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Butterfly Diary - field notes by Adrian Hoskins
my earliest sightings of each brood are highlighted in bold type
 
 
Sightings policy - details of certain sites where visitor pressure or trampling may pose a threat to butterflies or alienate landowners are excluded from these pages.
 
2011
Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jly | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec | Adrian and Emily's BLOG
 
December
 

Website revamp : Almost all of the taxonomy, anatomy, lifecycle, survival strategy, world census, migration and "strange but true" pages have now been expanded to provide a wealth of new information.

Currently I'm sorting through the hundreds of photos taken in June on our central Peru tour, and consequently many new photos have been added to the existing species pages. Several previously unphotographed species were seen on the trip, so species pages for these are also gradually being added. A trip report and provisional species list are now published. We are running another trip to Peru next August - why not join us?

Photographs of a large number of butterflies from Australia, New Zealand, India, Malaysia and Ecuador have kindly been donated by various friends, and these will be incorporated into the website as soon as time permits.

 

Butterfly-watching tours - Peru and Ghana

Perfect for photographers ( birders, botanists, and general naturalists are equally welcome ! )

There are still places available on all tours. More details here.

 
Thursday 22nd December
 
Today was warm and sunny here in Leicester, where the temperature reached an amazing 12C. We decided to walk to the botanical gardens, hoping to see a Red Admiral. Unfortunately the only insects on the move were a few ladybirds, flies and bees.
An interesting fact that we recently discovered about Leicester, is that it was the birthplace of the legendary explorer and naturalist Henry Walter Bates, who spent much of his youth collecting butterflies in nearby Charnwood Forest. Another famous resident was Alfred Russell Wallace, who taught map-making and drawing at Leicester Collegiate School. The two men became friends and in 1848 decided to set sail across the Atlantic together to explore the Amazon rainforest. Inspired by Darwin, their mission was to seek answers "towards the problem of the origin of species".
During his 11 years in the Amazon, Bates sent back over 12000 insect specimens including 8000 that were new to science. While there he noticed that many butterfly species which were palatable to birds were almost identical in colour and pattern to completely unrelated poisonous butterflies. This led him to formulate what was later to become known as the theory of Batesian mimicry.
His friend Alfred Russell Wallace later set sail for the Far East, where he realised that there was an imaginary line, now known as the Wallace Line, dividing the fauna of Malaysia to the east, from the very different range of species found in New Guinea and Australia to the west. As well as being a legendary naturalist Wallace was a great writer. Upon his discovery of the giant Birdwing butterfly Ornithoptera croesus, he wrote these famous words:
"During my very first walk into the forest at Batchian, I had seen sitting on a leaf out of reach, an immense butterfly of a dark colour marked with white and yellow spots. I could not capture it as it flew away high up into the forest, but I at once saw that it was a female of a new species of Ornithoptera or "bird-winged butterfly," the pride of the Eastern tropics.
I was very anxious to get it and to find the male, which in this genus is always of extreme beauty. During the two succeeding months I only saw it once again, and shortly afterwards I saw the male flying high in the air at the mining village. I had begun to despair of ever getting a specimen as it seemed so rare and wild; till one day, about the beginning of January, I found a beautiful shrub with large white leafy bracts and yellow flowers, a species of Mussaenda, and saw one of these noble insects hovering over it, but it was too quick for me, and flew away.
The next day I went again to the same shrub and succeeded in catching a female, and the day after a fine male. I found it to be as I had expected, a perfectly new and most magnificent species, and one of the most gorgeously coloured butterflies in the world. Fine specimens of the male are more than seven inches across the wings, which are velvety black and fiery orange, the latter colour replacing the green of the allied species.
The beauty and brilliancy of this insect are indescribable, and none but a naturalist can understand the intense excitement I experienced when I at length captured it. On taking it out of my net and opening the glorious wings, my heart began to beat violently, the blood rushed to my head, and I felt much more like fainting than I have done when in apprehension of immediate death. I had a headache the rest of the day, so great was the excitement produced by what will appear to most people a very inadequate cause."
 
It may not have been quite warm enough for butterflies to appear in Leicester today, but there were reports of Red Admirals from several widely scattered sites in Hampshire and Sussex. More surprises from Hampshire included a Brimstone seen flying at Portsdown Hill and a Painted Lady at Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield.
 
Wednesday 21st December
 
21st December is the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and the 5th anniversary of the day on which learnaboutbutterflies was launched. The weather here in Leicester today has been cool and overcast, with no possibility of seeing any butterflies, so Emily and myself decided to do some alternative entomology by searching for overwintering ladybirds in Victoria Park. We found 3 species ( see the recently updated Adrian and Emily's BLOG ), Coccinella 7-punctata, Harmonia axiridis and Calvia 14-guttata.

Coccinella 7-punctata

Harmonia axiridis

 
Monday 12th December
 
A noteworthy record from Sussex today - a Deaths Head hawkmoth, found dead on the lawn of a garden at East Dean. Less exciting but nonetheless interesting was a sighting of a Red Admiral at Brighton university.
 
Saturday 10th December
 
No less than 3 Red Admirals were seen yesterday feeding at fallen apples in a garden in the New Forest in Hampshire. Today 2 more were reported from Sussex - one at Portslade and another at Shoreham.
 
Monday 5th December
 
Another Speckled Wood was reported today from Gosport - a staggeringly late record.
 
Saturday 3rd December
 
Amazingly a Speckled Wood was reported from Gosport in Hampshire today. This may prove to be the latest ever UK sighting of this species. The previous record appears to be 25th November 2007, from the same site.
 

 

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All photographs, text & website design are the property of Adrian Hoskins unless otherwise stated, and are protected by Copyright. Photographs or text must not be published elsewhere in part or in whole without prior written consent of Adrian Hoskins.