Monday, June 20, 2011

It has been a little over four weeks since the first of the Puss Moth Caterpillars hatched. We've been struggling to keep up with their willow-cravings, having to bring in larger and larger branches just to see them through the night, and as a result, they've grown exponentially!

The larger they get the pinker their face surrounds become (top), and they also seem to lose interest in their extendible defensive tail. Perhaps they know now that most passing birds would be biting off far more than they could chew. Their rear feet now act as impressively strong suckers and it's almost impossible to move them from a leaf if they don't consent to it. Their brown saddles are unique to each caterpillar, varying in colour and length, and at this stage their fantastic white spots are really well defined. Measuring about 3" long, as modelled by Rich's finger (bottom), surely it wouldn't be much longer before they began to pupate...

...And it wasn't! This is the first of the boys to begin pupation. It's a fascinating act to watch as they spin a dark silky hammock to rest in before chewing off bits of bark to adorn their cocoon in a brilliantly successful attempt at camouflage. It took this caterpillar a good few hours to complete it's disguise. (c) Richard Brown

Continuing with the lepid-love, Six-spot Burnets are now on the wing and jewelling the main track with iridescent metallic greens and reds. Yesterday's transect survey counted a minimum of 177 individuals on the wing, by far the most ever recorded on Bardsey.

No sooner do they hatch, they find a mate and begin creating the next batch of Six-spot Burnets. The eggs will hatch this year and over-winter as larvae. Their vivid colours, like many lepidoptera, serve as a defence mechanism to deter predators from eating them...

...but this male Whitethroat clearly isn't fooled, particularly as he has a brood of hungry chicks to keep quiet. (c) Richard Brown

Rich left at 5am this morning to begin the last whole island census of the year. This Skylark is one of the parent birds of the brood we ringed yesterday and is clearly finding plenty food amongst the fields of the West Coast. (c) Richard Brown

At least 13 fledgling Wheatears are now chacking around the island. (c) Richard Brown

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