Wednesday, 11 July 2018

A Sunday morning Butterfly Chase

08 July 2018

     Although a birder first, foremost and always, there is not a single aspect of the natural world that fails to capture my interest. I have different levels of proficiency (or in some cases a decided lack thereof) of various taxa.
     One of the most colourful additions to the summer landscape, especially when the birds are preoccupied with raising young, is a wide range of butterfly species. In addition there are some interesting diurnal moths and I have even been dabbling in nocturnal moths under the expert tutelage of my good friend, Ross Dickson. If you have ever felt you had sinister tendencies of incipient masochism, sitting out in the dark watching moths crawling over a lighted sheet, in a mind-boggling range of diversity, colour, shape and form, will cause them to be front and centre! And that doesn't even take into account the lack of sleep.
     In any event, it occurred to me a while ago that many people I see with a butterfly net have not the slightest idea how to use it properly. They charge around like Don Quixote tilting at some illusory windmill, smacking the ground, flattening the grass, uttering the unseemly curses of a drunken sailor, and coming up empty-handed - or should that be empty-netted?
     With this in mind I thought it would be a good idea to have a proper training session so that budding lepidopterists would learn how to wield a net correctly, sweep with grace and efficiency to capture their quarry, extract it from the net swiftly and cleanly in a collecting vial, take whatever photographs they need, and release the papillon unharmed.
     Owen Lucas, of the rare Charitable Research Reserve, as fine a net professional as one could wish to find, agreed to come and conduct a tutorial.
     People gathered round with great interest.


     Like a magician on a stage, Owen was in short order explaining technique.


     It did not take everyone long to get the idea and we set off on a walk to capture some butterflies. New skills were on display, strategies were developed, and stealth became a new art; but I must say, with a certain level of vicarious pride, that Miriam was the undisputed champion. Hers was a performance worthy of a prima ballerina in the Bolshoi Ballet. In total we captured about fourteen species, much to everyone's delight.


      As a bonus for the eager adventurers we introduced them to the wonderful world of caterpillars. A couple of people had already raised Monarchs indoors so there was the added excitement of seeing the varied forms and colours of the larvae of other species.
     Here is the colourful child of a Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).


     And how grand is the caterpillar of a White-marked Tussock Moth (Orgyia leucostigma)?



     Jeff Grant, a local teenager from St. Agatha is keenly interested in butterflies and moths and has been raising Cecropia Moths (Hyalophora cecropia) by placing their eggs on appropriate host plants and protecting them by means of a mesh sleeve. Jeff kindly opened up one of the sleeves to show everyone the grandeur of a Cecropia caterpillar - and even provided a little discourse on the life cycle of this stunning moth.


     The caterpillar of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucous), in a late instar with its false eye spots is perhaps one of the most appealing of all, and we were lucky to see one such example along with a little brother (perhaps second instar) on the same leaf.



     We were not quite as happy to find many Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar) caterpillars. This species is truly destructive in our eastern hardwood forests and is an invasive species in any event.


     Some had already cocooned.


     The weather was quite beautiful, a perfect day in fact for what we wanted to do. And just in case I had withdrawal pangs from not dealing with birds, Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) displayed their aerial superiority as they hawked for insects and a male Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) perched on a nest box where his mate is incubating four eggs. Perhaps he even delivered a juicy caterpillar for lunch.

47 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    Delightful! I love bugs and beetles and butterflies (and moths) and used to have a wide variety in my Aussie garden. Here at the Hutch, such things are rather scarce... YAM xx

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  2. Absolutely wonderful close up photographs. I really feel as I could reach out and touch them. They are all so different, nature provides so much variety.

    All the best Jan

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  3. Nice to see you "branching out" David! What a great idea re the use of butterfly nets. And wonderful photographs as always, Miriam. Such fascinating creatures.

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  4. I love to see biodiversity in the 'real' environment, and it is good to see biodiversity featured in your blog. Birds are wonderful, but so is everything else, all fauna and flora. As time goes on, I am more and more fascinated not just by individual animals or plants, but in the system that connects us all.

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  5. i can really relate to your first sentence, me too!! i have been raising black swallowtails indoors for a few years now with great success. it is why i plant so much dill - they are attracted to dill and i find them each year on the plant.. i am hoping to see them any day now!

    beautiful images, lots of nice details in these close-ups!!

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  6. Hi David,

    It's strange that a ugly caterpillar can transform to a beautiful butterfly! I love butterflies, and soon they will be here too.

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  7. Maravilloso, hola David, me encanta ver las orugas porque las hay muy bonitas y se puede decir que originales, las fotos son preciosas. Feliz día. Abrazos.

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  8. Preciosa entrada y preciosas fotos amigo David, que sabia es la naturaleza y que diversidad de hermosas polillas. La oruga tigre no tiene cara de muy buenos amigos, realmente es muy llamativa. Felicidades por el post, seguro que los asistentes aprendieron mucho de vuestras explicaciones.
    Cordiales saludos

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  9. Careful, David, you might get hooked! - or should that be 'netted'. That netting workshop is a great initiative. Lindsay and I attended a mothing event in early June and ended up with the long-term loan of a brand new moth trap and field guide. The jury is still out as, whilst absolutely fascinating, it's extremely time consuming - especially as a novice, as the ID process takes so long! I may find I have to give it up!

    My love to you both - - - Richard

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  10. You are certainly right about the ID process, Richard. At least I have Ross to help me, and he is a pretty patient fellow.

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  11. Hello, I love everything nature related. The birds are at the top of my list too. But, the butterflies are beautiful. I love the closeups of the caterpillars. I have seen a forest ruined from the gypsy moths, they are bad news. Sounds like a great day with great sightings. Enjoy your day!

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  12. Interesting post, although I see plenty of butterflies generally around, it is rare for me to find the caterpillars. Bonne journée, Diane

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  13. I have stumbled across much of the same caterpillars you pictured above have one old butterfly book and it's always fun to look it up and discover what I'm seeing. Way back in the day I was a cub scout leader and one project I had my den do was to make butterfly nets and we educated the boys on different varieties of butterfly and moth and the miracle of their birth-dead cycle. I hope that memory stuck with some of them.

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  14. "there is not a single aspect of the natural world that fails to capture my interest"

    David, jag tar mig friheten att citera den vackra meningen, tänk om vi blev fler som kunde uttrycka och uppleva samma sak då skulle världen se helt annorlunda ut. I den världen skulle naturen inte vara till för att exploateras till bristningsgränsen, inte heller skulle Trump väljas till president och mycket, mycket mer skulle vara annorlunda.

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    1. Thank you, Gunilla. You leave wonderful comments.

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  15. This is fabulous. Love those butterflies. As always the photos you share are exquisite and really tell the story. Hats off to the stealthy Miriam for her remarkable images. Each and every one is publication worthy.

    Thanks for your visit and our baby congratulations. A special time to be sure.

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  16. I often see moths, David. This moth is very destructive in our woods as well. I agree they are invasive insects in any event. On the other side the caterpillar of a Swallowtail is rare thing here.
    Love your very informative photos.

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  17. Caterpillars are fantastic David, lovely to see.

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  18. The closeups of the caterpillars are gorgeous. I have seen caterpillars here but never as close as the photos illustrate. It is so nice to see.
    Thanks for sharing these.

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  19. Hola David.

    Gran zafari fotográfico de orugas, todas bellísimas.

    Un saludo desde Galicia, España.

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  20. Butterflies are a favourite, a butterfly guide was the very first book I bought with my own money as a child, fantastic you were able to get an expert in. The White-marked Tussock caterpillar is very similar to our Vapourer Moth Caterpillar, amazing to see!

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  21. Wow,what a delight to see,lovely close up detail,I love Moths.
    John.

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  22. What s good idea, to have a training session. I've seen kids especially injuring the ones they are trying to catch. You sure got some wonderful close ups. In the evening in Flagstaff last weekend we were in a garden just filled with hummingbird moths. Unbelievable how fast they can dart between plants and across open spaces.

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    Replies
    1. I would have enjoyed being with you to see all the hummingbird moths.

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  23. The one with the fake eyes is going to give me nightmares in the nights to come........

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  24. Those caterpillars are fantastic, thanks for sharing the photos and for visiting my blog. Enjoy your weekend, Valerie

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  25. Hi David - thanks for this interlude - I enjoy this kind of learning and have been watching similar wildlife here - but not understanding or knowing that much ... great to see these photos - and yes Miriam has done you proud. Dragon flies are the things I'm noticing most here on the Island and when I got over to the mainland this week ... Cheers Hilary

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  26. Hi David,
    Super account of the net training, I have this image of Miriam as a ballerina pirouetting around the meadows with a net.
    Super set of images, yet another well done to Miriam.
    All the best, John

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  27. I'd have really enjoyed going on this - I know very little about butterflies and moths and live in the city, so being shown by an expert would be the way to go.

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  28. Muy interesante nota sobre las orugas, me llamó mucho la atención esa que parece tener ojos como si fuera una diminuta y corta serpiente. Qué bueno que haya alguien dispuesto a enseñar sobre las mariposas y las técnicas para atraparlas y colectarlas correctamente.
    Yo también soy de observar insectos, plantas y todo tipo de animales pero observar aves y mamíferos me atrae más, me cuesta poder llevar la cuenta de todo lo que observo, cuando hago salidas a algún lugar nuevo me dedico a las aves por la mañana temprano, luego plantas e insectos cuando la luz es más intensa y hay menos aves a la vista, ordenarme así me da más resultado, aprovecho mejor el día.
    Saludos

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  29. Mmm. I'm holding fire on this one David. Weeds and Creepy-crawlies aren't my thing but I must admit a couple of those a rather nice. Nice work Miriam.

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  30. You obviously had the time of your life searching and hunting for moths. "LOL".
    Anyway, the caterpillars you show us here are certainly worth looking at. But, when the butterflies finally show up they are looking even prettier.
    Greetings, Kees

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    1. Once again, we are raising butterflies indoors this year. It is fascinating. We will have Giant Swallowtails emerging any time now.

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  31. Such an interesting post with great photos. It is fascinating to see some of the species you saw - the caterpillars are just amazing. I too have an interest in moths, butterflies and caterpillars although I don't use the moth trap as much as I used to but I did raise emperor moth caterpillars a few years ago which was a good experience.

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  32. Just Beautiful!!!.. Enjoy your summer.. Regards

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  33. Wow !! The life of butterflies is interesting to watch!
    Great photos !!
    Greetings

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  34. Fascinating .... beautiful caterpillars!

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  35. Butterflies are beautiful but some caterpillars eat up my garden plants and leave them bald! I have not seen so many types of caterpillars.

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  36. It is amazing the type of wildlife that is on this conservation farm! Especially the different species of caterpillars, amazing! Thanks for the share. Loved seeing these photos.
    World of Animals

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  37. you had a great day. :) Before I started to photograph birds for two years I "hunted" butterflies. Got over 70 species in camera. It was fun :)

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  38. Me encanta David, las orugas me llaman siempre la atención, alguna de estas también viven en mi tierra. Preciosas fotos y enhorabuena por vuestro trabajo. Abrazos.

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  39. Beautiful David,
    I see most of these beautiful caterpillars only in a tropical butterfly garden that we have in the Netherlands. You see them in the wild and that is really great. I really like the caterpillar on photo 7 and 8 !!!
    I am really enjoying this here.
    Kind regards, Helma xx

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  40. Butterflys are so beautiful, I love take photos of them in my yard. These images are great! I have to admid The caterpillar of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail looks just amazing!

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  41. I'm enjoying a little catch up checking some posts I somehow missed. Enjoying my read. You've been up to some fascinating activities this summer. ANd learning a lot too it seems. :) Erika

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