Found another Marsh Fritillary larval web, with about 70 caterpillars. Nearly had kittens when a big excited mutt came over for a pat and nearly trod on them.

The webs I saw a month ago are more active now in the warmer weather, and have started roaming across paths (I nearly stood on some myself). As a result it’s harder to tell individual webs apart and so I’ve nearly given up on that.

The caterpillars are now generally 10-15mm long, black with spines and white spots. I saw them massed together basking but also roaming and eating. I’ve begun marking the webs with pens stuck in the ground but only had time to mark two this weekend. In total I estimate that I saw 160 MaFr caterpillars – on one hand I was in a rush so probably missed some and underestimated; on the other I probably grossly overestimated numbers last time. Forgive me – I’m an amateur

Butterfly enthusiast/scientist/obsessive Matthew Oates wrote on his Purple Empire blog recently that he had seen quite a few MaFr larval webs and proposed that this might be a “Marsh Fritillary Big Bang year”. Based on the numbers of caterpillars I’ve seen in Murlough I expect he will be proved right!!

Apart from the frits I didn’t see any other butterflies, moths or caterpillars, although I saw the male skylarks / meadow pipits (couldn’t tell the difference) displaying for the first time this year. They rise up in the air going pee-pee-pee-peepeepeepipipipisipsipsipsip and then glide back down with their tails sticking up. Yes sir, spring is in the air.

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