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, “It’s a Six Spot Burnet”. But now I’m home and I’ve had time to look at my photos, it’s clear that it doesn’t have six spots. It has five.
A look at the Butterfly Conservation website threw more confusion my way. Apparently there is more than one kind of Five Spot Burnet; there is a Narrow-bordered Five Spot Burnet – and guess what? They’re very similar and it’s difficult to say which is which unless you’re an absolute expert on the shape and angle of the narrowness of the wings.
So here it is. A Five – not a Six – Spot Burnet, and that will have to do!
We’re just back from France, having toured in our motorhome for the past 4 weeks through Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and France. We ended up for some R&R at our favourite lush and floral campsite in the Dordogne region, near the River Vezere.
In September there are banks of colourful flowers like these, attracting, bees, butterflies and hummingbird hawk moths. The annual challenge is to get a half decent photograph of one of these furry moths in action. They move fast, their wings are ususally a blur, and worst of all, they flit rapidly from one flower to another, so the chances of getting a shot often becomes less likely as they seem to know when the lens is on them.
This one isn’t too bad; it’s the best of the bunch. But whenever we visit this campsite I go back for more of what I call photographic torture!
More of our travels to follow – life back in Blighty has be caught up on – but here are links to a few earlier posts with photos from the same location taken at the same time of year.
Hummingbird hawk moth on orange flower – not too bad, this one.
Carpenter bee smothered in pollen.
Clouded yellow butterfly on wild scabious.
A selection of insects, all photpgraphed in the same location.
Excuse the pun. There are a lot of rocks and boulders in northern Brittany and I saw some of them on my recent visit there. The lush green valley with moss-covered boulders is at Huelgoat (pronounced Hwelgwa, according to the French branch of the family I was holidaying with).
We took a walk in the Argent Valley, where these huge mossy boulders tumble down into the river, and are invitingly easy to clamber on and explore. The surrounding forest is a peaceful, shady place and the star feature is the Trembling Rock, which is said to move. One of the teenagers in our party tried to get some movement out of it by leaning on it and pushing. I have to be honest and say it didn’t appear to move to me….
The pink rocks of the Cote de Granit Rose stretch way along Brittany’s northern coast, near Ploumanac’h, and their formations are weird and fascinating. The sea has shaped them such that it’s possible to see (with a little imagination) recognisable objects – is that tortoise? Or a lizard? Or an elephant? – were some of the suggestions we came up with.
We were following part of the sentier des douaniers – a path by the coast used by smugglers and strewn with these fantastically shaped rocks.
There it was, flowering in the garden. Familiar-looking and vermilion, but I couldn’t remember what it was called and ended up asking my far more knowledgeable neighbour. “Crocosmia” she said. I was none the wiser.
But I took a photo of one virile, prehistoric-looking budding stem because of reminded me of a dinosaur’s head – maybe a pterodactyl?
Fast forward a few days and we were talking again, me and Mrs Greenfingers next door, and she dropped into the conversation the other name for this flower, which I remembered right away. Montbretia.
I couldn’t help thinking that naming this version of the flower Lucifer was rather appropriate. It’s light and bright, and has a devilish look to it when seen from the angle photographed.
We’ve had this Evening Primrose in the garden for a couple of years but I’ve never taken much notice of it, probably because I’ve tended to think it’s flowering was either over, or that it was on the way out because of the shrivelled brownish dead heads of flowers on view.
Liking the colour of those flowers still blooming, I took a photo of them a week or so ago and thought no more about it.
We went away for a few days and when we came back I noticed there were more brownish dead flower heads. But later that evening, during the recent heatwave, I went into the garden and saw that the plant was covered in freshly opened yellow flowers…but it was almost dark.
The light dawned – Evening Primrose – it comes into flower at night! The second photo was taken in very faded light, yet the flower seemed to glow in the dark. It was quite magical. I looked it up in our flower ID book, which explained that the flowers are a source of nectar for moths.
Sure enough, the next night, when I took visiting granddaughter out into the warm darkness to show her this magical night-flowering plant, there were a few large moths in the vicinity, coming to visit the flowers. This reminded me of the French word for moth – papillon de nuit – literally butterfly of the night.
We love to see butterflies, but moths are sometimes regarded as less popular and not as attractive (but they are!).
On holiday on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales last week, I saw this Sea Holly growing in the dunes at Pwllheli.
The colour is a delicate pale mauve-like blue and it’s an attractive plant which survives in sand. Its deep roots enable it to reach fresh water and its waxy leaf surfaces prevent moisture loss.
It was blowing a gale when we, dog, and visiting grandchildren went on to the beach to run around, let off steam and throw pebbles in the sea. We got off lightly though as I later learned a tornado had blown close by our Cheshire town while we were away!
Not a warning sign you’d ever see in the UK, but in Big Bend National Park in Texas, yes you would.
This was on display near the main visitor centre, and looked new. It was different and more detailed than the warning sign I’d seen about Mountain Lions when I visited the park 10 years ago. This was an update, and it included Black Bears. I had no idea they were in the park.
We didn’t see bears or lions. The nearest we got to a lion encounter was from the safety of our air b’n’b accommodation just outside the park. You can read about it here.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed as there seemed to be less wildlife about on this trip. Yes, there were birds – mainly hawks soaring overhead, and the ever-present turkey vultures. There were small birds too, in the scrubby bushy areas of the desert, which sent me scrabbling for my Birds of Big Bend laminated fold out to ID them, The best and closest sightings were of road runners – appearing too quickly to whip out the camera, and one anxiously rushing past 2 or 3 feet away. It was good to get a close look and see the colours on the head of this eccentric-looking bird.
This trip excelled in the desert flora, with magnificent views of the mountains just about everywhere.
Flowering Ocotillo and the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend