James Gibbs: Blog https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog en-us (C) James Gibbs (James Gibbs) Sat, 04 Sep 2021 11:21:00 GMT Sat, 04 Sep 2021 11:21:00 GMT The butterfly, the ant, and a plant. https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2020/4/the-butterfly-the-ant-and-a-plant The Alcon blue is indeed a rare  butterfly, it took me considerable amount of effort to track down,  the dark female was the only one seen on my first visit to a protected site , invitation only, the second visit two years later was more successful that is until a dark cloud appeared on the horizon, it was  then a race back to the car, made it just in time as the heavens opened,.male and female plus eggs on the host plant the Marsh Gentian Marsh Gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe)  Indre, France.Marsh Gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe) Indre, France.Host plant showing eggs of Alcon blue( Maculinea alcon. Female Alcon Blue (Maculinea alcon)   Indre, France.Female Alcon Blue (Maculinea alcon) Indre, France. Marsh Gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe)   Indre, France.Marsh Gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe) Indre, France. Female Alcon Blue (Maculinea alcon)  Indre, France.Female Alcon Blue (Maculinea alcon) Indre, France.

Alcon Blue (Maculinea alcon) https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2020/4/the-butterfly-the-ant-and-a-plant Sun, 12 Apr 2020 10:45:40 GMT
A needle in a haystack https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2020/4/a-needle-in-a-haystack A needle in a haystack

Certain butterflies for some reason I can't explain have captured my imagination, the Violet copper is one, when I first became aware of this little beauty I hadn't a clue where to look other than France,a rather large country, the Internet was the first port of call, information was sparse, the Pyrenees was suggested, that reduced the odds considerably !!! , fine , so a trip was arranged to the Pyrenees orientales , it must have been one of my Mr Micawber moments , something will turn up, and indeed it did.
We had arrived at a location previously visited in the hopes of again seeing the beautiful Spanish fritillary, regrettably none were seen but I had the good fortune of  making the acquaintance of Mr J Aymar a fellow enthusiast, when asked if he could help with a location for my target L Helle his response was immediate and very helpful, you will need to be lucky he said, I was already lucky having met him.
We continued our journey and made base camp at Llo,
The following day we set out to the location my new friend had described, hours were spent searching damp meadows that offered the right conditions for Helle , by mid afternoon, disappointed I abandoned my efforts, my wife then declared "I am going for my walk",she had been gone little more than ten minutes when I saw her return carrying her hiking stick in a horizontal position, strange behaviour I thought, " is this what your looking for " she asked, I looked at a small butterfly perched on her stick, for a moment I stared in disbelief, it was Helle, a Violet copper no less, I quickly grabbed my camera to record this phenomenon , where did you find it I asked excitedly, oh down the lane there are lots was her smug reply, Helle was carried back to join her friends.
Is this not stranger than fiction ? I ask.

Violet Copper (Lycaena helle) Doubs, France.Violet Copper (Lycaena helle) Doubs, France. Violet Copper (Lycaena  Pyrénées orientales. France.Violet Copper (Lycaena Pyrénées orientales. France. Violet Copper (Lycaena helle) Doubs, France.Violet Copper (Lycaena helle) Doubs, France.


violet copper (lycaena helle) https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2020/4/a-needle-in-a-haystack Sat, 11 Apr 2020 09:15:27 GMT
Loire -Atlantique ,France. https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/10/loire--atlantique-france  

                                                                     A Spring trip to Loire -Atlantique ,France.

                                                                                     23rd April to 6th May.

                   This was to be a visit to look for two species, the spring version of the Map (butterfly) and the  Camberwell Beauty.

The Map is unusual in that it has two annual broods that look very different. The summer Map has black with white markings, looking like a miniature version of the White admiral, the spring version appears more like a Fritillary,  I decided to try my luck and look for this delightful little butterfly in the department of the Loire -Atlantique.

Map (Araschnia levana)  (Springtime) Loire- Atlantique, France.Map (Araschnia levana) (Springtime) Loire- Atlantique, France.

A French lepidopterist friend who lives in the region had given me locations for the Camberwell Beauty ( Nymphalis antiopa),this gave me the chance, with a little luck, to find an over wintering Camberwell ,with high hopes my Wife and I arrived at St Lymphard a small town at the edge of the Marais de brière,  we made St Lympard our base camp.


The following morning a 25 k drive to visit a small reserve that proved to be a very interesting, a mixed environment, ponds, prairies, woodland, and flowery lanes,immediately my first Map was found sunning itself in the early morning sun, several others were quickly spotted, but the sudden arrival of a Large tortoiseshell was the big attraction , my first encounter with this species,it was an exciting start, we returned to St Lymphard for a modest celebration,a glass of the delicious Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine the wine of the district.

Large tortoiseshell   Loire- Atlantique, France.Large tortoiseshell Loire- Atlantique, France.


The Weather put a dampener on operations giving time for a little tourism, Breca is situated at the edge of the marais, despite the rain we found it an attractive village of thatched cottages,and waterways,it has a small port for tours on barques,clearly a popular tourist spot, I made a mental note to return in the Autumn, the rain having set in we returned to St Lymphard.

Kerhinet, village de chaumières,  Loire -Atlantique ,FranceKerhinet, village de chaumières, Loire -Atlantique ,France


The following day the rain having cleared we set out in search of Camberwells, at the first location the track was flooded, this was a disappointment so we then moved to our second location, no Camberwell ,calling it a day we started back along the track, the first was spotted sunning itself sat in the middle of the track, no sooner than I was out of the van it was gone


Nevertheless encouraged  by our first sighting we returned the following morning,no Camberwells were to be seen,shopping it had to be, after lunch we returned and after a long wait, success, this time our newly found friend sat and posed patiently for its portrait,we made several more visits and found a second one,even though the mornings were sunny we only saw them mid afternoon ,slightly worn yes, but who cares when you see your first Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopa).

Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopa) Loire- Atlantique, France.Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopa) Loire- Atlantique, France. Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopa) Loire- Atlantique, France.Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopa) Loire- Atlantique, France.


Camberwell Beauty Map Nymphalis antiopa https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/10/loire--atlantique-france Sun, 14 Oct 2018 14:42:00 GMT
Pasha Passion https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/10/pasha-passion September being a good month for the second brood Pashas, plans were made to visit the wilds of Catalonia in the hopes of finding my first Pasha,after a long drive through France we arrived at the ancient little village of Prats-de-Mollo-la -Preste,)
The Cep (Boletus edulis) gatherers were out in force as we passed over the quiet pass of the Coll d'Ares 1513m and into Catalonia,happily, the road was made for pleasant and relaxed driving, by evening we had arrived at our campsite, at this time of the year it was all but deserted, after this long drive a relaxing glass of the local vintage and a toast to success.

The following morning a drive into the rugged mountains looking for Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) the host plant, they were easily found, bearing fruit but no Pasha, the rough stony ground quickly caused knee pain, Pasha passion I was soon to discover came at a price, no Pashas but several other species provided interest for my camera, still no Pasha, time for a coffee break, determined to try again back up the rocky hill, and there he was sat in his bush waiting patiently for my arrival, the camera shutter was clicking away merrily when an intruder came along, my new friend was immediately airborne, I wonder if anyone has studied their rate of acceleration, having had my first encounter the chase was on, it didn't take long to find a second Pasha,in a short space of time we became good friends the Pasha adopted me perching on my hand or the camera lens allowing for close examination of this magnificent insect, from time to time it took to the air to protect its airspace always returning to it's favorite bush.
My wife and I enjoyed his company for an hour then said adeu amic and I retreated to the campsite with aching knees and a slight angle sprain, was it worth it, you bet, wouldn't have missed the experience for all the tea in China.


And now for the magnificent Pasha. Charaxes jasius. Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius) Spain.Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius) Spain.


Strawberry trees Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius) Spain.Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius) Spain.
Charaxes jasius Two-tailed Pasha https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2018/10/pasha-passion Sat, 06 Oct 2018 10:24:08 GMT
Papilio alexanor https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/12/papilio-alexanor Southern Swallowtail (Papilio alexanor)  Alpes-de-Haute-Provence,France.Southern Swallowtail (Papilio alexanor) Alpes-de-Haute-Provence,France. My this years target species was Papilio alexanor , most comment read on the internet suggested that I was facing a challenging task but as sometimes happens lady luck offers a helping hand, passing what seemed a likely spot my wife suggests ,"lets try in there", no sooner had I parked and stepped out with the camera three Alexanors were spotted, great, but the species is a restless creature it rarely stops, eggs are laid on the wing the butterfly fluttering all the time, getting focus was a challenge ,but over the course of several days despite high temperatures and a steep scree slope I managed some video and stills, these can be seen on the link below,not only alex the site also provided a fresh Cardinal (Argynnis pandora),and a Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) form valezina  my first for this locality plus many other species including Papilio machaon ,Iphiclides podalirius and Parnassius apollo.



papilio alexanor southern swallowtail https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/12/papilio-alexanor Fri, 29 Dec 2017 17:56:13 GMT
Goosanders at London Drove,Westhay NNR,Somerset. https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/goosanders-at-london-drove-westhay-nnr-somerset   28-12-2016.A visit to London Drove was rewarded with the sight of five Male, three Female Goosanders paddling along in front of the hide in beautiful sunlight giving the cameraman a great opportunity for pictures of these splendid birds, a reward after the many visits made over a number of years,it was interesting watching the birds “snorkeling” cant imagine what they were finding.
Also present were a Male Shoveler,Teal,Widgeon, Mallard and a “family” of Pintail,one adult Male one adult Female and one juvenile bird,Cormorants,two Grey Herons,one Little Egret,one G-w-Egret.
To see the Goosanders.go to recent added.


Goosander (Mergus merganser) Westhay Moor ,Somerset.Goosander (Mergus merganser) Westhay Moor ,Somerset.

Goosander (Mergus merganser) Westhay Moor ,Somerset.Goosander (Mergus merganser) Westhay Moor ,Somerset. Goosander (Mergus merganser) Westhay Moor ,Somerset.Goosander (Mergus merganser) Westhay Moor ,Somerset. Goosander (Mergus merganser) Westhay Moor ,Somerset.Goosander (Mergus merganser) Westhay Moor ,Somerset.

https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/goosanders-at-london-drove-westhay-nnr-somerset Mon, 02 Jan 2017 16:26:16 GMT
Butterfly Safari ,France 2016. https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/butterfly-safari-france-2016 Butterfly Safari ,France 2016.
Despite the appalling weather at the start of our visit to the Doubs in search for the rare Scarce Heath perseverance brought success, several newly emerged males were found ,as well as a mating pair ,newly emerged Grizzled Skippers ,Woodland Ringlets and Marsh Frittillarys were also seen.,a good start,considering the bog land habitat was heavily flooded making access difficult, the same conditions applied at a nearby  Violet copper site,however Violet Coppers were numerous and as a added bonus  two Chequered Skipper, very pleasing.

Scarce Heath (Coenonympha hero) Doubs,France.Scarce Heath (Coenonympha hero) Doubs,France.

 The rain continued as we moved to the Nievre but once again luck was supportive and the Bog Fritillary was added to my growing list of rarities.

Bog Fritillary (Boloria eunomia) Nièvre,France.Bog Fritillary (Boloria eunomia) Nièvre,France.

Now with three of France's rarest species recorded a visit to the Cote d'Or for a fourth,the Scarce Fritillary,would Lady Luck be with me ? the weather conditions had not improved greatly but still worth a try but this species despite the help given by a Forest Ranger eluded me,he later confirmed few had been seen,however the visit was far from disappointing Reverdins blue was added to my new species sightings,Woodland Browns were also numerous in the woodland but as always difficult to capture on film.

Woodland Brown (Lopinga achine) Tarsul Cote d'Or, France..Woodland Brown (Lopinga achine) Tarsul Cote d'Or, France..

The plan was now to return to the Doubs to search for the Large Heath  the site was now under water and all but impossible to access,a challenge for another day.

Leaving the Doubs a scenically beautiful Department with some regret ,I left wondering how many Montbeliards there were grazing the green  prairies? time to move on to the next leg of the journey ,the Alps beckoned.

With a change of location and the weather much improved,optimism and expectations high base camp was established at St Bonnet en Champsaur,the intention was to look for mid Altitude species. The first Fritillary of the day was a freshly emerged Niobe ,
 Niobe was in no mood to be cooperative, thankfully this was not the case for the following days ,the Champsaur proved to be a treasure trove for Butterflies providing sightings of Scarce copper,Purple-edged-copper,Soo

ty Copper,and a another new species the Purple-shot-copper
Niobe Fritillary (Argynnis niobe) Hautes-AlpesNiobe Fritillary (Argynnis niobe) Hautes-Alpes

Now for some high altitude species,Queyras national park was chosen, base camp at Chateaux de Queyras,a steady climb up the Col d'Agnell for a recommended location,what an amazing sight to see so many species at the side of the torrent puddling for salts, my target species the Glandon Blue was easily spotted along with several more new species that I had not previously seen, a Female Small Apollo laying eggs was spotted,a merry chase ensued finally with a few shots taken she flew out of reach to continue her duty to the species.

I now decided to return to the Champsaur by way of the Col d`Izoard and overnight at Briançon it was a tortuous nerve racking journey driving a Camping car,it was rewarded at the Summit by another two ticks, Cynthia's Fritillary and a False Heath Fritillary,this helped to calm the nerves ready for the descent to Briançon.

Now back at St Bonnet en Chamsaur again to test Lady Luck , she did not disappoint presenting an unexpected meeting with the magnificent Poplar Admiral   couldn't believe my luck as I watched this superb butterfly enjoying a "meal" of a dead snail !!!!
Poplar Admiral (Limenitis populi) Hautes-AlpesPoplar Admiral (Limenitis populi) Hautes-Alpes

It was time make our return to the UK ,one last stop on the homeward journey,St -Bonnet-Troncais, Allier,stopping at a favorite campsite and Butterfly location ,would the Large -checkered -Skippers be waiting ? ,
yep a group of these delightful little Butterflies were unexpectedly gathered around a damp patch puddling,once again an unexpected photo opportunity.
Male Large Chequered Skipper (Heteropterus morpheus) Allier, FranceMale Large Chequered Skipper (Heteropterus morpheus) Allier, France

Now it was time to finish the homeward journey and start the laborious task of processing some 3,000 odd photos,Oh and of course  commence planning the next Butterfly Safari.
 View the complete folder here.http://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/f356540084
https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/1/butterfly-safari-france-2016 Sun, 01 Jan 2017 10:51:00 GMT
Starlings at Dawn. https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/12/starlings-at-dawn Ham Wall RSPB.13 October. 6-30am.
My Wife and I left the Shapwick corner car park and cycled along the track to Tor Hide in the dark ,settled down on the benches in hope of seeing the Starlings take to the air, a Great white Egret appeared from the shadows and flew across the water to settle in the reed bed ,as the light gradually increased a murmur arose from the reeds increasing with the dawn light ,a sudden roar and the air was full of swirling birds ,back and forth they flew then they were gone leaving a shadowy bird floating over the reeds, the Marsh Harrier no doubt soon found its morning prey.A short video.


Greylake extravaganza Ham Wall https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/12/starlings-at-dawn Fri, 23 Dec 2016 14:48:29 GMT
Greylake extravaganza 23-12-2015 https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/12/greylake-extravaganza-23-12-2015 23-12-2015 At last sunshine!!, this break in the weather allowed an opportunity to visit Greylake and enjoy the sight and sounds of the thousands of birds that can now to be seen from the hides, in the far distance a flock of what must have been a thousand Golden Plover, sadly they never came close to the hide ,similar numbers of Lapwing floating like confetti in the sunlight made for an astonishing sight, a flock of forty one Black-tailed-Godwits made for an equally impressive fly past,full supporting cast of Ducks, Pintail numbers down on last year, numerous Snipe close in front of the hide. Marsh Harriers were less active than usual, Peregrine seen on a distant tree.Greylake at the moment surely must rank as one of Europe’s greatest wildlife displays. Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) Greylake RSPB.Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) Greylake RSPB. Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) Greylake RSPB.Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) Greylake RSPB. Black-tailed- Godwit (Limosa limosa) Greylake RSPB,Somerset.Black-tailed- Godwit (Limosa limosa) Greylake RSPB,Somerset. Ducks at Greylake. RSPB,Somerset.Ducks at Greylake. RSPB,Somerset. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago). Greylake RSPB,Somerset.Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago). Greylake RSPB,Somerset. Wigeon (Anas penelope) Greylake RSPB,Somerset.Wigeon (Anas penelope) Greylake RSPB,Somerset. Teal (Anas crecca) Greylake RSPB. Somerset.Teal (Anas crecca) Greylake RSPB. Somerset.

Greylake extravaganza https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/12/greylake-extravaganza-23-12-2015 Sat, 26 Dec 2015 09:58:59 GMT
Bewick’s Swan at Greylake https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/12/bewick-s-swan-at-greylake Greylake today 09-12-2015 Dawn was breaking as I arrived at the reserve,making my way towards the hide sizable flocks of Starlings passed low over head all heading west.
Mid morning to the surprise and delight of all present in the hide we were privileged by the arrival of a family of Bewick`s Swans two adults and a juvenile, the birds appeared rather nervous and left a quarter of an hour later, Ten Black-tailed-Godwits also made a brief appearance,  Kingfisher made several dives from a hovering position.The rest of the morning it was business as usual.
Bewick's Swan (Cygnus columbianus bewickii) Greylake RSPB,Somerset.Bewick's Swan (Cygnus columbianus bewickii) Greylake RSPB,Somerset. Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) Greylake RSPB Somerset.Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) Greylake RSPB Somerset. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago). Greylake RSPB,Somerset.Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago). Greylake RSPB,Somerset.

Greylake RSPB https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/12/bewick-s-swan-at-greylake Fri, 11 Dec 2015 11:57:34 GMT
A visit to Greylake 2-12-2015 https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/12/a-visit-to-greylake-2-12-2015  
Dawn was breaking as I arrived at the reserve,making my way towards the hide sizeable flocks of Starlings passed low over head all heading west. At the hide all appeared quiet until the sound of a distant shotgun  caused panic ,Ducks took to the sky accompanied by Lapwings and Starlings in such numbers that the sky was black with birds, after the panicking ducks settled two Peregrines where  seen taking perch positions on the power pylons where they then made hunting forays, they seemed to be chasing starlings rather than the Ducks. A Female Marsh Harrier drifted towards the hide this inevitably caused another panic. A Kingfisher made several dives from a hovering position Grey Heron flew in and landed in the water  and waded to the bank,strange bird!!
 But the Mornings entertainment was provided by two squabbling Stoats that appeared in front of the hide one leaped into the water follow by the second there was a brief fight before they reached the opposite bank, they then raced of out of sight,I was taken by surprise and  fascinated by how fast they were able to swim. Regrettably no photo record.  One more amazing insight into the secret world of nature. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago). Greylake. RSPB,Somerset.Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago). Greylake. RSPB,Somerset. BHVPP WRESTLING PP TRIANGULAR_20181211_29427BHVPP WRESTLING PP TRIANGULAR_20181211_29427 Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) Greylake RSPB Somerset.Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) Greylake RSPB Somerset. Teal (Anas crecca) Greylake RSPB.Teal (Anas crecca) Greylake RSPB.

https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/12/a-visit-to-greylake-2-12-2015 Wed, 02 Dec 2015 00:38:00 GMT
Greylake RSPB, Somerset. https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/2/greylake-rspb-somerset Raptor day at Greylake 06/02/2015 Perfect light ,stage set for the first visitor the green tagged Marsh Harrier, soon followed by a well marked female Marsh harrier with distinctive white markings on the upper wings,a male bird also sighted but a Buzzard was the show stealer, not sure whether it hoped to catch a Teal but it approach a group of Teal talons extended but had to be content to watch the Teal depart.A Peregrine made a high speed pass, two Peregrines perched in the dead tree A flock of 25 Dunlin made several high speed passes but did not stop.Snipe about seven,good numbers of Ducks.

https://jamesgibbs6929.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/2/greylake-rspb-somerset Sat, 07 Feb 2015 12:31:33 GMT