Thursday, 20 July 2017

In Love With iris

When watching butterflies, some lepidopterists have their personal favourites; the one they impatiently await the emergence of every year. For many, that butterfly is the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris).
 I confess that I much prefer to watch the understated elegance of a White Admiral (Limenitis camilla) as it glides and flits around the treetops with a ghostlike nebulous quality and I also delight in watching the pugnacious antics of the Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia quercus) as males battle with each other around the oak canopy during the early evening.
In reality however, we love them all and there is no denying that the brash and showy Purple Emperor (A.iris) is indeed a magnificent beastie and one that I had not caught up with for several years. On an early morning start during the last week of June, Bob Eade and I met up with Mark Colvin for a walk around the woods of his local patch on the West Sussex and Surrey borders. We were in for a treat.
Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) (female)

Purple Emperor (A.iris) (male)

Purple Emperor (A.iris) (female) (imbibing moisture on the bank of a woodland stream)


Friday, 14 July 2017

All Puffed Up

Walking through the woods earlier this week I came across a male Common Toad (Bufo bufo) heading towards me on a narrow pathway. We both stopped for a face-off as he adopted his typical defence posture by puffing up his body and standing up on his front legs. I knew what was required of me and I stepped aside to let him pass. Outside of the breeding season, the Common Toad is very much a terrestrial creature.
Common Toad (Bufo bufo) (male in defence posture)
The Peacock (Inachis io) is one of the first butterflies of the year to be seen, as they awake from their winter hibernation. The progeny of that earlier generation are now emerging and they will not breed until next spring after they too have gone through hibernation.
Peacock (Inachis io)

The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) is also undergoing a fresh emergence. They are probably the progeny of migrants that arrived in May but they could also be part of a new immigration from the near continent.
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui

During an evening walk, I observed several Purple Hairstreaks (Quercusia quercus) nectaring on developing acorns. Here, a female is sharing her feast with a species of Acorn Weevil.
Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia quercus) (female nectaring at acorn)

The Gatekeeper (Pyronia thithonus) is also emerging in healthy numbers. This is a species that displays very variable spot configurations on its wings but occasionally more unusual aberrations are seen. Bob and I came across a male tithonus (ab.obscurior) on our regular Wednesday walk this week. 
Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) (male)

Gatekeeper (P.tithonus) (male, ab.obscurior)