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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Butterflying in the Alpes-Maritimes - Rimplas

Way back in late December I noticed a Tweet from Greenwings advertising a butterfly tour, my curiosity was sufficiently aroused to do some research, particularly previous tour reports. The upshot was that I found myself on the way to Nice for six great days out, in what has to be one of the best locations for finding butterflies, the Alpes - Maritimes.

The plan was a two centred holiday based upon the village of Rimplas, a small village in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France and the village of Saint Martin d'Entraunes, both within the Mercantour National Park. There were just two of us, of a total group of nine, on the delayed flight from Gatwick and when we finally arrived at our hotel, butterflying had ceased for the day, there were complaints that it was too hot and everyone had retired. Thunderstorms were threatening but I managed to have a quick preview of the track that would be the venue for the next day.

Next morning, after breakfast, we joined our guides David Moore and Ed Hutchings and made our way up to the old Fort Rimplas. The reasoning being that the sun hits this road first thing in the morning, sadly not today, the overnight rain had disappeared but grey cloud was persisting and the forecast was not due to improve until the afternoon. However, no one had told the butterflies and Great Sooty Satyrs, Marbled Whites and Escher's Blue were spotted on the way up.

Even with a minimum amount of sunshine the Great Sooty Satyrs were nectaring on any available flower of Valerian and Scabious.


Great Sooty Satyr (f)

Great Sooty Satyr (m)

Great Sooty Satyr (f)

Great Sooty Satyr (m)

Great Sooty Satyr (f)


Great Sooty Satyr (m)

Great Sooty Satyr (m)
 
 
 Up at the fort Ed had found a family of Crag Martins being fed by both parents, over the period that I observed them it was apparent that the grub was being shared equally.



Searching the grounds of the fort revealed very little, just one of the few dragonflies of the tour, which didn't stop for a proper photograph and the extensive stand of Mallow plants failed to provide a Mallow Skipper.


Woodland Grayling trying to get some heat from the fort wall.

A slow amble back down the road to the start of the Promenade de la Foret, approximately 1.5 km of grassy track that provided a host of butterflies.




Marbled Whites were truly ubiquitous, very numerous on the track but throughout the tour we found them up to the highest altitudes.

More next year



 
 Fritillaries were well represented, I managed to record Knapweed, Spotted and Weaver's and some worn Heaths
 


Knapweed Fritillary

 
Knapweed Fritillary

Knapweed Fritillary

 
Spotted Fritillary

Spotted Fritillary

Weaver's Fritillary

Weaver's Fritillary

Weaver's Fritillary

Heath Fritillary


Plenty of blues to be found too.




Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue

Baton Blue

Escher's Blue

Escher's Blue

Turquoise Blue


Meleager's Blue


Lang's Short-tailed Blue




I managed to record both Pearly and Dusky Heath ...

Pearly Heath

Dusky Heath


Berger's Clouded Yellow

Berger's Clouded Yellow


Woodland Grayling

Woodland Grayling

Great Banded Grayling


Great Banded Grayling

Great Banded Grayling, seldom seen resting with wings open

Lulworth Skipper (f) showing the "crescent" marking.

Lulworth Skipper (m)

Wall

Wall

Wall


Wood White

Wood White

Blue-spot Hairstreak
Red Underwing Skipper


In the village, at a house adjacent to the hotel and between the tracks, the owner had judiciously planted three lavender bushes. These were a magnet for bees and butterflies and had to be checked both in the morning before leaving and on return in the evening.


Great Sooty Satyrs everywhere.
Finally we connected with the scarce Southern Comma, seen by the previous tour and much sought after by our illustrious leader.

Southern Comma

Southern Comma

Southern Comma

Southern Comma

Southern Comma


The variety of Grizzled Skippers gave me ID problems, Foulquier's or Oberthur's - mmmm - maybe both.






Really nice to find a Scarce Swallowtail with the full complement of tails. usually they are found with none or one!








The road up to Fort Rimplas - early morning

 

The village of Rimplas in the first rays of morning sunshine.

The much visited Lavender bushes

Great to have a room with a view


Finally, as we prepared to leave, a Southern White Admiral on the hotel forecourt.