Saturday, 5 September 2015

gorganus ...

Swallowtail (Papilio machaon ssp. gorganus)

Simply stunning ...

The British race of P. machaon, subspecies britannicus, is confined to the fens of the Norfolk Broads in east Norfolk. This is partly due to the distribution of its principal larval foodplant, Milk-parsley (Peucedanum palustre). The morphologically similar continental subspecies, gorganus, is less specific in its requirements and will use many kinds of umbellifer, for example Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) and Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).

Following on from 2013 and 2014, both of which transpired to be exceptional periods for continental Swallowtail sightings in Sussex, with overwintered pupae from the 2013 breeding season emerging during May and June 2014, sightings of at least three plausible ‘migrant’ specimens have been recorded to date in 2015.

Pete Wong recorded the first, photographed in the meadow at Kithurst Hill on Saturday, 16th May. This sighting was not published at the time due to the vulnerable nature of this important site - the location already being under stress from footfall with the Duke of Burgundy season being well underway. However, there were no further sightings of this transient and slightly worn specimen. At the end of May an unsubstantiated report of more than one individual was noted from a location in East Sussex. Despite a published image, there is debate as to the authenticity and provenance of this report. Consequently, this is disregarded in this account. The next sighting came on Thursday, 30th July, when D Buck observed a worn individual near to the windmill in Rottingdean. The third report, of a specimen photographed by Helen Kalkbrenner near Nymans in Handcross, occurred on Sunday, 9th August.

Let’s hope this starts to trend, as it’s not out of the question with our climate continuing to become warmer, for this magnificent butterfly to take hold in the foreseeable future …

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