The Hermit (Chazara briseis)

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2016 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

19420_female_Var_05Sep09 17588_male_Hautes-Alpes_09Jul09 23759_male_Var_5Sep10
23477_female_Var_30Aug10 23735_female_Var_5Sep10 9514_female_Var_5Sep07
14262_female_Var_9Sep08 19352_female_Var_01Sep09 19403_female_Var_05Sep09

A rather strange Satyridae species. In flight it appears almost white as it floats effortlessly across flower meadows, more in the style of a fritillary than a Satyridae species. Its range is shrinking dramatically in France especially in central France at the northern end of its range, but no-one seems to know why.

 

I had only seen one briseis prior to 2003, around 1998 in the Dordogne. On a very hot day in the Alpes-Maritimes, a solitary briseis was sitting on the stone floor outside the local bar, apparently taking the salts from the damp stone. In 2006 I chanced upon a robust colony at an altitude of about 1000m in northern Var in September when it was clearly at the end of the flight season as evidenced by the wear and tear on the preponderantly females that remained. However, this species is quite a rarity so was still a delight.

 

The female unh is quite dull and its normal posture is for the forewing to be tucked down, giving it good camouflage when deep in the grass. When it is irritated or alarmed, the forewing flicks up momentarily, presumably to scare off a possible predator. I have revisited the Var site every year since and the number of individuals seems to have increased, and it had extended its limited range, so it was good to see that the colony was thriving. In 2009 I travelled through the Cevennes in south central France and saw briseis in several locations.   

In 2009 in the Var location, the orange form (pirata) of the female was seen (19403/19420). I do not claim the credit for this, as I was even unaware that this form existed. Tim Cowles' sharp eyesight spotted it in flight and identified it immediately. The briseis upperside is rarely revealed, but the nominate form is quite white, especially the female, hence my initial comment here, and quite apparent in flight. The areas that are normally white on the upperside are replaced by orange in pirata, and this is apparent, albeit less so, on the unf area around the ocelli - compare 19403 pirata with the nominate form 19352. This is mentioned in T&L and by the Lafranchis France book but in the authoritative H&R it says it is rare in southern Europe. In fact, Lafranchis says pirata can be more common than the nominate form in the Mediterranean region. I have looked back at my past records and have not found any other examples of pirata, which rather suggests a degree of rarity.
ref sex

observations

alt. m
19420 F

the same female pirata as 19403, with a rare glimpse of the upperside showing the normally-white areas as orange. This shot was taken with the five frames/second feature on my camera, as the wings briefly flicked open.

920
17588 M

a fresh male, unusually early for briseis, especially given the altitude (Lafranchis gives the altitude range as 0-1600m).

1000
23759 M

a male, still quite fresh given that it was at the end of the first week in September.

920
23477 F

a female, still quite fresh.

920
23735 F

a female in typical pose with the forewing folded down and almost completely obscured.

920
9514 F

a quick shot to catch the extended forewing, showing a strange contrast between the dull and unmarked unh and the intricately patterned unf.

920
14262 F

a typical female pose with just a little of the forewing showing.

920
19352 F

a typical female, but caught with rather more of the forewing showing.

920
19403 F

a female of the orange form pirata, with the area around the ocelli noticeably orange (compare this to the nominate form 19352). This is the underside of 19420.

920

 

19420_female_Var_05Sep09

 

17588_male_Hautes-Alpes_09Jul09

 

23759_male_Var_5Sep10

 

23477_female_Var_30Aug10

 

23735_female_Var_5Sep10

 

9514_female_Var_5Sep07

 

14262_female_Var_9Sep08

 

19352_female_Var_01Sep09

 

19403_female_Var_05Sep09