jackz432r

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Paul Harfield
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jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Thu Mar 01, 2012 11:12 pm

This will be my first year of proper Butterfly watching since my mid teens (I have outlined my early childhood butterfly experiences in another thread). I thought it would be good to record the year in the form of a diary, so this is the first post. I will try and keep posts regular and as interesting as I can.

This year I will hopefully have the help of my 11 year old son. He shows plenty of interest and enthusiasm but perhaps needs to be reined in a little, 'bull' and 'china shop' come to mind!
I will do my best to record my findings with photos, but I do not as yet have a decent camera. I am managing at present with a compact. This is fine but it takes about a week to focus properly :( , so please do not be too critical!

I saw my first and only butterfly of the year so far last Thursday near Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley. Southampton a female Brimstone. The temperature was up around 18 degrees at one point that day. The temperature was again up to 18 degrees today at Hayling Island but no butterflies seen today. However, I have not been out actively looking so far.

My interest is currently being satisfied by the captive rearing of some Speckled Wood larvae. Some of these are the offspring of a previous generation which emerged as adults in December! I could not really entertain releasing these adults in midwinter so kept them going on overripe fruit and sugar solution and managed to get at least one pairing. The resulting larvae are feeding on Couch Grass which I have the misfortune to have growing in my garden. My own supply of this foodplant has been gradually running out over the last few weeks as it does not grow much in winter. Thankfully (from the caterpillars point of view) over the last week or so the mild weather has prompted it to sprout with more vigour. However, the larvae are rapidly approaching pupation so foodplant will not be a problem anyway. The resulting adults will be released back where the original eggs were collected last September. I will post the finer details of this captive rearing in a separate post.

Paul Harfield
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:33 pm

After experiencing 18 degrees on Thursday whilst at work in Hayling Island, today early afternoon we were subjected to snow briefly in Hedge end. My parents also reported snow at a similar time a few miles down the road in Fareham. Later this afternoon the sun came out and my parents reported a Red Admiral on their windowsill, sadly I was not there to witness it.

Still have had no time to get out and about yet this year. My focus in this my first proper year Butterfly watching will be to thoroughly explore my own local area. This is Hedge End, Botley and the closely surrounding area. I have already noted a good few areas to explore. I know I will also not be able to resist the temptation to go a little further afield and find some of those rarer species that eluded me as a child. I am very surprised to find that good sites exist very close by such as Botley Wood and Whiteley Pastures. I also find that I drive past or work very near many of the well known sites in Hampshire quite regularly and never knew of their existence until recently. I probably drive past Alice Holt, Noar Hill, Magdalen Hill, Yew Hill and others at least once a week. Sometimes it is like torture as I spend my working today driving past these prime sites. Bring on the spring and warmer weather....

Paul Harfield
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:52 pm

It has been gorgeous here in Hedge End this weekend, lots of sunshine but not enough hours. The kids football seems to take up half the weekend and what with other chores there is not much opportunity left to get out and about. My eldest son was on walk with the scouts today from Ashurst to Beaulieu, I did consider joining him but really had too many other less enjoyable thing to do. May be next time. He did report seeing a male Brimstone though whilst eating his lunch at about mid point on his journey.

Dropping my son off at Ashurst meant popping in to the inlaws who live nearby. As we left a butterfly flitted across the front of the car. It was too brief to id positively but certainly looked Speckled Wood ish. I know its too early but not sure what else it could have been. Too small and the wrong sort of flight for Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell and the wrong colour for a Brimstone.

I finally managed to venture out today at about 1pm for the sole purpose of butterfly watching. Only for an hour or so but it was well worth it. A walk along the footpath that runs east west along the edge of the railway line from Hedge End to Botley. As soon as I turned the corner from my house on to the footpath I was greeted by a gliding Comma. This part of the path is near housing and is quite busy, further on the popular route curves away from the railway line but through the trees the path continues along the railway to Botley and is much less used and more wild. However this part of the path yielded no sightings and it was only when I reached the end of the path that I spotted two butterflies spiralling up into the air too distant to id. I doubled back along a parallel path through the fields and then made a second pass along the railway path. Where I had seen the two butterflies duelling earlier I was rewarded with another Comma sunning itself on a fence post. I think with hindsight it is quite likely that the two duelling individuals were also Commas, perhaps even the same one. This particular Comma allowed me to approach and photograph it several times which were all out of focus. It even flew off and came back to exactly the same spot to give me a second chance. Still my results are very poor. The camera I am using is an old point and shoot. Not really the right tool for the job I know. I really must get myself a decent camera as soon as finances allow. I was not going to post this photo but here it is anyway if you want a laugh
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A Very Poor Comma Photo
Do not be too harsh with your criticisms please!

hilary
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Re: jackz432r

Postby hilary » Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:03 pm

Can't critisise your photos - mine are much the same! I wondered how your speckled woods are coming along?

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MikeOxon
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Re: jackz432r

Postby MikeOxon » Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:33 pm

Don't knock 'point and shoots' as they can be very good for close-up work and provide good depth of field, which makes focus less critical. Yours has done a remarkable job of exposing correctly for the very dark underside - it's rare to see the detail so well. If anything, you've got a bit too close and cut off the legs and antenna - no need to try so hard!

Mike

Paul Harfield
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Thu Mar 15, 2012 11:12 pm

hilary wrote:Can't critisise your photos - mine are much the same! I wondered how your speckled woods are coming along?


Hi Hilary

The Speckled Wood larvae are coming along well. None have reached pupation yet, but I think for the largest it will not be long. I have eight larvae at various stages the largest are about 24mm long and will not get much larger than that. Yet I have others that are quite a way off entering their final instar. A couple were accidental captures from my own garden, found on foodplant back in January. I have a half written post on the finer points of development from eggs laid in September to now, I will try and finish that and post it soon. As I said previously these larvae are the offspring of adults which hatched in December. Faced with a large number of eggs out of season I tried several different ways of dealing with them, most perished. The larvae that I have left are from the very last ones laid that I kept in a warmer environment. Once hatched I weened them into a colder environment and they have been outside in a sheltered spot ever since. Interestingly the two that were accidental captures have been very noticeably less active than the others and much slower growing. I will try and get some photos up at the weekend.

Are you also using a point and shoot camera? I think it is just about possible to get reasonable results it just requires a bit more persistance, patience and subject matter that is not easily spooked. Here are a couple of photos taken with the same camera last September which I do not think are too bad.

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Speckled Wood September 2011 Hedge End
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Speckled Wood September 2011 Hedge End

Paul Harfield
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Thu Mar 15, 2012 11:32 pm

MikeOxon wrote:Don't knock 'point and shoots' as they can be very good for close-up work and provide good depth of field, which makes focus less critical. Yours has done a remarkable job of exposing correctly for the very dark underside - it's rare to see the detail so well. If anything, you've got a bit too close and cut off the legs and antenna - no need to try so hard!

Mike


Hi Mike

Thanks for your encouragement. I will try and find some photos from previous years to show that reasonable results can be achieved. I will persist with what I have at present, but I will need to get something more appropriate for the job in hand. At the moment I am likely to miss many photo opportunities because of the cameras reaction time. I do not think I will be challenging for butterfly photo of the year just yet! :wink:

Paul Harfield
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:07 pm

A couple more photos from previous years. I am quite into dragonflies/damselflies as well.
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Agrion virgo Mill Lawn New Forest
Attachments
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Orthetrum coerulescens Mill Lawn New Forest

Paul Harfield
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:43 pm

Saturday 17/3/2012
The first of my captive Speckled Wood larvae has suspended itself ready for pupation after having become slightly translucent, reducing its feeding and wandering somewhat.
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Ready to pupate

When I checked tonight it was still a larva but I imagine within the next 24hrs it will shed its larval skin.
The next two photos were also taken on 17/3/2012. The first is a larva that has undergone a skin change within the last 24hrs and has yet to resume feeding, it is about 12mm long. The second is a larva that is almost fully grown, about 23mm long and still actively feeding.
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Recent skin change
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Nearly fully grown

Tonight it looks like 2 more larvae have stopped feeding, become translucent and are looking for a position to pupate.

hilary
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Re: jackz432r

Postby hilary » Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:56 am

I liked the pictures of the speckled wood caterpillars. It must be quite a burden of responsibility trying to keep the out of season ones going! I have never seen one in 'the wild' and wondered if the are more likely to feed at night? My camera is I think what is termed a 'shoot and point' (panosonic lumix) and does seem to to focus on anything but the insect in the centre of the frame.

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MikeOxon
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Re: jackz432r

Postby MikeOxon » Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:18 am

jackz432r wrote:At the moment I am likely to miss many photo opportunities because of the cameras reaction time.


You put your finger on the main drawback with compacts! I use a Lumix TZ5 as a travel camera and miss loads of 'grab shots'.

If I may reply to Hilary on your thread: I don't know which Lumix you have but search in the menu since mine has an 'AF Spot Mode', which helps a lot. It is only available in 'Normal Picture' mode and not in 'iA' mode.

Mike

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NickMorgan
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Re: jackz432r

Postby NickMorgan » Wed Mar 21, 2012 6:07 pm

Fantastic pictures of the speckled wood caterpillars. I can't wait to see pictures of the chrysalis.
Speckled woods have only just moved into East Lothian. Last year was the first year when we saw more than just the odd example here. Now I can go and look for their caterpillars too!

Paul Harfield
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Fri Mar 23, 2012 12:12 am

hilary wrote:It must be quite a burden of responsibility trying to keep the out of season ones going! I have never seen one in 'the wild' and wondered if the are more likely to feed at night?


Hi Hilary

Yes the biggest problem in keeping these larvae through the winter months has been foodplant. I am certainly not a grass expert but trying to identify different types of grass in autumn/winter when they have no flower heads is very difficult. I established early on that they would eat Couch Grass and learned to identify it. I did not have this foodplant potted up ready, my feeding regime is to cut enough food from growing plant in the garden and change it daily (most days). During the week I do not get in from work until 6.30, when it is dark in winter. My neighbours will have been slightly bemused/amused to see me in the garden with a torch and a pair of scissors :lol:

As to feeding at night, I am not entirely sure. They definitely do feed during the day and probably at night as well. These larvae are very sensitive to disturbance. The slightest knock or movement and they stop feeding and remain motionless for quite some time. They are very well camouflaged particularly even when quite large. It has highlighted the fact that my eyesight may not be what it was, I have had to use a magnifying glass to see them a lot of the time. I have been back to the location where I found eggs last September a couple of times now just to see if I could find larvae/pupae. I managed to find one larva at one visit but that is it. I think knowing that they are to be found in a particular location is a big help and once you get your eye in it becomes easier.

Paul Harfield
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Fri Mar 23, 2012 12:25 am

Wednesday 21/3/2012

After having seen my first Brimstone (female) a couple of weeks ago, I saw my first male Brimstone of the year in Bitterne, Southampton. From my van as I was driving, but unmistakeable. I would imagine it is quite unusual to see female first, I think males are normally on the wing much earlier.

Thursday 22/3/2012

Still no sign of my suspended Speckled Wood larvae shedding its final larval skin, maybe tomorrow. With the prospect of good weather into the weekend I look forward to making another trip out into the wilderness.

Paul Harfield
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:14 pm

NickMorgan wrote:I can't wait to see pictures of the chrysalis.


Hi Nick
You need wait no longer.

Friday 23/3/2012
The first of my captive Speckled Wood larvae has now shed its larval skin exposing the bright green chrysalis. This occurred sometime during the day today. Its taken a little longer to shed its skin than I expected, nearly a week! I expect development to be fairly rapid now in the unusually warm weather we are experiencing.
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Captive Speckled Wood Pupa
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Captive Speckled Wood Pupa


Saturday 24/3/2012
I have been itching to get out and explore all week. Today got out for an hour and a half round local footpaths, of which I am finding new ones all the time. Again I was rewarded almost immediately with a Peacock, my first of the year. This individual was stubborn though and would not reveal his splendour. I then proceeded on a hitherto untried route and was gifted with my first 'White' of the year flying quite high and not settling. I lost sight of it without positive identification. Back on one of my tried and tested routes and a more obliging Peacock and a Brimstone. Later one more Peacock to finish the day. I think I was a little late to catch the best part of the day today.
I noticed that another of my captive Speckled Wood larvae has suspended itself ready for pupation.
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Stubborn Peacock
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Friendly Peacock


Sunday 25/3/2012
I managed to get out a bit earlier today, the changing clocks helped. I was joined by my son who was keen to show me some tadpoles he had found. We walked around Dowds Farm park in Hedge End and through Moorgreen Meadows. Moorgreen Meadows is a new area I have not been to before within walking distance of home. Sadly this area produced no butterflies today. Dowds Farm however came up trumps with the first Speckled Woods of the year, three in total. Also three male Brimstone and a Peacock all in a very small area near where the tadpoles had been found. Tried in vain to get a Speckled Wood photo. Spent the late afternoon in the garden doing some much needed garden tidying. A Peacock and another 'White' flew through without stopping. It looked like a Small White but I could not be sure. Also found several Larvae in the Garden including this one.
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Unknown Moth Larva

Now that I have seen Speckled Wood on the wing locally it will be interesting to visit the site where my captives originate from. Last September they were plentiful there. I visited yesterday but saw none, albeit a bit late in the day. I will look again as soon as the opportunity arises.

Paul Harfield
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Sun Apr 01, 2012 10:41 pm

Tuesday 27/3/2012
I have borrowed a Sony DSLR A-230 camera for a few days to try out. It only has a standard lens but will be interesting to try. The last time I used an SLR camera was about 10yrs ago when they had film in!
Managed to get out for half an hour this afternoon after finishing work earlier than normal at about 4pm. Though it was probably too late to see much. I went to check on the spot where my captive Speckled Woods came from and found none. However did find one solitary Speckled Wood on the way there, which was still flitting around in the same spot 20 minutes later when I came back. Also saw one Peacock soaking up the last rays of sun. Although I did not find many butterflies today I did find four deer less than half a mile from home, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a curious insect that I have now identified as a Bee Fly. I can not recall seeing one before, It was buzzing around just off the ground a cross between a fly, a bee and a mosquito. I did try to get a photo but I had my first encounter with the nature photographers best friend, a curious and over excited dog! Once the owner had made her apologies my subject had long since disappeared, so no photos today :x
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Four Deer Close To Home

Thursday 29/3/2012
The second of my captive Speckled Wood Larvae has shed its larval skin during the night. Yesterday I lost one of the smallest of the Speckled Wood Larvae.
Saturday 31/3/2012
The third of my Larvae has suspended itself ready for pupation during the night. It is much cooler and cloudy today than it has been so no chance to do any butterfly watching. Tomorrow looks like it will be sunny so maybe a chance to get out.
Sunday 1/4/2012
Although it was much cooler today than of late, it was almost unbroken sunshine today in Hedge End. I managed to get out for an hour and a half today round my favourite local footpath along the railway line. Today seemed to be the day for Speckled Wood, as I saw at least 8 in different locations, including the spot where my captives originate from. I managed to have a bit of a play with 'my' borrowed camera and got a few Speckled Wood shots.
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Speckled Wood. First try with borrowed camera
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Speckled Wood Hedge End, Hants
Not great but its a start, its a bit more cumbersome than the compact.
After having seen several 'whites' out and about at work this week all too far away or too fleetingly to id, I was pleased to see two male Orange Tips today :D However, my first Orange Tips of the year were unwilling to settle, so no photos sadly. I also saw one Peacock and one Comma. The weather looks set to deteriotate slightly now as Easter approaches, so I am not sure what opportunity if any there will be for butterfly watching as I take a few days off work over the holiday.
I am beoming very envious of those that are now into double figures with speies already. I have still yet to see Red Admiral or Small Tortoiseshell :(

Paul Harfield
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:47 pm

Thursday 5/4/2012
I took a trip down to Barton On Sea today with the family to run an errand. Butterfly watching was not the aim of the day as it was cold, windy, cloudy and visibility was poor. I took the opportunity for an hour or so to walk along the beach below the cliffs to show my boys where I used to collect fossils when I was much younger.
Once we had parked in the clifftop car park my eldest son ran off down the path to the beach to explore, as he does. He immediately came running back saying 'Dad, Dad, Dad there are hundreds of black caterpillars down here!'
I know that some years Glanville Fritillaries are reported along this stretch of coastline, if not from this spot. Narrow Leaved/Ribwort Plantain grows in abundance and the ground is constantly being disturbed at the cliff edge and below. So obviously my first thought was that my son had found an abundance of Glanville Larvae, I rushed to see what he had found :D . Sadly it was not Glanville Fritillary larvae but something entirely different :? . There were literally thousands of larvae huddled in groups along the wooden railing at the edge of the path that leads down the cliff to the beachwalk. A spectacular site that I have not witnessed before and not on any foodplant, just on the wooden railing and signs. I would say the larvae were young and not fully grown and were mostly 10-15mm long. Also seen Bluebells and lots of Thrift in flower on the cliff face and undercliff area.
Does anybody know what they are?
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Unknown Larvae Barton On Sea
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Unknown Larvae Barton On Sea
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Barton On Sea Cliff Area

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Pawpawsaurus
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Pawpawsaurus » Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:10 pm

jackz432r wrote:Does anybody know what they are?

I'm pretty sure these are Brown-tail moth larvae. They're (in)famous for occurring in large numbers and are considered a pest by local authorities.

Paul

EDIT: Here's confirmation: http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2747

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Lee Hurrell
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Lee Hurrell » Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:25 am

Don't touch them if you go back, their hairs are a nasty irritant!

Best wishes,

Lee
To butterfly meadows, chalk downlands and leafy glades; to summers eternal.

Paul Harfield
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Re: jackz432r

Postby Paul Harfield » Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:05 pm

Lee Hurrell wrote:Don't touch them if you go back, their hairs are a nasty irritant!


Thanks for the warning chaps. Looking at the Uk moths site, that is certainly what they are.
Any ideas why they would be huddled in clumps along a wooden barrier and local signage? They were neither newly hatched or fully grown and not near any foodplant of note.


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