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DURSEY ISLAND REPORT (31st May)

Here on Dursey Island, Friday 29 May was a cold day with a strong south-easterly wind (force 5-6) all day. I checked our garden several times, but there were no butterflies of any kind.  

Saturday 30 May was a slightly warmer day with a light ESE breeze. David Cooke and Brendan Finch arrived in the morning, and together we worked the island from end to end. It soon became apparent that a major invasion of Painted Ladys was in progress. Only five Painted Ladys were seen by DC and BF on their way out to Tilickafinna (our ‘village’) in the morning, and I did not see a Painted Lady in our garden until 10:15. However, DC and BF found about 100 at the west end of the island, and by 14:00, there were at least 15 in our garden. More and more kept arriving, and that afternoon we found at least 150 in the central and eastern parts of the island, where there had been only five in the morning. Many were stopping only briefly to feed, and moving off rapidly to the NW or WNW. Our daily total (butterflies seen) went down as 340+, but there must have been at least a thousand on the island. Along with the Painted Ladys, we found a single Large White, five Red Admirals, seven Hummingbird Hawk-moths and about 60 Silver Ys. The highlight, however, was three Striped Hawk-moths – two together in our garden from 22:00 to at least 22:30, and another by the pumping station in the valley between Kilmichael and Ballynacallagh at about 22:30. We had at least one Striped Hawk-moth in our garden during a similar invasion on 11 June 2007,  but this time I managed to get some passable photographs which I can let you have in due course.

Sunday 31 May was a warm day (19 deg. C) with a light easterly breeze. Painted Ladys were present in huge numbers from sunrise. DC reckoned that there were several thousand feeding on Campion near the western tip of the island; there were clouds of them around the flowering Hebe and Escalonia in our garden, and many hundreds in Kilmichael and Ballynacallagh. Our conservative estimate of the numbers actually seen was 4,000. Obviously, there were many more than that over the island as a whole.  Amongst them we found about 25 Red Admirals and a single Small Tortoiseshell. We only saw three Hummingbird Hawk-moths (all in our garden), but there were at least 400 Silver Ys (200 in our garden alone at dusk), and the three Striped Hawk-moths were still in the same place (two in the same bushes in our garden from 22:10 to 22:40, and one again at the pumping station).

Today (Monday 1 June) has been really warm by Dursey standards (21.5 deg. C) with a light ENE breeze. Most of the Painted Ladys have moved on. DC  found several hundred at the west end of the island this morning, but there were only about 20 or 30 in our garden, and maybe a 100 or so in Kilmichael and Ballyncallagh. There are still quite a lot of Silver Ys about, and the two Striped Hawk-moths were still in our garden an hour ago, but we only saw one Hummingbird Hawk-moth all day.

There were also a few nice birds about: a Hobby on Saturday and a Red-backed Shrike in our garden yesterday and today were the highlights.

Derek Scott

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