Oman butterfly diary 4- Precis hierta, The Yellow Pansy…

My butterfly bible for Oman is “Butterflies of Oman” by Torben and Kiki Larsen, produced in 1980 in the Uk for the Office of the Adviser for Conservation of the Environment to the Government of Oman.

I haven’t found any recent updates, so possibly names have changed, there was a reprint in 1984, but I don’t have that version.

The binominal name is Junonia hierta, but Larsen uses the synonym Precis Hierta, and as I’m not up to the right level in the world of scientific classification, I’m following the Larsen’s identification!

This beautiful butterfly is described by the Larsens, as one of the most common butterflies in Dhofar (Southern Oman) on the coast and in the mountains. It had not been found in the North of Oman at the time of publishing and I have never seen in it during my forays into North Oman.

During my nature searching days in Dhofar, in October and November 2019, I only found two of these butterflies. They were up on the high escarpment above Mirbat.

We traveled the whole of the coastline, from the Yemen border to the north, and spent much time in areas where they should be prolific but, sadly only two sightings…

They are a beautiful species of butterfly.

I hope when I finally am able to return I will have more success in finding the numbers previously indicated…

 

May 2020: End of quarantine restrictions, heading back out to nature in Cyprus….

In Cyprus, some freedom now, after staying safe at home…

May 21st, 2020 was quite a landmark day in this strange and apocalyptic year.

In Cyprus, like many other countries, we have been quarantined in our homes under curfew and government restrictions that have only allowed one exit per day for one of 8 reasons.

It was managed by sending a text to obtain approval, the phone had to be carried plus any passport or registration documents. Police checks were everywhere and anyone found without permission or documents was fined from 300 euro up, depending on the severity of the offense.

On the 12th of May, Phase 1 of the lockdown lift was introduced. That was to allow the population to leave their homes three times a day for up to three hours at a time, as a gradual re-introduction of more population movement…a little test of the infectious waters, so to speak.

Then on 21st May our quarantine restrictions were lifted under Phase 2 of society re-entering the world, where the unseen threat of COVID-19 lurks in your consciousness and the population of the Republic of Cyprus were free to leave their homes.

The nightly curfew was lifted, and we no longer have to send a text to obtain approval to leave our homes for the 8 reasons initially allowed.

I have no criticism of the actions our government took to protect this small island.

New cases have been decreasing recently and today, 23rd May, was the first day we had no new cases, so, in my view, a successful operation and it’s up to us, as the population, to continue to follow the new norms that will dominate our lives for the foreseeable future.

Normally I am out in the hills with my camera a couple of times a week, especially March, April, and May when nature in Cyprus is at its glorious best.

The hills are green, wildflowers are rampantly growing, there is a constant buzz of bees, the dragonflies start to emerge, butterflies are taking wing and the whole island is awash with pollinators and vibrant color.

It’s the time to tramp the hills before the summer heat burns out the foliage, but, like everyone else, we missed it this year.

So when we got to the 12th, after 5 supermarket visits since March and no other exits from home, I had to escape.

The nearest get close-to-nature valley to my home, is the Esouza river valley, with its wealth of dragonflies, butterflies, and flora.

We headed to the water pools at Ayia Varvara, a small village along the Esouza river, which is also a magnet to our local bird watchers, but I missed out on the bird photos, sadly!

I wasn’t disappointed, having only spent time in my garden, to be walking in nature was utter bliss…

Some of the finds in the 3-hour escape…

Bugs and flowers…

Butterflies…

Damselflies…

Dragonflies…

A little disclaimer: Some of my identifications could be incorrect. Dragonflies are hard to identify, I’ve had a year of accompanying a dragonfly recorder and I’m still learning. If any mistakes are spotted, please correct me in the comments…Bug and Flower ID is ongoing, to be updated when I have a positive ID…

Kenya diary: Elephants at Amboseli…

Amboseli National Park, formerly Maasai Amboseli Game Reserve, is a national park in Kajiado South Constituency, Kenya, about 240 km southeast of Nairobi

The park is 39,206 hectares (392 km; 151 sq mi) in size at the core of an 8,000 km (3,100 sq mi) ecosystem that spreads across the Kenya-Tanzania border. The local people are mainly Maasai, but people from other parts of the country have settled there attracted by the successful tourist-driven economy and intensive agriculture along the system of swamps that makes this low-rainfall area, average 350 mm (14 in), one of the best wildlife-viewing experiences in the world with 400 species of birds including water birds like pelicans, kingfishers, crakes, hamerkop and 47 raptor species.

The park protects two of the five main swamps, and includes a dried-up Pleistocene  lake and semiarid vegetation.

The park is famous for being the best place in the world to get close to free-ranging elephants.

Other attractions of the park include opportunities to meet Maasai and visit a Maasai village. The park also has views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

And when it says above “get close to free-ranging elephants” well, I hadn’t expected to be standing in an ancient camper van, head and shoulders poking through the open roof amidst a herd of elephants crossing the track in front and behind us.

Close seemed too close!

I was quite scared at first, but our guide reassured us that the driver was alert to the herd and would move quickly, but we were to not to do anything to make them pay attention to us.

Standing in a what seemed like extremely fragile protection from these enormous elephants, I didn’t feel particularly convinced that we were safe, but we had had a 4.30am start, suffered a 4 hour drive along the Nairobi to Mombasa road, and I was in the midst of a herd of elephants that I had come all this way to try and see, so I started taking photos….

Being scared turned to being awed and I realised that I was really lucky to have this close experience…

We did have a little incident as we were further round the park.

A very large elephant was running along the side of the track, quite a distance away .

As we passed the elephant changed direction and started to chase our little tin can, sorry… camper van.

I managed two very close shots before the guide asked us to sit down as they were going to drive faster as the elephant was charging us. I instantly complied!

Amboseli park information from Wikipedia….

Kenya diary… Grey Crowned Cranes in a mating dance…

My very first post on my brand new WordPress site way back in 2013, when I thought I’d be a blogger, having done all my 101’s, before I launched myself out there in the big wide blogging world was a tiny and very nervous step into blogging and I just threw out a teeny, weeny little précis of a truly amazing weekend trip.

I re-visited my photographs during our current lockdown and was quite amazed that I actually managed to get some really good photos.

As well as it being my first foray into blogging, it was also my first trip with a proper camera, which I really didn’t know how to use properly, apart from the auto function. (FYI it was a NikonD3200, but I think I bought a few days before and had no idea of its many functions, so it was a point and shoot expedition)

I’d booked a random travel to Nairobi for a weekend on a special offer  (Dubai was a really good place for last minute special offers) and I booked a trip online to Amboseli National park.

I hadn’t quite taken into account that Amboseli was on the Tanzania border and was a 4 hour drive from Nairobi, but, hey-ho, when the company responded to my booking request and asked for a 4.30am pick-up, I just clicked the ok box!

Experience now tells me there were many closer places, but actually I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

I cannot describe the African light, especially in Amboseli, it’s totally different to our polluted European (and other) skies….

The day was a magical experience I will never forget. I have so many photos, I’m going to break this up into several posts but one of the many magical moments was stumbling across a Grey crane mating dance and being able to photograph the whole performance.

I wasn’t party to the result, they did fly away after the dance for a bit of privacy, but I did have a David Attenborough moment as the incredible performance took place right in front on my lens…

 

For information on the Crane ( thank you Wikipedia)

The grey crowned crane (Balearica regulorum), also known as the African crowned crane, golden crested crane, golden-crowned crane, East African crane, East African crowned crane, Eastern crowned crane, South African crane, is a bird in the crane  family, Gruidae. It is found in Eastern and Southern Africa, and is the national bird of Uganda.

The grey crowned crane is closely related to the black crowned crane, and the two species have sometimes been treated as the same species. The two are separable on the basis of genetic evidence, calls, plumage and bare parts, and all authorities treat them as different species today.

There are two subspecies .The East African B. r. gibbericeps (crested crane) occurs in the east of the DRC and in Uganda, of which it is the national bird represented in its national flag, and Kenya to Eastern S. Africa.

It has a larger area of bare red facial skin above the white patch than the smaller nominate species, B. r. regulorum (South African crowned crane), which breeds from Angola south to South Africa.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai… a little light show…

The Burj Khalifa is a spectacular building and landmark in Dubai.

At over 828 meters (2,716.5 feet) and more than 160 stories, Burj Khalifa holds the following records: Tallest building in the world, tallest free-standing structure in the world, and the highest number of stories in the world (at the moment).

It dominates Dubai, can be seen from everywhere in the city and it is extraordinarily graceful for such a mammoth construction.

My son was visiting me, so we did the tourist trail and watched the early evening light show on the facade.

It was quite an event.

A few photos below, they show how spectacular the building looks with at night with the changing light show…

January 2020: Dubai Butterfly Garden…

Given my interest in butterflies and photographing them, a visit to Dubai Butterfly garden was a must, when I was back in the Emirate in early 2020.

I have never been to a Butterfly garden before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. The entrance shouted “Theme garden”, but it wasn’t going to deter me, having made the effort to get there..

Beautifully done, as always in Dubai, the building consisted of 4 large garden rooms, full of trees, flowers, sitting areas in small gazebos with different butterflies, organized by region.

So, alphabetically, the butterflies,

(My OH very kindly identified them for me as I didn’t take notes in situ, (slap self for that omission, too much fluttering, and camera action), but it gave him something to do during this morning’s lockdown and as it was an important task, he could avoid home cleaning duty! Grateful thanks to the OH, he did an excellent job, but it’s also a little disclaimer!) Please hover over the photo for the name…

 

 

If you have got to this stage of the post, my grateful thanks for looking at the butterflies… I know it’s butterfly exhaustion by this stage, but there are some unusual offerings of butterfly art in the next part of the post…

You exit through the inevitable shop which consists of butterfly souvenirs and pictures that are made by using butterflies….hmmm, you can see for yourself below, some lovely ideas but I wasn’t rushing to buy one, not to my taste, I prefer to see them alive and I decided after my visit I prefer to see them in the wild.

 

However, reflecting,  I did have the opportunity to see some beautiful butterflies, which I would not have the opportunity see in the wild as I’m quite sure now my future travel is limited for a while…so, whilst I felt slightly uncomfortable about the concept during my visit, whilst I was editing the photos for this post, I did think that I was very lucky to have seen some extraordinarily beautiful butterflies.

Realistically, I have to conclude that given my age and our current world situation, I’m not going to be hacking through jungles any time in the near future, so, I’m actually quite glad I did visit and can look back the photos of these beautiful butterflies…

There are also butterfly pictures of members of the Ruling families of the Emirates, a typically local mark of the affection for the Rulers.

I find it quite hard to imagine, that in either the UK or the US, anyone would think of creating Boris or Donald in such an affectionate platform. It was all a little strange, but, it is a popular attraction and as I’m in lockdown away from the UAE, I’m very glad I did take the time to visit…

 

 

Zanzibar: Intensely blue skies and rainbow sunsets- Part 2…

Zanzibar, June 2017:  After a couple of days at the north of the island, I felt that the final day and night we had booked up there was wasted time, we had seen everything at the North tip and because I think you know by now if you read this blog, I’m not a beach bunny… I want to go somewhere and see it all.

I wanted time in Stonetown, I’d been reading up on the history and whilst you can say “Oh, we’ll come back another time”, well, practically, you probably won’t return and I so wanted to see Stonetown… so much history and the historical connection to Oman, another of my travel places, (a link about the connection history ) Slavery was a big part of the connection, sadly…

So, after breakfast, I found a room in an old traditional hotel in Stonetown at a good price (wifi and online booking is such a godsend in this day and age, instant confirmation…let’s go!) we cut our losses at Kendwa and headed off to town.

Stonetown is utterly fascinating and I was in my element, poking around the ancient streets, checking out the doors… see links to my earlier posts about the doors and old town , my Stonetown desire was all about the historical doors initially…

We went on a walkabout, we had about 36 hours in town and sleep could be minimal.

What a place… such history, such vibrancy, I just loved Stonetown.

At sunset, we headed down to the main beach, with everyone else in town, it appeared.

Sunset was a big moment that night, the streets were humming with life, street food everywhere, it was totally unexpected and so vibrant.

It was just after Eid, so I think that after Ramadan, there were a lot of people out, enjoying the beautiful moment after a month of piety …The beach was packed, loads of people in the water as the sun went down, swimming, playing, and enjoying life…

it was lovely to be part of the exuberant crowd and catch the glorious Stonetown sunset…

Zanzibar: Intensely blue skies and rainbow sunsets- Part 1

2017: An Africa trip, Mafia island (yes, really, it’s called Mafia island, just had to go there when it came to trip planning, Mafia will get a post of its own soon) Zanzibar and Dar Es Salaam were the places for the trip plan.

Zanzibar was the “sunset over the sea” place of the trip.

In Zanzibar, we were perfectly placed for a sunset view towards the African coast, and the sunsets were really something else.

African light is just different, possibly the lack of air pollution… I don’t know why, I have no science knowledge, but I do notice on my travels that in remoter areas there is just a different clarity of light and intensity of color in the sky, day and night. So different from what I have been used to in Europe and Dubai.

We arrived at the Kendwa Rocks hotel late afternoon, drove up to Nungwi beach at the tip of the island, and just strolled along the beach, soaking up the atmosphere of this unique island, but out across the sea, an African sky drama was happening, a potential storm moving around in the distance, flooding the skies with drama and it was the backdrop to our walk, light and dark playing out in the distance until the sun finally set in vivid color…a beautiful experience to look back on.

Please enjoy my photos of the Zanzibar skies…

Thailand diary: Buddha, monkeys and weird and wonderful temple statues, Part 2…

In these strange times, my concentration is quite distracted. I’m drifting from one thing to another rather a lot and, on posting my previous post, I completely forgot that the ending should have been in another temple!

I did think this morning when I looked back at the original post “Oh, never mind, no-one knows anyway where I went” but actually the last temple was the “weird and wonderful temple statues” bit and in my thoughts, the images are too weird and wonderful not to post, so…. hey ho, I’ve climbed back onto the scooter, pootling on down to the road to Wat Tham Khao Tao temple to park up and start walking…

It’s quite a climb up to the top of the hill where there is a massive Buddha statue at the top and excellent views towards Hua Hin.

On the way up the concrete steps, you pass through a cave of effigies of well-revered monks and rooms with plenty of Buddha statues to worship…Whilst everywhere is full of gold, vibrant red and clashing colors, it’s actually all very serene and peaceful. There were no other visitors during our climb, there are many other more convenient temples to visit in the Hua Hin area and possibly the climb is off-putting, but it worked to our advantage!

On the corner of the steps, a rest by the laughing Buddha…probably placed to bring cheer to those toiling up the steps in August’s heat and humidity, luckily there are no photos of me and my humidity hairstyle at this stage!

 

Past my most favorite scary statue ever… guess which one?

And then a little break at a bell ringing area with another impressive Buddha on a corner…

An effigy of Ganesha, the Hindu god, surprisingly in this temple but, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are the three most important Hindu gods representing the recurring and continual cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

This trinity, along with the god Indra, Ganesha and some enlightened divinities and demons, have been converted to the Buddhist doctrine according to Buddhist belief. Hence, these gods often occur as guardians of temples and monasteries. In addition, they may also be seen attending the Buddha on im­portant events in his life.

Another Buddha break at the top of another set of steps, he is very relaxed, but does have a dragon to ward off interlopers… it was a pleasant pause…

Nearly at the top, some rather elegant and vibrant statues, the light was good for the photos of these rather ethereal figures. By this stage, I wished I understood a bit more about what they represented, it was a regret that I didn’t have a guided tour so I could understand the reason and reverence for these slightly odd statues…

Just before the top, a beautiful Buddha room…

Reaching the top, fairly tired as it was a hot and sticky time in August, it was worth the climb.The view was quite stunning, back towards Hua Hin…

And a beautiful Buddha, serenely sitting at the top of the hill. Well worth the endless climb…

A lovely place to visit, off the beaten track, not busy at all, possibly the climb put this temple off the tourist temple trail.

After a scooter ride back to the comforting sanctuary of the hotel, it was time for a relaxing sundowner amidst the water flowers…

Thailand diary: Buddha, monkeys and weird and wonderful temple statues…

I picked up a too-good-to-be-true offer from one of the websites that offer holiday deals from Dubai.

Thailand, a week in the Evason Six Senses, Pranchanburi, Hua Hin, accommodation was a private villa/room with plunge pool, a week’s stay, less than a week in a comparable Dubai hotel…

Whoop-whoop,  a bargain, ok, it was August, sussed the weather and it is the rainy season in August in Thailand, but, living in Dubai with temperatures of 45+ during August, a holiday in a rainy season is actually quite tempting and beach holidays are long past now, exploring is the key…. so, swiftly booked and including a 3-day tour of Chang Mai, Maehongson and Pai, The Golden Triangle area, added to maximize the Eid holiday leave I could take from work.

On arrival at the Evason, after settling into plunge pool villa (divine) we took a stroll around and instantly understood why the bargain holiday was on offer. The Evason sits behind the beach road, a short cross to the beach, but the beach road was being re-done, completely dug up with bulldozers, JCB’s and huge boulders stacked for the sea defenses, so there was no access to the beach at all.

Well, that didn’t matter in the slightest to us…we really had found a bargain that suited us, lying on a beach is in the past…

The area is all within the most beautiful National parks so we hired a scooter and trundled around exploring and enjoying the beauty of the forest area.

One of the joys of Asia is stumbling across exuberantly decorated temples and strange statues in odd places. Thailand didn’t disappoint. The color is always vibrant, unexpected and always a glorious discovery.

Pootling along on the bike, past prawn farms, then suddenly finding monkeys on the side of the road and then to arrive in a tiny little coastal fishing village to be greeted by a magnificent crab roundabout highly decorated in gold and red, well, it’s an assail on the senses and a lift to the spirits.

Some of the sights…

Between Pranchanburi and Hua Hin there is a beautiful forest park, so one day we decided a little scooter ramble was the order of the day. Very luckily I’ve been able to pick up the routes and shrines on Google maps, so I can find the temples and shrines many years on.

One of the joys of trundling around on a scooter is that as a passenger and pootling along at a slow place, I  have the time to scan the surroundings and spot anything that looks interesting. Parking is always easy on a scooter, just stop…

Spotting a golden head towering above the trees we stopped at a shrine. I think this one is Jow Por Big Mountain Shrine, but I can’t be sure….stunning buddhas though… I was quite awed on seeing these in the mountaintop setting, in perfect light high above a beautiful landscape…

Just down the road, I spotted another golden buddha head and an odd crocodile…well, we just had to stop…this is Chao Mae Tubtim Thong shrine… I cannot find the reason for the gi-enormous crocodile sculpture at this shrine, but it was unexpected and quite fascinating that in this beautiful place with glorious views and a truly stunning buddha statue there was a massive painted concrete crocodile..I’ve tried to research it, but without getting deeper into Thai Buddhism, I can’t find an explanation…the photos are worthy of posting though!

 

 

 

Orchids in Thailand…

Whilst I’m in our world’s lockdown, I’m using the time to look at all my photo data. There is rather a lot and it’s opened up some forgotten memories too…

My Thailand travels were before I realized I enjoyed photography and made it a feature in my travels. I was using a fairly basic camera at that stage and I think I didn’t even look to consider adding the travels into the blog,  but, actually, as I review the photos, some are worthy of inclusion.

I loved to see the orchids in Thailand, cultivated or wild… some of these are from a Chang Mai Orchid farm and others from a stop off on a canal tour around Bangkok…

 

Vietnam diary- Images of Huế, life on the streets…

When traveling I always want to see how life really is on the back streets, planning my trip to make sure I have city time, if it’s safe to do so…

In Huế, The Citadel and the Imperial City were my main reasons to visit, but I had the extra time to see how people live behind the tourism facade.

I set off to walk around Huế city centre, but I wasn’t too strong, an old hip injury decided to kick in on the beautifully paved streets, it was very humid and I was beginning to despair of my capabilities to walk around Huế.

I had seen many cyclos on the roads.

Cyclos are one-man cycling you around in a sort of front pod, so you relax in comfort and he cycles you, yeah, I was uncomfortable with the concept, it seemed so colonial and privileged, punkah-wallah era, but very normal in Vietnam.

So, I was just having a rest under a leafy tree wondering how long it would take me to hobble back to the hotel and then my Huế saviour cycled up to me.

Offering his cyclo services in a completely charming way, (the price was minimal to a European) and I told him I didn’t think I was comfortable with the concept, but if he could just take me back to the hotel I would give him a good tip. I was about 2kms from the hotel, then he said to me “Don’t you want to explore Huế?”

 

I said I would love to and I didn’t really think I could do the walking and with a welcoming smile he stopped,  “Come on, climb in, let’s go”.

Easily persuaded, as my hip was really hurting, I clambered in and settled into comfort. Cyclo man lived in a village 12km outside Hue, uphill…so at the end of each day, after cycling in 12kms, then cycling around all day, he then cycled home a further 12 km uphill. Humbling really…

He realized I wanted to see street life, I accepted I couldn’t do it on my own and he was just such lovely company, perfect English, guiding, bending over my shoulder as he cycled so I could hear his commentary and such a historian of Huế city.

After the first trip, we negotiated a price for the next day and he was my Hue mentor.

As a local, he had the knowledge of the side of the city that I wanted to see. He got my measure quite quickly, so took me into places that maybe are not on the tourist trail and, as a local, paved a path for my photography of street life in Hue coercing people to interact with me, guiding me through markets, stopping for street food and choosing the best for me to eat.

Temples, markets, street vendors, back streets, my view from the cyclo caught the reality of everyday life in the bustling city.

This lovely Cyclo man, he made Huế come alive for me…

 

                                                                              Images of Huế…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vietnam diary- Mosaic madness in Hoi-An…

I took a solo visit to Hoi-An and Hue in Vietnam in November 2016. I’d always wanted to visit both cities, but on our previous trips to Vietnam, the focus had been on our seashell hobby, this time I could go where I pleased…

The OH had headed off to Salt Lake City for a company conference, inviting me to join him.

But after researching Salt Lake City, the prospect of 7 days exploring Mormon America alone didn’t float my boat, so I decided to head East.

I had an amazing time as a solo, female and, ok, as an older traveler.

Age has its benefits, the Vietnamese were polite, charming, helpful and at no time did I feel uncomfortable traveling on my own.

In fact, I wished I’d added in extra days to visit Hanoi, maybe another time, when our world is safe to travel in again.

As it’s the time of coronavirus in the present day and I’m staying at home, I’ve finally had the chance to sit and edit my photo library and I realized I neglected my Vietnam trip on the blog.

So, a few odd memories from Vietnam…

When you visit Hoi-An, a world heritage site, there is no entrance fee for the old town but you are advised to buy a ticket book to enter the traditional heritage houses in town. It’s well worth buying as you enter the city gates, as you cant buy individual entrance tickets at the houses.

In the street, a fantastical dragon creation, a taste of what was to come…

One of the places I visited in town was the Quang Trieu (Cantonese) Assembly Hall. It was built in 1885 by Chinese overseas who came from Guangdong/ Cantonese (China). This hall is quite ornate and colorful.

An architecturally beautiful structure, with many Chinese paintings, lacquered furniture and spirals of incense sticks, the subtle fragrance permeating the air, but it’s the garden that sticks in my mind.

Walking down the corridor to this door, you could not imagine what lay beyond in the garden.

Through the door a traditional garden with a huge fountain of writhing dragons, decorated with pottery mosaic. Totally unexpected, quirky and quite fascinating. The random concrete goats added to the surreal surroundings…

Oman Butterfly diary 3-Charaxes varanes bertrami (Riley, 1931), Pearl Charaxes…

This is a butterfly that has eluded my camera on previous visits to Dhofar, Southern Oman, or so I thought.

The presence of this butterfly in Oman is limited to the Dhofar region. It is common in Africa, but there are no current records from Southwestern Arabia and Yemen, however, any investigation is not easily possible in Yemen.

As it stands the population in Dhofar seems to be quite isolated and the subspecies found locally is named in honour of explorer Bertram Thomas who caught the species in Dhofar, whilst preparing for his Rub Al Khali expedition in 1930. The butterfly seems to be relatively common in open parts of the scarp. Both sexes are fond of fermenting fruit, rotting crab or shrimp and patches of urine.

We had seen them, fluttering past on scarp tracks, stopped the jeep, but I chased in vain as they tauntingly settled, then flew away fast whenever I thought I had one in focus for THE shot. They are fast on the wing and often fly high. Fairly frustrating, but then sometimes an unexpected opportunity arises.

In October 2019, we decided to have a day visiting the various Ayn’s (valleys) which form at the base of the Dhofar escarpment.

Usually, there are spectacular waterfalls during the Khareef (monsoon) season and the Ayn’s are lush and emerald green, home to a variety of endemic and migratory birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and flora.

Khareef had finished a month previously but owing to some unusual weather in the region, the drying out of the environment hadn’t quite reached its usual barren state.

In one of the Ayn’s we started to climb up towards the escarpment and I spotted the Pearl fluttering from branch to branch. We noticed there were two, but only one settled on branches.

Sadly, it was torn and ragged, probably at the end of its flying season, but I managed to catch some shots.

Whilst looking through photos from 2018 from a location 20 km away, I found I had photographed this butterfly before and in much better condition. Only one photograph, but a good catch. It was fairly gratifying to stumble across the photograph, two years later!

 

Habitat Information from the “The Butterflies of Oman” by Torben and Kiki Larsen.

It’s time for a splash of colour in these dark times…let’s go with red!

April is Poppy time in Cyprus.

This year, they will be growing gloriously undisturbed, outside our walls the flora and fauna are free to blossom and roam, but we humans are behind our doors, locked down….who would have thought this would have come to pass in our high tech world?

An unseen virus, devasting the world, movement restricted, leaving us in fear of our lives with no end in sight today… time to remember a carefree day last year when I stumbled into poppy heaven…

Last April, I had to take the OH back to Larnaca airport for an 8pm flight and we had fallen into a habit of taking a day trip to explore places at the other end of the island to make a day out, instead of an urgent 4-hour return journey for me.

This time we dropped down from Lefkara on a mountain road towards Nicosia, heading for the village of Agia Varvara, where I had seen, in other local photographer’s posts, that a poppy profusion would greet me.

I wasn’t disappointed, but sadly the weather wasn’t the best for photographs.

We had driven through a terrific hail storm, terrific to the extent of having to pull over and stop on the side of the road until the blinding hail passed over, so I did wonder whether there would be any petals left on the poppies…

I was lucky, the hail had missed Agia Varvara and the expectation I had of poppy profusion was fulfilled…

The Poppies in this area are mainly Papaver rhoeas, an annual, from 10-30cm high, flowering from March until June.

Oman Butterfly diary 2-Byblia ilithyia, Joker…

Oman diary, October 2019: We had decided to travel along the coast from Salalah to the Yemen border, retracing steps from previous years, but it’s a fantastic drive with many unexpected sights, so it’s always a pleasure to retrace, but that’s for another post.

One deep wadi, Wadi Sayq is the last major road construction hurdle before you get to Sarfayt, the town before the Yemen border.

Quite how this road was constructed amazes me, carved down the sides of the towering cliffs, hairpin bends, horrifying drops and, with the effects of the previous year’s cyclone and the rains just before we arrived, landslides and road cave-ins littered the route down.

The wadi is inaccessible from the coast, towering heights plummet down to the shore on either side and unless you are fully equipped and ready for some serious boulder climbing, there are few places you are able to access the wadi where the road crosses it.

But it is worth trying to find those few places. Wadi Sayq is remote, inaccessible and home to a huge variety of flora and fauna, not least the Arabian leopard, according to papers from many different biodiversity expeditions to this Wadi.

It’s where I found my first and so far, my only find of a Joker butterfly.

Byblia ilithyia is unmistakable. The underside, a honey color crisscrossed with pattern and the upperside a deep orange with black bars, it’s a strikingly, beautiful butterfly.

The distribution of ilithyia stretches from Niger/Burkina Faso to Ethiopia, Southwestern Arabia and Dhofar; it reappears in dry Southern India and Sri Lanka.

In Dhofar, this butterfly is quite common in the dense vegetation of the scarp and in the valleys of the coast

it was an unexpected sight to stumble across, but I had my camera to hand!

It didn’t stay around too long, but I took my shots… very gratifying to stumble across this beauty!

 

 

Habitat Information from the “The Butterflies of Oman” by Torben and Kiki Larsen.

 

Oman travels, October 2019…Up on the heights of Jebel Samham …

You are able to drive to a viewpoint on the edge of the reserve to gaze over the coastal plain and surrounding wadis.

On arriving we were alone in this remote place. There is a small path, with barriers to a certain point, the drop is sheer and I didn’t go to the certain point, my head for heights has gone with my youth.

The views are magnificent…

Suddenly we heard voices and were surrounded by tourists. Unexpected, and overwhelmed on this narrow path with teetering drops, we headed back to the car to be greeted by a long row of 4-wheel drives and their drivers, taking a rest.

Our invading tourists were on a tour, time to speed off and hope we didn’t bump into them again..

 

Passing through a small village, which I ( obviously) renamed One-Cow town.

We headed back down off the plateau to the coast. As we turned a corner, we screeched to a stop.

In front of me, a Dhofar Chameleon was just starting to make it’s pausing, balletic walk across a very large road.

Time to make sure it made it across. Luckily it started to run as I got out of the car, then spent a few minutes on the other side of the road contemplating this large human with a camera, Lucky me! I love to see a chameleon and also watch them change colour to match their surroundings and mood. If they start to turn black, they are stressed, this one just blended it with all the different backgrounds.

My saved-from-the road Chameleon posed perfectly for me, but then it decided it head back across the lethal road.

I had to save it, stop it somehow, so I leant in to enfold it within in my hand so I could move it away from the terror of the road corner, but it didn’t really like my saviour role.

It bit me very hard, tore into my skin, and I couldn’t get it off my hand and it started to bite my hand deeply, the OH had to prise it away, it had its teeth in deeply and ripped off a load of skin…lesson to self…Do not pick up a chameleon, however nature-kind you are…

As we were travelling remotely, had health insurance, but limited resources in that area and little availability for health care , I did a quick google on Chameleon bites when we got back to the room. Luckily a disinfectant wash seemed to be all that was required, they do not seem to carry bacteria…. Anyhow, I’m here to tell the tale, with no missing digits!

 

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Oman Butterfly Diary-1 Papilio demodocus, African Lime Butterfly.

In October 2019, we headed down to the Dhofar region of Oman primarily for our sea shell obsession…oops, hobby sounds better, less geeky really!

The first morning walk along the beach made me realise that it was far too hot to spend all day outside on the beaches and, as over the year, I had been become involved with a Dragonfly recording group in Cyprus and had also discovered the pleasure of photographing both dragonflies and butterflies, we decided to split each day into discovering which species of each we could find in the Ayn’s (valley), khors (inlet) and escarpments along the southern coastline of Oman.

Armed with “The Butterflies of Oman” we set off each day exploring the countryside.

I had occasionally seen a fairly large butterfly, mottled black and white with flashes of red and blue.

The book told me it was the African Lime Butterfly, Papilio demodocus, a member of the Papilonidae family.

Three members of this family are found in Oman, Papilio machaon-the Swallowtail, Papilio demoleus- the Lime Butterfly and Papilio demodocus-the African Lime butterfly.

They are amongst the largest and most beautiful butterflies in the country.

The Swallowtail and the Lime are known from the north of the country.

I have not been lucky enough to photograph the Lime butterfly in Oman. I have seen it, but, without my camera.

However, it is also found in the UAE  and I was lucky enough to photograph a resting one on a beach in Fujaraih earlier this year, in this linked post.

In Oman, the African lime is only found in Dhofar. The African lime is common in most of tropical Africa and in Southwestern Arabia, as far north as Jeddah.

It is very similar to the Lime butterfly, but they may be told apart through the broader central band and the larger orange spot in the anal angle of the hindwings of demoleus.

After a few mornings of finding lowland butterflies, we headed up the towering escarpment that broods above the coastal plain.

Randomly heading down a small track high above the coast, we gave one local lady quite a shock as she was heading out.I don’t think many Europeans have headed down the little track to her house.

Passing her, suddenly I saw my African Lime heading into nectar, in a little cranny of flowering plants amidst the rocky heights.

The African Lime spent awhile hovering and nectaring, so I could manage to chase after it with my camera..

A wonderful and lucky experience….