Thursday 28 July 2016

Small Copper

My wife has a saying - "What's for you won't pass you by" - normally quoted when I am ranting because I've missed something.. When we were up on Windover Hill the other day I sort of missed the opportunity to get some nice shots of a Small Copper, perhaps I should have been a bit keener. However, today the forecast for the morning was good so I went hotfoot to my local patch.

Last week when I visited, the Hemp Agrimony was just coming into bloom and I expected that one week on it would be just right for nectaring butterflies. When I arrived the place was buzzing - Red Admirals, Silver-washed Fritillaries, Peacocks, Commas and all the smaller butterflies were everywhere. Best of all fresh Small Coppers were about, I counted ten on the patch, which is something of a record, but when I got home I noticed that one specimen "Nick" was putting himself about a bit and had been photographed several times. Still, whatever the number, it is more than I have seen here before and they haven't passed me by.

"Nick" - a small portion of the port forewing missing.....

..... the loss of which is more than compensated by the stunning iridescence - both green and red.

I think the wiggling of the hind wings means "not today - thankyou"


Some fresh Peacocks too, which posed for some excellent records, the  Silver-washed Frits are looking a bit worn though. The Brown Argus was a pleasant surprise for the patch.


All in all a cracking couple of hours - glad I went.

Tuesday 26 July 2016


Butterflying in the Pyrenees was a fantastic experience and I thought returning to the usual haunts would be something of an anti-climax. Not so - it was quite refreshing to add some of the regulars to my year list.

First up was a gentle walk around Houghton Forest where I added White Admiral and Silver Washed Fritillary - alas no Purple Emperor but it was good to record 16 species on a two hour amble. A nice Brimstone posed and was duly recorded.

Yesterday was a trip to Alners Gorse, the butterfly reserve in Dorset. Martin had Purple Hairstreak at the top of his photographic list and I had some success with them here last year. It is the only place I know where they reliably come down to nectar. They weren't coming down in their hundreds but at least we had some to record.

Today was a walk up Windover Hill, I noticed some wag on BC Sussex call it Col de Windover - nowhere near it mate - it's just a gentle uphill stroll. On the way up we recorded plenty of Chalk Hill Blues - most showing signs of wear and some making more CHBs. As we paused for lunch we had a good looking Small Copper and a fleeting glimpse of a Silver Spotted Skipper that I failed to relocate.

Living up to its name.

Yup - it's dog poo!

Has to be the last of the Dark Green Frits - year tick for Martin.

On to the top and it wasn't long before sharp-eyed Martin spotted our first Grayling, which unfortunately did a bunk before I recorded it. Never mind during the course of an hour we found several more and managed some nice record shots.

So, it's nice to be back in business - perhaps another outing on the downs for the missing Silver Spotted Skipper.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

French Pyrenees - Port de Boucharo

Day 7  -  Port de Boucharo, Vallé d'Oussou, Valle Héas, Héas village and Gedre

Another day with a misty start and a promise of rain commenced with a walk up to the Port de Boucharo in the hope of some views across the Pyrenees into Spain and maybe an Alpine Accentor. In fact looking at the map I reckon we just crossed over into Spain. The valley was clothed in mist making for a real atmospheric feel to the trek. On the way we were tracked by several Water Pipits, one obviously feeding a family.

Water Pipit

Well worth the walk

Griffon Vultures kept us under observation.

A frantic Stoat entertained us but the local Wheatears were not impressed.


Next stop was a picnic lunch in the Ossoue valley, again closely observed by the wildlife.

Butterflies were about but in the cooler conditions had gone to roost.

Marbled White

Little Blue

Turquoise Blue

Sulphur Owl Fly

Sulphur Owl Fly

Then our daily fix of Lammergeier, remarkably we had seen at least one on each of our full day tours - and a maximum of three!

Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus

Ossifrage - Latin for "bone-breaker"  is an older name for the bearded vulture.

Our next call was to the village of Héas to visit the restored Chapelle de Héas and take some shots of the ancient pack horse bridge, the Pont de l'Aguila. Of course to have a "chocolat chaud" at the Auberge de la Munia was an obligation. Over the road a fine meadow to be explored, unfortunately the fine drizzle had become constant but there were roosting butterflies to be found.

Pont de LAguila

Butterflies are waterproof!
We decided to call it a day, the weather had closed in and the likelihood of seeing anything else was fairly low - how wrong can you be. As we descended into Gedre our eagle-eyed tour leader spotted an Egyptian Vulture circling in the valley below, then another and several Griffons - something was afoot. What followed was a splendid half hour of close up views of vultures.

Egyptian Vulture
Something tasty at the back of the barn ?



Egyptian over the hotel car park - Gedre - vulture city!

 Day 8 - Col du Tourmalet

The last day, how can a week pass so quickly?  - but one final trip, this time over the famous Col du Tourmalet. To those familiar with "Le Tour" it will be instantly recognisable, Col du Tourmalet (elevation 2,115 m (6,939 ft)) is the highest paved mountain pass in the French Pyrenees. As you top out, the statue of Octave Lapize, a famous French cyclist, dominates the scene.

Whilst we were there the thermometer on the minibus registered 3.5 degrees and there was a tad of wind chill too. However, the hardiest butterfly - the Piedmont Ringlet was freshly emerged and on the wing. We also had another, looking slightly different, and though it was examined closely it remains a PR in the log.


Jason Mitchell - tour leader extraordinaire - the indispensable local knowledge and a  great sense of humour

Naturetrek - perfect organisation.

Hotel - La Breche de Roland  - Odile and Philippe - great food and hospitality.