Yesterday I returned (driving through a snow storm near Langres/France) from a two week vacation in the Provence. Again I found a nature walhalla at the end of the world (actually a long hill). The accommodation felt like paradise with a unique view and the 3ha property was covered with thyme, rosemary and lavender......ideal for butterflies!
Unfortunately, again the temperatures were disappointing low in the Provence and with them the amount of (emerged) butterflies. An other frustrating issue was the strong (almost stormy) wind during my stay.
But, I will not complain as I enjoyed this paradise, the silence and the butterflies I found. On the first day I found a freshly emerged Scarce Swallowtail and on my last day during my last tour in the afternoon I found a big surprise.....a Spanish Festoon which was very cooperative!
If there is one butterfly species which I often met during my holidays abroard but who is very difficult to photograph than it is the Pearl-bordered Fritillary. I remember a holiday in the Black Forest in 1994 where I did my very best to catch them on Blue Bugle (Ajuga reptans) and in the end I had only one or two 'proof' photos. Last year in the Cevennes I only looked at this species when he came flying by. In contrast to his 'brother' the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary this species is not resting/sleeping on flowers but hides on higher places in bushes. Once he is awake he is a quick and powerful flyer and always in motion....except some minutes a few weeks ago in France.
The sun came out after a rain shower and the air was fresh when I discovered him.....the Pearl-bordered Fritillary.....he needed to warm up in the sun. For some minutes he was very cooperative before he chooses the higher bushes again.
Although my holidays in the Provence are behind, last Friday I was in France again with a pleasant reason.....to buy my own Nature Walhalla in France. Years of dreaming came to an end.
After the signature session at the notary, together with the sellers I visited 'my' house again and recieved a lot of information about the house and the nature encounters they had around the house. The sellers had deliverd clay for building a breeding place for the kingfisher high enough to keep the present grass snakes out of the nest. Next to butterflies, big fishes, frogs, toads and deers I also have snakes, dormouses and kingfishers!
The handover of the keys will be in six to eight weeks and then my new adventure will start....to create (a lot of jobs needs to be done first) my own pleasant nature walhalla.
Back to the Provence....these two Marsh Fritillaries liked each other very much and on this image the differences between male and female are clearly visible. The right one is bigger and the left one is more furry......the left one is the female and the one with the sexy chest hair is the male.
Near the access route of accommodation in the Provence I discovered a meadow full of all kind of fritillaries.....after 20 Marsh Fritillaries I stopped counting them as much more were sitting there on the flowers.
This will probably my last blog written in France and I’m already sad that I have to leave in two days. Starting every day with butterflies then coffee with a croissant followed by visiting a market or a vide de grenier then a good lunch with French cheese followed by reading a book or looking/searching for butterflies…..I could live that life so much longer!
Although the temperatures were (still are) disappointing low (I’m wearing my winter coat) I found beautiful butterflies and other creatures. After years I managed it to photograph the Pearl-bordered Fritillary and yesterday morning I found this beauty…..probably recently emerged as I found a lot of damaged Honeysuckle leaves. Yesterday evening I found a lot of resting butterflies and a couple mating Marsh Fritillaries….this place is like a neverending story.
Every evening I make a tour through the wild meadows to search for resting butterflies which I can ‘catch’ the next morning. In the broom I found a resting blue species and when I came closer to look which species I found, I noticed that something in the broom was moving….it was a praying mantis. Very quickly I went back to the accommodation to took my camera as the last sunlight coloured the background. The mantis was hard to catch as he was not amused that I had found him and behaved like he has a hyperactive disorder. He was climbing/changing his position quicker than I was able to change the position of my lens….from sitting up to hanging upside down and everything in between without lose sight of me and my camera.
Today it’s King’s Day in the Netherlands, a day with many special events in public spaces to celebrate the birthday of the King. Every year the King is visiting towns and cities on his birthday, this year ‘the honour’ goes to Tilburg and my thoughts goes to all my colleagues who are working today!
Today it’s also the birthday of a friend who likes butterflies as much as I do….I did my very best to find a Provence Orange-tip but unfortunately, I only saw one ‘common’ Orange-tip. Instead of the yellow one I post the most orange one and wish you all a happy King’s & Birth Day!
Last Saturday evening I arrived to the south of France and during my first inspection of one of the wild meadows, I found a resting Green-underside Blue….what a nice species to start the holiday with! The next day I found out that I was arrived in Nature Walhalla. First, it turned out that the Green-underside Blue is a very common butterfly here. Secondly, I met a wild turtle….actually she scared me when I heard her between the foliage….never met a wild land turtle before. Thirdly, a lot of tree frogs are living near the accommodation and every evening they are giving a concert. Fourthly, some little snakes are living around the accommodation too. Fifthly….in two days’time I photographed so many butterflies that I can’t choose one for this blog so I post one of the two snakes I found on day one.
A lot of fennel was growing in the meadows of the accomodation in France and with a lot I mean hundreds of plants. So it was no surprise that the Swallowtail was a regular visitor and that the females were laying eggs. But when I liked to photograph an egg a few days later the egg was gone; instead I found some fat ants. I watched this proces, called nature, some days and decided to intervene. I took some fennel with yellow eggs and put it outside in the window-sill of the accomodation. Afer a few day, more by accident, I noticed a little dark spot and after I found my glasses I noticed that the dark spot was a hatching egg. With my MP-E 65 mm I could follow the birth but there was too much wind outside to photograph this proces. After the birth this tiny little caterpillar started to eat the egg shell and inbetween he took a break....time for me to make some photos. Ever tried to photograph something with a longer shuttertime on a fennel leaf?
The leaves of fennel are always in motion. After some photos I relooked them in the screen of my camera and could see that the tiny caterpillar started in the choosen (higher) position and after some shots he was that low that I needed to change again the compositon. Fortunately I had enough time that day to repeat that proces again and again and again. I'm happy that I can add this young caterpillar (5:1 magnification) to my personal Swallowtail image collecion.
Every morning when I entered the wild meadow, I had to see what becomes of it overnight.…do I see Mikado sticks or not (see my earlier blogs from the 11th and 8th of May). Sometimes when the sticks were all gone, I was curious what was going on at night….how many foxes were living in that meadow and how do they pulled the sticks out (the last days I pushed them in very fast/deep)…..or did they simply like the Mikado game?
As I have plans to return next year I will invest in one or two webcams as I’m thrilled to find out how many animals are living (or crossing) that meadow during the night.
The last evening I found some Adonis Blue butterflies and marked them, not too close to the butterflies in case the fox(es) will carry the stick in his mouth. Unfortunately the last thing happened, the sticks were gone including butterflies. I found one butterfly back under this pink orchid and put him very carefully on it and waited for the sun. In a dry area without dew it will not take long before butterflies will open their wings….fortunately this Adonis Blue was a fresh guy and he accepted for a long time without moving that I created some shadow over him with my hand and used my flash.
With this photo on my CF-card I said goodbye to France, fortunately only for some weeks as in June I will return together with the ‘Palinka’ club to the Cévennes.
On my way to the south of France it was cold and until Valence it was raining non-stop, after I passed Valence the temperature was rising and the sky turned from grey into blue. When I left the highway I noticed that not a single butterfly was flying near the road. After arrival I inspected the wild meadow of the accommodation and indeed….not a single resting butterfly (except some Small Heaths). The variety of plants and flowers were the same as usual so I guess that most of the butterflies were not emerged yet. Fortunately the sun was shining and from the second evening I found some butterflies; still low numbers and countable on one hand. But, finding them back was this year a new kind of adventure and brain training for me.
Since years I use big Mikado sticks to mark (vertical) resting butterflies, orchids or other interesting things and that trick worked well….until this year. None of my sticks were visible anymore and after a while I found the first stick back in the grass with biting marks of a fox in it. The next morning the same thing had happened again….all my Mikado sticks were disappeared in the grass and not visible anymore and it costs me more time to find the resting butterfly back. That evening I put some dog cookie in front of every Mikado stick and was very happy to find out that this worked, the cookie was gone and the stick was intact and visible. For the foxes that trick worked very well for some days but then the wild boars came….the cookie was gone including everything what was growing/resting/available within a square metre around the cookie. End of the cookie story!
The morning that I was lying in the grass waiting for the sun for the image below I heard them coming....mother wild boar with 6 or 7 youngsters (which were almost fully grown). I counted their footsteps and waited curiously where they planned to enter ‘my’ meadow….and suddenly there she was, a few metres in front of me, her head and front legs appears between some low bushes. I doubted what to do but decided to chase her away with a loud ‘boooooooaaaaa’. Fortunately she understood my call and disappeared together with her offspring. Quietness returned and some minutes later when the sun gave the dry grass in the background a warm colour, I photographed this Chequered Blue!
Jibt dir dit Leben mal een Buff, denn weene keene Träne. Lach Dir'n Ast und setz Dir druff und baumle mit de Beene.