Tuesday 21 December 2021

Butterflies in December in Portugal

 Butterflies still flying in December

Red Admiral (Photo: Steve Andrews)

Here where I live in Portugal there are still butterflies flying in December. One of the most commonly seen is the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta).  The males establish territories they patrol on scrubland, while mated females seek out patches of Annual Nettles (Urtica urens) that grow well at this time of year, due to the late autumn rains. These nettles often grow as weeds in gardens and so the butterflies can often be seen there too. The caterpillars make tents out of the leaves and can be found by looking rolled up leaves at the top of plants. There is a patch of ground where I took the photo above, where I see Red Admirals every year. It is almost as if the same butterfly has returned, as regular as clockwork, but of course, they are new butterflies. This leaves the question of how do they select the same spot each year. It is amongst scrub and pines but there are plenty of similar spaces. 

Small White (Photo: Steve Andrews)

The Small White (Pieris rapae) can often be seen too in December. I presume the Large White (P. brassicae) are still around, though I cannot vouch for this. although at other times in the year they are common. Both species can be seen in urban settings where they fly over parks and gardens in search of cabbages, cauliflowers, kale and broccoli on which their caterpillars can feed unless gardener spots them and removes them. Both species can be found in rural areas too where the females lay their eggs on wild species in the Cress family (Cruciferae). 

Speckled Wood (Photo: Steve Andrews)

There are still a few Speckled Wood butterflies about as well. The subspecies most often seen Portugal is Pararge aegeria aegeria. The speckles on its wings are more of a tawny orange shade than the usual pale yellow markings that contrast with the darker brown. At first sight these Portuguese Speckled Woods closely resemble the Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), and I must admit I was fooled by this similarity when I first came to Portugal. The Wall Brown has seriously declined in the UK. Both these butterflies use various grass species as food-plants for their caterpillars. Here in Portugal I always wonder what the butterflies that need grass do in the hot part of the year when all the grass has died or become dessicated and brown. They have some means of surviving these times of summer drought. The Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) is very common where I live, which is in a town about 25km south of Lisbon. It is not seen in winter but when it does fly in summer I have seen these butterflies sheltering in the shade of clumps of trees. 

Swallowtail caterpillars on Rue (Photo: Steve Andrews)

There are still caterpillars of the Swallowtail (Papilio machaon gorganus) feeding on Rue in gardens, though I haven't seen any adult butterflies since November. The winter chrysalises of this species are a brownish colour, as opposed to the green ones that are produced for the rest of the year. These chrysalises and any still to be produced, will stay sleeping until the spring when the cycle begins again. Speaking of Swallowtail butterflies,  I saw a female of the Southern Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides feisthamelii) in the first week of December, despite the cold.  She was inspecting an almond tree on some waste-ground near where I live and laying her eggs on the remaining leaves. Sadly her efforts were in vain because the tree has since shed all its leaves. I went back to see if could spot any caterpillars that had hatched, with the idea that maybe I could keep them indoors and feed from any leaves I could locate on plum, peach or almond that hadn't yet dropped theirs. There were no leaves and no caterpillars. This female butterfly was out too late in the year here.  Many species are being affected by climate change and are doing what they can to adapt to the ever changing conditions we are experiencing. Next month is usually the coldest month of winter in Portugal and we get hard frosts then so I am not expecting to see any January butterflies but these days you never know! 

Sunday 7 February 2021

Ocean Aid Concerts - the first is taking place

I am leading the way with songs about plastic pollution with my song Where Does All The Plastic Go? But I also came up with an idea for Ocean Aid Concerts to raise awareness about threats to the oceans and to raise funds for charities that are working on saving the seas and the marine life in them. 

Time was ticking by and although many people said what a great idea this is, nothing actual in the way of events was happening. I had had the dream of a massive concert in a stadium somewhere, a concert following in the worthy footsteps of Live Aid with many internationally famous singers, bands and musicians on the bill. It was a very big dream but there’s nothing wrong with that. I was hoping to start with something smaller to help get word out there and eventually this would lead to an Ocean Aid Concert with very big names on the bill.  But then came the Covid-19 pandemic and put a stop to so many things. With lockdowns and restrictions the world of music was hit very badly indeed, and as it stands currently even big festivals like Glastonbury have had to be cancelled again. But musicians soon realised that even if they could no longer play on actual stages at offline events they could still play online at live streamed virtual concerts. I started doing this myself and soon befriended a lot of talented singer-songwriters and musicians who are regular performers on Rew Starr’s ReW & WhO? Show from NYC. This year I decided that action needed to be taken to actually get Ocean Aid Concerts really happening. No more talk about it but action! I concluded too that word would soon spread and because plastic pollution is a threat to the oceans and environment worldwide, the more of these concerts the better and the more countries that get involved the better too. In all media coverage this year I am getting, I am talking about Ocean Aid Concerts. I have one planned and many performers from the ReW & WhO? Show are joining me for this. Acts on the bill are myself, Rew Starr, Brute Force, Carol Lester, Donald Black Cat, Joel Landy, Mimsey MacCormack, Dennis Doyle, Tucky Parkis, Yvonne Sotomayor, Rock’n’Roll Johnny Bod, Kenn Rowell, and Marilynn Larkin, Ondine PM.

The concert is taking place on 10 February at 8pm - 10pm UTC (3pm - 5pm EST).  I  am supporting Sea Shepherd because this organisation is already out there saving the oceans and the marine life in them. It will be livestreamed on several Internet platforms but the best place to find it is here: http://www.hotindiemedia.com/

I had intended using the JustGiving fundraiser website to collect donations for Sea Shepherd but the site is confusing. At one place it claims that users can donate from all around the world and in several currencies, which is why I thought it would work fine, but elsewhere it explains that donations cannot be accepted for charities outside the EU: “You may notice that you’re not able to donate to certain charities outside of the European Union. This is because they adhere to different local laws and may use different payment products which at this time, don’t allow you to make choices about whether or not the charity receiving your donation can see your information.” I had discovered that people in the UK and The Netherlands were unable to donate and this would explain it. I sent a message to JustGiving Support four days ago but they still have not replied. I suppose they don’t know how to when their site contradicts itself!

A friend suggested I tried using GoFundMeCharity, and after some initial problems there, with the help of someone in the site's support department, I now have a campaign site working there. The JustGiving link for donations appears to work for Americans and it can stay, so please use it if you are in the US (Canada may work too and other non-EU countries), but if you are in the UK or EU please donate via this new GoFundMe link.

Many people talk about Mother Earth but I think we should also talk about Mother Ocean, after all, the oceans are where all life began long, long ago, according to science. Today the dangers to marine life are many. Besides plastic pollution, overfishing, agricultural run-off causing dead zones, seabed mining, military testing, acidification, coral bleaching, nuclear waste dumping and climate change are all taking a very heavy toll too. So please support Ocean Aid with your donation and by spreading the word!