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.
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.
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.
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.
The recent run of warm weather here in the UK has been a reminder of how hot it was when I visited Cyprus in April. This little chap was one of the first insects I encountered in the village of Frenaros where my mum and dad now live. My reason for showing it here is that this strikingly coloured red and black bug, that looks as though it has an african mask painted on its back, may be spreading northwards into England. Recently it has been found in Devon. Previously there have been small colonies in Surrey and Sussex and sporadic reports elsewhere. Although Britain has traditionally marked the northernmost edge of its range it has been a native of Jersey and Guernsey in the Channel Islands for some time now. In the last decade the populations there have increased greatly. So it may be an insect worth looking out for in future.
It proved a particularly difficult subject to photograph. Being almost manically active due to the very warm temperature. It wouldn’t keep still, even for a fraction of a second, and so the vast majority of my photos were just slightly blurred. But I persevered over several days and eventually succeeded in getting this image. Read more
My recent trip to Cyprus was a little disappointing. Although I did get to see many hundreds of butterflies they proved remarkably difficult to photograph. For starters it was way hotter than expected, peaking at around 37 degrees. It was clear I’d misjudged the timing by 2 weeks to a month – the majority of the wildflowers were burnt to a crisp.
During my recent trip to Cyprus to photograph insects and butterflies I saw a lot of lizards. It was a bit of a herpetologist’s dream. In England we only have two lizards, the Viviparous and the Sand Lizard. In Cyprus there are eleven. The largest of which is the Starred Agama Laudakia stellio, also known as the Sling-tailed Agama, Star or Spiny Lizard. The Agamids, a very ancient order of reptiles are represented by only one species in Europe although there are over 300 world wide. However, there are many recognised subspecies throughout the mediterranean, particularly on the islands. Ladakia stellio cypriaca is endemic to Cyprus. Read more