Aosta gran paradiso N.P. Italy, series two


Our holiday to the Aosta Valley in Italy is already far behind us, almost two and a half months. I’am looking back with great pleasure and have already decided to definitely go back again. The large numbers of butterflies that occur in the area are of course the main reason. And it is quiet enough to find your ”own spot” where you can get to work without to be disturbed all the time.
The pleasant contact with the camping owners has lead to the fact that they like to use some of my images on their website and to promote the area. In return I’ll get a little promoting om their website. So the knive cuts at both ends and I have the opportunity to share my work. Something I like to do. The campsite ” Val di Rhemes ” is centrally located and all the interesting areas are within easy reach. Even for the necessary shopping, one doesn’t have to make a worldtrip. 
This series concerns the second and last part of what I have produced during our two weeks of stay. In part one you can read that not all was going very smoothly, but eventually, that leads to more satisfaction when returning home with nice results. So there is yet another challenge waiting for the nearby future.
I hope you enjoy and thanks for watching.


Valle d’Aosta, dragonfly emerging

During our stay in Val di Rhemes, Aosta in Italy (see previous newsitem) I discovered in a small pond at the campsite a few larvae of dragonfly species. The pond, barely twelve square meters was situated in the playground next to the campsite. It was the first and only indication that this group of insects is present in this valley. Because I regularly visited the playground with my daughter, it was also a great opportunity to keep an eye on the activities. To my delight, after one week and a half, the first emerging dragonflies showed up. However, most larvae in this process looked for a place out of reach of the camera. Eventually, the persistence was rewarded with a specimen that found a spot close to shore. The only downside was a large boulder that was in the way and so at the start it was not an ideal position to take photographs. 
The larva had already stopped the day before around the conscious stem, but crawled out of the water the day after. It was about six o’clock in the morning. Only the buds gave a sufficient basis to the further smooth plant stem. After finding the right spot for an hour nothing happened. Still it is important to stay alert, well as the various stages of the emerging are sometimes speed up unexpectedly. This includes the bursting of the skin and the head and part of the abdomen hanging outside. The other phase is when the image lifts it head upwards and pulls out the last part of the abdomen from the skin. Then inflate the wings, following stretching of the abdomen and the stage of the image excess moisture dissipates and starts to get colored. 
After eight hours, I stopped recording, partly because the skin with dragonfly came loose and slid down. The new situation hampered further for making good images. The entire process to fly has lasted at least ten hours. In my view, a very long time, and especially since the animal is very vulnerable then.
Finally, from all emerged dragonflies I found, at least thirty percent did not come to a good end. Cannibalism was the most notable cause. The stamp ‘predator’ was demonstrated here in conviction.
Many children saw their first dragonfly to be born in this pond. A wonderful experience.

Blauwe glazenmaker


Aosta gran paradiso N.P. Italy, series one

For the first time in many many years, we did not spend our family holiday in the Biebrza area in Poland. And if I’m honest, that was something to get used to. Instead, we traveled with a part of the family to the Aosta Valley in northwest Italy. This region holds the Aosta gran paradiso national park, a mountain area on the south side of the Alps. 
We arrived in Italy under rainy conditions and this weather pattern would continue in the first week and a half. The Netherlands had a warm first half of the year 2014, but Italy however, had to deal with a very cold summer. I personally had no objection against the low temperatures, but the rain was a bummer. On the third day after our arrival we made our first big hike. The mountain slopes were in full bloom and the number of butterflies exceeded all expectations. However, the camera stayed in the caravan because, … ……. ”family walk”.
Then after days of bad weather again an appropriate day presented itself, and I went on stage alone. Unfortunately it started with heavy low clouds and mid-morning the sun broke through. Both actually not ideal for shooting. All in all, this day yielded very little images.
It was also clear that the end of the season approached. All fields around the campsite were mowed and in the mountain pastures, the number of flowers dropped quickly. To make the most out it was important to utilize the early morning hours. Altogheter about two and a half hours with suitable conditions a day. I should mention that there are no motorways available in the mountains and walking is the only way to get somewhere. Not all muscles and tendons were otherwise sufficiently trained. A light bruised foot also resulted in forced observing the other campers for two days.
Despite the many butterflies it still takes a lot of time to find one in a setting that does not lead to a more or less standard image. But with so many butterflies around, spending time in the field is the only option to get the maximum result. I certainly hope to visit the area a second time.



Belarus part two

It took a while, but here is the second part of the pictures that were taken during my stay in Belarus, mid May. With this second series I have shown all photographic highlights of this trip. This series also presents a great variety of topics.
Because I already visited the Biebrza marshes and surrounding area in northeastern Poland for many times, it was almost natural to make a comparison between the two. One is tempted to think that there are a lot of similarities.
The wooden houses that are displayed in this series, are disappearing more and more in Poland. In Belarus, with the exception of the big cities, these houses are almost standard. The well is, especially in the smaller villages, still widely used. This indicates that there is a visible difference in living standards. Of course, Poland is focusing on western Europe for a long time already, and that will surely have it’s affect. 
Regarding nature, among other things related to the time of year, there were also a number of things that stood out. For instance the number of butterflies, as well as the variation in species, was considerably lower than I expected. This all despite a very mild winter followed by an unusually warm spring. On a large promising field, I only found a few Brown Coppers and one Common Blue. One reason may have been that the ” June-dip” in the presence of butterflies, already occurred in mid-May, due to this warm weather.  A phenomenon that we have seen in 2014 in the Netherlands to. Some photographed mushrooms I did not expected either, because the appearance of them seems to be temperature related in general. Nature in Belarus was also a month ahead of schedule. Striking was that on a large freshwater lake we hardly couldn’t find any waterfowl. It produced our only Grebe and booming Bittern for this trip.
But all in all, what is there to say after only an initial twelve day visit? The beautiful untouched nature has made ​​a big impression at least. Enjoy watching this second series.

Krasny Bor


Belarus photoseries 1

In mid-May, togheter with a photographer friend, I made a trip to Belarus also known as Belarus. This partly organized trip went to destination Krasny Bor, a virtually untouched Boreal forest in the far north on the border with Russia. The large tracts of forest, together with endless bogs are the two main habitats in this area. The scenery was very beautiful, a form as we do not know anymore in The Netherlands.  A true wilderness. The idea, that not long for our arrival a Brown Bear has walked around in the vicinity of the guesthouse, is quite special.
We agreed that we would focus mainly on photographing birds, and the organized part was mainly pointed on that. However, those plans were quickly put aside. For various reasons, including the very hot wheater, this was a task that would take much time and would yield only slightly. Because my annual photo trip is the only way to be just busy with photography, I simply do not have the patience to spend days on a subject of which it is uncertain whether it is at all going to cooperate or not. The result is that the focus is also focused on other issues, and despite the heat I keep searching for topics. This soon resulted in days of 16-18 hours of activity, with means returning home rested is out of the question.
And then what footnotes to the various topics. The location of the Ural Owl was very welcome. The juveniles were now at an age where they do not hang around the nest any longer, but wander around. Fortunately, we managed to follow them for a day. Father owl was otherwise not willing to coöperate very well, this in  contrary to what one would expect. The caterpillar of the Small Tortoiseshell, I found on a mid-afternoon and soon I had the idea that it was preparing to pupate. For sixteen hours I kept an eye on the process, but there was not really much happening in that period. When we returned after a tour of four hours, however, I was surprised that the caterpillar was completely transformed into a cocoon. To bad, a missed opportunity to capture this metamorphosis, but next time I know better.
On the Kegelmorielje (Morchella elata) I was alerted by Martin and he looked surprised to the little dance of joy I made. A beautiful fresh copy in a great setting. The species seems not very common in Belarus to because I found images in two nature books about nature in Belarus. Or maybe it is the appearance itself.
On the last day and the only day without burning sun, a well cooperative Shrike and Whinchat were found. The shrike managed, despite a slightly drooping left wing, still outwit lots of prey. Nice to see is the behavior when a potential snack is getting into attacking range. But even with this species the eye is sometimes larger than the beak and the spider used this opportunity by smack dropping himself. Stared at by a hungry bird.
The series of images taken during this trip I will show in two parts on the site.


Twin week at the Bargerveen reserve

In recent years, it is becoming a little tradition that I, along with my family spent a week’s holiday in the province of Drenthe. More specifically identified concerns mainly the area south of Emmen and in the vicinity of the bog reserve Bargerveen. Despite the natural existence in its present form, it owes it’s aura of virginity to large-scale human interventions in the landscape. Where in the Netherlands for example, we still find alive bog at such a large scale? It always gives me a sense of primeval nature, while in my mind I do know the origin of this is the result of human activity. The lakes and pieces of dead Birch Trees reinforce that feeling . What makes the area so interesting are the huge numbers of dragonflies that occur here. On good days the bushes hang sometimes literally packed with hatching Northen White-faced Darter and Four-spotted Chaser dragonflies. Because of all these dragonflies, this is the area where the only real population of the Red-backed Shrike is breeding in the Netherlands. And at migration time one has a reasonable chance to meet the beautiful Red-footed Falcon, attracted by the abundant food in the form of the same dragonflies. And all of that despite the fact that some of these dragonflies are not very common in Holland, but in this context it doesn’t make any sense.
Also, sometimes the small size of agricultural areas and just a bit friendlier way of how people interact with each other, making it a pleasant stay in this corner of Drenthe. It makes it easier to socialize with each other. And if you don’t feel the need, silence is not far away.
The weather conditions were not optimal in this week, but low temperatures and precipitation can provide different opportunities for photography. One morning I’m really rained wet down to my underpants, but well ……. one does not always find a pair of fresh Four-spotted Chaser in the same clump of grass. Unfortunately, my plans for landscape photography I had to put aside because of the weather and corresponding light. It was still mostly gray weather, which is often not ideal for landscape shots.
And then the title , ” Twin week at the Bargerveen”. In an area where so many dragonflies emerge, chances are pretty high that when searching well one will find ” couples ” of dragonflies togheter. I hope the images speak for themselves. Furthermore, the Viper was very welcome and we hope there are more to come. Against this, the caterpillars of the Six-spotted Burnet, found by my wife, were also very welcome. Although, the last still remains a pleasant ” DEVIATION ”.


Crossbill Guides brings two new titles

Poland_guide-coverAlthough a little late, Jan would still like to draw your attention to the recent release of two new titles by  Foundation Crossbill Guides. This non-profit organization publishes nature guides which draw attention to the many beautiful areas that Europe has to offer. The two new editions are about the Eastern Rhodopes, Greece, Bulgaria and North East Poland. In the latter guide the Bialowieza forests, the Biebrza marshes,  Augustow forests and Wigry and Narew National Parks are discussed.

The guides are characterized by their convenient sizes and easy reading. They contain lots of information about what you can find in these areas. In addition, it is not limited to a particular group, but both flora and fauna are extensively discussed. The guides entail several routes that can be taken on foot, by bike or by car. For each route there will be a reference to the most interesting species. The lists are in no way complete, but the routes have been chosen in such a way that there is also much more to be seen. The information comes from local nature lovers and other frequent visitors to the area. The guides have been illustrated with beautiful pictures.

Being a big fan of the Biebrza marshes, Jan was able to contribute to the release of the North East Poland guide. He edited the texts of various routes and nearly thirty of his photographs have been published in the guide.

For people who are going to visit this area, the guide is highly recommended, an amount of money well spent. For more information on the organization and the nature guides, see (English).