Natural history adventures sailing the culinary seas...

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Lovely Lepidopterans

Perhaps only the first of many butterfly encounters this summer, a perfectly glorious day was spent Swallowtail hunting by a trio of intrepid ecologists in the notorious wilds, or well kept paths if you will, of Strumpshaw Fen in early May. A visit to reacquaint myself with the joys of East Anglia coincided with the early emergence of these languidly flapping giants of the broads. We watched one particularly vigorous specimen patrol a territory that included a Blackthorn (I think) dripping with blossom, chasing off any butterfly that dared to linger near its flower laden branches. There may even have been an attempt to lure said butterfly closer to us by a camouflage worthy of an undercover birder. Strangely enough the strategy of holding out a branch and 'thinking like a tree' did not seem to convince the remarkably perceptive individuals we encountered. We must have seen over ten Swallowtails in our wanderings that afternoon, and perseverance paid off as we watched and stalked those that obligingly settled on perches.

Swallowtail - Papilo machaon
Favourite perch!
Gazing up at the tails.

Other pleasures of that day included booming bitterns, a distant cuckoo, a terribly noisy wasp and a 2D chick, confidently proclaimed to be a robin by DN the dead bird detective.

My last couple of weeks in Yorkshire brought few moths to the trap, with the occasional bright spot, the quiffed Spectacle (Abrostola tripartita) and lurid but handsome Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor) greeting me on separate occasions. The robust acorn like body of the Cockchafer beetle (Melolontha melolontha) also proved a lethargic visitor, but eventually fanned out its antenna beautifully before being deposited back into the rockery to go about its business.

Ooh, gaudy green and pink hawk.
Beady eye.
Furry back.
Seven leaf antenna mean its a boy.
The summer of butterflies continues, as tomorrow I start as Volunteer Ranger for the Large Blue butterfly at Collard Hill in Somerset. Part of my duties includes writing a daily update on the Large Blue Blog, where details of the first 'big blue' sighting and all the excitement of the flight season will be posted. If it whets your appetite for the delights of Maculinea arion come and visit the hill please! My goodbye to 'Needles and Pin ups', the pub knitting group I wander along to of a Wednesday evening, combined a vaguely accurate depiction of my future weeks with cookie cutters. And lo, the eco-geekiest biscuits I've made thus far were created...

Large and common blues, and grubs!

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