Friday 22 June 2012

High Brown and Dark Green Fritillary

With the forecast suggesting the possibility of actually seeing the sun briefly on Monday I joined Dave and Hazel on a trip up to the Exmoor area to look for High Brown Fritillary. The sun was only out intermittently for a couple of hours before thicker clouds inevitably rolled in. Predictably, we didn't see anywhere near as many butterflies as we did last year but we did see three or four High Browns and about half a dozen Dark Green Fritillaries. The butterflies weren't nectaring as much as last year either and so there were very few photo opportunities.

Dark Green Fritillaries. Male above and female below.

High Brown Fritillary on an unusual white flowered thistle.

We found this recently emerged male with a deformed wing. The wing clearly hadn't pumped up fully and was blackened around the base. The butterfly's thorax also had a blackened hairless area probably suggesting the pupa had been damaged by the damp. He also had unusual markings with very few brown 'eyes' on the under-wing and the diagnostic small third black dot on the upper-wing missing altogether.

He only has two small brown 'eyes' on the under-wing.

Here's his 'good side'.

 He could fly perfectly well and was only so 'well' behaved' because of the lack of sunshine.
He's probably one of the lucky ones I guess, even in this state at least he's made it to the adult stage. I suspect many pupa have succumbed to the poor weather.

Since Monday I've been mainly indoors looking out at the rain.  On one brief venture out I found a new moth for me (although I've seen the larvae and their incredible webs) The Spindle Ermine.

Today I took Rex out for a walk and to get a new header image for the blog. I got rained on....Will the summer ever get here? :-(

Friday 8 June 2012

Glanville Fritillary

Monday being the only day forecast to have a bit of sun for the foreseeable future saw me and Bun heading up to Sand Point in Somerset to see Glanville Fritillary. I saw them here in pretty awful conditions last year, mostly hunkered down in the vegetation, so it would be nice to see some actually on the wing. They had been on the wing the previous weekend but there were still good numbers around although most of them were past their prime. I hope they got all their mating and egg laying in during the brief  spell of clement weather on Monday because they are a short-lived species and the weather since then as been appalling.

The lovely habbo, which looks a lot nicer than it smells!
Ox-eye Daisies are called Dog Daisies on the continent, and for good reason because they don't half stink of dog poo!!

Glanville Fritillaries love 'em though!

This one is a male

The larger, paler, female.

Male and female

This lovely 'brand new' individual is an aberration, having reduced markings on the upper wings. There are several named aberrations in this species, I haven't been able to find out which this is though.

Common Gromwell. 
A new plant for me, again probably just overlooked it before. 

View to the west along Sand Point with the rare Cheddar Pink in the centre.
In the distance is the coastline of Wales and the island of Flat Holm

Cheddar Pink looking very different to last year when it flowered very early and was therefore standing alone. Here it is surrounded by other wild flowers and looking very pretty. It also smells exquisite! It's a tiny little olfactory oasis amid the sea of Dog poo daisies!

Cheddar Pink with Flat Holm in background.

There were lots of Bee Orchids in flower on the South facing slopes.
The little island in the distance in this photo is Steep Holm.

Saturday 2 June 2012

Heath Fritillary and Fly x Bee

I had a very good couple of days last weekend. On Friday I saw some lovely (if rather 'turbo-charged' in the hot sun) Heath Fritillaries at a Butterfly Conservation reserve in Devon and on Sunday morning a new orchid for me, not actually a named species but a very rare hybrid between Bee Orchid and Fly Orchid. I got up very early for this as it is on the side of the A303 (a very fast and busy road at the best of times) somewhere in Somerset. It is, as far as I'm aware, the only site that this hybrid grows in the UK. I left home at 5am and had seen it, lived to tell the tale, and arrived back by 8am. Stunning plants well worth the effort!

It's taken me until today to post my photos because I've had a very busy week after my car was broken into on Monday while I was checking on the Marsh Fritillaries. I still haven't fixed the door yet as I'm hoping a friend can do it this weekend. I'm quite eager to avoid taking it to the dealer where something tells me I'll get ripped off! That's all I need after being robbed once already! I've had to replace all my cards and driving licence as the **** stole my purse. It's probably in a ditch somewhere as they were obviously only after cash, because my scope was in the boot and they left it there, which was an immense relief!

The Marsh Fritillary situation isn't looking that good at the moment, as instead of numbers increasing they appear to have simply dispersed from the site and no more have emerged. I'm starting to think they may have been an unlicensed release. Time will tell though as I've not been able to check them since Tuesday because of the poor weather.

 Heath Fritillary

 A very obviously egg-laden female.

The only open winged shot that I managed. They were very active and when they did stop to rest or feed they did so with wings closed due to the high temperature. It allowed for some nice underside shots though...

 This male has only got three functioning wings. 
You can see the stunted one here. It just hasn't expanded at all. 
It didn't stop him flying though.

Two males vying for the attentions of a female.

 A nice plant growing on the site was this Bastard Balm

Fly x Bee Orchid

Parent one, Bee Orchid.

Parent two, Fly Orchid.

Fly x Bee Orchid
It's easy to see characteristic features of both parent plants.

Is it just me or does this flower look like an evil purple teddy bear with an elaborate horned helmet on? Yes, alright, it's just me...I'll go and take my medication now.....