Here in Belfast the sun’s coming out.

At last.

I arrived back home from Newcastle on Friday and am getting caught up on blogging. It’s been a cracker holiday – plenty of sunshine and of course plenty of butterflies, moths and birds.

There’s a LOT to catch up on as regards my rearing projects. If you remember, at the end of June, I picked up:

  • 1 Ruby Tiger caterpillar
  • 2 Garden Tiger caterpillars
  • 26 Cinnabar eggs

And there’s good news and bad news.

  • The Ruby Tiger (“Ron”) spun a cocoon on the day I collected him, pupated a few days later, and emerged as a healthy adult on 13 July. I released him where I found him, back in Murlough.
  • I fed the Garden Tigers (Ferrari and Maclaren) on hawks-beard, sorrel, dock and dandelion for a week, after which Ferrari escaped and hasn’t been seen since. (I hope he got out through a window.) Mac spun a cocoon and pupated for 17 days before emerging as an absolutely magnificent moth on 18 July. I released him the next day.
  • Between 22 and 25 Cinnabars hatched out but as I was away in Scotland I was unable to muck out the jar (and hadn’t the heart to lay the task upon my sister) and in the filthy conditions I suspect a bacterial infection started. As they grew (devouring Ragwort leaves) they got sick and died one by one (I won’t go into graphic details) until I only had 3 left. At this point I released them back into Murlough to give them a fighting chance, although I expect it was too late and they were already infected. So I tried again, collecting just four caterpillars from Murlough and this time there isn’t a sick caterpillar in sight. All four have completed their feeding; two have pupated and two are about to. They’ll hibernate as pupae over the winter and emerge next June. One thing’s for sure, I’m never collecting a batch of eggs again!

And here they are (hover over pics to see info):

13JUL11 Ruby Tiger

18JUL11 Garden Tiger

19JUL11 Garden Tiger

28JUL11 Cinnabar caterpillars

28JUL11 Cinnabar pupa

So what of the month ahead? Well, I’m starting to warm to the world of birdwatching, and I’m hoping to see the winter waders arrive at Dundrum Bay and Belfast Harbour, as well as seeing the terns before they leave. On the butterfly front, I’m trying to slow down and focus on butterfly behaviour rather than just running around recording which, although necessary, runs the risk of turning a beautiful creature into a number on a page. I’m hoping to go on a BCNI outing on 20 August to see the Wall butterfly at Sheepland  near Ardglass, and of course I’ll be keeping an eye out for rare migrants like the Clouded Yellow (only one seen here so far this year) and Comma. Plus, the moths are continuing to dazzle: last night in the garden I had 6 Mother of Pearl, a Burnished Brass, a Marbled Beauty (new) and a Swallowtailed Moth.

All the photos I’ve posted on this website are available at 12 or 14MP resolution – just drop me an email:

Species study 2, project B: Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa)
Species study 5, project B: Garden Tiger (Arctia caja)
Species study 15, project A: Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae)