MikeOxon

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MikeOxon
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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Wed Oct 05, 2016 8:28 pm

Waterperry Gardens - 5th October 2016

I fear that this is a negative report, so far as butterflies are concerned. For several years, in early October, I have visited the magnificent herbaceous border at Waterperry Gardens, near Oxford, both for the display of late flowers and for their attendant butterflies - including, usually, Red Admiral, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, and others.

This year, the flowers were as magnificent as ever but, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, there was not a single butterfly to be seen.

Waterperry2016.jpg
Waterperry Gardens, Oxon - 5th October 2016

Mike

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby trevor » Thu Oct 06, 2016 9:03 am

HI Mike,
The Butterflies were all on the Sussex coast !.

All the best,
Trevor

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MikeOxon
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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Thu Oct 06, 2016 10:16 am

Thanks, Trevor - it's good to know that :)

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Goldie M
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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Goldie M » Sat Oct 08, 2016 1:43 pm

Still it's a great shot and a good day out for you Mike, Goldie :D

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MikeOxon
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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Sun Oct 09, 2016 9:40 am

Hi Goldie, the huge display of multi-coloured Asters is a womderful ate-summer treat and there are many other delightful parts of the garden. Just a pity that no butterflies were there to complete the pleasure.

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Tue Dec 20, 2016 3:18 pm

I wonder how many readers of this diary will be able to identify this one?:

NZ2.jpg
Arthur's Pass, NZ - 28th November 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 12-50mm macro lens - 1/800s@f/11 ISO 640

The reason for the longer than usual gap, following my previous diary entry, is that I have been travelling through New Zealand since early November. It is an extraordinarily beautiful country, with scenery ranging from active volcanoes, through geysers, glaciers, fiords, snow-capped 'Alps', a wonderful coastline and offshore islands, and many exceptional nature reserves. There are also unique flora and fauna, although both have been severely damaged, as a result of human intervention.

The indigenous butterfly list is short but includes 13 endemic species (unique to the islands) plus 5 other 'native' species. There are also a few other casual visitors from Australia, while the Australasian wanderer Hypolimnas bolina puts in an occasional appearance - known locally as the 'Blue Moon'.

My photo above is of a female Western Alpine Boulder copper (Lycaena caerulea), which I found in a Southern Alpine meadow at Arthur's Pass, inland from Christchurch, at around 750 m (2500 ft) altitude. My photo looks much brighter and more colourful than most illustrations that I have found on the web - quite a stunning little butterfly.

My visit was a wide-ranging general-interest trip from Auckland across both the main islands and down to Stewart island in the South - last stop before Antarctica - and my encounters with butterflies were somewhat few and far between. By far the most common sightings were of the Small White (Pieris rapae), introduced to help the early British settlers feel more at home.

NZ5.jpg
Te Wahipounamu, NZ - 4th December 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/2500s@f/11 ISO 640

The first butterfly I saw was on the island of Tiritiri Matangi, near Auckland, which is an offshore nature reserve that has been cleared of non-native introductions, including rats, stoats, and hedgehogs, which have destroyed most mainland populations of indigenous flightless and ground-nesting birds (there are no native mammals at all). My photo shows Rauparaha’s copper (Lycaena rauparaha) and this was the only butterfly that I saw on that day.

NZ1.jpg
Tiritiri Matangi, NZ - 10th November 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 40-150mm lens - 1/1000s@f/10 ISO 500

I encountered another Boulder copper on the South Island near Lake Wanaka - this time, a male, though in rather battered condition:

NZ3.jpg
Lake Wanaka, NZ - 3rd December 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 12-50mm macro lens - 1/500s@f/11 ISO 640

I saw a few larger species during my trip but none paused long enough for a photo. These included a couple of Monarchs (Danaus plexippus), seen in the Wellington Botanic Gardens, and a few 'Admirals' at various locations - probably Vanessa itea. As it was late Spring/early Summer, it was perhaps a little early for good numbers of these species.

Although butterflies are sparse, New Zealand does have around 1600 endemic moth species. I saw plenty of evidence of the burrows made in tree trunks by caterpillars of the endemic Puriri moth. I also photographed the striking endemic 'Magpie moth' (Nyctemera annulata) at Bluff on the southern tip of South island.

NZ6.jpg
Bluff, NZ - 7th December 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/800s@f/8 ISO 640

New Zealand has many invertebrates, including the huge Weta, which ranks amongst the world's largest insects - about the size of a mouse. Largely nocturnal, I was fortunate to encounter one on Tiritiri Matangi island:

NZ7.jpg
Tiritiri Matangi, NZ - 10th November 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 40-150mm lens - 1/500s@f/7.1 ISO 200

Finally, a photo of Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand and one of many stunning sights. I wish you a Happy Christmas and the hope for a good butterfly season in the New Year

Xmas2016.jpg

Mike

EDIT I have accepted Guy Padfield's suggestion (later in this thread) that my first photo is L.caerulea, formerly considered a sub-species of L.boldenarum. I am less sure about the second male copper photo since, although on the South Island, he colouring seems to correspond better with L.boldenarum on the few photos that I have seen on the web.
Last edited by MikeOxon on Tue Dec 20, 2016 11:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Catriona » Tue Dec 20, 2016 3:47 pm

Christmas greetings, Mike.

What fascinating photos, particularly the large Weta! Size of a mouse you say? Crumbs! :shock:

Iona

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Goldie M » Tue Dec 20, 2016 4:00 pm

Hi! Mike, I believe you were there when the Earth Quake happened !
Mount Cook looks stunning and the Insect enormous but I don't think I'd like to meet it :lol: Goldie :D

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Tue Dec 20, 2016 4:27 pm

Thank you for commenting, Iona and Goldie. Amazingly, New Zealand has no dangerous creatures - totally unlike Australia - and those Wetas are completely harmless, despite their size. Yes, I was there when the earthquake happened but, fortunately, still on the North Island. It did call for some replanning, however, as we drove South after crossing the Cook Strait. Driving in NZ is delightfully easy and, although we had been warned of heavier-than-usual traffic on the alternative route to Christchurch, that turned out to mean expecting to see another car every minute or so, instead of every quarter of an hour :)

Mike

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby David M » Tue Dec 20, 2016 5:23 pm

I really envy you, Mike. What a fantastic holiday. Although I know there are only two dozen-odd butterfly species in New Zealand, I'm surprised they are around in such small numbers given how green and temperate the country is.

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby bugboy » Tue Dec 20, 2016 5:39 pm

Great stuff Mike, I used to look after some Weta's at work many years ago!

I've been to NZ a couple of times but just short stays visiting friends so no real time to go proper butterfly hunting, the only native I saw was a Yellow Admiral. The Coppers (and also the endemic Ringlets) are interesting groups of butterflies and are I believe in a state of taxonomic flux. There may well be more species than currently accepted, the Coppers I believe are currently grouped in 2 species complexes and since much of the south island is still rather poorly explored there may well be more species awaiting discovery :). I'd love to go back some time and do some proper exploring :D
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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Tue Dec 20, 2016 5:44 pm

It was one of those now-or-never trips, as the ageing process creeps on, David!

The lack of much visible wildlife was quite a surprise. The unwise introduction of stoats to control the previously introduced rabbits, which had run amok, did huge damage. The stoats showed little interest in the rabbits, once they discovered a plethora of defenceless ground nesting and flightless birds. That doesn't explain everything, of course, and a lot of 'modern' creatures, such as mammals, simply never made it to the islands. It was strange, though, that there seemed to be no flocks of waders on coastal mudflats or water birds on inland lakes - everywhere was very quiet. An exception was Ulva Island, off Stewart Island, in the South, where a huge effort has been made to eliminate alien species. There, birdsong could be heard in the woods and flightless species, including Kiwis, are doing well.

Long geological isolation also means that most of the flora is unique. It feels like 'Jurassic Park', with forests of Tree Ferns and Podocarps, rising above a huge variety of Mosses and Ferns.

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Padfield » Tue Dec 20, 2016 7:19 pm

Hi MIke. Recent works distinguish between L. boldenarum, found on North Island, and L. caerulea, found on South Island. Caerulea is generally brighter than boldenarum: my book shows those lovely blue markings on the female. That might explain why yours is brighter than most pictures of boldenarum on the internet.

Guy
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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Tue Dec 20, 2016 10:48 pm

Thanks Guy. It looks as though I couldn't identify my first photo either :) I'll edit my post accordingly.

I was also fascinated to see the constellation Orion 'upside down' in the night sky, as well as several objects we never see in the Northern hemisphere - the Southern Cross, of course, and the two Magellanic Clouds, as well as our nearest-neighbour star Alpha Centauri plus several other very bright stars. I was surprised by the number of visible artificial satellites that were passing over, while I was watching the sky.

Mike

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Wurzel » Wed Dec 21, 2016 11:19 pm

Wow that sounds like an amazing trip Mike :shock: :D :mrgreen: I remember reading somewhere previously and then you reminded me about the low species count in New Zealand quite surprising is that down to the climate or species not making it there?. Although it seems what they lack in quantity they make up in quality :D

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Thu Dec 22, 2016 3:49 pm

Thank you Wurzel. I suspect there are various reasons behind the low species count of butterflies. The geological isolation is surely one of these, since there are few flowering plants, with much of the native vegetation being ferns, mosses and epiphytic plants. Where else could you find forests that look like this?:

FernForestNZ.jpg

Mike

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Tue Jan 17, 2017 3:50 pm

I'm still working through all my New Zealand photos and will be for some time yet! No more butterflies, I'm afraid - they really were thin on the ground - but I thought some forum members might enjoy this simple animation that I made from a few photos of a Kiwi feeding.

KiwiFeeding.gif
Otorohanga, NZ - 17th November 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 45mm lens - 1/50s@f/1.8 ISO 6400

The photos were taken in near-darkness, using a wide-aperture lens. I used manual exposure and focus (taking advantage of the electronic viewfinder of my Olympus, which acted as an image intensifier)

Mike

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Jack Harrison » Tue Jan 17, 2017 5:41 pm

I take it that Kiwi wasn't truly wild? I note the feeding bowl.

Jack

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby bugboy » Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:34 pm

NIce, looks like one of the Spotted species as opposed to one of the more familiar Brown species. :)
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MikeOxon
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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:11 pm

Thank you for commenting, Jack and Bugboy. Sadly, much of New Zealand's unique wildlife was destroyed by introduced alien species, such as stoats and hedgehogs. A number of predator-free reserves have been created, mostly on offshore islands, together with rehabilitations centres to provide safe havens for endangered species. My planned visit to Kapiti Island was, unfortunately, cancelled, as a result of the November earthquake, so I took my photos at one of the mainland rehabilitation centres. Species seen included both Large and Small Spotted Kiwis, and the Brown Kiwi.


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