Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Butterflies, Bugs and other Insects

Weather dominates the lives of all living things and changing weather patterns have an effect on the life cycles of most species on the planet. We talk about the weather all the time and European weather, if not global weather is going through changes. 
In south-west Spain we are feeling and experiencing unsettled and abnormal weather. The European Environmental Agency has some good and sober reading about what's predicted.
Like other parts of the globe we know that change always happens whether its with the weather or evolution as a whole, but reading and forecasting our weather has been tricky to calculate what's coming next.  This year has shown a drop in temperature with much more rain than normal and over a longer period. The spring bird and insect migration slowed up with so much cold air in central and northern Europe holding back northbound migratory species. The cold air was felt not only here but as far south as southern Morocco. These meteorological effects disrupt migration and with some species make it impossibile to find sufficient food on migration and to be in top form to  breed when they arrive back in their breeding grounds.
This spring's migration through The Strait of Gibraltar was slower and spread over a longer period than normal. There have been late arrivals of Cuckoos, Honey Buzzards and both buttefrly and dragonfly species. A good number of Barn Swallows haven't made it north this year and more records and observations are being talked about in other European countries.

The European Environmental Agency has some good and sober articles about what's current and what's predicted.

Rain in June was something we haven't experienced before and forecasters say this is going to be a year of unusual periods of cooler weather. The last few weeks have been mainly sunny and the countryside is still green with flowering plants lasting longer and with more blooms than we've ever seen
The cloud patterns have been spectacular set against deep blue backdrops and most of the wind has been coming from the west or south west Atlantic.

A new species that I managed to photograph was one of the fastest insects around these parts. The Camel Spider. Technically it isn't an insect or a spider.
This creature belongs to the order Solifugae and is related to spiders and close to scorpions as well. Its name is confusing and could best be described as a predatory arthropod of the order of Scorpions within the class Arachnida.
I haven't found out this particular example's scientific name. Suggestions are always welcome.

Camel Spiders are quite large and can sprint at speeds of over 16 kph. They are non venemous and there are lots of urban myths about them being venemous but in reality they only possess strong pincers that can give a very painful nip.

For the camera buffs, I had my Canon 7D set up at 1/2000th of a second for birds in flight shooting when this red blur took off down the track at La Janda. I was using the Canon L 400mm lens, f/5.6 set at 200 ISO.

A male Berger's Clouded Yellow (Colias alfacariensis)


Male Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

 Fennel against a backdrop of Viper's Bugloss mixed with Mallow

 Wild Field Scabious

 A closer study of the Viper's Bugloss and Mallow

 Mallow meadow

 You don't often get the chance to photograph a male Meadow Brown (Hyponephele lupina) with its wings open showing the small ocellus or 'eye',  a dark brown broad sex-band and that lovely green patina effect on the wing edges that leads you to think it may be a species of Brassy Ringlet

 A very fresh looking Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) near our home

Common Goldenring (Cordulegaster boltonii) at one of the streams in the Alcornocales Parque Natural

 Another 'migrant', this one's a Migrant Spreadwing (Lestes barbarus). This species is widespread in Europe.
 I took this shot in Austria a few years ago

 One of the more colourful beetles this one's called Mylarbis scutellata

 Wild Nigella Nigella demancen

Squash Bug of the species group Coreidae I think

Southern-Green-Shieldbug (Nezara viridula)

 Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar

 Swallowtail (Papilio machon) on migration

 Spires of Verbascum

 A large umbellifor Thrapsia going to seed. Hmm..know the feeling
Four photos of a Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata) posing


Viper's Bugloss

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa Violacea)

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Thread-winged-Lacewing (Nemoptera bipennis)

One of the most beautiful Iberian insects is the Wood Fairy or Thread-winged-Lacewing (Nemoptera bipennis), known as Duende in Spanish which translates as an elf or a fairy.
My two younger daughters and I went out to look for them in one of the smaller pine woods on the edge of Barbate Marismas.

Within a short time we found a group of twenty or so 'fairies' dancing through the grasses and low flowering plants, settling for a while to feed and then off again, skipping through the sunlight and shade with their slow erratic flight.

They really are amazing creatures with thier large teardrop wings and long streamers and the girls were both delighted and fascinated at their antics as they put on a dance right in front of us.

 Patience and a bit of stealth is required to get up close enough  to them for good macro photos.

The beauty and diversity of nature never ceases to amaze me and I may have to go back there, sit down quietly on my own and watch them dance one more time...