Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Aristocratic Butterfly

The morning started with a cliff top ramble. A lot of Swallows were moving through and I thought it would be a good day to find a Red-rumped Swallow, and of course one turned up at Samphire Hoe later.

There were several Lesser Whitethroats singing near the Monument and on the Lees and as usual they were mostly hidden away in the bushes.

There are many species that I find difficult to get good pictures of, but the Lesser Whitethroat is really annoying. There are few birds that you can get as close too and it still sings loudly but remains mostly hidden from view. In the end I made do with a couple of pictures with buds and twigs in the way.

I seem to have the same trouble with Brimstone Butterflies! This one was in Denge Wood. I hadn't planned to go today, but a look at the weather forecast persuade me that if it wasn't today then it might be a few days before the weather was suitable again. I parked in Penny Pot Lane, (there must be a good story behind that name) and walked through to the Warren. I didn't know that I'd arrived at the Warren and I was desperately trying to remember where Bonsai Bank was (it's about eight years since my last visit) when I was lucky enough to bump into Bill Martin, doing a butterfly transect. He gave me directions and continued his transect while I spent some time watching a Garden Warbler that was vigorously singing it's rapid song. Nearby there was a singing Blackcap. I have always thought that the difficulty in separating these two songs has been greatly exaggerated over the years and listening to the entirely different styles of these two songsters re-enforced this feeling. The rapid notes of the Garden Warbler, rather like a jazz Clarinetist is quite different to the "Baker Street" like solo of the Blackcap.

Arriving at Bonsai Bank I met Bill again and we searched for the two Duke of Burgundy Butterflies that Roger Parker had told us he'd seen earlier. We had no luck for quite a while. The wood is beautiful, not a sound of a car and the air was ring with the sounds of spring, including several Willow Warblers, a song that is synonymous with the annual renewal of the seasons for me. Just for fun I took a few pictures with my new phone. I had to change phones because the last one kept loosing messages from Pete, when he's abroad. Since these are essential requests for various sports results, requested by his clients, it was imperative that I improved the service (or so he said!). I must say that the quality of the pictures was quite surprising.

While looking for the Dukes I came across a few Orchid spikes. Later when I met Jill Batchelor she told me that they were the emerging flowers of Lady Orchids.

Duke of Burgundy (hamearis lucina)

Finally Bill saw a Duke of Burgundy, it had been disturbed by a Peacock Butterfly flying past. The Duke of Burgundy is often called the Duke of Burgundy Fritillary, although in fact it belongs to a family Riodinidae that is much more closely related to the Blues (Lycaenidae). It is a large family, centred on tropical America with others in Asia and Africa, but the Duke of Burgundy is the only representative in Europe.

Unlike many butterflies it is quite confiding allowing close approach (see below). As so many butterflies seem to be very nervous when approached I normally use a telephoto lens and take the pictures from about 1.8 metres.

We only found three Dukes, all males. The males can be identified because they only have four normal legs, the forelegs being greatly reduced and used a claspers. The underwing is as striking and the upperwing. It is easy to see why it was once classified as a fritillary. The larval food plant here is primrose. The number of colonies of this endangered British Butterfly is greatly reduced, probably because the lake of management of coppiced woodland has reduced the available habitat.

As I said they are very confiding, here one is allowing close attention from Jill and Roger.

There were a few of these little moths around. It certainly belongs to the genus Pyrausta and I suspect that it is pupuralis, but I'm not completely sure. I'll update when I find out.

As I left I took the opportunity to sit and listen to a couple of Willow Warblers that were singing only about 30 yards apart.

This is a delightful species that unfortunately I've failed so far to find on any of my tetrads. It prefers woodland margins and heathlands and there not much of that sort of habitat around here.


Kingsdowner said...

Cracking shots of the Dukes Tony.

And I'll remember your description of the songs of Blackcaps and Garden Warblers.

Jill said...

Hi Tony, Great pictures especially of the willow warbler :o)I love visiting Denge woods especially Bonsai Bank, when I walked further along where a lot of the conifers have been cleared over the winter months there seem to be lots of Lady orchids emerging once more now that really is sight to see I'm sure I'll be back there again very soon. Take care now, Jill