Crooked House

A country life in France

It has been bugging me

Anyone who reads my blogs on a regular basis will have picked up the fact that I enjoy the titling of my posts. Today I find myself so beset by possible choices that I begin writing without a title and possibly therefore without direction. We shall see what transpires…

This morning the Crooked Man wanted to work on his new motorhome so Nell and I went out for a walk on our own. The day was set to be hot, so we went off earlier than is my norm. I strapped on a camera, mindful of the Autumn Cottage Diarist journal prompt that I failed on yesterday. I took the Sony, which I have to admit that I have so far failed to get to grips with – I just haven’t been taking it out with me. Generally speaking, my photography habit has been in the doldrums for months.

I planned to shoot some of the abundant wildlife that we see around here. I thought that I might see a Green Lizard or two, perhaps a Whip Snake, maybe a Fire Salamander. There is always the prospect of deer or boar, a Coypu or a Eurasian Red Squirrel if quick off the mark with the lens. Butterflies abound but are difficult to capture and Dragonflies ditto. There are many frogs (ask Nell!). Much to see.

But not today.

As we walked up the road and out of the village I paused to admire the Wild Carrots in the verge and saw these:

Shield Bugs: Graphosoma italicum, known as the Italian striped bug (or Graphosoma lineatum – I may be confused)

And here we see the value of taking photographs in order to ID wildlife. Not only is there an actual record, rather than a hazy memory, but the camera sees far more than the naked eye can. Out on the roadside I saw only red and black stripes but when I got my photo home, I didn’t need to Google very hard because I recognised the shape of these bugs very readily. Shield-shaped? Must be Shield Bugs of some kind! and, indeed they are:

Graphosoma italicum known as the Italian striped bug because of its striped appearance. It is usually found on umbelliferous plants, such as wild carrots, especially their buds. Because most predators tend to leave it alone it is found in the open more than most shield bugs. Warmth loving, rare in the north of France but common south of the Loire.

Proud of myself for recognising a Shield Bug when I see one. The term “bug” is properly used, not as an idiomatic usage for any old insect:

Shield bugs are part of a large group of insects that are all part of the Order Hemiptera and are called True bugs.

One? Oh, no, there were very many of them about! (and they all seemed to be busy making more bugs)

I like this shot

We turned the corner onto the chemin that leads to La Grande Ferrière and it took me an age to progress as far as La Petite Ferrière. I was attempting to capture butterflies, of which there were very many. Most of them were like the one yesterday, that I tentatively identify as a Meadow Brown. The twin spots are confusing but I believe that this could be a variant form.

This butterfly is frustrating; it is highly active, scarcely ever stops still and when it does alight on a plant, it immediately closes its wings. These are however, far better captures than I managed last evening.

The Meadow Brown does appear to be a species with a wide variety of form.

This butterfly species is abundant here. When I say “abundant” I truly mean it. For week we have been walking through clouds of them on our morning walk. I have never seen so many butterflies in my life – not on any Buddleia nor in any Butterfly House. I determined to go and photograph this amazing sight, usually to be found just past the turn at La Grande Ferrière.

There were only a few today. I was disappointed.

Alongside the Meadow Browns on the chemin were a sizeable number of some kind of White. These were nowhere near as great in number as the browns but were even harder to capture as they seemed not to want to settle at all.

Fuzzy butterfly on the wing – it’s out of focus but I find this image charming nonetheless
Cabbage White, I think

One lone example of another species was the only butterfly to settle, wings spread in a beautiful pose. I hotfooted it over to the verge, pointed my lens and found that my camera refused to focus upon it. Unfortunately, having left my glasses at home, I couldn’t get Manual Focus up and running in time. Without an image to aid the ID, I can only guess that the chequered orange and brown beauty was some kind of Fritillary, possibly (probably?) a Marbled Fritillary (example here).

There were many other insects about today but without my glasses they were difficult to see and being such small subjects and my skill with this camera being even smaller… I did what I could.

A Tawny Mining Bee, I think
Stripey bugger, nesting in a tree trunk. Not to be meddled with. Image too blurred to assist identification? I think it a European Hornet but could easily be wrong
The lake today

Having been disappointed by the lack of a butterfly cloud near La Grande Ferrière, I continued round the chemin to the lake where there are always hosts of Dragonflies and a photograph could be assured. Not today. Nope. I saw a single specimen, darting on the wing and not at all obliging the camera. I aimed at a distant pond skater, having no problem staying afloat on a the algae-thickened surface of the water.

Scummy water today. Not going to attempt to ID the insect from this shot!

Round at “Nell’s Frog Pond” there wasn’t much action either. There are usually a few Dragonflies darting but there were none today. I saw evidence of one frog but no sightings to photograph. The water level is extremely low now and the frogs may be looking for a new home before long.

There was however much insect life around the place. I took many shots of one clump of plants but couldn’t really get close enough due to a large bed of nettles…

Several species of insect at work or play
Lichen growing on a road sign

On the way back into the village I took a few more snaps, including this one of lichen, another Carrot/Shield Bug shot and an unidentified waspy thing that might be an imitator fly but I cannot really tell.

Clockwise from Left: Adult, youngster, ? – not sure if this is another stage in the life cycle or a different species, difficult to tell from this image – but I like the shot and the juxtaposition
Wasp, I think – but which one? Can’t tell from this photo

The next time that I go out, I should mount a Macro lens.

I want to thank Roz for providing the impetus for me to get out and do this. I have missed playing with my camera, though have been lacking the will to do anything about that. You might possibly infer that it has been bugging me… I had fun today and although I was very cack-handed with the camera and lacked the ability to tweak settings, I do think that I came back with a few nice shots.

It is a great privilege to be living in this particular landscape.

A few more moments from this morning’s walk and perhaps some early signs of things to come:

There are few of these about this year and I think not sufficient to make Sloe Gin but this is the best endowed bush that I have seen so far and I shall be keeping an eye on it.

1 thought on “It has been bugging me

  1. Not feeling at my brightest today, Beth, so not venturing far…which is why your photo essay was a particular delight to read. I feel as if i have been on a lovely stroll through the French countryside and you have already gone ahead and found all the interesting things for me to see without me having to look for them! From my lazy couch – thank you (and it is entirely my pleasure to share the prompts with you)

Got something to say?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.