Thursday, 30 August 2018

Creatures of the Cols part II

As well as providing some close encounters with Lammergeier, two visits to the Col de la Colombière during our recent trip to the French Alps proved productive for several high altitude species of butterfly. My favourite among these was the Mountain Clouded Yellow, a pallid version of the more familiar Clouded Yellow which we see in the UK, with a distinctive dusting of black scales on the upperwing.
Mountain Clouded Yellow - always lands with the wings closed
The beautiful upperwing could therefore only be captured only in flight
Reminiscent of the patterns made by iron filings with a magnet!
This individual showed the distinctive dark dusting through the underwing
It turns out that continental butterflies are every bit as unfussy with their tastes as our own: we christened a particularly large pile of dog-mess near the Col 'the turd of plenty' on account of the number of butterflies it attracted, including two new species for me: Red Underwing Skipper and Common Brassy Ringlet (the latter sounding a bit like a Shakespearian insult, I think).
Red Underwing Skipper doing what it says on the tin
Upperwing shot of Red Underwing Skipper
Common Brassy Ringlet taking a break from feasting on excrement 
This more discerning Large Wall Brown eschewed the turd of plenty to roost on a rock
A walk into the mountains west of Sallanches to the Refuge de Doran produced a few more new species including an attractive Damon Blue and an elusive Alpine Heath which led me a merry dance around a scree slope before I eventually pinned it down for a photograph. Still to come in future posts: a few Alpine mammals, fun with Fritillaries and some Erebian nightmares...
Alpine Heath - a reasonably straightforward species to identify with the broad spotted white band in the underwing
Closer crop of the Alpine Heath
Damon Blue underside - another fairly easy one to identify
Damon Blue upperside

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