Whilst we were camping in the Tarn Gorge, I’d mooted the idea of a walk from the rim of the gorge back down to the campsite, hopefully, by walking downhill, mitigating the worst effects of the heat; but when most of our party completed a walk, TBH and I had driven B to the hospital in the town of Millau instead, to get a painful ear checked out. (He’s okay now, although the problems continued for quite some time after our holiday ended.) That trip was not without it’s own interest – when we drove out of the town, onto the hillside above, we saw a great host of circling Red Kites – but I was extremely disappointed to have missed out on the walk, and so was very pleased when TBH and J agreed to an early morning foray, in J’s case for a second time.
We parked at Point Sublime, with fine views into a misty gorge.
There were plenty of distractions on hand too, with both butterflies and Wall Lizards about to keep me and my camera occupied.
I think that this is a Silver-washed Fritillary, you can perhaps see why its called that in the photo below.
Five-spot Burnet Moth.
We passed no end of these silken tents, apparently constructed by the caterpillars of the Pine Processionary Moth.
Another Blue-winged Grasshopper. I think.
The path was steep and narrow, but well worth the effort as it descended past a series of huge rock towers and cliffs.
J, you will notice, is wearing a shocking pink hat. She has pink Crocs too. Her children are appalled by both, which is, of course, entirely the point. She is making up for the sobriety of her youth. I’m sure she completely sympathises with Jenny Joseph’s poem ‘Warning’ which begins…
“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”
I thought I saw a bird of prey alight on top of a distant tower and the amazing zoom on my camera helped to confirm that fact.
It was exhilarating to watch the raptor soaring above the hillside, in and out between the karst features, eventually landing not too far above us…
I have quite a few photos of the bird in flight, none, sadly, very sharp, but I think they show enough detail to suggest that it was a Rough-legged Buzzard, not something that I’ve seen before.
This was a terrific walk for butterfly spotting and on this steep hillside section there were a great deal of quite dark butterflies flitting through the trees. They were hard to catch in repose and generally, I think, belonged to species not found in Britain. Frankly, I’m not sure what this is; continental Europe seems to have numerous types of Grayling – I wonder whether this is one of those?
It was J’s turn to pick out a large bird on a distant rock tower – this time on the one seen ahead in the photo above.
A Griffon Vulture; soon joined by a companion….
They didn’t seem to be very busy and I continued to take occasional photos as we descended past the tower.
A Dusky Heath?
Another Grayling of some description?
Looking back up into the Cirque des Baumes.
Striped Shield Bug – less prevalent , it seemed, than in the Dordogne, but still around.
The Dryad? Love the eye-spot.
This small butterfly led me a merry dance and I only managed to photograph it from some considerable distance. Could it be a Glanville Fritillary?
Having reached the bottom of the valley, we climbed a little way back up to a point under the cliffs…
Where there was a tiny chapel…
La Chapelle Saint-Hillaire.
Sadly, the chapel was locked, but I managed to get an image of the interior through a small hole in the door…
One final look back up into Cirque des Baumes.
We were down in the valley now and walking along the road, which for me was saved by the butterflies and flowers along the roadside. We passed a garden where a Buddleia was festooned with butterflies and moths, particularly fritillaries which I took to be more Silver-washed.
When we were almost back at the campsite we paused by the ‘Mushroom Rock’ to take in the view and wave to friends and family below, then J and TBH rushed ahead to get out of the full glare of the sun and to get a cool drink, but I was distracted again by more butterflies and moths…
This is a new species to me, a Jersey Tiger Moth, there had been several on the Buddleia earlier, but they were a bit too far away to be photographed very successfully. Unfortunately, you can’t see the stunning red underwings in this photo.
When I took this shot of another Five-spot Burnet Moth I didn’t even see the two rather striking shield bugs nearby. I wish I had; the purple one in particular looks like it was stunningly patterned.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this striking insect is not in my ‘Complete Mediterranean Wildlife’. It will have remain a mystery.
The underside of a Jersey Tiger Moth.
Small Skipper and Silver-washed Fritillary.
Jersey Tiger Moth.
When we’d been kayaking on the Tarn and had pulled our boats onto a shingle beach to jump into the river and swim, a Scarce Swallowtail landed on the end of one of the kayaks. I managed to get very close to it with my phone, but none of my photos came out well. I was really pleased, then, to get another chance for some photos.
Only a mornings stroll, but the views and the wildlife will stick with me for a long time I suspect.