Pete Eeles

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Pete Eeles
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Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:39 pm

This diary is a continuation of my original blog which can be found at: http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/phpBB/blog.php?u=3

Cheers,

- Pete

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Pete Eeles
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11th March 2010

Postby Pete Eeles » Thu Mar 11, 2010 2:33 pm

I had a great start to the day - seeing my first butterfly of the year - a Small Tortoiseshell flying frantically across my driveway. I was very surprised that it was a Small Tortoiseshell, since they've not done that well in my local patch over the last few years. Hopefully things are picking up for them.

After my disappointment at failing to find any Purple Hairstreak eggs at my two favourite sites this winter, I'd just about given up. I took the dogs for a walk this morning and we found a field that is on the opposite side of the road from a housing estate, and 200 yards from my house. A line of oaks border the field and one had partially collapsed, giving easy access to the south-facing branches that were still very much alive and had wonderfully-plump buds! After 30 minutes I'd found 7 Purple Hairstreak eggs and confirms my suspicion (in my mind, anyway!), that I've seen hairstreaks flitting around the tops of oaks in the middle of the estate. Made my day.

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Oaks and dogs


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A collapsed oak


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Plump oak buds

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Pete Eeles
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12th March 2010

Postby Pete Eeles » Fri Mar 12, 2010 3:28 pm

I decided to go back to the same site as yesterday, this time armed with a "proper" camera to get some shots of the Purple Hairstreak ova. I think I've finally found a setup that works (I've tinkered with all sorts before now and never really been happy)! Here goes - the equipment is as described in my updated photography report (http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/reports_photography.php)):

Canon 30D
150mm Sigma macro with 3 extension tubes
Ring flash (mounted to one side of the subject)
Tripod
Remote cable release
Wimberley "plamp" (an essential piece of equipment for photos of immature stages!)
ISO 200
Shutter speed of 3 seconds
f11 aperture

The reason for the slow shutter speed was to get the right mix of flash and ambient light - to the point that the flash is barely noticeable (I hope!). Anyway - I'm pleased to say that this setup gives better results than anything I've managed with my 105mm Sigma macro, which will now be going on sale :)

The photos below show the contrast between a "clean" egg and one that has been discoloured by algae. In fact, I only found the latter when the twig it was on broke off and I took a closer look in case there was an egg there - which there was! This is now in safe keeping and the larva will be put back on the tree once it emerges.

Purple Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 12-Mar-10 (1).jpg
Egg laid at the base of a pair of oak buds


Purple Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 12-Mar-10 (2).jpg
Close up of the same egg


Purple Hairstreak - ovum - Thatcham - 12-Mar-10 (3).jpg
Close up of a discoloured egg

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Pete Eeles
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26th March 2010

Postby Pete Eeles » Fri Mar 26, 2010 8:42 pm

What a week! I've now seen Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Brimstone this year, interviewed Richard Lewington (watch this space - I had a wonderful time and managed to get everyone's questions asked!) and am currently attending the BC Symposium. Many superb presentations and I wouldn't know how to start summarising. So I won't, but will write up a brief account when the symposium concludes on Sunday. Very full days, a joy to attend, and exhausting! Being surrounded by the "who's who" of the butterfly world, with experts from the UK, Netherlands, France, Hungary, Japan, USA, south America and even Australia is very very humbling. I've come away with the feeling that we're all pushing in the same direction which is quite uplifting.

Cheers,

- Pete

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Richard Lewington - a man at work!


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Sir David Attenborough opening the BC Symposium

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Tue Apr 13, 2010 4:18 pm

At last! A proper trip out. Despite the cool breeze, I thought I'd take the dogs out to a local site, not expecting very much at all. However, the sheltered conditions around Midgham Lakes (SU561658) provided spots that were noticeably warmer than their surroundings. The result - 11 Orange-tip (10 male, 1 female), 2 Green-veined White, 1 Small White, 1 ovipositing Brimstone, 11 Peacock (most feeding on sallow flowers), 2 Comma and 1 Red Admiral. Spring has sprung!

Cheers,

- Pete

IMG_8767.jpg

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Thu Apr 15, 2010 3:39 pm

A return trip to Midgham Lakes on the way home from work gave me sightings of 6 male Orange-tips, some heading for a roosting spot every time the sun went in!

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Mon Apr 19, 2010 2:27 pm

A trip out to the Butterfly Conservation reserve at Magdalen Hill Down came up trumps with sightings of 11 Grizzled Skipper, 5 Green Hairstreak, 6 Orange-tip (all male), 5 Brimstone (2 male, 3 female), 4 Peacock and "a white" (that didn't stop). Nice to see several other UKB and Hants BC members there! The Grizzlies were difficult to find in the often-breezy conditions, but weren't so bad once you had "gotten your eye in", and realised that they were all sheltering at the bottom part of the reserve. Some observers had also seen a couple of Speckled Wood, which evaded me on this visit.

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Fri Apr 23, 2010 6:43 pm

I spent a couple of hours relaxing at the Hartslock reserve near Goring, a site known for its orchids. The mild breeze meant that most butterflies were found in sheltered areas, but I managed to notch up 2 Green Hairstreak, 12 Grizzled Skipper, 6 Dingy Skipper (my first of the year), 2 Peacock (both very warn), a single Small Tortoiseshell that had set up its territory in a section of the main path, 7 Orange-tip (all male), 5 Brimstone (2 male, 3 female), a Green-veined White and, most surprising of all, a single Painted Lady! On the moth front I saw 4 Burnet Companion, a single Mother Shipton, a single Pyrausta aurata and either Pyrausta cingulata or Pyrausta nigrata (unfortunately, I didn't manage to get a photo). All in all, a worthwhile trip for sure!

Cheers,

- Pete

IMG_9059.jpg
Grizzled Skipper


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Dingy Skipper


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Burnet Companion

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Pete Eeles
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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Fri Apr 30, 2010 8:53 pm

I had an hour or so this morning to get out - and returned to Midgham Lakes. Although the weather was turning, I decided to venture out anyway. As it happened, there were prolonged periods of sun!

I managed to get my first sightings of both Speckled Wood (12 seen) and Holly Blue (1 male seen) for the year. One Speckled Wood, in particular, was extremely territorial, launching itself from its perch at every passing insect before returning back to its "patch"; the intersection of two paths and in full sun. The handful of Green-veined Whites seen were all male, and one was extremely small and clearly the result of an under-developed larva.

But the highlight was seeing a ridiculous number of Orange-tip. I saw over 30 males, along with 4 females, confirming this particular site as a real hotspot for this species. At one point I just waited next to the nearest Garlic Mustard plant and waited for them to come to me! I also managed to find quite a few Orange-tip eggs and one particular patch of foodplant had an egg on just about every flowerhead. On occasion, I found 2 eggs on the same flowerhead, so removed one to breed through at home (and release next year), given that the larvae are cannibalistic. Some patches of foodplant also had a large number of eggs laid on the leaves just below the flowerhead, presumably because the seed pods weren't developed enough for the female to lay there.

All in all - a welcome diversion from a ridiculously-busy week at work :)

Cheers,

- Pete

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Pete Eeles
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1st May 2010

Postby Pete Eeles » Thu May 06, 2010 6:50 pm

Some photos from 1st May. Despite the cold breeze, I managed to find a male Orange-tip sheltering from the wind, nicely camouflaged on a Garlic Mustard flower head. Meanwhile, back home, the captive Orange-tip larvae are starting to hatch.

Cheers,

- Pete

3.jpg


1.jpg


2.jpg

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Susie » Thu May 06, 2010 7:23 pm

That last shot in particular is amazing, Pete. :D

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Pete Eeles
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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Thu May 06, 2010 7:36 pm

Thanks Susie. It takes quite a while to get a rock-solid platform so that any vibration is minimised, but having the mount on the collar of the Sigma 150mm lens I use (to attach to the tripod, rather than the mount on the camera body) makes a big difference.

Canon 30D
Sigma 150mm macro
Off-camera flash
Remote shutter release
Tripod

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Susie » Thu May 06, 2010 7:38 pm

Mount on the collar. I'll try and remember that. Thanks.

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Pete Eeles
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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Mon May 10, 2010 3:51 pm

Just back from a weekend away to see my niece get married in Malta (and had a marvellous time) !!! It turns out that one of my sister's nephews (Michael Sammut), who I last met around 15 years ago, has grown up into a full-blooded Lepidopterist and Ornithologist, although I'm not sure I can take any credit! At that time, I remember my fascination with butterflies "got around" and I was invited, with Michael, to visit a family friend - Anthony Valletta - who happened to be the region's Lepidoptera expert (and a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and author of the island's first book on the butterflies of the Maltese islands). I remember being shown an extensive collection housed in large wardrobe-like cabinets (which are now looked after by his son since Anthony passed away several years ago) as well as a selection of livestock. After a good long chat at the wedding exchanging stories, Michael gave me some tips regarding good locations on the island for butterflies.

While many were nursing their hangovers on Sunday, and with my family settled in at the beach (which, uncannily, was right next to a certain recommended nature reserve :) ), I headed for the hills for a couple of hours to see what I could find. I notched up several species, including Eastern Bath White, Small White, Small Heath, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Clouded Yellow, Wall and Common Blue. But the highlights were finding a small colony of Lang's Short-tailed Blue and several Swallowtails hill-topping. I also managed to find a female Swallowtail ovipositing around a very plush area of Fennel (which is a common weed on the island), giving away her intentions by flying noticeably slower than the ever-mobile males. The pale yellow eggs were remarkably easy to find after the female had flown off. I also forgot to take a hat and currently look like a red snooker ball, according to my youngest son :)

Back home after an early-morning flight and while out looking at some local elms I've "discovered" this spring, I managed to find my first Comma larva of the year.

Cheers,

- Pete

1.jpg
Lush Fennel Plants


2.jpg
Swallowtail


3.jpg
Ovipositing female Swallowtail


4.jpg
Swallowtail ovum


5.jpg
Swallowtail ovum close up


6.jpg
Comma larva about to undergo a skin change

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Pete Eeles
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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Wed May 12, 2010 5:02 pm

A quick jaunt to the Hartslock nature reserve near Goring (famous for its orchids) gave me my first Small Heath (British!) and Small Copper for the year. Still very cool at the moment, but the occasional Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak showed their faces. Hope warmer weather reaches us soon! The skippers are starting to look a little worn, with hairless thoraxes in some cases!

Cheers,

- Pete

1.jpg
Small Heath


2.jpg
Small Copper - record shot!


3.jpg
Not-so-hairy Dingy Skipper

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Fri May 14, 2010 6:51 pm

Botany Bay

I managed to get a couple of hours at Botany Bay (part of the Oaken Wood complex) in Surrey this morning - target species was Wood White. I really wasn't sure if they would show themselves because it was really quite cold - just 11 degrees according to the thermometer in my car. I walked to the spot where Wood White are typically found and the temperature was noticeably warmer. No sooner had I thawed out when a Wood White launched itself into the air just below my feet! This was the start of a very memorable time, with 14 Wood White seen in total, along with 3 Brimstone (2 male, 1 female), 1 Holly Blue (male), 2 Green-veined White (both male) and 4 Speckled Wood. The clouds were quick to arrive, but there was always intermittent sunshine. This resulted in perfect conditions for seeing Wood White, where they would constantly fly while the sun was shining, and then go to roost as the sun went in and temperatures dropped. As a result, I managed to catch them resting on a variety of plants, allowing me to experiment with some artistic poses!

One weird sighting was of a male Wood White that can only have emerged that morning. This species doesn't fly particularly strongly at the best of times, but this particular chap was behaving like a concussed snail on drugs :) Anyway, it settled, only for another male to land next to it, which then proceeded to start the courtship display of tongue-flicking and wing-flapping! Suffice to say, his efforts were in vain. All in all, getting out whatever the weather seems to pays off more often than not!

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby lee3764 » Fri May 14, 2010 7:52 pm

Brlliant & very artistic photos Pete! 8) What a wonderful & dainty species the Wood White is!
Lee Slaughter.

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Pete Eeles
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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Sat May 15, 2010 5:44 pm

Thanks Lee - I also tried some backlit shots, but they didn't come out as well as I'd hoped, although this one ain't too bad! The equivalent shown above was taken when the sun wasn't shining.

Cheers,

- Pete

IMG_9462.jpg

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Jack Harrison » Sun May 16, 2010 8:22 am

Pete

I used to go butterflying with Anthony Valletta in the early 1970s while visiting Malta when in the RAF and have many happy memories. In those days I was much more mobile and used to get around the island on the bike I had taken with me in the back of a C130 Hercules. On one occasion I even had a bike ride at 25,000 feet while on the way there!

One evening I was invited to have dinner with Anthony and wife and he showed me numerous Swallowtail chrysalides on walls, picture frames, woodwork and other places to where they had “escaped” much to the irritation of his long-suffering spouse.

I have been on holiday in Malta twice in the past couple of years. I love the place and its friendly people (despite the hobby of bird shooting, seemingly slowly dying out). I didn’t see that many butterflies during recent visits but did come across Geranium Bronze in three widely separated locations. Lang’s short-tailed Blue is in the hotel garden (The Phoenicia just on the outskirts of Valletta) presumably breeding on plumbago.

Jack

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Sun May 16, 2010 8:29 am

It's a small world! Yes - Michael also mentioned the Geranium Bronze infestation that has swept across the island! Good for them!

Cheers,

- Pete


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