Sunday, October 30, 2011

Autumnal Larvae

In the space of seven days most wild larvae have coloured up, with only two out of nine still looking green. This is unusually rapid progress. They have now suddenly caught up with their domesticated cousins.

Autumn larvae spend much time hiding in the rain drop that gathers on the downward-facing leaf tip. Today one suddenly crawled out from his rain drop, in steady drizzle, preceded to add a bit more silk to strengthen his seat leaf on to the twig, before returning back to his drip! Temperature at the time was 13C. I don't care what mistakes people make in life only please don't underestimate a caterpillar. Below are two wild larvae having a great time in rain drops.

My data suggests that autumn larval survival (on the leaf) may actually be higher in wet autumns and lower in dry autumns such as 2011.... This needs proper and careful analysis, not least because other factors may well be at play - notably annual tit breeding success and resultant predator population size. Whatever, late summer - autumn survival on leaves has been lower this year.... which doesn't auger well for 2012 adult numbers.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Savernake Forest

I had a fantastic day at Savernake Forest with Matthew Oates and Phil Corley last Sunday. Having searched for iris larvae at Oversley Wood in Warwickshire in Jan/Feb this year without success, i was very excited to see them for the first time and have the opportunity to learn as much as possible. The 5 larvae we saw were still lovely and green. The sallow leaves at Oversley are really starting to drop now and one tree i noticed on Thursday was almost completely bare. By comparison, the sallows at Savernake are still very full looking. Perhaps this is why none of the caterpillars have fully coloured up/in hibernation yet? One of the 'pillars we saw decided to go for walkies when we arrived and promptly shuffled along 3 or 4 branches before finding a new leaf a little higher up. I couldn't believe how fast it moved! I wasn't previously aware of how they spin their silk pads so seeing this little guys head waving around above us was really a sight to see. We also visited a couple of the congregation areas where the males' favourite trees/perches were easy to spot.

The photography side of the trip was challenging to say the least. The wind would not let up and the leaves were waving around like mad. Still, Phil and I managed to get some decent shots with his Canon MP-E 65mm lens. I thought a side on shot would be interesting (see below) as it shows the prominent black hairs and also the raised yellow area on the back. Does anyone know what this is called and its purpose?

A big thank you to Matthew for taking the time to show us these incredible little creatures. I think i now have the bug! Although the larvae appear to be very hard to find this year, im really hoping to put my new knowledge to use and have a proper iris search at Oversley Wood this winter. I may even take a pair of ladders with me like the professionals :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fab Photos

Fantastic photos of wild larvae taken on Sun Oct 23rd in Wilts by Phil Corley (2nd two) & Gill Thompson (top). Note the black hairs. Eat your heart out Neil Hulme....

Monday, October 24, 2011

Larval Progress

Great day yesterday in Savernake with Gillian Thompson and Phil Corley. I expected to see wild iris larvae in various colours, and perhaps find one hibernating, but five of the eight seen were still in full Lincoln green and the other three were only just starting to colour up. Odd.

Conversely, on 24/10/10 three out of 13 were fully coloured up and one was in hibernation, and on 23/10/09 five out of 14 were fully coloured, six were >50% coloured and one was in hibernation.

Maybe they are later this year because of the mild autumn? However, the seven captive larvae I have are far more advanced: one went into hibernation a week ago, five more are fully coloured up and the other is about 50% coloured up. This is the first time my captive larvae have not been fully synchronised with their wild Wiltshire cousins, and my breeding tree stays green till late.

Meanwhile, on Sat 22nd I saw my latest ever Green-veined White, at Magdalen Hill Down, Winchester. My previous record was one in Jane Austen's cottage garden at Chawton, Hants, during the incredibly mild and dry autumn of 1975, when Small and Large White, Small Copper and Wall Brown lingered into early November. Sorry Jane....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fermyn Wind Farm

Here's the protest group's link

This precious landscape needs our help, and the protest group needs funds. Anyone wishing to donate to the fighting fund should contact Peter Stephens on .

Many thanks...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Peace Breaks Out!

Remarkable photo of two iris larvae actually tolerating each other's presence. Make no mistake, these guys really hate each other. Larvae are normally as territorial as adult males, if not more so. The one on the right is colouring up for hibernation.

Next week: peace between Israel and Palestine... .

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fermyn Wind Farm

Just to say that I will be presenting evidence to a public inquiry into the Barnwell Manor Wind Farm proposal in mid November, on behalf of the National Trust which is part of a consortium objecting to the proposal.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fermyn Wind Farm

Images of protest balloon above Lady Wood Head, flying at the maximum height of the turbine blade - 415', indicating the extent of visual intrusion. The proposal is for at least 4 of these turbines in the arable field between Fermyn Wood and Lady Wood Head.

Meanwhile, the Forestry Commission has cut back overhanging sallows along Cherry Lap, the main (eastern) ride through Fermyn Wood, by flail-cutter. Also, I can report that Purple Emperor larvae are seriously hard to find in these woods this autumn, indicating a poor egg lay year here too...