Monday, September 17, 2018

People's Walk for Wildlife Sat 22nd Sept London

We, The People of Purple Persuasion, are gathering for the People's Walk for Wildlife at the WH Hudson Memorial (Rima carving) in Hyde Park (due west of the main event gathering point at Reformer's Tree) between10.15-10.45 next Saturday morning.  Nearest tube station is Lancaster Gate.  

Dress Code: Purple.

Condition: Sober (optional)

Contact Number: Matthew on 07771 971488.

Hudson was Purple. He saw iris in Newbuildings Woods, W Sussex, just north of Knepp, where I saw my first...

Sunday, September 2, 2018

News from Savernake

I am a little over half way through my annual standardised search for larvae in Savernake Forest, and have found 61. I should end up with a little over 100. This is the tenth (and perhaps final) year that I've done this. Most years I struggle to find around 25 but I've recorded three years of plenty: 2009, 2013 and, almost certainly, 2018.

However, I don't think 2018 will better 2009's or 2013's tally, for several reasons. 

First, and oddly, the sallows along Grand Avenue are unsuitable this year. This is because the FC resurfaced the Avenue in late winter, using limestone chippings which produce a whirlwind of white dust every time a vehicle speeds by (vehicles have the right to drive along Grand Avenue, and do so at great speed since the speed bumps were removed a few years ago. The dust storms must be visible from space.)  All foliage within at least 50m of the Avenue was covered in white dust during the dry July.  

Secondly, there's a lot of sallow mildew around this autumn. Larvae fail on it, like this (the remains of an L2 larva at the leaf tip) - 

Here's a close up of sallow mildew, which develops on overhung sallows. It comes off easily if you run your thumb over it - 

Larvae are bang on time, changing from L2 to L3 (an instar which lasts for 8 long months). Here's one from today, it's about to skin change -

Finally, I saw this in Savernake today - a fresh 2nd brood camilla

There could be a sizeable second brood of White Admirals this Sept in southern England... But rest assured, iris is not going to double brood. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Assorted Doings (in the UK)...

You may be relieved to read that iris is unlikely to produce a second brood here this year. The larvae I've been following at Knepp, some of which were in the 2nd instar before July 20th, haven't made much progress since then - in fact, they're still in the 2nd instar.  

Here's a 2nd instar larva, with a seriously good isthmus (either side of his feeding), and the old egg case base (laid, unusually, on the leaf tip) -

Knepp Wildland suffered badly from drought. No rain fell there between May 31st and July 28th, when the Heavens opened. The young sallow thickets shed leaves copiously, especially the sub-canopy sprays which iris favours at this time of year. The population must have taken a fair hit, but after a massive egg lay. This is what I'm panicking about - these sprays are crucial to young larvae -

Finally, spot the 'master tree'. The leeward side of this clump of ten or so Scots Pines, in a wood near Lewes, E Sussex, is used by males each afternoon. Up to five have been seen in the air at a time. The clump is on a high point in the middle of the wood, and is quite well sheltered from the west by tall hornbeans (out of picture) - 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Near-final Doings in the Pyrenees

What should prove to be my last iris of the year tried to push me off a pinnacle of rock with a 500m plunge below. I've sent for a platoon of Knepp Wildland males under Lt. Hulme to sort him out...  Here's the view from the pinnacle, just before the assault - 

And here's the thug in question -

My guess is that adults will be on the wing here (near Setcases & Lanllars in the Catalan Pyrenees) into early September, if anyone fancies taking over from me - I can't find where the males are assembling for serial violence, it's too steep... But at least I saw some good sallow searching today.  

I'm coming home tomorrow evening, Ryanair permitting, with the intention of working iris larvae until next June, and finishing my book on the Purple Emperor (Bloomsbury, 2020).  

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Apatura iris on Dead Cow

By popular request, the gross out photo - 

False Heath and Dark-green Fritillaries were also feeding on it

Doings in Pyrenees: Day 3

Failed to find where Purple Emperor males are assembling for territorial behaviour today. Probably went too high up (though one male has been recorded hill-topping, beating up Erebias, nearly 3000m up in Andorra) - that's way above the tree line. Today, we did see one male sallow searching in a steep stream combe at 1750m. 

Tomorrow, my last day, I'll look lower down, directly above the meadows where males and females are feeding on sap flowing from weevil-damaged Woolly Thistle heads.

It looks as though the weevil which damages the thistle heads is a thistle-feeder called Larinus turbinatus (Curculionidae). Some click beetles are probably also damaging the bud heads. 

Whatever, in one 1 ha meadow I counted 20 Emperors (16 males, 4 females), 14 Comma, 10 Red Admiral, 9 White Admirals, 8 Pearly Heath and a Camberwell Beauty feeding on these damaged heads, probing their tongues right in to the damaged cracks - plus a whole host of flies.  

I have been hugely impressed by Scarce Copper males on this trip. It's a feisty beast, capable of mixing it with the best. It would make an excellent addition to the UK fauna.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Doings in the Pyrenees: Day 2

The Woolly Thistle Show continues, with Emperors, Red Admirals, White Admirals, Commas, Camberwell Beauty, Large Tortoiseshell and Pearly Heath all feeding merrily on damaged parts of Woolly Thistle heads (there are no Speckled Woods here, or they would be at it too, I'm sure).  One four occasions now I have found male and female iris feeding together -

Older adults are not doing it - old males are batting around old buildings. Here's a fresh male, it could be on dog pooh -

And here's the weevil which is doing most of the damage -

I think it's called Larinus turbinatus, a thistle feeder.

And here's the riverine woodland habitat -

I saw some sallow searching going on this morning but couldn't find any territories. I think they're going seriously far up slope, but they seem very sedate - decidedly dopey. Tomorrow I am venturing Up Top.

Also today, I had my most disgusting experience with iris (at least since 1982 when we found two feeding on a dead deer in a slurry pit). This is on a dead cow - the smell wasn't too awful but the flies were. I'll spare you the worst photos -