Imperial Blues performing
Sunday morning, bright and not too much wind before breakfast was a good time for a walk. Hadn't been up to the point for a while so I walked along the lakeside, down the bank and onto the shore. The tide was out so walking wasn't too challenging although there's still a lot of rubbish in the way of logs and branches washed down by the recent rains.
It was warm and as I walked to the top of the ramp and on towards the short small path to the point I noticed several butterflies flittering about a small wattle bush. Curious, I moved closer and was met by a strange scene. The bush wasn't more than 80cm high and on the top twig was a group of what turned out to be chrysalids. There was a constant stream of ants running over and around these and the butterflies looked to be defending the chrysalids. I stood there for some time trying to work out what was happening and the same event kept repeating. The butterflies were patterned on the underside of the wings and black, blue and silver on the upper, though this took a while to spot because the moment they landed the wings closed.
After a while I finished my walk noticing a pair of Ringlet butterflies in a continuous mating dance in a patch of sunlight. No chance of capturing those with the camera and no certainty of them being there when I went to fetch it. But the others were still going through their routine, so home I went briskly to get my gear and let Tina know what I was up to.
My Sony 560 DSLR and Macro 90 was all I needed and I drove round to save time. They were still there and as the light was a little soft I set the ISO to 800 knowing from experience that this would still allow good quality. One step at a time, shooting at every interval, I got within 3-400mm without any notice being taken by the butterflies.
Capturing images was a matter of setting high speed shutter and firing bursts of frames until the camera stopped responding. In this way I took some 400 images. Back home and images downloaded a first cull reduced them to just over 250. Then a second (cull) came down to 70 fair to good, and 4 I rated excellent.
My always go to butterfly book "The Butterflies Of Australia" by Albert Orr & Roger Kitching soon explained what was happening. "J.evogoras has a fascinating mating behaviour. Just before emergence, the pupae of both sexes emit a pheromone which is powerfully attractive to males. Typically several males will respond to this signal. Within a group of pupae they are able to determine exactly which one will soon emerge, and cluster in a tight seething scrum, jostling for position. If the emerging adult is female she copulates almost immediately". From my observation there were at least 8 maybe 10 butterflies in this scrum. What's even more surprising is that the ants take part in the husbanding of the eggs and pupae right through to adulthood.
Its days like this that fire up the enthusiasm and stave off the periods of despondency that sometimes descend.
Do hope the pics give you the thrill they give me!
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