bumper butterfly edition

the more youthful half of team sausage reporting for duty. i’m usually behind the scenes, helping to edit and forcing tony to insert commas into posts to make them more readable. now he’s looking over my shoulder being unnecessarily critical!

i have been trying to persuade him for some time that there are many merits to paying attention to all things small and wonderful, beyond the birds. this summer, even though late and unreliable, has presented us with many opportunities to get better acquainted with some of the flora and fauna that we have tended to overlook.

we start with the most obvious choice for birders during the slow birding months – butterflies and moths. while this may seem like a little bit of a cop out since these little beauties seem to photograph themselves, truth is, butterflies and moths are incredibly fascinating, irresistibly colourful and function as canaries in coal-mines for how the natural environment is faring.

two weeks ago, we popped over to one of our local patches, cranford park, in hopes of catching a glimpse of the nesting little owls. with the owls eluding us, we decided to go for a little walk since it was beautifully sunny, and i dragged tony off round a corner we had never explored before. to our very pleasant surprise, we stumbled on a bountiful orchard! in addition to beautiful crab apple, cherry and pear trees, and blackberry bushes full of fruit, the orchard area was full of fluttery brilliance.

since i have always forced tony to use commas in his post, it is only right that the first picture for this blog be a… comma butterfly

comma (cranford)_edited

we also found quite a few of the more recognised british butterflies, including this stunning green-veined white sitting pretty on thistles

green-veined white (cranford)_edited

this peacock butterfly…

peacock (cranford)_edited

a beautiful speckled wood

speckled wood (nhm)_edited

this gatekeeper

the gatekeeper (cranford)_edited

and this red admiral

red admiral

we spent almost three hours in cranford park, easily the most captivating time we’ve spent there. the park was bursting with life, and we will be heading back there in late august for our first attempts at foraging (very sustainably, of course, just enough for one blackberry pie!).

in those three hours, tony’s car also managed to get itself a very flat tyre, but that is a funny story for when he is less sore about it!

last saturday, toward the tail end of a 36-hour water outage at our apartment complex (which we are still battling our landlords over), i convinced him it was time to visit my favourite museum again. on the best of days (yes, even during the height of the summer school holidays), the natural history museum is awesome, but a butterfly exhibition and a show on extinction meant that tony simply could not deny me.

the butterfly enclosure was roughly 10 degrees warmer than outside, and at least 80% more humid – poor tony was suffering, and much to my chagrin, i was too – those scottish winters have ruined me. however, from the moment we walked through those heavy plastic panels, we were surrounded by colours, movement and flight. we were told there were about 40 species in the butterfly house, many of which come from tropical countries (including southeast asia, where i am from, and latin america).

we spent two hours in pretty and pretty stuffy conditions to photograph several pretties, including this blue morpho (south and central america), easily one of the most beautiful butterflies in the world:

blue morpho (nhm)_edited

this scarlet peacock (south america and the caribbean)

scarlet peacock (nhm)_edited

a blue clipper (south and southeast asia)

blue clipper butterfly (nhm)_edited

this common tiger (from south asia to australia) that landed on tony’s shoulder and stayed there for quite a bit, possibly attracted to his stink from two days without a proper shower

common tiger (nhm)_edited

these merry owl butterflies (southern usa to south america) and the brilliant indian leafwing butterfly (indonesia) – yes that is a butterfly on the orange! you might notice them feasting on rotting fruit – we were told they are in fact getting quite drunk on the fermented juices of these fruit. you might notice one or two of them heading toward prone positions… by the end of the day, all of them will be sloshed and falling over.

indian leaf with owl butterflies (nhm)

this pink-spotted cattleheart (central america) seemingly defying gravity…

pink cattleheart(nhm)_edited

a beautiful pearly malachite (central america)

pearly malachite butterfly_edited

a coincidence – the blue spotted crow from singapore on the neck of a singaporean

blue spotted crow_edited

took a very long time to id this many-named grecian shoemaker (or blue-frosted banner, or blue-frosted catone, or spotlight catone; found in central and south america)

blue frosted banner butterfly (or grecian shoemaker nhm)_edited

a huge atlas moth (southeast asia)… no banana for scale, but they can grow up to have wingspans of over 25cm

atlas moth (nhm)

also incredibly hard to id, this atala butterfly (southeast usa and caribbean)

atala butterfly_edited

an unassuming little dark band bush brown (south asia to australia)

dark-band bush brown (nhm)_edited

a stunning leopard lacewing (from south asia to southeast asia)

leopard lacewing (nhm)_edited

you may notice that a few of the butterflies from nhm’s enclosure seem a little tatty in the wings. we are not exactly sure why this might be, but wonder if the density of insects may have something to do with increased competition and fly-ins. any experts on why this otherwise elegant western tiger swallowtail (western north america) is worse for the wear?

tiger swallowtail (nhm)_edited

or this male great helen (asia) missing a tail and bits of wing

red helen

all in all though, the butterfly exhibition was brilliant and has tony sold on the idea of turning the lens to smaller creatures.

tomorrow, we embark on a very exciting rescue mission, helping our friend wendy to release two of her hand-reared painted ladies back into the wild. we shall log this mission and our other nature exploits in the coming week. meanwhile, here is a picture of a dragonfly that tony is particularly proud of, id-ed by wendy as being a female common hawker.


as usual, click on pics for larger technicolour glory versions, or flutter on over to the Flickr stream

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