Saturday 23rd July 2011

New dragonfly for me (well, almost new!)

Having returned from my journeys in footsteps of my great grandfather, entomologist G C Champion, after a few days of frantic packing up in the Netherlands, I have now made it back to Scotland, where the real countdown to my departure for Guatemala begins! Since I arrived, I have been busy with administrative tasks, and the weather has not been conducive to either butterfly- or dragonfly-watching, but today has been a glorious day, and I have notched up a few reasonable sightings.

The most exciting event of the day has been a morning visit to a known breeding site for the locally rare Keeled Skimmer dragonfly, which I was told about last year but I only managed to obtain a very fleeting glimpse of one individual before its flight season was over. Today, however, I was much luckier. I managed to locate two individuals, including one dipping in a boggy ditch along the side of a forest track and another which perched cooperatively for a few minutes, allowing me to finally obtain a few not very brilliant record shots of this species, which I had not photographed before. An almost-new dragonfly species for me – last year’s glimpse can hardly be counted!

Keeled Skimmer

Keeled Skimmer

Other species in the same location were Common Hawker, which I managed to photograph quite well (this species does not normally perch for long!), Golden-ringed Dragonfly and Common Darter (but surprisingly no Black Darters), and butterflies seen included Purple Hairstreak, Meadow Brown and Ringlet. An afternoon visit to the shore added Common Blue, Painted Lady and Green-veined and Large Whites, plus Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral. Not bad for SW Scotland after a prolonged dull and cloudy period!

Common Hawker, Aeschna juncea

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Saturday 15th July 2011

In GCC’s footsteps in his favourite Alpine collecting localities

I have just returned from a 14-day journey to the Alps of Switzerland and France. This quest, like the one I am soon to start in Guatemala and Panama, was inspired by my great grandfather, George Charles Champion, who used to visit the tiny Swiss village of Arolla, at the head of the Val d’Hérens, to hunt for insects. It was one of his very favourite locations, and with this in mind, I decided it would be a good place to begin my travels in his footsteps.

Unfortunately, I do not currently have access to the letters he wrote home from there, so I do not know the exact dates of his visits, or where precisely he stayed, but he must have been there between 1890 and 1920. At the time he started visiting, there were only a few possible places to stay, namely the Grand Hotel Kurhaus (probably above his price range), the Hotel Mont Collon, and the Hotel de la Poste (which still exists but appears to be no longer in use). We visited both of the former, and were kindly allowed to look through the fascinating guest books covering the period, but no sign of G C Champion. Perhaps he stayed at the Hotel de la Poste, or perhaps he hired rooms in a chalet. The answer will probably come when I next have a chance to visit the Royal Entomological Society, in St Albans, where his letters and diaries are housed. It is these questions that make following his footsteps so interesting!

Despite this temporary setback of not being able to locate precisely where my great grandfather lodged during his frequent and sometimes long stays in his beloved Arolla (I remember seeing one rather desperate letter to him from his wife Adelaide, gently reminding him that he had family responsibilities to attend to at home!), I was well able to see something of the marvellous scenery and prolific butterfly- and other insect-life that this marvellous region enjoys. These have been added to a temporary gallery: “New – following GCC in the Alps” .

Looking up at the village of Arolla, with flower-filled meadows in the foreground

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Saturday 2nd July 2011

 

Today is a momentous day: the site goes live!!! The story began in December last year, when I met Marijke de Jong (www.academicartofriding.com), who attended a talk about my India journey in the footsteps of my grandfather, F W Champion. She then introduced me to her partner, Marc Marsman (www.thinkmarsman.nl), and since then he and I have busy building this site. My most sincere thanks go to both of them, to Marijke for having the initial idea, and for lots of useful advice since, and to Marc for being the most incredible site designer, patient tutor of a non-natural computer person such as I – even in the dead of night, film cameraman, generous host, and a good friend.

So, welcome to the site! As you will see, it is first and foremost a homage to my naturalist forebears, but also a living opportunity for me to share my own photographs, films, diary entries and much much more. I hope you will enjoy it, and I look forward to you following me on my forthcoming journey to Central America in the footsteps of my great grandfather George Charles Champion.