22 Aug 2014

22 Aug 14 - Accidentally, On Purpose!

In my last Post of the Maps I published the photos for 6 more Maps (Individuals K - P), based on my photos taken up to the 9 Aug. This Post included photos from a number of other visitors, who had kindly sent me their photos & which had either confirmed new individuals or extended the dates for known individuals up to that date. When I finally got through all of my photos taken after the 9 Aug & looked at additional photos from other visitors, I can now confirm that there at least 20 different individuals involved. First the final 4 individuals, that haven't previously been published.
Map: Male Individual Q (13 Aug 14)
Map: Female Individual R (11 Aug 14)
Map: Male Individual S (12 Aug 14)
Map: Male Individual T. Many thanks to Dave Kingman for allowing me to republish his image (copyright for the photo remains with Dave) (10 Aug 14)
Map: Male Individual T. My photo of Individual T looking more worn (13 Aug 14)
In the last Map post, I broke the news that I had been given from a trusted source in a leading wildlife organisation, that an unnamed individual (who I've called Fred Bloggs) had approached him about the Maps. Fred had told a story of how this was an accidental release around lunchtime on the 6 Aug from his car. This occurred one day before myself, Brian Arnold & Derek Haynes found the first individual. I have heard his explanation of this accidental release & compared the story as told, to the crass Hollywood film, The Great Escape to the real factual history of the Great Escape. At the time I made that comment, it was from looking at photos I had been working on, but wasn't in a position to comment further given I still had many photos to process. Now I've got to the end of these photos & think it is time to comment further.

As stated, Fred claimed this was an accidental release. But this just doesn't stack up as accidental from the photographic evidence. If they all escaped as claimed by Fred, then we would not be seeing pristine individuals appearing several days after the first sighting. I have no doubt that the trusted source who told me about Fred is reliable & therefore I have to assume the story of an introduction is correct. But Fred's explanation of how they 'escaped' is clearly a lie. Given it strongly appears that they were emerging from a bed of Stinging Nettles, then they must either have been at the site in the Spring or pupae were placed at the site in the autumn.

I have summarised this in the following spreadsheet which indicates which individuals were seen on which days & also the condition of those individuals.
Map: A diary of wear & individuals (males are blue & females are pink). The colours are:-
Black (completely fresh individuals)
Grey (very fresh, but some lost of scales on the upperside)
Brown (noticeably worn on the upperside)
Orange (one or more notches visible in the wing edges)
Yellow (totally abraded wing edges)
Green (not seen that day, but clearly still present as seen on a subsequent day)
The first individual was found on the 7 Aug. However, that day we limited our observations to a small area where this first individual was being seen. The following 2 days were warm & sunny and there the greatest numbers seen. On the 8 Aug, 8 of the 12 seen that day were incredibly fresh individuals. On the 9 Aug, there were 6 out of 11 incredibly fresh individuals. On the 10 Aug, the weather changed to a gale and driving rain in the morning as ex hurricane Bertha passed through the area, but the afternoon changed to sunny, but still quite breezy. There were 6 individuals seen that day. Only one was photographed: again, a pristine individual.

On the 8 Aug, I photographed as many individuals as I could. I ended up with 12 sets of photos & 10 were different individuals. Thus, there was a really high turnover of individuals being seen. I only saw 2 individuals again that day & even then only on one occasion each. On the 9 Aug, it was a similar story I managed to photograph 6 individuals. However, 2 fresh individuals that photographed by friends early that morning, had already disappeared before I arrived. There were an additional 2 individuals which were photographed on the edge of the site, where I didn't get to photograph. Of 8 identified individuals on the 9 Aug in the main site, there were 4 that hadn't been seen on the previous day & only 4 were ones from the 8 Aug. Additionally, the 2 at the edge of the site, had been seen the previous day. There was a final female that was photographed on the 9 Aug, but only from the underside. At the moment, I've not been able to confirm her identify, other than to be confident she wasn't one of the females seen that day (as I have upper side & under side photos of the other females).

What became clear from subsequent observations at the site, was that on these 2 days, there were a good number of Maps being seen. Most were seen on only one occasion that day whilst nectaring and they quickly dispersed. While it's possible that they did return to the site on that day, there were a number of observers looking & I was working hard to get as many photos of the different individuals as I could. When a Map was seen, I was quickly getting there & taking photos. Whilst others were trying to get a well composed photo, I was more interested in getting a record set of photos that would allow me to subsequently identify the individuals & on these two days, I wasn't missing many opportunities for photographing different individuals.

On subsequent days, the numbers at the site quickly dropped off. Initially, I thought this was the effect of the ex Hurricane Bertha & a couple of windier days. But later that week, it was clear that the Maps were still present, but the males had taken up territories around the edges of the site. They would nectar in the morning, but were defending their territories from lunchtime onwards. Two were seen on territory on the 8 and 9 Aug, but it wasn't clear at the time that they had taken up territories.

But it also became clear, that the reason we were seeing a high turnover of individuals, was once they had fed, the males were quickly dispersing to start finding territories to defend. They were clearly the more flighty of the sexes. While some of the females were also dispersing fairly quickly, a couple of the females were more approachable & photogenic.

What was also clear is that they were initially been seen around an extensive area of Stinging Nettles, but then flying out to nectar in the main part of the site. On two or three occasions, Maps were seen flying away from Stinging Nettles area & being lost to sight. At the time, I assumed they would come back, but in hindsight, I think this was the start of the dispersal.

So what I think was happening is they were hatching from the main batch of Stinging Nettles. This would explain the high number of fresh individuals & why a really fresh individual was seen as late of the afternoon of the 10 Aug. It also proves the escape theory is a lie. The only explanation assuming it was an introduction, it is was a deliberate & illegal introduction. After nectaring, both sexes were rapidly dispersing around the site, with the males looking to establish territories. On subsequent mornings, both sexes were seen again nectaring, but after the 10 Aug, all had dispersed from the core part of the site where all the action was occurring up to the 10 Aug. This core area was still being checked, but with very few sightings.
Map: My favourite Map photo (8 Aug 14)
Finally, I want to provide some behavioural observations on the Maps. This is based upon my own observations, but also stuff that was pointed out to me by other visitors, especially Neil Hulme. However, a number of these things I would have worked out myself in the 65 hours or so, I spent on site, but it would have taken me a lot longer to get there.

I was confused on the first afternoon that Brian Arnold & Derek Haynes & myself, found the first Map, as we didn't see it feeding at all during that day. Initially, it was found sunning itself on a low bush. After getting quick photos, it flew out of view. Fortunately, Derek quickly relocated, before it flew again to a higher bush. We relocated it several times that afternoon around that group of bushes, but all the time it was sunning itself on the bushes. When disturbed it flew up higher about several metres off the ground. But by sitting around, it allowed us to get some reasonable shots at times, but often it was too high to photograph with the 15 - 85mm lens. But this was typical for a male as they were spending the afternoons defending territories.

The following morning, Brian & Derek, returned to the site before me & quite a bit of looking they relocated it & gave me a call to say it was still there & in a adjacent field. This was a field we hadn't looked in, on the first day. I got there soon after & immediately realised, they were looking at a well-marked female. As mentioned in my last Map post, while we were photographing this female, another Map flew past. Chasing that put up two more Maps. By the end of the day I had identified 10 individuals in the field, with another 2 subsequently identified from looking at other people's photos. All were seen in the same field and were photographed whilst nectaring. This included seeing our original male nectaring. What is interesting, is I took 12 sets of photos that day & this produced sightings of 10 individuals. Therefore, there was a high turnover of individuals in the field, with only 2 being seen again later in the day. Another thing that was interesting, was walking around the field often failed to produce any individuals. Then another pass 20 minutes later, would find 2 or 3 feeding close to each other. It was a similar pattern on the next day, when another 9 were seen. But of these 9, 5 of these were new individuals and only 4 had been seen on the previous day.

What was happening was these Butterflies were emerging from a Stinging Nettles bed in the field on the second and third day. Obviously, some could have emerged on the first day, but we weren't looking there for them. They were then nectaring in the field, but fairly quickly were dispersing from the field to the surrounding trees & bushes. The conditions were warm & sunny on these 3 days & the Maps were very active. However, every time it became cooler and overcast, the Maps would disappear: only reappearing once the sun has come back out again for some time.

Generally, all Map activity ceased about 16:00 to 17:00. They were the first Butterflies to stop flying, despite there being lots of activity from most of the other species present. After that time, they would sit around & occasionally fly if it became really warm & sunny or if another & often larger Butterfly strayed into a male's territory.