The land of the south Charente is a changing; old fashioned, low intensive mixed farming is on the wane and new intensive agriculture is spreading. The old is untidy and intricate, fascinating but inefficient; and the new, uniform and sharp-lined, mundane but productive and profitable.
Young Limousine bull in an ancient pasture land; herds of these fine cattle maintain both pastures and fodder fields, unless they are reared en masse in sheds.
The advance of the monoculture.
The animal and plant communities of the old agriculture, woodlands and waste corners are excluded from the monoculture of crops by cleaned and turned earth, herbicides and pesticides. The changing pattern of the landscape determines the long term existence of many of these species, especially the prissy specialists and those sensitive to the growing extremes of the climate. Conservationists are always in a permanent tailspin about these changes and resulting declines of odd looking and odder sounding species that most people rarely see or truly care about; the fear, I suppose, is that one day the land will be manicured like a model in a magazine without a pimple or a wrinkle to be seen.
A huge longhorn beetle, I think Cerambyx cerva crosses the road; it is a fussy old dinosaur requiring dead wood from ancient trees for the eggs and larva to grow within and hence is declining in much of Europe as such woodlands disappear.
The Provençal short-tailed blue (Cupido alcetas) laying eggs on the flowerhead of its larval host plant black medick (Medicago lupulina); black medick is extremely common in calcareous grasslands which may explain the abundance of the butterfly.
The map butterfly (Araschnia levana) is quite common by lakes and streams, perhaps because its larval food plant, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is prevalent in these damp habitats. This is the dark phase that appears in high summer; the spring brood is much more orange in colour.
Dingy skipper (Erynnis tages); the larval food plants are bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), greater bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus) and horseshoe vetch (Hippocrepis comosa). These plants are quite common on grazed chalk grasslands.
Mallow skippers, (Carcharodus alceae) are common in the boundaries of farmland and the larval food plant is, of course, mallow (Malva sylvestris) which is a very common grazing tolerant plant in the area.
The woodland grayling (Hipparchia fagi) perfectly camouflaged on the turned earth and a pretty moth species on mallow.
Wall brown (Lasiommata megera) in the early morning light; the diversity of butterflies with the little roundels over their wings is often confusing but always entrancing if you are into wild design.
Wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi) with its mummified prey; the old girl stuns its prey with poison, wraps it in a silken bundle, injects a cocktail of potent enzymes that turn the innards to mush, and then sucks the soup out of it. Very Fat Duck.
2 Comments Add yours
Hey Steve, we’ve been busy so it’s taken me a while to get around to reading this. Was it the wasp spider in my strawberry patch? Or did you find this one somewhere else?
The fritillaries are beautiful. I’ll never identify them, but I will enjoy looking closely at them.Thanks. D.
Hi there, Glad you liked the fritillaries. I found the wasp spider the other side of the valley in an abandoned field; I never dared venture into your veg patch. Cheers, Steve