The land of yellows and blues

Blue butterflies in Hungary

Hungary is the land of yellows in its endless fields of sunflowers:

Sunflowers Hungary

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM   f/9   1/125   ISO 160

Hungary is also the land of blues. Blue butterflies from the Polyommatinae subfamily to be precise. I counted at least a dozen species some of which were lifers to me, such as this Turquoise Blue (Polyommatus dorylas):

Turquoise blue butterfly polyommatus dorylas

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM   f/7.1   1/400   ISO 100

Another frequent flyer was the Chequered Blue (Scolitantides orion):

Chequered blue butterfly scolitantides orion

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM   f/5.6   1/640   ISO 100

Mud-puddling in Aggletek NP were the common Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus) and another lifer, the Eastern short-tailed Blue (Cupido decoloratus):

Eastern short-tailed blue cupido decoloratus silver-studded blue plebejus argus butterfly

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM   f/5.6   1/320   ISO 100

Last but not least a specimen that also occurs in The Netherlands, but this is by far the best picture I ever took: the Short-tailed blue (Cupido argiades). Taken in Bükk NP, you can see the sun already alluminating the background while the dew-covered butterfly is still in the shadows. “Like”!

Short-tailed blue butterfly cupido argiades

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM   f/5.6   1/200   ISO 100

Abundance

Mud-puddling butterflies in Hungary

Having driven for two days straight from Amsterdam to Hungary, pretty done after 1,500 kilometers of tarmac, the last thing you wanna hear upon arrival is: “This is actually a very bad year for butterflies here”. Well, the first thing we heard upon arrival after two days straight on the road and 1,500 kilometers of tarmac was our host saying: “This is actually a very bad year for butterflies here.” Thank you so much for your encouragement Rob!

Our host Rob at http://www.farmlator.hu, a Dutch biologist married to a Hungarian woman, told us that it had been unusually cold and wet in Hungary. The good side of it was that my friend and I could expect to see some species that normally would be long gone. And we did, boy we did. Turns out that a mediocre butterfly season in Hungary is a butterfly photographer’s paradise through Dutch eyes. And truth be told, Rob more than made up for his welcoming statement by directing us to some very, very fine butterfly locations.

In between us, we saw some 60 species in just five days. I could add a dozen or so new species to my evergrowing list.

Let me first show you how abundance looks like. We encountered several Scarce Swallotails (Iphiclides podalirius) smack in the middle of a village in Aggletek NP: a finger-licking spectacle for any Dutch butterfly photographer!
Scarce swallowtail iphiclides podalirius mud-puddling party

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM   f/7.1   1/640   ISO 125

In the same village down a dark forest path, a party of ten Wood Whites (Leptidea sinapsis) was licking minerals from the mud. The peculiarities from my previous blog continued as one landed on top of the other.

wood white leptidea sinapsis butterfly

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM   f/8   1/125   ISO 400

A few meters further, a group of Silver-studded Blues (Plebejus argus) was having a gathering. Note the bigger specimen in the middle which is Reverdin’s Blue (Plebejus argyrognomon).

Silver-studded blue plebejus argus reverdin's blue plebejus argyrognomon

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM   f/6.3   1/500   ISO 640

Stay tuned for more Hungarian butterflies in the next episode.

Butterfly peculiarities

Butterflying in the Austrian mountains

We would have gone to the USA if not for the Corona virus. Our plan B was hiking the mountains in Austria. I can tell you, there are worse plan B’s than hiking in Austria. It was beautiful.

In between enjoying the mountain scenery, the snowcapped peaks and the stunning views I managed to take some butterfly photographs. My wife was kind enough to take this nice picture of me in action amidst the breathtaking alpine scenery. That is the town of Sölden 2,000 meters downhill.

Butterfly photography

The Austrian butterflies had some peculiarities in store for me. Despite spending years and years photographing butterflies, despite them drinking nectar all day long, it is a rare sight to see a butterfly losing its liquid waste. This is a Small Blue (Cupido minimus) with a drop at its behind. I checked with the Dutch Butterfly Association and they were adamant that the brown thingy below the tail is not butterfly poo. It may not be, but it certainly is suggestive…

small blue cupido minimus butterfly

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM   f/4.5   1/1000   ISO 100

Another peculiarity happened a couple of days later. I was taking pictures of the Apollo (Parnassius apollo) when a Black-veined white (Aporia crataegi) actually landed on top of the Apollo for a split second. As I was shooting my camera at high speed, I could capture two frames of this “incident”. It nicely shows the size difference between the two.

Parnassius apollo black-veined white aporia crataegi butterfliesParnassius apollo black-veined white aporia crataegi butterflies

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM   f/4.0   1/800   ISO 100

Still got the blues for you…

Four different blue butterflies on lavender

A week of hiking in the Morvan, Bourgogne, France resulted not only in pleasant memories of wine and croissants, but also in a colourful end of the butterfly season.

The week started off with overcast conditions and 18ºC. Not a single butterfly was flying around. But every day we hiked the temperature rose by 1 or 2 degrees, so we ended up hiking in 28ºC under clear blue skies. At our second B&B, the lavender bushes were blooming and at least fifty Blues were feasting on it. This pair of mating Common Blue (Polyommatus Icarus) was the highlight of the week:

Common blue polyommatus icarus mating butterfly

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM   f/4.0   1/2000   ISO 100

I was so overwhelmed by the number of butterflies, all of them flying madly around and chasing after each other that it took me some time to discover that not all were Common Blues. Below is a Mazarine Blue (Cyaniris semiargus)

Mazarine blue cyaniris semiargus butterfly

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM   f/5.6   1/200   ISO 100

Then I spotted a butterfly resembling the female Common Blue, but it looked a little bit more chocolate brown and on closer inspection, it appeared to be an Adonis Blue (Polyommatus Bellargus).

Adonis blue polyommatus bellargus butterfly

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM   f/5.0   1/800   ISO 100

Last but not least, a single Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) completed the spectacle.

Brown argus aricia agestis butterfly

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM   f/4.0   1/2500   ISO 100

C’était formidable!