Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Butterfly break (with added moths)


I went on my annual hunt for Purple Emperor butterflies yesterday with the usual result: peeking from the top branches of oak trees in Bernwood Forest, they might have seen me. But I did not see them. As happened last time, a solitary White Admiral was the closest I got. At least it's a relation of theirs.


More on Bernwood in a minute, but the top picture shows a very interesting butterfly spectacle which came my way a day earlier when we took the grandchildren to a little sandy beach on our nearby river. It was Penny who spotted the Green-veined Whites in the picture and told our granddaughter: "Look! The butterflies are mud-pudding." Both sight and word went down well with her, as the word did with P when I brought it back from a work trip on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi 30-odd years ago.


My second two pictures show much larger numbers of more exotic butterflies mud-puddling on the River Toraut in the Dumoga Bone national park; apologies for the quality - they are iPad pictures of photos in an old album of mine. But I hope they give the idea. The butterflies are taking up water and mineral salts with their long probosces, both in the exotic East and here in cosy Oxfordshire.


Notoriously, the Purple Emperors of Bernwood (and elsewhere) apply a similar procedure to such delicious sources of 'nectar' and minerals as animal dung and fermenting fruit. Both are used by enthusiats (and in season, you will never be alone at Bernwood) to lure the majestic butterflies down to ground level to have their pictures taken. No luck for me, but I was more than happy with the beautiful, swooping Silver-washed Fritillaries shown above and below. Quite a few were carrying out their dramatic mating flight rituals which are very well described by the website Learn About Butterflies :

The courtship ritual of the Silver-washed Fritillary is one of the most endearing and familiar sights of the English summer. The female flies in a straight line along woodland tracks at a height of about 2 metres, and as she does so she emits an aphrodisiac scent from the tip of her abdomen. The male responds by following her closely, repeatedly looping under and over her, and showering her with pheromones released from the 4 black bars of androconial scales which run along the veins of his forewings. In many cases this tantalising display fails to entice the female into mating, but if she is receptive she leads the male to a clump of leaves high in an oak tree where copulation takes place. Periodically the pair fly down to settle on bracken or hazel, or to nectar at bramble, but return to the tree tops if disturbed. Copulation lasts about 2 hours and usually takes place in late morning.

Up in the trees , but not copulating
The same view from ground level, showing why Purple Emperor spotting can be a bit frustrating
Here are some more Bernwood insects - a Hedge Brown, a Large Skipper and a Six-spot Burnet moth.





Finally, more from my moth backlog with the usual appeal for help from passing experts. Thanks in anticipation.

Endotricha flammealis from the side

and from above

Heart and Club

Treble Lines and Herald

Um Update: My commentor helpfully suggests Chrystotechia culmella which has been here before and does indeed look the chap

Er Update: One of the Scoparia, suggests the same ace Commentor. I would go for S pyralella

Bramble-shoot moth and two friends

4 comments:

Ragged Robin said...

I can empathise with lack of Purple Emperor we were similarly unsuccessful at Oversley Wood, South Warwickshire. Well, just one possible sighting but I won't count unless 100% sure preferably with a photo! In fact, after 3 trips to this wood over last few years I am still to have a definite PE sighting!

It was very interesting to read about the Silver-Washed Fritillary mating flight - we saw lots of this species plus a few White Admirals and Purple Hairstreak flying round the oak canopy so it was still a lovely afternoon out!

Emperor Moths failed to emerge this year from my cocoons so have put them away in a cool place for another year.

Sorry I can't help with micro id (despite having the new micro book) I struggle immensely!

Helen Ackerman said...

could your 'er' be a Tabby? I thought a bee moth, but the Tabby on the same page of the field guide to micros P251 looks more like it to me. Sue.

Martin Wainwright said...

Hi both and many apols for the delay - grandparenting called. It's a shame the Purple Emperors are so coy. I had a lovely close encounter with one in France, though, so I am content with that. I don't really want to spend a sweltering day watching dog poo by a car park.

I have two Emperors which I hope are alseep still, rather than biding their time. Good luck with yours.

On the micro, many thanks for the Large Tabby thought. I'm inclined to think it's one of the Crambidae but I'm compiling a list of ones which baffle me (ie nearly all of them) to ask about on the Upper Thames Moths blog with its terrific corps of experts. All warm wishes, Martin

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin

I think um is Chrysoteuchia culmella err is one of the Scoparids and the two friends are a fly and one of the grass moths, but I cant tell which.