dilettante

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dilettante
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dilettante

Postby dilettante » Sun May 15, 2011 4:33 pm

Introducing myself

I thought I'd start one of these diary pages.

Inspired over the winter by Patrick Barkham's "The Butterfly Isles" and David Newland's "Discover Butterflies in Britain", I told myself I'd make more of an effort to get to see different butterflies this year. The good weather has helped get that off to a great start, and I've already seen many species that I hadn't seen for a number of years.

I enjoy photography, so try to capture the butterflies I see on film (well, on sensor). I've not been sure which forum is best for posting pictures (is it Photography, or Sightings?), so having this diary page will allow me to post the pictures here.

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dilettante
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Re: dilettante

Postby dilettante » Sun May 15, 2011 4:43 pm

Sat 14th May 2011

Decided to look around my local patch of scrub, as I thought there would be common blues there, and hadn't seen many of them so far this year. Saw a female blue almost as soon as I arrived, then lots more that I weren't sure whether they were CBs or Brown Argus. A few posed cooperatively for the camera. Bright blue males confirmed the presence of CB at least, but I was not completely confident in declaring BAs too. A subsequent post in the Identification forum confirmed they were indeed Brown Argus. Not much else to be seen: one GVWhite, a couple of Speckled Woods, and a Red Admiral.

Brown Argus male
Image

Common Blue female...
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...and male
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We (my kids and I) then took ourselves to a chalk pit in the next village, but it had turned grey and windy by then, so nothing to be seen except one Small Heath which flew briefly, then skulked in the grass:

Image
Last edited by dilettante on Sun May 15, 2011 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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dilettante
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Re: dilettante

Postby dilettante » Sun May 15, 2011 4:55 pm

Sunday 15th May 2011

The weather forecast promised sunnny intervals, so I decided to drive to Totternhoe Knolls near Dunstable to look for Small Blues. I'd seen our largest butterfly (Swallowtail) last weekend, so now it was time for the smallest. When I arrived the weather was grey and windy, some spots of rain, so my chances of seeing anything flying looked remote. I soon encountered a large group of people, one of whom said they had seen two SBs roosting in the grass by the main path. I had a look were they'd been but failed to find anything, but felt encouraged to know the SBs were at least around somewhere. A couple of hours wandering around the reserve yielded no butterflies at all apart from a solitary Common Blue flying past. I decided to head back to the path where I knew the SBs had been seen to give it a longer look. I saw one more CB on the way back (roosting), and eventually found a Small Blue roosting in the grass by the path. I'd forgotten how tiny they are - no wonder I missed it first time, and it was easy to mistake for a petal at first glance.

At this point I regretted not bringing a tripod. There was not a lot of light around, and the SB wasn't going anywhere, so I would have had plenty of time to compose a shot. I did the best I could manage handheld, resting the camera on my camera bag. I used a flash, which never gives very natural looking shots, but it's better than shaky blurry ones.

I think this one's a female (?)
Image

Heading back to the car, I spotted one more. A male this time, I think:
Image

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Re: dilettante

Postby Pete Eeles » Sun May 15, 2011 7:03 pm

There's nowt wrong with those shots! In terms of sex, one differentiation (depending on the species) is that the male abdomen is longer, whereas the female abdomen is shorter (since it is full of eggs and therefore shaped more like a rugby ball). In which case, I'd concur that the first shot is probably female and the second male.

However, you'd probably have seen other clues as to the sex while on site. Small Blue females are quite sedentary, while the males are certainly more active. And the upperside is a dead giveaway - with the male exhibiting a very dark blue, whereas the female is more brown.

Cheers,

- Pete

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dilettante
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Re: dilettante

Postby dilettante » Sun May 15, 2011 7:25 pm

Thanks Pete

However, you'd probably have seen other clues as to the sex while on site. Small Blue females are quite sedentary, while the males are certainly more active. And the upperside is a dead giveaway


Neither of these was at all active nor showed any sign of wanting to show me their uppersides.

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Re: dilettante

Postby alex mclennan » Tue May 17, 2011 7:01 pm

Anyone visiting Totternhoe Knolls to see small blues should walk to the left of the main path underneath the white 'cliff face' where there is a new wire fence. This is the 'traditional' site and when I visited last week, small blues were plentiful along the fence line as were dingy skippers.
Alex

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dilettante

Postby dilettante » Tue May 24, 2011 6:09 pm

Tuesday 24th May 2011

Today I went to Hockley Woods in Essex in search of the Heath Fritillary. The Cambs & Essec BC site said that 10 had been seen on Saturday, so I figured I should be able to find them and it would be worth the 60 mile trip. When I arrived, I realised Hockley Woods is huge, and I didn't really know where to look. I shouldn't have worried though, because I saw a HF after about 10 mins, on one of the main paths alongside a sunny coppiced area with plenty of cow-wheat. That was soon folllowed by a second, so I spent the rest of my three hour stay in that patch. The HFs were plentiful. Not swarming (as Patrick Barkham (The Butterfly Isles) describes them in Blean Woods in 2009), but I didn't have to look hard to spot them.

This was my first encounter with HFs (in this country at least) and what a delight they are. Graceful flight, and frequent settlers to enable a close view and photographs. I found they tended to settle with open wings at first, then slowly closed them over about 5 seconds, so getting a 'full ups' shot with wings flat was seemingly impossible.

Here are some of my many photos from the day. None is perfect, but a good catch for me. Please correct me if my captions (sexes) are wrong. Other comments also welcome:

#1 Male
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#2 Male [corrected since first posting]
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#3 Mating pair #1
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#4 Mating pair #2
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#5 Switching from a 180mm to a 24mm lens. Man, you have to get close with this thing! I was almost touching the butterflies with the front of the lens
Image
Last edited by dilettante on Tue May 24, 2011 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: dilettante

Postby millerd » Tue May 24, 2011 6:37 pm

I think the second one is male as well. In my experience the female has a shorter, plumper and more pointed abdomen (almost shaped like a wasp's) whereas the male has a straight cylinder. The difference is especially marked when the females are burdened with eggs. In addition (again in my limited experience) the males tend to be uniform in colour, whereas in females there may be several subtly different orange shades.

A couple of examples from 2nd June last year (same location), both female. The first shows the colour subtleties better, the second the shape of the abdomen.

Dave
Attachments
HF resized.jpg
HF resized2.jpg

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dilettante
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Re: dilettante

Postby dilettante » Tue May 24, 2011 6:54 pm

millerd wrote:I think the second one is male as well.


Yes, I think you're right. I definitely saw some that were more obviously female. I'll have to see if I have a photo. Thanks for the correction.

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Re: dilettante

Postby dilettante » Tue May 24, 2011 7:22 pm

This one's a female:

Image

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Re: dilettante

Postby dilettante » Wed May 25, 2011 3:54 pm

Wednesday 25th May 2011

Made a brief stop at the local patch of scrub where there had been lots of CBs and brown argus on the 14th, and now there were none to be seen. I was hoping for a Small Copper, which I still haven't seen this year, but to no avail. I did see my first Large Skipper for the year though - a very fresh looking one. I wished I had my camera. Also a Small Heath, which I didn't know could be found there, and a couple of Small Whites busy making more Small Whites.

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Re: dilettante

Postby dilettante » Sat Jun 04, 2011 5:38 pm

Friday 3rd June 2011

I spent the week in Wales, on the Pembrokeshire / Ceridigion border, for a family holiday. I made three trips to Rhos Pil Bach looking for Marsh Fritllaries, only finding a few on the last attempt when the weather was reasonably still, warm and sunny. These specimens looked pretty worn, so I guess I was a bit late in the season:

#1 Marsh Fritillary male
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#2 Marsh Fritillary female
Image

Also saw a ton of Small Heaths on the Preseli Hills, but nothing else particularly remarkable. Plenty of Speckled Woods, Small, Green-veined and Large Whites, a few Common Blues, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Red Admiral, Large Skipper, and a late Holly Blue.

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dilettante

Postby dilettante » Sun Jun 05, 2011 2:39 pm

Sunday 5th June 2011

Encouraged by Jack Harrison's sightings of Black Hairstreaks, and some helpful and detailed info from him via PM (thanks, Jack!), I decided to head to Monk's Wood. It's only about 45mins from me, but for some reason I've never been before. The weather was windy and grey, but quite warm with some sun promised, so I thought it would be worth a try.

As we entered the woods, I was pleased to see so many Speckled Woods and Large Skippers. I don't think I've ever seen so many SWs in one place. Some were even forced to share a leaf :-)

#1 Speckled Wood pair
Image

#2 Large Skipper
Image

After photographing the SWs, I went to head off to the Black Hairstreak hot-spot that Jack had pointed me to, but then spotted this which had been right next to me all along, at around knee height and not going anywhere:

#3 Black Hairstreak from the right...
Image

#4 ...and the left
Image

What luck! One of those heart-stopping moments, and my first ever confirmed BH.

Eventually I moved on, and saw several (8, I think) more at various blackthorn bushes along the paths, but none came close enough to be photographed. Seeing them fly around the tops of bushes makes it clear why they're called Black Hairstreaks - they do appear almost black, and quite hard to track with the eyes when they go in front of shadowy woodland. Apart from that, it was just one Red Admiral, and a load more SWs and Large Skippers, but an excellent trip overall.

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dilettante

Postby dilettante » Sat Jun 11, 2011 5:16 pm

Saturday 11th June 2011

Having seen my first Meadow Browns earlier in the week, I realised I didn't actually have any decent photos of these common, and let's face it rather dull, butterflies. So I decided to pay a visit to Royston (Therfield) Heath to rectify that. I was also hoping, with little expectation, to see a Marbled White.

MBs were plentiful, but frustratingly hard to photograph. They seem very observant and easily spooked: when they flew they were carried by the wind, and when they landed it was usually deep in long grass. In the end the only place I could successfully photograph them was on a patch of cow parsley in a wooded area, and even here I didn't manage many good shots:

#1 Meadow Brown
Image

In our 90 minutes there we (my son and I) saw a few Common Blues, a very small Brown Argus (it looked almost Small Blue size to me), some Speckled Woods and Large Skippers. Getting hungry for lunch we headed back to the car, about 50m from which we saw a lovely fresh Marbled White. So of course I then had to chase it around mercilessly to catch some photos:

#2 Marbled White
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#3 Marbled White (up close with a 24mm lens)
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#4 ...and the other side
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On the non-butterfly side, I was also very pleased to see a Red Kite. This site is about 10 miles from my home, so nice to know they're in the area.

#5 Red Kite (~1:1 crop, so lots of sharpening artefacts)
Image

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Re: dilettante

Postby Susie » Sat Jun 11, 2011 9:13 pm

I do like your meadow brown photograph. They are tricky to get a shot of and you've done it very well. :D

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Re: dilettante

Postby Gruditch » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:37 am

Agreed, tis an attractive image. :D

Regards Gruditch

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Re: dilettante

Postby Jack Harrison » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:45 am

Meadow Browns need a lot really hard work to photograph in sunny weather. Cloudy bright days offer far easier opportunities.

I had heard a rumour that Red Kites are breeding at Therfield so you have been able to offer at least some degree of confirmation.

Jack

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Re: dilettante

Postby dilettante » Sun Jun 19, 2011 9:46 am

Saturday 18th June 2011

With the forecast predicting heavy showers and wind, i wasn't going to bother butterflying today. But when it had been bright all morning, I made a late decision to go to Broxbourne Wood to look for White Admirals. I drove through some heavy rain but by the time I got there the sun was shining, and the trees reduced the worst of the wind. Despite that, I didn't see any WAs, which was disappointing. The highlight was a couple of fresh-looking Commas, and a similarly perfect Small Tortoiseshell. Lots of MBs, but surprisingly no Ringlets that I noticed. Several Speckled Woods, one Common Blue, lots of Large Skippers, and a GVWhite complete the not very exciting tally.

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Re: dilettante

Postby dilettante » Sun Jun 26, 2011 9:14 pm

Saturday 25th June 2011

I was down in Hampshire for a family event, but had a couple of hours to spare on Saturday morning, so my brother, my son and I went to join the ever-affable Matthew Oates at Broxhead Common to see the the Silver-studded blues. Despite the weather there were a good many to be seen, some looking a bit tatty, and some fresh. The gloomy skies and windy conditions weren't ideal for photography, but I managed a few. As noted in the SSB topic thread, I didn't see many with obvious studs.

#1 (Not-)Silver-Studded Blue
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#2 Head down on the heather
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#3 Rather foolishly sitting on a big spider web
Image

There were also a couple of fresh second gen small coppers:

#4 Small copper female
Image

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Re: dilettante

Postby Lee Hurrell » Mon Jun 27, 2011 12:24 pm

That shot of the SSB on the spider's web looks rather like he's sitting on a map of the cosmos where the lights have gone out.... Still splendid though.

Cheers

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


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