Thursday, 11 August 2016


As I have no doubt said before, the hunt for Brown Hairstreaks symbolises, for me,  the end of the butterfly season. Last year, here in Sussex, we had an extension with Long-tailed Blues emerging at the end of October and even into November. The season is slowly winding down and soon it will be time to start looking for some elusive birds.

Over the last week I have visited some of my local sites and found that butterfly numbers have, at long last, increased. Good numbers of Red Admirals and Silver-Washed Fritillaries in particular, the odd Painted Lady and an emergence of some fresh Brimstones. Generally the condition of some of the specimens can be described as "well worn". It never ceases to amaze me that SwF males continue to make advances to females when most of their wings have disappeared and they can barely fly - driven solely by the urge to procreate. Later, I sat for an hour exactly between two territories of Walls, anything that flew through was vigorously intercepted and engaged, even the Dandelion seed heads that drifted past were attacked. Occasionally the two Walls would meet at the junction of their properties and mayhem ensued, no wonder I struggled to find one suitable for recording as they are constantly engaged in combat.

Last Thursday found me at Houghton, I live in hope of finding the SwF forma valesina on my patch, plenty of SwF about and I searched in vain. A single, very worn, White Admiral was nectaring on the Hemp Agrimony, a once stunning butterfly now full of holes. Back at Whiteways I was entertained by some freshly emerged Common Blues which I recorded.

Only a few scratches on this one


Monday I ventured to Anchor Bottom, again in search of some 2nd brood butterflies, this time - Adonis Blues - alas very little to be seen in the extensive wild flowers that cover the south facing slope. I also failed to find any sign of the Silver-spotted Skipper colony that used to be below the rabbit warren. It was all a bit depressing until a fly by of a Small Tortoiseshell had me puffing up the slope. I finally caught up with it as it came to rest on a sun baked cow pat - amazing how such beautiful creatures are attracted to so much poo! Not long before these slopes are covered in countless Autumn Lady's Tresses, another sign of the end of the butterflying year.


Tuesday, Martin picked me up and we set off for Tillets Lane Fields near Warnham, ostensibly for some late season Purple Hairstreaks and a slim chance of a Brown Hairstreak. With clear skies we were scouring the tops of some magnificent oaks, wondering if we were too late, when down fluttered a silver object that crash landed right in front of us - another worn specimen of what we had come for. And to top it all, on the way back to the car I found a male Brown Hairstreak, unfortunately I managed only two out of focus shots before it disappeared for good.

Proof - but no prize for the photo.

Next up was Madgelands Wood, again a search for possible late Purple Emperor and perhaps a White Admiral - no such luck. A fleeting glance of a large butterfly in the top of an oak was probably a purply, but there again no positive ID. So none of our targets were achieved but we were rewarded by some obliging Southern Hawkers, posing in the sunshine that penetrates the rides.

We finished the day touring the rides of Houghton Forest, lots of SwFs, Red Admirals and Brimstones but for me the blue female Common Blue was the best of the bunch.

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