Tuesday, 30 November 2021

A Vesper Bat

Vespertilionidae is a family of bats with members occurring on all Continents except Antarctica. With 407 known species, it is the second largest mammal family (Old World Rats and Mice is the largest family, with over a thousand species). Most of them eat insects which they locate on the wing using ultrasound, but they also make sounds audible to the human ear when they are communicating amongst themselves. Most vesper bats are small, between 3 and 13 centimetres long and weighing 40 to 80 grams.

Vespertilionidae bat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

They live on average about 5 years and are preyed on by birds and snakes. Some of the French species may migrate to take advantage of better weather, and all the European species hibernate. All are protected in France but many species are threatened by habitat destruction.

The one in this photo was flying around our garage in June. It is very dark, with broad wings, large for a vesper bat, so it may be a Barbastelle Barbastella barbastellus (Fr. Barbastelle d'Europe).

Monday, 29 November 2021

Cultivated Button Mushrooms

Button mushrooms, or champignons de Paris as they are known in French, are the species Agaricus bisporus. Globally two and a half million tonnes of this mushroom is produced, half of which is coming from China. Europe produces 30% of global production, mostly in Poland, the Netherlands and Spain. Button mushrooms represent three-quarters of total mushroom cultivation in the world.

Mushroom cultivation in a former underground limestone quarry, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Mushroom cultivation in a former underground limestone quarry at Bourré.

In France a hundred thousand tonnes of button mushrooms are produced, against an annual consumption in the country of one hundred and forty thousand tonnes. Three-quarters of French production is in the Touraine and Loire Valley around Saumur, where one can find numerous former underground limestone quarries now transformed into mushroom farms.

Saturday, 27 November 2021

De Prunner's Ringlet

De Prunner's Ringlet Erebia triaria (Fr. le Moiré printanier) is a rather rare (localised, but abundant where it occurs) Alpine species that we saw in the Haute Pyrénées while on holiday in July 2021. Like all the Alpine Ringlet species it is very difficult to identify to species level as they all look the same. I had to get expert help with this one, especially as it was flying a bit late in the season. 

De Prunner's Ringlet Erebia triaria, Haute Pyrenees, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

They occur in dry poor grasslands between 800 and 2500 metres above sea level. This one was at about 2000 metres.

The plant in the photo is Basil Mint Acinos alpinus (Fr. Calament des Alpes).

Friday, 26 November 2021

Pygmy moth

The Pygmy Thyris fenestrella (Fr. le Sphinx pygmée) is a day flying moth found all over calcareous areas of central and southern Europe and into Asia Minor. The species is warmth loving and the adults fly during the summer months. The caterpillars eat clematis.

Pygmy Thyris fenestrella, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The species gets its scientific name because it has a series of translucent patches or 'windows' in its wings. They look white in this photo.

I photographed this one in June at Chaumussay when I was checking for orchids. It is nectaring on Wild Privet Ligustrum vulgare  (Fr. le Troène commun), another lover of calcareous soils.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Walking Around Saint Remy sur Creuse

Some photos of a walk I took around Saint Rémy sur Creuse on Monday 15 November. The village sits on the current bank of the Creuse River, with extensive troglodyte dwellings built into the ancient high limestone cliffs that once formed the river bank. Many of these were occupied by weavers in the past and the terraces form their own mild microclimate.

Troglodyte dwelling, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Troglodyte dwelling in the river cliffs above the village of Saint Rémy sur Creuse.

Bananas growing in the microclimate created by limestone cliffs, Creuse river valley, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Bananas growing on a river terrace above Saint Rémy sur Creuse.

Troglodyte dwelling, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Troglodyte dwelling, with vegetables planted into little pockets of soil here and there on the terrace.

Troglodyte outbuildings, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Troglodyte outbuildings.

Walking along a street of troglodyte dwellings, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Walking along a street of troglodyte dwellings.

Cemetery in November, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The cemetery is full of chrysanthemums, put there for Toussaint (All Saints). This is why you never give chrysanthemums to a French person -- they are associated with the dead.

Butchers Broom Ruscus aculeatus, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The rare and protected woodland plant Butchers Broom Ruscus aculeatus (Fr. Fragon faux-houx) grows in abundance on the river cliffs. This photo shows the peculiar way the flowers and then berries appear to be attached directly to the leaves. In fact, they aren't leaves, but flattened shoots called cladodes.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Walking Through the Fog Around Chambon

On Thursday 18 November we walked around Chambon, so that was two days in a row. It was foggy the whole day, damp and cold. Nevertheless the walk was invigorating, with Joel making us go up and down hills several times for 10 kilometres. It really got my endorphins going, but Simon really struggled with his glasses fogging up and needing his Ventoline. Here are some photos from the walk.

Decorated downpipe, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
This downpipe obviously needed a little extra help. I liked the creative approach.

Walking in the fog, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Walking in the fog.

Charolais cows, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Charolais cows.

Fly Agaric Amanita muscari, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Fly Agaric Amanita muscari (Fr. Amanite tue-mouche).

Walking in the forest, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Walking through the forest.

Bracken Pteridium aquilinum, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Bracken Pteridium aquilinum (Fr. Aigle impérial)

Forest dwelling, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Forest dwelling.

Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera (Fr. Coulemelle).

Trooping Funnel Clitocybe geotropa, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Trooping Funnel mushroom Clitocybe geotropa (Fr. Clitocybe géotrope). There were lots of these large and distinctive mushrooms, which grow in lines or circles on the edges of forest trails.

Foggy day in the Creuse Valley, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The Creuse Valley at 5pm.