I am no expert photographer, preferring to capture the moment than get a perfectly composed shot. The pictures on my blog are either taken with a compact Canon, a Panasonic Lumix FZ150 or on my phone.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Troodos Mountains - Butterflies

On 28th July I decided to head for the Troodos Mountains in search of some different species of butterflies. I had been told that many species make their way up into the cooler mountains from the coast in the summer. There are also various other species that are only found in the mountains.
I drove along the coast and then up the F616 towards Troodos, stopping a few times whenever I saw a spot that looked good for butterflies.
My first stop was to take a picture of the view, but I noticed a small patch of Heliotropium europaeum, so thought I should check if any butterflies were feeding on it. There was a very old and tattered Common Blue and then I noticed a really small butterfly. I was delighted to see that it was a Grass Jewel, Chilades trochylus. It was so small that I could only follow its shadow as it flew from flower to flower.
All along the road I saw Swallowtails and Small White as I drove along. Further up in the hills I stopped a couple of times to look for some of the Grayling species that occur on Cyprus. However, all I saw were Long-tailed Blues.
Eventually, I arrived at Pano Paltres and just as I was leaving the village I saw a small parking area with walking trail. This was a rough tail following a small river up to Caledonian Falls.
As I started to walk up the track I saw several butterflies. The first I thought was another Long-tailed Blue, but it turned out to be a Purple Hairstreak, Favonius quercus. This was a surprise as I have been lead to believe that the Purple Hairstreak is rare in Cyprus and this was in an area of fruit trees with no sign of any oak trees - their normal food plant.

It allowed me to take one picture, but then flew off. There were a number of Long-tailed Blues at this lower end of the track along with Holly Blues. An Oriental Meadow Brown, Hyponephele lupina, briefly landed at the side of the trail and I was able to take a quick picture before someone walked past and disturbed it.

A little further up the track three Large Whites were feeding on a plant. I was about to take a picture of one of them when three kids ran up with fishing nets swiping at the butterflies!! Unfortunately, this walk proved to be very popular and it was difficult to see any butterflies for any length of time before they were disturbed by someone walking past.
However, this area had a good number of different butterfly species. I was surprised to see a few Speckled Woods, Pararge aegeria, here.

Amongst the Speckled Woods I was teased by a number of dark butterflies that would not let me approach them. I would only notice them when they flew up from the rocks on the trail. They would always land too far away for me to identify them, but I did manage to take a couple of pictures on full zoom which allowed me to identify two of them as Cyprus Graylings, Hipparchia cypriensis. One is a male and one is a female.

One other butterfly I was able to identify was the Lattice Brown, Kirinia roxelana. This is a very striking butterfly with large brown ocelli on its wings. I disturbed it as I was walking up the trail, it flew off and landed next to a rock and then crawled into the vegetation. Unfortunately it flew off when I tried to get a better view of it.
All along the trail there were Holly Blues, Celastrina argiolus, resting on leaves, feeding on flowers and drinking from the damp soil at the edge of the river.

The walk to the falls was well worth the climb with the fine spray nicely cooling the air.

On my return journey, as I was driving through Paltres I noticed a large thistle with some Large Whites, Pieris brassicae, feeding on it. I stopped the car and walked back thinking that I could get a photograph to make up for those chased away by the kids earlier.

While I was watching them a Clouded Yellow, Colias croceus, and a White-banded Grayling, Pseudochazara anthelea, briefly landed on the thistles, each allowing me just enough time to take a fuzzy photograph!

On my way home I stopped off a few more times. In a small field just outside Kedares there was a small irrigation channel surrounded by wild flowers. Among them I saw several Common Blues, Polyommatus icarus.

The field also contained many Large Whites, Holly Blues, Clouded Yellows, including the white form helice, a Speckled Wood and a Cleopatra. A little further down the road next to a layby I saw another Grass Jewel and a Mallow Skipper.
All together a very successful day searching for butterflies.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Larnaca Salt Lake - Butterflies

My favourite family of butterflies is Lycaenidae - the blues, coppers and hairstreaks. When I was looking at Eddie John's fantastic web site of Butterflies of Cyprus there was one particular butterfly that I decided I really wanted to see - The Small Desert Blue, Chilades galba. Eddie kindly told me a good place to go and look for it, so on 22 July I set off from our rented villa to drive 100 miles to Larnaca Salt Lake.

Eddie had told me to head for the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque and to walk along the track beyond it around the salt lake. This was certainly good advice, as while I was parking the car I noticed a small blue butterfly flying at the edge of the track. I jumped out of the car and was delighted to discover that it was a Small Desert Blue.

The Small Desert Blue, Chilades galba, is small butterfly with a wing span of 17 - 22mm. I noticed that the males are a lot smaller than the females. It only occurs on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean. The books say that it is only found where its foodplant, Prosopis farcta, grows. This is a short thorny shrub, which it turned out was growing along both sides of the track. I believe that it can be quite invasive and it has very deep roots. It was certainly having no problem growing in the hostile environment around the salt lake.

I needn't have been so hasty to look at the first butterfly I saw as it turned out that there were thousands of them on the plants along the edge of the track. Sometimes it was impossible to take a picture without another Small Desert Blue trying to get into the shot!

I have never experienced butterflies in such numbers, they were almost flying up in clouds as I walked along the track.

Eddie also told me that if I walked as far as a flight of steps I would find some Zizyphus lotus bushes. He said if I looked in these I may find Little Tiger Blue butterflies, Tarucus balkanicus. I struggled through the vegetation to the only bush I could see and was soon rewarded with a Little Tiger Blue. This was a real thrill, as I have never seen a butterfly like this before.

According to the books this butterfly is the same size as the Small Desert Blue, but it appeared to be larger to me. The underside of the wings are beautifully marked, but very difficult to photograph, because they either had the sun glaring off their wings or they had shadows from the leaves on them. 

As I walked back to the car I realised that there were several Zizyphus lotus plants growing along the track that I had walked past. When I had a look, many of them also had Little Tiger Blues flying around them.

Having learned which plants the butterflies liked I found a perfect area with Zizyphus lotus and Prosopis farcta growing alongside a blackberry bush. Here I also saw Long-tailed Blues, Small Whites and Lang's Short-tailed blues, Leptotes pirithus.

Most thrilling of all for me were a couple of  Lesser Fiery Coppers, Lycaena thersamon. These are quite large with a wingspan of between 28 and 35mm.

The first one that I saw was the female above, and later I saw the male, below. The pictures don't really do them justice, as they are a beautiful bright orange/copper colour when they fly.

Among all of the Small Desert Blues there were a few Common Blues, Polyommatus icarus. They looked really big compared to their smaller cousins. 

Further along the track my eye was caught by this female Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Leptotes pirithous, which was, I think, trying to fend off the advances of a male. It was vibrating its wings, which made the blue scales shine with a real intensity.

This behaviour continued for several minutes with the occasional male Small Desert Blue joining in! Eventually, the male appeared to give up and he settled close to the female who then closed her wings. Sadly I had to drag myself away. It was 35 degrees Celsius and the sun was very intense and I had a 100 mile journey ahead of me to return to the family. What an amazing day, though. I will never forget seeing so many Small Desert Blues and such a great variety of Lycaenidae. I am very grateful to Eddie John for suggesting I should go there. I would never have imagined that a hot, dry area next to a salt lake would be such a great place to look for butterflies!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Cyprus Dragonflies and Damselflies

There was certainly no shortage of dragonflies and damselflies in Cyprus. This surprised me a little as I always imagine that they like wetland areas, but there must have been sufficient water for them somewhere.

Most the the dragonflies and damselflies below were seen flying around a small pool in the river feeding into Mavrokolympos reservoir. However, I also regularly saw them when I was out looking for butterflies nearer the villa and we had a resident dragonfly at the pool.

I had no idea about the identification of any of the pictures below, but I am very grateful to Noushka, who has a wonderful wildlife photography blog for identifying many of the dragonflies and damselflies on this page. I have also had a great deal of help from David Sparrow who runs dragonfly monitoring scheme across Cyprus. I have added the names as captions to the pictures.

Sympetrum fonscolombii male

Sympetrum fonscolombii female

The red dragonfly below is the same species as the one that took up residence at our swimming pool. Of course it may not have been the same red dragonfly I saw each day at the pool! This seemed to be quite a common species in Cyprus.

Trithemis annulata male

There were also some beautiful damselflies at the pool:

Calopteryx splendens, male

I wonder if the two below are male and female?

Calopteryx splendens female

Calopteryx splendens female

This one looks a little more like those I see back home in Scotland.

Ishnura elegans

Meanwhile, back at the villa, I saw this species most times that I went out to look for butterflies. I don't know where the nearest water was. Certainly the stream at the bottom of the valley was completely dry. 

Sympetrum fonscolombii female

The dragonfly below was certainly my favourite. The way the red merged into yellow on the abdomen gave the impression that it had been dipped in gold.

Sympetrum fonscolombii male

Towards the end of our holiday this blue dragonfly also took up residence at the pool. I naively thought that it was the same species as the red dragonfly (red for girls, blue for boys?), as they would briefly chase each other and then land at opposite corners of the pool. However, my theory was destroyed when I saw two blue dragonflies mating on our last day!!

Orthetrum chrysostigma, male

Thank you again to David and Noushka for their help with the identifications of these dragonflies and damselflies. David also informed me that I also had a picture of Orthetrum coerulescens below:

And David identified this fussy picture as a Magnificent Emperor, Anax immaculifrons: