Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Foreign parts (part 2)

The trip started from Manston (thereby substantially reducing our carbon footprint, as we only had to drive a few miles....ahem). That's Pegwell Bay down there.
Just behind the hotel, paths led up into the mountains through olive groves with stunning vegetation on limestone terraces. The variety of plants was lovely, like a chalk downland with nothing able to grow strongly enough to swamp its neighbours - herbs like southernwood, rue, dill, marjoram and thyme mixed with meadow clary, rock rose and bugloss.
Occasionally a different plant would be seen, like this narrow-leaved helleborine.
Lizards were common, sunning themselves on rocks.

There were plenty of butterflies enjoying the heat, and I noticed that they flew faster than here, where it's a bit cooler. The butterfly above looks like a Duke of Burgundy, but it was much larger than those I've seen in the UK - about the size of a comma. Any ideas on this, or indeed on the one below, which I assume is a decorative grizzled skipper? Answer below, courtesy of Dan Hoare of Butterfly Conservation:
These must be Dukes, as there is no other comparable species in Europe, but even from the photos they do seem large! Probably just a bigger continental form, the markings seem pretty standard. I dare say it's a bit commoner there too!

The Skipper is I think Marbled Skipper Carcharodus lavatherae.
The grizzled skipper complex in Europe is really tricky, particularly the closely related ones in the Pyrgus group, but fortunately these Carcharodus species, with the rippled margin on the hindwings, is a bit easier, and your specimen is quite well-marked with large pearly spots (drabber specimens are tougher to id, and some are indistinguishable in the field).

Incidentally, probably the best id book for tackling the intimidating diversity of European butterflies is 'Butterflies of Europe - Identifying Butterflies is Easy' by Tristan Lafranchis
But there are also some good website such as
Black-veined white

And yes, there were birds. Italy is not, despite its reputation, a bird-free zone. We woke to a chorus of serins and wrynecks, and is that an orphean warbler with a call that sounds like 'Figaro, Figaro, Figaro'?Crag martins flitted above the lake.....
and a red kite glided over the village while a black kite soared high above.A Sardinian warbler was spotted in the olive trees, and in the evenings a nightjar churred somewhere in the hills.


Greenie said...

Steve ,
Really enjoyed your report from your carbon-reduced trip to foreign parts .
Can almost smell those herbs .
Great shots all round , and surprisingly , some great bird sightings . I take it that the 'figaro' call was heard exiting the local hostelry .
On butterflies , no clubbed antennae on ? Grizzled Skipper .
The large 'Duke' has all the right markings as you say . Will keep looking .

Kingsdowner said...

Thanks for your diligence Greenie.
The 'figaros' came at the end of a short, blackcap-like call, always delivered from inside a bush or tree.

Mary said... go such great places. You must have been in heaven with all the new plants and butterflies to see. Glad to know they have birds, too :-) That little yellow bird is cute.