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Friday 14 July 2017

Butterflying in the Alpes-Maritimes - Col des Champs

Bastille Day and the last day of the tour. Spent searching on the Col for Mountain and Shepherd's Fritillaries and, after lunch, a fantastic walk down the hill. Valerian growing on both sides of the road and inhabited by countless butterflies. They say save the best until last - and we did.

Butterflying started before we left the hotel, the Silver-washed Fritillary forma valesina was performing well and attracting some attention.


 


Sat on a mountain top surrounded by fritillaries I thought it would be easy to capture both Shepherd's and Mountain Fritillaries. Not so, as subsequent analysis of my photos reveals that I probably only managed to get Mountains. The problem is that to be sure you need some underwing shots and these were few and far between. Collins Butterfly guide provides the helpful description that in Shepherd's the upf post discal markings are macular but in Mountain are linear - trouble is I have difficulty knowing where macularity ends and linearity begins.



 


 


 

Mountain Fritillary

Mountain Fritillary

Mountain Fritillary

Mountain Fritillary


Then a one and half mile roadside stretch of valerian that was coated in butterflies.





First up another Apollo.

 






I was so fixed on the Apollo that I failed to see the possible Marbled White forma procida


 
 
 
A nice looking Comma
 
 
 
 
A Great Banded Grayling
 
 
A Large Ringlet
 
 
 
 
But it was the coppers that stole the show.
 
 
Purple-edged Copper



Purple-edged Copper



Purple-edged Copper
 


Purple Shot Copper


Scarce Copper

Scarce Copper

Scarce Copper

Scarce Copper
Scarce Copper

Scarce Copper

Sooty Copper

Sooty Copper

Purple Shot Copper
  


Finally a female Silver-washed Fritillary on steroids that for a few seconds may have been a Cardinal, sadly not.
 
 


A fresh male SwF

 
 
 
Then it was all over, six cracking days of alpine butterflying. 123 species seen by the group, 119 personally and a tally of 48 life ticks.
 

Bouquets

 
David Moore and Ed Hutchings deserve a heap of praise, excellent leadership, thorough knowledge and very informative. Most of all good company and both with a sense of humour - thanks guys.
 
Great organisation from Greenwings - would I recommend it - you bet!
 

Brickbats

 
None -
 
 
 

 

Thursday 13 July 2017

Butterflying in the Alpes-Maritimes - Col de Cayolle

 

 
The day started well, sitting at the front of the hotel waiting for the group to gather we discovered a much sought after Geranium Bronze inhabiting one of the flower pots.



 
Then we were away, up to the Col de Cayolle where the primary target species was the Small Apollo. However it was a blue that caught the eye first, small numbers were puddling by the fast flowing stream, among them an Alpine Blue.



Alpine Blue?


Underwing confirms it.
 

Then several Small Apollos turned up and of course were the focus of attention.










Then it was a return to hunting out some blues.

Glandon Blue

Glandon Blue

Glandon Blue

 
Glandon Blue
 
In this alpine environment essential minerals are difficult to find hence the mud puddling. Of course another excellent source is animal poo. A large flock of sheep had recently been grazing the adjacent slopes and had left a myriad of their calling cards. Dead simple to seek out a suitable "Richard III" and stake it out, waiting for a host of visitors.




Detailed information from our leader

I think I recognised Mountain Ringlet, Common Brassy Ringlet, Glandon Blue, Mazarine Blue, Idas Blue, Damon Blue, Turquoise Blue and Escher's Blue

I moved to a less busy location, one with sole occupancy, much better for photography.

Idas Blue


Room for two?
 

 


 
 


Mazarine Blue

Plenty of Ringlets too.


Common Brassy Ringlet

False Mnestra Ringlet

Common Brassy Ringlet


The return trip to the minibus gave an ordinary Apollo, Mountain Green-veined White and a drop dead gorgeous Blue Spot Hairstreak











Lunch, as always, was taken amidst spectacular surroundings





Post lunch was a search for Mountain Fritillary. By now the temperatures were well up and any insect had gone into hyperdrive. Open wing shots were reasonably easy but these specimens were not up to giving any diagnostic closed wing shots - still I gave it a good go.

Mountain Fritillary

Mountain Fritillary


Mountain Fritillary
 

On the way down we stopped off at the lake at Estenc, buzzing with butterflies but by now I was running out of energy, the café more attractive than chasing hyperactive insects. However I did investigate the source of the river Var. In the rapidly drying mud at the top of the watercourse I found fritillaries puddling, In the first of the flowing water, just one resident, a large frog with its legs intact.


Niobe and Spotted Fritillary

The source of the mighty Var river.

La grenouille avec les membres inférieurs intacte
Nice place to live - in summer.



Back at the hotel I scanned the flowers for the valesina, alas all I recorded was an Ilex Hairstreak.