Sooty Ringlet (Erebia pluto)

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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.

41638_male_Hautes-Alpes_16Jul16

A very difficult species to see, as it flies at over 2000m and usually considerably above that. It also has a habit of flying non-stop over steep rocky scree, which makes photography almost impossible. It is said to stop open-winged in overcast conditions, but I have yet to see this.

 

I saw pluto for the first time in 2015 at a location at 2200m in the Hautes-Alpes but photography was impossible. I saw it again in 2016 at a different location not far from where I saw it in 2015, but here it was flying non-stop and I only managed one distance shot (41638).

 

It lives up to its English name as it is almost completely black and unmarked on the upperside, and not a lot different on the underside. It is a medium sized Erebia, and its colour, size, and the location and manner of its flight mean that it can be identified with some degree of confidence when seen in flight, mainly because there are no real alternatives.

The nominate species occurs in the Alpes-Maritimes and the southern French Alpes, whereas the subspecies oreas flies further north in Savoie, according to T&L. Oreas differs in that it has a clear upf red post-discal band, also without ocelli.

 

So, can pluto have ocelli, even very small ones? H&R says the upperside is unmarked, and is very specific about this. TLID unhelpfully does not reference oreas (it is a compact work and does not reference any subspecies) but describes "pluto" as having dark reddish post-discal bands (which describes oreas rather than nominate pluto) with or without black ocelli. So, it appears that H&R and Lafranchis are not in agreement on this. Matt Rowlings says "it is often devoid of markings"; does he mean ocelli? His own photographs do not show any with even vestigial ocelli, but then he has few images (and only one of nominate pluto), further testimony to the difficulty of getting any clear photographs. An internet image search reveals very few photographs of the nominate form.

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to date my only photograph of pluto, and I'm not entirely convinced that it is this. There is a suggestion of a pin-prick ocellus in upf s5, and I suspect this might preclude pluto, as pluto should be without ocelli of any kind. However, if it isn't pluto, what else can it be?

2360

 

41638_male_Hautes-Alpes_16Jul16