William

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William
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Re: William

Postby William » Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:25 pm

Thanks Chaps!

Guy - I was fairly hesitant with the upperside, he's an underside of the same butterfly - what do you think?

Shepherd's Fritillary - Day 11 - Nr Weistannen 3.JPG


'Whites'

Since spring is getting going now in Somerset, it's time to roll out the last of the Swiss pics - some 'whites' or at least white things!

Black-Veined Whites were probably the most abundant of this group, and it was nice to get some good photo opportunities during the frequent cloudy spells as they roosted on flowerheads in damp meadows and clearings.

Black - Veined White - Day 9 - Nr Elm 2.JPG


Black - Veined Whites - Nr Zermatt 3.JPG


Mountain Green-Veined Whites were also fairly common at higher altitudes, unlike other trips (thanks to the cloudy spells once more), I managed to get a few photos of them too.

Mountain Green - Veined White - Day 10 - Nr Elm 2.JPG


The white highlight though, could only be one - I finally managed a prolonged audience with the Apollo towards the end of the trip, after an early start, getting good views of some roosting in a small woodland clearing. Like the Black-Veined Whites, they seemed to seek out white flowers for this, and so proved quite nice and obvious. A fitting end, to a truly unforgettable experience (though Small Apollos proved to be a near miss, lots of scrambling about on scree slopes in promising habitat yielded nothing more than distant white blurs!).

Apollo - Nr Zermatt 30.JPG


Apollo - Nr Zermatt 28.JPG


Apollo - Nr Zermatt 20.JPG


Apollo - Nr Zermatt 10.JPG
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David M
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Re: William

Postby David M » Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:33 pm

Some superb compositions there, William. Do you have a foreign jaunt planned for this year?

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Wurzel
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Re: William

Postby Wurzel » Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:59 pm

I agree with David William - stunning imagery those last set of Apollo shots are just gorgeous :D :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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William
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Re: William

Postby William » Sat Mar 18, 2017 11:12 pm

Thanks Guys - I find it's hard to take a photo I don't like of Apollos, they are such impressive butterflies from every angle!

David - I've got some vague plans to head to Eastern Europe in the hope of some Lycaenids - watch this space :)

BWs,

William

Paul Harfield
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Re: William

Postby Paul Harfield » Sun Mar 19, 2017 11:12 am

Hi William

As others have said, the female Mountain Fritillary is as beautiful an insect as your capture of it and those Apollos are quite awe inspiring.
Every one of the images you post is a masterpiece in itself :D . The last couple of entries are truly brilliant :D .

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William
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Re: William

Postby William » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:09 pm

Thanks Paul - much appreciated!

Catching Up

Since spring has finally sprung in Somerset, I've managed to photograph a few butterflies recently - first though, a White-Letter Hairstreak egg from this winter, in a park in the middle of Taunton - a spot where I first found them while idly looking up into an Elm during a traffic jam, fortuitous indeed!

IMG_8152.JPG
WLH egg


WLH egg25.JPG
White-Letter egg hatching.


Commas, as others have remarked, seem to be doing well this spring, with them quite often equalling Peacocks on local walks at the moment.

IMG_9593.JPG
Comma


IMG_9577.JPG
Comma


Brimstones are normally fairly scarce in my part of the world, and so it has proved this spring, with one solitary (but well-behaved) female in the garden.

IMG_9368.JPG
Brimstone


IMG_9398.JPG
Spot the butterfly!


IMG_9472.JPG
Brimstone
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William
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Re: William

Postby William » Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:46 pm

Larval Doings

Inspired by the exploits of Pete et al., and living close to a couple of good Fritillary colonies, I thought it was high time I got out and about this spring and looked for some larvae rather than just staring at photos of them. So it was that Tuesday morning found me at Haddon Hill as the rain came tumbling down, and I wondered quite what it was I was doing. Fortunately, the sky cleared, and the sun appeared, and after about 20 minutes, I found my target - a Heath Fritillary larva. The foodplant, Cow Wheat is clearly only just germinating on site at this relatively high altitude site, with no plants any more developed than the pair of seed leaves, poking up amongst the bilberries. I quickly went on to find 4 more larvae, though probably more by luck than judgement (I found no more with another hour of searching after these).
All the larvae were basking on leaf litter lying over a mossy substrate, the first about a foot from the nearest foodplant, and the other 4 in amongst the bilberry and the cow wheat (on the edge of a pony track, presumably providing a sheltered little 'valley')

Fritillary larvae 31.JPG
Heath Fritillary Larva


Fritillaries 1.JPG
Heath Fritillary Larva


Fritillary larvae 33.JPG
Heath Fritillary Larvae


Fritillaries 2.JPG
Heath Fritillary Larvae


Buoyed by this success, I decided to ride my luck and head to Clatworthy Reservoir. This is one of the stronger Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary sites on Exmoor, and unlike many of the others, is fairly easily accessible, with the fritillaries' Violet foodplant growing quite obviously among the bracken (which is cut rotationally). I began by looking amongst the dead bracken fronds, but found surprisingly few violets, and those that I did find didn't seem to fit Jeremy Thomas' description of ones in humid patches where the vegetation is beginning to close over. With this in mind, I turned my attention to the main path through the site, this has a small bank on one side, over which grasses hang, creating a warm, damp microclimate. Here were far better developed Violets, poking up amongst the tussocks, and crucially, they seemed to be littered with feeding damage, with the lobes of many of the heart-shaped violet leaves removed with almost surgical precision. On the scent, I moved down the bank, checking the violets as I went along. It's likely I missed quite a few larvae, hidden amongst the dense mat of fescues, but I did eventually manage one, sheltering on a leaf under the Violets - seemingly a 4th instar, without the 5th's magnificent horns!

Fritillary larvae 25.JPG
Small Pearl - Bordered Fritillary Larva - 4th Instar


Fritillary larvae 26.JPG
Small Pearl - Bordered Fritillary Larva - 4th Instar


Fritillary larvae 27.JPG
Violets occupied by Small Pearl - Bordered Fritillary


Fritillaries 5.JPG
Violets occupied by Small Pearl - Bordered Fritillary Larva


Today my luck ran out, after packing my passport and heading over to Ashclyst Forest in Devon in search of Pearl-Bordered Fritillary larvae. It seemed by gamble had not paid off, when on arrival, I was greeted by a hailstorm - surely enough to dampen the enthusiasm of even the most famished larva. The sun did eventually materialise, and despite evidence of rampant violet-nibbling once more, 3 hours of searching turned up nothing. I intend to return some other day - the habitat looks superb, with great drifts of violets poking up through the bracken that is so carefully managed by the National Trust here. I'd be grateful for any tricks or tips that people have for finding these - I'll be back!

Fritillaries 68.JPG
Pearl - Bordered Fritillary larval feeding damage?


Fritillaries 67.JPG
Pearl - Bordered Fritillary larval feeding damage?
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bugboy
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Re: William

Postby bugboy » Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:32 pm

2 out of 3 is a pretty good return and some interesting insights into the hunt for them. Good luck with the Pearl cats, looks like you're close :)
Some addictions are good for the soul!

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Wurzel
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Re: William

Postby Wurzel » Thu Mar 23, 2017 10:31 pm

Interesting shots of the Heath Frit larvae William :D Also are second brood Small Pearls a possibility in August down that way? :? I might be down there for a week around that time...

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Matsukaze
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Re: William

Postby Matsukaze » Thu Mar 23, 2017 10:55 pm

It surprises me Brimstones are seen as often as they are in Somerset, particularly west Somerset - distribution of the foodplants is extremely patchy. They must travel long distances.

If memory serves, Ashclyst Forest has some relatively recent Purple Emperor records - one to look out for if you are back there soon.

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William
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Re: William

Postby William » Fri Mar 24, 2017 1:12 pm

Thanks Bugboy - hope springs eternal!

Wurzel - interesting question, I'm not entirely sure of the answer. Clatworthy has one of the strongest populations in Somerset, but given that it's relatively high up on Exmoor (on the famously misty Brendons), I'm not sure that they'd produce a second brood (the same can be said for most of the Exmoor sites). Clatworthy does have quite a strong DGF population, and Grayling also fly on Exmoor and the nearby Quantocks (lots of Purple Hairstreaks that show quite nicely here), so the area still has plenty to offer later in the year.
Looking at the Somerset Transects, none of the Mendip sites produced second broods of SPBF last year, but they might be worth a go (Crook Peak/Priddy Pools). If you're planning on looking, feel free to drop me a line for a bit more information!

Chris - ditto - I've never actually seen Buckthorn round me (despite searching), except when planted by benevolent lepidopterists. I'd noted the old PE records, though I don't really know the place well enough to start searching - a project for July perhaps!

BWs,

William

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Wurzel
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Re: William

Postby Wurzel » Fri Mar 24, 2017 11:39 pm

Cheers for the info William, I'll have to see what I can see when I get down there :D My parents have yet to book the cottage for us all to stay in so when they do I'll PM you of that's ok.

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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William
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Re: William

Postby William » Thu Aug 24, 2017 9:47 pm

Frit Larvae

Life has become rather busy this year, and so I've been rather quiet on UKB - safe to say I've been enjoying everyone's superb sightings and photos (and the constantly evolving website) nonetheless. I'm now at home after a trip to the Alps and Hungary, as the lucky recipient of BC EIG's annual research grant - the opportunity of a lifetime (of which more later), and so have a bit of time to catch up (in between looking for butterflies)!

Spring was rather quiet from a butterflying point of view, since I had very little time on my hands, but before I returned to University, I finally managed a trip to sacred lands in Sussex. The main purpose was to find Large Tortoiseshell (congrats Bugboy!), though I (like many others) failed on that front. Still, with the incomparable Neil as my guide, I still had two days that will live long in the memory at Rewell Wood and Chantry Hill, giants of the butterflying world - even though it was early in the season, the scale and quality of these places, and what Neil and friends are achieving in Sussex is both magnificent and heartening. I was sadly too early to see them springing into life with the first Hairstreaks and Skippers, but I went home happy with my first ever Pearl cat, and a vow to return!

Sussex 7.JPG


Sussex 6.JPG


Sussex 5.JPG


Buoyed by this success, I returned to Haddon Hill on the 11th of April to look for Heath Fritillary larvae, and was rather bowled over to find 32 in half an hour - again, I think more by luck than judgement, all of these were in one small part of the site (about 4x3m) - these spectacular densities were not repeated elsewhere! Basically all of them were basking either on leaves, or mats of moss, through which some rather straggly bilberry was growing, and the Cow Wheat was getting going. What seemed to set this area apart from the rest of the site was the open structure of the vegetation - the bilberry wasn't dense and bushy, but rather stunted (I guess grazed recently by some of the roaming Exmoor Ponies), giving the Cow Wheat a foothold, and the larvae somewhere to bask.

Here's a picture which hopefully shows what I mean - all of the larvae (I presume 5th instar?) were in the area circled in red, note the much bushier Bilberry behind (already in leaf), compared to the scrawny twigs poking up in the circled area (with its thick mats of warm moss).

IMG_6576.JPG
Heath Fritillary Larval Country


Here's a larva too, to give a bit of context.

IMG_6581.JPG
Heath Fritillary Larva


And some more!

IMG_6607.JPG
Heath Fritillary Larva


IMG_6551.JPG
Heath Fritillary Larva


IMG_6607.JPG
Heath Fritillary Larva


IMG_6559.JPG
Heath Fritillary Larva


IMG_6461.JPG
Heath Fritillary Larvae


IMG_6374.JPG
Heath Fritillary Larva
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David M
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Re: William

Postby David M » Thu Aug 24, 2017 9:56 pm

William wrote:....as the lucky recipient of BC EIG's annual research grant - the opportunity of a lifetime (of which more later)


This will be extremely interesting, William. I shall greatly look forward to further details.

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Katrina
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Re: William

Postby Katrina » Sun Sep 03, 2017 11:49 am

I too am interested to hear what your project will be. Are you just keeping us in suspense or is it a secret project? 8)

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William
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Re: William

Postby William » Tue Sep 26, 2017 7:45 pm

Thanks chaps - here it is!

Hungary

As I mentioned on my previous post, I was one of this year's lucky recipients of the Annual Research Bursary provided by Butterfly Conservation's European Interests Group (see: http://www.bc-eig.org.uk/downloads/EIG_ ... ursary.pdf). Put simply, this is the opportunity of a lifetime - up to £500 for a cash-strapped student to head out to Europe and its wealth of huge, intact ecosystems (and all the butterflies they entail), asking only an A4 proposal and a write up at the end. The generosity of EIG is extraordinary, and was much appreciated by me this summer.

I used my grant to go east, specifically to the Ferto Hansag National Park (https://www.ferto-hansag.hu/en), which surrounds the Hungarian part of the Neusidlersee - the huge alkaline lake that straddles the Hungary/Austria border. The lake and surrounding wetlands are of enormous importance for birds, and for the duration of my 6 week trip, I was lucky enough to be living right next to it. This meant I could enjoy White - Tailed and Eastern Imperial Eagles, Black - Winged Stilts, Moustached Warblers, Night Herons, Spoonbills and many more right outside my front door, this extraordinary variety of species proved to be normal service in the Ferto Hansag, and is emblematic of the quality of the place - at every turn I was confronted, and delighted by its seething, throbbing biodiversity - unforgettable stuff. Away from the lake, the park also takes in large areas of steppe (with birds like Great Bustard and Saker), wet woodland (poplar plantations with a liberal sprinkling of Lesser Purple Emperors), and a great many beautiful wet meadows.

This latter habitat was strangely reminiscent of my native Somerset - appropriately so, for, like Somerset, it provides a crucial refuge for Maculineas, not arion, but alcon, teleius and nausithous - Alcon Blue, Scarce Large Blue and Dusky Large Blue. My project (for which I had the grant), was to spend 6 weeks assisting the staff at the Ferto Hansag with mark-release-recapture work on these butterflies, which they've been doing for an astonishing 17 years (starting 2 years after I was born - humbling!). The work provides really useful information about phenology (when are the butterflies emerging? Is this changing in response to climate?), population size (how is this affected by management? Is there any pattern to changes?), and dispersal (how good are the Maculineas at dealing with obstructions and colonising new sites?), and has helped to inform the management of the sites at which they fly, resulting in some seriously impressive populations.

To put this into context, many UKBers have gone in pursuit of Large Blues in the last few years, and have seen how lean things can be at Collard Hill - I was volunteering there in 2014, when they were particularly thin on the ground 7 or 8 sightings meant a good day, certainly, numbers never seem to be particularly high. Obviously, 2014 was a year when the blues were hit by a nasty combination of a furnace-like 2013 summer and a wet winter, and numbers are now much higher, but it's fair to say that I'm not used to seeing Maculineas in large quantities. Thus, a communal roost of 40 or 50 butterflies in the Hungarian meadows, a whirling, swirling cloud of blue and brown wings as the sun set, is a sight that will be hard to ever beat - the populations of these fast-declining butterflies in the Ferto-Hansag are some of the strongest in Hungary, and perhaps even Europe as a whole. Indeed, 2017 seems to have been a record year for them there (as it has been for Large Blues here), and the totals we marked at our 4 sites are all the highest ever, often 200 in a day at one, with my personal tally coming to a respectable 2400 - heartening stuff.

Anyway, some photos, I didn't take as many as perhaps I might have done, being busy trying to get butterflies in a net and within reach of a marker pen rather than a camera, and so many of the memories will not have been consigned to pixels, but here's a selection.

Alcon Blue - Himod - Hungary-0009.JPG
Alcon Blue


Dusky Large Blue - Ebergoc - Hungary-0002.JPG
Dusky Large Blue


Scarce Large Blue - Hidegseg -Hungary -0006.JPG
Scarce Large Blue


Marking a maculinea.jpg
Marking a Dusky Large Blue


Dusky Large Blue - Hansag - Hungary 2.JPG
Dusky Large Blue


Scarce Large Blue - Ebergoc - Hungary-0013.JPG
Scarce Large Blue


Scarce Large Blue - Hidegseg -Hungary -0002.JPG
Scarce Large Blue


Alcon Blue Ova - Himod- Hungary-0004.JPG
Alcon Blue ova


Dusky Large Blues - Himod - Hungary.JPG
Dusky Large Blues


Scarce Large Blues - Himod - Hungary-0005.JPG
Scarce Large Blues


Dusky Large Blue - Urhanya.JPG
Dusky Large Blue


Dusky Large Blues - Urhanya - Hungary-0002.JPG
Dusky Large Blues


Scarce Large Blues - Hidegseg -Hungary -0013.JPG
Scarce and Dusky Large Blues


Maculineas - Urhanya - Hungary-0013.JPG
Dusky Large Blues


Maculineas - Urhanya - Hungary-0003.JPG
Maculineas


I've got a slightly fuller account, with a bit more about the Maculineas on my fledgling blog if anyone's interested, though you'll have to excuse my attempted heights of literary fervour - https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogI ... 1#allposts.

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Wurzel
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Re: William

Postby Wurzel » Wed Sep 27, 2017 12:58 pm

Fantastic stuff William :D :mrgreen: :mrgreen: I've got some similar shots of Dusky Large Blues from a week in Czech, always on that red-purple grass :D Do the EIG offer bursaries to cash strapped mature ex-students? :wink:

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Goldie M
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Re: William

Postby Goldie M » Wed Sep 27, 2017 3:59 pm

Hi! William, I just love your shots, they're so different from the norm, much more natural looking, fantastic, Goldie :D

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bugboy
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Re: William

Postby bugboy » Wed Sep 27, 2017 7:03 pm

What a fabulous place to call work for a few weeks :D with some very evocative pictures to illustrate it :)
Some addictions are good for the soul!

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William
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Re: William

Postby William » Wed Sep 27, 2017 8:45 pm

Thanks chaps - it really was the trip of a lifetime! Wurzel - the grass is the Sanguisorba officinalis/Great Burnet, the larval foodplant, to which Dusky Large Blues are very attached (they rest on it, roost on it, nectar on it, and lay eggs on it), the only other plant I ever saw them perch on was Saw-wort.

Cheers,

Will


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