Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Another brood ...

The Elephants are gone. They'd got to full size and were starting to show signs of needing to pupate, after getting through some ridiculous amounts of willowherb, so I released them all locally on Monday and Tuesday last week. By then they all looked like this ... click for big!


So no more collecting willowherb. But I have a new brood of these .....

Oak Eggar

27 hatched out this weekend from ova laid by the female I caught on 11th. They're feeding well on sallow, but as this species overwinters as a larva I'll only rear for a few weeks before release and let them fend for themselves naturally over winter.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Skin deep

The elephants are still going, all 28 of them. Colour and size variation even more marked today as several have undergone another instar change and the rest are just about to. Of those that have changed, there are c50% that are really quite dark like these ...


and the others are a really smart olive green like this one ...




Of those that are still to change, most are a pinky brown colour and there are three that are still the bright green; I'm guessing these will all turn to the dark brown & olive green versions but I'll find out in a day or two.

One of the drawbacks of keeping several larvae together is that they grow at slightly different rates, and so occasionally you have to disturb them at the risky time when they are just about to shed their skins. That's exactly what has happened today, though I'm sure they'll all be okay as I was careful during a complete foodplant change and cleanout.

This one has clearly not long shed its skin; you can see the shrivelled up old skin behind it and, if you look carefully, you can see the old head-plate to the side. Note the lighter head colouration between this one and the one above, this one will darken as it hardens off.


Some are looking like this, clearly about ready to go through the change .....


And a first for me, one was literally in the middle of wriggling free of the old skin. Note the '12 legs' in the top shot, and look how pale the head is when just 'exfoliated'!


Saturday, 12 July 2014

Some girls are bigger than others ....

An apt Smiths reference when it comes to the Lasiocampidae. I had Lacky and Drinker in the moth traps last night, but these were eclipsed in all respects by another female Oak Eggar for my garden list ....


This is the eighth female I've recorded in the garden, all singles in each year expect for the first record when I had two in the same trap on 16/07/2000. I also managed to assemble a male here in 2003, but have had no success on that front since. With my records from Enderby Quarry in 2006 and Huncote Embankment in 2010, I seem to have a bit of a monopoly on records for this species in VC55 (43% of the records for adults since 2000 are mine).

It is by no means common here, with a very clear southerly bias and most records coming from garden traps. There are no post-1999 records in any 10km squares north of mine in Leicestershire, and notably at least four of the most active moth-recorders in VC55 over the last decade or so are yet to record it.

The quirky fade in-out-in on this clip is as per the original album ......

Friday, 11 July 2014

Ellie Update

Another busy week, during which I somehow missed a big change in the Elephant Hawk larvae .......


Most have turned into this dark brown variation, though not entirely convinced that they've all gone through an instar change to get there. Not all have changed colour though, and the two biggest are both c35mm - one green, one brown. There is quite a big size variation now though. Rosebay Willowherb still preferred, and there are 28 still extant (the runty one didn't make it!).


Friday, 4 July 2014

The Elephant Man

Back in mid-June, a work colleague found a large moth pupa in his garden and was intrigued as to what it was. I offered to rear through to confirm and after a week or so a superb fresh female Elephant Hawk-moth emerged on 19/06/2014 am. As it happened, I also caught a couple of males in the garden traps that I emptied that morning so I kept one and paired the two in the hope of trying to rear through. After a couple of days I had eggs and I released both moths. The eggs hatched out on 26/06/2014 in the evening and the newly-hatched larvae readily set about eating some fresh leaves from a garden fuschia.


They were c4mm long and were sporting a characteristic hawk-moth 'horn', but otherwise you'd be hard pressed to identify them. There were 29 to start with, and after five days all 29 were still munching away and most had grown significantly to c11mm.


At this stage there was a faint witness of future markings, and they were not far off changing to second instar. Today they are starting to look distinctive, but there is a long way to go. Main thing is that I've managed to get them off of fuschia and onto Rosebay Willowherb (they didn't seem keen on Great Willowherb).


I'm intending to rear through to final instar and then release to pupate naturally.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Huncote Damsels

Not much time for blogging just lately, but here's a quick one. I nipped over to Huncote Embankment on Saturday morning whilst Alex was at his karate session in Enderby. I went there specifically to spend an hour at the pool which can be good for dragonflies and damselflies, and as it was warm with good strong sunny spells I thought it should be a good chance to catch up with a common damsel that I've never knowingly bothered to identify (I've never been much of an odonata watcher!).


Turned out well, as I immediately scored with my target ......

Red-eyed Damselfly

Lots of activity whilst I was there, with at least two Emperor Dragonflies patrolling, several Four-spotted Chasers, loads of Common Blue Damsleflies, a few Banded Demoiselle and a Large Red Damselfly plus ....

Good numbers of Azure Damselfly, another one I only recently bothered to identify

and a couple of Blue-tailed Damselfly

A Grass Snake took me by surprise as it lazily swam underneath the viewing platform and across the pool, but sadly by the time I had camera back out and ready it was too distant for a good shot ....