We’re delighted to have as our next guest blogger, Keith Sharp. Keith has travelled and lived throughout the world yet the Mani holds a special place for him and his wife, Lydia who visit every year. Not only can they both spend time with their great friends of Wendy and Kerry but Keith can pursue one of his many passions – butterflies. He has provided some tips and thoughts for us:
Greece is great for butterflies – (petalouda in Greek, with stress on third syllable). They weave into your walking experience along with the unforgettable mountain and coastal scenery and the sounds of bird life, the occasional scurry of a sun-seeking lizard and the scents of wild sage and thyme.
Typical best sites for butterfly discovery are open, thickly grassed (not mown or farmed) sunlit clearings, some way above sea-level, where the vegetation is better for them. A gentle tramp through the grasses will almost certainly generate a spectrum of momentarily disturbed butterflies for you to savour.
But even if you stick to your walk route, perhaps a stone paved – known as kaldermiri – built pre-asphalt roads for donkey or mule transport, keep an eye out. Butterflies won’t be far away.
Some Mani butterflies will look suspiciously familiar to British eyes — and rightly so. Plentiful Whites, the ubiquitous Speckled Wood can all be seen. Migrant Painted Ladies, resting on their epic trek south, are familiar visitors, especially from late Summer through Autumn.
But look out for southern European variants — there’s an Oriental Meadow Brown, a Greek Clouded Yellow; a Balkan Marbled White. And many butterfly types you see nowadays only rarely in northern Europe. Late June/July is great for Fritillaries — Heath, Dark Green as well as the more familiar but unerringly spectacular Silver-Washed.
Among my favourites, on the wing through June and July, are Swallowtails and Scarce Swallowtails (actually very common!) Late Summer into Autumn sees the spectacular yellow and deep orange Cleopatra and clusters of Plain Tigers — the Agios Nikolaos/Stoupa cycle path coastal walk is great for these, even into October.
And that leaves out the many Blues, Skippers, Coppers, Hairstreaks – and harder to find, the Two-Tailed Pasha, the tiny Grass Jewel…and talking of tough to spot, I have yet to see a Camberwell Beauty. They’re there though, so I’ll keep looking.
Finally, some quick tips for walkers who want a photo record of what they’ve seen. Firstly, although phone cameras are in many respects astonishingly good, I find I need the control afforded by a DSLR, with a quality zoom lens, to do justice to butterfly photographs. (It’s worth the effort to carry it on your walk). Manual settings give optimal control of course, but for a balance of control and speed (butterflies don’t always hang about) I often set the aperture exposure. A medium setting — say, F:11 — generally does the job, because it limits focus to the foreground and ensures fast shutter speed. Use AF-S(single) focus setting when you can, but remember to switch to AF-C (continuous) if your butterfly is on the wing, on the move.
Most important and not-so-obvious — don’t get too close to your subject! I used to creep in as close as I possibly could, thinking the nearer I got, the better the result. Not so. Extreme close up leads to fish-eye lens type distortion. Get a true image with a quality camera and you can crop edit to your heart’s content.
So: stand about 50-60 cm away from the butterfly to take tyour photo. This should allow you to set the zoom at 50mill focal length — which also corresponds to our natural eye vision, by the way.