Czech Republic 2015
This was my first ever family holiday abroad – unless a few nights on the Isle of Black count. I remember when I was 14 I went on a school visit to Italy and being an avid birder I eagerly gazed through the European Fieldguide hoping to tick off a huge number of new species. In actual fact it wasn’t to be and whilst I did add a few new species (Black Kite, Crag Martin, Alpine Swift, Serin, Night Heron, White Stork and House Sparrow d’Italie) I saw nowhere near the number of species to match my expectations. Hence on this holiday I was looking forward to seeing new species of butterflies but I wasn’t expecting an awful lot for several reasons:
1. Time of year – August isn’t the best time to be going as, if the continent is anything like the UK, late spring early summer generally produces the widest range of species flying.
2. The weather – The Czech Republic was in the middle of a heatwave with temperatures consistently in the mid thirties for about a fortnight previously.
3. Location – The place we were staying was in the lower foothills of the Eagle Mountains with the highest local point at just over 500m so I wouldn’t be seeing any sere changes. Plus we didn’t have access to a car so we may be pretty restricted with where we could go as it would all be on foot and little L only has little legs that get tired easily.
4. Knowledge – I have never been butterflying abroad before and so I don’t know what to look for or where to look – I was going on a very steep learning curve!
5. Family – This was probably the main reason I wasn’t expecting to add 50+ species to my ‘life list’. As this was a family holiday the wishes of my girls would come first and any butterflying would have to be on the hoof or stolen five minutes here and there, no long visits for a set of target species, no waiting and watching. It would be a case of ‘quick they’re in the loo are there any butterflies on that flower bed’ and ‘I’ll just get a few shots and catch you up’. In fact I was treating this as more of a training exercise where I could pick up so field craft techniques to use on future trips.
That said I have gotten quite good at ‘grabbing’ as much as I can on my five minute Larkhill stop-offs so I reckoned I might be able to add 10 new species to my life list and if that included a Camberwell Beauty then I would be very happy indeed!
Better get started...
We had a pretty horrific journey with heavy traffic from the end of the A303 until we reached the M23. Mind you on the way I managed to spy a Peacock and various Whites at the start of the traffic jam and a couple of Holly Blues near the Heathrow turn off (I wondered if they were Dave Miller’s?). Eventually we got to the Travelodge and bedded down for the night.
First butterflies of the holiday this morning actually in Gatwick airport itself, four male Purple Hairstreaks! Mind you they were printed on our Passports...
Once in Prague I managed to get us off the airport bus far too early (well the driver did say that it was the train station) so after a very hot walk and two tube changes we got to the train station and from there we had a two hour journey to Ceska Trebova in East Bohemia. Despite the fantastic train at fantastic prices (single fare for 2 adults and 2 children £14!) it was quite frustrating as we whizzed past great looking habitats that I was itching to explore. Once the train pulled into Czeka Trebova we (or rather I) lugged our gear off and Thomas one of our hosts greeted us and drove us onto Pastviny (495m above sea-level) stopping at Tescos on the way for us to pick up some groceries and a Holly Blue flew through the car park. The Tescos was quite surreal with the same uniforms and signage but Lidl like produce. On the drive to Plasviny I saw plenty of whites and what I am convinced was a Large Copper (flying near some reedbeds). The scenery was amazing with rolling hills and fields filling your field of view, the absence of hedges and fences offering an almost panoramic vista.
The house itself was no less stunning with a huge field in front of it sloping down to a stream hidden by vegetation. I managed a quick 5 minute wander while waiting for the girls to get ready for dinner and found a couple of Smessex, 3 species of white (the usual British varieties I presumed), a Hummingbird Hawk Moth and 2 Wall Browns. All through dinner (al fresco as the temp was still about 28-29) politeness prevented me from investigating the orangey butterfly that had landed on a bench at the top of the garden. Unfortunately for me it was only a tired Comma and not a much anticipated Large Tortoiseshell. I slept well after a good number of “Bernards” and dreamt about exploring the fields.