Pete Eeles

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Pete Eeles
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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:50 am

Thanks Wurzel. The Scotch Argus is a little out of focus - the blighter didn't want to play ball! Might have to go back :)

Apparently, the Scotch Argus takes over from the Meadow Brown as the commonest species in the area, from early August onwards. I wouldn't mind experiencing that!

Cheers,

- Pete

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Pete Eeles
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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Thu Jul 24, 2014 7:36 pm

Small, but perfectly formed

I've spent some time recently looking at the small stuff - the things that often escape our attention. That's "code" for eggs and early-instar larvae :) Starting at home, my wonderful wife has decided that Nasturtiums would make a nice change from growing Cabbages, since the latter get eaten each year by "cabbage whites". I didn't have the heart to tell her that "cabbage whites" love Nasturtiums too :)

Large White - ovum - Thatcham - 24-Jul-14.jpg
Large White ova

Large White - larva - Thatcham - 24-Jul-14.jpg
Large White larvae

Small White - ovum - Thatcham - 24-Jul-14.jpg
Small White ovum


At Pamber Forest, I've been keeping an eye on a few Large Skipper eggs - and the first larva has emerged:

Large Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Pamber Forest - 23-Jul-14.jpg
Large Skipper larva (1st instar)


Over to Stockbridge Down and the Small Skipper are still busy at it, and I was shocked to find no less than 17 eggs (at least 4 batches laid by different females) in a single grass sheath - especially given the amount of grass on the down!!!

Small Skipper - female - Stockbridge Down - 24-Jul-14.jpg
Small Skipper ovipositing

Small Skipper - ovum - Stockbridge Down - 24-Jul-14.jpg
Small Skipper ova - all 17 of them!


And finally, a quick visit to Savernake Forest in Wiltshire, to find my first Purple Emperor ovum of the year - of the "plum pudding" variety!

Purple Emperor - ovum - Savernake Forest, Wiltshire - 24-Jul14-2.jpg
Purple Emperor ovum

Purple Emperor - ovum - Savernake Forest, Wiltshire - 24-Jul14.jpg
Purple Emperor ovum


What an incredible year this has been - and I'm sure there's more to come!

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Vince Massimo » Thu Jul 24, 2014 8:18 pm

Pete Eeles wrote:Over to Stockbridge Down and the Small Skipper are still busy at it, and I was shocked to find no less than 17 eggs (at least 4 batches laid by different females) in a single grass sheath......


That's not in the books :D

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby David M » Thu Jul 24, 2014 9:19 pm

Pete Eeles wrote:

I've spent some time recently looking at the small stuff - the things that often escape our attention.


That's why your diary attracts so much attention.

Excellent images.

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Fri Jul 25, 2014 6:15 am

Thanks both! It may sound strange, but my focus is always "would this add anything to UKB" when I go out - whether it's hunting down subspecies and forms, observing behaviour and immature stages etc.! This means I'm always after something new - which makes any outings so much more rewarding because I always learn something new.

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby dave brown » Sun Aug 03, 2014 7:04 pm

But the nicest surprise, was finding my first ever Scotch Argus ssp. caledonia

I didn't appreciate how beautiful the Scotch Argus can be. That photo is a stunner. It may be common in some parts but that surely is worth seeking out. (I have yet to see Scotch Argus having never been to Scotland in August).

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Mon Aug 04, 2014 10:39 pm

Thanks Dave!

Arnside Knott

I've spent the last week on a family holiday in Cumbria - staying near Lindale with views over Morecambe Bay and with Arnside Knott clearly visible. I managed to break away one morning, arriving on site at 0730 and leaving by 1000 and back to the house in time for breakfast on the hottest day of the week! I managed to disturb my first Scotch Argus around 0750 on the far side of the reserve where the butterflies seem to be in the greatest numbers at the moment and, by 0830, the place was alive with males patrolling the hillside in search of a mate. I saw approximately 30 individuals in total, although most were past their best. The highlight was watching a female ovipositing. I managed another visit to get a shot of the coloured-up egg that is reminiscent of the Mountain Ringlet ova I photographed earlier in the year. I also found a few Northern Brown Argus ova on the Common Rock-rose.

1.jpg
Scotch Argus (male)

2.jpg
Scotch Argus (male)

3.jpg
Scotch Argus (female)

5.jpg
Scotch Argus (ovum)

6.jpg
Northern Brown Argus (ovum)


Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby CJB » Tue Aug 05, 2014 8:43 am

Hi Pete,

I got a lifer SA a couple of weeks ago.

They are stunning to see, although in the flesh they seem to be more black with red spots than the camera depicts.

Great piccies.

Flutter on!

CJB

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Tue Aug 05, 2014 8:50 am

CJB wrote:They are stunning to see, although in the flesh they seem to be more black with red spots than the camera depicts.


I agree - there's nothing quite like a freshly-emerged Scotch Argus, with its velvety black wings. I remember seeing my first in 2002 (I think) and I was blown away by just how dark it was, and the contrast with the red markings. Beautiful!

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Thu Aug 07, 2014 10:56 pm

Bits and Bobs

Catching up with a few things that I've been monitoring or rearing. First off, Guy has been posting some superb images of Purple Emperor ova development, so thought I'd add my 2p here. Specifically, the development and subsequent "disintegration" of the red band, leading to the head capsule of the larva, is definitely something that I'd love to see captured on a time lapse film - it would be spectacular! Even the "immature" egg shows signs of movement, which surprised me; the eggshell must be wafer thin to be this transparent. I don't have a full sequence (a family holiday in Cumbria broke the sequence!), but here's what I do have:

Purple Emperor - ovum - Savernake Forest, Wiltshire - 24-Jul14.jpg
24th July

Purple Emperor - ovum - Savernake Forest, Wiltshire - 26-Jul-14-2.jpg
26th July

Purple Emperor - ovum - Savernake Forest, Wiltshire - 27-Jul-14.jpg
27th July

Purple Emperor - larva (1st instar) - Savernake Forest - 03-Aug-14.jpg
3rd August - 1st instar larva


And here's a 1st instar Silver-washed Fritillary that decided to set up its silk pad (on which it will overwinter) on the same piece of moss on which the egg was laid. The critter is TINY and took ages to find!

Silver-washed Fritillary - larva (1st instar) - Pamber Forest - 07-Aug-14-2.jpg
Silver-washed Fritillary - 1st instar larva


I also managed to relocate the Large Skipper larva I've been following, but is so hard to photograph - any movement and it retreats back into the grass tube that it's constructed. I came up with the cunning idea of backlighting the tube to see whether or not the larva was actually in there, which it was (it's the dark shadow at the top of the first image)! The first shot also shows the characteristic feeding damage. I managed to get a quick shot when he did finally poke his head out!

Large Skipper - larva - Pamber Forest - 07-Aug-14.jpg
Large Skipper larva

Large Skipper - larva - Pamber Forest - 07-Aug-14-3.jpg
Large Skipper larva


And finally - I've always wanted to rear Monarch since the larva is just so darn weird! Not only was I kindly given a couple of larvae, but also the food plant, with the intention of sending the pupae back to their donor! The gold spangles on the pupa are quite something, and the shot below doesn't do it justice!

Monarch - larva - Thatcham - 20-Jul-14 [REARED].jpg
Monarch - final instar larva

Monarch - larva - Thatcham - 20-Jul-14 [REARED]-3.jpg
Monarch - final instar larva

Monarch - pupa - Thatcham - 23-Jul-14 [REARED].jpg
Monarch - pupa


Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pauline » Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:25 am

How on earth did you get those images Pete, esp SWF - Remarkable! I have been surprised to note that frequently there is little correlation between the size of the butterfly and the size of the egg. Inspirational stuff!

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Padfield » Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:56 am

Agreed - magnificent shots. Is the iris egg (caterpillar now) at home, Pete, or in the wild?

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Fri Aug 08, 2014 9:42 am

Thanks both!

Padfield wrote:Is the iris egg (caterpillar now) at home, Pete, or in the wild?


Still in the wild - I'll probably meet up with Matthew to show him the eggs and larvae I've found, so that he can add them to his survey this winter.

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Wurzel » Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:55 pm

That Monarch cat really is an awesome looking critter, and that Silver-washed is miniscule :shock: Fantastic stuff Pete :D

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Sun Aug 10, 2014 4:15 pm

Thanks Wurzel!

Geenham Common and Pamber Forest

With the season winding down, I decided to pay a brief visit to Greenham Common yesterday, returning again today. Common Blue and Speckled Wood are doing well, with a few Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown hanging on. The highlights were finding an almost-white 2nd brood Dingy Skipper, and watching a few Gatekeepers ovipositing. At Pamber Forest, the Large Skipper larva I've been monitoring was also out in the open, which seemed strange to say the least! I watched while it created a new home out of a couple of grass leaves.

Speckled Wood - male - Greenham Common - 09-Aug-14.jpg
Speckled Wood (male)

Dingy Skipper - male ab. - Greenham Common - 09-Aug-14.jpg
Dingy Skipper aberration

Gatekeeper - ovum - Greenham Common - 10-Aug-14.jpg
Gatekeeper ovum

Large Skipper - larva - Pamber Forest - 10-Aug-14.jpg
Large Skipper larva


Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Pete Eeles » Wed Sep 03, 2014 5:56 pm

On the Hunt for Chequered Skipper

I was fortunate (again!) to be able to spend a good chunk of time recently at Glasdrum Wood in Scotland, on the hunt for Chequered Skipper larvae. Having read the excellent works of Neil Ravenscroft, who studied the ecology of Chequered Skipper for his PhD while at Aberdeen University, I felt full of hope as I arrived on site. Neil’s findings are extremely interesting to say the least, and most can be found in Butterfly Conservation’s booklet on the Chequered Skipper, although I did enjoy reading the various papers he’s published too along with other articles by other authors, such as David Newland.

Since I was looking for the larvae, I was particular interested in finding those areas where the larvae were most likely to be found (and having found a few eggs earlier in the season, I had a pretty good idea of where to look). Below is a photo of Glasdrum Wood showing the wayleave that is created to allow the power lines to be maintained, together with Neil’s illustration of the topography of typical Chequered Skipper habitat.

1.jpg
Glasdrum Wood

1b.jpg


The whole area below the woodland edge is pretty much covered in scrub; Bog Myrtle, Bramble, Bracken and Hazel is everywhere. As Ravenscroft describes, the upper slopes, while rich in Purple Moor Grass (Molinea caerulea), contains plants that are distinctly browner than those found in the lower slopes which, apparently, have the best level of nutrients and aeration to maintain a lush green sward that lasts long enough for the Chequered Skipper larvae to become full grown before they overwinter (and, ultimately, pupate in the spring without feeding further). I have to say the difference in foodplants between the upper and lower slopes is noticeable and, while it’s not easy to see from the photos below, the Purple Moor Grass in the larval feeding areas is most definitely a darker and lusher green, and the grass blades seem to be slightly wider (which is a benefit to the larvae, since they create shelters from these blades in all but the final instar, when they feed more openly).

2.jpg
Slope below the woodland edge

3.jpg
Purple Moor Grass on upper slope

4.jpg
Purple Moor Grass in larval feeding area


My initial search was clearly in the wrong area, although my heart skipped a beat every time I found a notch in a grass blade (which is characteristic of Chequered Skipper larval feeding damage), but I could put this damage down to Sawfly larvae, Drinker moth larvae or Leafhoppers (Cicadella viridis).

5.jpg
Leafhopper (Cicadella viridis) - male

6.jpg
Drinker moth larva

7.jpg
Sawfly sp. larva


A few Scotch Argus were also flying and kept me company, but these were all well past their best, although this female still seemed to have a lot of eggs to be laid, judging by the size of her abdomen.

8.jpg
Scotch Argus ssp. caledonia - female


Eventually I found what I was after – a grass blade that not only had the characteristic notches, but also a tube that a larva would use for protection when not feeding. The first tube I found was empty, but did tell me I was in the right area. I found several more abandoned tubes nearby, telling me that there was at least one larva still likely to be in the area and that these tubes were the result of earlier instars. Eventually, I found a tube made from 2 grass blades that would definitely hold a more substantial beast!

9.jpg
Chequered Skipper larval feeding damage and protective tube

10.jpg
Chequered Skipper larval feeding damage and protective tube

11.jpg
Chequered Skipper larval feeding damage and protective tube

12.jpg
Chequered Skipper larval feeding damage and protective tube


Using the torch app on my phone to act as a "backlight", I was able to see that there was, indeed, a critter inside. On the same plant I found a second tube and, while moving my tripod to get a photo, I must have disturbed the occupant, since a penultimate-instar Chequered Skipper larva reared itself out of the tube (something it does to eject frass) and just sat there. A perfect photo opportunity! I also revisited the first tube and just gently touching it caused this larva to emerge also!

13.jpg
Chequered Skipper larva emerging from protective tube

14.jpg
Chequered Skipper larva - penultimate instar

15.jpg
Chequered Skipper larva - penultimate instar


After looking around for another hour or so, I returned to this spot to find that the second larva was out in the open – something I’ve only heard they do in the final instar. But I can only assume he was about to head back to his shelter, or was looking to create a new one. Either way, it was nice to get a photo of the wee chap. Unsurprisingly, managing to get these shots was beyond my expectations; I was hoping to get a photo of some larval feeding damage at best! And now I can't wait to go back to see if I can find a final instar larva in a few weeks' time, although I'll be making sure I keep my arms covered since I was bitten everywhere (although I didn't notice at the time!).

16.jpg
Chequered Skipper larva - penultimate instar


Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Padfield » Wed Sep 03, 2014 7:30 pm

Fantastic observations and photos of the chequered skipper larvae, Pete!

Guy
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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby nomad » Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:05 pm

A very informative report from Scotland with some super images, especially of the Chequered Skipper larva.
Regards Peter.

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby David M » Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:42 pm

Great images, Pete. I don't ever remember seeing reports of early stage Chequered Skipper on UKB before so to me this is a first.

Thanks for sharing.

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Re: Pete Eeles

Postby Wurzel » Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:44 pm

Next time I've lost a needle in a haystack Pete I know who to call :wink: A really interesting read, I'm fascinated by the map showing the habitat partitioning :)

Have a goodun

Wurzel


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