May 2014

28th-31st May 2014
Valais, Switzerland

After having 3 days of solid rain in the Jura Mountains, I decided it was time to head east to the western Alps to try and find some better weather and on the whole I mostly found it. At least it was dry despite the occassional spell of low cloud!

Some of the high passes still had a considerable covering of snow with the photo above being taken at an altitude of only 2400m (8740ft).

Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea)

Globeflower (Trollius europaeus)

Slightly lower down the slopes, however, the meadows were covered with a profusion of flowers. The photos below show just a tiny selection of the huge diversity of the beautiful wildflowers present at altitudes between 1500-2000m.

Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina alpina)

Spring Gentian (Gentiana verna)

Heart-leaved Globe-daisy (Globularia cordifolia)

Elder-flowered Orchid (Dactylorhiza sambucina)

Heartsease (Viola tricolor)

St. Bruno's Lily (Paradisea liliastrum)

Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea)

Alpine Bistort (Polygonum viviparum)

Golden Hawksbeard (Crepis aurea)

Globeflower (Trollius europaeus)

Alpine Coltsfoot (Homogyne alpina)

Alpine Flax (Linum [perenne] alpinum)

With so many flowers around, it is not surprising that the canton of Valais is also famous for its diversity of butterflies...

Geranium Argus (Aricia eumedon)

Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia)

Clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne)

Clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne)

I found the wasp shown below busily building its nest on the side of a boulder in a damp meadow. After sending a few of the photos to a friend, he pointed me to a very recently published paper (April 2014) describing a newly discovered cryptic species that had previously been lumped with Polistes bischoffi. By closely examining magnifyed views of several different photos and working through the key in the paper it turned out to be a specimen of the newly described species P. helveticus and, assuming my ID is correct, the current record extends the known altitude range of this species by 750m as the previous highest recorded altitude for P. helveticus was 980m asl!

Polistes helveticus

22nd-27th May (Vaud, Switzerland) 2014 index 1st-8th June (Valais, Switzerland)