A blog about what I love….photography and bicycles!

clive curtis

A day in the mountains with rare Southern African Butterflies

I have had a very long relationship with Chrysoritis oreas, a lovely little copper butterfly found tin top of Bulwer Mountain in the Southern Natal Drakensberg.  Discovered by Pennington on the Loteni area in the early 1900’s not much was known about this insect until the mid 1980s when Wolter Kaspers and Clive Quickleberge were on Bulwer Mountain and Wolter netted a rather worn copper.  This turned out to be C oreas at a new locality.  Since then many people have ventured up this beautiful, steep mountain.  My first trip up was in October 1993, the day that I met my wife (on the way back to Durban I stopped at Monteseel and met her!).  I climbed the mountain in October 1996 with Alan Heath and Tony Brinkman.  It was on this trip that Alan discovered the ant and food plant used by the butterfly, got it to lay and bred it through for the first time.  Later, in 2005 I climbed the hill with Steve Woodhall and we had a wonderful day photographing the butterfly.

My friend, Clive Curtis, is currently completing a DVD on Butterflies and requires more footage of rarities.  Last November we got great footage and photographs of the equally rare Chrysoritis orientalis at Bushmans Neck and since then we made plans to climb Bulwer.  The window period to see this insect is narrow, early October is the best and we were fortunate to find a weekend immediately after his return from safari in the Kalahari and before his son, Connor, was born.

We left not feeling too confident, the weather was not good, there was a lot of cloud and a very strong wind, however we decided to have a crack.  Luckily the closer we got to Bulwer the clouds began to clear and it looked like the colony might well be sheltered from the wind.

The drive up the hill was as rough as I remembered it.  We got to where the paragliders launch and then walked.  As we got out of the truck this is what greeted us…..14516447_10209423686862119_8526991535135094695_n

I find it easier walking with people who do not spend 14 hours a day tracking elephant and lion in the Kalahari sands and so I spent a lot of time “admiring” the various Moraea and other wild flowers on the way up.  On getting to the false summit I pointed out the colony to Clive, that being the little rock area in the centre of the photograph…..14641926_10209423935148326_1162358604111145167_n

We walked down to the lower part of the colony and immediately started seeing the little insects flying around.  Mostly confined to the lower rocky area they were fairly common.  Last time I was up with Steve we really battled to find specimens however this time they were not plentiful but they were there. Here are some images….. the first, the underside of a loverly fresh male…._V4A1195.jpg

Then the upperside of a male feeding….

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Then a female feeding…..

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And another female just chilling….

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And yet another…

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Higher up the slopes we came across Chrysorotis lycegenes, another beautiful opal….._v4a1237

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and Aloeides oreas…._v4a1229

and finally, a few candid shots of what we do……14492572_10209423935508335_6519075386448159188_n_v4a1242

we walked off the mountain very satisfied.  I had more photographs,Clive had photographs and video and I learned that a Canon 100 f2.8 lens requires stabilisation when shooting video!! Another great trip, thanks Clive and congratulations to you, Tarryn and Hannah on the arrival of Connor.

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Eggs and Architecture

As everyone knows, I am a butterfly person. In the last year I have been able to get upclose with the camera and been able to photograph the eggs of a number of species of butterfly. Here are a few of the more interesting eggs that I have photographed this year. What fascinates me, from an architectural and structural perspective, is the structure of the wall of the egg to support and strengthen the entire thin walled egg. Anyway, enough geek talk, here are the photographs,a few are re-posts but interesting nevertheless. Shot with the faithful MPE65 and MT24EX combo.

The first photograph is of Eretis umbra, the Small Marbled Elf, A rather drab little Hesperid.

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The next photograph is the egg of the Common Mother of Pearl, Salamis parhassus, a spectacular Nymphalid found in the area (and my garden)

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The third photograph is the egg of the Common Black-Eye, Leptomyrina gorgias a Lyceanid that breeds on a number of our Crassulas and other succelents.

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The last egg for the time being is that of Orachrysops subravus, the Grizzled Blue, another Lyceanid and cousin of two of our rarest butterflies O ariadne and O niobe.

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Birthday parties and spiders

This weekend we celebrated my middle daughter, Stella’s, birthday.  She invited a number of her friends over for a swimming/sleep-over party.  I made breakfast for the eight girls in the morning and one pointed out a little Salticid spider on the table.  I picked it up and put it on my arm so that I could photograph it later.  This caused a number of eleven year olds a lot of stress but after it climbed up my arm, over my shirt and onto my chin I took it off for a few photos and they relaxed.  Anyway, here they are, all taken with the usual rig of MPE65 and twin flash unit.  Shot inside on a piece of white board. Special thanks to Galina Azarkina for the ID (Thyenula species)

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Many thanks for the visit folks….more to come!


Some more fun wih Spiders

I have recently been posting a lot of macro images taken with the MPE 65. I have always thought that the MPE would be a lens stuck away and used occasionally. I have however found that it spend a lot more time attached to the camera. It is not a field lens but is great fun under controlled conditions. This latest set of photographs was taken with the subject (a Salticid Spider) on a piece of paper and instead of the up close and personal photographs I tried a few full body shots. The attached were all taken at either 4x (portraits) or 1,5x (full bodies). All with the MPE and MT 24 EX flash system, minimal crop.

 

 


A weekend of blues and some macro geek stuff….

 This last weekend my friend Clive Curtis and I spent some time at Wahroonga, a special piece of grasslands between Howick and Boston in the KZN Midlands.  Our hope was to film species such as Lepidochrysops pephredo (the Mooi River Blue), L tantalus (the tantalising blue), Aloeides susanae (Susans copper) and Orachrysops subravus (The Grizzled Blue).  We got to the farm at around 09h30 in the morning and there was a load of activity with specimens of O subravus and A susanae a plenty, the latter being hard to photograph as they rarely settle.  Anyway, after a few hours we had the last two on the list ticked off, along with Leptomyrina gorgias (the common blackeye) and some eggs.  We missed the first two on the list.

Anyway, here are some photographs of the insects and eggs.  The eggs were taken with the MPE 65 at maximum zoom (5x) with very little DOF so I stacked three images in each using Zerene Stacker.

The first series were takes with the Canon 100mm f2.8 USM with the 430 EX Speedlight

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 Orachrysops subravus, the Grizzles Blue, female 

 

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 Orachrysops subravus, the Grizzles Blue, female  

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Aloeides susanae, Susans Copper, female 

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 Leptomyrina gorgias, the Common Blackeye, female.

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 Orachrysops subravus egg, stack of three images usinfg  Zerene stacker. MPE 65 at 5x 

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  Leptomyrina gorgias egg, stack of three images using Zerene stacker. MPE 65 at 5x


A new series of Scarabs

I have, for a long while, been asked to photograph more Scarabs.  The problem has been finding specimens to photograph.  After much searching I found these.  This post is extremely short.  I just want feedback on the very simple “draft” photos of these four insects.  Please ignore the imperfections.

 Goliathus albosignathus, the Goliath Scarab.  One of the largest Scarab beetles on earth and found from Limpopo up into Central Africa.

Eudicella smithi, Smiths Scarab. Another interesting insect from Burundi, Central Africa.

Ranzania burtolinii, Burtolini’s Scarab, male from Tanzania, East Africa

Ranzania burtolinii, Burtolini’s Scarab, female, from Tanzania, East Africa.


Charaxes candiope candiope, the Green-veined Charaxes – Life History

Charaxes candiope candiope, the Green-veined Charaxes, is a common visitor to gardens here on the East coast of South Africa.  I planted the foodplant, Croton sylvaticus, in my garden five years ago.  The two that I planted have struggled due to the winter frosts.  While living on Botswana I noted them laying on another species of Croton. Anyway, I have seen the butterfly breed successfully on my trees for the last three years and finally decided to photograph it this year.

In March this year I found a number of eggs on may trees.  I gave a number to my friends, Stephen Woodhall and Harald Selb, and then bred the balance though.

The eggs are laid as singletons (very occattionally two) on the upper side of the large Croton leaf.  They are approximately 2mm in diameter and butter yellow on being laid.

After about 24 hours the egg gets the typical brown ring showing that it is fertile.

After about five days the first instar larva emerges.  The first meal is the egg shell.  This little chap is about three mm long on emergence.

After four days the larva has its first skin shed.  The second instar larva has the first dorsal spot.

After a further six days the next shed takes place.  At the shed the larva measures about 14 mm long. After the shed the larva has two dorsal spots and a rather fantastic head shield.  The next blog I post will be the head shields of this insect (which are spectacular).

After a further seven days the larva sheds again to become the spectacular fourth instar larva. Watch the next blog for head shield shots, this one is superb.

Again it only takes a week for the fourth instar larva to fatten up and shed its skin.  The larva is about 35mm long at the shed. The fifth instar is large, after 14 to 21 days of eating it reaches 50 to 60 mm in length and gets ready to pupate.

The larva finds a quite spot and spins a silk pad, hooks in (with anal hooks) and begins the pupation process.  This lasts three of four days afterwhich it sheds its skin and pupates.

The pupa, the incredible stage preceding the butterfly.

After three weeks the pupa begins to “colour up”, the stage when you can see the wing and body colouring appeat through the pupa.  Withing 12 hours it emerges.  The insect below is a female.  The males below.

Male Ch candiope candiope

Please watch this blog for the post of head shields, they are spectacular.