Five or six spots?

This post shows the benefits of just leaving a bit of land fallow, to become a wildflower meadow. What a profusion of butterflies and moths take advantage, including this five spot burnet moth!

Eyes in the back of my Head

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I recently photographed this burnet moth in the Dordogne, at a place on a walk we enjoy in the hills near the river Vezere. We’ve dubbed this place Butterfly Corner. It’s where the path through the woods opens out and joins a road which leads down to the nearby village.

Why is it Butterfly Corner for us? It’s because the patch of land belonging to the house there has been allowed to go wild and be natural, and it attracts a large number of insects – we saw bees, a hornet, and plenty of butterflies. It’s no great hardship, after a walk uphill, to hang around for a while watching and photographing what we see there, busy in the wild flowers.

I was quite excited to see this burnet moth as I’ve not seen one in the UK for several years. I said, with the confidence of the incorrect…

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Common Blue 2

This quick shot by zoom lens on auto gives an interesting perspective on the common blue butterfly, in that you can see the top side of one wing and the underside of the other.

common blue (2)

Taken in Dordogne region of France late summer 2018. The butterflies here don’t seem to stay still long enough for closer than zoom lens.

Banded agrion

This beautiful large blue damselfly is described as a banded demoiselle by Wikipedia, or banded agrion in our old butterfly book. By damselfly standards this is large, around 2 inches long. This one is a brilliant iridescent blue, they can be blue-green. The most distinctive feature is the large dark patch on the wing.

Seen commonly in Europe and Asia. This one paused conveniently by the River Vézère in the Dordogne region of France, late summer 2018.

Carpenter Bee

We often see these large black carpenter bees in The Dordogne region – beautiful black insects seeking nectar from the flowers.

They have relatively short mouth parts, as you can see from the photos, so are only suited to certain types of flower.

Glancing at a quick web search, carpenter bees have a bit of a reputation of ‘nectar robbing’ by drilling holes in the side of petals and avoiding pollination, and of being a pest that can be a threat to houses and gardens by making holes for nests in the timbers. I guess there may be some truth in this, but they are solitary nesters, and could the problem be perceived in part because of their colour?

Photographs taken in the Dordogne region of France, September 2017

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

We occasionally get the odd hummingbird hawk-moth in Cheshire. They’re much more plentiful in the Dordogne. Just like a hummingbird, they hover over a flower and reach the nectar with that long proboscis you can see on the photos.

The insects, and particularly their wings, move so fast as they dart to and fro, they are difficult to photograph. The wings are usually in some state of blurr-dom. They beat at a frequency of about 85 per second, so practically the only way to get a clear picture of them in motion is to use electronic flash. Must try that sometime, although at the time the moths are flying it seems irrelevant, as it’s usually very sunny. Actually, I quite like the blurred effect – it seems more natural.

Photographs taken in Dordogne region, France, September 2017

 

 

Speckled Wood

As its name suggests, the speckled wood butterfly is often found near woodland. There are nice patterns on the wings and an unusual glint in six apparent eyes on the wings. These butterflies are much more prevalent in the Dordogne area of France than in Cheshire UK, probably because of the much greater tree cover.

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Photograph taken in the Dordogne region of France, September 2017

Damselfly

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This damselfly was just basking in the sun. The ones with vibrantly coloured bodies tend to be more striking, but the rather more muted body colouring here helps to show off those beautiful lace wings.

Photograph taken in the Dordogne region of France, September 2017

 

The usurpers

Next day, a grey heron was surveying his territory when we first looked out onto the River Dordogne over breakfast. He stood stock still, upright, as if checking out what was going on around.
Then he would begin to stalk fish, creeping like a cat after mice (featured image). Then the sudden pounce, and fish swallowed in a trice.

Later in the morning he’d gone, replaced by a couple of wading men, fly fishing. The predator who has usurped nature’s king beasts at the top of this and almost every food chain. No birds to be seen,  all driven away by the intrusion. 

Clearly, fly fishing is a skilled occupation and gets you into the heart of nature, an image spoiled for me on seeing a fag hanging from the lips of one of the fishermen. 

And they did appear to throw back any fish caught – surely a minor form of fish torture.
Late afternoon the fishermen had gone. The wagtails returned, feasting on flying insects, a flock of goldfinches swarmed into bushes and onto rocks. The heron returned and resumed fishing.

Then we were supremely privileged by a rare royal visitor. A kingfisher appeared in trees on the opposite bank, then came down to a rock within camera range. He stood still, iridescent, intent. Then a sudden flash into the water, another fish swiftly swallowed. Then back on the rock, to repeat the process. Some days you are just blessed.

In a world overrun with humans shouldn’t we be giving back more of these still semi-wild places to their natural predators, while we still can?

More wagtails

The  River Dordogne at Beaulieu is quite similar in a way to the River Ure at Redmire Force. Fast flowing, shallow water over a variety of stones and rocks.

Here too, wagtails are in abundance, no doubt attracted by the insects hovering over the water. Today I’ve seen yellow, grey and pied wagtails. They seem to go around in small groups, so there are usually a small number together. This one’s a pied wagtail.pied_wagtailbeaulieu

As it happened, along came a Dipper, happily dipping into and out of the water  – very difficult to catch a photograph other than with tail sticking up out of the water. This was the best I managed. dipper_beaulieu