Butterfly cocoons varia

Butterfly cocoons, not the first thing you would expect on a website. But on the other hand, it is perhaps a conceivable subject given the fact that in recent years I have been busy photographing butterflies and caterpillars. I mainly show here what I am interested in. These are not the most common topics and that could just be one of the reasons why I started working on this.
Since about a year I have also been engaged in breeding caterpillars and butterflies. And the butterfly pupa is the stage between both manifestations. When I also went looking for images of these coccons, it soon became clear that there was very little footage available. And so, one plus one is two!
There is not much variation. A large part of the pupae are similar, with the understanding that there is a clear distinction between those of the common butterflies and moths. The sizes of the cocoons will also contribute little. Of those close to a thousand macro butterflies in our country The Netherlands, the size varies between roughly 9 mm to about 23 mm. With a few exceptions there. That means large group of cocoons has the same length. However, there are differences in shapes of dots, fringe-like appendages or brackets. Furthermore, one coccon is slimmer and another a bit rounder. But with such large numbers, ….. be my guest.
All in all, it’s not a difficult subject. There is little movement and if you have documented three sides of each one you are almost complete.
But the most important aspect is that I’ll like to show the combination of the caterpillar, the cocoon and finally the butterfly itself.

Orange Tip growing up

For some time now I have been breeding butterflies. Now that is a big word, because besides providing fresh food, hygiene and oxygen, the animal does everything itself.
It usually starts with finding caterpillars that I then take with me. Occasionally I started with eggs, but then it is of course important that you know which species you are dealing with. This in connection with the food choice. However, the plant on which the eggs are found is also usually the food plant. If the caterpillar is fully grown after weeks of eating, all that remains is to ensure that there is something available for the caterpillar to pupate on ór in.
Often these are moths, but a species that was high on the list to also grow once is the Orange Tip, Anthocharis cardamines. Besides the fact that the butterfly is beautiful to see, the cocoon also has a special shape. And it is also attached to a twig in a very special way. First, a kind of anvil is made on the branch where the caterpillar with the retractors rests on. These are the last legs on the back. Then the caterpillar makes two threads and attaches it around his / her “waist”. It is a somewhat plastic description of how the caterpillar manufactures something so that it can hang on the branch, … and that for about ten months!
With this specimen, the entire process ultimately took about thirty nine hours. Quite long for when you are in a vulnerable position!
At the end of the entire period, when the butterfly is about to hatch, the pupa becomes transparent. You can already see whether it will be a male or a female. In the male, the large orange wing spot is already clearly visible.
Fortunately, this caterpillar chose a moment when I was free of work so I was able to eyewitness the pupation process. Hopefully that will get a sequel when the hatching of the butterfly takes place, but I’m not counting on that.


Indigirka Delta and Yakutsk, part 2.

Here part two of my trip to the Indigirka Delta, Siberia, Russia. A journey for which I finally had to bear four years of patience. This series continues to the point that we (we were with a small group) arrived at our base camp with the help of a few very fast boats.
Along the way the tundra turns out to be richly covered with willow bushes, sometimes up to two meters high. A little worried, I ask if the Delta is so overgrown everywhere. That turns out not to be the case and the moment we arrive at the camp, the tundra landscape is as we know it. Unusually large and hardly overgrown. There are plenty of willows here, but only in sheltered places. The advantage of this is that a reasonable number of songbirds also use the delta to breed.
However, the main reason that we are here is the occurrence of Ross’s gull and Yellow-billed Diver, breeding. Both species are relatively easy to see worldwide in only a few places. Of the Ross’ gull, the breeding location of only four percent of the total population is known. At least, I hope I have understood this correctly. Also where the birds stay in the winter has only recently been discovered.
Of the original fifteen pairs at our location, only three have not been predated by the Arctic Fox. The drought has ensured that this hunter can go almost anywhere. For us it has the advantage that walking on the tundra is just a little simpler. Although the latter is a relative term. Our first trip to the breeding location of this beautiful seagull was rushed through nerves. Thus, a number of us on arrival were just about total loss. Adrenaline still remains something special, because the sight of Ross’ gulls on the nest gave us renewed energy. And although nest photography may raise the eyebrows for some, it is virtually the only option for this seagull to see the species in breeding plumage. When the young are born they stay on the nest for a maximum of two days and then go out. From that moment on the parents also seem to have disappear without a trace.
Knowing that very few people on this planet have ever seen a breeding Ross’ gull, I try to take the time to really enjoy it. This also applies to the Yellow-billed Diver. Despite the tiredness we also undertake two long trips to these birds. Walking on the tundra is so difficult because there is no flat surface. For each step you take, you must determine where you put your foot.
Due to the drought, the tundra is remarkably empty. At that time it was simply not suitable for large numbers of waders. A phenomenon that the tundra is known for. The songbirds too, were very disappointing when it came to photography. Most of them had young in the meantime and were therefore remarkably shy for high northern breeding birds. It is clear that the local weather conditions determine what you will find.
All in all, this has become a journey not to be forgotten. The fact that only very few people have ever visited the Indigirka Delta makes it an unprecedented privilege. An exceptional journey.

Indigirka Delta and Yakutsk, Russia.

In June 2019, together with a small international group, I made a trip to the Indigirka Delta in north-east Siberia. It was the first time this trip was organized. The original goal, two years earlier, was the Lena Delta. A delta which is located slightly more to the west. Because this journey was canceled at the last minute, an alternative was sought.
The main purpose of both trips was to see and photograph the Ross’ Gull. A species of bird that can only be found worldwide with reasonable certainty at both mentioned locations. And then only in the breeding season. In any case, the breeding ground of only four percent of the entire world population is known. Still an elusive bird species.
The journey began in Yakutsk, the capital of the eponymous republic of Yakutia. This Siberian capital is about a 6.5-hour flight from Moscow and is completely surrounded by unspoilt nature. On the east side is the mighty Lena river. On site we are accompanied by a few local guides, scientists who naturally have their field of work in the field of nature. In the few days we stayed there we mainly visited the surrounding taiga forests. Pure nature and of course with a range of Siberian bird species. Due to the warm spring weather, the breeding season was already well underway. Many birds now had almost or fully grown youngsters. A big contrast with a year that goes ” normal ”. In the delta itself we understood from the professor that this is a 30-year cycle in which these weather conditions occur.
After a few days we left with a fairly dated propeller plane to our final goal, the Indigirka Delta. You arrive in Chokurdakh, an old place that still flourished in the communist era. The population has since shrunk to 2,000 people (was 5,000). It is always difficult to estimate where such places still ‘earn’ their right to exist. It probably costs a considerable amount of government support each year. The preservation of these settlements certainly has to do with ” presence ”.
That living in these locations will not be easy is a statement. A summer of about four months and a long dark period in the winter. In addition, the temperatures of minus 30 or lower do not invite you to take a nice walk.













Poland, Biebrzanski Park Narodowy 2018

A amply late (pictorial) report of last year’s (2018) summer trip. Sometimes it just happens, although it is preferable with a website to post something regularly. Unfortunately, there was still a lot of work to be done in our new home and that has been given priority. That way you keep the rest of the family happy and for yourself it also takes a lot of unrest.
The two-week holiday took place in the first half of August. A period that we have spent there before, but thanks to a different way of searching, it still yielded new varieties of caterpillars. If my information is correct, there was among our finds a species that had not been established in Poland before. In the previous news item I already written something about it. There are also a number of very rare species found, where only a few images are available of.
Although the number of people with interest in butterflies / caterpillars is growing in Poland, there are still major gaps in the knowledge of the appearance of many species. Not many observations occur from the Biebrza area and at all, the knowledge about the determination of caterpillars is far from complete. The subject is specialized and certainly not among the most appealing group.
Over the years I have gained some contacts and one of them is an entomologist who works for the university of natural sciences of Warsaw. On his initiative, a database has been created to map the biodiversity of the country. Some of the observations that I, together with my wife Inge and friend Jan Chóinski make in the area, have recently been included in this database. From one thing comes the other and it has resulted in being the first ” Foreigner ” now, having an account so that I can enter the observations myself. Almost automatically accompanied by footage of course. They find it very special that a foreigner shows so much interest in an area in ” their ” country. I also get a lot of help from a Dutch specialist. Finally, the supplied information must be correct. Finally, I regard myself as no more than a lover !!
For many, this will be a strange way to spend a vacation. Our holiday destination in Poland is still the choice of our daughter. You do not hear me complaining about that!! After all, children are a bit guiding when it comes to how and were to spend a holidays.
The next time we visit Poland, there are a number of areas on the program that we have not visited much. I will do my best to publish that report earlier.

KINA 2018

Poland, Biebrzanksi Park 2018 extra

Just returned from another two-week holiday in the Biebrza area, north-east Poland. Where else I would say.
The trip was again very successful, especially since the rest of the family also had a great time. Daughter Merel is meanwhile at an age when she is doing her own thing and that means that I, together with my wife, regularly go out on the look for caterpillars.
This time again dozens of hours are spent on this subject and that is paid off in many new varieties, beautiful photo moments and ………. as a big surprise, a new species for Poland. The caterpillar at least, because the butterfly has now been observed about four hundred times in the country. This is the Shining marbled, Pseudostrotia candidula. A species from the group of owls, Noctuidae. A small nuance is that despite the fact that many people are now immersed in these groups, there will probably be a degree of unfamiliarity. And especially the extent to which an inventory is made. Does not take away that a scoop is always fun.
The Papillio machaon is still one of the favorites, despite all the rarities. The location and vegetation this time, provided a great opportunity to play extensively with composition and lighting.
Of the other dozens of images, there is still a lot to be determined, so the complete series will take some time.

Poland, Biebrzanski Park Narodowy 2018

After a long ” silence ” there is finally a new series of images and accompanying stories available on this site. It bumps a bit from holiday report to holiday report. Especially after I moved some time ago and all attention went to our new home.
Nevertheless, during this period I have been able to enjoy a short May holiday to my beloved holiday destination in Poland. In the same period a year earlier (early May), again I’ve brought my new toy, an inflatable shelter. That was a good succes and therefore it is logical that I have taken this again. It is a ” different ” perspective so low above the water and gives possibilities that you otherwise can not easily achieve.
This year too, it seemed that the large numbers of birds had visited the area at an earlier stage. At the time of my arrival the area was uncomfortably empty and the water level was also lower than hoped. The weather conditions had been quite favorable in the period before. The certainty I had in the past with regard to large numbers of birds is not there. It would be ideal to plan a longer stay so that I can see with my own eyes whether a shift has taken place. Or perhaps the numbers of birds are really lower than before. However, missing species such as Swift and Spotted Crake suspects that spring started later.
During the times that I went into the water with the floating cabin, it produced two new bird species that I have never been able to photograph properly. A pair of Little Grebe made short use of one of the floating platforms, made by displaying Whiskered Terns. And two days later, I was surprised by the presence of a trio of Black-necked Grebe. A not so general kind here. At first the birds swam away as soon as I approached them, but fortunately it appeared that they were looking for a suitable place to spend the night. By applying enough patience, I finally managed to get close enough for making a portrait. Of course, the attention was also focused on fine group recordings, but this turned out to be a difficult task.
A big mistake this holiday was a Black stork of wich I have great views of. However, the camera had remained at home due to circumstances, and it was proven once again that this is always punished. Speaking of good intentions !!!!