Archive for the Specii rare Category

Vipers

Posted in Canaraua Fetii, Concedii, Plimbari, Specii rare on December 1, 2017 by maxpho

For some time now I’ve been waiting for the right moment to write a post about some of the reptiles I’ve met during my field trips in Romania.

I believe that the “right moment” is close, so I’m slowly starting to post a few shots of some of the vipers and other snakes.

The first one, showing perhaps the smallest of the viper individuals I’ve ever, a young Vipera berus, with an interesting “scale bar” near-by:)

It was found in the Retezat Mountains, near the “Pietrele” cabin.

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And another Vipera berus individual, also from the Retezat Mountains, this time a fully-grown adult, of a very interesting coloration:

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One of the first Vipera berus found in the Retezat Mountains, back in 2011. This specimen was again found in 2012 and 2013 at the same location.

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A shot of my very first viper species ever found in Nature, back in 2010. This individual is of the species Vipera ammodytes mondandoni. It is found only in Bulgaria and South-Western Romania. I think that after meting this guy, handling it and take a few photographs, I was totally devoted to finding vipers and snakes in general wherever I went. “Thank you little one!”. It is also quite sad to find this shot, since, after 2011, I was not able to find any other vipers at the same location…I do suspect human activities were the main reason.

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A few shots of a young Vipera ammodytes ammodytes, a species found in south-western Romania, and one of the most recognizable vipers in Europe due to that little horn on its nose. This individual was found in 2013 while basking in the Sun; when approached it remained perfectly still, playing dead. It took some time to have it move and be friendly enough for some closeups.

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And another young of the same species, at almost the same location, but this time in 2016.

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And this time a large, actually very large, individual of Vipera ammodytes ammodytes. This guy was found hiding under a large boulder; after persuading him to come out, I’ve noticed that it was badly injured. Apparently it did recover, at least partially, and now was preparing to molt.  This is the reason for its blue eyes:

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Another viper species, one that made me travel a few hundreds of miles from home in order to find it. Rather difficult to observe due to its small size and perfect camouflage, so after two years only two individuals were found. One of them was spotted as it was rushing towards me in the grass. Its name: Vipera ursinii moldavica.

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Insect numbers decline

Posted in Specii rare on November 29, 2017 by maxpho

For some time now (20 years), I am surprised just how fast the number of insects (especially butterflies) observable each year is rapidly declining. It seems that year after year less and less individuals from each species are observable at the same locations I visit for decades. And it is not just me; many others see this phenomenon, despite not being in the field of studying or photographing the butterflies.

I do know of a few species that are now almost completely extinct in some locations, and as far as I can see, the main reason for this is the rapidly intensifying agriculture, which translates into more and more use of chemicals and loss of habitat. This is true at he moment for at least 4 locations in Romania that I often visit. I am sure this occurs at a much larger scale. And the problem is that most of the affected areas are actually protected ones, in which the logic of the entities managing them is to let intense agriculture to be maintained over ever larger areas inside this protected regions. The loss of habitat inside the areas (which by itself is illogical) is amplifying the effect of the very strong and widespread chemicals used for repealing or the destruction of pests.

One such “protected area” that I’ve visited year by year starting with 2011 is located near the village of Nucsoara in the Retezat Mountains. Here, the main reason for habitat loss is a combination of intense grazing and new “modern” roads that are being constructed on top of the old ones. The new roads are of course made of materials that have to endure the weather, but in return they destroy some of the most important habitat for butterflies: most of this insects fly at low altitude (30-100cm) above the ground and over the mud roads in order to get a good location for drinking water and basking in the Sun, two extremely important parts of their behavior in order to survive and find a mate. Now, in order to have good driving roads to get high in the mountains with no problems (to different huts or restaurants), those stone/mud/water-made old roads (with naturally imposed speed limits of around 10 kph) are, year after year, being transformed in highway-speed roads; each summer I see tens of butterfly individuals being killed by  cars. The roadkills are only intensifying. Some of these  species are already on the verge of extinction due to global warming (which by the way- IT IS REAL!!!) so the ever faster large sized objects (cars) moving at 60mph or 100mph, offer no chance for some of the most important behavioral activities of these beings…

I can only hope that there will still be a few spots in these areas for such beautiful insects to survive. The Retezat mountains have some of the most striking butterfly species of Europe, which can be still found on the continent, but ever more rarely.

I’ve created the following poster some time ago, for one of the mountain huts in the area of Nucoasara, in order to have the tourists informed about the great diversity of these creatures in the Retezat Mountains. Some of the most threatened species are also present on this poster, as I was doing some intense insect photography in the area.

Hope to still be able to see them the following years…

And some links about declining insects in Germany. Unfortunately this occurs in most of Europe.  Link one. Link two.

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Entomological plates – Moths of Romania

Posted in Specii rare on November 9, 2017 by maxpho

Romania has a rather rich insect fauna, but despite this, there is not much information on the Internet regarding the species present in the country. Any amateur photographer may find in Nature some species that he or she will not be able to identify due to this lack of information.

Of course, the most photographed and observed insects are the butterflies and moths, since they have larger sizes and fly often around flowers or at night around light sources, and they are also widespread in different habitats.

To try and give some information regarding these species, I’m starting to post here a number of plates which will present different species with their scientific names. In this way anyone interested will be able to find information more easily on the internet, just by searching the name of the insect.

First, a plate showing some of the moths species from the Family Sphingidae:

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Hyles hippophaes – May 12, 2017

Posted in Specii rare on May 12, 2017 by maxpho

After a very long period of inactivity on this blog, I’m finally posting some new shots. Not “astro” ones, but Nature-related ones.

The following shots are of a hawk moth (Fam. Sphingidae), Hyles hippophaes (Esper, 1789). This species is threatened by human activity, as many other insect species. In Romania it occurs mainly in Dobrogea, but can occasionally be found further to the west. 

The larva was found in August 2016, and the adult emerged in May 2017. The moth is active at night, and is attracted to artificial light.

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Eudia pavoniella – March 5, 2017

Posted in Canaraua Fetii, Specii rare on March 5, 2017 by maxpho

Spring is here now, and the Microcosmos is once again opening up for exploration.

My very first moth species photographed this year is a not-so-frequently seen one: Eudia pavoniella (Scopoli, 1763). It is a smaller version of the giant peacock moth (Saturnia pyri), but with the males much more beautifully colored. The following shots confirm that:

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This is the second time I’m photographing this species. The first session was a few years ago (link).

A few more butterflies

Posted in Specii rare on August 10, 2016 by maxpho

Just some shots from a recent trip, showing mainly two very abundant species, but also very local.

Apatura metis:

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Hipparchia syriaca:

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And many more butterflies:

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The following image contains around 37 butterflies:

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Apatura metis – July 2016

Posted in Specii rare on August 2, 2016 by maxpho

Following are a few shots of one of the most elusive butterflies in Europe: Apatura metis, or “Freyer’s Purple Emperor”, as it is also known.

The location where I found this species (in Dobrogea) is only the second one in which I was lucky enough to see Apatura metis flying. The other area was Comana Woods, back in 2011. The great difference is that in Comana there were only very sporadic observations of this species, about one per year, while the new location has an apparent stable population with 2-300 hundred individuals!

The large number of butterflies allowed me and my wife to get some nice shots of Apatura metis, despite the 30+ degrees Celsius and late hour (usually Apatura metis is more “docile” in the morning).

First shot presents a female resting for a few seconds on leafs:

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The second shot presents a male, with its distinctive purple iridescence on the wings:

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The vast majority of the individuals observed were fresh, some barely emerged from pupae, with only a few males presenting an older aspect, mostly from flying in between the Salix branches. There was, however, an “old timer”: a female very possible from the first brood (this was my conclusion based on the larger size – almost as large as Apatura ilia females, compared to the very small “fresh” individuals, and the “very old” aspect of the butterfly’s wings), feeding in the shade:

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Occasionally some individuals were resting on trees:

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The large number of individuals (both males and females, in a 50-50% occurrence) indicated that the species was at its peak in late July (based on observations from two trips to the location, with a 6 day interval), and some couples were observed resting together in the trees:

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Back at home, while processing these shots, I had the pleasure of discovering an extra individual in a shot of the above couple: an Apatura metis pupae. It is visible in the image below, in the lower left corner of the image (marked with two white lines):

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This pupae and a ready-to-pupate larva were observed (but not photographed, unfortunately) on a single Salix tree. This means that this second brood is still going to fly at the location for a while…

A new trip is being planned 🙂

UPDATE: Following are two shots of one Apatura metis pupae. One of the observed larvae (which was also collected) has transformed. Look at the shape and compare with the above image showing the pupae well camouflaged between the Salix leaves.

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