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Painted Ladies

Painted Ladt, Vanessa cardui

Vanessa cardui

As a final post from my recent trip to Cyprus, here’s a photo of a Painted Lady Vanessa cardui that I managed to get a quick snap of when the sun momentarily dipped behind a cloud. I quite like the painterly quality of this image.

Although reasonably common it proved really difficult to get close enough to get a shot. The heat increased their flightiness and often as not they would close their wings as they sensed my approach. See below. Not that the underside isn’t equally photogenic.

Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui

Vanessa cardui

Snake-eyes

European snake-eyed lizard, Ophisops elegens

Ophisops elegens

Ultimately the combination of heat and wind made photographing insects in Cyprus rather tricky so I turned my attention to some of the lizards.

Pictured above is the European snake-eyed lizard Ophisops elegens and very pretty it is too. A characteristic feature of Ophisops species is their lack of separate eyelids. Instead, the eye is covered by a transparent ‘spectacle’ similar to that of snakes, giving rise to this species’ common name and which gives this lizard something of a ‘staring’ expression.

Also fairly common were these Schreiber’s fringe-fingered lizards Acanthodactylus schreiberi which are on the IUCN red list of threatened species. Listed as Endangered because of a serious population decline, estimated to be more than 50% over the last 12 years. For example in nearby Turkey it is now very rare. The fringe of pointed scales along their long, agile toes allows them to run easily across loose, hot sand.

In Cyprus the subspecies syriacus is still locally common and I would often see them scuttling across the bare ground in front of me.

Acanthodactylus schreiberi

Acanthodactylus schreiberi

Swallowtail

European Swallowtail butterfly, Papilio machaon

Papilio machaon

I’m back from Cyprus now but while I was there this was one of the butterflies I was keen to photograph, the  European Swallowtail Papilio machaon. This is the subspecies syriacus. I was lucky enough to get this shot early one morning while walking along the cliffs of Kapparis. The colour of the grass in the background will give you some idea of how hot it was.

We get them here in England and I’ve previously written about them in a post about one I photographed in Kefalonia here but our native subspecies britannicus remains a rarity and is confined to the fens of east Norfolk.

However, in some years we do get a few migrants from the continent. This subspecies gorganus is less fussy and will use many kinds of Umbellifer, such as Wild Carrot daucus carota, as the larval food plant. In 2013 there were many sightings in Hampshire, Sussex and Kent including some evidence of egg-laying. In April 2014 a specimen was photographed near Winchester, Hampshire which suggests that some specimens may have successfully over-wintered. More info here.

So the continental species may well become more common in future.

Eastern Bath White

Eastern Bath White, Pontia edusa

Pontia edusa

I’m in south east Cyprus endeavouring to photograph butterflies. It’s not proving easy due to the combination of clear blue skies and an almost constant breeze. The warmth of the sun means they are rather flighty, even at first light and they don’t settle anywhere for long. The bright conditions give rather harsh shadows and the light winds means the vegetation is swaying about like a Brit with too much Keo on board which makes sharpness a challenge. As I said, not easy.

However, yesterday morning while walking along the cliffs near Kapparis there were a few welcome clouds sliding in off the sea and for a brief moment while a white wisp made it momentarily overcast I got this image of an Eastern Bath White Pontia Edusa. According to Butterflies of Cyprus Makris, 2003, this is a very common butterfly found throughout the island.