Sunday, 23 August 2009

Sunday 23rd.August 2009

Having seen the forecast for today , I decided last night , to make a final try for the Brown Hairstreak , but at another location . This morning I received an email from Keith , another enthusiast , that he had been to this other location after I had told him about it , and had found a single female last week . Spurred on by this information , I made an early start , even deeper into Sussex . Clear blue skies and rising temperature on the way down , reverted to cloud rolling in and dropping temperature as I arrived . Fortunately , it didn't last for long , as the sun burnt off the cloud . The site was a railway line , and when the line was axed , the track was removed , and now provides a great walking/cycling route , especially as it is virtually flat . Along the sides of the track , are large stands of Blackthorn , the foodplant of the BH . It was this that I started searching , hoping for a movement or a butterfly to drop down from the Ash trees behind . After a couple of hours searching , and loads of 'good mornings' to and from the hoards of cyclists using the path , and a host of funny looks from people wondering what I was doing , not even a glimpse of a BH . A footpath lead off the track at right angles and that lead into a field that had been planted with trees some years ago . Amongst the small trees was lots of Common Fleabane , a favourite nectar source for butterflies , and at last I started seeing a few species . Surprisingly , one of the first species seen was the Silver Washed Fritillary , a male and a female being recorded . The male was in about the same state as those at High Elms . Brown Argus , Common Blue , Comma were also found The Common Fleabane was also attracting large numbers of Hover Flies , including this Helophilus pendulus. Apart from grasses and the Blackthorn hedge down one side , not a lot else was growing , but I did find a few stands of Gipsywort , showing well it's whorls of white flowers around it's stem . Another couple of butterflies turned up for the 'tattiest' prize , the first a Large White , with a large proportion of both wings missing , but I can assure you was flying well in the breeze . I only recorded a couple of Painted Ladies , one almost pristine , and this one . I can't make out whether it is just faded , or an abarration , as the front wings near the abdomen seem rich in colour , compared to the rest of it's colour .
By now it was getting very warm , and I got back to the other side of the Blackthorn hedge , and back to the 'good mornings' again . About 1115 , I noticed a movement , and was convinced that it was a Specked Wood on the backside of the Blackthorn . Then it moved again , and a splash of orange landed , this time in the middle of the bush and above head height . The camera was ready , and as soon as it moved into the clear , I got my first shot of the year of the Brown Hairstreak . A pristine female posed gracefully before moving several times within the same bush . She did open her wings , but being high up , it was difficult to get a decent shot . I hope it can be seen that the top wing is all brown , except for an orange flash on each of the forewings . This is one of the odd cases in nature , where the female is more colourful than the male , as he has hardly any orange on his top forewing . It is a beautiful butterfly , and is well worth the time and effort to see it , but like many species , they are becoming fewer , making them harder to see , as I have found out lately . I gave it another hour and a half , by which time , I had changed to 'good afternoon' , but did not get any more sightings .
I had to almost pass the Gatwick site on the way home , and popped in for a quick look . Nothing was moving on the Blackthorn there , and the wind was playing a much bigger part there . Heading back to the car , I once again came across 2 maybe 3 Clouded Yellows . I'm not sure if they are the same specimens that I found last time , but the habitat , grass with a smattering of Bird's Foot Trefoil , doesn't seem to be enough to keep them there .
And finally , a mystery flower , that I found on the footpath in the recently planted field . The whole plant was only 15cms. high , with a single flower on top . The centre has a white cone pointing skywards , and 4 small white cones , between each of it's four petals . I suppose it could be a garden escape , as I can't find anything like it in my books .

7 comments:

Warren Baker said...

Thats a stunner of a butterfly Greenie, and one of your best photographing efforts - glad the two coincided!

Rambling Rob said...

Congrats on the 11.15 Brown Hairstreak, Greenie - yes, a lovely shot too.

How about a Willowherb for the dainty bloom - Marsh Willowherb?

Dean said...

Stunning Brown Hairstreak, Greenie.

I`ve also gone for a Willowherb, but i`m going to stick my neck out and say Short-fruited.

ShySongbird said...

Congratulations on the Brown Hairstreak Greenie your persistence paid off!

After looking through my Collins Guide I too was going for the Short-fruited Willowherb (before seeing Dean's comments) but after googling it, to make sure, I wasn't so certain and went back to the book and noticed the plant can reach 80cms which doesn't seem to match your description. However so far I haven't come up with anything else.

Greenie said...

ShySongbird , Rob and Dean ,
Thank you all for your assistance . Given the four notched petals , I too went for Willowherb from the flower key initially . But what put me off ,
and is still putting me off , is the size of the plant , and the fact that I did not come across water or damp area , anywhere during my time on the site , never mind where the plant was on the footpath .
I think it will have to go down as a 'strange one' , but appreciate your time and effort .

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Greenie. I am pleased that all your time and effort paid off. Well done.I can't belive that Large White could get off of the ground.

Kingsdowner said...

Mucho cangrats on the brownie, Greenie, and on the quality of the pics.
I saw a pointer to that site over the weekend and should have passed it on to you, but I'm pleased that you got it anyway.