Padfield

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Padfield
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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Fri Sep 22, 2017 5:54 pm

The large skipper was a surprise to me, too, David, though high browns regularly fly this late.

As for cardinals, they are just magnificent creatures. Still today, 22nd September, they were putting on a performance, though I visited the site only in the afternoon (about 15h00), when only females fly. So no open aggression and dog-fights - just aerial elegance! :D Some of them are in fine shape, though visibly different in hue from the May butterflies. Above all, they have a metallic, refractive sheen that positively glows in the right light. These are the same individual:

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This is a different female ...

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... and this a third:

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I only saw one individual with significant wing damage. It was about a kilometre from the main site, nectaring on Buddleia at the edge of a village:

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I got surprisingly few glimpses of undersides:

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Before visiting the cardinals I spent some time further east along the valley. Here are a few pictures from there:

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(rosy grizzled skipper)

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(mallow skipper)

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(Chapman's blue)

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(chalkhill blue)

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(Adonis blue)

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(tree graylings)

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(grayling - that individual in fact from the cardinal road, though they were flying further east too)

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(tree grayling with meadow brown)

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(presumed artaxerxes - Aricia is a bit of a mess here - all gradations of wing-shape and strength of markings)

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(female spotted fritillary)

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(male spotted fritillary - he seemed quite happy despite having just one antenna)

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(Berger's clouded yellow)

It's been a cold September so far but clearly the butterfly season is not over yet.

Guy
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Re: Padfield

Postby essexbuzzard » Fri Sep 22, 2017 7:23 pm

Cracking assortment for this time of year. Those cardinals are in remarkably good condition-how long does the average adult live for, Guy?

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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Sat Sep 23, 2017 6:55 am

That's the big question, Buzzard! The species is said to be strictly single-brooded but it has a strange phenology, appearing in May, disappearing some time in June (when it seems to fly up into the mountains) and reappearing in July/August. The May insects nectar happily together, showing no aggression and no interaction between the sexes. In August, on the other hand, males and females are segregated (males 09h00-about 13h00, females 13h00 onwards) and the males are hugely aggressive. I've only seen laying behaviour (females wandering the vineyards) in August and September. I've never seen a tatty, end-of-life individual before August/September. On the other hand, I've never relocated the same individual before and after the June gap. It is possible just some of the individuals go high in summer, perhaps being the first returners, and that others aestivate. Aestivation would add natural longevity. Females of the species are known to put their eggs on hold during the hottest period of the year (I believe - I can't reference that without going back to my research).

Guy
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Re: Padfield

Postby essexbuzzard » Sat Sep 23, 2017 7:29 am

Thanks for your comprehensive answer. That's what was confusing me-my books all suggest the cardinal is single brooded,and flies in late spring to early summer. I too have seen them flying in early May in France, so your September pictures have thrown me! So they emerge in the lowlands, move up to higher ground for feeding, where they mature, then return to the lowlands for breeding? The cardinal is certainly a most interesting species!

Thanks Guy.

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Re: Padfield

Postby bugboy » Sat Sep 23, 2017 6:10 pm

Padfield wrote:That's the big question, Buzzard! The species is said to be strictly single-brooded but it has a strange phenology, appearing in May, disappearing some time in June (when it seems to fly up into the mountains) and reappearing in July/August. The May insects nectar happily together, showing no aggression and no interaction between the sexes. In August, on the other hand, males and females are segregated (males 09h00-about 13h00, females 13h00 onwards) and the males are hugely aggressive. I've only seen laying behaviour (females wandering the vineyards) in August and September. I've never seen a tatty, end-of-life individual before August/September. On the other hand, I've never relocated the same individual before and after the June gap. It is possible just some of the individuals go high in summer, perhaps being the first returners, and that others aestivate. Aestivation would add natural longevity. Females of the species are known to put their eggs on hold during the hottest period of the year (I believe - I can't reference that without going back to my research).

Guy


That's very interesting guy, it's never occurred to me that some European butterflies might aestivate during hot seasons but makes perfect sense. Was it Cardinals that you you helped with marking the other year? Did anything come of that experiment?
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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:45 pm

Thank you for the comments, Buzzard and Buggy. Yes, it was cardinals we marked, at the end of May 2015. Unfortunately, we mistimed it - they emerged early that year, on 4th May, and had disappeared by the beginning of June. That meant we actually marked very few - and we never saw any of them again. The only statistical conclusion I was able tentatively to draw (from the fact that none of us, marking them on different days, saw any that another had marked) was that the local population was probably at least 100. Even that was rather weak, as it is possible that captured and released individuals expressly avoided the place where they had suffered that indignity!

In two different years (one of them this year), I have seen cardinals in June in this clover field near my house, over twenty kilometres from where the colony is (near Martigny) but on a clear line of flight along the valley and up:

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I saw another individual in June of a different year up the next valley and another recorder spotted one last year that must have flown east first before climbing into the mountains. I'm sure they don't breed up here because they are always seen singly or in pairs, scattered over a wide area, and yet always reappear in the valley in exactly the same place (suggesting they retrace their path back to where they were born). As I mentioned, the May/early June behaviour is completely different from the August September behaviour and I have never seen a worn specimen before August. The obvious explanation for all this, as you say Buggy, is that they emerge in May, stock up peacefully on sugars for a few weeks, fly into the mountains (or aestivate - for which I have not a shred of evidence) when it gets hot in the valley, carry on maturing in the hills and tanking themselves up for the big showdown, then finally zoom back down to the valley for an orgy of sex, violence and strafing the region with eggs. This makes sense, but it does involve some individuals living three months or more ... I do hope to gather some positive data over the coming years to support or rebut the theory.

According to Lafranchis, the eggs hatch almost immediately but the caterpillars then lie dormant without feeding until the next spring. This is, indeed, a very interesting species.

Guy

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(male and female cardinal ignoring each other on 5th June 2016)

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(two males ignoring each other on 26th May 2017)

THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN AUGUST!
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Re: Padfield

Postby Cotswold Cockney » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:14 pm

Yes an interesting question. It may help shed light on this puzzle by capturing a local female and setting up a laying cage for her. If ova are produced with the "spring" brood, care of those ova could provide some answers.

Back in the 1970s, for several seasons, I raised numerous Silver Washed Fritillarys in netted over spacious potted cages of Violets. Lots of ova and a couple of months later, there were a few pupae suspended from the top of the netting which produced slightly smaller second brood individuals. That was during the fine summers of 1975 and the exceptionally long one of the following years of 1976.

Some years earlier, when searching sallow trees in my then favourite Purple Emperor site, female Silver Washed would inspect my rain damp trousers and alight to shape up to lay on them!

That was a long time ago and my favourite site has seen much change. Last visit about ten years ago and those small sapling Pines now dwarfed the Sallows and other woodland plants. Not the same.

Hope this old photobucket image works. That did not last long so deleted :~

More than one way to skin a wossaname .. :) These poorer quality images serve to show the huge change in that Forest Habitat. August 2006. My car in the shot as a yardstick demonstrates the size of those monster Pines.
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Re: Padfield

Postby bugboy » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:25 pm

Thanks for the reply Guy, fascinating stuff. I hope you're able to find some evidence of whatever they get up to in July.
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Re: Padfield

Postby Wurzel » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:57 pm

Those female Cardinal are slightly reminiscent of a mix of normal and valesina Silver-washed :D Stunning scenery Guy :D :mrgreen:

Have a goodun

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Re: Padfield

Postby Pete Eeles » Sun Sep 24, 2017 2:52 pm

Padfield wrote:According to Lafranchis, the eggs hatch almost immediately but the caterpillars then lie dormant without feeding until the next spring. This is, indeed, a very interesting species.


Great work, Guy! This larval strategy is the same used by Silver-washed Fritillary and Dark Green Fritillary, but not High Brown Fritillary (which overwinters as an egg). I have always wondered if the immature stages are taken into account when undertaking taxonomic studies (unless DNA is considered the primary indicator of species relatedness) since I believe they provide some very useful evidence!

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Padfield

Postby Cotswold Cockney » Sun Sep 24, 2017 3:11 pm

Memory not all it was but, the HBF overwinters as a fully developed larva inside the egg shell.
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Re: Padfield

Postby Pete Eeles » Sun Sep 24, 2017 3:44 pm

Cotswold Cockney wrote:Memory not all it was but, the HBF overwinters as a fully developed larva inside the egg shell.


Good point, John! There is clearly quite a spectrum of immature stages (not just ovum, larva, pupa) that could be considered.

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Padfield

Postby David M » Tue Sep 26, 2017 4:50 pm

Those are extremely interesting observations regarding the Cardinals, Guy, and thanks for the panoramic shot putting the habitat and wider area into context.

I suppose for a powerful butterfly, it’s no big deal to fly from that valley in the distance to your local clover field.

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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Wed Sep 27, 2017 8:18 pm

Thanks again for all your thoughts, suggestions and reminiscences. I haven't got time to respond critically to them all right now, sadly, but all taken note of!

Nor have I had time for more than local walks - but that has allowed me to keep a check on Giles, my only remaining purple emperor caterpillar. Three days ago I found he had moved to a new leaf spray and I took a few photos from below of his shadow:

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Then, horror of horrors, the entire twig came off in my hand. I was being very careful and using almost no force but it was obviously very weakly attached and ready to fall. Giles had secured his actual leaf with silk but not the whole twig. I was mortified, as you can imagine! Nevertheless, I took the opportunity to photograph him out in the sun before deciding what to do next:

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You can see he is now 3rd instar (no twin lobes at the end of the horns).

I decided to nudge him gently off his doomed leaf (using a blade of grass) onto the larger twig his side twig had broken off from. He sniffed the air, moved to the broken joint, examined it as if wondering where the twig was (they know their way around their local patch), then headed back out towards the end of the larger twig, where there were a few leaves. I stood back and photographed him from a distance.

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(examining the stump)

After that, I just had to trust he would find a leaf he liked.

Today, three days later, I plucked up the courage to go back. This time it was joy of joys! He had chosen a very sensible leaf on a spray that did not risk falling off. That doesn't mean he'll make it through the winter, of course, or even through next week, but it means I didn't do any harm. I might even have done some good. If that twig had fallen when I wasn't there he would have stood little chance.

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(the clean break where his old twig came off is visible above and to the left of him in this picture)

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Apologies for the quality of those pictures - I didn't dare touch anything!

Guy
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Re: Padfield

Postby essexbuzzard » Wed Sep 27, 2017 9:01 pm

No apologies needed, Guy. I feel your concern. In that situation, I can't think of anything better you could have done.

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Re: Padfield

Postby bugboy » Wed Sep 27, 2017 9:02 pm

It does make you wonder how many perish simply by being on a leaf at the wrong time, something that had never occurred to me before.
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Re: Padfield

Postby David M » Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:41 pm

Great observations again, Guy. Shame you've only one Emperor 'cat' left to study. Do you think there is a reason why so many have disappeared this (late) summer/early autumn?

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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:08 pm

Thanks Buzzard, Buggy and David.

I'm delighted to say Giles is still around. He's changed leaves again - and actually moved some distance - but seems quite happy where he is. I took this photo from a distance, without touching a thing!!

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I was also happy to find some white-letter hairstreak eggs. Here is a pair laid almost on top of one another, right at the tip of an elm twig:

Image

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Re: Padfield

Postby David M » Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:09 pm

Good luck with your continued observation of these early stages, Guy. Your Emperor 'cats' help me get through the winter, only this year it will be in the singular rather than plural. :(

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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Sat Oct 07, 2017 6:05 pm

David M wrote:Good luck with your continued observation of these early stages, Guy. Your Emperor 'cats' help me get through the winter, only this year it will be in the singular rather than plural. :(


It's not even guaranteed to be that, David. If I can follow Giles into hibernation it will be a success. If he makes it through to the other end it will be a triumph! But enough always do survive to keep the species afloat. Amazing.

Guy
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