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.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Mount Pantokrator, Corfu - Butterflies

On 29 June I drove up to the top of Mount Pantokrator. At 906 metres, it is the highest point in Corfu. When I arrived I was surprised to find that I was the only person there, but I was quite pleased, as there was very little room to turn the car around!

The top of the mountain is a mass of masts and satellite dishes and there were great views across Corfu and over to Albania. I had read that Southern Swallowtails, Papilio alexanor, have often been seen there, but unfortunately I didn't see any that day. I was pretty windy up there, so not idea for butterflies.

However, on the way up there I had spotted a track leading off the road with bushes on either side. I stopped the car and thought I should take a look. Despite the wind, or maybe because of it, there were hundreds of butterflies in this more sheltered area.

As I walked through the grass on this overgrown track, butterflies flew up ahead of me. I was delighted to see a Balkan Marbled White, Melanargia larissa, and then another.

These were the most common butterflies along the track.

There were also quite a few Brown Argus, Aricia agestis, in the grass...

... along with some Common Blues, Polyommatus icarus.

In an Evergreen Oak I saw some little hairstreaks. I was able to identify them later as Ilex Hairstreaks, Satyrium ilicis. I also found out that the Ilex Hairstreak shares it name with the scientific name for the Evergreen Oak, Quercus ilex.

A little further along the track was a more open grassy area where I found a small colony of Small Skippers, Thymelicus sylvestris.

Walking back along the track, I saw a Silver-washed Fritillary, Argynnis paphia.

On the other side of the road I noticed another track leading up-hill, so I thought it would be worth exploring. Almost immediately an orange butterfly flew up and dropped down below the track. I scrambled down and tried to circle where I thought it had landed and I was over the moon to see that it was a Southern Comma, Polygonia egea. This was the only one I saw on my holiday.

There were fewer butterflies on the dry part of this track, but I did see a Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas.

Further along the track it became more overgrown and lush. There continued to be a lot of Balkan Marbled Whites and a few Wall Browns, Lasiommata megera.

There were occasional Clouded Yellows, Colias crocea ...

... Large Whites, Pieris brassicae ...

... and Swallowtails, Papilio machaon.

There were also Small Whites, Pieris rapae, Cleopatras, Gonepteryx cleopatra, and Brimstones, Gonepteryx rhamni, but they were all too quick for me to take a photo of them.

In the most shaded end of the track, just before it became totally impenetrable I found some Purple Hairstreaks, Quercusia quercus, enjoying the shade.

A little further down the road, on my return journey, I spotted a gate just next to where the road crossed a bridge. I thought that I may see some different butterflies in this shaded spot, so stopped the car for a quick look. These gates turned out to be the gateway to butterfly heaven! Just beyond the trees the track opened out into a lovely meadow, with a terraced vineyard to one side. It was all a little overgrown and covered with wild flowers.

I could see butterflies flying around everywhere I looked. The most numerous was the Balkan Marbled White.

There were Cleopatras feeding on lovely pink wild flowers.

Brimstones and Large Whites were doing the same, all in large numbers.

Occasionally a Great Banded Grayling, Brintesia circe, would fly up from rocky or more open areas of soil.

I was thrilled to see a Southern White Admiral, Limenitis reducta, flying along the trees at the edge of the meadow, but I was unable to catch up with it. However, it did lead me to a Wood White, Leptidea sinapis.

Interspersed among the butterflies above, were Clouded Yellows, Common Blues, Silver-washed Fritillaries, Wall Browns, Small Skippers and Brown Argus. I spent ages just watching the butterflies, amazed by how many there were there!

As I watched, I kept seeing the occasional Southern White Admiral. They were always heading to one particular point, so I went and stood there to see if it came back. I spotted a Purple Hairstreak in the trees and as I was trying to photograph it a Southern White Admiral landed on a branch next to it.

What a delight. This was the butterfly that I really wanted to see on this holiday.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Cape Drastis, Corfu - Butterflies

On 27th June I drove up to the north west of Corfu to Cape Drastis. I had been recommended a walk there by a fellow butterfly enthusiast. There are amazing lime stone cliffs there and the walk ran through old olive groves, woodland and small areas of vegetables.

I arrived at 8.30am and stayed for three hours. There were hundreds of Wall Browns, Lasiommata megera, all the way along the track along with some Meadow Browns, Maniola jurtina.

The Meadow Browns there are interesting, having two or three dots on the underside of their wings. However, they are thought to be the same species that occurs in the UK.

There was a small area that I had been recommended to visit. It consisted of a turning area and a clearing in the olive grove where some onions had been planted. There were plenty of wild flowers growing there, a grassy slope and some small trees offering a variety of habitats.

Initially I didn't think there was much in the way of butterflies there, but I spotted a Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, and realised that there were three of them in an area of wild flowers.

While I was photographing it, I was delighted to spot a Silver Washed Fritillary, Argynnis paphia, the other side of an olive tree. This was the first time I had seen a Silver Washed Fritillary, so I spent some time taking pictures of it.

There were a few Common Blues, Polyommatus icarus, flying there along with Large Whites, Pieris brassicae, and more Wall Browns.

While I was trying to get pictures of the Fritillary a small white butterfly flew past, and I was delighted to see that it was a Wood White, Leptidea sinapis. I have seen these briefly a couple of times before, but I have never managed to get a picture, so I watched it and carefully followed if until it eventually settled. I was so pleased to manage to get a picture of it.

A little further along the track I came across another area where the grass had been strimmed below some olive trees. There was also a small areas where vegetables were growing and at the edge some wild flowers where a beautiful Clouded Yellow, Colias crocea, was feeding.

I continued along the track and searched a variety of habitats on either side. A grassy slope had nothing flying on it, but a shady track had Speckled Woods, Pararge aegeria, enjoying the shade.

There were a couple of beautiful Scarce Swallowtails, Iphiclides podalirius, at the side of the track along with some Long-tailed Blues, Lampides boeticus.

On the way back I returned to the first area I had searched and the number of butterflies had really picked up. I found a Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas, and saw a distant Brimstone and Cleopatra.

A little further along the track I notice a Scarce Swallowtail in an area below the track and went down to photograph it. This turned out to be a magical spot, with several Scarce Swallowtails, Brimstones, Gonepteryx rhamni, Cleopatras, Gonepteryx cleopatra, Large Whites and Silver Washed Fritillaries feeding on the flowers there.

I was also delighted to find a Brown Argus, Aricia agestis. I have seen Northern Brown Argus and Southern Brown Argus, but never before just a Brown Argus! I spent a while there watching all of the butterflies.

Eventually I had to drag myself away. Just a little further along the track, I couldn't believe my eyes, as I saw a Southern White Admiral, Limenitis reducta, flying down a track leading downhill. I followed it, but unfortunately lost it before I could take a picture. I was delighted to see one for the first time, but was disappointed that I hadn't managed to photograph it. However, it had been a great morning seeing so many butterflies, three species I hadn't seen before and another two species that I hadn't managed to photograph before.

On my way back I drove down to Sidari Beach and walked up the river. There weren't many butterflies there, other than a few female Common Blues and a Small White, Pieris rapae. Then I saw a little brown insect, which turned out to be a Pigmy Skipper, Gegenes pumilio - the only one I saw all holiday.

What an amazing 3 hours! Lovely scenery, such a variety of butterflies and more kind local people. I called into a shop to buy a bottle of water on my way, but the shop had no change, so just gave me the bottle. On my way back I called into the shop and bought some food for lunch and paid the lady the extra Euro for the water she had given me. She told me I was very kind!! 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Corfu Butterflies - June 2017

This year's family summer holiday was to the Greek island of Corfu. A fantastic place for a holiday with lovely scenery, warm sea and the most friendly, generous people I have ever met. My parents holidayed there in the 1970s and came back with stories about how lovely the people were there and it seems they still are!!

We rented a villa in an olive grove at the north east of the island, above Nisaki. It was built on a steep slope, so there were two stories with the swimming pool build into the hillside at roof level. I thought this would provide a great vantage point for seeing butterflies, but compared with other areas on the island there were not that many there.

I am not quite sure where to start with the butterflies, so here is a summary of what I saw at the villa and in the surrounding area.

We arrived at our villa at about 6pm and I was delighted to see a number of butterflies flying around a small cherry tree by the front door. There was a pair of Large Wall Browns, Lasiommata maera ...

... four or five Great Banded Graylings, Brintesia circe ...

... two Speckled Woods, Pararge aegeria ...

... a Lattice Brown, Kirinia roxelana ...

... and about ten Eastern Rock Graylings, Hipparchia syriaca.

The following day these butterflies were still there, feeding on the over-ripe and fallen fruit and flying up in a cloud each time we walked past. Over the course of the day I also saw a Small White, Pieris rapae, Cleopatra, Gonepteryx cleopatra, Swallowtail, Papilio machaon, Scarce Swallowtail, Iphiclides podalirius, Balkan Marbled White, Melanargia larissa, and a Silver-washed Fritillary, Argynnis paphia, flying past the villa, but none of them stopped.

There was a wisteria plant growing at the front of the villa and this attracted Mallow Skippers, Carcharodus alceae, Long-tailed Blues, Lampides boeticus, and a Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Leptotes pirithous.

However, by the fourth day the usual five species disappeared from around the cherry tree. I suspect that the housekeeper had sprayed around the tree to kill the ants, as there was still plenty of fruit around.

The butterflies continued to fly past the villa, but rarely settled. Half way through our holiday I was thrilled to see a Spotted Fritillary, Melitaea didyma, fly past the villa and land briefly on a bay tree. I was frustrated that it didn't stay long enough for a photo, though! However, on our last day a Spotted Fritillary landed near the villa and started laying eggs on a dried up plantain plant.

I had read that the olive groves in Corfu are sprayed against disease, which has had a bad impact on wildlife that would otherwise occur there. I guess that the olive trees around the villa had been sprayed. Elsewhere on the island there were loads of butterflies, which I will write about in my next posts.