Almost at the end of my Adirondacks posts now. These photos were actually taken on several different days, but represent the 10th day well, because I didn’t stray from the house and garden that day. In the morning, the others went off somewhere; you’d have to ask them where. In the afternoon we were all back at the house, shooting the bb-gun, gardening, loafing, generally pottering about.
I remembered spotting the discarded exoskeletons of Cicada nymphs last time we were in the States. We didn’t hear Cicadas to the same extent here, but I was aware that they were out there and decided to check out the trees near the house to see what I could find. The first three trees I checked each had a shucked-off Cicada skin clinging to its rough bark.
I think this must be the same kind of spider which featured in an earlier post. This one wasn’t as large, although still quite big. It was sheltering on the underside of one of the paddle-boards.
“While steep in spots, this short hike to the summit of Big Crow offers one of the Adirondacks‘ best views for the least effort.”
This from the Lake Placid tourist website. I’m always keen for a Small Hill with Disproportionately Good Views. Having said that, at 857 metres, Big Crow probably wouldn’t count as small in the UK, but the point is that the car park, Crow Clearing, is at 670m so the ascent is not huge. On the drive up to Crow Clearing I started to lose faith in our phone navigation app when the surfaced road gave way to a dirt track, but I needn’t have worried, we were in the right spot.
The woods here seemed to be particularly well stocked with fungi of a wide variety of shapes and colours, but once again my photos were not very successful.
Leaf miners are the larval stage of various insects which live inside, and eat, leaves. The patterns are very common, but I don’t recall seeing any as aesthetically pleasing as these before.
The views will have to speak for themselves. They really were superb, with ranks of high hills all around. Cascade and Pitchoff are relatively nearby so I ought to be able to pick those out, you’d think, but I can’t.
Not only were there hills in every direction, but woods too stretching as far as the eye could see.
Hurricane Mountain was the closest hill, with a route also starting from Crow Clearing (a much longer route admittedly). Back at the house, Prof A had a book of walks in the Adirondacks which I had a very thorough peruse of. The author listed her top ten walks in the area, and the ascent of Hurricane Mountain was one of those. So one for next time.
TBH and Prof S took Coco the dog and turned back for the cars, whilst the rest of us took a different route down, over Little Crow Mountain.
It was steep. Very steep in places.
If I remember correctly, there was no view at all from the summit of Little Crow Mountain, but on the way down we had more views again, due to the rocky ledges we crossed.
Many of my photos from our stay in the Adirondacks show quite cloudy skies. I suppose we did have some mixed weather, but generally the weather didn’t really impinge on our activities. But this time it was evident that rain was imminent.
We did eventually get caught by the rain, but under the trees it wasn’t as bad as it might have been, and the heavens didn’t really open until just as we emerged on to the road, where TBH and Prof S were waiting for us in the cars.
They took us to the home of Prof A’s aunt, who lives nearby on a hillside above the village of Keene. This is the view from the balcony as the rain clouds cleared and the sun was setting.
The next time I escaped from the woes joys of decorating, I managed a slightly longer walk. I think I wanted to visit this little scrap of verge where Elmslack Lane becomes Castle Bank and I knew I would find Dame’s Violet flowering.
From there I walked along Inman’s Lane along the bottom edge of Eaves Wood, then along the Row. Inevitably, I was heading for…
It’s quite easy to ignore Crane Flies, Daddy-Long-Legs; they’re common and plentiful, their larvae – leatherjackets – are a garden pest and I think some people are freaked out by their ridiculously long legs. But I thought the silvery-grey hue of this amorous pair, and the golden iridescence caught in the wings of the lower partner where very fetching.
I think this is an Ichneumonid wasp. It could be a sawfly, a digger wasp or a spider-hunting wasp, but on balance I’m going for an Ichneumon. After that I’m struggling. Apparently, there are around 2500 British species. Identifying them requires a microscope and an expert. Most species are parasitoids, meaning that they lay their eggs in other species of insects, caterpillars and grubs, and the larvae will eat and eventually kill the host. From my limited reading, I get the impression that each species of wasp will specialise in preying on the caterpillar or larvae of one particular species.
Some of the photos which follow are bound to look familiar, if you read my last post. Hardly surprising that if you walk in the same place just a couple of days apart, the bugs and beasties which are about and active are likely to be the same each time.
I’m reasonably confident that this Shield Bug is Troilus luridus. I’ve seen this given the common name ‘Bronze Shield Bug’ online, but my Field Guide gives another species that title, so I’ll stick with the latin name.
I took lots of photos of this Green Shield Bug and as a result was lucky enough to catch it in the act of taking wing…
You can see how the outer wings have adapted as a cover for the hind wings, so that when they’re on a leaf or a stem it’s hard to imagine that they even have wings.
Variable Damselflies are not listed in the handy booklet ‘An Atlas and Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Arnside and Silverdale AONB’, a publication whose long title completely belies its actual brevity. So, if this is a Variable Damselfly, which I think it is, the species must have fairly recently arrived in the area.
Easter Sunday brought some warm weather, warm enough for butterflies anyway!
TBH and I had a local wander, around Hawes Water, across Yealand Allotment, over Cringlebarrow to Summer House Hill and back via Leighton Moss.
I’ve always been a bit sceptical about the Standing Stones on Summer House Hill, there are only four of them after all, which doesn’t really seem to add up to a ‘circle’ as such. I should have done my research more thoroughly! The Historic England website reveals that it is a scheduled monument, and that a 1930s survey found ‘socket-holes’ where 13 additional stones were originally sited and signs of a shallow ditch which ran around the circle. I wonder whether there’s a connection to the large walls on nearby Warton Crag, now thought to be Bronze Age?
All good things come to an end, and eventually we had to move on from the Dordogne. Fortunately, we were only moving on to the Tarn Gorge, just as we did on our previous trip. This time, as you can see, Andy had booked plots with a direct view of the river, which was rather magnificent.
Sitting around the campsite chilling out is surely a key ingredient of any camping trip and I certainly did a lot of that on this trip. I got through a lot of reading material. I didn’t use our hammocks, but the rest of the family all loved them and there was often keen competition to secure a berth, since we only had two between us.
Regular swims in the river were also key. I’d bought a full-face mask with integrated snorkel from Aldi before the trip and it might just be the best eighteen quid I ever spent. The fish here were plentiful, varied and absolutely fascinating. I only wish I had photos to share.
The Dangerous Brothers, including Andy, an honorary DB, (ODB ?), spent much of their time climbing the cliffs to find ridiculously high spots from which to launch themselves, sometimes with a large inflatable shark in tow, which they christened DB Aquatic. I don’t have any photos of them jumping (I preferred not to watch), but there’s some slo-mo footage of their antics on Andy’s blog here.
By contrast with our last visit, I don’t seem to have taken many photos around the campsite, which is odd because the views are amazing. The cliffs up the valley were lit at night (B was convinced it was the sunset, bless him) and although they looked huge from below, we realised, later in the week when we went up to the rim of the gorge to watch the sunset, that they were actually only a tiny portion of the entire valley side.
I suppose wasps are always a feature of camping in the summer. This trip was no exception, but this year we had the added joy of regular visits from hornets. I can’t decide if these two photos show hornets or not. I’m not sure they’re big enough – certainly, when they were buzzing around our tent they seemed much bigger than this – about the size of Jack Russel at least.
On the drive between the two campsites, at an Aire, we even spotted a Hornet’s nest, a football sized paper sphere hidden away in amongst some brambles.
We did quite a bit of walking whilst we were in the Tarn Gorge, so lots more wildlife and scenery photos to come, and I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, but when we were travelling back to the UK we witnessed a rather sobering event, when French customs officers found a man stashed away in a fellow holiday-maker’s Trailer Tent. I assume that the contents of the trailer had been jettisoned to make room for the man – presumably an asylum seeker trying to get to the UK. Frankly, it was all pretty alarming. We’d never been out of sight of our own trailers, and hadn’t stopped near the port, so when they were searched we didn’t have any stow-aways.
When we finally got back, after two solid days of driving and an overnight ferry, we did find one unscheduled passenger though, a shield bug…
I don’t know if this is a species found in the UK or not, but it did demonstrate how easily you could inadvertently import a non-native species. I don’t think we’d brought any hornets back with us, fortunately.
Conspicuous by their absence from my last post – I know, my last epistle was quite some time ago, suffice to say that online teaching is, despite what the gutter press seem to think, pretty all-consuming and involves spending most of the day stuck in front of a screen, so blogging has dropped out of favour as a spare-time activity – anyway, as I was saying, notably missing – notable, that is, to long-suffering followers at least – notably missing from my account of our trip to the Dordogne last summer were the plethora of wildlife photos which usually occupy around nine tenths of most of my posts. Fear not, that’s because I’ve saved them all up for one gargantuan holiday-snap snore-fest, with no people or views at all! (You can’t say you weren’t warned.)
This first photo neatly epitomises one of my favourite things about our trips to France – the sheer abundance and variety of the flora and fauna, well – particularly the insects.
Although there’s a lot of photos here – some might say too many – it’s a tiny sample of the many I took. Whilst my family and friends were floating down the river on rubber rings, or reading their books, or swinging through the trees doing their best Tarzan impressions, I wandered around the local woods and fields, camera in hand. Sorting through the vast assortment of resulting shots, choosing some favourites, and then trying, with varying degrees of success, to identify some of the more exotic species has been a highly enjoyable but fairly lengthy process. Not that I’ve restricted myself to the more exotic species here, I’m almost as happy to be photographing things which are very common at home…
I generally consider my memory to be atrocious, but weirdly, I’m confident that I can remember where each of these photos were taken. This Horse Mint, for example, grows behind the wall which runs alongside the road into the village. Whereas this thistle..
…was growing in a field next to the river, upstream of the campsite, a particularly happy hunting ground.
Every trip seems to bring something new. I didn’t know, for example, that there was such a thing as a Pale Clouded Yellow.
Ordinary, bog-standard Clouded Yellows sometimes appear in Britain as migrants. I saw one near Arnside once, a couple of miles from home, which really confused me at the time, because I knew what it was, but really didn’t expect to see it flying in a field in Cumbria, having only previously spotted them in France.
I don’t think that Cleopatra’s occur in the UK, I’ve certainly never seen them before.
They proved to be quite elusive, so I was quite chuffed to catch this one on my phone, although, with its wings closed, it looks very like a common-or-garden Brimstone. When they open their wings however….
…they’re quite different.
We were a few days later into the summer this trip. It’s amazing what a difference those few days made. Some butterflies have a brief lifespan in their adult phase. On our last trip we saw quite a few Swallowtails and Scarce Swallowtails, as well as numerous Silver-washed Fritillaries. Not this time.
But I did see lots of fritillaries. At the time, I was convinced that there were two different species, but looking at the photos now, it seems to me that they are probably all Knapweed Fritillaries.
I usually saw them in pairs, and often with one of the pair raising the back of its abdomen in what I took to be part of some sort of wooing process.
This little chap was compensation for a long and fruitless chase of a much larger butterfly, which may or may not have been my first, and so far only, sighting of a Camberwell Beauty.
I’d already had an uncommonly good summer for spotting and photographing Common Blues around home, and they were abundant again both in the Dordogne and then, after we moved on, in the Tarn Gorge. Somehow their blue seemed even more vivid in the French sunshine.
If anything, grasshoppers were even more abundant, more elusive, more variable and more difficult to identify than the butterflies.
Some of the larger ones have very striking red or blue wings, sadly only visible in flight.
There are thousands of species of Assassin Bug apparently, of which this may be one.
My first thought was that this was a Carder Bee, but it has no pollen baskets, so now I’m wondering if it’s even a bumblebee at all. I’ve concluded that, not very confident at identifying bees on my home patch, I shan’t even attempt to do so with these French bees.
I will say that this isn’t a bee, but something imitating a bee’s markings. I’m not sure whether it’s a bee-fly or a hoverfly, although I’m inclined to the latter.
I saw a few of these large and strikingly ugly black and orange flies.
As with the bees, I saw a number of wasps, or wasp like creatures, which don’t seem to be in my ‘Complete Mediterranean Wildlife’ guide. There were some very thin waisted black and orange bugs which I think were ichneumon wasps of some kind. But I’m not sure whether the black and white creature below, sharing a flower with a burnet moth, is a wasp or a sawfly…
…with a fritillary. And something similar, but yellow and black…
Last time I took lots of photos of damselflies, dragonflies and demoiselles. Not so much this time, although the demoiselles were still present in large numbers by the river. Here’s a solitary damselfly…
And what I thought was an unusually hairy, stunted and unglamorous dragonfly…
…but which I’m now pretty sure is a species of Robber Fly. Having said all those uncharitable things, I should say I’m actually quite chuffed to have spotted this, if only because I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. That short, stout proboscis is for piercing prey and injecting venom. And the stiff hairs on its face, visible here, are called the mystax, from the Greek mystakos, also the origin of our ‘moustache’, via Latin, Italian and French. Which is the kind of trivia I find very satisfying.
All of which brings me to the last section of my insect photos, the moths.
One of the wildlife highlights of our last trip had been the almost daily sightings of Hummingbird Hawkmoths, This time, the Meadow Clary which they seemed to favour had mostly finished flowering and to begin with I saw far fewer. Then, after my pursuit of the suspected Camberwell Beauty, I wandered into a part of the campsite I hadn’t previously ventured into. Having said there would be no views, here it is…
It was unmown, full of wildflowers and a haven for butterflies. And in one corner, there was lots of Meadow Clary still in bloom, and loads of Hummingbird Hawkmoths too..
I have to confess that I was fascinated by them.
An example, I believe, of convergent evolution, Hummingbird Hawkmoths have evolved in a similar way to hummingbirds in order to occupy a similar ecological niche. Like hummingbirds, they use very rapid wingbeats to hover close to species of tubular flowers and use their long tongues to reach the otherwise inaccessible nectar.
I guess they must land and rest sometimes? But those legs don’t look particularly practical.
Whilst the insects sometimes left me bewildered, the flora is even more diverse and confusing. I think I would have to move to France, massively improve by rusty schoolboy French, buy a comprehensive local field guide, live in the Dordogne for a decade or two, and then I might muster the same semi-confident familiarity that I’ve grasped with the plants around home.
A couple of very distinctive species did stand out however…
This one, it turns out, is no more at home in the region than me, being native to North America.
I was struck by the way the seedpods form in the nodes, where the stems branched, which seems unusual.
Don’t be fooled by the presence of the word ‘apple’ in its name, because apparently the whole plant is poisonous.
They were growing in amongst the sunflowers and where the height of the sunflowers had forced them, they had grown to around two metres high.
Although I think this is Field Eryngo, I actually saw it, not in the fields, but growing in clearings in the woods. It looks like a thistle but is actually related to our own Sea Holly.
Unfortunately, I have no idea what this plant is, with its striking red stems, tiny white flowers and colourful berries.
It was growing by the cycle path at the edge of the village, and I suppose might have been introduced.
These four photos are all, I think, of the same lizard, which was basking on the wall one morning when I walked past on the way to the bakery and still in the same spot when I came back.
This last is on the wall of the Chateau we visited, so definitely a different lizard!
And finally, this toad had apparently been our lodger and was revealed as such only when we took the tent down in preparation to move on the Tarn Gorge.
Well – that answers one question: the hay was yet to be cut. TBH had been making elderflower cordial, but wanted to try a new recipe (spoiler alert – it’s very nice) and asked if I could bring back 40 heads of elderflower. No problem, I said, there’s loads at Gait Barrows.
I took a circuitous route to Gait Barrows – calling in first at Lambert’s Meadow, Myer’s Allotment and Trowbarrow Quarry.
I can’t identify this tiny fly, but I was quite taken by its orange speckled wings.
Volucella pellucens – a striking hoverfly, the larvae of which live in wasps nests as scavengers. Even wasps get pestered in their homes: a comforting thought somehow.
I’ve been thinking that I really must make more of an effort with grasses and the like, but now I’m looking at a page of sedges which look, to my untutored eye, practically identical. This is one of them, I think, maybe Glaucous Sedge? This is the female spike – pretty striking I thought.
Another sedge perhaps, maybe one of the many yellow sedges?
I thought taking photos of our wild roses might likewise encourage me to begin trying to distinguish between them, but I clearly need to make notes about the leaves and the thorns and the colour of the stems and I’m probably too lazy to do that. Having said that, since Dog Roses are usually pink, I shall assume that this is a Field Rose.
A cowslip which has gone to seed.
Oedemera lurida – the larger green insect on the right.
The flower here is one of those yellow daisies over which I have so much difficulty. I’ve been reading, and enjoying, ‘Chasing The Ghost’ by Peter Marren. It’s subtitled ‘My search for all the wild flowers of Britain’. Except, it turns out that actually it’s his search for the last fifty species he hasn’t seen. Excluding all of the ‘casuals’ – non-native plants which have self-seeded from a garden, or from bird-food or somesuch. And he isn’t going to try to see the many sub-species of dog-rose or whitebeam because they are too numerous and too troublesome to tell apart. Likewise the hawkweeds, of which, apparently, 415 subspecies have been identified. So far. Peter Marren is a Proper Botanist, and he needs expert help. Another comforting thought.
Yellow Rattle – gone to seed and now showing the ‘rattles’ – the pods in which the seeds literally do rattle.
Common Blue butterfly.
Oedemera lurida again, this time on Mouse-ear-hawkweed, a yellow daisy which has the decency to be easy to identify.
Unidentified (solitary?) bee on unidentified flower.
The view from the bench at Myer’s Allotment over the meres of Leighton Moss.
Tutsan, from the French toute-saine meaning all healthy. Herbalists laid the leaves over wounds and apparently it does have antiseptic properties. Tutsan has a reputation for inducing chastity: allegedly, men should drink infusions made from the plant, and women should spread twigs below their beds.
The leaves, when dried, are reputed to smell like ambergris and so it is also called Sweet Amber. Ambergris, known in China as ‘dragon’s spittle fragrance’, is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish colour produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or excreted by sperm whales. I remember a dog-walker found some on Morecambe beach year or two ago and sold it for thousands; tens-of-thousands even. It must be true, I read it in a tabloid.
We have quite a bit of it in our garden. Tutsan that is, not ambergris. It’s a weed I suppose, but a beautiful plant which is interesting year round; the berries go from yellow through red to black. It seems that hoverflies like it just as much as I do!
Trowbarrow quarry – there were quite a few people climbing.
Maybe I should have asked them to fetch me down some elderflowers?
I couldn’t resist another visit to the Bee Orchids…
…to try to catch them whilst the sun was shining on them…
A Gait Barrows view.
An unusually tall and prolifically flowered Elder. Most of the flowers would have been out of reach, but I didn’t even try, so confident was I that I knew of a plentiful supply of Elder up on the limestone pavement.
There were plenty of other distractions in the grykes up on the pavement. For instance, now that it has just about finished flowering, I spotted several more patches of Angular Solomon’s-seal…
Tutsan grows in the grykes too, but the red leaves are a sign that it is not exactly flourishing, presumably with little soil or water to thrive on.
Female Large Skipper. (Large compared to a Small Skipper, but still quite diminutive).
I watched this bird circling far overhead. Everything about it – size, shape, the way it flew – convinced me that it was a raptor, but if it was I now can’t pin it down to any particular species. I thought it might be another Peregrine, but I can’t see any sign of the moustaches a grey, male Peregrine might show in any of my, admittedly rather poor, photos.
When I arrived at the spot where I was convinced I would find an abundance of elderflower, I found two stunted shrubs growing from grykes – each with a handful of unopened flowers, neither use nor ornament for making cordial I assumed.
I eventually found another area of pavement, with a handful of small specimens, which did have almost enough flowers for our purposes.
With those stowed away in my rucksack, I headed home via Hawes Water. On the disturbed ground there, after last year’s work, there were several tall Mullein plants growing…
I had to have a closer look because the leaves often have interesting residents. This isn’t what I was expecting however…
A pair of mating Green Shield Bugs!
Green Shield Bugs live on the sap of a variety of plants. I didn’t realise that they used to be confined to the south of the country, but have been progressing steadily northward with climate change.
Best not to pick up Shield Bugs since they can release a noxious smelly liquid, giving them their alternative name of ‘Stink Bugs’.
Incidentally, I picked up my copy of ‘Bugs Britannica’ to see what it had to say about Shield Bugs and discovered that it was co-written by Richard Mabey and Peter Marren. I think mainly by Peter Marren, because I believe that was when Richard Mabey was suffering from the depression which he would go on to write about in ‘Nature Cure’.
Mr Marren is, it seems, a pan-lister, a phenomena which he discusses in ‘Chasing the Ghost’: pan-listers are spotters who are like twitchers on steroids – they have tick-lists for all living things larger than bacteria apparently – fungi, plants, insects, birds, slime-moulds, lichens, etc. Even in the UK that’s tens of thousands of species.
It occurred to me that I might fit into that bracket, except I’m much too lazy. I don’t keep lists and I only very rarely travel to see something in particular. Although, I’ve always enjoyed myself on the few occasions that I have done that – I’m thinking of the saxifrage on Pen-y-Ghent or the gentians in Teesdale.
Anyway, what I was actually on the look-out for were caterpillars of the Mullein Moth…
Once you get close, they are quite hard to miss!
Years ago, when we lived on The Row, some Mullein appeared in our garden and, although I suppose they are weeds, they’re large and quite striking, so we left them to flower. Then the voracious caterpillars appeared and completely stripped the plants of leaves and flowers.
When I reached the meadows near Challan Hall, I realised that there were perhaps a dozen Elder trees here, all of them plastered with blossom.
I didn’t need much more, but I cam back a day or two later to discover that the trees were mostly on steep banks, leaving most of the flowers out of reach, and even where they weren’t, the trees were well protected by an understorey of brambles and nettles.
The cordial is well worth it though.
The verge of the railway line had a fine display of Oxeye Daisies.
This should have been my first stop for elderflowers – a small elder growing behind our garage.
A Saturday afternoon and we decided to dragoon the boys into coming out for a walk with us. In honesty, I can’t remember how we arrived at the decision to repeat a walk along the River Eden, taking in Little Salkeld Watermill, Lacy’s Caves and the Long Meg and her Daughters stone circle, but it was a good choice.
We began with lunch in the cafe at the mill, which was delicious, then set off towards the river. There was a paper notice tacked to the signpost indicating that some part of the footpath had been damaged by flooding and then closed, but the notice looked quite old, so we decided to ignore it.
TBH and I have done this walk three times now, and each time we’ve seen lots of Buzzards in this first part of the walk. Closer to hand, there were flowers and insects to admire and a tree heavily laden with rather tart apples.
Small White Butterfly on some sort of Hawk’s-beard, possibly Rough Hawk’s-beard.
A weir on the Eden. Force Mill opposite.
We did eventually see some signs of flood damage, but that had nothing to do with what happened next. I’m not sure how, but I lost my footing and fell down the steep bank towards the river. Little S was first to react, grabbing hold of my ankle as I slid down the slope, which, frankly, could have ended badly for him, but between us we managed to halt my fall. I was a bit bruised and grazed, my camera took a whack, and I think we were all slightly shaken, but ultimately, no harm was done.
The view of the River Eden from Lacy’s Caves.
These are not natural caves, but were hewn from the rock by order of the local landowner Colonel Samuel Lacy. There are several connected ‘rooms’. One of them still has some planks in it and some metal brackets fastened to the wall, as if there had been a bench or a bed here. Apparently, Lacy may have paid someone to live in the caves as a ‘hermit’, which was a fashionable thing to do for a time. There are more pictures of the caves here, from our last family visit, made at a time when Little S genuinely was still little.
The boys may be practically grown up now, but they weren’t above a game of hide and seek in the caves, which, I’ll admit, was pretty hilarious.
I remember these wooden posts from last time too. This is one from a series erected around the Eden Valley area and designed by artist Pip Hall. They’re textured so that rubbings can be taken.
Mixed flock of Jackdaws and Rooks.
One of Long Meg’s daughters.
More daughters with Cross Fell in the cloud and the radar station on Great Dun Fell behind.
The uncountable daughters.
The Long Meg stone circle is amazing and, on the evidence of three visits, almost guaranteed to be virtually deserted.
There’s some more detail and folklore regarding the stone circle in my previous post about a visit, here.
We first learned about this route from a leaflet published by Discover Eden. It was available as a PDF online, but these days you have to buy it. One word of warning – the leaflet gives a longer version of this walk, including a visit to Addingham Church, as 4½ miles, but my phone app gave 6 miles for our truncated version. No wonder our original round took us 6 hours when we had a toddler with us.
We didn’t travel away from the campsite often when we were in the Cévennes, but we did have one grand day out. The journey itself was interesting, giving us another opportunity to look down into the Tarn Gorge.
And also to enjoy some more roadside entomology.
It seems that as well as a bewildering variety of Grayling butterflies, the Continent is also home to several similar species of Ringlets. This is one of those. It looks very like a Marbled Ringlet, but online sources refer to that as an Alpine species. I remember seeing something similar when we visited the Vosges, although revisiting my post from the time I can see that it was perhaps slightly different. And also, to my surprise, a photo of what looks very like a Silver-washed Fritillary, so that I may have been wrong about never having seen one before.
I can’t find this tiny moth, either in my field guide or online, so I don’t know what it’s called, but I do know that it’s stunningly patterned.
This is a Red-winged Grasshopper, similar to the Blue-winged variety which featured in a recent post. You can’t see the bright red flashes which appear, to startling affect, when the insect hops into flight, but you can see the red hind-legs…
The drive over the higher ground was pleasant without being spectacular. It brought us to Meyrueis…
In the valley of the Jonte, a tributary of the Tarn.
Above Meyrueis, we stopped again briefly at a small hillside chapel – Notre-Dame du-Rocher…
I enjoyed the contrasting colours of these flowers…
And have included this second photo because of the tiny, pale Ladybird in the top left corner of the white flower.
We were soon underway again, heading for the excellent Grotte de Dargilan, of which more to follow…(eventually).
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.