Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Dark Reds are going, but the Tortoishells are coming!

Another "light phase" atrorubens (click over to enlarge)

This is also a little beauty I found today among the Helliborine's and has come through very light phase and I would even presume it does have a lot of light phase throughout its make up, but feel it may be a little premature to say that it has crossed the boundaries to the stage of a "variant" owing to the fact that there are far more decisive specimens on record. In this particular instance I feel that some of this obvious lightness is as a result of "natural bleaching" having for one been found in a very exposed area and coupled with the fact that I have previously noticed before that with "light phase" epipactis atrorubens flowers they do tend to go "much lighter still" at the actual turning point which is recognized as "going over" and if you look at the tips of the bracts on this photo you will note the apparent "burning" which I reckon could also be another clue to the advancement and possible "Whitening to light pink" in particular looking toward the epichile features of the plant. Even so a nice specimen and especially what makes it even more interesting as far as I am concerned is that its with a green stem (although be it of a mid green phase). It certainly qualifies for another check out and follow up because just for the moment I can say "the jurys still out on this one".

Specimen No.15 in 2012 (click over to enlarge)
Lots of beautiful butterflies on the wing with all the regulars, but for the first time this year there have definitely been hatches of Small Tortoiseshell today which is really good to see and obviously they are now trying to make a comeback from their "almost decimation" (8 years ago).  I have also read recently that our own stock is also being augmented by continental strains of Small Tortoiseshell coming over from France, just like what is also happening with the rare Swallowtails.  I bet this could mean that we get one of those bumper Painted Lady years anytime now (happens about every 4 or 5 years and I think it is just about due!) It will be really interesting to see if this does develop in a sort of chain reaction with all this other stuff (Torts and Tails) advancing North. All speculation but nice to think about for now.

If that was to happen I guess I for one will dispatch myself straight over to the Beetham area or somewhere along its North West Flightline, which for me has in the past had terrific results and were I have had the privilege to witnessed hundreds (not thousands, although there could well be thousands over the full day), of that extraordinary 2nd leg (France to UK only) of a new brood of the  "Painted Lady" butterfly.

A brilliant but at times sad spectacle several years ago when I was in Menorca (Spain) about the first week in May, when Painted Ladies came over in their millions after leaving the Atlas Mountains in Morocco (Northern Africa), they were going past me in groups of 20 to 50 at a time and this went on every minute of the daylight hours and for about 2 days and then winding down in numbers by the third day.  So many of them were seen and they were hitting the side wall of the villa with a light thud yet if momentarily stunned, they would immediately shook it off, re-orientate and seemed no worse for their experience, would just carry on with their journey North and presumably eventually into France. They were being killed in their thousands, the roads had dead butterflies strewn everywhere, you struggled to drive with the amount hitting your windscreens.  There must have been millions involved, but this must goes on here or close by every year. I was also watching them come in off the sea which was also another fabulous spectacle as well.

Specimen No. 15 in 2013 when it aborted
before flowering as you can see here
Any day now I will be checking out the magnificent Broad Leaved Helliborines which are on most of the pavements, usually tucked away and camouflaged by their screening young hazel trees, so far (over the years) I have been fortunate to log at least 80 specimens throughout, but there must be hundreds more than that.  They are being surveyed and booked down year by year and the tally is going up and up and up. After all we have to look after these beauties!  they could well be the "mummies or the daddies" to our rare Schmalhauseneii (or hybrids).

I wonder what the variant "purpurea's" will turn out like this year, I have already checked out the hotspot and sadly some of the "better last year" specimens have already had the "chop" or the "snip". What I mean is that the helliborine's drooping heads have already been well "coppiced" by the local marauding roe deer.  But it still leaves that most beautiful Specimen No.15, wow! I wonder what shade of Magenta or Purple or Lilac we will get from this one this year!  Can't wait.......

Last year (2013) Specimen no.15 aborted its buds before it ever got chance to flower (see photo) with its buds simply shrivelling up and dropping off, but if you look at the photo here you can see that "most of the production" seemed to go on at the lower levels and more into the basal and sheath leaves, and probably not much left for the flower end of the business!  Out of a couple of dozen specimens in the close vicinity there was at least 50% of them aborted in exactly the same way. This issue (aborting) here was very local, in fact to a area considered to be a colony (of Broad Leaves) with over 25 specimens within a 10 metre diameter range.  Yet I did also see the same thing happening to several other plants on another limestone pavement some 500 yards away in distance.  It will be interesting to see what happens this year!  So far this years looks good! fingers crossed!

Close up features of Spec No.15 var: purpurea  (photo taken 2012)
(Click over photo to enlarge)
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly hatches today (old photo from 2012)