MikeOxon

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Wurzel
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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Wurzel » Mon Aug 29, 2016 10:26 pm

I keep coming back to that Small Tortoiseshell Mike - it's a beauty - I keep having to do a double take to make sure it's definitely a Small Tortoiseshell and not one of it's rarer cousins :shock: :D :mrgreen:

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Mon Aug 29, 2016 10:51 pm

Wurzel wrote:......I keep having to do a double take to make sure it's definitely a Small Tortoiseshell and not one of it's rarer cousins...


Thoughts like that flashed through my mind, too, for a few moments - especially when my wife commented that it looked rather large.

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Wed Aug 31, 2016 9:30 pm

Warburg Reserve, Bix - 30th August 2016

A short, late-afternoon visit to the Warburg Reserve at Bix, near Henley, found it very quiet, even though it was a warm sunny day.

I had hoped I might find a Clouded Yellow, since this area has proved attractive to them in previous years, but no luck this time.

While walking along the main ride, I spotted a juvenile Spotted Flycatcher make a dash at a white butterfly. It successfully carried it back to its branch but then managed to let it escape from its beak, when the butterfly continued as though nothing had happened. Presumably, such encounters are the cause behind many torn wings.

A patch of Marjoram provided an attractive feeding station. Some of the small butterflies that I initially thought were Brown Argus turned out to be Common Blues. A comparison between one of these small males and a 'regular' Common Blue is shown in the following pair of photos:

Bix_CBcomparison.jpg
BBOWT Bix, Oxon - 30th August 2016
Olympus E-M1 with Leica 100-400mm lens - 1/1250@f/11 ISO 640

Then, amongst the blues, I spotted a bright Small Copper:

Bix_SmCopper.jpg
BBOWT Bix, Oxon - 30th August 2016
Olympus E-M1 with Leica 100-400mm lens - 1/1000@f/11 ISO 640

At the end of the ride, the path descends through woodland, where Speckled Woods were vying for sun-spots.

Returning towards the car-park, along the lower former rifle range, I also found a few Small Heaths.

Bix_SmHeath.jpg
BBOWT Bix, Oxon - 30th August 2016
Olympus E-M1 with Leica 100-400mm lens - 1/800@f/10 ISO 640

A large Buddleia bush near the Visitor Centre attracted both a Small Tortoiseshell and a Red Admiral but they both seemed intent on feeding from the opposite side of the shrub from my camera!

Mike

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Goldie M » Thu Sep 01, 2016 3:55 pm

Great shots Mike and the fact you keep seeing Small Tort's is fantastic , they really are rare these days up here.

I was interested in the photo you took of the other Tortoiseshell on catching up on your posts, it did look like a Large Tort I checked my book and it looks Identical to one except the Large Tort in my book had no White at all, great find though Mike. :D Goldie :D

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Jack Harrison » Thu Sep 01, 2016 4:21 pm

Goldie M says that
[Small Tortoiseshells] really are rare these days up her
Not quite sure where you are Goldie.

Small Tortoiseshells have been truly abundant here near the coast of the Moray Firth although I suspect that many have already entered hibernation (several attempts to come indoors for example). Equally, Peacocks have been numerous. It is possible that Small Torts don’t altogether enjoy the heat these days in the south and are much happier here. August mean daily maximum 19C, mean daily sunshine just shy of 6 hours. August really was a glorious month.

I liked that aberrant Tortoiseshell Mike. Never seen one like that.

Jack

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Thu Sep 01, 2016 5:22 pm

Hi Goldie, I think you will find that the pattern of black spots is different on a Large Tortoiseshell and the ground colour is browner.

If Small Tortoiseshell's are rare where you are, Goldie, I think it must be a Lancashire 'thing', since they seem reasonably plentiful here, although not as abundant as in some years. They had a 'dip' around the Millennium but seem to have recovered fairly well, since.

Good to know they are abundant near you, Jack.

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby David M » Thu Sep 01, 2016 9:18 pm

Ditto.

There's no shortage of Torties in south Wales. In fact, we could send a few up north if you so wished!

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Jack Harrison » Fri Sep 02, 2016 7:24 am

David...we could send a few up north if you so wished!
Lancashire is down south from here. It's a bit like those road signs you see on the motorways in the far north of England - signs still saying "North" always amuse me.

Jack

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Goldie M » Fri Sep 02, 2016 6:03 pm

Hi! Mike, usually there are loads of Small Tortoiseshell' s at this time of year in my Garden in( Westhoughton Lanc's ) that's where here is jack :lol:
That's what I and my friends can't understand, I was taking shot's of them from July through to October last year , not just the odd one or two like I've done this year but loads, so far this year I've seen none since the 30th of July that's why I'm concerned, any way they've forecast nice weather from Tuesday onwards so who knows the warmth might bring them out again. Goldie :D

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Sun Sep 04, 2016 11:00 pm

National Botanic Garden of Wales - 3rd September 2016

A visit to the National Botanic Garden of Wales was not planned as a butterfly trip but was primarily to attend the Orchid Festival. In previous years, I have photographed butterflies that were taking advantage of the many flowering plants in the garden. There seemed to be little chance during this visit, however, in the face of weather that can only be described as wet, windy, and generally horrid! Indeed, all along the M4, signs warned of the poor driving conditions.

It turned out, however, that I had not done my homework and that there is currently a very good butterfly exhibition in progress in the tropical house - Plas Pilipala. Since the first butterflies only arrived in June of this year, the progress that has been achieved by the team is remarkable.

WalesGlasshouse.jpg
Plas Pilipala, Wales - 3rd September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 9-18mm lens - 1/320s@f/9 ISO 800

During my visit, I was very impressed by the care with which the team has prepared and is maintaining the environment for the butterflies. Although there were artificial feeding stations, most of the butterflies were feeding naturally from the great variety of flowers in the glasshouse. Such has been the success of the venture, so far, that many of the butterflies now flying are the result of eggs laid by the first arrivals. With help from the staff, I was able to find all the life stages, as shown below:

WalesLifeStages.jpg
Plas Pilipala, Wales - 3rd September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 12-50mm lens - with flash

A wide range of species from both the New and Old Worlds could be seen. Although I did not have any of my 'specialist' lenses with me, I was able to take many photos, using my 'general purpose' 12-50mm lens, which also has good macro capability. The light levels inside the glasshouse were quite low, as a result of the dreadful weather conditions outside, so I had to use flash for most of my photos - limited to a simple on-camera flashgun.

PlasPilipala2016a.jpg
Plas Pilipala, Wales - 3rd September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 12-50mm lens - with flash

The breeding cages were well stocked and, helpfully, the various species were labelled, although staff were on hand, ready to provide further information.

WalesBreedingCage.jpg
Plas Pilipala, Wales - 3rd September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 12-50mm lens - with flash

One of my favourite shots from this visit was of these Heliconids feeding on Buddleia flowers:

WalesHeliconids.jpg
Plas Pilipala, Wales - 3rd September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 12-50mm lens - with flash

Apparently, the exhibition is being extended until December, so there is still plenty of opportunity for butterfliers to get their 'fix', as the British outdoor season draws to a close. The National Botanic Garden of Wales is easy to find - simply follow the M4 to its Western end and then continue on the A48 for a further 10 miles or so, turning off at the brown sign.

Mike

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:41 pm

Aston Rowant NNR - 14th September 2016

Although it was a very warm and sunny afternoon on Bald Hill, at the western end of the Aston Rowant NNR, there was no doubting that the butterfly season is nearing its end. Flowers on the slope were rather few and far between, with most having set seed or produced brightly coloured fruits, such as these Black Bryony stems. Do not be tempted by them, since they are extremely poisonous, as are all parts of this plant.

AR_BlackBryony.jpg
Aston Rowant NNR - 14th September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with Leica 100-400mm lens - 1/640s@f/6.3 ISO640

A few Scabious flowers were still to be found, as well as Harebells and Eyebright, low in the grass. Their locations seemed to be well-known to the local insects and I watched both bees and butterflies travelling unerringly from one flower head to the next. Butterflies were limited to Meadow Browns and some rather aged-looking Common Blues. I was, of course, keeping a look-out for a possible Clouded Yellow, but without success. One small, yellowish butterfly had me confused for a few moments, until I realised it was a Small Heath. I am often taken by surprise by these lively little butterflies, as they can look quite different in different lights – sometimes rather dull but, when flying in bright sunlight, looking golden yellow.

AR_MeadowBrown.jpg
Aston Rowant NNR - 14th September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with Leica 100-400mm lens - 1/800s@f/9 ISO640

AR_SmallHeath.jpg
Aston Rowant NNR - 14th September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with Leica 100-400mm lens - 1/800s@f/10 ISO640

I have mentioned before how I feel that historians of the future may get a curious impression of the relative abundance of British butterfly species, if they base their judgement on the number of photos taken. This year, I have seen 37 species (photographed 35) and the numbers of photos I have kept of each species are shown in the following table:

Buts2016.jpg
(click on table to enlarge)

The numbers of photos relate far more to my personal interest and opportunities, than to natural abundance of butterfly species! For example, all 51 photos of Purple Emperor relate to a single individual male, who provided me with an entire repertoire of views, without my having to venture beyond the Bernwood Car-park!

On the other hand, Whites, both Large and Small, have been abundant in my garden throughout the summer but, somehow, I never get round to pointing a camera towards them.

Some low numbers, such as Essex Skipper, merely reflect the effort needed to get into a position from where positive identification can be made. Others, like Clouded Yellow, are just plain difficult to capture on camera, as they zip around a meadow without pausing.

Of course there's still the chance for Clouded Yellow photos – some of my favourite shots were taken in October 2014. The season may not be over yet :)

Mike

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Wurzel » Sat Sep 17, 2016 6:19 pm

Cracking Meadow Brown Mike :D Often underrated they really come into their own at the tail end of the season when there isn't much else around. I know what you mean about the mismatch between actual numbers seen and number of photos taken as this year I seem to have only really concentrated on one particular species on a lot of my trips :oops: Oh well hopefully the disparity will be offset by written records.

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Sat Sep 17, 2016 8:33 pm

You've been busy posting this evening, Wurzel! Thanks for your comment. It seemed a little sad to be sitting on a warm sunny slope but seeing so few butterflies still active. They can't keep going, of course, if there are no flowers to provide nectar. They are lucky to have other life stages to take them through the coming Winter :)

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby David M » Sun Sep 18, 2016 7:59 pm

I missed you by a day at the Botanic Gardens, Mike! Yes, the butterfly house is doing well, but it's still a work in progress and there's no guarantee of it continuing long term.

I hope to get down there again next weekend and will provide an update. Even without the tropical species, there should still be a fair number of endemics flying around the copious blooms which abound here.

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Fri Sep 23, 2016 11:28 am

Autumnal Otmoor - 22nd September 2016

Another visit to Otmoor found it in autumnal mood, although very warm under brilliant sunshine.

Red Admirals were out in force, enjoying the profusion of blackberries along the edges of the rides:

Otmoor_RA2016-1.jpg
Otmoor, Oxon - 22nd September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/800s@f/9 ISO640

Several Commas were also making the most of this late-season bounty:

Otmoor_Comma2016-2.jpg
Otmoor, Oxon - 22nd September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/800s@f/8 ISO640

One Red Admiral took advantage of the 'forbidding gate', which leads out onto the open moor (if you have courage to pass all the warning notices) as a convenient perch on which to soak up warmth from the sun.

Otmoor_RA2016-2.jpg
Otmoor, Oxon - 22nd September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/1250s@f/11 ISO640

From the gate, a path runs along the edge of the RSPB reserve under the eaves of the woodland canopy. A Comma was back-lit by the sun, against the dark backdrop of the trees (is it about to walk the tight-rope?):

Otmoor_Comma2016-1.jpg
Otmoor, Oxon - 22nd September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/500s@f/8 ISO640

Several Green-veined Whites were also actively flitting from one flower head to the next but I managed to catch one pausing to bask for a short while. This photo needed -1.3EV exposure bias to keep detail in the wings:

Otmoor_GvW2016.jpg
Otmoor, Oxon - 22nd September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/2500s@f/11 ISO640

There was plenty of other activity on the moor, with several raptors in flight, including Kestrel, Hobby, Buzzard, Red Kite, and Marsh Harrier. I was watching a Grass Snake, swimming along one of the ditches, when there was a sudden flash of electric blue and a Kingfisher sped past, to land on a reed nearby, from where it proceeded to catch fish. Although it was a delight to watch, it was very tricky to photograph, through all the intervening reeds, but I did manage to capture one memory of its vibrant colour:

Otmoor_Kingfisher.jpg
Otmoor, Oxon - 22nd September 2016
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/500s@f/6.3 ISO640



Mike

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Wurzel » Fri Sep 23, 2016 9:34 pm

Great shots Mike as always :D That Red Admiral on the gate really stands out :D Interesting to read about you seeing a Marsh Harrier, when I was birding when I was younger they were a rarity which you had to travel to Norfolk to see, so it's not all bad news :)

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby Goldie M » Fri Sep 23, 2016 10:09 pm

Mike, the King Fisher is still a great shot, they're so hard to photograph, I've got a photo some where of one I took at Mere Sands years ago, I've not seen once since :( Goldie :D

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Sat Sep 24, 2016 1:12 pm

Many thanks for commenting Wurzel and Goldie - your feedback helps to keep me going :)

I am pleased that my Olympus captured the red of the Admiral so well - other cameras I've used have tended to make them look too orange. Yes, the development of Otmoor as an RSPB reserve has brought several reedland specialists back to Oxon. As well as Marsh Harriers, Bitterns are also 'regulars', and a pair of Cranes found their way here from Slimbridge. Of smaller birds, Bearded Tits are seen occasionally, although I've not been lucky yet. It does demonstrate that, if you can get the habitat right, the appropriate birds will move in :)

Even though the Kingfisher is not a great portrait, I do like the shot, Goldie, because it conveys how it felt at the time - glimpses of that wonderful blue amongst the reeds. Keep looking - these gorgeous birds are commoner than many people think.

Mike

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby millerd » Sat Sep 24, 2016 7:33 pm

That Red Admiral really is red, Mike. As you say it is really difficult to capture the shade they appear in life, and the contrast with the black. You seem to have succeeded! :) It's a great shot. I also rather like the semi-backlit Comma.

Dave

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Re: MikeOxon

Postby MikeOxon » Sat Sep 24, 2016 10:20 pm

Thank you, Dave. That RA was perched on a very bright galvanised bar, which probably helped, by preventing over-exposure of the butterfly. I find the over-exposure indication in the electronic viewfinder of my Olympus is very helpful for shots like this one and the back-lit Comma.


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