Last year, in 2014, I was lucky enough to travel a few times in the Retezat National Park. The following shots depict different species of reptiles, insects and also a few targets from the night sky. The previous year saw a lot of rain, especially up to July, thus not to many days were fruitful in terms of nature or astro-photography. Nevertheless, for me at least, it was the “year of the vipers”, since in all of the three short trips there, I had the pleasure of observing a large number of individuals of the species Vipera berus, some in a now well-known nest location, while others in different places on the road back home, but still in the same general region of Romania.
I must apologize to those viewers that expect some Astronomy-related images, but sometimes (actually most of the time) I look downwards here on Earth, not in the jungles of the cities, malls and offices, but in the natural environments in which species of insects, plants, reptiles, birds are still far (for now) from the truly destructive species that is Homo sapiens sapiens.
WARNING! This is the longest post I’ve created until now; viewing all the images posted here might take a long time…it surely took me a very long time to process and comment them.
I shall start with the first trip…
June 21-25, 2014
First, some views of the landscape, and some of the sky-scape:
The Milky Way with the Lagoon and Trifid nebulae, with a 100mm lens (a few frames of course, no technical details required)
In those days a comet was visible after sunset. I couldn’t miss this opportunity, so 22 frames (again with the 100mm lens) had comet C/2012 K1 PanSTARRS as the main subject:
And now some of the subjects for which I’ve really went to those places: the insects.
First, the “butterfly of the year” for me: Aporia crataegi. This was the first time I’ve seen this species in Nature, despite the fact that it should have been rather common.
Another butterfly species, quite common in these places, Zygaena osterodensis, found in rather large numbers in the grass:
Another not-so-rare species: Coenonympha arcania arcania:
And now one of the most abundant species in that period: Aglais urticae urticae. This species was found in adult form (butterfly) but also as crisalis and even caterpillar. Many tens of individuals were observed each day, with around 40 caterpillars and crisalis found on Urtica.
Another not-extremely rare species: Parnassius mnemosyne transsylvanica, toghether with one egg. This egg was found by my wife indirectly while photographing an adult butterfly; she observed that the individual (obviously a female) was laying her egg, and so we could both see for the first time how a Parnassius sp. egg really looks like. Look at the details, which makes this egg look a lot like a golf ball.
Other more common butterfly species:
Pararge aegeria tircis:
An individual of Pseudopanthera macularia:
We’ve also observed different caterpillars (Arctiinae sp.)…
…like this “fluffy” and lovely-colored individual from the species Arctia caja:
Other insects and arachnids were of course around us, but not easily visible…
Coccinella septempunctata (larvae):
…and also a lot of snails, slowly making they way towards different food sources…
And now for the reptiles that we’ve met…starting with the lizards:
Anguis fragilis, the leg-less lizard.
Zootoca (Lacerta) vivipara:
Podarcis (Lacerta) muralis muralis:
An amphibian: Salamandra salamandra.
And a snake species: Natrix tessellata.
A large individual…
And a very small individual:
Now for a long series of images showing different individuals of Vipera berus berus:
And three videos showing some of the individuals found in this period:
Second trip: July 17-21, 2014
In this trip we’ve traveled a lot in the area, in the Gura Apelor area (in the south-west part of the Retezat area) and even as far as Cheile Nerei in Caransebes.
Some views from Gura Apei:
Beside the beautiful scenery of that region there are also a lot of interesting species of animals, like this rather small individual of Vipera berus berus:
In the Nera Gorges (Cheile Nerei) area we found this curious individual of the species Natrix tessellata…
…and some individuals of the species Rosalia alpina, one of (if not “the”) the most beautiful beetles in Europe:
Back in the Cabana Soarelui – Carnic area in Retezat, where we’ve found, once again, some individuals of Vipera berus berus, but this time of a rather superb and a bit strange color (kind of greenish-red):
And now for the insects, mostly butterflies:
–Erebia ligea nikostrate
An aphid colony:
Some empty pupae:
Nymphalis antiopa antiopa:
Brintesia circe pannonica
Apatura ilia ilia:
Apatura iris iris:
Melanargia galathea satnia:
Neptis rivularis rivularis:
The last trip: 15-17 August, 2014:
This was the last time in 2014 when we’ve visited this superb area. Unfortunately it was not a truly fruitful trip, with not so much insect or reptile species observed. Still, it was interesting to find some caterpillars preparing for transformation.
The view, as always, was a memorable one:
First, the butterflies, in different forms:
Despite finding several vipers, the only reptile photographed this time was one large individual of the species Anguis fragilis, the leg-less lizard.
On the road back, near the Jiu River, we’ve stopped for a short trip and found a few scorpions of the species Euscorpius carpathicus with the young on their back:
It was nice to see in all these trips that the observed species are doing quite well in places where humans (for now) don’t interfere too much. Nice to see also that scorpions have a rather large area of distribution, despite being found in small numbers.
Can’t wait for this year’s trips in the Retezat Mountains!
P.S: Some of the species identifications were done by my uncle, who’s help is highly appreciated!