Iridescence in insects

Iridescence is when surfaces – such as the wings of butterflies – appear to change brightness and colour as the angle of view, or the angle of illumination, changes. The iridescent wings of Morpho butterflies are some of the best examples. The spectral reflectance changes with the angle of incidence – i.e. the viewing angle…

Flies blowing bubbles

The first time I saw a fly with a droplet of water protruding from it’s mouth (or the tip of the proboscis) I was quite surprised. Why would a fly be blowing bubbles like this? It turns out that flies do this to cool down!  They move a droplet of fluid in and out and…

Black and red and poisonous! Burnet moths

What does this strikingly black and red coloured moth say to you? Eat me? Or, don’t touch me because I am poisonous? It should say the latter! Because bright, contrasting colours like this are aposematic. They are universal warning colours which apply throughout the animal kingdom; and if you don’t know them, you will soon…

Kittiwakes learning to fly

We are coming to end of the Kittiwake nesting season here in Scarborough. There are still some chicks on the nests with their parents, but most have fledged and are learning the joys of flying! Kittiwake chicks spend about 41-42 days (average fledging period) sitting on their nests, being fed by their dutiful parents. They…

Silver-washed fritillary courtship behaviour

The courtship behaviour of the silver-washed fritillary, Argynnis paphia (Heliconiinae, Argynnini), is described in most books or websites about butterflies. Here’s how I described it in my book on Courtship and mating in butterflies. The male …. performs a unique pursuit flight, swooping down beneath the female, then darting up in front of her, until…

Life on a ledge

I have been following Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) at a number of sites around Scarborough this summer, but one particular location offers very good views, provided you take care not to disturb the birds too much. With a long lens, you don’t have to get too close, although the birds seem to be used to people…

Silly seabird season! Herring gull chicks.

It’s what I call silly seabird season here in Scarborough. The time of year when seabird chicks fall off the roof! I am talking about Herring gulls of course. A Kittiwake would never fall off; they are just too clever for that! The advice from the RSPB is that if the chick is uninjured, leave…