June 2014

9th-15th June 2014
Valais, Switzerland

Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus)

I took a day off from flower photography this week to concentrate on photographing a couple of birds that were missing from my portfolio. As often seems to be the case with me, common species sometimes get ignored. Not because I find them uninteresting, but usually because I often pass by them thinking I'm sure to get a better opportunity, with better light, or a closer bird and, before I know it, it's time to go home and I've missed my chance completely.

This year I resolved to fill in a couple of gaps in my common birds of Switzerland and it didn't take too much effort to find good spots with plenty of breeding activity for two of the species on my target list: Ring Ouzel and Western Bonelli's Warbler. After I'd located them, it was just a simple case of setting myself up in a position where I would get good light with an uncluttered background and waiting for the birds to perform...and sure enough they didn't disappoint me!

Western Bonelli's Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli)

After I'd got good photos of the Ring Ouzel and Bonelli's Warbler under my belt, it was back to the flower photography again...

Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia)

A wide variety of orchids can be found in the woodlands and meadows, such as Sword-leaved Helleborine, Lesser Butterfly Orchids and Violet Limodore.

Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia)

Violet Limodore (Limodorum abortivum)

Many orchids have close associations with fungi and Violet Limodore takes this to an extreme. It is an unusual orchid in that its leaves are reduced to small scales and, although they contain chlorophyll, they do not have the capacity to photosynthesize enough nutrients to support the plant's growth, relying instead on gaining nutrients from the fungi it associates with in a parasitic relationship known as mycoheterotrophy.

Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala)

Narrow-leaved Flax (Linum tenuifolium)

Alpine Butterwort (Pinguicula alpina)

Rock Speedwell (Veronica fruticans)

Saxifraga exarata pseudoexarata

Large-flowered Leopardsbane (Doronicum grandifolia)

Small White Orchid (Pseudorchis albida)

White-form of Flower of Jove (Silene flos-jovis)

By mid-June, many of the mid-altitude meadows (900-1500m) are becoming quite degraded due to grazing from livestock as they are moved up the mountainside. The sheep and goats, however, don't seem to find Silene flos-jovis palatable and in pastures where every other plant has been grazed to ground level, the Silene flos-jovis flowers remain untouched and provide an abundant food source for a wide variety of butterflies.

[Note: The white form of the flower (above right) is uncommon and the plants usually have the bright pink flowers shown in the photos below]

Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius)

Titania's Fritillary (Clossiana titania)

Apollo (Parnassius apollo)

Apollos are common and some meadows can be teeming with clouds of these specatcular butterfiles.

Apollo (Parnassius apollo)

Assassin Bug (Rhynocorus sp.)

1st-8th June (Valais, Switzerland) 2014 index 16th-23rd June (Valais, Switzerland)