Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Butterfly list - Keswick Island July 2017

 Dark Ciliate-blue
In reply to requests from readers of the previous post, here is the list of butterflies that I saw on Keswick Island in July 2017. There were probably a few if not several more that I did not identify or never saw. It truly is a great place for butterflies.

Large Grass-yellow

Green-spotted triangle Graphium agamemnon

Clearwing Swallowtail  Cressida cressida

Narrow-brand Grass-dart  Ocybadistes flavovttatus

Orange palm-dart  Cephrenes augiades

Lemon Migrant  Catopsilia pomona

Small Grass-yellow  Eurema smilax

Large Grass-yellow  Eurema hecabe

Cabbage White  Pieris rapae

Pearl-white (Glistening?) Elodina sp

Yellow Albatross  Appias paulina

Caper Gull  Cepora perimale

Blue Tiger  Tirumala hamata

Lesser Wanderer  Danaus petilia

Monarch  Danaus plexippus

Swamp Tiger  Danaus affinis

Swamp Tiger








 
Purple Crow  Euploea tuliolus

Common Crow  Euploea corinna

Glasswing  Acraea andromacha

Meadow Argus  Junonia villida

Varied Eggfly  Hypolimnas bolina

Orange Bush-brown  Mycalesis terminus

Orange Ringlet  Hypocysta adiante

Orange-streaked Ringlet  Hypocysta irius

Oak-blue (Purple?) Arhopala sp

Dark Ciliate-blue  Anthene seltuttus

Small Dusky-blue  Candalides erinus

Purple Line-blue  Prosota duboisa

Purple Cerulean Jamides phaseli

Long-tailed Pea-blue  Lampides boeticus

Common Grass-blue  Zizina otis


Orange-streaked Ringlet



Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Keswick Island butterflies

I am not long back from a week on Keswick Island, one of the Cumberland group of islands in the southern part of the Whitsunday archipelago, off Mackay, Queensland, Australia. Only a week, but it has taken me about the same time to identify the butterflies I saw there. They were so easy to see that I saw most in one day, every day. I am now confident of about twenty species, thanks to help in the identification by Suzi Bond. There were about another ten species that I saw but could not grab a photograph of, and it is winter, or rather the dry season there. Here are some of my pick-of shots.



Blue Tiger Tirumala hamata, these were the most abundant species, clusters of them were roosting under branches when I first went out for a walk in the evening after unpacking the bags. I had gone out to listen and spotlight for wildlife, and this was so unexpected. Next morning there were clouds of them fluttering in the forest rides.



Varied Eggfly Hypolimas bolina - male. These butterflies were also abundant, although never in clouds. They seemed to be slow starters in the morning, much easier to photograph than the tigers. They have a lovely velvet sheen on their wings.



Clearwing Swallowtail  Cressida cressida - male, probably the second most common species. Many were freshly emerged with clean edged wings and lustrous shine. The glasswing occurs because there are no coloured scales on the translucent parts of their wings.



Clearwing Swallowtail - female. This lady still has soft wings, which are bent on the fore edges. She was fluttering low from nectar-bearing flower to the next, keen for a feed, energy and agility. Her second life had begun. What a gorgeous face.



Varied Eggfly - female. Not all the butterflies were fresh, this one was old, as can be seen by her tattered wings, very tattered wings. As this was in mid-dry season, I wonder when she emerged.



Orange Palm Dart Cephrenes augiades. Not all butterflies are large and dramatic. This species was abundant and well worth a close look. Its wingspan is only 40 mm, and see how it holds its wings, the fore-wings are half-erect. Its body was covered with hair-type cells, so it would endure the cooler nights quite easily. The temperature dropped to only a few degrees on several nights during my stay.



Purple Cerulean Jamides phaseli. We can't see it when the wings are held closed, but when this one flies it flashes a delightful purple-gloss upper-wing. Again, a lovely face, with marvelous antennae.



Orange Ringlet Hypocysta adiante. One of the trickier species to photograph. I could not capture one with its wings spread. These lived along the rough roadside vegetation, basking on the path, grasses or as here on stones. Both this and the next shot show how well they are camouflaged and disappear from our relatively poor sight when they land.



Orange Ringlet. This one was siphoning water from a mud-puddle. A favourite drinking method by butterflies. Meanwhile it is safely concealed by its resemblance to the background leaf.



Orange Bush-brown Mycalesus terminus. It is there, it is the same specimen as in the next image, so use that as a guide to its whereabouts in this picture. So many butterflies are difficult to see when they land. We tend to have to flush them first by accident, then watch until they land again. I memorise the exact surroundings, mark the spot and creep up slowly for a close view.



Orange Bush-brown. Now, can you see it. The shadow of the grass across the wing hides it from this angle, matching the dark fore-edge to the wings.



Monarch Danaus plexippus. It goes dark early in the tropics and by late afternoon most of the butterflies were slowing down and settling to roost as it grew dark. Each species have there own roosting sites, and this Monarch was amongst the Blue Tigers, back in the first roost I discovered. Thirty species in one day, perhaps more. Not a bad winter count. What is it like in summer.

Monday, 24 July 2017




Simon's crowdfund appeal















































Today I went into the Pozible website to add a pledge to Simon Cherriman's crowdfunding appeal. Then I noticed he has used one of my images of him climbing up to an eagle eyrie in Western Australia. That was taken last year and it was a great day out with a great guy. Simon is such an enthusiastic worker, and he works hard at a hard task. He deserves all the help we can give him. His appeal is for five satellite tags which he hopes to attach to wedge-tailed eagles, then follow their movements across Australia. This is all part of his PhD project. Do have a look at his appeal by following the following link:

https://pozible.com/project/wheres-wailitj

Than have a look at his websites too, to see what results can be gained from his eagle studies:

http://wedge-tailedeagletracking.blogspot.com.au/ 

and what other conservation work he does:

http://simoncherriman.com/Simon_Cherriman/Home.html


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Pick of bird shots - Scotland 2017

I have returned from my trip to Scotland this year and catalogued the photographs I took. It is always good to look back through such images and reflect on just how successful a trip has been. Here I have posted ten of the bird shots that I like, for various reasons. The first, above, is of a kittiwake flying along a clifftop, with a pink bloom of out-of-focus thrift flower heads in the foreground.

Another kittiwake. I always enjoy a day, or more, at the sea cliffs watching the seabirds that breed there. Most kittiwakes nest on bare, weather-washed rock, but this one had settled on a bright yellow lichen-rich cliff, with a tuft of thrift below the nest.

A day of soft overcast sunshine gave good light for catching the detail in this fulmar's plumage, without washing out the white as happens under bright sunshine.

The soft tones of grey on this cock ptarmigan's back feathers illustrate how well their camouflage fits with the lichens on the adjacent rock. It is bird's profile that we see first, and only because I deliberately took the shot from a specific angle to emphasise the point.

The same ptarmigan's mate was sitting low next to rocks nearby, and again her colouring fits that of the lichens, but also the brown of the heath she was sitting on. This time I took the shot to conceal her profile.

I was studying greenshank in the northern Highlands and this one was feeding in a tidal creek on the sea shore, a few kilometres from its nesting grounds up on the nearby moors.

While watching, or rather listening, for grasshopper warblers near a reed bed a pair of bearded tits came close by. They just appeared then disappeared, such is their behaviour and the difficulty in seeing them in the tall dense reeds the live in. This is the female. I never did see any grasshopper warblers.

This is the male bearded tit. Both birds seemed to be deliberately sitting high on the reed stems to preen in the sunshine after a shower of rain.

This male reed bunting also came out and sat high in the reeds after the shower. Although he was there to sing over his territory.

Not far away, on another sunny day, this splendid male yellow bunting was singing from the lichen-covered roof of an old building. Blue and yellow always go well together.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Reflections of Norway 2017

Still waters are always good for catching reflected images and during my recent visit to Norway I took some shots of plants and birds mirrored in forest bog pools. This first photograph is of a mossy hummock in a bog pool. As spring was late the seed heads of the cotton grass are only just forming and not open in their typical white fluffy  form.

I saw several pairs of whooper swans, but none seemed to have bred this year. They usually lay their eggs early and the cold late spring must have put them off nesting this year.

Broad-billed sandpiper, the main species I was studying this year. These birds are very difficult to see in the bogs. They are the size of a large vole and run through the sedge like little mammals, preferring to hide within the vegetation than fly into the open. This one stands reflected in the water, so it is easier to see its reflection against the clear sky than the actual bird against the sedge.

In this shot of a wood sandpiper, it is possible to see the bird's feet under water. The shade of its body has cut out the glare of the light on the water surface, giving a true depth to the image.

My favourite picture is this one of the same wood sandpiper. The reflections of the twigs and spring leaves remind me of the 16-19th century Edo style of Japanese bird paintings, which portrayed the seasons so well.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Late spring in north Norway

The were persistent northerly winds blowing over the mountain forest bogs in northern Norway during April and May this year, holding back the thaw and spring growth. There was a week of warm dry weather early in June, which brought some life into the area, but the winds reverted to north and continued to hold things back. Consequently, the plants were late in coming into leaf, like the Mountain Birch Betula pubescens var. pumila above, insects were late to emerge and the numbers of breeding birds, which are mostly migrants in that area, were low.

Likewise, the Dwarf Birch Betula nana was only just opening its leaves and catkins in mid June. And spiders were spinning their first webs of the year.

Then when the sun came out one day in late June the flowers opened. White flowers of Cloudberry Rubus chamaemorus swept across the heath, and they held onto their delicate flowers for several days. In most years their petals fall quickly. Perhaps they are dropped after pollination, and as there were fewer insects about, that process was slow.

The main ground colour on the drier sandy ridges came from Blue Heath Phyllodoce caerula, which also was flowering all at once, creating a spectacular show.

Although the sun was shining, the air temperature was still cool, which was good for me as the mosquitoes were scarce and I could study the birds without their incessant attentions. Although, this meant that the butterflies were also slow to fly, like this newly emerged Arctic Fritillary Boloria chariclea which was basking in the sun to warm itself up. The caterpillars of this butterfly take two years to develop into adults.

Damselflies were very scarce. This recently emerged Northern Damselfly was one of very few that I saw until the end of June, when I left. As it was still in its teneral, not yet fully dried and adult-coloured stage, I was uncertain of its sex.

This White-face Darter Leucorhina dubia was very recently emerged. It was still perched on the stem of sedge it had climbed up from the water, where it had lived in the bog pool during its larvae stages - there can be up to fifteen such stages. The wings were still closed, slowly stretching out as they dried.

Other White-faced Darters were farther advanced, but still in their teneral form, the perfect clean edges of their wings and lustrous shine were very evident on this specimen.

Spring was very late.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Terns Fishing

Last weekend I went for a walk along the beach at the Ythan estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where there were a flock of common and arctic terns chasing after a shoal of tiny fish in a shallow bay. There were about forty terns in the flock and all were dipping and flitting in their determined efforts to capture fish to bring back to their chicks, which were in the ternery on the northern shore of the estuary, about a kilometre away.

I stood less than fifty metres away from the birds as their repeated diving drove the fish into shore.


All their eyes were focused n the fish, not me.

Not all dives were successful.

But every dive was spectacular.

The fish were several centimetres below the surface, so the birds had to partially submerge to catch them.

And breaking free from the water required strong wings.

Many of the birds were ringed, most probably by members of the local Grampian Ringing Group, with rings supplied by the British Trust for Ornithology. Ringing these birds helps to determine where they migrate to, what waters they fish in - need to fish in when on migration, and how long they live. All of which helps to assess the viability of the local breeding colony and the general conservation of the species.

Dashing, splashing, paddling.

Then one last push with their webbed feet and they had their reward.

Oh, what a feeling.

The fishing was good and there were well fed chicks that afternoon.