Wednesday 30 July 2014

Brown Hairstreaks

Today was a mission into Dorset, to Alner's Gorse, probably the best butterfly reserve that I have yet visited. As I left, somewhat reluctantly, I had ticked fifteen species of butterfly, which included 3 species of Hairstreak and met some exceptionally nice people - what more could you want from a day's butterflying.

I left home at about 0500 and headed west, long before any commuters were on the road. Chichester, Portsmouth and Ringwood flashed by and before I knew it, I was passing Wimborne. Unfortunately the road between Wimborne and Blandford is a little slow, and the closure of a road delayed me slightly, but before 0730 I was seated on a log under Oak, Ash and Wych Elm trees . It was immediately obvious that three species of hairstreak were in the canopy, unfortunately not a single specimen wanted to come down to my level.

To keep myself occupied I took a tour of the reserve - very  impressed - extremely well managed. I returned to my wooden seat and finally a White-letter Hairstreak came down, albeit not close, but good enough for a record shot. Then, the most gorgeous female Brown Hairstreak, which obligingly posed for the camera. Not only that, she managed to deposit one egg for all the onlookers to see.

Then later another Brown Hairstreak, this time a male, descended and proceeded to nectar on the profusion of bramble flowers, posing for us for at least 30 minutes.

Finally a Purple Hairstreak paid the same bramble bush a visit, albeit fleetingly, just as I was about to press the shutter release it vanished into the canopy. I shall just have to go back, it is well worth a visit even though it is a fair distance away.

White-letter Hairstreak

Purple Hairstreak

Saturday 26 July 2014

Another aberration!

A butterfly - not me, I hasten to add. I decided on an early morning stroll on the Downs, just to recce another venue. So, I parked the car at Kithurst Hill car park and wandered off west, into the access land on Springhead Hill. A gentle stroll took me as far as Amberley Mount but butterflies were hardly numerous. I noted Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Skipper and a very fast flying dark Clouded Yellow.

A bit disappointing, I just expected to find more. On the return journey I came across a magnificent stand of thistles which were attracting a host of the larger species mentioned. A fresh Brimstone posed and I obliged.

What to do next? In the end I returned home via my favourite butterfly haunt - Houghton Forest. As I drove into the field beyond the car park at Whiteways, a pale butterfly caught my eye, I abandoned the car, grabbed the camera and gave chase, much to the amusement of the Bikers assembled at the cafĂ©. Finally the butterfly came to rest on the same bush where, some two weeks previously, we recorded Gatekeeper ab. excessa. I managed several open wing shots but no underwings were recorded. Also, I had the distinct impression that there were two pale specimens present, but of course, I could only follow one. Early information received suggests another albino form of the Gatekeeper. I have posted it on BC Sussex and would dearly like some input from our experts. It has a passing resemblance to the Cockayne collection  Gatekeeper, Pyronia tithonus britanniae ab. albinotica but the orange colour is more intense. 

I managed to record some of the butterflies that I have been ignoring of late, nice to see the second brood Common Blues emerging and for once the Whites look good.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Brown Hairstreak

When we were looking for Purple Hairstreaks at Tillets Lane Fields I noticed several instances of tall Ash trees above Blackthorn and had a hunch that there were possibilities for Brown Hairstreaks. They have been recorded here twice, according to the Warnham website. So, today I paid a visit, more as a recce with low expectations, than a butterflying day. As I arrived the site was awash with Gatekeepers, literally hundreds of them nectaring on every variety of plant and a full supporting cast of Meadow Browns and Small Skippers. As I completed my first circuit of the perimeter a butterfly caught my eye, just darker on the inner wing and brighter than a Gatekeeper. I nearly ignored it but decided to give it a closer look - my 48th species of the year -  a beautiful male Brown Hairstreak. Panic set in but I managed some record shots, after all I have to have evidence for my butterflying buddy. I followed  it for some distance but it never settled in a position where I could get a clear shot. Finally I committed the cardinal sin, I took my eye off it to check my pictures and when I looked up it had disappeared amongst several Gatekeepers and I failed to relocate it.


Encouraged by this success I did another three circuits of the field but not another specimen to be found. Although my diligent searching turned up a partial aberration of a Gatekeeper, possibly ab. partimtransformis.  UK Butterflies haughtily states; "a pathological form which does not deserve a name". One day I will find a bilateral gynandromorph. A nice Green-veined White and a very friendly Common Green Grasshopper were obliging enough to be captured.

No wonder Small Skippers are doing so well, everywhere I go they are at it. This pair finally ended up on my leg as I sat and recorded their antics.

Monday 21 July 2014

Silver-spotted Skipper

Having failed miserably in an attempt to record the Silver-spotted Skipper, I just had to have another go. My forty-seventh butterfly species of the year has proved to be something of a learning curve. They are not the easiest of butterflies to find, being fairly localised on the South Downs. So when I found one I was determined to stay with it and get at least a record shot, Fat chance! These critters are extremely slippery, tracking them is very difficult but, as I learned today, getting close enough for a decent shot is nigh impossible. God knows what the dog walkers who passed by me thought as I rolled, slid and stumbled around on a west facing slope, camera in hand. There was a bonus, this time I managed to avoid the cow pats, something I have failed to do in the previous two outings.

Below are my efforts to record a hyperactive subject, they seemed to improve as the day went on, probably because by the time I left I had noted at least 50 specimens. Ah well, back to Newtimber Hill again tomorrow, if the weather holds, and another go at getting the perfect shot.

Another visit the next day gave even better shots, probably as there were more subjects available, we counted 200+ on the side of the hill. I even had five in the viewfinder at the same time.


The Meadow Browns here are also carrying the Trombidium breei mites, seems to be present at every location we have visited recently.

This female Chalkhill Blue has more than her fair share.