Friday, 27 February 2015

More Very Special Little Gems.

On the Isle of Wight we can look forward to our own very special butterfly again this season when the Glanville Fritillary emerges at the end of April or early May.
The female butterfly will lay up to 200 eggs on the host food plant,Ribwort Plantain.Following the fourth moult or instar the larvae build a web in order to hibernate over the winter.After the sixth and final moult the caterpillars will disperse from their protective web and pupate

When disturbed or in inclement weather the larvae will retreat back into the undergrowth  behind their web and form into a protective ball.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A Little Gem.

A butterfly found mainly in the southern half of the UK but sadly not on the Isle of Wight is the Silver-studded Blue.The New Forest in particular is an excellent place to see this species, with 'explosions' occurring in some years on the Forest heathlands when thousands can be seen.Sightings of this 'blue' on the Island are rare,the last is a very dubious report of an individual in 2011.Not since the 1940's has the Silver-studded Blue colonised the Island.
 The following photographs were taken on a very dismal,grey,and wet July day in the New Forest when the butterflies were keeping deep down in the heather.As with most of the 'blues'the female is not blue like the male,but rather a chocolate brown.The silvery blue 'studs' are visible on the underside of the female in the second picture.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Roll on the Summer.

Spring is not too far away now and it will be hotly followed (hopefully) by early summer.Like me, a butterfly that enjoys the sun and warmth is the rather unimaginatively named Spotted Fritillary,Melitaea didyma.It can be common in Southern Europe and I have come across this handsome butterfly on the Greek Island of Lefkada where I have seen it in dry hillside meadows.The male has a bright orange- red upperside with black spots,hence its name, whereas the female is marked  much more extensively with black.The undersides of both sexes are similar


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Will They Be Back in 2015?

The recent history of the Large Tortoiseshell on the Isle of Wight is one of several sightings of individuals scattered around the Island mainly during the summer months.This has been interpreted as migrants from the continent and that is probably a correct assumption.However in 2009 at Woodhouse Copse no less than five were reported on the 19th March.All it seems were along a single woodland ride in what was then a well managed copse.Where did all these originate from?who can tell, although the time of year would indicate they had just emerged from hibernation.
The following year it seemed that this would be 'a one off' for the copse as none were seen there and sightings in general were again restricted to the odd one or two about the Island.But in 2011 the Large Tortoiseshell was back at Woodhouse with three seen on the 7th March,another two on the 22nd March,and seven more sightings of 'ones' until the 8th April.
When it seemed that the copse could be the next 'stronghold' of this iconic species,2012 proved to be a disappointment as Woodhouse Copse was sold,woodland management was abandoned, and human disturbance put an end to the chance of further sightings.As far as I am aware no sightings of the butterfly have been made there since.
Still,there are other woodlands,and at Newtown the National Trust maintain several copse,one of which is Walters Copse.This is very well managed and without a doubt my favourite haunt for all sorts of wildlife.
So it was here on 27th March 2012 that a Large Tortoiseshell was spotted taking moisture from a damp area of ground in a clearing.It was a female in excellent condition and recently out of hibernation after maybe spending the winter in or around the copse.Over the next few days many butterfly watchers visited the copse and two further sightings were made of different individuals.

Hopes were now high for a repeat performance at Walters Copse in 2013 but due to the very cold weather that lasted  into March the spring was put on hold for a while.Finally, in April it warmed up and on the 19th a rather tatty male was seen in Walters.This male proved to be very accommodating and stayed on its territory for several days allowing all to get a good view.In fact it was not the only Large Tortoiseshell in the immediate area as others were also recorded in.the copse and in the surrounding meadows.

In contrast to the previous two years,the spring of 2014 did not produce any probable sightings at Walters Copse,so we can only hope that this year the Large Tortoiseshell will return to grace our Island woodlands.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Recalling Januarys' Painted Ladies.

Now that January is almost here again and perhaps the worst of our winter weather is yet to come I remember the month of January 2013 when summer and winter arrived.
The first day of the year produced the first butterfly of the year with a Painted Lady at Wheelers Bay, at Ventnor. The mild weather then continued and on one of a few spring-like days during that first two weeks of the month we were treated to at least three Painted Ladies at the bay. At this time of course,flowering plants are at a premium but the slopes of cliffs at the bay are covered in Winter Heliotrope and it is in flower.This was obviously a welcome food source to these butterflies and they spent a lot of time and energy nectaring on these plants.
But the balmy weather was not to last as within the next few days the winter blast arrived and cold snowy conditions prevailed. I hope that they had the sense to head south after stocking up on the Heliotrope at the bay.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The African Queen.

More commonly known as the Plain Tiger but also has the title of African Queen or African Monarch, as well as several others perhaps.
It is a beautiful butterfly with the male smaller than the female but more brightly coloured. Apart from size and colour intensity the male can be distinguished by the presence of a black scent producing pouch located on the lower- centre of the hind wing.On the underside this feature appears as a black patch with a white centre.This can be noticed in two of the following photographs
I have as yet only had the pleasure of seeing the Plain Tiger(Danaus chrysippus) in Egypt which seems to be very apt as this species was the first ever butterfly recorded in art, on  a three thousand five hundred year old Egyptian fresco in Luxor..
This species can however be found in certain areas around the Mediterranean including Greece as well as Africa and right across Asia where it is very common.
In fact at least one has turned up on the Isle of Wight as the individual pictured in the last photo was snapped by a visitor to the Newtown Nature Reserve in 2011.(Thanks to Andy Butler for providing the photo.)

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Thinking of Next Year.

Now that the winter is fast approaching my thoughts turn to next year and what I can look forward to seeing.Of course the first possible treat would be to see the return to our local woodland rides of the Large Tortoiseshell from early March onwards depending on the kindness of the weather.
If I am fortunate enough to visit the Greek Islands in May the wonderful sight of the Cleopatra awaits.This butterfly of the Mediterranean resembles the Brimstone in general shape and pattern but is larger in size.
Above all, the males have an extensive orange flush across the fore-wings that can be seen when in flight.This dazzling butterfly hibernates over the winter and appears again in the spring just as the first flowers are coming into bloom.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Missed Mega Highlite of 2014.

The UK has its own sub-species of Swallowtail Butterfly,Papilio machaon britannicus, which is only found in the fen land of Norflok So when news got around that a European Swallowtail had emerged in a garden at Ventnor it was a must to go and have a look.
Sighting reports of this continental cousin of our British Swallowtail are received on a regular basis in  Southern England but a local emergence is almost unique.
This magnificent butterfly was noticed clinging to a flower pot by the house owner and as it had a deformed wing it was not expected to travel very far,if at all. By the time I reached its last known resting place which turned out to be an area of very overgrown former allotments the butterfly had moved from its spot within the last hour.I am very disappointed to say that despite an extensive search of the immediate vicinity I was unable to locate it.
Still,although I was unable to see this beauty I am glad to say that Andy Butler did and it is with his kind permission that I am able to use his excellent photographs on my blog.(Taken early July 2014)

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Best Bits of 2014.

Unlike 2012 and 2013 which were highlighted by sightings of the Large Tortoiseshell at Walters Copse,Newtown, this year the butterfly was not to be seen despite a good search in the spring.We can just hope that next season it will excite us with it's presence.
At the end of May I took a trip to Hod Hill in Dorset to get my first look at the Marsh Fritillary. This lovely butterfly is no longer resident on the Isle of Wight and I was not disappointed when at last I came across several individuals sheltering away in a grassy old hill fort moat from the inclement weather that day.
Another excellent highlight was a second brood of White Admirals in Walters Copse in September.This species had done well here in the summer but to see three pristine White Admirals  so late in the season was a treat.
Perhaps the highlight of 2014 though,had to be recording the first Glanville Fritillaries on the wing in the UK.As usual they appeared at Wheelers Bay,Bonchurch in April.This site is always the first site to produce this unique butterfly and is followed throughout May by other Island colonies on our south west coastal cliffs.
The Glanville pictured below is from Wheelers Bay,photographed on the 30th April and it can be classed as a variant partly due to it's rather dark hind wing colouring.