Neil Hulme

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Pete Eeles
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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Pete Eeles » Sun May 23, 2010 7:20 am

Fantastic find Neil - if you could PM me next week's winning lottery numbers, I'd appreciate it :)

I assume that the hybridisation would also be manifest in females as well, although I've never heard of such a think being observed - possibly because it's harder to see any real difference?

Although this is classified as an aberration, I think I might need to introduce a whole new category for the main species pages! But I believe this is the only hybrid known to occur within the British butterflies (and breeding in captivity doesn't count!).

Sorry to hijack your diary!

Cheers,

- Pete

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Neil Hulme
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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Neil Hulme » Sun May 23, 2010 8:35 am

Hi Pete,

I would send you those numbers, but I'm blissfully unaware of how the Lottery even works :D. Standing in the queue at the newsagents, waiting for people to fill the cards in (or whatever they're doing - apart from depriving me of my Mars Bar 'sugar-hit' :evil: ) does seem to initiate worryingly psychopathic tendencies in me :twisted: :twisted: :twisted:.

Yes, there must be female bellargus x coridon around, but I imagine the chances of winning the Lottery would be much higher than spotting one in the field!

Best Wishes (but don't come to my newsagents :wink: ), Neil

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Neil Hulme » Sun May 23, 2010 5:35 pm

Major Successes In Battle To Save The Duke Of Burgundy

Last week I joined a volunteer and staff from the BC Fundraising Team (Helen Corrigan, Poppy Mackie, Catherine Napper and David Bridges, the Head of this enthusiastic group) on our biggest Duke colony in Sussex ('Site A' in our Annual Report). The idea was to show the butterfly to those in the team that had yet to see it 'in the flesh', and to demonstrate how focused conservation measures are meeting with a high level of success, at least locally. Despite 100% cloud cover we flushed a huge number of Dukes from the grass. While we enjoyed a picnic on an orchid-rich bank, I wandered a short distance and saw 5 male Dukes sitting close together on a single, stunted, knee-high beech. I had a strong feeling that a survey under more suitable conditions would produce the sort of count that I had first dreamed of five years back, when work here began in earnest. On returning I soon realised that my optimism was not misplaced, counting 128 Dukes! A major milestone in the Sussex Branch conservation campaign had been reached. This great success is shared with our partners, the South Downs Joint Committee, without whose help (both financially and in terms of labour and wider support) these results could never have been achieved. Elsewhere in the county, their assistance looks set to bring future successes in years to come.

Perhaps even more remarkable are the successes being achieved at Heyshott Escarpment. Regular readers of the Sussex Branch 'Sightings' page will have been surprised by the numbers being reported by the dedicated 'Team Heyshott' surveyors Colin Knight, Roger Martin and Steve Morgan. I wanted 'a piece of the action' myself, so returned on Friday 21st May for the first time since leading a BC walk here earlier in the month. I could scarcely believe my eyes! I teamed up with Bart Reason to go over the site with a fine toothcomb. We got stuck on a count of 47 for over an hour, wandering over the western flank which has remained Duke-less for decades, but where the others had seen a couple of butterflies on an earlier visit. After a while it suddenly dawned on me that these would have been wandering females, 'spreading their wings' and spreading the population, as the direct result of this meteoric population increase. We had only one chance left to meet our newly assigned target. We returned to the lowermost pit where we had seen nothing, several hours earlier under unsuitable conditions (the males are highly territorial and don't move around much). We immediately found 4 males, bringing the grand total to 51 Dukes. For many, many years this colony has survived on maximum daily counts of 'twos and threes'. The abundance sequence now reads 2 (2007), 7 (2008), 8 (2009) and 51 (2010). It is seldom that the term 'population explosion' can be applied to the Duke of Burgundy these days!

Although the Sussex Branch has acted in an advisory role here, the lion's share of the credit must lie with the Murray Downland Trust http://www.murraydownlandtrust.org.uk who do a marvellous job in managing this and their other reserves, spread between East Hampshire and West Sussex. They are worthy of anyone's support and their winter work parties (contact them A/A) will be swelled by those eager to help continue this very happy story.

Heyshott Escarpment looking East.jpg

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Neil Hulme » Sun May 23, 2010 7:09 pm

Other Wildlife Around Sussex

On my travels to see as many of our beautiful butterflies as possible each year, it's always nice to stop and look at some of the other interesting wildlife that often lives nearby.

Here is the very rare Fly Honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteum), which is restricted to Sussex in its wild form. A few of these shrubs occur on the road verge up to one of my favourite butterfly sites, on the Downs near Amberley.

Fly Honeysuckle at Amberley.jpg

Only a hundred metres or so away, on the opposite verge, is this beautiful and rare variety of the Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula cf. var. alba). The pure white form 'alba' is itself a rarity, but this particular plant varies in having delicate purple spots on the labellum.

Orchis mascula cf. var. alba at Amberley.jpg

At this time of the year, if I'm in the area (Fittleworth) and the evening looks set to be warm, I often drive to the heathland called Lords Piece. It's a magical place to sit and watch the sun set, to the hypnotic song of the Field Cricket. This is the last place in England that a wild population existed, as it faced extinction, although it is now thankfully being re-introduced to a number of other sites in the South. This female was tempted to briefly leave a burrow using an old trick, much beloved by the naturalist Gilbert White - waggling a grass stem down the hole!

Gryllus campestris at Lords Piece 21.5.10.jpg

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Pete Eeles » Sun May 23, 2010 7:23 pm

Sussex Kipper wrote:Major Successes In Battle To Save The Duke Of Burgundy


That's an amazing story, Neil. Keep up the good work, and well done Sussex BC and the Murray Downland Trust!

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Neil Hulme » Sun May 23, 2010 7:45 pm

Thanks Pete,
Where the will is there - and sheep are not! - this species can be saved!
Neil

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Jack Harrison » Mon May 24, 2010 6:39 am

Neil

I never ceased to be amazed at your understanding and dedication to the ecology of the Duke of B. Finding 128 in one locality is amazing! Your work and co-operation with the right people, has probably made the Duke safe (unlike those Dukes in the “other place”!)

I think you mentioned that you might be passing on the everyday responsibility to looking after the species; I am sure they will be in good hands whoever gets the job.

So your next challenge Neil – the Wall Brown perhaps? This is surely one of Southern England’s most puzzling species and is possibly in real danger. If you are able to find the time to study the Wall, I am sure you could do the same for them as you have done for the Dukes and ensure their continued viability.

By the way, let us know Neil when the Small PBFs are flying well in Park Corner Heath. After that faux pas I made last week when I thought I had seen them in Bentley, I still “need” my year tick and Park Corner is my nearest site.

Jack

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Neil Hulme » Mon May 24, 2010 7:27 am

Hi Jack,
I won't be giving up on my responsibilities to the Duke - that would be like losing my right arm! This will be a 'life's work' job, and local successes such as these must be seen in the context of a national 'nose-dive', which continues as we 'speak'. What I am doing is getting other people enthused and signed up the cause, as it has become increasingly difficult to cover all of the sites now under management. The more I've surveyed, the more sites I've found (still a very low number) and the more work that needs to be done - in terms of both detailed population monitoring and habitat management. What this does prove is that the battle is potentially 'winnable', and it must be won before we face another Large Blue situation.

Wall Brown is a real head-scratcher. It's done well in Sussex since spring 2009, probably reacting to a return to colder, drier conditions through the winter and early spring. The evidence is as yet circumstantial, but my gut feel is that only Mother Nature can help out with this species.
Neil

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Neil Hulme » Mon May 24, 2010 10:18 pm

Busy Weekend!

Last weekend became a blur of BC activities, with one event running almost seemlessly into another! I started off on Saturday morning, leading the Branch 'New Members Day' event on the Downs near Amberley. A nice array of species were seen, including (of course!) the Duke of Burgundy. Green Hairstreak (doing exceptionally well this year after a late start), Small Blue (Kidney Vetch only just out in time to keep them happy!), Brown Argus, Common Blue, Small Heath, Dingy Skipper, Orange Tip, Holly Blue, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Brimstone and Green-veined White also turned up for the event.

In the afternoon Michael Blencowe arrived with a large group from the Identification Workshop he had held earlier in the day. So it was round the meadow again to help his disciples hone their newly acquired skills. After this event there was just enough time to chase up a report of a Duke, some distance away from a known colony a couple of miles away. I was very pleased to find that two females had managed to find some suitable new territory, having passed along nearly 0.5 Km of narrow, shady track through dense woodland.

On Sunday morning I led a walk for 'The Friends of Wolstonbury Hill' on their home turf. At the end of a very enjoyable and scenic walk the 'scores on the doors' were Adonis Blue (2), Small Blue (3), Common Blue (15), Green Hairstreak (6), Small Heath (4), Dingy Skipper (15), Speckled Wood (7), Orange Tip (3), Green-veined White (1), Holly Blue (1), Brimstone (1) and Small Tortoiseshell (1).

By now my voice was going, my knees were going - and my face was going very brown. But meeting lots of good people and seeing lots of nice butterflies isn't a bad way to spend the weekend!

Can't have a report without some pictures - so here's a few recent images from the wonderful Heyshott Down.

Small Heath Heyshott 21.5.10.jpg
Common Blue Heyshott 21.5.10.jpg
Small Heath (2) Heyshott 21.5.10.jpg

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Neil Hulme » Thu May 27, 2010 10:17 am

Glanville Dash

On Tuesday (25th May) at 2pm I managed to wrestle a report out of the door for a client. Being tired from working through much of the previous night, I did the only sensible thing - go searching for the beautiful Glanville Fritillary! Ensuring a safe journey by imbibing an unhealthy volume of the drink that 'gives you wings', I headed off to a small mainland colony. Our BC Branch Membership Secretary Linda was on holiday in the area, and had seen three the previous day. However, they had been hyper-active in the heat and she had failed to get the photographs she wanted, this being her first experience of the butterfly. I assured her that my plan to get there late afternoon, and follow them to roost, would work - but it would be a close-run thing and a race against the clock.

We both arrived at the same time (5pm), with me having done a 'route march' while Linda took a more leisurely, alternative mode of transport to the venue! We immediately spotted a couple of Glanvilles and followed our plan to each track an individual. Under thin cloud cover and hazy sunshine they both 'put down' almost immediately. We had a couple of minutes while the butterflies allowed us some topside shots, before resolutely closing up and shutting down for the night. It took a lot of patience and a lot of button-pressing to get anything sharp, as an onshore breeze kept everything in motion. But we both went away very happy, perhaps tinged with the feeling that it had been 'all too easy'. 'Too difficult', 'too easy' - never satisified!!!

Glanville underside Hants 25.5.10.jpg
Glanville Hants 25.5.10.jpg

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Jack Harrison » Thu May 27, 2010 11:17 am

That's good to hear. I guess last Wednesday, 19th, I was too early in the season as I saw none in perfectly adequate weather.

How did Linda get back then? I thought the "alternative" transport stopped at 1800 hours. So did she have to return the difficult way?

Jack

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Neil Hulme » Sun May 30, 2010 1:38 pm

Lights, Camera, Action!

Last Wednesday (26th May) I spent a very enjoyable day with Simon Barnes, David Bebber, BC Chief Executive Dr Martin Warren and Sussex Branch Reserve Manager Michael Blencowe. Simon is the award-winning sportswriter and wildlife columnist for The Times, as well as being an accomplished author. David is one of the UK's top media photographers, and I was left in awe at his proficiency with the camera - I couldn't even work out what he was up to most of the time, as he wielded his Canon (of course :wink: ) with such consummate ease! Unsurprisingly, we were out doing an article on butterflies and conservation.

We started off at the BC Park Corner Heath Reserve, before Michael gave us a tour of the newly acquired and adjacent Rowland Wood. Cool and overcast conditions precluded any sightings of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, or any other butterflies, with only the occasional Speckled Yellow moth on the wing.

After lunch we travelled to Mill Hill at Shoreham, where I was confident we would find some nice butterflies shivering in the grass. Sure enough, Adonis and Common Blues, plus the odd Small Heath, Dingy and Grizzled Skipper were there to smile for the cameras. Simon's article will hopefully appear in The Sunday Times Magazine in a few weeks from now. It was a real pleasure to spend a day with such 'greats' - and by that I mean all of them.

's best side.jpg

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Jack Harrison » Sun May 30, 2010 2:07 pm

You were privileged to meet Simon Barnes. He is one of my favourite writers both when writing about wildlife and about sport. But I do reckon that my beard is less scruffy than Simon’s!

Jack

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Neil Hulme » Mon May 31, 2010 10:41 pm

Near Miss For All Of Us!

I can now add to the theme 'Hazards of Butterflying'! This morning I was out on the Downs behind Storrington with local GP Dr Martin Kalaher, surveying for butterflies. After photographing a couple of male Wall Browns on the edge of the bushes in the first image, we had descended into a deep coombe below. As we waited in vain for some better weather, we remarked on the fact that a large proportion of the gliders from the local airfield must have been up there enjoying the Bank Holiday break. Quite a number were circling above us.

As we re-joined the path running along the peak of Chantry Hill we heard an almighty rush of air and a metallic thud, shaking the fence-line beside us. We turned to see a glider which had ditched no more than 50 metres from us! Fortunately the pilot was in a reasonable condition, and very fortunate that Martin could use the "I'm a doctor" line. While he administered first aid I sorted out the emergency services - and at the pilot's request (he was fully conscious) rang his wife. It wasn't long before several fire-engines, an ambulance, the police and an air-ambulance were on the scene. I'm very glad to say that the pilot will be fine, but it was not difficult to envisage a rather worse outcome. As the situation wound down, and we walked away, it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps we had been a little fortunate too!

Ditched Glider.jpg
Air Ambulance.jpg

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Susie » Mon May 31, 2010 10:43 pm

That Jack'll do anything to get in close for a butterfly photo. :wink:

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Neil Hulme » Mon May 31, 2010 10:46 pm

:lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Jack Harrison » Tue Jun 01, 2010 7:16 am

I stopped gliding a few years ago while I was still “on top” and before the inevitable happened.

That is in fact a pretty routine gliding accident by the look of things with minimal damage. I never hit a fence myself but did once catch a wingtip when landing in a sloping field – entirely my fault of course. It cost the insurers a bob or two - and some annoyance from my syndicate partner.

I can’t quite make out what sort of glider it is but it’s decidedly elderly and probably worth little more than your average Canon DSLR/macro kit.

You told me Neil recently that you are tempted to take up gliding. No one would pretend it’s 100% safe, but you do get good training including how to pick and land safely in a field. Most clubs will have their own experts who will talk you through insurance claim forms :twisted:

Jack

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Pete Eeles » Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:12 pm

Sussex Kipper wrote:polonus!


I've been thinking. Adonis larvae are diurnal, and Chalkhill larvae are nocturnal. Would polonus larvae come out for breakfast and supper?

Since these have never been reared in captivity, perhaps we'll never know :) I'll get me coat.

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Piers » Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:07 pm

Hi Pete,

The interesting thing is which combination is required to produce polonus; male coridon x female bellargus or male bellargus x female coridon; or would both combo's result in the hybrid? and what percentage of pairings produce fertile ova, if any ova at all?

This is certainly one to attempt with captive reared coridon and bellargus stock...

Apologies for hi-jacking your diary Neil..! :oops:

...grab my coat while you're there Pete....

Felix.

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Re: Sussex Kipper

Postby Neil Hulme » Sat Jun 05, 2010 5:15 pm

Hi Pete and Felix,
The occasional hijacking (pioneered by Jack :D - see what I did there?)) is most welcome. It would be very interesting to know what combination of Adonis and Chalkhill is required, and if the caterpillar suffers eating disorders :wink:.
Neil


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