I checked the hibernating iris larvae in / around Savernake Forest over the weekend, and the hibernating Brimstone.
Sadly, one larva has apparently been lost since I visited with John Woolmer in mid January, probably to bird predation. This was a light brown larva on a grey-green branch, the third larva down featured in John's recent eulogy. I was always worried about this larva as it stood out like a sore thumb.
It might, possibly, have moved as another on the same tree has moved 40cm since mid Jan, from a stem scar up to a leaf bud. However, if it has then it's travelled >3m, which is a mighty long way in mid winter. I have only recorded four larval movements in hibernation in four winters, from three larvae.
We are now entering the period of main predation.
The really good news is that my hibernating Brimstone is alive and well. She must have been buried in snow. She got knocked off the rush stem she was hanging on to, but has resettled into a beech leaf on the ground below. Most of the leaves of the minor bramble bush she was originally in have now been eaten by deer, and it's good to know that she hasn't been eaten. Incidentally, each time I have checked her she hasn't been comatose, but has been moving around a little (last Saturday, due to disturbance by the wind). It wasn't possible to obtain a reasonable photo as there was too much vegetation in the way.
The Edwardian poet-naturalist Edward Thomas (who visited Savernake with his wife Helen nearly 100 years ago) wrote: 'It is not yet spring. Spring is being dreamed, and the dream is more wonderful and more blessed than ever was spring. What the hour of waking will bring forth is not known. Catch at the dreams as they hover...' (The South Country, 1909). Those words could almost have been written with this Brimstone in mind.
Meanwhile, here's the latest picture of the most beautiful hibernating iris larva ever seen -