Tuesday, 30 June 2015

From caterpillar to Butterfly....

One of my main project to do during 30 days wild was to hatch some Butterflies, I had read how Mandy at Chateau Moorhen, CT at Countryside Tales  and especially 

Ragged Robin's nature notes, on her other blog...
A year in the life of my wildlife garden had raised butterflies and moths.

I have photographed them the best I could throughout all their stages.
Before we start I want to give a big huge thank you to Ragged Robin, for all your help and  worried messages I have sent over the past few weeks.

.....SO THANK YOU.....

I bought some little grub/fish tanks to house my caterpillars in and read up as much as possible how to look after them.

Nettles are their primary food, this made it easy to feed them, apart from getting stung, I was having to wear gloves and pinch the fresh nettles of while my hand was in a bag as the sting from the nettles were making me feel a ill. I made sure I cleaned and fed them every day so by the time they stopped eating I had got the knack of collecting nettles.

It was great to watch them daily and soon they grew bigger and bigger, it says in the notes from UK Butterflies that they feed night and day, but I found mine liked to feed mostly at night, and they still liked to stay together, often wrapping them self's up in a nettle leaf to sleep

On emerging from their eggs, the larvae build a communal web, usually at the top of the nettle, from which they emerge to bask and feed. As the larvae grow, they move to new plants, building new webs along the way. This leaves a trail of webs, decorated with shed larval skins and droppings, that show the passing of time, and allows the patient observer to trace the larvae all the way back to the plant where the eggs were laid. The first experience that some people have of a Small Tortoiseshell is seeing these webs as they extend over stretches of nettle, with the larvae resting communally and quite visibly on the surface of the web, or feeding from nearby leaves.

Larvae have several techniques to avoid predation. When disturbed, a group of larvae will often jerk their bodies from side to side in unison, which must be a formidable sight to any predator. The larvae will also regurgitate green fluid and will, if necessary, curl up in a ball and drop to the ground. Larvae feed by both day and night and there are 4 moults in total.

This is a photo of the ones at the park

Because of their shape, size and colouring I was convinced they were Peacock Butterfly, so I divided them up into two tanks.

Round about the tenth day they slowed down and did not eat as much, this is when I started to panic a little, as I was not sure what was going to happen, a few frantic messages to RR followed.

Then on the twelve day one of the caterpillars moved up to the top of the tank, it attached its self tail end and hung there. The next day all the other caterpillars did the same thing, it was a strange thing to watch, they spun webbing all round them  to hold them self in place.

Here you can see them hanging of the roof of the tank, a few were attached to the twigs I had place in the tank.

and if you look close you can see all the webbing.

The larvae disperse as they become fully grown, and eventually wander off to find a suitable pupation site. The pupa is formed head down, attached to a stem or leaf by the cremaster. The colour of the pupa is quite variable, often having a beautiful metallic sheen. This stage lasts between 2 and 4 weeks, depending on temperature. (all red notes from UK Butterflies)

The pupa was the most beautiful colour, with hints of gold.
After a few days, making sure all the pupa had gone hard, I moved them to a bigger tub with more sticks, at this point I was still thinking they were peacock butterflies. If they are not ready to move they can still "wave" quite fast, this is to deter a predator.

On the 28th day we notice the first pupa had changed colour, it had gone darker and if you shone the torch at it you could see the colours of the butterfly coming through.

By the morning the butterfly had emerged.

still very soft, it was left to the afternoon before taking it out of the box.

They turned out to be 
Small Tortoiseshell 
(Aglais urticae)

 This butterfly can turn up almost anywhere, from city centres to mountain tops. As such, it is one of our most successful butterflies. It is most-often seen, however, where nettles grow in abundance, such as field margins. This butterfly is often encountered while hibernating in an outbuilding, such as a garage, shed or barn, where they may be found in the company of other individuals. Other hibernation sites include hollow trees and wood piles.

No more hatched that day but they were all changing colour, the next day five more were drying out, one thing I notice there was small pools of what looked like blood under the empty pupa, they were released later that day and the rest will be left till tomorrow.

Out in the big wide world.

It has been a wonderful project, and we have all seen things happen we would not have done, if I had not got them in my home. 

I recommend you give it a go 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

A day out at Broockholes nature reserve....

A big thank you to Home Jules for blogging about this place, I loved it... and after reading her comments it looks like one or two of you have been here too..(Sarah)

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust has been working on developing Brockholes for nearly 20 years, it first opened it's doors in the summer of 2011. It has a range of habitats, reedbed,woodland, marsh and meadows. With a on-site shop and restaurant situated on a floating village.

The drive was a easy one straight down the A59, and the sun was shining, after parking up and stepping out I saw more Blue Butterflies in one minuet than I have seen in all my life ! and it was teaming with blue damselflies too. The first flower I spotted was Grass Vetching which I have not recorded before, OH said we had to leave the car park at some point and look round.
We walked round the visitors centre, then the meadow walk towards the river Ribble. Some how miss Deep Dark Wood where the Gruffalo lives, that Julie has posted about (see here) and walked along the river past the very impressive Giant Hogweed, another plant to put on my list.


Blue Damselflies 

River Ribble

As I mentioned before there were more Blue Butterflies here than I've ever seen before, but those people in the know will know they do NOT stay still !! and I don't know if they are all the same Common Blue ? ( over to you CT and Roy ) please let me know.

After a pit stop of a very large ice cream and the chance to cool down, we did the walk the reserve walk which is about two miles taking in wood land at the far end, here we could get in the hides on the lake side, quiet away from the play areas and centre. There were only a few birds out on the water but we managed to see some more Butterflies on the way round.

Large Skipper

Five-spot Burnet
On this part of the walk the habitat changed to grasses , bramble and Bush Vetch which the Burnet moths were loving, most plants had two on.
The grasses looked stunning some over six foot tall, swaying in the breeze. The last part of the walk is through the bottom edge of Boilton Woods which was nice and cool after walking in the hot sun.

We had  a supper day and would recommend this place to visit young and old, there is something for everyone.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Wild week..Butterflies to wild flowers....

Saturday was a visit home, I had gone to Craven rock in Langcliffe to look for Orchids but rain stopped play.

When I was a child this was a landfill site, many hours were spent playing here, but now thankfully  wild flowers, trees and rabbits have taken it back.
I found White Stonecrop which is a new plant for me and Dame's Violet growing amongst the large leaves of Butterbur.



There was open gardens going on in Settle , but people were stopping at my parents house to admire the red poppies and their garden.

The warm weather has brought the butterflies out. So my Wild idea was to photograph them.

 Meadow Brown Butterfly (Maniola jurtina)

Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus)

Back from Settle a few plants came home, we have build a wall near the pond and the plants have gone in there.

There  is life in the new pond, were there is water you are going to get Mosquito's, midges etc, think these are mozzy lave.

Then I spotted snails moving about in the water. Not sure were they have come from , but the eggs could have been in the water plants I bought ?

One of my favourite  flowers has flowered in the front garden, with the most supper name.

(Nigella damascena)

and to finish of my week I watched our Crow fill up on meal worms and peanuts, we have a chat every time he comes in the garden, never know he might talk back one day !