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Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Sat Jan 21, 2017 9:13 am
by Wurzel
Really interesting sequence Mike of a fascinating species :D : :mrgreen:

Have a goodun

Wurzel

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Sat Jan 21, 2017 5:25 pm
by MikeOxon
Glad you like it, Wurzel. I see Guy is off the mark already with QoS Frit. I suspect it will be some time yet before we see any butterfly action here. In the meantime, i keep ploughing through all my NZ photos :)

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Sun Jan 22, 2017 9:57 am
by Goldie M
Hi! Mike, it's been enjoyable looking at your posts especially the Kiwi, feeding :D I hope you've got a few more shots for us to enjoy :D Goldie :D

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Sun Jan 22, 2017 7:51 pm
by MikeOxon
Hi Goldie, thanks for looking in I'm still sorting through all my NZ pics and plan to put some pages on my website 'in due course' - whenever I get there :) I'll let you know.

Mike

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Sun Jan 22, 2017 8:14 pm
by Jack Harrison
Mike says he plans:[
to put some pages on my website 'in due course' - whenever I get there

Don't tell me about the time all that takes :( . I am currently struggling through thousands of photos of eg birds to select only the best and then get them uploaded. But there's always something new that just has to be included - like the Crested Tits imaged for the first time last week.

Jack

RHS Wisley - 28th February 2017

Posted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 8:41 pm
by MikeOxon
I decided to pre-empt the new butterfly season and also take the opportunity for some photo-practice, by visiting the 'Butterflies in the Glasshouse' event at RHS Wisley, yesterday (28th Feb.)

The day started bright and sunny but then clouded over, with some rain by mid-afternoon. Light-levels inside the glass house were not too good for most of the time, so I decided to use flash for most of my photos. Usually, I prefer to avoid flash, because the results can be very unnatural so, during this visit, I was experimenting, to try and optimise the results.

The conditions inside the glasshouse are very warm and humid, so I prefer to avoid changing lenses and, on this occasion, used my 40-150 mm zoom throughout, on my Olympus E-M1 camera. This camera does not have a pop-up flash but is supplied with a small clip-on unit, which is powered from the camera battery.

By working at distances of around 1 m or more from the subjects and setting the clip-on flash to under-expose by -0.7 EV, I managed to avoid the 'soot and whitewash' effect, often associated with flash at close range. I set a manual exposure of 1/125s @ f/10 and relied on the automatic flash control, to manage exposures. The advantage of the additional light from the flash was that I was able to use quite a small aperture, to increase the useful depth of field.

This year's event finishes this coming weekend (March 5th) and, already, the number of species still flying was fairly limited - good numbers of 'Owls', a few 'Morphos', and a sprinkling of smaller species. I was especially pleased to photograph a White Morpho (Morpho polyphemus), which I had not seen at Wisley before

Wisley_WhiteMorpho.jpg

The familiar Common Morpho (Morpho peleides) was also present, and my flash did a good job of bringing out the iridescent colour, when one opened its wings:

Wisley_CommonMorpho.jpg

The 'Owls' appeared to be the Forest Giant species (Caligo eurilochus) and I observed that two of these had chosen to roost inside a small 'cave', which formed the lobby to the lift. The flash was essential here! Other 'Owls' were making use of the feeding stations, where I took a close-up view of one feeding on Pomegranate

Wisley_Owls.jpg

Other large species included the Great Mormon (Papilio lowi) and the Malachite (Siproeta stelenes)

Wisley_Mormon_Malachite.jpg


I should mention that I have used Guy Padfield's guide to glasshouse butterflies, to aid my identifications.

Many of the smaller, colourful species were of South American origin, of which I show a selection below:

Wisley_Selection.jpg

It was a good visit, both to dispel Winter blues and to prepare for the new UK season.

Mike

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 10:29 pm
by Padfield
Glad my page has provided a few helpful hints, Mike!

I'm currently reading a new OUP book on the genus Heliconius. What an amazing genus - I don't think I'll ever look at them the same again. But also extremely difficult for a non-specialist to identify, with all the rampant mimicry and hybridisation, especially if you don't know where a particular individual comes from (as you never do in a glasshouse).

Guy

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 11:13 pm
by MikeOxon
Thanks for commenting, Guy. The book you mention looks very interesting, especially as it uses the genus to explore many underlying issues in evolution, such as mimicry. I shall add it to my reading list.

Mike

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Thu Mar 02, 2017 8:20 pm
by Wurzel
Great set of glasshouse shots Mike :D I've yet to see a White Morpho what a cracking looking specimen :D Some of the Heliconius are a right nightmare to ID due to the mimicry rings :roll:

Have a goodun

Wurzel

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Thu Mar 02, 2017 10:37 pm
by David M
A butterfly house 'fix' is irresistible, isn't it? With any luck, we'll all be able to enjoy our own indigenous species very soon....roll on!

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Fri Mar 03, 2017 10:55 am
by MikeOxon
Pleased you like them, Wurzel. The White Morpho was flying when I arrived, like a white ghost, but then settled for the rest of the time I was there. I didn't even attempt to identify the Heliconids.

The 'fix' is even better when it's wet and cold outside, David :)

Dry Sandford Pit - 13th March 2017

Posted: Mon Mar 13, 2017 7:20 pm
by MikeOxon
At last, a beautiful sunny, Spring-like day and a couple of Brimstones flitting through my garden (without stopping to pose for photos). I decided that it was time for a look at my local reserve - Dry Sandford Pit, which is part of the Cothill reserves complex.

A clump of Snowdrops greeted me by the gate and, once inside the reserve, I went to look at the large area of Primroses, just East of the gate. It's a good spot for Brimstones but there was none there, yet.

DrySandford2017-1.jpg
Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon - 13th March 2017
Olympus E-M1 with 12-50mm lens (21 mm) - 1/800s@f/11 ISO640

The path continues to the quarry-face, above the central fen, and there I soon spotted my first Comma. As I approached to take a photo, it flew up, not disturbed by me but by another Comma that had entered its air-space. An upward-spiralling tussle followed, before they each returned to their favoured spots, one on the ground close to me and the other to a perch on the vertical cliff-face.

DrySandford2017-3.jpg
Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon - 13th March 2017
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens (400 mm) - 1/800s@f/11 ISO640

Another sally to chase an intruder was much shorter and I realised that, this time, the other butterfly was a Peacock. This specimen had extra small blue spots inside the main 'eyes' on the hind wings, a variation that I have not noticed before.

DrySandford2017-4.jpg
Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon - 13th March 2017
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens (195 mm) - 1/640s@f/9 ISO640

I continued my walk around the reserve and witnessed similar encounters at various different locations but only these two species seemed to be on the wing. There were some large banks of Violets, which may augur well for other butterflies, later in the year.

DrySandford2017-2.jpg
Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon - 13th March 2017
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens (236 mm) - 1/800s@f/8 ISO640


Mike

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Mon Mar 13, 2017 11:27 pm
by Wurzel
Great shot of the Peacock Mike - I can see the extra eyes that you mention :D :mrgreen: I saw my first today but it didn't stop for any photos :(
Have a goodun

Wurzel

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:12 pm
by David M
Glad to see you too getting in on the act, Mike. That's a striking patch of violets...must keep my eyes out for these next time I get out.

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:22 pm
by MikeOxon
Thanks for looking in, Wurzel and David The extra blue spots on the Peacock are rather small and best seen by clicking on the image, to enlarge.

The Violets are very profuse this year, with both white and violet forms present , some in large 'drifts'. Some have even 'volunteered' in corners of our garden. Let's hope it'll lead to a good year for Fritillaries.

Dry Sandford Pit - 26th March 2017

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:38 pm
by MikeOxon
I made my third visit this year to Dry Sandford Pit reserve, Cothill, on Sunday. Although the breeze could be heard in the branches of the trees overhead, it was still and very warm, at the foot of the old quarry face, and my visit turned into an excellent butterfly-watching experience. Another sign of Spring was the persistent calling of Chiffchaffs from vantage points high in the trees.

My first surprise was to spot a rather small male Orange Tip, patrolling the length of the quarry face. I think it was the earliest date that I have seen an OT at this site. Occasionally, he paused to rest or to nectar on the Violets, which are abundant this year:

DryS_OT.jpg
Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon - 26th March 2017
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/5000s@f/7.1 ISO 640

The Peacocks and Commas that I had seen on earlier visits were also present but I did not spot any Small Tortoiseshells. I took an unusual view of a Peacock, which shows both the cryptic underside markings together with light shining through from the upperside markings.

DryS_Peacock.jpg
Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon - 26th March 2017
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/640s@f/9 ISO 640

By far the major interest during my visit was provided by male Brimstones, which were enjoying the large area of Primroses near the entrance to the reserve.

DryS_2Brim.jpg
Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon - 26th March 2017
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/2000s@f/8 ISO 640

I decided to watch these in some detail, as they flitted from flower to flower seeking nectar. The rest of this entry takes the form of a ‘photographic essay’, covering my study of their behaviour. Most of the photos were taken using the high-speed frame-rate of my Olympus E-M1 camera and I’ve provided more photographic details at the end of this entry, for those who may be interested.

These butterflies have an unusually long proboscis, which enables them to penetrate deep into the tube of the primrose flower in order to find nectar. The amazing versatility of this proboscis is illustrated in the following sequence of photos, taken as individuals approached the flowers, unfurling their probosces in flight. Please click on each group of photos to see the details more clearly.

DryS_BrimCurlTrio.jpg

When the butterfly lands on a flower, the proboscis is extended fully and inserted past the ‘Style’ at the mouth of the tube. A detailed description of the structure of the Primrose flower can be found on the Devon Biodiversity Action Plan website.

My next photo sequence shows a Brimstone visiting a pin-eyed flower, where the proboscis has to be pushed past the pinhead shaped Stigma as the butterflies reaches down deep into the flower, to find nectar:

DryS_BrimProbeTrio.jpg

When the proboscis is withdrawn, pollen grains from the Anthers, placed half way down the flower tube, adhere part-way down the proboscis, as shown in the following photo. From here they are readily transferred to other flowers, especially those of the ‘thrum’ variety.

DryS_BrimPollen.jpg
Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon - 26th March 2017
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/4000s@f/8 ISO 640

I also took a close-up view of a butterfly's head, where the proboscis can be see disappearing deep into the flower:

DryS_BrimHead.jpg
Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon - 26th March 2017
Olympus E-M1 with 100-400mm lens - 1/2000s@f/8 ISO 640

Some of my high-speed photo sequences captured the moments when the Brimstones showed their elusive upper surfaces, as they approached flowers, as seen in the following pair of photos (click to enlarge):

DryS_BrimProbeDuo.jpg

The economy of movement as these butterflies moved rapidly from flower to flower within a single cluster was remarkable to observe Sometimes only a single wing beat was sufficient to propel them between flowers and, even at 10 frames per second, only five frames (0.5 sec) covered the transitions between flowers, as seen in the following animation:

Brimstone_anim1.gif
Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon - 26th March 2017
GIF animation from 5 photos

I hope that others will enjoy these sequences, which illustrate the relationship between the butterfly and the flower, by which the pollinator receives its ‘reward’ in the form of nectar.

My final group shows the last sequence that I took, as the Butterfly disappears out of the frame.

DryS_BrimTrio.jpg


What a great start for me to the new season :D

Technical Information

All my photos were taken using my Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera, fitted with a Leica 100-400 mm lens.

This lens provides an angle of view equivalent to that obtained by an 800 mm lens on a 35 mm camera. It also offers a close-focus capability to within 1.3m, where it delivers almost macro capability, coupled with a long stand-off distance. This is extremely useful when photographing nervous subjects, such as Spring-time butterflies.

In order to capture the high-speed sequences shown in this post, I made use of the electronic (silent) shutter in the camera, which provides a shooting rate of 10 frames per second. I also set continuous focus-tracking (C-AF), which uses the on-sensor phase-detection system, to adjust focus to follow a fast-moving subject. When shooting in RAW mode, the buffer holds around 40 images before the shooting rate slows down.

I prefer to use RAW + JPEG mode in the camera since, although the Olympus usually provides excellent JPEG results, the RAW image can be useful for ‘difficult’ subjects, in which I include pale-coloured butterflies in bright sunlight. Most of the photos I show in this post were taken directly from the JPEG results but, in a few cases, I processed a RAW image, where there were extremes of contrast, to be controlled in post-processing.

To ensure a reasonable depth of field, I used Aperture-priority mode, setting the aperture to f/8, which still allowed a shutter speed of around 1/2,000s in bright sunlight, at ISO 640.

I was pleasantly surprised by the success rate the camera achieved, in what was for me an experimental photographic trip. After using my Olympus camera in a wide range of conditions, I have become increasingly confident in its ability to produce good results under difficult conditions, from tropical rainforest to winter birding trips.

Mike

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:51 pm
by Pauline
Great photography Mike and incredibly interesting observations - really enjoyed reading.

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 3:34 pm
by Art Frames
Mike

Nice shots and glad to find another enthusiastic Olympus user. I am considering the 100-400 lens myself. I am using the 40-150 2.8 with teleconverter and that is a brilliant combination but I do like what results I have seen from the Leica lens. I shall look back further in your diary for more pictures. Lovely to see an Orange Tip so early.

best wishes

Peter

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 5:26 pm
by bugboy
Fascinating stuff Mike. It's a regular thing for me now to pay attention to the springtime Brimstones and try and get some open wing shots. It helps they flap their wings relatively slowly. I know what you mean about their flexible tongues as well, I like watching them on dandelions where without moving anything other than the tongue they are able to probe every individual flower on the head :)

Re: MikeOxon

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 5:47 pm
by Jack Harrison
March Orange Tip! When I was young, a sighting before end of April was something special.

Jack