Friday, 26 May 2017

Lamenting 'The Leaving', Lauding Lepidoptera

I'm sure if you've checked in on this site within the last few months you'll have noticed the lack of any new posts. This is due to my current status as a leaving certificate student. This doesn't allow me much free time due to an incessant need to study. Fortunately the exams themselves are fast approaching and soon after they conclude i'll be back birding, snapping and blogging. The exams start on the 7th of June and I will be finished by the 20th, and am already looking forward to throwing the books aside and making the most of the summer.
    I haven't been doing much concerted birding this spring, the best bird being a curlew sandpiper on patch. Of late I have of course been rather cooped up in the house, but all the same I have managed to get out the odd evening to take some photos. I've found myself drawn to macro photography in the last while as it allows me to take advantage of what's nearby, with a smorgasboard of invertebrate life frequenting the garden. Butterflies and damselflies are particular favourite subjects of mine, and can prove to be beautiful posers. I'm still relatively new to macro photography, and am continuously experimenting with various depths of field, angles and the like, but it's proving very enjoyable. I'm looking forward to the emergence of some of the more characteristic summer species, such as the stunning Marsh Fritillary butterfly, in the coming weeks. The last (and only) time I photographed a Marsh Fritillary was an individual in the beak of a stonechat, so for the sake of the local fritillary population I hope the stonechats have moved on to a different field. This particular species of butterfly has the unenviable title of being Irelands only protected insect. From what I've observed their colonies are usually found in fields of devils-bit-scabious, their food plant. A very charismatic insect.
    Another species of butterfly currently on the wing, and one of my personal favourites, is the diminutive Green Hairstreak. No larger than a thumbnail, the Green Hairstreak has plain brown upper-wings, but this is immaterial, as it is almost impossible to see them, due to the insect always resting with its wings closed. The reverse of the wings is exposed when the butterfly alights, and is why they stand out among all other species to me. The underwing is an extraordinarily iridescent emerald colour which glimmers and gleams in the sun. One would imagine such a gaudy looking creature would soon be snatched up by any passing predators. Not so. Not only does the Hairstreak choose carefully matching green leaves on which to perch, it has also evolved specialised bio-photonic crystals in its wing scales. These minuscule crystals reflect polarised light, which allows the butterfly to advertise to potential mates. However this does not divulge its location to passing predators, as birds eyes are insensitive to this particular polarised light. I was lucky enough to stumble across a perched Green Hairstreak on a recent evening bog walk, and it allowed for some close inspection. Note the black-and-white striped antennae!
    So now you know what's been occupying my mind lately. I'd imagine there aren't many leaving-certs in the country obsessing over the minutiae of a butterfly wing this May, here's hoping it plays to my advantage if a suitable English essay title lends itself to discussion of such fantastic details. Thanks for checking in. That's it from me until next month!
One from the archives, stonechat eating one of our rarest butterflies!
Green Hairstreak

Green Hairstreak

Large Red Damselfly

Green-Veined White

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