Marseilles and South of France 2018

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Chris Jackson
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Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Chris Jackson » Thu Jan 04, 2018 1:00 pm

04 January

Winds from the south west and probably crossing from Spain are keeping temperatures moderate for a few days. This lunchtime at work I saw my first Red Admiral of the year - nothing too surprising:
atalanta34 Vitrolles olive grove 04Jan17.JPG

With a lo of 10°C and a hi of 18°C today I was wondering whether any Large Tortoiseshells would be duped into leaving hibernation, but I didn't see any in an otherwise guaranteed spot.
I found a Two-tailed Pasha caterpillar on a Strawberry Tree which is growing back after wildfires 18 months ago. A good sign that nature is taking over again:
jasius - caterpillar Vitrolles olive grove 04Jan17.JPG

Here, the Strawberry Tree rising from its roots:
context - Vitrolles olive grove 04Jan17 (1).JPG

All this down in the olive grove in its winter slumber, close to my workplace:
context - Vitrolles olive grove 04Jan17 (2).JPG

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Charles Nicol
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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Charles Nicol » Thu Jan 04, 2018 4:59 pm

Nature is an unstoppable force !
Great to see things are heading in the right direction.

8)

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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Padfield » Thu Jan 04, 2018 6:56 pm

I'm very happy Nature is reclaiming the burnt ground, Chris - I knew she would.

No chance of any butterflies here in Switzerland, where snow, rain and violent winds have dominated the new year! I flew back last night and have never been so thrown around in a plane - people were reaching for the sick bags all over. Lovely to see your red admiral and a plump, green pasha caterpillar.

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David M
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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby David M » Fri Jan 05, 2018 9:17 pm

Great to see you're off the mark where adult butterflies are concerned, Chris, and perhaps even greater that new vegetation is colonising this previous disaster zone and with this vegetation you are also encountering early stages such as TTP.

Keep us updated please!

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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Chris Jackson » Sun Jan 28, 2018 4:18 pm

28th January

Thank you Charles, Guy and David.

Today temperatures in the Marseilles area reached 14°C, with blue skies, sun and, importantly, no chill wind.
I had a gut feeling that some of our hibernators could well be putting in an appearance (apart from the more or less ever present Red Admiral, of course).
I checked out 3 known spots for hibernators. I was expecting either Nettle-tree Butterfly, The Comma or Large Tortoiseshell, and it was the latter I saw.
So species #3 of 2018 = Large Tortoiseshell:
polychloros30 St Marcel 28Jan18 (2).JPG

polychloros30 St Marcel 28Jan18 (1).JPG

Context - it was here
context - polychloros30 St Marcel 28Jan18 a.JPG

And in close proximity I checked up on one of my Two-Tailed Pasha caterpillars and found a second one on the same Strawberry Tree, so this makes a total of 4 TTP caterpillars alive and kicking on my books this year.
1st caterpillar
jasius - caterpillar4 St Marcel 28Jan18.JPG

2nd caterpillar
jasius - caterpillar3 St Marcel 28Jan18.JPG

Context - both in this Strawberry Tree
context - jasius - caterpillar St Marcel 28Jan18 a.JPG

Flowers of the Strawberry Tree
arbousier St Marcel 28Jan18.JPG

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David M
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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby David M » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:47 pm

Most envious am I of that Large Tortoiseshell, Chris. Perhaps when I'm approaching my final days this species will once again be considered a UK resident.

Maybe more impressive is your ability to locate TTP larvae. Is this simply a question of finding the right plant growing in an advantageous location?

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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Chris Jackson » Mon Jan 29, 2018 7:27 am

David M wrote: ... your ability to locate TTP larvae .... simply a question of finding the right plant growing in an advantageous location?


Hi David,
Wherever there are Strawberry Trees within the TTP domain it is worth having a glance to see what's there.
Joe public walking by with blinkers on has got no chance of spotting anything - the cats are to a certain extent, camouflaged.
You could even say that the cats are hiding in full view :wink: .
First you learn what a Strawberry Tree looks like, with and without its flowers or fruit.
You simply look on the sunny side of the tree, anywhere between knee height and head height, on top of a leaf usually angled towards the sun.
Once you have spotted your first TTP caterpillar, it just then becomes a game - a treasure hunt.
If you are accompanied by someone, they are usually suitably impressed at your apparent superior powers of observation, whereas, once you've got your eye in, its a piece of cake really.
Chris
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Charles Nicol
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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Charles Nicol » Mon Jan 29, 2018 3:52 pm

We have a Strawberry Tree in the back garden here in sunny Cambridgeshire.... no TTP caterpillars yet :shock:

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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby bugboy » Mon Jan 29, 2018 6:05 pm

Charles Nicol wrote:We have a Strawberry Tree in the back garden here in sunny Cambridgeshire.... no TTP caterpillars yet :shock:


We have a few growing at work, no TTP here either :(
Some addictions are good for the soul!

Chris Jackson
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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Chris Jackson » Mon Jan 29, 2018 8:30 pm

Well, David, Charles and Bugboy, next time you're in Marseilles I'll give you a demonstration on how to locate TTP cats !!
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David M
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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby David M » Mon Jan 29, 2018 8:55 pm

Chris Jackson wrote:Hi David,
Wherever there are Strawberry Trees within the TTP domain it is worth having a glance to see what's there.
Joe public walking by with blinkers on has got no chance of spotting anything - the cats are to a certain extent, camouflaged.
You could even say that the cats are hiding in full view :wink: .
First you learn what a Strawberry Tree looks like, with and without its flowers or fruit.
You simply look on the sunny side of the tree, anywhere between knee height and head height, on top of a leaf usually angled towards the sun.
Once you have spotted your first TTP caterpillar, it just then becomes a game - a treasure hunt.
If you are accompanied by someone, they are usually suitably impressed at your apparent superior powers of observation, whereas, once you've got your eye in, its a piece of cake really.


Thanks for that, Chris. This is a butterfly that continues to elude me, and having had sight of your images I'm sure I'll be better placed to identify Strawberry Trees going forward.

Ideally, I'd like to find a spot in the Pyrenees in late May, as this period is within TTP's first emergence, and Europe's largest butterfly would clearly be worth doing a detour for!

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Charles Nicol
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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Charles Nicol » Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:30 pm

David M wrote:
Chris Jackson wrote:
Thanks for that, Chris. This is a butterfly that continues to elude me, and having had sight of your images I'm sure I'll be better placed to identify Strawberry Trees going forward.

Ideally, I'd like to find a spot in the Pyrenees in late May, as this period is within TTP's first emergence, and Europe's largest butterfly would clearly be worth doing a detour for!


here is a pic of the distinctive fruit ...

36496386750_7802463b75_h.jpg

Chris Jackson
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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Chris Jackson » Sat Feb 10, 2018 4:35 pm

10 February, South of France

Merci pour la photo Charles.

Today in the South of France the temperature rose to 10°C and at midday this was enough to bring out a Large Tortoiseshell.
polychloros31 La Barrasse 10Feb18.JPG

It warmed itself briefly on this pile of scree:
context1 - polychloros La Barrasse 10Feb18.JPG

View from a little further along the same valley on the outskirts of Marseilles.
context2 - polychloros La Barrasse 10Feb18.JPG

My Two-tailed Pasha cats are still OK, and nothing but the slow march of time is keeping us from the first new butterfly season arrivals.
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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby David M » Sat Feb 10, 2018 8:23 pm

Only 10c in Marseilles, Chris? Are you having an abnormally cold start to spring?

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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Chris Jackson » Wed Feb 14, 2018 12:15 pm

David M wrote:Only 10c in Marseilles, Chris? Are you having an abnormally cold start to spring?


Indeed, David. We are having a chilly spell down south. Hopefully the usual last cold snap before things start warming up.
Next weekend, one year ago, temperatures reached 17°C in Marseilles.

Today there is a chilly breeze with 9°C, but during my lunchbreak I saw a Red Admiral high up on an oak tree, curiously on the shady side, seemingly feeeding on something in a crevice in the bark.

atalanta37 Vitrolles olive grove 14Feb18 (1).JPG

It was up this oak tree
context - atalanta37 Vitrolles olive grove 14Feb18 (2).JPG

Down in the olive grove
context - atalanta37 Vitrolles olive grove 14Feb18 (1).JPG

And this is one of the two Western Dappled Whites that I spotted yesterday on the plateau of Vitrolles, feeding on the early White Rocket.
Year tick # 4
crameri1 Vitrolles scrub 13Feb18 (1).JPG

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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby David M » Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:46 pm

Just a quick question, Chris....do you get Peacocks, Brimstones, Commas and Small Tortoiseshells regularly in your part of southern France?

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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Chris Jackson » Thu Feb 15, 2018 7:04 am

David M wrote:Just a quick question, Chris....do you get Peacocks, Brimstones, Commas and Small Tortoiseshells regularly in your part of southern France?


You have precisely listed those butterflies David that do not fly regularly within a radius of about 30 km around Marseilles.
I have seen a Small Tort vagrant once in Marseilles and once at my workplace in Vitrolles. I do not know where they breed or where their closest habitat is.
I have never seen a Peacock in the whole of my département, Les Bouches du Rhône.
To even hope to see a Brimstone or a QoS, I have to travel 30 km + and go up to 650 m altitude.
However, to see a Comma, I know of 2 places near Marseille where I have a very slim chance of a sighting, and that should be in a couple of weeks - fingers crossed.

A strange phenomenon indeed. Pollution perhaps ?

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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Chris Jackson » Fri Feb 16, 2018 1:07 pm

Friday 16 February, South of France

Today the temperatures rose to 14 or 15°C and made for a fruitful lunch break considering it is mid February.
Up on the plateau of Vitrolles I confirmed the presence of Western Dappled White (an improvement on my photos from a couple of days ago) :
crameri27 Vitrolles scrub 16Feb18 (7a).JPG

crameri27 Vitrolles scrub 16Feb18 (5a).JPG

Context, plateau of Vitrolles :
context - crameri27 Vitrolles scrub 16Feb18.JPG

Then down in the olive grove, considering the date and the temperature, I saw my first Large Tort on my work patch. I should have bet money on this sighting:
polychloros32 Vitrolles olive grove 16Feb18.JPG

it was sunning itself at the foot of these oak trees.
Generation after generation, year after year, they do the same things in the same places on the same dates at the same temperatures.
context - polychloros32 Vitrolles olive grove 16Feb18.JPG

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Charles Nicol
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Re: Marseilles and South of France 2018

Postby Charles Nicol » Sat Feb 17, 2018 12:17 pm

Très jolis papillons !

8)

Look forward to the unfolding of your French spring

CN


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