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EXCURSION NOTES 2021  (including many photos) - Scroll down

For a complete list of species seen and identified by me this year, click on:Year List 2021
For previous Excursion Notes (with photos), please click on year:20202019201820172016201520142013
For previous Year Lists, please click on year:20202019201820172016201520142013
 Excursion Notes 2021
1st-31st: Following the record snowfalls at the end of December, the whole of January has been very cold with snow laying on the ground even on the valley floor for virtually the whole month. Consequently to my knowledge, no self-respecting butterfly has been on the wing braving the freezing temperatures in my local area. Here are a few photographs showing the conditions: (photo of the valley where I live)(photo of one of my favourite hillside hunting grounds) (photo of frosted plants)
5th: A couple of nights with above-zero temperatures and 2 or 3 slightly warmer days with a bit of sunshine is all it takes, though, to bring the early species out. Although I have no photo of the butterfly, I was walking on this path (photo) not far from my house when a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) glided by, settled in some dry grass, but took off again before I could get near it. If I could have laid a bet on the first butterfly of the year being a Red Admiral, I would have won this year. It was about 8 degrees C with hazy sunshine after a slightly sunnier morning.
8th: Here is a photo of my second Red Admiral of the year in the vineyard 200m along the road from my house on a generally warmer, sunnier day, as you will see from this view looking towards the snow-capped mountains north-east of my village (photo). However, looking in the opposite direction, there is a change on the way and the clouds look decidedly more menacing! (photo)
11th-16th: An extremely cold few days with temperatures in my area right down to -8 degrees C at night and not getting above freezing during the day! No butterflies about.
17th: Sunny and warmer during the day again and I spotted 3 Red Admirals during a 20-minute walk at lunchtime. Here is a photo of one of them.
20th: My first two Large Tortoiseshells Aglais io) of the year, the first (photo) in the vineyard near my home (that I always seem to be talking about in February and March) and the second not far away (photo).
24th: Another warm afternoon and this time a rather small Comma (Polygonia c-album) butterfly settled in the grass just in front of me to soak up some sun (photo).
25th: The weather continues to be bright, sunny and warm and butterflies are starting to show themselves. Today, a Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) was flying around in my neighbour's garden and when I went to investigate, I found this Nettle-tree butterfly (Libythea celtis) (photo) feeding on the flowers among the grass. (The Brimstone had flown way without giving me any chance to get a photo.) In the afternoon we drove up the mountain behind the village and went for a short walk at about 1,000m asl. The track we chose starts off well-exposed to the sun (photo), passes through some trees, then goes through a wide grassy meadow with lovely views over the valley before cutting round the rocky edge of the mountain. This last section is usually good for butterflies because the warm rocks offer a sheltered settling and meeting place for many species. Here is one of the rocky outcrops with a Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) towards the right which you might just be able to make out (photo).This was one of three along the same track, all of which were very active and camera-shy. (Photo here, using zoom). Here is another view (photo) looking out over the valley.
1st: A few "Vineyard Butterflies":  a Comma (Polygonia c-album) (photo) with the village church in the background, a Green-veined White (Pieris napi) (photo) in the leaf vegetation on the ground and a Peacock (Agalis io)(photo) and Large Tortoiseshell (Aglais io) (photo) sunning themselves on top of the warm concrete supports for the vine wires.
10th: The number of butterflies on the wing continue to increase day-by-day with the most common in my local area being Small Tortoiseshells, Large Tortoiseshells and Green-veined Whites. New for today was a single Scarce Swallowtail.
12th -13th: A short local walk revealed this Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)(photo) and a couple of Orange Tips (Anthocharis cardamines), which, unfortunately did not stop for any photo opportunities and the following day, this single Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae)(photo).
14th: We had the first very light rainfall for nearly 2 months this morning with a very cold wind following it. However, by the afternoon the sky was clear and it was quite warm again (photo of hill and vineyards near my village) so I decided to go out for a breath of fresh air. Of interest was this Nettle Tree butterfly (Libythea celtis) (photo) on this path (photo) and  this Mallow Skipper (carcharodus alceae) (photo) on the sheltered ground in front of a wall.
18th - 31st: Our region is now in full lockdown due to Covid so any walks I do have to be in the immediate vicinity around my house. Luckily the grass and flowers along the sides of the nearby vineyards continue to be good hunting grounds for spring butterflies (photo). Here is a mating pair of Small Whites (photo), a Queen of Spain Fritillary (photo), an Eastern Bath White (photo), a Swallowtail (photo), a Speckled Wood (photo), a Wood White (photo), a Short-tailed Blue - female here (photo)(photo) male here - (photo), a Brown Argus (photo)(photo), a Small Copper(photo), a Mallow Skipper (photo) and a mating pair of Green-veined Whites (photo).
1st : A good first day of the month with 3 first sightings of the year - a couple of Small Heaths, a Berger's Clouded Yellow, which seemed to have no intention of stopping anywhere and two or three Chequered Blues (photo, photo). The weather is helping a lot with local temperatures reaching 26 or 27 degrees in the early afternoon, far above what they normally are for this period of the year. We have also had no significant rain since the beginning of January, which you can probably deduce from the dry, dusty earth in some of the photos.
2nd: Despite having a very bad back, I ventured out for some exercise on my bike today to get to a lateral valley where I hoped to see some Camberwell Beauties. It was a beautiful, hot sunny day with lots and lots of butterflies around, including four more first sightings for the year: a Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Green Hairstreaks (photo), Dingy Skippers (photo) and a female Sooty Copper (photo). Other species included Grizzled Skippers, Chequered Blues, Orange Tips (photo of a female), Brimstones, Small Tortoiseshells, Commas, Small, Green-veined and Wood Whites, Nettle-tree butterfly, Speckled Woods, Swallowtails and Scarce Swallowtails (photo). Although there were no Camberwell Beauties, there was this Narrow-bordered (?) Bee hawkmoth (photo) and several Tau Emperor moths flying haphazardly through the trees and bushes. The only photo I have, unfortunately, is one of this dead one (photo), which I found by the side of the road. Here are some views of the area where I was: the mountainside path (photo),  the stream (photo, photo further upstream) and a very pretty section where the water was being channelled off first to an old working watermill and after to a small generating station (photo).

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