Posts Tagged ‘Burgundy’

May-December, 2010

All the photographs on this page are linked to my online Flickr picture gallery. If you place your cursor over any photograph you will see the name of the subject; click on the photograph and you will see an enlargement of the picture.

You may occasionally find that instead of a picture the words “This photo is currently unavailable” is shown. Don’t worry, just click on the words and the picture should appear. If, however, you cannot access a picture for any reason, please let me know.


After three weeks in the United States (see ‘April in the USA’) Nancy and I spent much of late spring and summer in France. We attended to urgent matters at home and in Paris and, in between, hosted a number of French and overseas visitors. Consequently, opportunities for photographic excursions were somewhat limited. Nevertheless, I did manage to find some interesting and unusual flora and fauna and here is a selection of them.



This picture of the Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) (left) was taken in a farmer’s field at Montenoison about ten minutes away from my home. This internationally recognized common wild flower is also known as corn rose, field poppy, red poppy, red weed and Flanders poppy. It is regarded both as a garden flower and an agricultural weed but more so as a symbol of fallen soldiers. A poem written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918), a doctor serving with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps in the First World War, strongly influenced the adoption of the poppy as a memorial to all servicemen who fell in the two Great Wars. Here is the first stanza of his poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.



The Common Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum, syn. Dipsacus sylvestris), (right), is a biennial plant also known as Wild Teasel or Fuller’s Teasel. It is native to Europe, Asia and north Africa and can be found on roadsides, wastegrounds and river banks. At first glance, it could be mistaken for a thistle, since both have spiny heads. Its seeds are a favourite winter food for birds and, for this reason, it is sometimes grown in gardens and on nature reserves in an effort to attract them. The plant is, however, regarded as an invasive species in the United States and is not welcome there. Photographed at the nearby small hamlet of Marré.


Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis)Firebug (Pyrrhocoris apterus)The Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) (far left), has a multitude of names: Multivariate ladybird, Southern ladybird, Japanese ladybird, Pumpkin ladybird, Asian lady beetle, Japanese ladybug, Harlequin ladybird, Halloween lady beetle and there may even be others. This coccinellid beetle is native to eastern Asia, but was introduced to North America and Europe to control aphids and scale insects. Its colour ranges from yellow-orange to black, and the spots could number between 0 and 22 (the one in the picture has 18 of them). It is now fairly common, well known and spreading. This picture was taken at the nearby hilltop village of Montenoison.
Firebug (Pyrrhocoris apterus) (above right). This exceptionally common, harmless insect is often found in numbers outside the house and in the garden during the summer. It is a bug, not a beetle, and in France it is known as a gendarme, apparently because of a similarity to the uniform of the gendarmes at the end of the 17th century. Strange! Photographed in our garden.

Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus) or Lesser Stag Beetle (Dorcus parallelepipedus), larvae

Nancy was moving some old, rotten tree logs in the garden in early September when she found a number of enormous grubs hidden in them. A French 1 centime coin (slightly smaller than an American 1 cent coin) is shown alongside a grub as a size indicator. The grub has been identified as the larvae of a Stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) or Lesser Stag Beetle (Dorcus parallelepipedus). It is difficult to say from the picture which of the two beetles it is. Lucanus cervus is the best-known species of stag beetle (family Lucanidae). It lives in holes in old trees and dead trunks. There are about 1,200 species of Stag beetles in the family Lucanidae, some of which grow up to 12 cm (4.8 in) in length, but most of them are about 5 cm (2 in). Male stag beetles use their jaws to wrestle each other for favoured mating sites in a manner that parallels the way stags fight over females. Fights may also be over food, such as tree sap and decaying fruits. Despite their often fearsome appearance they are not normally aggressive to humans. Alongside the photograph of the grub I have added a drawing of an adult Stag beetle to give some idea of size and appearance.


Wood White (Leptidea synapsis) provisional IDRinglet (Aphantopus hyperantus)Pearly Heath (Coenonympha arcania) possible IDSloe Hairstreak (Satyrium acaciae) provisional IDMap butterfly (Araschnia levana), female
The butterflies shown above are:
Large picture: Wood white (Leptidea synapsis) from the family Pieridae. This species of butterfly cannot easily be distinguished from the Real’s or Eastern Wood white species. However, the latter two butterflies are not normally found in central France, where I live, and so I am sure that the butterfly in the picture is a Wood white.
Top, centre: Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus). Belongs to the Nymphalidae family.
Top right: Pearly Heath (Coenonympha arcania). Belongs to the same family as the Ringlet.
Bottom centre: Sloe Hairstreak (Satyrium acaciae). Family Lycaenidae.
Bottom right: Map (Araschnia levana), female, summer brood. Family Nymphalidae. Although common in the lowlands of central and eastern Europe this butterfly is expanding into western Europe. To see one this far west is rather a rare occurence. The Map is unusual in that it has two annual broods that look very different. The spring brood have as much orange as black and a few spots of white, almost like a tortoiseshell butterfly. The summer brood, however, have black and white markings with two narrow orange rows as shown in the picture. I don’t know how this butterfly got its unusual name.Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus), maleLarge Skipper (Ochlodes venatus), female, with mites attached.
Far left: Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus), male. The scientific name for this butterfly was long known as Ochlodes venata, which is also the name of a Far Eastern relative, but there now seems to be some dispute as to whether it should be a separate species or a subspecies of O. venata. Skippers are easily distinguished by their backward curved antennae tips, somewhat resembling crochet hooks, and the fact that, when resting, they usually keep their wings folded at angle as shown in the picture.
Above right: Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus), female. This female Large Skipper was seen around the same time as the male in the other picture. I was curious about the red ‘pouches’ at the front of the abdomen since I had not seen them before. The ‘pouches’ are bright red parasitic mites that attach themselves to insects, including butterflies, to siphon off blood but the mites don’t appear to affect their health.
Note: All of the seven butterflies were photographed on the same day in the same small area at the hilltop village of Montenoison in Burgundy.


I also took a few photos of night-flying moths and below are three of them (all the pictures were taken inside the house).
Small Dusty Wave (Idaea seriata)Small Magpie (Eurrhypara hortulata)The Old Lady (Mormo maura) Left to right:
Small Dusty Wave (Idaea seriata),Small Magpie (Eurrhypara hortulata),The Old Lady (Mormo maura)


PrémeryIn my 2009 Review I posted pictures of a dragonfly and two damselflies (see archives). These beautiful insects like both ponds and slow-running water with plenty of reeds, weeds and other water-loving plants for resting, mating and laying eggs. Submerged and emergent plants are needed for the larvae to feed on and develop. On the other side of the box hedge at the bottom of our garden (see picture, left) there is a millstream which is a haven for just these insects and I have spent several hours watching and photographing them. The pictures below are typical of what I can see on a nice, warm summer’s day.

Blue Eye aka Goblet-marked Damselfly (Erythromma lindenii), male

Blue Eye aka Goblet-marked Damselfly (Erythromma lindenii) malePhotos left: Blue Eye (Erythromma lindenii), or Goblet-marked Damselfly, is a fairly common species in the south and west of Europe but it is absent from the British Isles, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. The insects in these two pictures are males.

Blue Eye (aka Goblet-marked Damselfly) in tandemBlue Eye aka Goblet-marked Damselfly, ovipositing

———–Above left: Blue Eye (Erythromma lindenii), male & female. This pair were captured flying in tandem over the water, just like two linked helicopters.
Above right: Blue Eye (Erythromma lindenii). The same pair copulating.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens), male

Blue Chaser (Libellula fulva), male

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (top right). This photograph, along with the one below it, was taken beside the river Nièvre in the nearby village of Les Ponts de Beaumont. Calopteryx splendens is a common Eurasian species of damselfly, often to be found along slow-flowing streams and rivers from the atlantic coast eastwards to Lake Baikal and north western China.

The Blue Chaser (Libellula fulva), male (bottom right) has a more restricted range than the commoner and more widespread Broad-Bodied Chaser (see picture in my 2009 review). It is largely absent from Scandinavia, the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula and so tends to be much the rarer of the two species. The females and immature males are of a strikingly beautiful orange colour, which later changes into light blue in the case of males (as seen in the picture) and brown in the case of females. The Blue Chaser has a dark-brown wing patch (on the hind wings only) and a dark patch on the tip of each wing.


Sickle-bearing bush cricket (Phaneroptera falcata), female.The photograph (left) of a cricket feeding on a dahlia was taken at the Parc Floral de Paris at Vincennes on the outskirts of the French capital. This insect is thought to be the Sickle-bearing bush cricket (Phaneroptera falcata) but there is a slight possibility that it might be the less common Four-spot bush cricket (Phaneroptera nana), normally found in the south of France. These two crickets are so similar that differences between them can normally only be seen in the hand. I am regarding this one as Phaneroptera falcata for no other reason than it is the more likely of the two to be found in northern France. Crickets (called katydids in the United States) are distinguished from grasshoppers by their much longer antennae as seen in the picture.

Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis) (right). This is probably the most frequently seen lizard in the garden and on walls and outbuildings. It can grow to about 20cm (7.9 in) in total length. It is distributed widely throughout Europe and there are well-established introduced populations in North America where it is called the European wall lizard. The difference in the reptile’s tail is quite normal because the tail can be a different colour or pattern to the rest of the body. I have photographed and seen illustrations of other wall lizards with marked tail changes. Photographed on the steps leading to our garden.


In September Nancy & I travelled to the United Kingdom to see members of my family in North Yorkshire. Whilst there we took time out to visit Northumberland so that Nancy could see more of my home country.
Most of our time was spent on the beautiful Northumbrian coast between Bamburgh and Beadnell (see map). I had hoped to spend a day or two photographing birds but, unfortunately, the weather was mostly wet, cold and miserable with only the odd day of sunshine and warm weather. Consequently, I was not able to take as many photographs as I would have liked. All the birds shown in the pictures below are in their plainer, less colourful winter plumage

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) & Dunlin (Calidris alpina), first-winter juvenileThe Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) (left) is a large wader belonging to the familyScolopacidae. It breeds on Arctic coasts and tundra, mainly on the European continent, and winters on the coasts of western Europe and north Africa. It is believed to make the longest known non-stop migratory flight by any bird and also the longest journey, without pausing to feed, by any animal (11,680 kilometres, 7,258 miles), along a route from Alaska to New Zealand. Their long, slightly upcurved bills allow them to probe deeply into the sand for aquatic worms and molluscs. The name Godwit originates in Old English with god meaning good, and wit coming from wihte, meaning creature.

The smaller of the two waders in the above picture is a first winter Dunlin (Calidris alpina), one of the commonest and best-known waders throughout its breeding and wintering ranges Birds that breed in northern Europe and Asia are long-distance migrants, wintering in Africa, south east Asia and the Middle East. Birds that breed in Alaska and the Canadian Arctic migrate shorter distances to the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts of North America, although those nesting in Northern Alaska overwinter in Asia. The Dunlin is often seen feeding with a characteristic “sewing machine” action, methodically picking small food items. Insects form the main part of the bird’s diet in nesting areas and in coastal areas it eats mollucs, worms and crustaceans.
This picture was taken at Budle Bay near Bamburgh on the Northumberland coast.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

The Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa), (right) is a large, long-legged, long-billed shore bird or wader, belonging to the same Scolopacidae family as the Bar-tailed Godwit. The main difference between the two birds is, as their names suggest, in the tail. Its breeding range stretches from Iceland through Europe and areas of central Asia where it is found in fenland, lake edges, damp meadows, moorlands and bogs. They winter in regions as diverse as Australia, western Europe and west Africa, using estuaries, swamps and flooded areas. It is, however, known to be resident in parts of the United Kingdom and France. The Black-tailed Godwit was first described by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. Right now, the world population is estimated to be somewhere between 634,000 to 805,000 birds but, even so, it is classified as a Near Threatened species. This bird was photographed at Beadnell on the Northumberland coast.

In addition to the Bar-tailed Godwit and the Black-tailed Godwit there are two other species of godwit. The third is the Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa), normally found in North, Central and South America (see my picture in last year’s ‘April in the USA’ post) and the Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica), a North American species that winters primarily in South America.

Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)The Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) (left) is another Eurasian member of the large wader and shorebird family Scolopacidae and a widespread breeding bird across temperate Eurasia. A migratory species, it winters on coasts around the Mediterranean, on the Atlantic coast of Europe from Great Britain southwards, and in south Asia. In breeding plumage these birds are a marbled brown colour, slightly lighter below. In winter, as this picture shows, the plumage is somewhat lighter-toned and less patterned, being rather plain greyish-brown above and whitish below. The bird is easily identified by its red legs and black-tipped red bill. This photograph was taken at Beadnell.

Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

The Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) (right) is a wader in the oystercatcher bird family Haematopodidae. It is the most widespread of the 11 species of oystercatcher still existing today. In addition to the Eurasian Oystercatcher there is a Magellanic Oystercatcher, Blackish Oystercatcher, American Black Oystercatcher, American Oystercatcher, African Black Oystercatcher, Pied Oystercatcher, South Island Pied Oystercatcher, Chatham Island Oystercatcher (endangered species), Variable Oystercatcher and Sooty Oystercatcher. Apart from the Variable Oystercatcher, the different species show little variation in shape or appearance. The plumage of all species is either all-black, or black (or dark brown) on top and white underneath. The Variable Oystercatcher can be either black or pied. This Eurasian Oystercatcher was photographed at Beadnell.

Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), juvenileThe bird on the left is a juvenile Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) resting on the beach at Beadnell. It was one of two birds found there and both appeared to be exhausted. It is likely that they had left their nesting ground, somewhere in Scandinavia or western Scotland, intending to migrate south to the Mediterranean or west Africa for the winter. The bird in the picture appeared to have injured a leg. Gannets (adults are white with a yellow-buff head and black wing tips) are famed for their spectacular, steep, diagonal dive for fish from a height of 10 – 40 metres, throwing back their wings just before striking the surface of the sea.

Common Eider (Somateria mollissima), juvenile

A juvenile Common Eider (Sometaria mollissima)(right) was photographed in the harbour at Seahouses, a small fishing village on the coast of Northumberland. This large sea duck (an adult male is black and white and the female is brown in colour, similar to the juvenile) is found along the northern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia. It breeds in the Arctic and in some northern temperate regions, but winters farther south in temperate zones. It can fly at speeds up to 113km/h (70mph).
This bird is perhaps best known for providing a soft down used for filling pillows and quilts. The eider’s nest is built close to the sea and is lined with eiderdown, plucked from the female’s breast. This soft and warm lining has long been harvested as a soft filling, but in more recent years it has been largely replaced by down from geese and synthetic alternatives. Although true eiderdown pillows or quilts are now a rarity, eiderdown harvesting continues and is sustainable, as it is done after the ducklings leave the nest with no harm to the birds.


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Welcome to my blog! I am a complete newcomer to blogging and so it may take me a little time to learn the ropes. Please bear with me!

All of the photographs on this page are linked to my online Flickr picture gallery. If you place your cursor over any photograph you will see the name of the subject; click on the photograph and you will get an enlargement of the picture.


I thought I would begin this blog by reviewing the year 2009, starting with what was for me the highlight of the year.

In mid-November, Nancy and I, together with other family members, went on a boat trip out of Rockport, Texas, to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Location of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Our objective was to see the rare and endangered Whooping Crane (Grus americana) which overwinters at the Aransas NWR after migrating south from its summer breeding grounds in the Wood Buffalo National Park in the Canadian province of North West Territories.

Whooping Crane (Grus americana)

One of only two crane species found in North America (the other being the Sandhill Crane) the Whooping Crane is the tallest North American bird with a life span of around 22 years in the wild. The US Fish & Wildlife Service currently estimates that there are about 260 birds, adults and juveniles, at Aransas. In addition to the Aransas/Wood Buffalo project a smaller migratory reintroduction project has been established between the Necedah NWR in Wisconsin and the Chassahowitzka NWR in Florida. Known as Operation Migration, this project has played a leading role in the reintroduction of whooping cranes to eastern North America. It reports that there are currently 150 known whooping cranes in Wisconsin, Florida and other eastern American states.

We saw a large number of other birds (I counted 28 different species in total), whilst dolphins leapt and dived around the boat and even a migrating butterfly passed by! The birds at the harbourside in Rockport were so used to people walking around that they took no notice of us at all. Here are snapshots of some of the birds that we saw:

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorlynchos)


Royal Tern (Sterna maxima)

Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major)

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

They are from left to right: American White Pelicans with Double-crested Cormorants and an American Oystercatcher, Brown Pelicans taking fish from a moored fishing boat, Royal Tern, Boat-tailed Grackle and Great Egret.

Monarch on the moveThis is the remarkable sight of a Monarch butterfly heading across Aransas Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, probably towards its small winter hibernation area in Mexico. Apparently, Monarchs starting west of the Rocky Mountain region migrate to southern California and those starting east of the Rockies migrate up to 2,500 miles to Mexico. These butterflies instinctively travel each year to the same trees in the same mountains that their ancestors left the previous Spring. None of them have ever been there before because their life-cycle is only 9 months.


The trip to the Texas Gulf Coast was the last stage of a month-long tour of Canada and the United States visiting friends and family. The first ten days in Québec and Pennsylvania were mostly cold and wet and not good for photography. However, in Canada I did manage a day’s birdwatching around Laval, a suburb of Montréal and in Pennsylvania my brother-in-law and I spent a good part of a day at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area near Kleinfeltersville where I saw my first ever American Bald Eagle.


We then moved on to San Ramon in Contra Costa County near San Francisco, California, where the climate was considerably warmer. It was not long before I was out and about with binoculars and camera.

Black-tailed Jack Rabbit (Lepus californicus)

The Black-tailed Jackrabbit (also known as the Desert Hare) is a common hare of the western United States and Mexico. It is the third largest North American hare, second only to the Antelope Jackrabbit and the White-tailed Jackrabbit. They can reach speeds of up to 40–45 miles per hour (64–72 km/h), and can leap 19 feet (5.8 m) in a single bound.

I love these long-eared lopers and this one was happy to pose for me as I walked along the West Alamo Creek Trail in San Ramon.

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)
I captured this shot of a drab adult female Western Bluebird in the car park of the Lafayette Reservoir Leisure Area in Contra Costa County, California. I was walking back to the car with family members when this bird caught my eye as it landed only a few yards away from me. It continued to watch as I turned towards it, slowly got my camera into position, focused and pressed the shutter. It was the most obliging bird that I have ever encountered, remaining a few minutes more before flying away!

I was lucky enough to spend a few hours at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR, located in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay at San Jose in Santa Clara County. Most of the refuge stretches along the marshy shoreline north and south of the Dumbarton Bridge, but Bair Island in San Mateo County, is also part of the system. The southernmost extent of the Refuge is in northern Santa Clara County.

San Francisco Bay

The Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and according to the Refuge website it was the first urban National Wildlife Refuge to be established in the United States. It covers 30,000 acres of open bay, salt pond, marsh and mudflat in south San Francisco Bay and hosts around 280 species of birds each year. The Refuge is part of a complex made up of six other wildlife refuges in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

White-crowned Sparrow (Zenotrichia leucophrys)

American Coot (Fulica americana)

Merlin (Falco columbarius)

Above are some of the birds that I managed to photograph at the San Francisco Bay NWR. From left to right: American Vulture, American White Pelican, White-crowned Sparrow, American Coot and Merlin.


My next stop was Brushy Creek, just outside of Austin, Texas. By then it was mid-November and the number of birds visiting our hosts’ backyard were few and far between. This disappointment, however, was more than made up by the large number of butterflies that were around, particularly the American Snout or Common Snout (Libytheana carinenta). This butterfly is known for mass migrations and apparently their numbers can be so huge that it is not unknown for skies to darken as they pass overhead. I did not see that but I saw enough of them to know that they were on the move.

American Snout (Libytheana carinenta)

Unusually, this butterfly has a prominent elongated snout which can confuse predators into thinking that it is the stem of a dead leaf. They often hang upside down under a twig, making them almost invisible.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
In the same backyard I also found four other species of butterfly. They are, from left to right, Monarch (Danaus plexippus), Queen (Danaus gilippus), Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia), Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus).

Whilst in Austin my brother-in-law and I had the opportunity of a morning’s birding with local expert, Mikael Behrens. He took us along the Lake Creek Trail at Parmer Village, off Parmer Lane, Austin. We came across 35 species during our walk and, for me, the highlight was a view, albeit long-distance, of a Belted Kingfisher. The photograph below is a poor one but it does give an idea of how distinctive this bird looks.

Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)

White Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis albescens)

Sleepy Orange (Abaeus nicippe)

Additionally, there were a few butterflies around, too, and I managed to capture two of them with my camera. Above left: White-checkered Skipper. Above right: Sleepy Orange.


And now for the rest of the best in 2009. Before I start, can you answer this question?

Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

Do you know what is flying in this picture (right)? Is it:

(a) a hummingbird; (b) a butterfly

(c) a moth; (d) a wasp

In summer it is a common sight to see them flying around in our garden and feeding from flowers, especially those with lots of nectar, like Jasminum, Buddleia, Nicotiana, Primula, Viola and Phlox. It seems that they return to the same flower beds at about the same time each day. You will find the name of this curious insect at the end of this page.


At home in Burgundy, Nancy and I have a small number of bird feeders in the garden and last year two unusual visitors dropped in to take advantage of the food available.

Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius)

In February, a Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus medius) visited the fatballs and peanut feeder over several days. It is slightly smaller than but very similar to the commoner Great Spotted Woodpecker. In western Europe it is locally common in northern Spain, central and northern France (including Burgundy), eastwards towards Poland and south to parts of Italy and mainland Greece. It is not found in the United Kingdom or Scandinavia.

Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea)

The next month a Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea) (below), a not-so-common winter visitor from Scandinavia, stayed a few short days to stock up on sunflower seeds before migrating to its northern breeding grounds.

Both birds were first-time recorded visitors to the garden.


Turning now to flowers, I came across some wild orchids last year and two of them are shown below. The Early Purple Orchid (left) and the Lady Orchid (right)were both found locally in the village of Les Chaumes Grand-Jean.Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula ssp olbiensis)
Lady Orchid (Orchis purpurea)Pink Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Arum maculatum

Passion Flower (Passiflora caerulea)

Right-hand column: a small collage of flowers and plants: Top to bottom: Pink Cosmos, Arum maculatum, Passion Flower.


Moving on to butterflies, below are two shots of a Comma butterfly. The one on the left has open wings and the one on the right has closed wings.

Comma (Polygonia c-album)
Comma (Polygonia c-album)

Look for the small white mark on the right-hand butterfly’s hindwing – that’s why it is called the Comma.

In the next section I will illustrate how a diurnal (day-flying) moth got its name!

Below are five more butterflies that I captured in France with the camera in 2009. They are from left to right: Marbled Fritillary, Common Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Pale Clouded Yellow, Brown Argus.

Marbled Fritillary (Brenthis daphne)

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

Small Tortoiseshall (Aglais urticae)

Pale Clouded Yellow (Colias hyale)

Brown argus (Atricia agestis agestis) or (A. a. cramera)


I was not only chasing butterflies but also moths, dragonflies and other living creatures of the natural world.

There are about 1,500,000 insects worldwide. Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) make up 200,000 of these and the vast majority (185,000) are moths. Below are some of the day-flying moths that I encountered last year.

Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma)

Like the Comma butterfly the Silver Y Moth has a white distinguishing mark on the underside of its wing from which it gets its name. The picture on the left clearly shows the mark.

Jersey Tiger Moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria)

White Plume Moth (Pterophorus pentadactyla)

These two very different moths are known as the Jersey Tiger Moth (left) and the White Plume Moth (right). The latter insect has unusually modified wings which are rolled up when resting, giving it the T-shape seen here.


I have always been fascinated by dragonflies and damselflies, the brilliantly coloured, pencil shaped, insects that fly around lakes, ponds and river areas in the summer. You can identify a dragonfly from a damselfly and vice versa by noting the position of the wings when the insects are at rest.

The wings of a dragonfly are held at right-angles to the body as shown in the picture immediately below of a female Broad-bodied Chaser, found in a garden at Nantes on the west coast of France.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)Platycnemis pennipes (male)

Damselflies, on the other hand, hold their wings alongside the body as in these two pictures. The female Large Red Damselfly was found in the same Nantes garden as the Broad-bodied Chaser and the picture of the Platycnemis pennipes was taken beside the River Allier at Apremont-sur-Allier in our neighbouring region of Auvergne.


And now for a close look at some of the other interesting things that I came across during the year.

Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger)

The Fox Squirrel is the largest species of tree squirrel native to North America. These squirrels are most often found in forest areas with an open understory or in urban neighborhoods with trees. They depend primarily on tree seeds for food but they also eat buds and fruits, cultivated grain, insects, birds’ eggs, lizards and small snakes which are plentiful in the United States. Strictly diurnal and non-territorial they spend more time on the ground than most other tree squirrels. This picture was taken in a backyard in Brushy Creek near Austin, Texas, whilst the squirrel, apparently a regular visitor, was happily munching away at a nut prised away from a feeder.

Dor Beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius)

Sling-tailed Agama (Laudakia stellio)

Unidentified cricket

California Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi)

Striped shield bug (Graphosoma lineatum)

From left to right: Dor Beetle (a dung beetle) found in a local forest; Sling-tailed Agama, a lizard which I came across in Corfu; the grasshopper-like insect (found locally) in the middle picture is a probably a cricket but there are so many of these around that I have not yet been able to identify it; California Ground Squirrel, photographed at San Ramon, California and, lastly, two Striped Shield Bugs. These insects are closely related to the Green Stinkbug and other foul smelling bugs and although they emit a smell rather like apples, it is apparently enough to deter all birds from getting too close to them.


Finally, the answer to “What is it?” is (c) moth. It is a Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum). With its long proboscis and hovering behavior, accompanied by an audible humming noise, it looks very similar to a hummingbird feeding on flowers. For this reason it can easily be mistaken for this bird.

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