David M

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David M
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Re: David M

Postby David M » Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:44 pm

Monday 17th July 2017 - Culture Shock....

This time of year is always tough for me. Having spent nearly 3 weeks in the French Alps where there are butterflies on almost every flowerhead, I find myself transported to a far greener land where in spite of copious and lush plant growth, butterflies are conspicuous by their absence.

An additional day off work saw near perfect weather conditions - 22c, light winds and light cloud.....but only 10 species to see!

There were Whites fluttering around almost everywhere. However, the White Letter Hairstreaks I found 3 weeks ago were still stubbornly esconced in the canopy. Despite bramble and thistle blooms being ubiquitous, these Welsh specimens remained firmly wedded to the Ash canopy, and this image merely records a rather faded individual that refused to come down like all his/her brethren:

1WLHdistance(1).jpg


There were quite a few Commas about, which was pleasing, and the species total was 10, which isn't a disaster I suppose in this area. A handful of Hedge Browns showed up too, which was welcome as they were my first in 2017:

1HedgeBrownmale(1).jpg

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David M
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Re: David M

Postby David M » Sun Jul 23, 2017 3:19 pm

Saturday 22nd July 2017 - sylvestris and lineola

A brief break in the poor weather saw me venture out towards Castle Meadows in Abergavenny just after midday. However, once I'd parked my car I noticed the Mill Lane orchard, which was first sectioned off 3 years ago on the way down to the meadows, was looking rather appealing with good all round butterfly habitat:

1OrchardAbergavenny(1).jpg


To my delight, both Essex and Small Skippers were present, with two definite lineola seen:

1Essexupps(1).jpg


1Essextips(1).jpg


One certain sylvestris was seen too:

1SmSkipp(1).jpg


This lovely, fresh Small Copper was irresistible:

1SmCopp(1).jpg


I also saw my first female Hedge Browns of 2017:

1HBunsfemale(1).jpg


There were a handful of other species about during this brief visit - Red Admiral, Peacock, Meadow Brown, Green Veined White & Common Blue.

Pauline
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Re: David M

Postby Pauline » Fri Jul 28, 2017 6:06 am

I do like those Essex Skippers surrounded by raindrops David. For some reason raindrops or dewdrops seem to add something to a composition and reveal a little bit about the butterfly that the usual shots in bright sunshine just don't!

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David M
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Re: David M

Postby David M » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:39 am

Saturday 5th August - Back amongst the butterflies....

After a dismal 11 day spell of grim weather, it was nice to reacquaint myself with butterflies again, and it's ironic that the hundreds I saw were on the Isle of Man of all places!!!

The entire day was one of unbroken sunshine, and I spent a good three hours at the Ayres Nature Reserve at the northern tip of the island.

Graylings were my principal target, and I saw around three dozen:

1.Grayling1(1).jpg


1.Grayling2(1).jpg


Here's an image of the habitat, looking towards the Point of Ayre lighthouse:

1.PtofAyre(1).jpg


I was delighted to also see a couple of Wall Browns:

1.WallBr(1).jpg


Common Blues were around in excellent numbers, with well over a hundred seen. Island races tend to throw up different forms, and the females here are generally very blue. This specimen is a good example:

1.CommBluefemale(1).jpg


Female Meadow Browns are much brighter than the ones on the mainland. The undersides are quite pale with pronounced light shading, whilst the uppersides are very orange:

1.MdwBrownfem(1).jpg


Speckled Woods are a new species here - they only colonised the island around 10 years ago. They're clearly thriving as I saw at least half a dozen in a small, wooded area up from the car park:

1.SpWood(1).jpg


Large White, Small White, Small Heath and Small Copper were also about, along with several vanessids. I saw three Painted Ladies:

1.PLady(1).jpg


A couple of Small Tortoiseshells were observed:

1.SmTort(1).jpg


Red Admirals were about in good numbers:

1.RedAd(1).jpg


Most pleasing of all, however, were the 30+ Peacocks seen, all eagerly nectaring in readiness for their long sleep:

1.Peacockups(1).jpg


Occasionally, one would bask briefly before returning to feed:

1.Peacockuns(1).jpg


I'm not normally a birdwatcher, but there were dozens of gannets diving into the turbulent, nutrient rich water and I spent a fair while watching them take aim:

1.Gannet(1).jpg

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David M
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Re: David M

Postby David M » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:23 pm

Thursday 10th August 2017 - Baffling.....

With Brown Hairstreak activity seemingly way ahead of what is usual in much of the south, I visited the prime Welsh site today but could find no females at all! Four males were spotted in the treetops, but the only usable image I could get was this:

1.BrHstkmale(1).jpg


I can only conclude that the atrociously unseasonal weather here for the past fortnight has seen a) emergence times retarded and/or b) such adverse conditions that any emerged females have simply not had the opportunity to mate and thus to be ready to lay eggs.

Even worse, this cool, wet and windy spell seems to have decimated numbers generally. The range of species is still pretty good (with 15 being sighted) but Small Tortoiseshells, which are usually quite common here at this time of year, were absent, Common Blues were in low single figures and Hedge Browns were in the 40s rather than the usual 100+.

There's no real sign of it ending, and with Ash die-back being confirmed here, I'm actually starting to seriously worry about the prospects for Brown Hairstreaks going forward.

A couple of things to note - there are still Silver Washed Fritillaries flying. This female looks a bit unusual:

1.SWFfem(1).jpg


Here's a normal female Hedge Brown:

1.HedgeBrfem1(1).jpg


Now compare her to this one which barely has any orange on the upper hindwing:

1.HedgeBrab(1).jpg


So, pretty depressing stuff all round. I'm becoming ever more convinced that August in the UK is slowly turning into an autumn month, rather than a summer one, just as February is evolving into a spring month as opposed to winter. I suppose what is given at one end of nature's calendar has to be taken at the other?

Still, as noted previously, the species range was good, with all the following seen:

Red Admiral
Painted Lady
Peacock
Comma
Silver Washed Fritillary
Common Blue
Holly Blue
Hedge Brown
Speckled Wood
Meadow Brown
Ringlet
Brown Hairstreak
Large White
Small White
Green Veined White

essexbuzzard
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Re: David M

Postby essexbuzzard » Thu Aug 10, 2017 9:21 pm

Have you noticed the weather changed around St. Swithin's day? Perhaps there is some truth in these sayings after all. On the plus side, recently, the weather has tended to improve in autumn, meaning a good extra emergence of Walls, Clouded Yellows etc. Let's hope this happens again, this year.

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Goldie M
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Re: David M

Postby Goldie M » Sat Aug 12, 2017 9:22 am

Lovely SWF Dave, you've still seen lots of Butterflies though but I agree with you about the STS , which is way down on what it used to be a round our way as well, I think September the last couple of years seems to have been good, much better than August so may be we'll see more Butterflies before the season ends, hope fully Tortoiseshells. Goldie :D

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David M
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Re: David M

Postby David M » Sun Aug 13, 2017 7:04 pm

Sunday 13th August 2017 - Unpredictable behaviour.....

I don't think I'll ever work out the modus operandum of the Brown Hairstreak. After drawing two blanks with females at the Pembrokeshire site last week, I returned again today in borderline weather conditions and ended up seeing SIX in just over an hour!

The first was seen at exactly midday followed by another two minutes later:

1BH1(1).jpg


1BH2(1).jpg


This area which was cleared last week looks like being the best spot for them this year:

1Habitat(1).jpg


The fifth one seen was laying eggs - three side by side:

1Eggsx3(1).jpg


I guess the awful conditions over the past fortnight have led to females wanting to lay as quickly as possible.

Strangely, even though weather conditions improved after the sixth was seen, there were no more observed and I left the site at 2pm. Numbers of other butterflies were depressingly poor again, although I did see a Small Copper this time, along with this female Large White which proved irresistible:

1.LgeWhitefem(1).jpg


More excitement arrived on the way home as a Clouded Yellow flew across the A477! I was unable to stop on this occasion, but I'll be checking the Gower coast over the next few weeks to see if I can spot any more.

millerd
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Re: David M

Postby millerd » Sun Aug 13, 2017 9:41 pm

That's a very nice Hairstreak, David. A terrific glimpse of the chocolate orange upperside. :)

Dave

trevor
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Re: David M

Postby trevor » Mon Aug 14, 2017 7:28 pm

Great shot of the BH eggs, strange they were laid on the twig,
rather that the usual fork, which is nearby.

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David M
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Re: David M

Postby David M » Tue Aug 22, 2017 6:11 pm

Tuesday 22nd August 2017 - an August to forget....

I don't know about everyone else, but never before have I known a summer to wither away so prematurely. It's not just the butterflies; the vegetation is largely spent and don't start me on the weather!!

With a rare sunny, warm day on the cards, I arrived at West Williamston in Pembrokeshire at 10.25am, and in spite of partly cloudy conditions, stumbled upon my first Brown Hairstreak female just 10 minutes later. She was a ragged specimen but it didn't stop her laying eggs:

1BH1laying(1).jpg


Here is the fruit of her labour:

1BH1egg(1).jpg


I watched her for 15 minutes or so as she took short flights from one blackthorn sucker to the next, before I moved to the opposite side of the first field whereupon I spotted a second female:

1BH2uns(1).jpg


She is probably lucky to be alive, as whatever took the chunk out of her hindwings must have missed her body by about a millimetre! She did absolutely nothing for 20 minutes as it had gone overcast at this point, but when the sun returned, she soon opened her wings:

1BH2ups(1).jpg


I wandered onto the foreshore, and by midday the skies cleared invitingly and I soon spotted a third female, with this one being in as good a condition as one can expect in late August:

1BH3ups(1).jpg


She flew off after less than 5 minutes during which time she crawled around a mature shrub bending her abdomen around the spines without laying any eggs:

1BH3laying(1).jpg


At 1pm, I returned to the first field and started looking for eggs (eventually reaching 17). Whilst doing this, I disturbed a fourth female:

1BH4uns(1).jpg


1BH4ups(1).jpg


I crossed the field to where I had started when I first arrived, and thought I'd seen a fifth Brown Hairstreak, only for it to turn out to be the one I originally saw almost three hours earlier!! She was in much the same spot too. What a shift she'd put in if she'd been laying eggs all that time:

1BH1ups(1).jpg


General butterfly numbers were again abysmal - I've never known things so bad at this time of year. Even Speckled Woods numbered single figures and a mere three Hedge Browns were seen! Half a dozen Large Whites was a positive, with Small and Green Veined seen also. One Silver Washed Fritillary, one Comma, four Red Admirals and two Peacocks was dismal, whilst the only other species about were a single Holly Blue and three, maybe four male Common Blues:

1CommBlue(1).jpg


My spirits were lifted slightly on the drive home when I saw a male Brimstone nectaring by the roadside near Pont Abraham, but the truth is that overall numbers are worryingly low. I have visited this site four times in a fortnight now and have not seen a single Small Tortoiseshell, yet upon my return home, my neighbour had THREE on scabious flowers in her small front garden.

I can't work it out! :?:

millerd
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Re: David M

Postby millerd » Tue Aug 22, 2017 10:25 pm

Some very good Hairstreak activity there, David. It does seem very autumnal - the blackberries are nearly over, the ivy is flowering and the sunshine has been somewhat missing lately. But as Buggy says, if we get some decent weather (today was very warm here), there might be a late burst of activity and some third broods. We can but hope. :)

Dave

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David M
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Re: David M

Postby David M » Sun Aug 27, 2017 8:38 pm

Sunday 27th August 2017 - Colourful day....

I decided against travelling to Pembroke for Brown Hairstreaks today due to an 'iffy' weather forecast. Sure enough, it was cloudy first thing, and my chosen destination, which is half way towards Pembrokeshire, was also decidedly overcast when I arrived at 10.05am.

The National Botanic Gardens of Wales, which is near Cross Hands, has had a butterfly house for over a year now, so I spent the first 45 minutes in there whilst waiting for the clouds to lift.

There were several Blue Morphos:

1.BlueMorpho(1).jpg


This Malachite was unusually co-operative:

1Malachite(1).jpg


And here are two I haven't seen before:

1.Unknown2(1).jpg


1.Unknown1(1).jpg


Outside of the tropical environment, there were plenty of beautiful indigenous butterflies going about their business. Unsurprisingly, Small Whites were very common (40+) given that the walled gardens contain huge numbers of pesticide-free brassica plants. Both Large and Green Veined Whites were about in reasonable numbers too, with this female napi being abnormally heavily marked with a rich shade of lemon yellow on the underside:

1.GVW(1).jpg


Sadly, I lost track of it as it flew perpetually around the vegetable patch, which is a shame, as the black markings on the upper forewings were so unusual that I would describe it as an aberrant.

The real joy though was the presence of significant numbers of vanessids, and Small Tortoiseshells in particular.

I've been concerned about Torties for a few weeks now, but today went some way towards allaying those fears as at least three dozen were seen, along with 10 or so Peacocks, 4 or 5 Red Admirals and a couple of Painted Ladies.

The buddleias and verbena in the sheltered walled gardens were an absolute magnet for them:

1.Peacockx2.SmTort(1).jpg


1.RedAd.Peacock.SmTort2(1).jpg


1LgeWh.SmTort.Peacock(1).jpg


1RedAd.Peacock.SmTort(1).jpg


The second Painted Lady was a bit unusual due to it having pronounced blue spots along the hindwing submargin:

1PLady(1).jpg


This Red Admiral, which has enlarged blue markings on the hindwing, was the winner of the 'posing in strange places' award though....it was trying to warm itself upside down on one of the information panels in the Wallace garden:

1RAsign(1).jpg


Other butterflies seen were 5 Common Blues and a Speckled Wood.

essexbuzzard
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Re: David M

Postby essexbuzzard » Wed Aug 30, 2017 7:37 pm

Sensational pictures there David. Small Torts are having a good year in the east too, with ones and twos almost everywhere, but not in those numbers!

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bugboy
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Re: David M

Postby bugboy » Wed Aug 30, 2017 7:48 pm

I think the last time I saw Nymphalids clustering over Buddleja like that I was a young teenager looking at the one growing at the bottom of my garden in the 80's, and I'd probably reared most of them as well!
Some addictions are good for the soul!

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David M
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Re: David M

Postby David M » Sun Sep 17, 2017 9:09 pm

Sunday 17th September 2017 - Autumn setting in.....

Another visit to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales saw plenty of butterflies, both inside and outside the glasshouse. However, since my visit 3 weeks ago Large Whites have seemingly disappeared, with only a handful of Small and Green Veined Whites on the wing. That said, there were dozens of Large White larvae munching on the cabbages, nasturtiums and sprouts. Next year's brood looks guaranteed!

There were decent numbers of both Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells. With the buddleia flowers practically gone, they made a beeline for this attractive and fragrant plant, which I later learned was actaea simplex, or Pritchard's Giant:

1Adm.Tort(1).jpg


I managed to find one Comma, which posed nicely:

1Comma(1).jpg


This female Green Veined White was very attractive:

1GVW(1).jpg


The British Bird of Prey Centre had a display at the site today. There was a Red Kite, a Buzzard, a Kestrel, a Merlin (which I'd never seen close up before), a Goshawk, a Tawny Owl and this magnificent Golden Eagle:

1GdEagle(1).jpg


I also had the honour of holding this beautiful Barn Owl for a few minutes:

1BarnOwl(1).jpg


The previous day, I spent the best part of an hour at Port Eynon where I saw this unusual Red Admiral with the black extending through the red band:

1RedAdm(1).jpg

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David M
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Re: David M

Postby David M » Thu Oct 12, 2017 6:46 pm

Thursday 12th October 2017 - Finally.....a butterfly!

Been a while since I've had the chance to get out and on those rare occasions the weather has been suitable, I've been either at work or busy with commitments. Today I had intended to spend an hour or so in the great Gower outdoors, but the early sunshine soon gave way to dark clouds and wind, before it cleared up rather irritatingly after 4pm which seems to be something of a regular event round here! :(

In spite of this, I did manage to see my first October butterfly whilst washing the dishes! I noticed what I initially thought to be a leaf on my neighbour's roof, but the colour and shape suggested it was a butterfly.....and so it was, a lovely Comma, which hung around for a good 15 minutes as it was cloudy and cool:

1Comma(1).jpg

millerd
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Re: David M

Postby millerd » Thu Oct 12, 2017 8:25 pm

I'm glad to see you've found another butterfly at last, David. :) Things are very different over your way, certainly. :(

Dave

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Neil Freeman
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Re: David M

Postby Neil Freeman » Fri Oct 13, 2017 6:54 pm

David M wrote:...Been a while since I've had the chance to get out and on those rare occasions the weather has been suitable, I've been either at work or busy with commitments...


I hear that David. I could have spoken those exact words myself. Mind you, the season doesn't usually last much past the end of September around my patch anyway.

Cheers,

Neil.

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Goldie M
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Re: David M

Postby Goldie M » Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:03 pm

Love the shot of the Owl David and glad you saw a Butterfly, if the weather takes up you'll probably see more.Goldie :D


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