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 .
11 hours ago