Butterflies of Var, Southern France

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Matsukaze
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Matsukaze » Wed May 17, 2017 9:38 pm

Can anyone please identify the caterpillar? It looks to me like it might be one of the smaller fritillaries.
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Common Blue male

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Wall Brown male

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Matsukaze
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Matsukaze » Wed May 17, 2017 9:42 pm

The first few days were cold and mostly cloudy and wet, but the sunny intervals brought out the butterflies.

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Scarce Swallowtail is always a delight to see

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Pearl-bordered Fritillaries were out in good numbers

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Spotted Fritillary

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Red-underside Skipper

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Spotted Fritillary male

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Matsukaze
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Matsukaze » Thu Jun 01, 2017 10:31 pm

On the first really sunny day, a walk into the hills revealed an incredible abundance of alciphron, a real gem of a butterfly and a lycaenid of considerable character; a much larger Small Copper, equally pugnacioius, only faster and seemingly more effortless in its flight. Like its smaller brethren the males are given to chasing each other in figure-of-eight loops for long periods, only alciphron's loops cover about double the area, in probably much the same time.

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Female Lycaena alciphron

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Male Lycaena alciphron


Later in the holiday I managed to film them courting.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxnsI2VIeqg

Spanish Festoons occurred in the same general area, rocky with very sparse grassland surrounded by scrub; quite a contrast with southern Spain where I have seen the species more often, where it prefers denser vegetation in more wooded places. It has always before struck me as a sort of Spanish equivalent of the Small Tortoiseshell.

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Chequered and Baton Blues were also about in reasonable numbers.

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Finally, is this a Black-eyed Blue?

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Chris Jackson
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Chris Jackson » Sat Jun 03, 2017 7:10 pm

Hi Matsukaze,
I'll go with Black-eyed Blue female due to the underside grey marginal markings and wide upperside border.
Chris
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Matsukaze
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Matsukaze » Sun Jun 04, 2017 10:08 pm

Thanks Chris - I had thought as much but this seems a species with very variable amounts of blue on the upperside, which admittedly is not that unusual amongst female blues.

More to follow soon when I get round to reviewing the photos.

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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Padfield » Mon Jun 05, 2017 11:20 am

Hi Matsukaze. I think your caterpillar is a feathered footman, Coscinia striata. It's definitely one of the Arctiidae.

http://www.pyrgus.de/Spiris_striata_en.html

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Matsukaze
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Matsukaze » Tue Jun 06, 2017 7:56 pm

Thanks Guy - strange how the adult moth is so much smaller than a fritillary when the larva is about the same size.

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Matsukaze
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Matsukaze » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:26 pm

I've let getting the photos sorted out slip - can anyone help with these small fritillary IDs from the first half of May?

1. Two photos of the same individual, in a woodland/recently felled site:

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2. A different individual from the same site - smaller as I remember it:

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3. From a rocky location strewn with thyme bushes - a Glanville Fritillary?

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4. From the same location - possibly the same insect as (3), there were a few of them playing chase:

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5. Again from the same site:

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6. At a grassy, flower-rich road verge with light woodland nearby:

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Matsukaze
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Matsukaze » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:40 pm

Pyrgus - 3 separate individuals - I think they are all malvae. Apologies for the poor photos and the absolute refusal of the butterflies to cooperate and provide underside photos. Is there a trick to this?:

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Erebia - the only species I had ever seen before this trip was, bizarrely, epistygne. We went up to a known haunt of its, to find it virtually devoid of butterflies. My wife retired to the car whilst I continued to prowl the barren land, running up a species list of Wall, Small Heath and Painted Lady, before returning to be greeted by "is this it?"

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Downslope we found a differently-marked, much fresher Erebia - de Prunner's?

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Finally, can anyone put a name to this tiny but very pretty moth? It reminds me of the rare UK species Anania funebris, but doesn't look quite the same.

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CFB
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby CFB » Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:51 am

Hello Matsukaze

A few years ago I saw a very similar moth, and I also would like to know what it is.

IMG_8243.JPG

Regards,
Colin

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Mikhail
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Mikhail » Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:09 am

There are two very similar species in the family Crambidae:Eurrhypis pollinalis and E.guttulalis. I'm not sure how to separate them.

M.

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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Wurzel » Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:15 pm

I reckon 3,4 and 5 are Glanvilles as on their hind wing there are the markings which are 'a box with a circle in it'.

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby CFB » Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:16 pm

Mikhail wrote:There are two very similar species in the family Crambidae:Eurrhypis pollinalis and E.guttulalis

Thanks Mikhail.

Colin

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Catteraxe
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Catteraxe » Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:18 pm

From a position of considerable ignorance, Heath for 1, 2 and 6 on the Frits??

Kevin.

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Matsukaze
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Matsukaze » Fri Jul 28, 2017 8:17 pm

Thanks folks!

A couple of favourite photos - Queen of Spain Fritillary and the scarce burnet moth Zygaena rhadamanthus.

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Roger Gibbons
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Roger Gibbons » Sun Jul 30, 2017 4:22 pm

Here are some images from the spring and summer, in chronological order.

First we were privileged to witness the emergence of this Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius). Its wings expanded quite quickly and then it rested for about half an hour to let its wings dry and harden and then flew off.
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Blue female Adonis (Polyommatus bellargus) are not uncommon in the south of France. Blue females are of the form ceronus, but there are many shades in between.
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We made a trip to central France in late May mainly for the highly localised fritillaries. First up is the inappropriately named Bog Fritillary (Boloria eunomia), very similar to Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene). It is limited to a very few sites in France, surprisingly as its larval hostplant is Bistort which is not in short supply.

This is a male:
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And a more dusky female:
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And an underside, possibly a female:
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Another highly local fritillary is Nickerl's Fritillary (Melitaea aurelia), again limited to very few sites in France. It is very similar to the ubiquitous Heath Fritillary (Melitaea athalia), but has a more regular pattern.
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This is the underside, again similar to athalia, but the distinction is the yellow-filled marginal band.
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We were exceptionally lucky to find all three of the target species, the third being the very-appropriately named Scarce Fritillary (Euphydryas maturna), also very scarce in France occurring in very few localities in eastern France. The upperside shows why it is in the same family as Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia).
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The underside is, in my opinion, one of the most appealing fritillary undersides.
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Finally, a female Apollo (Parnassius apollo).
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More to follow.

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Matsukaze
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Matsukaze » Sun Jul 30, 2017 5:39 pm

Lovely photos - that Scarce Fritillary underside has the look of an admiral or emperor underside, rather than a fritillary. I have vague memories of it being a woodland species - convergent evolution in the patterns of the underwings?

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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Roger Gibbons » Mon Jul 31, 2017 5:05 pm

Continuing the journey, we were next in the Mercantour in mid-June. Chequered Blue (Scolitantides orion) has featured on UKB pages in the past few weeks and this one is very probably from the same location.
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Clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne) is generally seen on the tour in early July, but most individuals are showing some signs of wear by then. This one, seen on 13 June, was one of a number that were very fresh.
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Dusky Heath (Coenonympha dorus) has appeared on UKB a couple of times, with specimens from Sainte Baume and the Mercantour, and the first one here was from Sainte Baume. The second one, however, was from the département of Gard, further west than the other two locations but a very different type of habitat and some species reflect that. Hard to believe that they are actually the same species.
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Iberian Marbled White (Melanargia lachesis) is principally an Iberian species with a distribution that “spills” into southern France, as do several other species. It is superficially similar to the familiar Marbled White (M. galathea) but in fact quite easy to differentiate when you see them in the field. This one was seen at a healthy colony at the easternmost limit of its range near Nîmes.
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Ottoman Brassy Ringlet (Erebia ottomana): this is seriously nerdy territory. It is a species of the far east of Europe but it has a small isolated outpost in the Cevennes in southern central France. Whether and how its distribution was once linked is hard to imagine. It is superficially similar to the more widespread Common Brassy Ringlet (E. cassioides) but identification is made easier by the fact that the distributions of the Brassy Ringlets do not overlap.
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Scarce Copper (Lycaena virgaureae) is a magnificent copper, both the male and female, the flashing orange of the male, especially when fresh, is unmissable in the field.
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Bright-eyed Ringlet (Erebia oeme) is another Erebia (and there some thirty species of this group in France) that doesn’t occur in the south-east corner of France, so it is necessary to travel to see it, this one being in company with ottomana in the Cevennes.
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Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene): this is a species that doesn’t fly in the south-east of France as it seems to prefer cool damp habitats, at least in France. By contrast, Pearl-bordered (B. euphrosyne) is quite widespread in the region. I rarely get to see selene, so this male was a rare sight. The weather was overcast so I was fortunate enough to get both an upperside and an underside of this male. The clouds cleared and the sun came through and suddenly this location in Lozère exploded into life; I counted eleven types of fritillary, and the coppers included Scarce, Purple-edged and Purple-shot.
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Furry Blue (Polyommatus dolus) is quite localised in Var, with one of the best location being in the west of the département. But like the Dusky Heath, there is a separate subspecies of dolus – vittatus – that occurs in Gard, differing from the nominate species by the stronger white unh stripe and the upperside which is very much paler than the nominate form, being almost white.
Polyommatus dolus_43833.JPG

Next stop the Pyrenees.

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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby David M » Mon Jul 31, 2017 5:17 pm

Excellent sightings, Roger. I'm particularly envious of Scarce Fritillary and hope to be able to catch up with this species in France some day.

The same goes for Ottoman Brassy Ringlet. I agree, it's distribution is uniquely odd in France. I wonder whether it was an artificial introduction, accidental or otherwise?

Your vittatus Furry Blue reminds me of my own trip to the Cevennes in 2011, when I saw quite a few. As you say, it's unmistakeable given how pale its uppersides are.

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Roger Gibbons
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Re: Butterflies of Var, Southern France

Postby Roger Gibbons » Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:47 pm

My trip to the Pyrenees was essentially a trip to the Ariège in the eastern Pyrenees, to the area around the Col de Puymorens and around Ax-les-Thermes, and then on to the Hautes-Pyrenees in the region of Gavarnie.

I had visited Puymorens many times in the past, with the last visit in 2015, but with every passing year the number of butterflies seems to get less and less. The reasons seem to be excessive grazing, ski development, and the vast amount of traffic heading for Andorra. The unexpected highlight was a chance discovery of a Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) on the way up to the Col de Pailhères. It was extracting something from recent tarmac at the roadside, but rather in the shade making it difficult to get a clear photo.
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I then spent a few days in the Néouvielle, which is less affected by development. My targets were the endemic Erebia ringlets of the region. I did manage to see False Dewy Ringlet (E. sthennyo) (although no longer considered a separate species) which, like most Erebia, had a habit of settling deep in the grass. I also managed to get a decent shot of a Gavarnie Ringlet (E. gorgone).
Erebia gorgone_43984.JPG

I also saw this female blue, which I can only conclude is Eros (Polyommatus eros). Females of these high altitude blues are rather secretive and rarely seen, so I don’t have a lot to go on, other than falling back on reasons why it can’t be anything else. Here is the rather aberrant upperside, and a view of the underside to aid identification.
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One unexpected pleasure was a visit by two male Peak Whites (Pontia callidice) which are occasionally seen at 2000m and above but tend to fly non-stop, so to see these stopping to nectar was very fortunate (not quite as fortunate as Pete Smith who managed to get a shot of a female as well).
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Then on to the Col de Tourmalet and, while I didn’t get to see the target Lefebvre’s Ringlet (E. lefebvrei), there were numerous Pyrenees Brassy Ringlets (E. rondoui) around, this one showing the reflective sheen that gives them their name.
Erebia rondoui_44087.JPG

I had hoped to see Gavarnie Blue (Plebejus pyrenaicus) in the region around Gavarnie. In 2015 I was there on 23 July and was a week too late, so this year I was there on 11 July and, guess what, it was an exceptionally early season and their flight period had ended on 7 July.

Heading back east, stopping off again at Sainte Baume, ideally to catch Sage Skipper (Muschampia proto) at the start of its flight period. I am usually there at the end of August when they are looking just a little bit tired. This is a very localised species in France, being principally Iberian. There were about six, all males and fresh, so very much at the start of the flight period, albeit difficult to photograph as the Scabious heads waved around in the breeze.
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Similarly, I hoped to see fresh Foulquier’s Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus bellieri), although from the number that have appeared on UKB recently you would think this is a common species, rather than a very localised one (I suspect all of the sightings have been at two very limited sites). This is a male at what remained of the watering hole. Although I am surprised that they were in such close contact with mud, maybe desperation for moisture may have been the reason – in this small shallow 2m x 1m there were five Southern White Admirals, a Striped Grayling, a Woodland Grayling, a Furry Blue, a Cinquefoil Skipper and a few others.
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This is an underside, showing the famed hair tuft of the male, and the large mark in discal s1 which characterises this species.
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This is a female (seen in the Mercantour, not Sainte Baume).
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One the way back I saw one of numerous Long-tailed Blues (Lampides boeticus).
Lampides boeticus_44186.JPG

One more posting to follow.

Roger


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