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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Butterflying in the Alpes-Maritimes - Col de la Bonette

Today was a day when the pace slowed just a little, only because the weather was just a little unkind. The plan was to ascend the Col de la Bonnette but as we approached you could see the weather closing in on the summit. Never mind, it was a gamble worth taking for the Sooty Ringlet that dwells at the very top. It was much cooler too, everyone in the group put warm clothing on, I even saw a beanie. I have to admit I did succumb and donned a light cotton sweater, it was the only time on the tour where I felt truly comfortable - I don't do heat very well.

The upshot is that four of us took the path to the top and were rewarded by stunning views rather than a diminutive butterfly. The sun came out briefly and we heard bees and saw a lone high altitude Red Admiral.

At the foot of the climb there is a sign stating that the road is the highest in Europe, unfortunately this is being a bit economical with the truth. Wikipedia begs to differ - Col de la Bonette (el. 2,715 metres (8,907 ft)) is a high mountain pass in the French Alps, near the border with Italy. It is situated within the Mercantour National Park on the border of the departments of Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. The road over the col is the seventh highest paved road in the Alps.

The road around the Cime de la Bonette reaches an altitude of 2,802 m (9,193 ft), this is not a "pass", but merely a scenic loop. It is, however, the highest asphalted road in France and is the highest through road in Europe.
A tribute to the road builders


Stunning views
 

Just too cloudy


David searching for a "sooty"

Ed looking for eagles
 

I tried to add at least one stone to every cairn

I know why the plants up here are short - the wind is real mean.


So we abandoned the high ground and descended to Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage for lunch and some warmer butterflying.


First up were some charming Damon Blues, a life tick for me.

Damon Blue

Damon Blue

Damon Blue

Damon Blue



Common Blue

Chestnut Heath

Chestnut Heath


Chalk Hill Blue


False Heath Fritillary


Marbled Fritillary

Small Blue

Spotted Fritillary

Spotted Fritillary

Titania's Fritillary

Amanda's Blue


Amanda's Blue

Amanda's Blue

Large Wall

Large Wall

 
 On the return to Rimplas the group stopped off at a large buddleia bush just outside the village. It was alive with butterflies but I recorded none. Then into the village and a scan of the lavender - Southern Comma!!!!  "At last" said David. Now I know these pics were in a previous blog but I re-processed them and they are here for chronological correctness.


Southern Comma

Southern Comma


Southern Comma


Southern Comma




Then a final, weary walk down the promenade, not too many butterflies present.  The vegetation had a definite arid look about it, most of the nectaring flowers were well past their best. The butterfly season was coming to a close as was our visit. All I found of note was this pink hued grasshopper - which is actually a Blue-winged grasshopper (Oedipoda caerulescens)











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