7 Aug 2014

7 Aug 14 - Releasing Of A New Swanage Map???

Decided to pop out with the camera & bumped into my local mate, Brian Arnold, who has been taking his friend Derek around Dorset in recent days. We had a great morning as I spotted what I thought was a Speckled Wood sitting on a bush a few metres away. Went to take some photos & was shocked to see it wasn't a Speckled Wood, but looked like a Speckled Wood sized White Admiral. But it wasn't right for that either. Panic ensured as Brian & Derek lifted their cameras, as I stepped back. Frustratingly, it flew off & we still didn't know what it was. All of us were relieved when Derek relocated it a few minutes later about 20 metres away. More photos were taken as it sat sunbathing on a tree, about 3 metres off the ground. We still didn't know what it was, other than it was either an species none of us could put a name to (but I am not up on my European Butterflies) or an unusual aberration of a commoner UK species. But Derek thought he had seen it in Europe in the past. It then moved again to an even higher tree before disappearing out of view. Here is what it looked like.
Map: Second generation male (females would have a second orange band)
After another half hour of not seeing it, I headed home to grab some books & quickly confirmed it was a second generation male Map Butterfly. I returned to tell Brian & Derek & then put some news out on the local birding email group (as there are a number of Butterfly fans on there) as well as phoning a few friends. Brian did the same to alert his Butterfly friends. We saw it on & off on several occasions over the next few hours, before finally deciding to give up about 16:00 (after not seeing it for the previous 45 minutes).
Map: Second generation male. It is just as stunning from the underside
At this point, I was in two minds about the Map. I checking the UK Butterflies website whilst the others were trying to relocate it. This mentioned a record from Surrey in 1982 which was never established whether it was an extreme vagrant, a deliberate release or an accidental escape from captivity. On the plus side, Studland has a good reputation for migrant Moths. But, I have some feedback (via a mutual friend) from one of the most respected Moth guys in the UK, that it would be unlikely to be a genuine vagrant as Maps are not a migratory Butterfly. Therefore, on balance the release option is the most likely.

So this begs the question, why would anybody release Maps into the UK countryside. There have been attempts to do this before. There was a well documented attempt in 1912 to release them to establish colonies at Symond's Yat & the Forest of Dean. These colonies were deliberately wiped out by a purist who didn't agree with a foreign introduction into the UK. I gather there has been other smaller attempts subsequently that have failed. As I understand the law, it is illegal to attempt to introduce an alien species into the UK. Clearly there are some well documented Butterfly introductions that have taken place over the years. Probably, the most well known Butterfly one was the well documented & successful Large Blue introduction. But this is a re-introduction of a former species (albeit the UK subspecies is extinct & the re-introduction stock is the Swedish subspecies). I fully support re-introductions like this. Because it will have been properly planned & I'm sure the appropriate approvals would have been obtained. From memory, I believe the in-depth study of their habitat requirements & the interdependence of their associated Red Ants was just becoming understood as the original extinction occurred. But this understanding allowed the other factors of habitat etc to be managed to support the re-introduction.
Large Blue: Collard Hill (22 June 10). A well planned re-introduction which has helped to re-establish this species in former haunts & a re-introduction I fully support
But if this was released, I do not believe this would be the case with the Map. I think it has probably come from a misguided individual, who wants to get their nice photos of a Map Butterfly & rather than spend some money to travel to France to see them in the wild, has paid their a tenner per pupua to buy them on line & has released them into the wild. The result probably would be they got some nice photos of a great looking Butterfly & the irresponsible subsequent release has probably broken the law. The reality is assuming they bought more than 1 pupae there might be the possibly of a release of both sexes & the slim chance of them breeding. Could they survive in the UK. Well I can't imagine there is a big difference between a sheltered corner of Swanage & Northern France, so no reason why not. They appear to have survived for more than one year from 1912 to 1914 (when they were deliberately wiped out). The other big objection I have to these people who do this & there is a Guy who lives in Bournemouth who I pretty confident was releasing Butterflies to get photos of rare UK species in Dorset back in the 80s, is they almost won't be reporting their actions to the county Butterfly recorder to allow these records to be monitored or ignored. If you think this is all conspiracy theories from me then here is another take on these type of releases. One of the local Birders sent out a warning email within the previous week. He had been out running around Wimborne & had bumped into 2 guys photographing a Butterfly he didn't recognise. On asking, it turned out to be a Large Copper & they were releasing it into the wild for photos. What wasn't established was whether it was subsequently re-caught afterwards or was left to fly away (which is potentially a breach of the law as I understand it). Apparently, they are working on a book, presumably on UK Butterflies. If anybody knows who these guys are, I would love to know (please leave a comment on the blog but I won't publish the comment, as I would like to ensure that I never buy the book from people who have this irresponsible attitude). I would commend people for writing books on wildlife, but if you want to include species that have died out in the UK or are vagrants, then spend a few quid, have a great week on the continent & photograph these species in the wild. Also, make it clear where the photos were taken.

So in summary, I would love this to be a wild Butterfly, but I suspect it's a deliberate release, by a misguided individual. However, a few weeks ago, there was a lot of discussion when a handful of Scarce Tortoiseshells appeared in East Anglia. With only 1 previous UK record, there was discussion of releases from weddings. But at the same time, there were a few tens of sightings in Holland. Within a few days, it was clear there had been an invasion of Scarce Tortoiseshells, with records from Lincolnshire to Kent, but none stayed long enough to be twitchable from Dorset. For now my money is it's a release, but would like to see if it has been caught up in the widespread Clouded Yellow migration that has occurred in the last 10 days or so in Dorset (& doubtless along the rest of the South Coast). I saw about 15 Clouded Yellows here today. About to check the weather forecast for tomorrow morning, to see if it's worth getting out to look for it again.