well so it must have been a good trip!!

Another Red Underwing Skipper.

Mating Orange-tips.

Chimney Sweeper moth. 

Duke of Burgundy. (This butterfly kept going round in circles)!!

Sooty Copper.

Sooty Copper.

Large Tortoiseshell.

Scarce Swallowtail.

Weaver's Fritillary.

Roosting Weaver's Fritillary.

Possible Oberthur's Grizzled Skipper??

Small Elephant Hawk Moth.

Monday 30 May 2016

Cevennes Butterflies etc. Part 1.

Despite the weather being very much against seeing many butterflies, moths and other insects we did actually end up with quite a good list of species. As mentioned before I had never done a trip abroad like this before so I wasn't sure how easy it would be to see new things. The season, similar to Britain also seemed to be running a little later this year so many of the species we were expecting to see hadn't emerged yet. However, with the cold weather for 2 days I did manage to spot a couple of roosting butterflies and a moth larvae that I'm not too sure of the identity yet. During the warmer days we did find many butterflies on the wing. In the end I did manage enough pictures to put them on 2 posts. 

Green-underside Blue

Female Provence Orange-tip egg laying.

Female Provence Orange-tip resting.

Roosting Red Underwing Skipper.

Possible Ground Lackey larva??

Clouded Yellow.

Rhagium Mordax.

A different possible Ground Lackey larva??

Sunday 29 May 2016

Cevennes Orchids.

During our few days in the Cevennes we had 2 very cold and one wet day which meant the butterflies were not the target for those days. Fortunately we had already planned the trip to include Orchids, so they became the targets for those days!! Matt had checked out some sites to explore and as we drove around some other sites were spotted from the car. Several new Orchids for us were seen, although we did fail to connect with the Red Helleborine and the Lady's Slipper. Driving to the sites we also had some good bird sightings including The Griffon Vultures shown in the previous post as well as a flying Stone Curlew. Military Orchids were possibly the most common of the plants seen, a very rare plant in the UK. We also found many Aymonin's Orchid which is unique to the Cevennes, also known as the Yellow-edged Fly Orchid. A really beautiful species.

Elder-flowered Orchid (pale version).

Burnt Orchid.

Military Orchid.

Military Orchid.

Man Orchids. Normal on left and Yellow version on right.

Man Orchid (Yellow version).

Woodcock Orchid. (Note the rain drops, torrential at this point).

Aymonin's Orchid, also known as Yellow-edged Fly Orchid.

Aymonin's Orchid 

Saturday 28 May 2016

Birding with Matt in France.

During the last week I had a trip to France with Matt, my younger son. The trip was based in the Cevennes but we also had 2 visits to the Camargue as it was near the airport. The trip was spent searching for Birds, butterflies and orchids. It's actually the first trip I've had abroad looking for wildlife, apart from 2 African Safaris!!
We arrived on a day of around 30 degrees and straight away Matt's expertise in birding paid off with several new birds to me that he mainly first heard before pointing them out. His knowledge of bird calls certainly paid off during the trip as most of the birds I would not have seen or recognised without his knowledge. During the few days I saw over 20 new species of birds and others that I have only seen once or twice before. Rather than listing them all a few pictures of birds from the trip follows. Needless to say the weather did not play ball as the 2nd and 3rd day were both cold and wet and certainly not good for butterflies. The report on the butterflies and orchids will follow!!

Red-crested Pochard.

Black-winged Stilt.


Crag Martins hanging on.



Squacco Heron.

Great White Egret.

White Stork on nest.

Zitting Cisticola (zitting)!!

Black Kite.

Griffon Vultures warming their wings before the days flight.

My first ever Crested Tit.

Most of the photos of birds were around the Camargue but other highlights included lots of Cirl Buntings, a stunning Montague Harrier, several Honey Buzzard and Red-backed Shrike.

Friday 27 May 2016

Blues, Badgers and a Nightjar!!

Having just returned from a successful trip with Matt to the South of France I was totally shattered today!! I had a quick long stroll during the morning to see if the Adonis Blues had emerged on the patch. I did see small numbers and going by how they looked they had been out for a few days. I also came across a couple of Small Blues that gave me the run around.
I didn't think I would be up to anything in the evening but as Pen was away with her Mum for another evening I set off for a bit of Badger watching. For those that know me from the past they will remember that I used to watch Badgers an awful lot. My nickname at school was Badgerbob. A nickname that still gets used a little today. On the way to the set, one that I used to watch over 40 years ago I came across a stunning fresh Small Blue. It was posing at the top of a grass stem and opening its wings wide in the low sun. Perfect one would think, except I didn't have my macro gear with me. What can I do?? With the smallest butterfly in Britain in front of me all I could do was use the 300mm with a 1.4x converter. Not ideal by any means but amazingly I did just manage a couple of half decent shots. A few Adonis were also then seen as I made my way towards the Badger set. It was now a short wait before the Badgers emerged, this set used to be good for early emergences but with the Downs now being used by so many joggers and cyclists the Badgers now come out a little later and at 8.15 the first adult headed off to forage followed a short while later by a 2nd. A little while later I headed off passing more sets on the way. In total 6 Badgers were seen including 2 little bundles of fun in the shape of cubs.
I was almost back to the car when I heard the unmistakable sound of a churring Nightjar. This bird had presumably stopped off during the day nearby as it migrated back to its breeding ground. I tried to locate it but as it was now pretty dark I could only enjoy listening to its wonderful call.

Small Blue.

Small Blue.

Badger foraging.

I think he's seen me!!

Friday 20 May 2016

Where's the Marsh?

Another very late decision yesterday to try to see the Marsh Fritillary. Unfortunately that always means a long day as the nearest colony is just into Wiltshire!! The plan was an early start to miss the worst of the traffic. A broken down Taxi though near Brighton set the trend for the day as the traffic was awful all day. At the Marsh Fritillary site there were none around. Are they later than expected at this site this year or has this small colony now vanished totally. As there was quite a bit of foodplant around hopefully it is the former. There were good numbers of Pearl-bordered Fritillaries and I possibly saw a Small Pearl-bordered but it wasn't a good enough view to be sure. Certainly some of the Pearls were in very good condition, another sign that perhaps the season in this wood is running later. One big bonus was an Argent and Sable moth that showed very well. In fact 4 of these very rare  and beautiful moths were seen, a moth that has been extinct in Sussex since 1983.

Argent and Sable.

Argent and Sable.

It was then onto a Hampshire woodland for orchids. Once again traffic problems slowed us down and it wasn't helped that on the M3 Northbound there are no traffic signs for the A272 so an extra 24 miles were driven!! The very rare Sword-leaved Helleborine grows well here in this wood and this year there are very good numbers. As well as the Helleborines there were a few Fly Orchids and also a Birds-nest Orchid was pushing up through the leaf litter. 

Sword-leaved Helleborine.

Fly Orchid.

Following this it was the long drive home with yet more very slow traffic. It was a relief to eventually get home having survived the very congested South-east.