American Black Tern at Longham Lakes, Dorset – 8th Oct

This in birding parlance is what is known as an “insurance tick”, recording a sub-species that could be split in the future. Going for it today aptly demonstrated how difficult it has been to locate new birds within my preferred range this autumn. But with the Siberian drift migrants I need all occurring way too far north for my liking in the present Atlantic weather pattern, a 93-mile excursion to the outskirts of Bournemouth offered the best alternative for a day out.

american black tern,1901_01 longham lakes

Today’s American Black Tern

American Black Tern Ssp surinamensis is said to be distinguishable from its European counterpart Chlidonias niger in all plumages. For an informative guide to separating the two races see here. I arrived on site late morning, parking at the top of Green Lane (SZ 06551 98272) where there is no restriction, then walking around the northern of two lakes and south to where several observers had my quest in view on the second one.

The former reservoir of Longham Lakes is managed as a recreational facility by Bournemouth Water Leisure, primarily for angling but also for walking, and is a well known birding site in the area. I had visited twice before, to see a Hoopoe (Dec 2010) and my only White-rumped Sandpiper (Dec 2012). Today I was expecting to watch something quite distantly and left my camera in the car. But the ABT was actually very co-operative, making several close passes to the group I had joined. So I made the departure of taking some video on my phone instead, but this free blog plan does not support video files.

american black tern,1903_01 longham lakes

American Black Tern

Some of those around me commented on the level of energy this juvenile was putting into the amount of food it was finding. It had been here for three days and followed the same circuit over and again, mainly around the southern end of the lake but venturing up towards us at intervals. I found the jizz to be especially pleasing and so felt glad to have made the effort to experience this quite different Nearctic form of a familiar passage Tern.

After an hour I decided to retrieve my camera and attempt some flight studies, then on my return the bird naturally enough stopped playing ball. For the next hour it kept to the southern end of the lake before eventually making two more near fly pasts. As a mid-level birder who takes pictures I feel content enough with the records then gained (below and above). But I had noticed how some field companions with far more complex and expensive equipment than my own seemed dissatisfied with their own results. For the RBA gallery of this bird see here.

american black tern,1902_01 longham lakes

American Black Tern

american black tern,1904_01 longham lakes

As the detested dark season looms again I feel a little apprehensive over the brittle sense of motivation that wildlife observation brings. Whilst I admire patch watchers and local birders for remaining content to record the same things ad infinitum, for me the activity becomes pointless when done for its own sake. Punishing as it is, there must be at least something new and different in the mix, or evolved ways of going about things. This today was a thoroughly worthwhile excursion that succeeded in producing the desired warm inner glow.


Eastern Olivaceous Warbler at Farlington Marshes, Hants: my 350th British bird + a Wryneck at Church Norton, Sussex – 16th Sep

This personal birding landmark was reached courtesy of the autumn’s first twitchable new passerine migrant within my preferred 150-mile range. The warbler in question was initially reported in the early afternoon of Saturday 14th, and being of national mega status and the first ever record for Hampshire drew large crowds over the weekend. But as it was a British tick for me and not a lifer I decided to wait and see whether it stayed until today.

When an early sighting came at 7:25am it was a huge relief to be hitting the road again after a dull opening to my personal autumn birding season in recent weeks. The weekend had aptly demonstrated the paucity of local birding in my home county with a required lifer Aquatic Warbler (briefly), Bluethroat (difficultly) and a number of Wrynecks all reported in the familiar (to me) area of southern Hants and Sussex featured in this post.

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So it was that at 10:40am I arrived at Farlington Marshes Hants and IoW Wildlife Trust nature reserve (pictured above) in the north-west corner of the Langstone Harbour complex (SU 685045). The site is now rather more developed than when I used to visit fairly regularly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with a metalled access road and two car parks, both of which were full. I joined around 50 or more birders who were staking out classic migrant landfall habitat in meadows at the reserve’s northern end.

It was at once apparent this would be an as classic warbler twitch, involving staring at banks of dense vegetation for long periods in the hope of brief glimpses of a skulking bird. As these RBA gallery pictures (here) show, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler is a strikingly pale looking Hippolais, especially on the underside, totally lacking in green tones, brownish-grey above and with greyish-white beneath. Lively in jizz and prone to keeping in tree cover, the species exhibits relatively plain wings, a bland face, pale supercilium and long yellow bill. It is very rare in Great Britain, with just 21 accepted previous records mostly on the northern isles, Scillies and eastern coasts.


Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Over my next two hours on site here, various movements and glimpses were detected but there was no consensus amongst the gathered birders as to a positive ID. RBA posted a “showing well” sighting at 11:30am but nobody I then enquired of knew anything about it. I was keeping in touch throughout with Adam who had seen the bird on Sunday, and he now prompted RBA to consult the reporter who said he had actually meant 10:30 just before my arrival. That was the second time in the morning that a posting was quoted as “erroneous”.

It did seem a few birders considered they had seen the EOW at that time, but others felt they could easily have been mistaken. Shortly before 1pm I was joined by Ewan who had set off on the spur of the moment after an appointment at home. On realising that our quarry was being far more difficult to locate than a day earlier, we decided to move along the coast eastward to Church Norton near Bognor Regis to try for a Wryneck, and then return later.

Ewan said he knew the exact location for the second bird, the only one still present in the area from a day earlier, which was a part of the Pagham Harbour complex I was not familiar with. When we reached the “Severals”, an area of pools just to the harbour’s south-west (SZ 873950), six other birders were already scanning the location. Fairly soon one of them called that he had located the Wryneck in a bush close by.

We gained a good first view of this cryptically plumaged, regular autumn migrant on the ground, before walking around to the far end of the path concerned to try for a better one. The Wryneck then moved high into the same bush again and perched for a while surveying its surroundings (pictured above, left). Ironically the people we left probably had the best views at this time, amongst whom one lady got some rather better looking images on her phone.

Eventually this bird flew back towards the harbour, landing in some Gorse, and when they could not re-find it the other birders all left. But Ewan suggested we search for it again and we gained further views of the Wryneck in more open places. We had been joined by a local birder who had looked for it on each of the previous two days, and he was now especially pleased to see his quest. This success in relocating a personal fourth record at what is a regular passage site for the species was all due to my vastly experienced companion’s own field craft.

While we were at Church Norton there were more postings on RBA of the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, accompanied by the birding notation “tho elusive”. Returning to Farlington Marshes we resolved to see out the local rush hour on-site while trying for that quest again. The earlier crowd had all moved on and up to 20 different birders now surrounded a particular thicket where presumably the bird had last been seen. As dusk drew in there were at length some positive if very fleeting observations.


Today’s bird a day earlier © and courtesy of Adam Hartley

I saw just enough to tick this bird, previously experienced in Greece and Turkey, for Blighty but at this point the sentiment from gaining my 350th British record was very flat. It was in there somewhere and kept being glimpsed near the top of the thicket. Would I get a better view as conditions continued to dim and became drizzly? It was difficult to know whether to stay in one place or walk around the other side as animation here or there on the part of some observers suggested the bird might be in view.

I did a circuit to find the EOW had popped it’s head out low down at the spot I had departed, making the diagnostic tongue clicking call, and my frustration grew. But finally in the failing light at around 18:45 I fixed my binoculars on a pale looking warbler that emerged in the top of some Elder and showed itself very well side on. A particular behavioural trait of this bird is to dip its tail downward when feeding, and this having been noted earlier by some people around me was again apparent now.

“That’s it,” said Ewan to one side, and the sense of satisfaction that welled within me was altogether different. Not only had mission been truly accomplished but I could make a proper story of it for this journal too. “Well done. You’ve worked hard for that,” came Adam’s reply to my celebratory WhatsApp as I headed for home.


Footnote: A day later (17th), having been tasked for some time with locating a first Wryneck for another Oxon birding friend, Sally we returned to the Church Norton site. In bright, sunny conditions and in company with several other birders we watched the bird (above) on and off for a couple of hours. Over at Farlington the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler was said to have showed well for around 90 minutes, confirming that myself and Ewan had chosen a difficult day on which to experience that bird. The EOW was as showy a day later (18th) when Ewan re-visited (see here), and continued to be reported until 22nd though it’s actual departure date was cited as “unclear”.

Scotch Argus butterflies at Smardale Gill NNR, Cumbria but not Arnside Knott – 25th Aug

This bank holiday weekend offered a suitably fine weather window to experience one of the three remaining British butterflies I had not observed previously. Having been on stand-by all through August after Ewan declared his intention to make the long drive north if conditions were right, the go ahead now came. So after a 3am start at home I met him at his house in west Oxfordshire two hours later and off we set.

Scotch Argus (pictured below) occurs at just two sites in England, both of them in Cumbria, but is much more common further north where it is known as the “Scottish Meadow Brown”. This is one of the last butterflies to emerge in late July each year, flying throughout August though rarely into September, and so usually requires a separate trip from other northern specialities to encounter. The issue as always with insects if a wasted journey is to be avoided is sufficient sunshine for them to be active, and this butterfly is a true sun lover.

We arrived at the second site, Smardale Gill NNR (NY740083) in the late morning. This very beautiful reserve in the upper Eden valley, administered by Cumbria Wildlife Trust (see here) follows the course of a former railway line for a mile and a half (2.6 km) along a steep hillside of ancient woodland above the intriguingly named Scandal Beck. After a while the track-side habitat becomes very wild flower rich with masses of Knapweed and Scabious that simply teemed with butterflies, mostly late summer, second brood Vanessids.

In amongst that colourful array – Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Comma and especially huge numbers of Peacock Butterfly – were the smaller, brown item of our quest that were most numerous in one hot spot around 100 metres in length. The first one we located (below) prompted a celebratory high five but it soon became apparent there were many more here. We estimated there were over 100 Scotch Argus flying today. Females of the species are known to be sedentary, not venturing further than such a distance, which could explain this concentration we came across.

Being well into their flight season a lot of the butterflies we observed today were quite faded and / or worn, but amongst all these some fresher individuals stood out. They are roughly the size of a Ringlet but with a rather weak, jerky rolling flight and a tendency to settle low down in long grass. When nectaring on flower heads they stayed constantly on the move, and so were not easy to take acceptable pictures of. This was the first serious work out for a used Nikkor telephoto lens with which I recently had to replace my as obsolete previous one, and the results are OK given the bright and glarey conditions.

Earlier in their adult life cycle Scotch Argus are a much richer chocolate brown, and like Ringlet can appear almost black when most fresh. The dusky upper wings exhibit rust brown patches adorned with black spots with intense white centres. Hence the common name of “Argus” after a giant in Greek mythology that possessed 100 eyes (per Thomas and Lewington). The under-wing ground colour is grey and deep brown, with a prominent paler band similar to that seen in Meadow Brown.

The food plant for the Cumbrian colonies is Blue Moor Grass that dominates the scrubby limestone sites these butterflies occupy. The widespread Scottish populations, that replace the Meadow Brown in higher areas, utilise a variety of habitats including damp grassland, bogs and woodland edges where the larvae feed on Purple Moor Grass. These are usually the commonest butterfly of late summer where they occur.

For an insect that inhabits some of Britain’s wettest regions, seeing Scotch Argus is dependent extraordinarily on sunlight, since they vanish deep into long grass cover as soon as any cloud appears to as quickly re-emerge in numbers when the sun comes out again. Males fly much more than females in an endless search for mates, and it was noticeable today how they would challenge and chase off the many, much larger Peacocks at this site.

Smardale Nature Reserve follows the course of the former South Durham & Lancashire Union Railway that from 1861 to 1962 transported coke for the iron and steel industry across the Pennines from Darlington to the West Cumberland area. This section is crossed overhead by the Smardale Viaduct, one of 17 along the 72-mile Settle to Carlisle main line, one of northern England’s most scenic railway routes. Further along the reserve path the as magnificent structure of the Smardale Gill Viaduct is reached, a truly uplifting, even awe inspiring location.

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Smardale Gill Viaduct

Since 1990 this impressive and dramatic structure, 30 metres high on 14 stone arches, has been owned and maintained by the most excellent Northern Viaduct Trust (see here). The story of this and more nearby industrial railway relics’ rescue from demolition, and funded restoration to become public recreational amenities, is to say the least heart warming. Walking guides to the entire complex can be downloaded from the above link.

The track bed across the viaduct’s top is nominally closed due to “safety concerns” over the very robust looking hand rails, but there is nothing to prevent walkers from continuing. Notices on the valley side further warn of “danger from falling masonry”, of which there seemed little risk. But I suppose someone is always likely to hurt themselves and then wish to sue the so well intentioned owner. We found a second cluster of Scotch Argus activity on these grassy slopes (pictured above).

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Me at Smardale Gill Viaduct

Our day in Cumbria had begun at 9:30 am with a visit to the other, coastal site Arnside Knott (SD455775). We searched the top of this hill that is said to be best for Scotch Argus in August, but the uneasy feeling from when we had failed to find High Brown Fritillary here in July 2018 quickly set in. Ewan had subsequently seen three Scotch Argus at this place on a brief visit of his own while driving south from Scotland a year ago. But today we found almost nothing of any note, except for one faded Northern Brown Argus and a Wall Brown.

This location is still cited as a classic one for both HBF and SA. But earlier this year a regular visitor I met in the field confirmed the former are now in decline there. Today a volunteer at Smardale Gill said 2019 has been a very poor year for Scotch Argus too at the first site. There must be habitat management reasons why numbers of both former specialities have fallen so much, and the evidence is that Arnside Knott is no longer worth bothering with. By contrast our visit to Smardale Gill NNR was simply superb.

2019 Southern Emerald damselfly at Beaconsfield, Bucks: an update – 5th Aug

Not having seen or heard any reports of Southern Emerald from this site in the current season I checked things out today and found their situation to be intact. When this colony was discovered in 2018 it was only the third known population in the British Isles (see here); the other, longer established ones being in Kent and the Isle of Wight.

This site (SU 96052 88958) to the south of Beaconsfield and beside the M40 motorway is accessible only on foot along public rights of way, and there are no safe parking places on nearby roads. The path I followed skirts a large landfill site before reaching a small woodland where it becomes less distinct. I had caught up en route with a weather front that passed through Oxford earlier, and upon my arrival conditions were quite overcast. But when the sun came out I began to notice Emerald damselflies that upon close inspection were indeed my days’s target (pictured below).

The most obvious feature by which Southern Emerald may be distinguished from other related damselflies is their two-tone cream and brown pterostigma (wing tags). In around an hour on-site here I located nine individuals including a tandem pair. The regenerating habitat was wild flower rich, and I dare say it supports many more of these nationally very scarce insects had I searched for longer and more thoroughly.

A year ago I was hoping they might expand their range from this location and maybe even reach Oxfordshire, but whether that has happened or not is unclear. Another observer I met today told me reports are indeed getting out on-line again, so we will have to wait and see.

High summer butterflies and other insects in Provence 4: Montagne de Lure – 18th July

On my final day in Provence I set out to explore one of the highest peaks to the north of my base, Montagne de Lure (1826 m) in search of the magnificent Apollo, staying there all day. Taking a winding road due north from St-Étienne-les-Orgues this climbed up and up until I reached the (presumably former ski) Station de Lure fairly near the summit. There all along one side of a large car park were clumps of Thistles that were teeming with Fritillaries and other butterflies.

Mon jour final dans Provence j’ai commencé à explorer un des plus hauts pics au nord de ma base, Montagne de Lure (1826 m) à la recherche d’Apollon magnifique, en restant là tout le jour. En prenant un nord dû routier sinueux de St. Étienne les Orgues cela grimpé et jusqu’à je suis arrivé le (le vraisemblablement ancien ski) Station de Lure assez près du sommet. Là tout le long d’un côté d’un grand parc de stationnement étaient des bouquets de Chardons qui regorgeaient de Fritillaries et d’autres papillons.

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Her Majesty the Queen of Spain

The first things I beheld here on getting out of my vehicle were several High Brown Fritillary. After the excellent sightings of the previous afternoon this really was the icing on the cake, as I recalled the frustration of seeing that butterfly for the first time so poorly in Devon 10 days earlier (see here) and exulted in this much better experience. It now quite simply was how things should be. The top-side pictures I took (below) all showed the three diagnostics for the species very clearly: the indented third upf wing spot, the slightly concave outer edge to that wing and ridged black veins or “sex brands” nearer to its inside edge. The under-side study is of a rather faded individual, but also leaves no doubt as to this ID.

Les premières choses que j’ai vues ici lors du fait de sortir mon véhicule étaient plusieurs Moyen Nacré. Après les vues excellentes de l’après-midi précédent c’était vraiment le glaçage sur le gâteau, puisque je me suis souvenu de la frustration de vue que le papillon pour la première fois si pauvrement dans Devon 10 jours plus tôt (voir ici) et a exulté dans cette beaucoup meilleure expérience. C’était maintenant tout simplement comment les choses devraient être. Les dessins de haut niveau que j’ai pris (au-dessous) de tous ont montré trois diagnostics pour les espèces très clairement : le tiers en alinéa upf la tache d’aile, le bord extérieur légèrement concave à cette aile et veines noires striées ou sexe marque plus près à son bord intérieur. L’étude de dessous a d’un individu assez fané, mais ne laisse aucun doute aussi quant à cette piéce d’identité.

There were a number of other Fritillaries also nectaring on the Thistles at this site. Niobe Fritillary is quite similar to High Brown but slightly smaller and also slimmer in profile. I believe the left hand picture below is one, based on matching it to those of my only previous record in Greece a year ago. To me the butterfly appeared cleaner and paler than the richly toned High Brown, and the “sex brands” are fainter. This species displays some variation in form across its wide European range (see here).

Il y avait un certain nombre d’autres Fritillaries aussi nectaring sur les Chardons sur ce site. Chiffre est tout à fait semblable à Moyen Nacré, mais légèrement plus petit et aussi plus mince dans le profil. Je crois que le dessin de main gauche est ci-dessous un, basé sur l’appariement à cela à ceux de mon seul record précédent en Grèce il y a une année. À moi le papillon a semblé plus propre et plus pâle que Moyet Nacré richement tonifié et les marques sexe sont plus légères. Cette espèce affiche un peu de variation dans la forme à travers sa large gamme européenne (voir ici).

I am as confident of the right hand picture (above) being Marbled Fritillary, which looks cleaner and paler still though the image is not good. This was the 11th trip lifer, a quite common and widespread species in southern France that also ranges across much of south and central Europe from late May to early August. In separating such similar Fritillaries I find the markings along the upf top edge that resemble numbers to be a reliable indicator.

Je suis aussi confiant du dessin de main droite (au-dessus) de être Nacré de la Ronce, qui semble plus propre et plus pâle toujours bien que l’image ne soit pas bonne. C’était le 11ème voyage “lifer” (nouveaux papillon pour moi), une espèce tout à fait commune et répandue dans la France du sud qui varie aussi à travers la plupart de l’Europe centrale et sud de la fin de mai au début d’août. Dans la séparation d’un tel Fritillaries semblable je trouve les marquages le long du bord supérieur upf qui ressemblent aux nombres pour être un indicateur fiable.

No such detailed scrutiny was necessary for Queen of Spain Fritillary (pictured above), whose squared off profile and top and under-side markings are all unmistakable. I had not previously gained acceptable top-side images of this multi-brooded, pan-European butterfly, but that was now put right to very good effect.

Aucun tel examen détaillé n’était nécessaire pour le Petit Nacré (représenté au-dessus), dont a équarri le profil et le haut et les marquages de dessous sont tous indubitables. Je n’avais pas gagné auparavant les images de haut niveau acceptables de cet ont multibroyé du noir, le papillon pan-européen, mais cela a été maintenant mis le droit du très bon effet.

Cardinal and Silver-washed Fritillary (above left) completed the medley for the genus here, though the former proved as difficult to get pictures of as is usual for me. And no southern European trip report in the mass migration year of 2019 would be complete without a Painted Lady (right). Another man taking pictures by the car park had been told that Apollo come to the Thistles, but none did so on this occasion and so I drove on towards the summit.

Le Cardinal et Tabac d’Espagne (au-dessus du gauche) ont accompli le mélange pour le genre ici, bien que celui-là se soit aussi avéré difficile à recevoir des dessins de qu’est ordinaire pour moi. Et aucun rapport de voyage européen du sud dans l’année de migration de masse de 2019 ne serait complet sans Belle-Dame (le droit). On avait dit à un autre homme prenant des photos par le parc de stationnement qu’Apollon vient aux Chardons, mais personne n’a fait ainsi dans cette occasion et donc j’ai conduit sur vers le sommet.

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My next stop was by an Alpine meadow where I came across good numbers of another lifer, False Heath Fritillary (pictured below) as I had expected to do here today. That meant I had now self-found all of the Fritillaries recorded by the 2014 Greenwings group, which was quite satisfying. FHF is most usually found at altitude and exhibits a lot of variation in both tone and size. I kept on encountering this butterfly for the rest of the day, and some were very small indeed while others appeared almost black in flight.

Mon arrêt suivant était par une prairie Alpestre où j’ai trouvé de bons nombres par hasard d’un autre “lifer”, Mélitée noirâtre (représenté si-dessus) puisque je m’étais attendu faire ici aujourd’hui. Cela a signifié que j’avais trouvé de soi maintenant tous les Fritillarie enregistrés par le groupe de Greenwings de 2014, qui était satisfaisant tout à fait. FHF est le plus d’habitude trouvé à l’altitude et expose beaucoup de variation tant dans le ton que dans la grandeur. J’ai continué de rencontrer ce papillon pour le reste du jour et certains étaient très petits effectivement pendant que d’autres ont semblé presque noirs dans le vol.

At this site I watched the day’s first of two Apollo in flight that stood out by it’s size, speed and graceful jizz. Another rather striking item was female Large Wall Brown (pictured above) of which I came across a few at this altitude. I had previously seen only worn males of this pan-European inhabitant of steep rocky places, so this encounter here was rather more attractive. This species flies from mid-June to late August in the south of its range. Various Clouded Yellow (below) were also active from this stage onward.

Sur ce site j’ai regardé le jour d’abord de deux Apollo dans le vol qui est ressorti par cela est la grandeur, la vitesse et jizz gracieux. Un autre article assez frappant était le femelle Ariane (représenté au-dessus) dont j’ai trouvé quelques-uns par hasard à cette altitude. J’avais vu auparavant mâles seulement portés de cet habitant pan-européen d’endroits rocheux raides, donc cette rencontre était plus attrayante plutôt ici. Cette espèce vole de la mi-juin à la fin d’août au sud de sa gamme. Les Souci différent était aussi actif (ci-dessous) de ce stade en avant.

The summit itself was not so productive for butterflies and I drove back to where a deep gully fell away to one side of the road. Fritillaries were plentiful again here and I watched a second fast flying Apollo (pictured below) that I went in pursuit of. Having lost 9.5 kg in weight since the spring of this year through dieting, I now re-found reserves of energy that I had thought might be gone for ever. But my new lease of life as a mountain goat was tempered by the need to avoid mishaps and a hiking pole was essential on the steep screes. There was little chance of getting close to the Apollo that covered large distances so effortlessly unless it might chose to land right beside me, which it didn’t.

Le sommet lui-même n’était pas si productif pour les papillons et j’ai repoussé à où un ravin profond s’est détaché à un côté de la route. Fritillaries étaient abondants de nouveau ici et j’ai regardé deuxième Apollon volant rapide (représenté ci-dessous) que je suis entré dans la poursuite de. Ayant perdu 9,5 kg dans le poids depuis le printemps de cette année par le biais de la diète, j’ai retrouvé maintenant des réserves d’énergie que je croyais pourrait disparaître pour toujours. Mais mon nouveau bail de vie comme une chèvre de montagne a été tempéré par le besoin d’éviter des incidents et un pôle faisant de la randonnée était essentiel sur les éboulis raides. Il y avait peu de chance du fait d’arriver près d’Apollo qui a couvert de grandes distances si sans effort à moins qu’il ne puisse a voulu atterrir directement à côté de moi, qu’il n’a pas fait.

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Distant Apollo (record shot)

There were two more stand-out encounters on these slopes. This Blue (below) puzzled me for some time until I found similar pictures on the excellent Butterflies of France web site (see here). So I have identified this sighting as Turquoise Blue for which that resource notes a degree of variation in the under-side between different populations. Today’s individual had delicate pale orange marginal spots with white chevron borders, and was certainly very different from those of the species I had observed in les Cévennes in May 2016.

Il y avait encore deux rencontres extraordinaires sur ces pentes. Cette Azuré (au-dessous) de le perplexe moi pendant un certain temps jusqu’à ce que j’aie trouvé des dessins semblables sur les Papillons excellents de site Internet de la France (voir ici). Donc j’ai identifié cette vue comme l’Azuré du mélilot pour lequel cette ressource note un niveau de variation dans le dessous entre de différentes populations. L’individu d’aujourd’hui avait des taches marginales orange pâle fines avec les frontières de chevron blanches et était très différent certainement de ceux des espèces que j’avais observées dans les Cévennes en mai de 2016.

The 13th and final trip lifer was also at this site. I at first took the largish, chocolate brown number to be a Ringlet of some kind but it is actually Arran Brown. This is another of those historical misnomers involving British place names that date from the 19th century and persist to this day. Other examples are Bath White, Essex and Lulworth Skipper, and in the dragonfly world Norfolk Hawker, all of which are quite inappropriate.

Le voyage 13ème et final “lifer” était aussi sur ce site. J’ai pris au début le nombre marron assez important, au chocolat pour être une Ringlet d’une sorte mais c’est en fait Moiré Fascié. J’étais très content de l’enregistrer pour la première fois ici bien qu’à l’extrémité de l’Ouest de son sud et personne de l’Europe Centrale varient. L’espèce se produit aussi à travers Fennoscandia, en volant de juillet à la fin d’août.

There is no evidence that the butterfly I was now watching (pictured above) has ever occurred on the Scottish Isle of Arran. I was very pleased to record it for the first time here though at the western extremity of its south and central European range. The species also occurs across Fennoscandia, flying from mid-July to late August.

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Marbled White colony with guest Arran Brown

I was still having no success in tracking down the Apollo and so returned to Station de Lure to stake out its extensive Thistle resources. There I also descended then climbed back out of the grassy gully that fell away to one side of the car park, still enjoying the above noted energy reserves but encountering nothing new. One Thistle clump (above) in that valley bottom held many Marbled White and there is also another Arran Brown in the picture.

Je n’avais toujours aucun succès dans le fait de retrouver Apollon et ai rendu ainsi au Station de Lure revendiquer ses ressources de Thistle étendues. Là je suis aussi descendu alors a grimpé en arrière du ravin herbeux qui s’est détaché à un côté du parc de stationnement, en appréciant toujours les susdites réserves d’énergie notées, mais en ne rencontrant rien de nouveau. Un bouquet de Thistle (au-dessus) dans ce fond de vallée a tenu beaucoup le Demi-deuil et il y a aussi autre Moiré Fascié dans le dessin.

Lastly, no insect trip report in this journal is complete without a selection of these characters (above). As Cicada sung in their trillions in the trees overhead in some places where I walked, so in others a similar profusion of Grasshopper would escape my footfall. These would often announce themselves by a red flash as they flew that is designed to confuse predators. There was tremendous variety in form, as is normal in southern Europe, and I was impressed again by these insects apparent ability to alter their colouring to blend with the immediate habitat. But one of these four did not appear to have quite mastered the subtle art of camouflage.

Enfin, aucun rapport de voyage d’insecte dans cet journal n’est complet sans une sélection de ces caractères (au-dessus). Comme la Cigale chantée dans leurs trillions dans les arbres au-dessus dans quelques endroits où j’ai marché, donc dans d’autres une profusion semblable de Sauterelle échapperait à mon bruit de pas. Ceux-ci s’annonceraient souvent par un éclat rouge quand ils ont volé qui est conçu pour troubler des prédateurs. Il y avait la variété immense dans la forme, comme est normal dans l’Europe du sud et j’ai été impressionné de nouveau par ces insectes la capacité apparente de changer leur coloration pour me fondre à l’habitat immédiat. Mais un de ces quatre n’avait pas l’air d’avoir tout à fait maîtrisé l’art subtil de camouflage.


This was quite simply a superb trip that produced everything I wanted from a solo expedition in terms of tranquillity, adventure and the sheer joy of self-finding new butterflies. In all I observed 64 different species in this one so scenic part of France, which is of course more than the total number that occur in the whole of the British Isles.  The quantity and variety of butterflies to be found here is simply mind boggling. That was not a bad tally for five days considering I was by myself with no specific or prior site knowledge. By comparison the 2014 Greenwings group recorded 108 including 11 more that would have been lifers for me. But those were mostly uncommon, localised species; they had gone to more sites including Mount Ventoux and the butterfly garden at Digne-les-Bains, and they did have Tristan Lafranchis as their guide.

C’était tout simplement un voyage superbe qui a produit tout que j’ai voulu d’une expédition de solo du point de vue de la tranquillité, l’aventure et la joie pure de trouver de soi de nouveaux papillons. En tout j’ai observé 64 différentes espèces dans celui-ci ainsi la partie scénique de la France, qui est évidemment plus que le nombre total qui se produisent dans toutes les Îles britanniques. La quantité et la variété de papillons à être trouvés voici simplement l’esprit s’effrayant. Ce n’était pas un mauvais compte depuis cinq jours en estimant que j’étais moi-même sans connaissance de site spécifique ou préalable. Par comparaison le groupe de Greenwings de 2014 a enregistré 108 en incluant encore 10 qui aurait été “lifers” pour moi. Mais ceux étaient des espèces surtout rares, localisées; ils étaient partis à plus de sites en incluant Mont Ventoux et le jardin de papillon à Digne-les-Bains; et ils avaient Tristan Lafranchis comme leur guide.

scarce swallowtail.1910 col de l'homme mort

Scarce Swallowtail

My full species list for this trip, with lifers in bold is / Ma pleine liste d’espèces pour ce voyage, avec “lifers” dans l’audacieux est: Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail, Apollo, Large White, Small White, Bath White, Berger’s Clouded Yellow, Clouded Yellow f helice, Brimstone, Cleopatra, Eastern Wood White, Ilex Hairstreak, Blue-spot Hairstreak, Small Copper, Sooty Copper, Lang’s Short-tailed Blue, Holly Blue, Large Blue, Baton Blue, Idas Blue, Brown Argus, Chapman’s Blue, Ripart’s Anomalous Blue, Turquoise Blue, Meleager’s Blue, Common Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Queen of Spain Fritillary, Southern Comma, Cardinal, Silver-washed Fritillary, Dark Green Fritillary, High Brown Fritillary, Niobe Fritillary, Marbled Fritillary, Weaver’s Fritillary, False Heath Fritillary, Spotted Fritillary, Meadow Fritillary, Marbled White, Woodland Grayling, Rock Grayling, Grayling, Striped Grayling, The Hermit, Black Satyr, Great Sooty Satyr, Great Banded Grayling, Arran Brown, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Southern Gatekeeper, Small Heath, Dusky Heath, Pearly Heath, Wall Brown, Large Wall Brown, Cinquefoil Skipper, Rosy Grizzled Skipper, Red Underwing Skipper, Marbled Skipper, Lulworth Skipper, Small Skipper = 64


This report has been produced using the free online translator PROMT (see here)

Ce rapport a été produit en utilisant en ligne gratuitement le traducteur PROMT (voir ici)

Species names in French are taken from (see here)

High summer butterflies and other insects in Provence 3: Col de l’Homme Mort, Gorge d’Aulan and Plateau d’Albion – 16 & 17th July

On the third day I moved to a higher elevation, exploring the Col de l’Homme Mort, an upland route (to 1200 m) north from the village of Ferrassières and east of Mont Ventoux (1909 m), the highest peak in Haut Provence. In July as plants and grass dry up at lower altitudes, higher or more sheltered, moister locations are said to be more productive. For the rest of the trip at such higher altitude the large Graylings were supplemented by two more of their genus, Great Sooty and Black Satyr, the first of which was as plentiful. I had seen the former before in Greece but Black Satyr was the 8th trip lifer.

Le troisième jour j’ai bougé à une plus haute élévation, en explorant le Col de l’Homme Mort, une route des hautes terres (à 1200 m) le nord du village de Ferrassières et à l’est de Mont Ventoux (1909 m), le plus haut pic dans Haut Provence. En juillet quand les usines et l’herbe s’assèchent aux altitudes inférieures, plus haut ou on dit que les endroits plus abrités, plus moites sont plus productifs. Pour le reste du voyage à les plus hautes altitudes grand Agrestes a été complété par encore deux de leur genre, Grande et Petite Coronide, dont le premier était aussi abondant. J’avais vu celui-là auparavant en Grèce mais le Petite Coronide était le 8ème voyage lifer (nouveaux papillon pour moi).

black satyr.1901 col de l'homme mort

Black Satyr

These Satyrs are superficially similar in appearance though I found them easy enough to tell apart in the field on jizz. The underside patterning in Black can be variable, but the crucial difference is that it has just one unf ocellus (eye dot) while Great Sooty has two (see here). So these pictures (above and below) I believe are male Black Satyr that I regarded as the second most alluring trip Grayling after Striped on day one.

Ces Coronides sont semblables superficiellement en apparence bien que je les aie trouvés assez faciles à répéter à part dans le champ sur “jizz”. Le dessous modelant dans la Petite peut être variable, mais la différence cruciale est qu’il a juste un unf ocellus (le point d’œil) pendant que la Grande de suie a deux (voir ici). Donc ces dessins (au-dessus et ci-dessous) que je crois sont le Petite Coronide masculin que j’ai considéré comme le deuxième voyage le plus attrayant Agreste après Chevron blanc le jour un.

This butterfly’s main distribution is in the Iberian peninsula while Great Sooty’s is the Balkans and Greece. But the two ranges converge in the far south of France so this was a good opportunity to observe both Satyrs together. They fly in July and August, Black being the less common of the two. I now gained top side pictures of both male and female Great Sooty Satyr for the first time (below, top row). Mating pairs of the latter were also seen often.

La distribution principale de ce papillon est dans la Péninsule ibérique pendant que la Grande est les Balkans et la Grèce. Mais les deux gammes convergent au sud lointain de la France donc c’était une bonne occasion d’observer les deux Satyres ensemble. Ils volent en juillet et août, Petite étant les moins communs des deux. J’ai gagné maintenant des dessins de côté supérieurs tant du Grande Coronide masculin que de femelle pour la première fois (ci-dessous, la rangée du haut). Les paires s’accouplant du dernier ont été aussi souvent vues.

Great Sooty Satyr (above and below)

My first stop on 16th was another Lavender field edge site on the ascent. This was where I first began to notice the Satyrs but there were a number of other pleasing sightings. The underside picture of Meadow Fritillary in the previous post was taken here, and a Weaver’s Fritillary was also seen. The ninth trip lifer Pearly Heath made the first in a number of appearances, and Berger’s Clouded Yellow began to announce themselves. The latter two species offered better picture opportunities elsewhere and so will be featured in due course. Great Banded and Rock Grayling offered more records, while the magnificent Scarce Swallowtail and diminutive Brown Argus also provided pleasing pictures here.

Mon premier arrêt 16ème était un autre site de bord de champ de Lavender sur l’ascension. C’était où j’ai commencé d’abord à remarquer les Coronides mais il y avait un certain nombre d’autres vues agréables. La photo de dessous de Mélitée de la lancéole dans le poste précédent a été prise ici et le Petite Violette a été aussi vu. Le 9ème voyage “lifer” Céphale a fait le premier dans un certain nombre d’apparences et le Fluoré a commencé à s’annoncer. Les deux dernières espèces ont offert de meilleures occasions de dessin ailleurs et seront présentées ainsi en temps voulu. Silène et Rock Grayling a offert plus de dossiers, pendant que le magnifique Flambé et le diminutif Argus Brun ont aussi fourni des dessins agréables ici.

Continuing the ascent I stopped in two more places at the first of which I walked into the forest on one side of the road. The ubiquitous Marbled White continued to frustrate me as I still could not locate the Provence speciality Esper’s that the Greenwings group had recorded here. The regular Melanargia galathea nonetheless displayed a lot of variation in form.

La continuation de l’ascension que j’ai arrêtée dans encore deux endroits au premier desquels j’ai marché dans la forêt sur un côté de la route. Le Demi-deuil omniprésent a continué à m’énerver puisque je ne pouvais pas localiser toujours la spécialité de Provence d’Esper que le groupe de Greenwings avait enregistré ici. Melanargia galathea régulier a affiché néanmoins beaucoup de variation dans la forme.

Collins indeed lists four forms of M galathea. Many observed now were clearly the dark-toned M g procida that I also recorded in Greece last year, while M g leucomelas with creamy white unh wings was also represented. Add to that the browner unh colouring of females and there was indeed much to ponder but no Esper’s, or Iberian Marbled White that also extends into the far south-west of France though maybe not this far east.

Collins énumère effectivement quatre formes de M galathea. Beaucoup observés étaient maintenant clairement le sombrement tonifié M g procida que j’ai aussi enregistré en Grèce l’année dernière, pendant que M g leucomelas avec les ailes unh blanches crémeuses a été aussi représenté. Ajoutez-y la coloration d’unh plus marron de femelles et il y avait effectivement beaucoup pour considérer mais aucun Esper, ou le Iberian qui s’étend aussi dans le sud lointain de la France.

Two more lifers were to be found here. This was a good trip for large Graylings and now I located another, Woodland Grayling as I believe the butterflies pictured below are. That ID is based on the unh pattern that closely matches the illustration in Collins. I had seen the species once before in Greece last year but did not get a satisfactory picture on that occasion. This Grayling ranges widely across southern and central Europe, frequenting forest clearings and edges between June and September.

Encore deux “lifers” devaient être trouvés ici. C’était un bon voyage pour grand Agrestes et maintenant j’ai localisé un autre, Sylvandre comme je crois les papillons sont ci-dessous. Cette carte d’identité est basée sur le dessin unh qui correspond de près à l’illustration dans Collins. J’avais vu les espèces une fois avant en Grèce l’année dernière, mais n’ai pas reçu un dessin satisfaisant dans cette occasion. Ce Agreste varie largement à travers l’Europe centrale et du sud, en fréquentant des clairières de forêt et des bords entre le juin et le septembre.

At the next stop I came across Pearly Heath (pictured below) for the second time. This very widespread European Heath was a butterfly I especially wanted to record on this trip, being common but unseen by myself before now. Like other Heaths it flies in a range of grassy, bushy places and forest clearings, and has a prolonged emergence between May and August.

Lors de l’arrêt suivant j’ai trouvé Céphale (représenté ci-dessous) pour la deuxieme fois. Cette Fadet européenne très répandue était un papillon que j’ai voulu surtout enregistrer sur ce voyage, en étant répandu, mais étant invisible moi-même jusqu’ici. Comme d’autres Fadets il vole dans une gamme d’endroits herbeux, broussailleux et de clairières de forêt et a une apparition prolongée entre le mai et l’août.

The lead picture in the above sequence is one of my favourites from this trip. I always think of Small Heath at home as an easily overlooked though always charming little butterfly, and these new (for me) and more elaborately patterned species are more appealing still. The collage presents all three Heaths from this trip for comparison.

Le premier dessin dans le susdit ordre est un de mes préférés de ce voyage. Je pense toujours à Fadet Commun en Angleterre comme facilement donné bien qu’en charmant toujours peu de papillon et ceux-ci nouveaux (pour moi) et les espèces plus minutieusement modelées sont plus charmants toujours. Le collage présente toutes les trois Fadets de ce voyage pour la comparaison.

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On the descent I made a fourth stop in a more open location and this produced two more interesting sightings. One was the always alluring Ripart’s Anomalous Blue (below right), so now I have experienced that enigma four times in three different countries: Greece, Turkey last month and now France. Outside of Greece, the southern Balkans and regions to the east this butterfly occurs very locally in certain areas of Poland and Spain, and this part of France. So it was another Provence speciality that I was pleased to find again here. The trip’s only Dark Green Fritillary (below left) was also noted in this grassy landscape.

Sur la descente j’ai fait un quatrième arrêt dans un endroit plus ouvert et cela a produit deux vues plus intéressantes. Un était le Sablé provençal toujours attrayant (au-dessous du droit), c’est pourquoi maintenant j’ai connu cette énigme quatre fois dans trois différents pays : la Grèce, la Turquie le mois dernier et maintenant la France. À l’extérieur de la Grèce, les Balkans du sud et les régions à l’est ce papillon se produit très localement dans de certaines régions de la Pologne et l’Espagne et cette partie de la France. Donc c’était une autre spécialité de Provence que j’étais content de trouver de nouveau ici. Seul Grand Nacré du voyage (au-dessous du gauche) a été aussi noté dans ce paysage herbeux.

I now drove on towards Montagne de Bergiés, to the north of the Col above the town of Séderon, but missed the road to the summit. That was a pity because the Greenwings report described good numbers of Apollo and Esper’s Marbled White on Thistles there, as well as Damon Blue; all three of which would have been lifers for me. Instead I drove a circuit via Séderon and the villages of Villefranche-le-Château, Aulan and the very characterful Montbrun-les-Bains, stopping in various places. Not all of the pictures in the sequence (below) are of my required standard but they illustrate these places for future reference.

J’ai conduit maintenant sur vers Montagne de Bergiés, au nord du Col au-dessus de la ville de Séderon, mais ai manqué la route au sommet. C’était une pitié parce que le rapport de Greenwings a décrit de bons nombres d’Apollon et Echiquier d’Esper sur les Chardons là, aussi bien que Sablé du sainfoin; dont tous les trois auraient été “lifers” pour moi. Plutôt j’ai conduit un circuit via Séderon et les villages de Villefranche-le-Château, Aulan et très characterful Montbrun-les-Bains, en m’arrêtant dans les endroits différents.

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I was now finding Grayling of the “regular” species Hipparchia semele that occurs in Great Britain, some of which were larger than average and beautifully fresh. The left hand image (below) is the first I have ever captured of this butterfly with both fore-wing ocelli (black eye spots) raised above the hind-wing. I have spent a lot of time in the field on English heaths waiting for H semele to assume this pose, so a minor ambition had thus been realised.

Je trouvais maintenant Agreste des espèces régulières Hipparchia semele qui se produit en Grande-Bretagne, dont certains étaient plus grands que la moyenne et admirablement frais. L’image de main gauche est la première (ci-dessous) je capturais jamais de ce papillon avec les deux aile antérieure ocelli (les taches d’œil poché) levé au-dessus de l’aile de derrière. J’ai passé beaucoup de temps dans le champ sur les landes anglaises attendant H semele pour supposer cette pose, donc une ambition mineure avait été ainsi rendue compte.

The southward part of this circuit took me through the “route extraordinaire” of Gorges d’Aulan and in the gorge itself I took some dragonfly time-out. I especially wished to re-experience the sombre-toned Western Spectre on this trip for which I do not have satisfactory pictures. There were several of what is a rather ghostly dragonfly at this site but they were all patrolling low over the running water without ever settling. A Common Goldenring was similarly intent on its own tour of duty, but the real poseurs here were Small Pincertail (pictured below).

La partie dirigée au sud de ce circuit m’a pris par la route extraordinaire du Gorges d’Aulan et dans la gorge lui-même j’ai pris un dépassement du temps imparti de libellule. J’ai voulu surtout reconnaître le Western Spectre sombrement tonifié sur ce voyage pour lequel je n’ai pas des dessins satisfaisants. Il y avait plusieurs de ce qui est une libellule assez spectrale sur ce site mais ils tous patrouillaient bas sur l’eau courante sans jamais tassement. Un Common Goldenring était résolu de la même façon sur son propre circuit, mais les frimeurs réels étaient ici Small Pincertail (représenté ci-dessous).

After the female in les Alpilles on day one I now recorded several males that as the day cooled a little in late afternoon would suddenly appear on rocks beside me as I walked along the stream bed. This is the commonest of the European Pincertails, occurring through much of the continent though more locally in the north. It has a long flight season from May to September. The lead picture in the above collage is a classic pose with the abdomen raised. Meanwhile a Zygaena carniolica moth (below left) looked very attractive and tranquil floating in shallow water, though I suspect it might have been half if not completely drowned.

Après la femelle dans les Alpilles le jour un j’ai enregistré maintenant plusieurs mâles que puisque le jour refroidit un peu tard dans l’après-midi apparaîtrait subitement sur les roches à côté de moi quand je me suis promené le long du lit de ruisseau. C’est le plus fréquent de Pincertails européen, se produisant par une grande partie du continent bien que plus localement au nord. Il a une longue saison de vol de mai à septembre. Le premier dessin  dans le susdit collage est une pose classique avec l’abdomen levé. Pendant ce temps une mite de Zygaena carniolica (au-dessous du gauche) a regardé la mise à flot très attrayante et tranquille dans l’eau peu profonde, bien que je pense que cela pourrait avoir été la moitié sinon complètement noyé.

On day four (17th) in the morning I visited le Plateau d’Albion that lies south of the sites described above and due west of my base of Ongles via the scenic Simian-la-Rotunde (above right). This was another location where the Greenwings tour recorded Esper’s Marbled White, but after failing to find it again I concluded this must be a scarce, localised species for which Lafranchis would have known sites to which he took his group. Now I tried to resist the temptation to take more pictures of the ever frequent Melanargia galathea.

Le jour quatre (17ème) le matin j’ai visité le Plateau d’Albion qui ment au sud des sites décrits au-dessus et l’ouest dû de ma base d’Ongles via Simian-la-Rotunde scénique (au-dessus du droit). C’était un autre endroit où le tour de Greenwings a enregistré Echiquier d’Esper, mais après avoir manqué de le trouver de nouveau j’ai conclu que cela doit être une espèce rare, localisée pour laquelle Lafranchis aurait su des sites auxquels il a pris son groupe. Maintenant j’ai essayé de m’opposer à la tentation de prendre plus de photos de Melanargia galathea jamais fréquent.

idas blue.1901 plateau d'albion

Idas Blue (female)

There were two main items of interest in the grassy habitat here. I have identified the above butterfly as Idas Blue, based on the rather striking under-wing marginal pattern. That is bolder than in the similar Reverdin’s Blue which I recorded for the first time in Turkey last month. Idas, which I had also only seen once before, is a very widespread European Blue for which Collins lists six forms across an extensive geographical range. Now I was very pleased to obtain my first under-wing studies.

Il y avait deux articles principaux d’intérêt pour l’habitat herbeux ici. J’ai identifié le susdit papillon comme Azuré du genêt, basé sur le dessin marginal sous l’aile assez frappant. C’est plus audacieux que dans le Azuré des coronilles semblable que j’ai enregistré pour la première fois en Turquie le mois dernier. Idas, que j’avais vu aussi seulement une fois avant, est une Azuré européen très répandu pour lequel Collins énumère six formes à travers une gamme géographique étendue. Maintenant j’étais très content d’obtenir les études sous l’aile.

Up until now I had noticed that Clouded Yellow for this trip had almost always been the brighter Berger’s Clouded Yellow (pictured above) with rich brown wing margins on the top side. Here there were several of them, while the regular CY present were all of the pale Helice form. It was noticeable this week how three of the multi-brooded butterflies that I encounter in southern Europe at any time of year – Clouded Yellow, Wall Brown and Gorganus Swallowtail – were each largely absent; possibly being between broods or simply less frequent at altitude.

Jusqu’ici j’avais remarqué que le Souci pour ce voyage était presque toujours le Fluoré plus lumineux (représenté au-dessus) avec les marges d’aile marron riches sur le côté supérieur. Ici il y avait plusieurs d’entre eux, pendant que le présent de Souci était toute forme de Helice pâle. Il était visible cette semaine comment trois des papillons multibroyés du noir que je rencontre dans l’Europe du sud à tout moment de l’année – Souci, Mégère et Machaon – étaient chacun en grande partie absent ; étant peut-être entre les couvées ou simplement moins fréquent à l’altitude.

In the afternoon I returned to the top of le Col de l’Homme Mort to do justice to a track that led eastward from my third stop of a day earlier (pictured above). The Greenwings report mentioned a forest clearing at 1200 m and a grassy track that kept the group busy all morning, and I reasoned this might be that place. Whether it is or not the location produced a series of very good quality records. The morning had been the least eventful of the trip but now my sense of motivation was fully restored.

L’après-midi j’ai rendu au haut du Col de l’Homme Mort explorer une piste qui a mené vers l’est de mon troisième arrêt d’un jour plus tôt (représenté au-dessus). Le rapport de Greenwings a mentionné une forêt s’éclaircissant à 1200 m et une piste herbeuse qui a occupé le groupe toute la matinée et j’ai soutenu que cela pourrait être cet endroit. S’il est ou pas l’endroit a produit une série de dossiers de très bonne qualité. Le matin avait été le moins plein d’incidents du voyage mais maintenant mon sens de motivation a été restitué.

I had come across Hairstreaks a number of times already on this trip but they had all been so worn as to be difficult to identify. Here, Blue-spot Hairstreak in much better condition (above left) and also Ilex Hairstreak (right) were both readily recognisable. It was my second Blue-spot record this year after one in Turkey in June. The below left picture is an exact match for the illustration in Collins of second brood female Eastern Wood White, and one of my favourite images of this trip.

J’avais trouvé Thécle par hasard maintes fois déjà sur ce voyage mais ils avaient été tous portés de manière à être difficiles à s’identifier. Ici, la Thécla des Nerpruns dans la beaucoup meilleure condition (au-dessus du gauche) et aussi Thécla de l’Yeuse (le droit) était reconnaissable tous les deux sans hésiter. C’était mon deuxième record de Nerpruns cette année après un en Turquie en juin. L’au-dessous du dessin gauche est un match exact pour l’illustration dans Collins de deuxième femelle de couvée Piéride du sainfoin, et une de mes images préférées de ce voyage.

Next I self-found for the second time in my butterfly travels yet another Grayling, The Hermit (above right) nestling in shade to one side of the track. This widespread though uncommon species flies from May through to September in the Iberian peninsula, parts of southern France and Italy, much of south-eastern Europe then through the Anatolian region and as far east as China. My own previous record was in southern Greece last July.

Ensuite j’ai trouvé de soi pour la deuxième fois dans mes voyages de papillon encore un Agreste, l’Hermite (au-dessus du droit) me blottissant dans l’ombre à un côté de la piste. Cela répandu bien que l’espèce rare vole du mai par jusqu’au septembre dans la Péninsule ibérique, les parties de la France du sud et l’Italie, la plupart de l’Europe au sud-est alors par la région anatolienne et aussi de l’Extrême-Orient que la Chine. Mon propre record précédent était dans la Grèce du sud en juillet dernier.

By now I was feeling quite excited about the potential this sunlit woodland track might hold, then my heart leapt on reaching a rising area of clearfell that was brimful of flowering wild plants (above left). But the open aspect in hot sun was a double edged sword as all the teeming butterflies in this place were totally hyperactive. The flower-rich habitat lasted for only around 80 metres before the slope assumed more of a regenerating character (above right).

À ce moment-là je me sentais tout à fait excité du potentiel que cette piste des bois ensoleillée pourrait tenir, alors mon cœur a sauté lors de l’atteinte d’une région montant de “clearfell” qui était débordant de la fleuraison des usines sauvages (au-dessus du gauche). Mais l’aspect ouvert dans le soleil chaud a fait les papillons regorgeant dans cet endroit être complètement hyperactifs. L’habitat riche en la fleur a duré pour seulement environ 80 mètres avant que la pente a supposé plus d’un caractère régénérant (au-dessus du droit).

Pearly Heath (above) was again active along the track out to this point and proved to be just as photogenic as a day earlier. In the clearfell I also took more pictures of Small Heath (right), and Silver-washed Fritillary were also prominent there. Another regular Grayling exhibited the previously noted local trait of raising both black eye spots above the hind wing upon settling, which I was again pleased to record (below left). And the subtle tones of Meleager’s Blue (right) were on show again in this superb place.

Céphale (au dessous) était actif de nouveau le long de la piste à ce point et s’est avéré être aussi photogénique qu’un jour plus tôt. Dans le “clearfell” j’ai aussi pris plus de photos de Fadet Commun (le droit) et Tabac d’Espagne étaient aussi proéminents là. Un autre Agreste régulier a exposé le trait local auparavant noté de levée des deux taches d’œil poché au-dessus de l’aile de derrière après le tassement, que j’étais content de nouveau d’enregistrer (au-dessous du gauche). Et les tons subtils du Azuré de l’orobe (le droit) étaient sur le spectacle de nouveau dans cet endroit superbe.

At a suitable turning point I consulted Google maps on my phone and found I was in an extensive network of tracks that I thought must repay further inspection given the diversity I had encountered on this afternoon. The pattern of this trip had been huge numbers of certain species such as Marbled White and large Graylings, with smaller numbers of other butterflies mixed in and the best sightings in just ones or twos. Perhaps that is typical of anywhere. But given the quality of some of this site’s records I at once felt tempted to return and spend longer here to see what else might be found. That would also allow the little matter of visiting the top of Mt Bergiés to be resolved.

À un tournant convenable j’ai consulté des cartes de Google sur mon téléphone et ai constaté que j’étais dans un réseau étendu de pistes que je croyais doit rembourser l’inspection de plus, étant donné la diversité que j’avais rencontrée cet après-midi. Le dessin de ce voyage avait été des nombres énormes de certaines espèces tels que Demi-deuil et Agrestes grands, avec de plus petits nombres d’autres papillons mélangés dans et les meilleures vues dans les juste ou les deux. Peut-être c’est typique de n’importe où. Mais, étant donné la qualité de certains des dossiers de ce site je me suis senti tenté immédiatement de rendre et passer plus long ici pour voir ce qui pourrait être trouvé. Cela permettrait aussi la petite affaire de visiter le haut de Mt Bergiés à être résolu.

large blue.1901_01 col de l'homme mort

Large Blue

Today there was still to be another notable encounter as I walked back up the track to my car. For the past few years it has been a minor ambition to observe Large Blue somewhere other than at the English tourist traps of Collard Hill and Daneway Banks that I refuse to go to. But more sites where this great British rarity has been re-introduced are kept secret. Now I came across one along this forest track on a mountain side in Haute Provence and that was very satisfying. The species does of course range across much of continental Europe, at altitudes up to 1800 m but is rarely seen in large numbers. What an end to my day this was!

Aujourd’hui il devait y avoir toujours une autre rencontre remarquable quand j’ai marché appuient la piste à ma voiture. Pour ces dernières années cela a été une ambition mineure d’observer Azuré du serpolet quelque part autre qu’aux pièges touristiques anglais de Collard Hill et à Daneway Banks à qui je refuse d’aller. Mais plus de sites où cette grande rareté britannique a été réintroduite sont gardés secrets. Maintenant j’ai trouvé par hasard un le long de cette piste de forêt sur un côté de montagne dans Haute Provence et c’était satisfaisant très. L’espèce varie vraiment évidemment à travers la plupart de l’Europe continentale, aux altitudes jusqu’à 1800 m, mais est rarement vue dans de grands nombres. Quelle fin de mon jour c’était!


This report has been produced using the free online translator PROMT (see here)

Ce rapport a été produit en utilisant en ligne gratuitement le traducteur PROMT (voir ici)

Species names in French are taken from (see here)

High summer butterflies and other insects in Provence 2: Ongles, Banon and Reillanne area – 15th July

In planning this trip I marked the places visited by the Greenwings group on a 1/200 000 Michelin regional France map 527 (see here), then looked for suitable accommodation. At the centre of the several sites was the excellent Le Mas des Ferrayes in the village of Ongles. This charming, family run guest house was my base for the next four days and offered an entirely suitable ambience  – rural, quiet and with basic self catering facilities – for my solo expedition.

Dans la planification de ce voyage j’ai marqué les endroits visités par le groupe de Greenwings sur un 1/200 000 Michelin la carte 527 de la France régionale, a cherché ensuite le logement convenable. Au centre de plusieurs sites était Le Mas des Ferrayes excellent dans le village d’Ongles. Cela charmant, la famille court la maison d’invités était ma base depuis les quatre jours suivants et a offert une ambiance entièrement convenable – rural, tranquille et avec le fondamental moi l’équipement de restauration – pour mon expédition de solo.


Marbled White, Rock Grayling and friend

There are a lot of Lavender fields in Provence that host countless butterflies. Given the dryness of more natural habitat at this time of year, this is a massive nectar source and the plots of lilac plants attract pollinators in their thousands. My first such experience was along the road from Ongles to the nearby town of St-Étienne-les-Orgues, beside a gully that was mentioned in the Greenwings report. I spent the morning there and this site produced three more lifers.

Il y a beaucoup de champs de Lavender dans Provence qui accueillent des papillons innombrables. Étant donné la sécheresse d’habitat plus naturel à cette période de l’année, c’est une source de nectar massive et les complots d’usines lilas attirent des pollinisateurs dans des leurs milliers. Mon premier une telle expérience est arrivée la route d’Ongles à la ville proche de St. Étienne les Orgues, dans un ravin de regard de promesse qui a été mentionné dans le rapport de Greenwings. J’ai passé le matin là et ce site a produit encore trois lifers (nouveaux papilllons pour moi).

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I have identified the left-hand butterfly (below) as Meadow Fritillary, based on the number 80 marking near the top edge of the fore-wing that matches a picture in the Greenwings report. This is a widespread Fritillary of France and the Iberian peninsula that I had read about when researching previous trips but had yet to encounter. So this record is very welcome. It flies in June and July at higher altitudes, and either side of those months in lower habitats. This is one of a number of similar species occurring in the south of France, so for full detail see here. The underside study (right) was gained a day later in another location.

J’ai identifié le papillon à gauche (ci-dessous) comme Mélitée de la lancéole, basée sur le numéro 80 me tachant près du bord supérieur de l’aile antérieure qui correspond à un dessin dans le rapport de Greenwings. C’est Mélitée répandu de la France et de la Péninsule ibérique dont j’avais lu en explorant des voyages précédents, mais devais encore rencontrer. Donc ce record est très bienvenu. Il vole en juin et juillet à de plus hautes altitudes et à n’importe quel côté de ces mois dans les habitats inférieurs. C’est une d’un certain nombre d’espèces semblables se produisant au sud de la France, donc pour le plein détail voir ici. L’étude de dessous (le droit) a été gagnée un jour plus tard dans un autre endroit.

The next item (above) I believe is a Marbled Skipper (see here), of which there are three separate species in Provence. This to me looks most like the palest of them, regular MS that has highly contrasting black, white and rich or pale brown upper-side markings. Though widespread it is seldom numerous, flying in rocky, grassy places from May to July.

L’article suivant (au-dessus) je crois est un Hespérie de l’épiaire (voir ici), dont il y a trois espèces séparées dans Provence. Cela à moi ressemble le plus au plus pâle d’entre eux, qui a hautement l’opposition les marquages de côté supérieur noirs, blancs et riches ou marron pâle. Bien que répandu ce soit nombreux rarement, en volant dans les endroits rocheux, herbeux de mai à juillet.

The intricately marked Dusky Heath (above) was one of two new Heath targets for this trip, the other being Pearly. Dusky is the more localised of the two, being limited to the far south of France and the Iberian peninsula, and so is another Provence speciality. This attractive little butterfly is on the wing from June to August, also sharing its space with the familiar Small Heath that I came across quite often this week.

Fadet des garrigues de façon complexe marqué était (au-dessus) une de deux nouvelles cibles de Fadet pour ce voyage, l’autre étant Pearly. Dusky est les plus localisés de deux, étant limité au sud lointain de la France et de la Péninsule ibérique et une autre spécialité de Provence aussi. Ce petit papillon attrayant est sur l’aile de juin à août, en partageant aussi son espace avec Fadet commun familier que j’ai trouvé par hasard tout à fait souvent cette semaine.

Common Blue and the similar Chapman’s Blue (see here) were both to be found amongst the Lavender. I usually distinguish the latter (above) by it’s brighter orange sub-marginal spots, bold black wing borders and the prominent white mark near the unh margin. This is a common and widespread Blue across southern Europe that I had observed previously in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. Its two annual broods fly from April through to August. The top right picture is my first record of a female.

Azuré commun et l’Azuré de Chapman semblable (voir ici) devaient les deux être trouvés parmi la Lavande. Je distingue d’habitude le dernier (au-dessus) par cela sont des taches sousmarginales orange plus vif, des frontières d’aile noires audacieuses et la marque blanche proéminente près de la marge unh. C’est un Azure commun et répandu à travers l’Europe du sud que j’avais observée auparavant en Grèce, Turquie et Chypre. Ses deux couvées annuelles volent de l’avril par jusqu’à l’août. Le bon dessin supérieur est mon premier d’une femelle.

I even attempted flight studies of Hummingbird Hawkmoth (above) at this excellent little site. That is never an easy task and though nothing special the above are the best results I have gained. After lunch back at base I stopped at a bigger Lavender field along the road from Ongles to Banon. As in the morning the predominant butterflies were Great Banded and Rock Grayling, Marbled White and Scarce Swallowtail that were all present in great numbers. The third of those belied its name by being this trip’s default Swallowtail while the continental gorganus species was largely absent throughout. Here (below) are my better pictures of a truly spectacular butterfly.

J’ai même essayé des études de vol de Moro-Sphinx (au-dessus) sur ce petit site excellent. Ce n’est jamais une tâche facile et bien que rien de spécial le susdit est les meilleurs résultats que j’ai gagnés. Après le déjeuner en arrière à la base je me suis arrêté à un plus grand champ de Lavender le long de la route d’Ongles à Banon. Puisque le matin les papillons prédominants étaient Silène et Rock Grayling, Demi-deuil et Flambé qui étaient tout le présent dans de grands nombres. Le troisième de ceux a démenti son nom étant le Machaon implicite de ce voyage pendant que l’espèce gorganus continentale était en grande partie absente partout dans. Ici sont (ci-dessous) mes meilleurs dessins d’un papillon vraiment spectaculaire.

A year ago in Grece I had been excited to encounter the dark and handsome Great Banded Grayling (pictured below) for the first time. Here they were so frequent everywhere I went that before the end of the trip familiarity had bred contempt in an: “Oh no not more of them,” sense. The to my mind more attractive Rock Grayling was as numerous and the Lavender fields simply teemed with both species, all dancing on the swaying flower stems and making it as difficult as possible to take decent pictures of them.

Il y a une année en Grèce j’avais été excité pour rencontrer le Silène sombre et beau (représenté ci-dessous) pour la première fois. Ici ils étaient si fréquents partout je suis allé qu’avant la fin de la familiarité de voyage avait produit le mépris dans un : « Oh pas pas plus d’entre eux », sens. Rock Grayling à mon avis plus attrayant était aussi nombreux et les champs de Lavender ont regorgé simplement tant des espèces, tout dansant sur la fleur oscillante provient que les faisant aussi difficile que possible à prendre des photos d’eux.

These large Graylings seemed to exhibit a natural curiosity about the interloper in their midst, often flying around my head as if examining me before settling on my shirt sleeves or trousers (below, right). Great Banded is widespread and common right across central and southern Europe, while Rock has a more patchy distribution including parts of Spain, France and Italy. Both are in flight from June to September.

Ceux-ci grand Agrestes ont semblé exposer une curiosité naturelle de l’intrus dans leur milieu, en volant souvent autour de ma tête comme si en m’examinant avant de léguer à mes manches de chemise ou pantalon (ci-dessous, le droit). Silène est répandu et le droit commun à travers l’Europe centrale et du sud, pendant que Rock a une distribution plus inégale en incluant des parties de l’Espagne, la France et l’Italie. Tous les deux sont dans le vol de juin à septembre.

Meanwhile the even more prolific Marbled White left me studiously alone. I took dozens of pictures of these hoping to capture the Provence speciality Esper’s MW that the Greenwings group recorded at an undisclosed site near Reillanne. But on reviewing my results they were all the regular Melenargia galathea species that is a commonplace butterfly in summer at home.

Pendant ce temps le Demi-deuil encore plus prolifique m’a quitté délibérément seul. J’ai pris des dizaines de dessins de ceux-ci espérant capturer l’Echiquier d’Esper de spécialité de Provence que le groupe de Greenwings a enregistrées sur un site non révélé près de Reillanne. Mais lors de l’examen de mes résultats ils étaient toute l’espèce de Melenargia galathea régulière qui est un papillon ordinaire en été dans Angleterre.

At the second site, to avoid walking into the sun through the rows of Lavender I made a circuit of the field edge and soon realised some more unusual butterflies might be found there. My best sightings now were male and female Meleager’s Blue, a butterfly I had observed before only in Greece a year ago. This was my first record of a female with the darkly scalloped hind-wings (top row, below). Once I got the sun behind me she closed her wings and kept them closed, revealing the pale brown under-side colouring. The white onion shaped mark at the unh centre and the bigger white mark to it’s right are distinctive.

Sur le deuxième site, pour éviter de marcher dans le soleil par les rangs de Lavande j’ai fait un circuit du bord de terrain et me suis rendu compte bientôt que certains papillons plus inhabituels pourraient être trouvés là. Mes meilleures vues étaient maintenant le mâle et la femelle Azuré de l’orobe, un papillon que j’avais observé seulement auparavant en Grèce il y a une année. C’était mon premier record d’une femelle avec les ailes de derrière sombrement festonnées (la rangée du haut, ci-dessous). Dès que j’ai reçu le soleil derrière moi elle a fermé ses ailes et les a gardés fermés, en révélant la coloration de dessous marron pâle. La marque à la forme à l’oignon blanche à l’unh centre et la plus grande marque blanche à cela est juste sont distinctifs.

A little later out in the Lavender I came across the subtly-toned male (above), admiring that quality here as I had in Greece. He also has the white onion shaped mark at the unh centre. Meleager’s main range is in the Balkans and countries to the north, and also through Anatolia and the Middle East. But it may also be found in parts of Italy, the far south of France and Spain. The flight period is mid-June to August.

Un peu plus tard dans la Lavande j’ai trouvé le mâle subtilement tonifié par hasard (au-dessus), en admirant cette qualité ici comme j’avais en Grèce. Il a aussi la marque à la forme à l’oignon blanche au centre d’unh. La gamme principale de l’orobeest aux Balkans et aux pays au nord et aussi par Anatolia et le Moyen-Orient. Mais il peut aussi être trouvé dans les parties de l’Italie, le sud lointain de la France et de l’Espagne. La période de vol est la mi-juin jusqu’à l’août.

A Sooty Copper (above) here co-operated for the camera nicely, while a Small Copper (far right) did its best to emulate that dusky cousin’s pose. I also came across two more Skippers here, one of which was the seventh trip lifer. Cinquefoil Skipper as I have identified the left hand record (below) displayed a distinct bluish tone to the body.

Un Cuivré fuligineux (au-dessus) a coopéré ici pour l’appareil photo gentiment, pendant qu’un Cuivré commun (le droit lointain) a fait tout le possible pour imiter la pose de ce cousin sombre. J’ai aussi trouvé par hasard encore deux Skippers ici, dont un était le septième voyage “lifer”. L’Hespérie des cirses puisque j’ai identifié le record de main gauche a affiché (ci-dessous) un ton bleuté distinct au corps.

My picture matches one in the Greenwings report. Another of the Pyrgus genus, my 2008 edition of Collins lists it (P cirsii) as a sub-species of Carline Skipper so it must have been separated since then. For further detail see here. The tiny Red Underwing Skipper (above right) was rather more familiar, being a species I have observed previously in southern Portugal and les Cévennes.

Mon dessin s’accorde un dans le rapport de Greenwings. Un autre du genre Pyrgus, mon édition de 2008 de Collins l’énumère (P cirsii) comme une sous-espèce de Hespérie de la carline donc il doit avoir été séparé depuis lors. Car plus de détails voir ici. Le très petit Hespérie des sanguisorbes (au-dessus du droit) était plus familier plutôt, étant une espèce que j’ai observée auparavant dans le Portugal du sud et les Cévennes.

Common and Chapman’s Blues (above) / Rock and Great Banded Grayling (below)

After leaving this site I drove on to Banon then south to Reillanne, stopping in promising looking places but finding nothing more that was new. The large Graylings and Marbled Whites continued to dominate and I have included some more familiar butterflies in the above sequences. This had been a simply wonderful day.

Après avoir quitté ce site j’ai conduit sur Banon alors le sud à Reillanne, m’arrêtant dans la promesse des endroits regardants mais la conclusion de rien plus qui était nouveau. Grand Agrestes et Demi-deuis ont continué à dominer et j’ai inclus certains papillons plus familiers dans les susdits ordres. Cela avait été un simplement magnifique jour.


This report has been produced using the free online translator PROMT (see here)

Ce rapport a été produit en utilisant en ligne gratuitement le traducteur PROMT (voir ici)

Species names in French are taken from (see here)