2015 Belgium,France, Switzerland and Italy

3 - 5 August, Belgium

Thanks to our wonderful hosts, Frank and Christina, who put us up for two nights, in considerable comfort, allowing us to see stone martin.

Unfortunately the poor light combined with my rather tired brain - it was 230 in the morning after an early start and a long drive - meant the photographs were rather disappointing.

We also visited the Foret de Soignes where we saw one of the introduced Siberian chipmunks soon after arrival, but very briefly and very badly. We also saw a honey buzzard and map butterfly.

5  - 7 Parc Naturel de la Floret d'Orient

I'm not a great slug fan but the red slugs Arion rufous were rather impressive.

White admirals were fairly common as were silver-washed fritillaries and purple hairstreaks.

Odonata included:

southern migrant hawker,

willow emerald

and ruddy darter.

Other wildlife seen included great white egrets, purple herons and a grass snake.

7- 11 August

Alps near Montreaux, Switzerland

Our introduction to our campsite at Chatel Saint Denis were a male and a female saw-tailed bush-cricket.


Other Orthoptera seen in the area included bog bush-cricket,
large marsh grasshopper,

green mountain grasshopper,

Butterflies included high-brown fritillary,

 Arran brown, wall brown and chequered skipper.

The birding was quite good:
honey buzzard - sadly rather distant

red kites were reasonably common
golden eagle
alpine chough
Other birds seen included hobby, ravens, water pipits, crossbill, black redstarts, firecrest and spotted flycatchers. A nutcracker was heard. Moving on to the mammals red squirrel was seen and alpine marmot heard.

12 - 14 August

Grand Paradiso NP, Italy

We moved on. A glorious day and it was frustrating to have to spend most of the day driving in bright sunshine. Our journey was made longer by driving to the wrong Grand Paradiso campsite! By the time we arrived, we only had time for a short walk up the river. We saw dipper, willow tit a distant nutcracker and three alpine marmots. 

On the 13th we had a glorious day. The scenery was amazing.

Alpine marmots were common.

Four chamois were seen towards the end of the walk.

The avian highlight was undoubtedly superb views of four nutcrackers; four more were seen later.

It was a long walk, so a bit rushed, and we had little time for less obvious wildlife but chalkhill blue, common brassy ringlet and silver-spotted skipper were noted.

We did get caught in the rain. Unfortunately this turned into very heavy downpours form nine. The next morning we attempted to go out and did actually see nutcracker and chamois but it was truly horrible. On arriving back at the campsite our tents appeared to be in a lake. We decided to flee heading towards Vanois and stopping the night in a hotel on the way. Unfortunately, after many hair pins bends, while going over Col du Petit St-Bernard, I suddenly had trouble getting the car into gear, which was more than a little alarming on mountain roads. We got to Bourg Saint-Maurice where the was a garage still open. We needed a new part. Having a Japanese car in France meant that, if we were lucky, they'd be able to get it by Tuesday (It was now Friday). 

Bourg Saint-Maurice

We ended up being stuck, without a working car, until Wednesday. On the plus side there are worse places to be stuck. Although we had another full day of rain before we could really get out.

Orthoptera included:
large-banded grasshopper
small-banded grasshopper
bog bush-cricket
two-coloured bush-cricket

and green mountain grasshopper. Among the butterflies were chalkhill blue, dark-green fritillary, clouded yellow and marbled white and a Jersey tiger moth was also seen.

The birding was not spectacular but we did see red-backed shrike,

black redstart,

crested tit, a few nutcrackers, crag martins, Egyptian vulture, willow tit, pied and spotted flycatchers. Red squirrel, red deer and Alpine marmot represented the mammals.

The garage failed to find the part by Wednesday but said they'd managed to fix the original. We were a little concerned but headed towards Bozel in the Vanoise National Park.

19th August - 21st August

By the time we arrived we had little time to do much but then we had two glorious days. The weather was finally with us and the scenery was awe inspiring.

Wildlife included two golden eagles, crag martins, martins, nutcracker and willow tit. 

Moving onto invertebrates:

 upland green bush-cricket

small alpine bush-cricket

spurge hawk-moth caterpillar


Probable carline skipper

Cicindela gallica

common hawker

When we could tear our eyes away from the scenery quite a bit else was seen with a big overlap with the other Alpine sites.

22 - 26 August

The Ardech

Mainly a more traditional holiday with plenty of time at the 'beach', canoeing and generally chilling out. We also lost a day to rain but we did see some wildlife.

The highlight was undoubtedly seeing several superb two-tailed pashas

southern white admiral

small pincertail

Italian locust

Odelaeus decorus


27 - 29

A very similar habitat to the Ardech with a large overlap of species. Two tailed pashas were common although not always cooperative.

preying mantis Mantis religosa