Wednesday 25 July 2018

Wood Whites and Silver-spotted Skippers

After much gallivanting around the higher bits of France and Scotland it was nice to be out on the local patch again. Whilst I was away Martin had managed to add two butterflies to his Sussex list, Wood White and Black Hairstreak, and I was keen to make an effort to catch up. The Black Hairstreaks were long gone and they will definitely have to wait for next year. A quick foray for the Wood Whites resulted in a dip but of course there is always a chance of a second brood. 

And so it proved, within minutes of entering the site we had a very compliant subject. Smug satisfaction at what is my 46th species of Sussex butterfly. Of course depending who and what you consult, the list is variable. We located another four specimens which is encouraging, hopefully the colony will continue to thrive.

It's always good to find the first Silver-spotted Skipper of the year, so we paid a visit to Newtimber Hill. This venue has been a banker for them over the last few years, of course they are becoming more widespread throughout the county but Newtimber remains a favourite venue. Good eyesight and the ability to chase a small, fast flying and easily camouflaged subject will result in getting close.

So, unless I have sole access to an influx of an exotic continental butterfly species, Martin has the bragging rights until next year.

Sunday 8 July 2018

Butterflying in the Alpes-Maritime, Col de La Lombarde

Day 2 and the plan consisted of a trip to our first Col with the target being Cynthias Fritillary and possibly a scarce Pyrgus or two. Of course the journey up and down can be broken with frequent stops at riverside meadows and small but well populated sites adjacent to the road.

Last year our first roadside stop was memorable as I was totally overwhelmed by the number of butterflies present, I learned pretty rapidly that in a target rich environment you shouldn't attempt to photograph everything as all you get is a load of poor photos. Better to concentrate on a single quarrry and when quality has been achieved, move on to the next species.  So, when we stopped at the same location this year I was ready for action, unfortunately the late spring meant that the numbers were disappointing.

Still, it was nice to find a pair of Silver-studded Blues engaged in making more Silver-studded Blues, an extremely obliging Niobe Fritillary and a worn Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Every cloud as they say - it was nice to find a great stand of Martagon Lilies, last year they were well past their sell by date.

Silver-studded Blues

Niobe Fritillary

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Martagon Lily

On up to the Col at an altitude on 2,350 metres or 7,710 feet in real money. Again butterflies were not numerous and every time a member of the group found a Cynthias Fritillary I seemed to be the furthest away, resulting in fleeting glimpses rather than photographic records. I consoled myself with a fairly fresh Grison's Fritillary, a worn high altitude Marsh Fritillary and some nice Vanilla Orchids. At first I thought they were Red Vanilla, Nigritella rubra but l now consider them to be Cornelias Vanilla Orchid, Nigritella corneliana. Happy to be corrected.

Grison's Fritillary

A bonus - a high altitude Marsh Fritillary on a Vanilla Orchid!

Nice to see Stemless Gentians, Gentiana acaulis in bloom, another species that had long gone last year. Sadly most of the blooms were a bit battered by the weather.

Then a drop down the valley to find Geranium Argus and a break for lunch. The sun disappeared and I struggled to find a single specimen, of course as soon as the sun re-appeared they emerged in good numbers. Added bonus was an Amanda's Blue, the Mazarine Blue that I tracked for some time was spooked just as I was about to operate the shutter.

Geranium Argus

Amanda's Blue

Amanda's Blue

Amanda's Blue

Another roadside stop above a fast flowing river, the grassy banks either side were alive with butterflies but it was a moth that stole the show, a Nine Spotted Moth or Yellow Belted Burnet, Amata phegea

Turquoise Blue

Turquoise Blue

Yellow Belted Burnet

Yellow Belted Burnet

Yellow Belted Burnet

Finally the ubiquitous Black-veined White and an obliging Heath Fritillary

Black-veined White

Heath Fritillary

Butterflying in the Alpes-Maritime - Rimplas

Last year I had a great trip to the Alpes-Maritime with Greenwings, six days of solid butterflying in some fantastic alpine scenery. The end result was a tick list of 122 species,  a great deal of which were lifers.  When a similar trip was announced I immediately signed up as I had missed a few scarcities and the second half of the trip would be based on the Haute-Alpes in the Queyras area, so a chance to see some high alpine butterflies.

The first three nights were based at Rimplas and as we arrived on the Saturday afternoon I made straight for the Promenade de la Foret, a 1.5 kilometre path that on most occasions will yield more than 50 species. I had expected it to be much the same as last year. However I found fewer butterflies, the same number of species just not in the same numbers. This being a consequence of a late spring with snow on the ground at lower altitudes, meaning that plant growth had been retarded and the emergence of the butterflies with it.

Nevertheless there was still plenty to chase around in the warm weather. 

Separating resting Cleopatras and Brimstones was fun - no problem when they were in the air. Collins says - Brimstone - "the apical hook is well developed". Whereas in the Cleopatra "the apical hook is poorly developed". 




Blue Spot Hairstreak

Sloe Hairstreak

Lots of Clouded Yellows nectaring.

Clouded Yellow

Baton Blue (f)

Escher's Blue

Escher's Blue

Sooty Copper

Sooty Copper

Dusky Heaths outnumbering Pearly Heaths for a change.

Dusky Heath

Dusky Heath

Pearly Heath

Plenty of Great Banded Grayling up at Fort Rimplas, happy to pose in the early morning sunshine.

Unusual to capture them "in cop"

Not too many Skippers about but I did manage Mallow, Marbled and Red Underwing

Mallow Skipper in the early morning sunshine.

Marbled Skipper - well worn too!

Red Underwing Skipper

The much sought after Southern Comma was to be found in exactly the same place as last year, always on the Lavender.

Nothing exceptional in the Fritillary department but I was pleased with the female Spotted Fritillary posing for me.

Spotted Fritillary (f)

Spotted Fritillary (f)

Spotted Fritillary

Heath Fritillary 

Both Swallowtails well represented, fresh too  and no tails missing.

Scarce Swallowtail

Swallowtail - the background provided by the distant and  shaded side of the valley 

The final tally for the day was 62, I did have an "iffy" sighting of a Large Tortoiseshell but as I couldn't  get a positive id it goes in the list of possibles. It is notable that in one small site you can find more butterfly species than in the whole of the UK.

A large Pyramidal Orchid