Pete Eeles

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Pauline
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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pauline » Sun Jun 07, 2015 9:52 am

You've certainly been busy Pete - it has tired me out just reading your diary :wink: :lol: ... but some great shots there and unbeatable images of the Duke larva. Fantastic!! :D :D

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Wurzel » Sun Jun 07, 2015 8:28 pm

Cracking reports, shots and species Pete :mrgreen: :D Corfe Castle is a littel known gem of a site - I've seen Lulworths on the Keep itself and it's also good for Wall Browns and Wall Lizards too :D

Have a goodun

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Pete Eeles
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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:28 pm

Thanks Pauline, Wurzel ... the travels continue!

Magdalen Hill Down

A brief visit to BC's flagship reserve in Hampshire gave me my first Meadow Browns and Large Skippers of the year, but I was here to see the Small Blue, which are doing extremely well in the chalk scrapes at the top of the reserve. I was hoping to find a Small Blue egg or two on the Kidney Vetch and, to be honest, it was harder finding a flowerhead that didn't have at least one egg on it! The record was a flowerhead with 8 eggs on it which, given that the larvae are cannibalistic in their first instar, seems an incredible waste.

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Large Skipper (male)

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Ovipositing Small Blue

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Small Blue ovum

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Small Blue ova


Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:35 pm

Glen Kinglas

The same evening I travelled up to Glasgow and thought I'd try out my "searching for larvae at night" skills on a Scotch Argus colony that is north north west of Talbot at Glen Kinglas, west of Loch Lomond. To be honest, I just wanted to make the most of my trip! At this time of year, I can't say the sky ever went completely dark while I was there (I arrived on site at 2130 and left at 2300); there was always a bright haze on the horizon.

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Glen Kinglas


At 2230, after looking at the Purple Moor-grass for what seemed an age, I diverted my attention to finer grasses (fescues) and almost immediately found a Scotch Argus larva munching the end of a grass blade. I've never seen an adult at this site and so finding my target was extremely rewarding! I'll definitely be returning during the Scotch Argus flight period to see what this site really holds!

6.jpg
Scotch Argus larva


Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:44 pm

Glasdrum Wood and Spean Bridge

The following day I paid my annual visit to Glasdrum Wood, on the banks of Lock Creran, hoping to find an ovipositing female or two. The adults were easy to find, but many were very worn.

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Glasdrum Wood

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Chequered Skipper (male)

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Chequered Skipper (female)


I found several females but none seemed at all interested in laying an egg as they busied themselves with nectaring and basking. And so I waiting by one of the favoured egg-laying areas (determined based on the larvae and ova I'd found in 2014) and managed to find a female ovipositing and, after looking at where she had laid, found another egg.

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Chequered Skipper ovum

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Chequered Skipper ovum


Other species seen included Green-veined White, Pearl-bordered Fritillary (very worn with just a single female seen), Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (half a dozen males), Small Heath and a few Small Copper.

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Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (male)

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Small Copper (male)


To wrap things up, I travelled to Spean Bridge, where I found a single Chequered Skipper before paying a visit to the Commando Memorial - the soldier at the front being modelling on Richard Lewington's father!

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Commando Memorial


Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Padfield » Mon Jun 15, 2015 7:25 pm

They all look like Richard Lewington's father to me!! :D

I can see chequered skippers 10 minutes from my house here in Switzerland but if ever I visited the UK at the right time of year I would LOVE to see them in Scotland. It would be a completely different experience. Great pictures of a super butterfly.

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Jack Harrison » Mon Jun 15, 2015 7:50 pm

Commando Memorial - the soldier at the front being modelling on Richard Lewington's father!
Are you sure it wasn't modelled on Ian Lewington's father? :evil:

Jack

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby David M » Mon Jun 15, 2015 9:45 pm

What dedication, Pete! I didn't know you visited Glasdrum that often (it's such a shame it's so far away otherwise I'd be there annually myself).

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:38 pm

Padfield wrote:They all look like Richard Lewington's father to me!! :D

I can see chequered skippers 10 minutes from my house here in Switzerland but if ever I visited the UK at the right time of year I would LOVE to see them in Scotland. It would be a completely different experience. Great pictures of a super butterfly.


If you ever need a guided tour, you know where to find me :)

Jack Harrison wrote:Are you sure it wasn't modelled on Ian Lewington's father? :evil:


I think you might be right, Jack :)

David M wrote:What dedication, Pete! I didn't know you visited Glasdrum that often (it's such a shame it's so far away otherwise I'd be there annually myself).


And not just annually, David - I've gotten into double figures over the last few years and hope to be able to writeup the findings over the winter.

Island Getaway

I've just returned from a weekend on the Isle of Wight ... possibly the most "quality" time I've had here since I cycled from Newbury to the Island in 1992 (or thereabouts) during the Newbury Cycling Club annual outing (which took 3 days, stopping over at the hostel at Burley in the New Forest both there, and on the way back). This time, I made a point of visiting several well-known butterfly sites including those associated with the Glanville Fritillary. One well-known site is the esplanade between Wheeler's Bay and Horseshoe Bay, where (at the Horseshoe Bay end) there is a plaque on a wall dedicated to this super species!

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Horseshoe Bay / Wheeler's Bay esplanade

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Horseshoe Bay / Wheeler's Bay esplanade


I managed to find 4 Glanville Fritillary, all past their best, as well as several Hummingbird Hawk-moths. At one point, five were flying on the same Red Valerian in front of me!

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Glanville Fritillary male

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Hummingbord Hawk-moth


I also visited Compton Bay / Chine and, again, a few worn Glanvilles were seen. Once you get away from the tourist centres, the island is spectacular, and I've already vowed to make a return visit to the island next year.

IMG_6247.jpg
Compton Chine


Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Willrow » Mon Jun 22, 2015 10:58 am

Lovely images and most interesting reports from some wonderful locations Pete, your night-hunt for larvae is indeed real dedication, especially after a long day...well done that man :wink:

Kind Regards,

Bill :D

"When in doubt - venture out"
Why not visit my website at http://www.dragonfly-days.co.uk

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Sat Jun 27, 2015 8:10 am

Thanks Bill!

NBA fest

I needed to be in Edinburgh for a meeting and took the opportunity to spend some time at a Northern Brown Argus site near Eyemouth for two reasons. The first was to finally meet Iain Cowe (IAC) who introduced me to this site in the first place (and a pleasure to meet you Iain!). The other was to locate and mark up areas where NBA had oviposited in order to narrow down any potential search for larvae in spring 2016. Interestingly, although the site is carpeted in Rock-rose, there are only a few areas where eggs are laid, seemingly those where there is a good amount of vegetation surrounding the Rock-rose - we even found an egg that was on Rock-rose behind some overhanging grass - so the female must have crawled down to oviposit in that particular spot.

We also made observations regarding the food plant itself, with obvious differences in leaf size, leaf condition and leaf colour (which, I suspect, is an indication of varying levels of nitrates). I need to do some research, but this would be an ideal study site for a student or two and could lead to some valuable data. Specifically, there may be an issue with rabbits overgrazing the site, but until we know the ecological requirements of this species, then it's all guesswork :)

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Northern Brown Argus ssp. artaxerxes - male

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Northern Brown Argus ssp. artaxerxes - female

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A 60-second old Northern Brown Argus ovum which Iain saw being laid


Another excellent time in the company of Iain and, local resident, Ian Campbell, who must surely be one of the most knowledgeable people on NBA in the British Isles; I think he sees them every day during their flight period and they turn up occasionally in his back garden!

IMG_1682.jpg
Ian, Iain and Pete - not the best "selfie" in the world!


Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Wed Jul 22, 2015 9:14 pm

Pamber Forest

It's been a while since I posted and it's not because I've nothing to report ... quite the opposite ... having spent a good chunk of time in Scotland! All will be revealed in due course. In the meantime, here's a report from a favourite local site.

On 18th July I spent an hour looking for (the rather spectacular) White Admiral eggs in Pamber Forest and managed to find 7 in total - far exceeding all previous attempts by quite some margin! The White Admiral seems to be having an extremely good year here and the management of the site is just superb (and I was pleased to be able to tell the warden, Graham Dennis, when I saw him a couple of weeks back). As well as finding an egg on a partially-eaten leaf (which I thought was interesting in itself), I also found a leaf containing 2 eggs. I was wondering if these had been laid by the same female at the same time. However, I returned today, and one of the eggs had hatched (with the larva feeding at the tip of the leaf, with its characteristic feeding damage), but the other was still unhatched - leading me to believe that the 2 eggs were from separate females. As often occurs in the butterfly world, a small subset of available plants are often used for ovipositing - as is the case here, it would seem.

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White Admiral ovum

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White Admiral ovum on partially-eaten leaf

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2 White Admiral ova


Among the good numbers of Silver-washed Fritillary, were a good number of Comma - and almost all were of the form hutchinsoni.

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Comma f. hutchinsoni


And on 17th, it was good to brush shoulders with the great and the good of BC, at the launch of the Big Butterfly Count, including Sir David himself! :)

IMG_6399.jpg


Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Padfield » Wed Jul 22, 2015 9:25 pm

I'll be interested to see what the second white admiral caterpillar does when it hatches. I, too, found a two-egg leaf today, with one hatched, but that first larva seemed to have disappeared, after having left some feeding damage. Although most larvae feed at the tip I have found some leaves in the past where a lateral vein is used. So I guess two larvae could in principle share the same leaf, at least while very small and unable to travel large distances over the very difficult terrain of a honeysuckle leaf.

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Pete Eeles
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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Wed Jul 22, 2015 9:28 pm

Padfield wrote:I'll be interested to see what the second white admiral caterpillar does when it hatches.


Indeed - I shall return to the site and will let you know!

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Wurzel » Thu Jul 23, 2015 8:53 pm

Not too sure about the selfie Pete - I think you need one of those stick thingies :wink: but those NBAs are sublime :D :mrgreen:

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Sun Jul 26, 2015 3:10 pm

Thanks for the advice, Wurzel! :)

Climb Every Mountain

Over the last few years I've become drawn to our most difficult butterfly fauna to find, observe and record. I'm sure there's some logic in this ... hopefully, that things can only get easier as I get older! If I were to sit down and think about the trip that would be the most testing, then it would be finding the Scottish subspecies of Mountain Ringlet (Erebia epiphron ssp. scotica), a species that is considered to "only fly in bright sunshine" (more on that, later), that has a very short flight period and that, with regard to this subspecies, is only found in a small number of accessible sites unless you have a predisposition toward mountain climbing. With the delayed start to the 2015 butterfly season, with many species emerging up to 2 weeks later than "normal", then coming up with a date for finding Erebia epiphron ssp. scotica was, to be frank, a shot in the dark and highly dependent on luck, as much as judgment. To make things even more difficult, a (not insignificant) financial investment was needed to book a flight from Heathrow to Glasgow as early as possible to keep the cost to a minimum. This wouldn't be the first time that I wished I lived north of the border. However, being joined by Mark Colvin rounded off the trip, since we shared a common purpose of not only finding this subspecies, but also taking the opportunity to visit many areas within central Scotland for the best part of a week.

2 days before our trip, we realised that our luck had held out, with the week of 13th July providing largely unsettled weather in our home locations in the south of England (where both Mark and I live) while a band of good weather passed over Scotland. Game on! Arriving early on the Monday morning and with hire car booked, but with the weather forecast in central Scotland changing to "inclement" for the Monday, we decided to head east, taking in Wester Moss (a BC reserve, near Stirling) for Large Heath ssp. polydama, before heading to St. Cyrus (on the east coast) for Northern Brown Argus ssp. artaxerxes and Grayling ssp. scota. Clearly, the gods were against us, since we failed to locate any of our targets (hardly any butterflies at all were seen), but the weather was less than ideal. The only positive was a couple of interesting roadsigns that lifted our spirits; the residents of Dull have a good sense of humour, and the second sign was found during Wimbledon! We eventually checked in at the Killin Hotel (highly recommended!) and, with good weather forecast for the Tuesday, we were raring to go!

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Killin is a small village that just 15 minutes from Ben Lawers, a site known for its Mountain Ringlet colony and a site that we would come to know well. Arriving on site at 0830, the weather was pretty cool and overcast. We took some time to take in the site, driving past the reservoir (Loch na Lairige) and getting a feel for the slopes (both above and below the road) that contained vast quantities of Mat Grass (Nardus stricta), the larval foodplant of the Mountain Ringlet.

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After parking up at around 0900, we donned our waterproofs and headed up the slope, taking note of various nectar sources as we went. This included good amounts of Wild Thyme, which was even growing in the cracks in the roadside. At 0920, with a 100% covering of light cloud and with a temperature of just 11.5 degrees, the first Mountain Ringlet was seen. Many butterfly books say that this species only flies in bright sunshine, but this is clearly not the case. Mark and I made a similar observation when we visited Irton Fell in Cumbria for this species in 2014. What we didn't realise, at the time, is that this first individual was aberrant, having significantly-reduced orange patches when compared with its brethren, who we were yet to come face-to-antenna with.

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Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica - male

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Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica - male


It wasn’t long before more Mountain Ringlets showed themselves and we estimated that we saw over 50 individuals during the course of the morning (we visited other sites later that day). Only a single female was seen among the males and, despite females being more secretive in nature, this did give us confidence that we had timed the trip to perfection as the adults were clearly still emerging (given the male / female ratio).

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Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica - female

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Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica - female


We visited Ben Lawers on subsequent days, moving to other sites (including Glasdrum Wood) to make the most of our trip. As such, we gathered quite a few shots of Mountain Ringlet and were in a position to make some general observations regarding appearance. The formal definition of ssp. scotica suggests that the red spots are more conspicuous and more elongated than ssp. mnemon found in the Lake District. This certainly seemed to be the case since some of the individuals had significant orange/red markings that almost blended with one another. A variety of specimens is shown below, ordered by the amount of orange/red markings.

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Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica - male

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Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica - male

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Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica - male

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Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica - male

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Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica - male


I could also have ordered the specimens based on the prominence of the spots in the orange/red markings and, on that note, we found a couple of more aberrations that lacked these spots completely (or almost completely).

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Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica - male

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Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica - male


The icing on the cake, however, was when Mark came across a mating pair; a first for both of us and which nicely rounded off this challenging but rewarding trip.

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Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica

18.jpg
Mountain Ringlet ssp. scotica on a rock :)


Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Wurzel » Sun Jul 26, 2015 8:01 pm

Because of the difficulty, the fact that I will probably never see this (sub)species and the perserverence these cracking shots have to be worth at least :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :D

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby David M » Sun Jul 26, 2015 8:23 pm

Some nice variations there, Pete. I'm glad you were rewarded for a trip that is risky to say the least in terms of weather conditions.

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Thu Jul 30, 2015 7:59 pm

Thanks Wurzel, David!

Back to Pamber

I finally managed to return to Pamber on Tuesday and, again, today, where the White Admiral larvae are ridiculously easy to find on suitable Honeysuckle leaves, with the characteristic feeding damage giving them away. Over the course of 30 minutes this evening, I found no less than 7 larvae, including one in its 2nd instar. Unfortunately, I failed to relocate the leaf that contained 2 eggs; it's either succumbed to the weather (or deer browsing), or I need a new pair of glasses.

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1st instar White Admiral larva

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1st instar White Admiral larva

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1st instar White Admiral larva

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1st instar White Admiral larva

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1st instar White Admiral larva with remains of egg shell showing

IMG_5339.jpg
2nd instar White Admiral larva


Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Fri Jul 31, 2015 5:57 pm

Stockbridge Down

The Chalk Hill Blue are putting on an excellent show at the moment, with several aberrations seen, including a female with some blue scales (see below). Silver-spotted Skipper is also starting to emerge, with several males and 2 females seen. Several Dark Green Fritillary females were ovipositing - absolutely fascinating to watch as they meandered through the scrub to find a suitable site to lay, which was always near (unsurprisingly) some Violets. A few Marbled Whites are also hanging on. The Brimstones are just starting to emerge, and are making the most of the ample nectar sources in the strip next to the road. Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Small White, Green-veined White, Small Copper, Silver-washed Fritillary, Small Skipper and Essex Skipper were also seen, along with 4 Painted Lady.

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Chalk Hill Blue female aberration

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Silver-spotted Skipper female

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Painted Lady


Cheers,

- Pete


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