Padfield

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Pete Eeles
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Re: Padfield

Postby Pete Eeles » Thu Jul 27, 2017 7:23 pm

Superb observations and photos, as ever, Guy, and I love the photos of the early stages of iris (well I would, wouldn't I?!). But that last image of the WLH really made me do a double-take! Brilliant :)

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Re: Padfield

Postby Wurzel » Thu Jul 27, 2017 9:00 pm

Wow I don't know where to begin though the picture of the Dusky Heath was a revelation - I wasn't aware that they had such subtle yet wonderful markings, like little silvered details have been added as an after thought :shock: 8) Brilliant, just brilliant the whole lot :D

Have a goodun

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Re: Padfield

Postby David M » Thu Jul 27, 2017 9:41 pm

Padfield wrote:Yes, this season's cats will be named after characters in the Buffyverse.


Awaiting the annual theme for your 'cat' naming is fast becoming inscribed in my calendar, Guy. :)

I shall look forward to forthcoming events in the 'Buffyverse' from here on in!

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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Fri Jul 28, 2017 10:09 am

Thanks Pete, Wurzel and David. Pete, I often think of you when I try to photograph these early stages because I know what a much better job of it you would make!! My camera struggles in low light. Wurzel - I agree. The name 'dusky heath' is as wide of the mark as 'dingy skipper'! Both beautiful little butterflies. David - yes, with my iris cats you get biology and high culture all for the same price! :D

I had to take the same walk this morning as I expected at least one of eggs to hatch. On my way out, it seemed I was wrong: both the ones I said would hatch in the next day or two were still in their shells. But on my return I was delighted to find Angel taking his first meal. Here is a long-shot of the happy scene:

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I first passed him, when he was in his egg, at about 10h00 and took this photo at about 11h00 (despite the exif info on the camera, which is incorrectly set for the time). So I can be sure he was born somewhere between these two times.

I don't like to disturb caterpillars at such intimate moments but very gently took hold of the leaf to take a few, inadequate shots of the hourling (without flash):

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Then I left him to enjoy his breakfast.

In another part of the forest, his lover and slayer Buffy had moved leaves. The one she was on yesterday was a bit rank and pre-eaten:

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I also found a sixth egg on my rounds:

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Like most of the eggs I've found, this one is destined for an August birthday.

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Re: Padfield

Postby bugboy » Fri Jul 28, 2017 5:54 pm

That WLH picture is brilliant. I was browsing the site earlier today on my phone and thought at first it was a Brown H :oops: . but then I had just spent 4 hours looking for them so it's kinda understandable :lol:

Happy to see the young royalty is on it's way for another year, and an excellent choice of theme as well :D
Some addictions are good for the soul!

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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:24 pm

Thanks Buggy. Yes - the primed mind is keen to string anything into whatever it's looking for!

The imperial family has grown by one. This is Spike:

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He was probably born yesterday, as he was already ensconced at the tip of the leaf by the time I found him this morning.

The potential imperial family has grown by one too. Here is another freshly laid egg:

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Mrs I is obviously still doing the rounds!

Apart from those two, no big changes today. The egg that was freshly laid two days ago now has a weak brown band:

Image

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Re: Padfield

Postby Pete Eeles » Sun Jul 30, 2017 3:18 pm

I just love the images of the iris larva eating its shell; it really puts the critter in context. Brilliant!

Cheers,

- Pete

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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Mon Jul 31, 2017 2:14 pm

Thanks Pete. As I said, I am sorely aware you could have taken far, far better pictures of the same scenes if you had been there ...

A certain percentage of eggs never hatch. Today I found two new (to me) purple emperor eggs that had already been emptied by some predator and also found that two eggs had disappeared - probably taken by tits. Here are the two empty eggs:

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I thought that second egg was the freshly laid one of two days ago, so didn't search any further for that one to see its state. But on comparing photos I see it is not the same one. The freshly laid egg of four days ago now has a deep brown band:

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I now have four 1st instar larvae to keep an eye on. In order of decreasing seniority they are: Buffy; Angel; Spike; Glory.

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(Buffy)

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(Angel)

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(Spike)

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(Glory)

Here is a white admiral cat:

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I also found a female short-tailed blue. This species is a recent addition to the local fauna. Provençal short-tailed blues have long been common here but short-taileds have only moved in in the last two or three years.

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Re: Padfield

Postby David M » Mon Jul 31, 2017 6:39 pm

Lovely, uplifting images of the larval stages, Guy.

I start to get a bit depressed at this time of year, with the season drawing to its close, but sequences like yours are a reminder that a new generation is busy preparing to take to the wing next year, even at this early stage.

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Re: Padfield

Postby Wurzel » Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:51 pm

Great sequence Guy and interesting to see the open wing view of the Short-tailed Blue :D

Have a goodun

Wurzel

p.s.my iPod keeps warning me that the excellent European Butterflies App will stop working if it's not updated - is this just Apple gumpf?

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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Tue Aug 01, 2017 7:13 pm

Thanks David. When you get into the early stages there's no such thing as the end of the season. The cycle goes round and round.

Wurzel, I don't know if the app will still work with iOS 11. It works with the latest version of iOS 10. Sadly, none of us involved with the app can code for iOS (well, I bet Pete can, but he has far too much coding to do already with UK Butterflies) so we can't update it. I'm really glad you found it helpful and grateful to you for buying it. If it does cease to work when the operating system is updated I'll see what we can do about making the content available in some other form.

I popped down to the valley today to see how the cardinals were doing. This is now the 5th summer I have been watching them and they seem to be going from strength to strength. I remain convinced they are single-brooded but we have no solid evidence. The circumstantial evidence is that in May and June, when they emerge, they are sociable, communal butterflies, spending all their time nectaring, apparently at peace with each other. Then during June they disappear, to reappear typically at the end of July, when they have transformed into aggressive, territorial tyrants (the males) and egg-layers (females). In three different years I have seen the odd individual in the mountains in June and I suspect they escape the heat of the valley by coming up here to clover.

I was on the site in the late morning, by which time the males were zooming around like fighter planes. They did occasionally stop, as if to nectar, but rarely for longer than a second or two. Mostly, they just attacked anything else that moved. However, away from the sunny Buddleias I did find a couple of males nectaring in the half-shade (as they had done in Spain) just long enough for me to get a few record shots:

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(same male as in the second picture, but a different one from the first)

I saw at least a dozen males but it was difficult to count as they can easily cross the entire site, which is a winding road going up a hill, in a few seconds.

The females usually feed in the afternoon. I think they rock up some time after lunch, meet up with a testosterone-fuelled male if they feel like mating, then sit around talking about life in general on the Buddleia for the rest of the day. If they are ready for it, they go off laying in the vineyards.

I was also looking for brown hairstreaks but didn't see any. I don't usually see them until the end of August or September but I have occasionally seen a male here earlier. I also expected to see - and saw - my first purple emperors. Here in the heat of the valley (this is one of the hottest places in Switzerland, outside the Ticino) they fly late, usually remaining on the wing into September. I saw two males today. I think there is either aestivation or some other way of delaying the season.

Other species flying included high brown fritillary, Niobe fritillary, heath fritillary, kanpweed fritillary, spotted fritillary, false heath fritillary, idas blue, common blue, holly blue, white admiral, red admiral, both swallowtails, dryads, great sooty satyrs, ringlets, marbled whites, meadow browns, assorted yellows and whites and mallow skippers.

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Re: Padfield

Postby David M » Tue Aug 01, 2017 7:54 pm

Padfield wrote:Thanks David. When you get into the early stages there's no such thing as the end of the season. The cycle goes round and round.


I'm sure it will happen sooner or later, Guy....maybe sooner - if you'd told me that I'd be obsessed with pyrgus two years ago I'd have declared you insane....but here I am......obsessed with pyrgus! :evil:

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Re: Padfield

Postby Wurzel » Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:07 pm

Fantastic Cardinals Guy and cheers for the update on the update :D

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:03 pm

Obsession with Pyrgus, David? You obviously like a challenge. Of all the butterflies I've seen, photographed both surfaces and failed to identify, well, they're all Pyrgus!!

A few butterflies are real characters, Wurzel. Cardinal is one. Even if I weren't a butterfly freak I think I'd still enjoy watching this amazing species.

I guess my own obsession in recent years has been purple emperor early stages. I don't understand why everyone isn't posting photos of them at this time of year, or indeed any time of year. Sadly, Buffy has been taken - I searched every leaf on her branch without finding her. This is normal. A small number of 1st instar larvae always meet sticky ends. But I did find her 'sister', Dawn, today (Dawn was magically created, along with everyone's childhood memories of her, at the age of 15). Dawn is already 2nd instar (but still tiny - barely 5-6mm):

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(without flash)

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(with flash)

2nd instar cats are very similar to 3rd instar, especially after they have grown a little, but are distinguished by having very slightly bifid horns. This is just about visible in this close-up (this is where I need Pete to take some of his super macros!!):

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Elsewhere, Angel, Spike and Glory were apparently thriving, though Glory seems a little anaemic:

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(Angel)

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(Spike)

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(Glory)

I found another empty egg ...

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... but I still have at least two healthy eggs under observation.

White admiral females are conspicuous all over the forest, cruising around, looking for places to lay eggs.

I saw this silver-spotted skipper on my early-morning walk:

Image

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Re: Padfield

Postby David M » Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:53 pm

So sorry to hear about the demise of your eponymous larva, Guy. Must be like losing your queen within 10 moves during a game of chess. :(

Hopefully, the others will stay out of harm's way.

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Re: Padfield

Postby PhilBWright » Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:04 am

Brexit
Thanks for the European App for the iPhone, Guy & team -just put it on my phone.
As I now, also have a Britain & Ireland app, please can my investment go towards another individual European Country (other than Ireland), like for example, Sweden, please?
#IslandThinking

Kind Regards,

Philip

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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Fri Aug 04, 2017 11:20 am

Thanks David. It's normal - as you will have gathered following my posts in previous years! See statistics below ...

Hi Philip. As it happens, I am currently finishing a fairly lavish (physical) guide to the butterflies of my own region, Villars-Gryon, which I hope the Tourist Office will sell from next spring. I will investigate the possibility of publishing it in some protected electronic form too (Kindle &c.). It includes an appendix covering the rest of Switzerland in less detail (but all species). As to Wurzel, thanks for buying the original app. I am sorry we haven't been able to update it with new pictures, information and coding for the latest iOS.

Yesterday I went in search of cardinals at a different site, where I saw a single male in the spring and where another was reported last year. I had noted a suitable patch of Buddleia on a suitable road and sat some distance away, under the shade of a bridge, for about an hour:

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As that picture implies, the weather was rather cloudy, with sunny intervals, but it was warm and fritillaries were flying. Just not cardinals. I was able to photograph things with the superzoom, despite being 20-30m from any Buddleia. Silver-washed were the commonest fritillary, enjoying a certain peace they would never have had if a cardinal had zoomed through:

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There were also high brown, niobe, heath and Queen of Spain. Rock graylings were everywhere, not just on the Buddleia ...

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... but on my beer too:

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That one then sat down near the beer, preventing me drinking it for about 20 minutes:

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It did at least give me the opportunity to get decent photos of it:

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Twice, a large tortoiseshell came and sunbathed on the rocks in the foreground in my first picture above:

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Interesting to see one so battle-worn in August. It must go into hibernation and save itself for the important battles in the spring!

Seeing no cardinals there, nor anywhere else on my walk yesterday, I conclude there is not a thriving colony of cardinals here! My original colony remains THE colony.

My walk took me up to higher meadows. Lots of August Satyrids were flying, including ...

... great sooty satyr ...

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(that female is absolutely typical for this region, with very strong forewing spotting)

... large wall ...

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... Scotch argus ...

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... and lots more rock graylings. I tried to string some into woodland graylings, which I am sure flies in the region, but didn't have my net and didn't get anything conclusive.

This is the normal Swiss form of male spotted fritillary, very common yesterday:

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For comparison, here is Sagarra's lesser spotted fritillary, that I photographed for the first time in Spain a couple of weeks ago. You can see that it is rather similar to spotted, but those crescent-shaped lunules and the more straw, tawny ground colour do make it look noticeably different.

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Finally for yesterday, here is a marbled white with a rather weary Zygaenid - fausta, I think:

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Back to today. More losses: Spike and Glory are nowhere to be seen. This doesn't necessarily mean they are dead, but it is probable. The hard reality is that if a female purple emperor lays, say, 300 eggs, 298 of them must die before reproducing if the population is to be stable. That is a probability of 0.993 of dying. If you find, say, 10 eggs, the probability of ANY of them reaching reproductive adulthood is 1 - (0.993^10) = 0.068. That is, there is roughly a 93% probability none of them will survive. Including dead eggs, that is how many I have found so far this summer - 10. It would be irrational to expect any of them to reach reproductive adulthood.

More statistics. If you assume, for argument's sake, an equal probability of dying on any day of the year, these numbers correspond to a half-life of 1 month 20 days (300 down to 2 is 7.2 half-lives - that is, 2 x 2^7.2 = about 300; 12 months divided by 7.2 = about 1 month 20 days). That means, if you find 10 eggs, 5 should still be living after 1 month 20 days. I have lost more than this in a little over a week. This implies a greatly increased mortality at the beginning of life. This strikes me as natural for two main reasons. Firstly, any important genetic irregularities leading to intrinsic weaklings might be expected to be filtered out rather quickly. It's tough from the beginning - those that survive the beginning are the fit ones. Secondly, conditioning of predators in searching for a particular stage is likely to be more efficient when that particular stage is more numerous. If a good number of leaves have a little larva sitting at the end of them, a clever tit might quickly learn to look at the end of leaves. Or, a clever forest bug might stay in the same tree, working its way over every leaf. By June, when there might be only a handful left in the whole wood, finding them is going to be much more random. In addition to these reasons, many insectivorous birds are currently fattening themselves up for migration (but not the tits, of course).

I'm happy to say, though, that Angel and Dawn are doing fine. Here is Angel - still 1st instar:

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Those symmetrical cuts into the leaf make searching for established 1st or 2nd instar larvae easier. The mobile larvae, that don't really establish themselves, are much harder to find.

Dawn is currently mobile! As I arrived at her leaf today she was on the move:

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She then turned left onto a small leaf:

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I could see that the tip of this leaf was brown and suspected that she would reject it when she got there. On the contrary - she stopped at the beginning of the brown, then began silking it up (swinging her head from side to side along the parts she wants to stick to):

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When I left her tree, some ten minutes later, after searching for more cats or eggs, she was still at that leaf tip:

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It will be interesting to see if she chooses to stay there.

Guy
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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:57 pm

Down in the valley today, great sooty satyrs were waning and dryads waxing. Here are both in one picture, the great sooty satyr on the left and the dryad on the right:

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Almost every stand of flowers had one or two dryads on it and some many more, mostly keeping to the shade (we have a heatwave here, too):

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The other notable butterfly was southern white admiral, which seems to have done well this year:

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This female was nectaring in the shade:

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I mostly just walked or sat in the shade myself, with Minnie, enjoying the butterflies without stressing about photographing them. But I find it difficult to ignore Bath whites and brimstones:

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The temperature is only in the 30s here, but away from the breeze, in some of the heat traps, it felt much hotter. Fortunately we were near the great, grey-green, greasy Rhône, so Minnie had somewhere to cool off:

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(that is, in fact, a tributary of the Rhône, not the Rhône itself, which we were also near at another stage of the walk)

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Re: Padfield

Postby Padfield » Sun Aug 06, 2017 1:19 pm

Spike and Glory, having been impossible to find two days ago, were back in their usual places today. I can only think they were on stems rather than leaves when I last looked. Together with Angel and Dawn, that makes four caterpillars locatable this morning - three first instar and one second (Dawn). Despite searching again, though, I still couldn't find Buffy.

Spike is only 7 or 8 days old but he is already showing the shoulder humps where his horns are growing:

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In a few days time that head capsule will come off and he will become a horny 2nd instar like Dawn.

It was very dark and wet today, and photographs were difficult. I had to take everything with flash, and that means not getting close enough for really good pictures. Nevertheless, here are a couple of white admiral shots, to show the stage they are at:

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A majority of cats seem to have failed - there are many feeding patterns with no caterpillar attached. But enough will survive, I'm sure, as they always do!

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Re: Padfield

Postby David M » Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:36 pm

Those Dryads are gorgeous, Guy. I keep hoping we might catch them during our French Alps trips but we never do. I'd love to see them.


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