Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Maltese Wall Lizards

As I was writing my post about our trip to Gozo earlier in the year I realised that I did in fact take a lot of photos of Maltese wall lizards (Podarcis filfolensis) so rather than put all the photos into that post I have given them their very own post.

The Maltese Wall Lizard is a protected species and is only found on the three Maltese Islands (Malta, Gozo and Comino) and Pelagian Islands. 

So here is a photographic celebration of this wonderful lizard, I spent many hours over the week or so crawling around on rocks, laying on rocks and waiting, but it was well worth it. 

 Such A wonderfully charcterful and photogenic species. If you want to read my post about the trip here it is: Gozo and Malta until next time, stay safe. Victoria xx

Gozo (and Malta)

Back in June, we headed off to Gozo for my brother's wedding and decided to make a bit of a holiday of it and go looking for some reptiles and butterflies. On landing in Malta we jumped straight in the car and headed for the ferry and Gozo then off to find our wonderful B&B for the first couple of nights. We stayed with a lovely couple at Charming B&B “Dar ta’ Zeppi" and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Gozo, Tanja and Vince were incredibly welcoming and friendly and the place is just beautiful and located in a quiet part of the island. After we checked in we headed off to find dinner and ate at a small little restaurant just 10 minutes walk away enjoying fresh fish caught that day and delicious local wine.

The next day we headed off in search of some butterflies, reptiles and the beech! As Chris was sorting some stuff out I had a wonder round the garden at the B&B and came across this Geranium Bronze (Cacyreus marshalli) feeding on a white flower that acted as a perfect reflector producing a wonderful light underneath the butterfly. 

Time to head off and explore the botanical gardens just up the road, I was hoping for chameleons, lizards and snakes as well as bugs, unfortunately the lizards were too quick and the only snake and chameleon I found were dead ones but we did find a long-tailed blue butterfly (Lampides boeticus).  

After much searching we decided to head to the beech for some relaxation and a swim in the rather chilly sea then back to the B&B and off for dinner. The next day we headed back to the same spot briefly to have another search, this time coming across a rather obliging dragonfly.

Still no reptiles so time to head to Ramla Bay and a walk on the beech, just as we were leaving to go explore some more I found a Maltese Wall Lizard (Podarcis filfolensis) in the tree by the information centre and that was me for about 20 minutes. 

After a day of exploring and a good meal we headed to bed ready to move to Xlendi the next day to meet up with the rest of the family and do some more exploring over the next couple of days and to celebrate the wedding. Most of the exploring took place on the cliffs just up from Xlendi Bay, and I could have honestly spent days there and still not been bored so here are some photos from the cliff explorations. I've decided that as I spent so much time photographing the wall lizards they have their own dedicated post you can check out here:  Maltese Wall Lizards

We did make a trip out to the Azure Window (Games of Thrones fans should recognise it) and enjoyed a wonder round and then a swim in the inland see to cool off.

Salt crystals forming in one of the small pools

The wedding was absolutely beautiful and we had so much fun celebrating, eating drinking and dancing on the roof of the St. Patricks Hotel in Xlendi Bay, and here we are with the bay in the background.

The time had come to say good bye to everyone and head back to Malta for a day before catching the flight home. On recommendation we visited the medieval walled city of Mdina and later on in the afternoon met up with Rich and Susie for tea and cake. Rather unlike me I took some photos of the buildings as we wondered round. 

We had a wonderful time and will definitely be visiting again, there is so much more I would like to explore and photograph at different times of the year as well. Just have to find the time and start planning! Until next time, stay safe, Victoria xx

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Green Hairstreaks

Until this year I have only seen photos of green hairstreak butterflies (Callophrys rubi) I'd never actually seen one in real life and was determined to do something about that this spring! Over winter I did my research as to where they were seen last year and also time of day and behaviour and picked two locations, one just down the road and the other about 30 minutes away and kept an eye out for the first sightings whilst going over some ideas for composition and potential lighting.

My first trip out was April 26th, it was a little windy but an otherwise perfect day, knowing that in this area they are most likely to be found in and around gorse that's where I headed (with a little help from some fellow photographer friends). These are my first ever photos of a green hairstreak, this one is a male and they can be very territorial chasing and fighting other males that enter their patch. One thing that you don't often see with them is the dusky pink colouration on the fore-wing, the first few photos I took I just couldn't get this to show so I have developed a few little techniques to help bring this out, I'm not letting on what they are just yet as I'm still perfecting them but will be writing an article about them at the end of the summer.

I am also working on being more artistic and creative rather than taking standard ID shots of the butterflies and you will certainly see this as we journey through this post, starting with this image using the gorse flowers in the foreground as a soft blur drawing the eye to the butterfly sitting in amongst the flowers.

Well, this was it, I was in love with these surprisingly small but stunning butterflies and dedicated much of the ext month or so to photographing them, most of the time on the gorse! Spending so much time with them really enabled me to get into their little lives, notice tiny things and come up with different ways of capturing them and showing them in their little world. 

When you spend time with them you start to notice not just how beautiful they can be surprisingly friendly and curious as well, over the weeks I have spent with them I've been able to get an insight into their world and see how much they depend on the gorse.  

Over time I started to notice how different colours compliment each other with the green in the background matching the green of the butterfly in this photo. 

But, there's always a but. For the majority of the time I could only find males on the gorse and as striking the contrast is between the yellow of the flowers and green of the butterfly, I wanted to see if I could find some females that spend their time closer to the ground, perseverance definitely paid off. I found them between the wild thyme and the buttercups. The first image is in amongst the wild thyme, both her and me.  

The next few images are of a female (not the same one) feeding on buttercups and daises, it really gives you an idea of just how small they really are. 

After a couple of weeks I started to see less and less of these wonderful little butterflies in their normal location but did start to find them in other areas of the same sight including hawthorn bushes and these last few images are of them in amongst the green leaves. On the first two photos you can even see the green scales around the face.

This male wouldn't stay still for long as he would keep chasing anything that came near his patch, butterflies, bees it didn't matter, but when he did it's like everything came together and I was able to try some different compositions with the very last one being my favourite, a very unusual photo but eye catching and it reminds me a little of an ice cream cone.

Well, that's it for this post, I hope you've enjoyed my green hairstreak moment, I'm missing these little butterflies already and really looking forward to their return next year, but other species are emerging everyday now and the orchids are looking amazing so there is plenty to keep me busy.

My next post will be from a trip to Gozo and Malta before it's back to the butterflies, orchids and anything else that I have been working on. For now, look after yourselves and enjoy the great weather we're having here in the South West right now.

Bye for now.