The Kleiner Schillerfalter and Other Beautiful Bugs.

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One of the things which I really enjoyed in France was the abundance and variety of the butterflies. They were everywhere; although, often quite difficult to photograph. Whilst the Dordogne had been impressive in that regard, the Tarn Gorge area was better yet. What follows then is a collection of photographs of some of the butterflies, and other insects, which I saw in and around the campsite. (There will be even more butterflies to come, from various days out.)

First up, the Lesser Purple Emperor, in German the Kleiner Schillerfalter, or Smaller Shimmer Butterfly. Like many of the other insects here, I spotted this during a short afternoon wander a little way upriver. Here are the underside of the wings…

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And here when they are slightly open…

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Brown, orange and white you’ll notice, but when opened a fraction more…

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Bright, iridescent blue! Absolutely stunning. I’ve been wondering how the wings could  change colour like that and eventually tracked down an explanation: apparently the scales on the wings have tiny structures on them which diffract light waves and subsequently cause interference which gives the iridescent colour.

That was the first and, so far at least, only Lesser Purple Emperor I’ve ever seen; but there were some more familiar species about too.

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Large Skipper.

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A very tatty Peacock.

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Common Blue(?)

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Comma (Robert le Diable to the French).

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This is another species which was new to me, although they can be found in England. It’s a Marbled White.

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Dragonflies like this one…

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…were extremely common along the river’s edge. I’m pretty confident that it’s Onychogomphus uncatus, the Large Pincertail Dragonfly.

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There were more Beautiful Demoiselles…

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Although the related Banded Demoiselle…

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…seemed to be more prevalent. I think that this…

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…female is a Banded Demoiselle, because they are apparently brighter than female Beautiful Demoiselles.

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A Blue-winged Grasshopper. I wish I could show you what it looked like in flight, when those blue wings were on show. It’s not only Schillerfalters which can undergo a startling transformation of colour.

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Another female Great Green Bush-cricket, this time in our Kubb set.

Finally, back to butterflies and one that got away, just about. I saw lots of Swallowtails during our trip, but this is the only one I managed to photograph*.

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This was in the village of Les Vignes and taken from a considerable distance. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

(*The photograph in a previous post was of a Scarce Swallowtail, a similar and related species.)

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The Kleiner Schillerfalter and Other Beautiful Bugs.

To the Bakery and Back

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Each morning I walked into the village to buy the day’s bread, sometimes with Andy, but usually on my own. The bread was delicious, but I enjoyed the walk too. These photos are from those walks and also from other times when we had occasion to walk into Castelnaud-la-Chapelle. That first photo is looking back towards the campsite from a very misty morning, although the mist was rapidly clearing.

This is the same view…

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…on a relatively cloudy day and this…

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…is a panoramic view from a little further along the road, in more typical weather conditions.

The view in the other direction was very much dominated by the village and the Chateau towering above it, and often, in the mornings, montgolfières rising above that.

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Here’s part of the village…

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…when the mist had just about dissipated.

Not only were the views excellent, but the meadows along the route held lots of interest too.  These blue flowers dominated…

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I think that the flowers are Meadow Clary, a relative of Sage, which has a very limited distribution in Britain, but seems to be abundant in France. The insect is a Hummingbird Hawkmoth which is only seen as a migrant in Britain, although by coincidence I saw one today whilst out for a local wander. I also often saw Hummingbird Hawkmoths flying along a wall which bounded part of the road, seemingly investigating nooks and crevices, although I’m not sure why they would do that.

This…

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…is a Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth, which can, apparently, also be found in Britain, but not in our area and I’ve certainly never seen one before.

One of the things I loved about our visit to France was the profusion of butterflies, although they weren’t always cooperative in posing for photos.

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This Scarce Swallowtail was kind however, and moved a little closer after I took that first photo…

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Wild Carrot flowers were also very common in the meadows and where the flowerheads had curled in on themselves and gone to seed there was a very good chance that you could see Striped Shield Bugs…

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…they were hard to miss!

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Spider’s webs, on the other hand, only became obvious when the mist washed them with silver droplets.

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The wall alongside the road was home, appropriately enough, to Wall Lizards.

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These two are my favourites from the many photos I took.

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The area around the wall also seemed to be the territory of some small orange butterflies which eluded my camera at first, but then turned out to be Gatekeepers which we see at home.

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I think that this first one is on a Hemp Agrimony flower and that this one…

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…is on Horse Mint.

The road crossed a bridge over the Céou which was a good place for spotting fish and also more Beautiful Demoiselles…

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Male.

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Female.

Right at the end of our stay, we came down to the bridge because some of the party wanted to emulate some swimmers we had seen by leaping from a high branch into the water.

In the event, only E managed it, not because of the height of the jump, but because of the difficulty of climbing the tree – there was a crude ladder of planks nailed to the tree-trunk, but one of the rungs was missing. Here’s E just before she jumped…

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The rest of us had to content ourselves with jumping from the bridge itself or from a small wall beside it…

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Which, frankly, was quite high enough for me.

To the Bakery and Back

Beautiful Demoiselle Flies and Great Green Bush-cricket.

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Beautiful Demoiselle, male.

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Beautiful Demoiselle, female.

This stunning damselfly is a British species, but isn’t generally found as far North as Silverdale and is new to me. It likes gravel-bottomed rivers and was abundant in both places where we stayed in France. They were everywhere and would land on your head when you were in the water.

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I think that this is a Great Green Bush-cricket. Here seen on one of our plates. Again, Great Green Bush-crickets can be found in the UK, but not in our area and I don’t think I’ve seen one before – or any grasshopper or cricket anything like as large as this in England. This one is a female with a long, curving ovipositor, used to lay eggs into light, sandy soils apparently. B found her in our tent one morning. She’s missing a leg and we feared for her continued existence but, having put her onto a nearby tree trunk, found her back in our tent again the next morning, or another female, one-legged Great Green Bush-cricket, which seems unlikely.

Beautiful Demoiselle Flies and Great Green Bush-cricket.

Sunshine in the Garden.

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Bank Holiday Monday was another glorious day. We spent the morning sunning ourselves in the garden again and then most of the afternoon taking an interminably long time to prepare for an overnight trip (of which more to follow).

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We’ve regularly had a female Broad-bodied Chaser in the garden over the last fortnight. I had convinced myself that it was the same one each time, since it seemed to be quite small of its kind, but then, a couple of days ago, I saw two close together, both of the same size, which has obviously put a huge dent in my conviction. Whether or not it was the same one each time, I’ve really enjoyed taking photos.

 

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I took some photos of flowers too. This must be a knapweed of some description. TBH has planted them in the garden in several places. The bees seem to like them too…

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Large Red Damselfly.

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Peony.

I’ve been noticing the sounds of Starlings a lot whilst out and about, since coming across the nest on the Lots. B and I spotted some Starlings which were surely visiting a nest in a hedgerow beside Moss Lane. There have been a lot of Starlings on the feeders in our neighbour’s garden too.

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Here they are perched in the top of our Silver Birch.

 

Sunshine in the Garden.

Gloucester Old Spot

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Half-term! Astonishingly, the good weather hadn’t given up the ghost just as we broke up, but was set fair and would continue to be pretty good for most of the week. On the first Saturday, TBH took A to Manchester to see ‘Blood Brothers’*, Little S joined a friend’s birthday outing to the flicks to catch the new Star Wars spin-off, leaving B and I to our own devices.

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I persuaded him that a walk would be a good idea and whilst his enthusiasm for the project was a little lukewarm, he soon perked up after demonstrating some fairly gymnastic tree-climbing and really came alive when he spotted this female broad-bodied chaser…

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On the totally unscientific basis of how many I’ve seen so far this summer, this has been a good year for broad-bodied chasers.

We were heading for Hawes Water…

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Where the Irises…

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…had come into flower.

Common Blue Damselflies were seemingly everywhere, mostly in mating pairs…

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B hadn’t seen the new boardwalk.

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Somewhat optimistically, we hoped that the Common Lizards, which on a hot day like this might well have been sunning themselves along the edges of the old boardwalk, might have already adopted the new structure. But I think that will take a while. There were still plenty of damselflies though….

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…if not on the new boardwalk, then very near to it.

At Hawes Villa they keep a small number of Gloucester Old Spot Pigs…

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They seemed to be happily eating dirt and it’s only subsequently that it has occurred to me that this field might once have hosted Pignuts, a common enough plant locally, which might explain their relish.

B was very taken with the pigs and having admired them for a while then wanted to read the sign right through (reading is not usually one of his favourite pastimes).

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“Eat them, to keep them.”, I read. “Do you want to try some?”

He did, so we did. We bought both sausages and burgers. We haven’t tried the sausages yet, but the burgers were delicious. With TBH and A still sticking to their vegan October regime, even the boys and I are eating less meat than we were, and with several local farmers supplying meat directly to customers, and the news that US style stockyards are appearing in the UK, I’m keen to switch to buying meat locally, where I have a fair idea about the welfare of the livestock. Having said that, this has just been a toe in the water so to speak, I need to think about where I go from here.

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B on a Cow Parsley fringed Moss Lane.

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Star of Bethlehem.

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The large stand of Honesty on The Row has finished flowering and the flowers have been replaced by giant seed-heads which resemble thin slices of Kiwifruit.

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Looks like a carpet moth. Maybe Striped Twin-spot Carpet?

This last one is a bit of a cheat, taken the next day, which was spent in the garden cutting down two overgrown coniferous shrubs and then driving back and forth to the tip to dispose of the evidence.

*This is a Sore Point. I wasn’t invited. Because, apparently, I ‘don’t like musicals’. That’s the last time I watch ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ or ‘West-Side Story’ with A when she’s off sick. Or take TBH to the cinema to watch ‘La-La Land’. Apparently, ‘Blood Brothers’ was very good, but I expected as much: it’s a great show.

Gloucester Old Spot

Herb Paris, Lily of the Valley and more…

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A Monday evening. With A hobbling about on her dodgy knee after her long DofE training walk, dancing was out of the question for her, so there were no taxi-dad duties for me to perform. I escaped to Gait Barrows, ostensibly to see whether the Lady’s-slipper Orchids were flowering. Some of them were, as you can see above, but some were yet to fully open…

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This is another of my annual flower pilgrimages and it served as a useful excuse, but really, with the sun still shining I was hoping for butterflies. I did see some: Orange-tips, Brimstones, Speckled Woods, but generally they wouldn’t settle to be photographed. Fortunately, there was a great deal more to see, in fact the Lady’s slippers were the last pictures I took in a great haul and I was tempted to appropriate Conrad’s phrase and title the post ‘blogger’s gifts’.

Usually, having come in search of the orchids, I’m a little late for the Lily-of-the-valley. The small areas completed dominated by the broad leaves are always still in evidence…

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But I often struggle to find any flowers; this time there were far more than I’ve ever seen before…

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The tiny, white bells are still quite shy and retiring, but utterly enchanting.

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In addition to the flowers there were hoards of Damselflies about. I took lots of photos, but will content myself with just two…

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Common Damselfly.

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Azure Damselfly.

The colours look very different, but that’s a function of the light which was falling on them at the time. The easiest way to distinguish these males is the pattern on the second segment. The Common damselfly has a solid black omega  – Ω; whilst the Azure has an elongated u, like – ∏ – but the other way up. (You may need to click on the photos to view zoomable images on flickr to pick this out).

Walking through some warm glades, which act as a sun-trap and have often been good for butterflies on previous visits, I spotted something in flight which had all the colour of a butterfly, but which was bigger and more co-operative with regards being photographed…

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Broad-bodied Chaser.

In flight, I thought that it was yellow (the field guide says ‘ochre’), so assumed that it was a female, but the males also start life that colour, but then produce ‘pruinescence’, a dusty blue covering, which process has begun for this male, and is more advanced in this male…

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… which was also basking in the sun, just a few yards from the first dragonfly.

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There were lots of these…

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…Brown Silver-line moths about.

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Maidenhair Spleenwort.

I need to make a concerted effort with ferns and grasses. Hopefully, I can pick up quite a bit relatively easily, since presently I know next to nothing. I think the fern above is Maidenhair Spleenwort. It’s possible that this…

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…is another spleenwort, or Wall Rue? I’m not sure.

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil. New flowers – they will soon be egg-yolk yellow.

I did eventually manage to photograph one butterfly…

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Green-veined White on Bugle.

In pursuit of an Orange-tip, I turned onto a slim-trod along a ride which I have never taken before.

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Which, it transpired, was a very happy choice.

The path brought me to a gate, overlooking a field…

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…which helped me to reset my bearings, since I recognised it.

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Only a couple of days before, I had been reading, again, about Herb Paris. A highly unusual plant, which has been frustrating me, because I know that it grows locally in many locations, but I have never stumbled across it. Anyway, I read that it often grows alongside it’s close relative Dog’s Mercury, a very common plant hereabouts, and when I saw Dog’s Mercury blanketing the woodland floor, I optimistically thought: maybe there will be some Herb Paris nearby.

And was then very surprised when my wish-prophecy came true..

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It’s an odd plant with quite a strange flower, but after years of waiting, I was very pleased to see it.

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From this point, the path seemed to peter out and though I continued doggedly for some time, I eventually admitted defeat and turned to retrace my steps. Except, then I was distracted by another, even slighter tread which was heading into the woods. Almost immediately, I was confronted by a pile of feathers…

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Then another, and another…

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And then several pairs of bird-less wings…

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The wings were all busy with flies, but also with several of these rather striking orange and black beetles – oieceoptoma thoracicum. They aren’t here feast on the carrion, but on the other insects which are attracted to the wings.

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The last time, and the first time, that I saw one of these was on another warm spring day, on Yewbarrow above the Winster Valley, when B joined me for a fabulous walk. It was eight years ago, which I think says something about the power of blogging as an aide memoire; my memory is generally pretty dreadful, but although I didn’t remember their latin name, I did instantly recognise the insects and recall their predatory lifestyle.

That walk was a good one, and the post has a much better photograph of this actually rather handsome beetle. That day we found several badger setts, but these wings were untidily strewn around a Fox’s earth. I found a dead fox cub not so very far away from this spot last year and one summer saw a fox, late one evening, running along the woodland fringe near here. B is quite keen to see the earth, I don’t know whether there is any mileage in bringing him late one evening in the hope that we might see the resident foxes too.

The path which I had diverted onto was clearly a path made by the foxes. It soon forked and forked again. It was difficult to follow, but I persisted and eventually it brought me to a ‘proper’ path, which I recognised, and which was close to where the Lady’-slippers flower.

Down at Hawes Water, work was still continuing quite late into the evening…

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Having started with the last photo I took, here are the first two:

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Stacked timber and…

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planks from the old boardwalk, by the Gait Barrows carpark.

Herb Paris, Lily of the Valley and more…

The Lots with Little S

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The day after our trip to Swindale and I managed to persuade Little S to accompany me to check up on the Starling nest. We could see that the nest hadn’t been abandoned and S could see one of the young inside the hollow. We waited for a short time and were soon rewarded by a visit from one of the parents.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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Little S was excellent company; he seemed really taken with the Starlings and even more excited by the profusion of flowers on the Lots, where the Buttercups had suddenly appeared and the Green-winged Orchids were particularly rife (although I’m told that when a count was carried out, numbers were actually down on last year, for the first time in several years).

The Lots with Little S