Monday, 24 May 2010

DRAGONFLY: Four-spotted Chaser at Foulshaw, Cumbria

May 23, 2010:
The period of good weather which benefited the butterflies also brought out the dragonflies. At Foulshaw on the main pool, dozens of Four-spotted Chasers were flying but were reluctant to settle or perch. Further on by the path near the platform there are some large stagnant puddles. Again the Chasers were frequent here, the males often conveniently settled on the surrounding vegetation and claiming territory and driving off intruders. At one large puddle a female repeatedly dipped down, its abdomen touching the water surface as it its layed eggs into the shallows.

Four-spotted Chaser

Also present here was the Azure Damselfly with its bright electric blue body. These were present in hundreds.

Azure Damselfly

The Large Red Damselfly was less frequent. It can easily be distinguished from its relative the Small Red by its black legs.

Large Red Damselfly

BUTTERFLY: Spring butterflies in the Lancashire/Cumbria border area

May 20-23, 2010:
The extremely hot sunny weather over these few days provided an opportunity to see some of the interesting butterflies which fly at this time of year. Whitbarrow (south Cumbria) and Gaitbarrows NNR (north Lancashire) are both excellent sites for butterflies as well as much else. At each, there are good colonies of the nationally-scarce Duke of Burgundy Fritillary whose habitat is woodland glades and open scrub with an abundance of its larval food plant, Cowslip (Primula veris). A rather small neatly-marked butterfly, it flies from mid-May into June.

Duke of Burgundy Fritillary

Also at these sites, the Pearl-bordered Fritillary can be found, another species under threat which has seriously declined in recent years. Again, woodland glades are favoured where there are violets (Viola spp.), its food plant. This butterfly is in flight a few weeks earlier than the commoner, less threatened, but closely-related Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary: (the characteristic spotting on the underside of the wing distinguishes it from its relative, the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary).

At Gaitbarrows on the barer, stony areas, the Dingy Skipper was active and very restless but rarely perched for long and so made photography difficult. Its food plant, Bird's foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) didn't appear to hold its interest on this occasion.

Dingy Skipper

At Foulshaw (south Cumbria), Orange Tips and Speckled Woods were flying but a small colony of Green Hairstreaks which favoured a small patch of Garlick Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) was of particular interest. This is the only British butterfly with green-pigmented scales. Often found in scrub, it has a wide range of food plants.

Green Hairstreak

Nearby, a brightly coloured, newly emerged Small Copper was flying. Species of Rumex (Sorrel) are its foodplant.

Small Copper

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

DRAGONFLY: Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing) at Asprokremnos, Cyprus

May 6, 2010:
In early evening after a very hot day Violet Dropwings began to emerge in large numbers from vegetation at the margins of the pool and perched conveniently for a while giving good views. This is a dragonfly of North African origin which is now quite widespread in the Mediterranean region. The male's abdomen possesses a beautiful violet-mauve overtone (basically red with a pruinose blue overlay) whilst the female's is brownish.



Monday, 17 May 2010

BUTTERFLY: Lulworth Skipper (Thymelicus acteon), Nata, Cyprus

May 6, 2010:
The water-splash at Nata is a well-known spot for migrant birds which come down to drink there. On this occasion there was no bird of note but several butterflies were seen along the track-side including Swallowtails, Clouded Yellows and this single Lulworth Skipper perching in typical Skipper fashion with its wings partly open.

In Britain, the Lulworth Skipper only occurs in south Dorset at more or less the northern limit of its European range. Further south it is much more common and it extends southwards through the Mediterranean into north Africa. The larvae feed on various species of grass.

(Above) a rather faded Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea) photographed at Asprokremnos on the same day.

BUTTERFLY: Hermit (Chazara briseis), Avagas, Cyprus

May 7, 2010;
The Hermit ranges from southern Europe to north Africa. In the northern part of its range it is apparently becoming scarce but is widespread and common in the south. It is a rather large butterfly having a wingspan of up to 60mm. When at rest it behaves in a similar manner to the Grayling (Hipparchia semele) angling its wings in line with the sun so that very little shadow is cast and heat on the wings is minimised. It is found in hot, dry stony habitats with sparse vegetation where its colouration makes it difficult to separate it from the background. Its foodplant comprises several species of grass including Bromus, Festuca and Sesleria.

Photographed here perched on a gravelly track in the Akamas, western Cyprus, it was difficult to pick out against the background.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

CATERPILLAR/BUTTERFLY: Eastern Festoon (Zerynthia cerisy), Kidasi, Cyprus

May 5, 2010:
In Europe, the Eastern Festoon butterfly occurs only from the Balkans to the eastern Mediterranean. In Cyprus its larva has made an interesting choice for its food-plant: the low-climbing herb Aristolochia sempervirens (a species of birthwort).

Whilst relatively widespread, A. sempervirens is not common everywhere on the island. At this date and relatively low altitude the butterfly appeared to have finished flying but its brightly-coloured caterpillar could be found on Aristolochia plants growing by the roadside near Kidasi in the Diarizos valley.

The Aristolochia food-plant with its unusual and highly-specialised, funnel-shaped flowers (above) and the butterfly (below).

Thanks to Yiannis Christophides for providing the photo of the butterfly (its flying period being over at the time of the visit)