Saturday, 2 July 2011

Saturday 2nd. July 2011

Whilst photographing the male Purple Emperor during the week , the other chap , with the walking stick , mentioned that he had been to see one of the rarest and most elusive butterflies the day before , and had found it . A quickly arranged sorti was planned last night , and I met Keith at his house at 0600 to see if we could do the same . Our target species was the Black Hairstreak , a species restricted to just 45 colonies , all in the East Midlands , between Oxford and Peterborough , and today we were heading for Glapthorn Cow Pastures in Northamtonshire . We had an easy trip up , and even before reaching the reserve , just had to stop the car to get shots of Red Kites , cruising effortlessly over the open fields . We found the site and nervously , as neither of us had ever seen the species in real life , started to search the large areas of Blackthorn and Bramble , paying particular attention to those that were already swathed in the warm sunshine . With many large , mature trees on the site , as the sun rose in the sky , different patches came into the sunlight , as others went back into shade . A deer was seen at distance down a track as we arrived , and during the first couple of hours , at least two were heard 'barking' for long periods . It didn't click till later , that the 'barking' was probably Muntjac Deer , as they are well known for doing so and also found records of their sighting in the visitor's book on site . We were finding plenty of butterflies , but not the target species , and although by the book we should be in the middle of their short flight time , like all other species this year , they probably emerged early . This was also confirmed in the visitor's book with a 28th. May entry of 'first Black Hairstreak seen' . From the open glades we still had occasional views of Red Kites and the book once again informed us that they had in fact nested on the site this year . Three hours of searching still hadn't produced the required result , but it also gave more time to practice Volucella pellucens in flight shots , and when they weren't around , the odd spider managed to make it to the camera . Like everywhere else this year , Large Skippers showed really good numbers , here three posed in line astern . Yet another Red Kite flew over the site , this time looking a bit tattier than the others . Searching hard and trying not to let our lack of success get us down , after about three hours Keith uttered the words 'I've got a Hairstreak' . I don't know how 'Eagle Eye' saw it as it was well back in a large Bramble patch and above head height , but I'm really glad that he did . Then came the soul searching , is it definitely a Black , as the White-letter Hairstreak is very similar . Frustratingly , it seemed to prefer the Bramble flower on the far side of the plants , being out of sight for much of the time . Every now and again , it gave a full side-on view , and sometimes that view was in full sunlight . It was then that we started to believe that we had found our target species . Because of the distance , it was difficult to see the orange and black makings on the back of the hindwing , carrying on and fading out on the back of the forewing , but the inner row of black spots on the hindwing was the clincher , it was the only one we saw , but it was the species that we set out to see , well spotted 'Eagle Eye' , a first for both of us . Whilst we were photographing it , a couple from Hampshire , who had just arrived on site to see the Black Hairstreak , reached where we were standing , and saw their target species within 10 minutes of arriving . We made our way back to the car for a well earned sandwich and drink

and talking about making our way back home , delayed by a rather tatty Common Buzzard overhead as we left the wood . At the car , we met another couple who asked if we had seen BH , and we told them the story . They told us that they had just come from another wood a short distance away where Purple Emperor were seen . After lunch , plans changed to a quick look at the other wood as it was close by . On a track through farmland , yet another Red Kite encounter . Just before reaching the other wood , a young Fox decided to play 'chicken' down the lane in front of the car , which went on for a couple of hundred metres , before it decided to dive off to the side .
By the time we started looking around the second wood , the cloud had started to build , and the sun was at a premium . But , in one short spell of sunshine 'Eagle Eye' again worked his magic , spotting a female Purple Emperor which flew overhead and settled in a Willow . Plenty of White Admirals and a couple of White-letter Hairstreaks were also seen , but things got steadily quieter . With a long trip home , we decided to call it a day , with a total of 18 butterfly species seen , including 3 Hairstreak species , 5 raptor species , including Hobby and probable Goshawk .


Marianne said...

Wow, what a day, Greenie! I saw Black Hairstreak at Glapthorn in 1995, happy memories :)

Rob said...

Another red-letter day Greenie - exciting times!

Looks like that fox was shifting!

ShySongbird said...

I said you were on a roll Greenie. Well done! They were seen at Otmoor (Oxon, in the South East) on June 5th which (as you mentioned) seemed very early.

Well done on the Red Kites too, magnificent birds. They have been seen recently by a friend of mine less than a quarter of a mile from my house. I am about mid-way between Oxford and Warwick so they really are doing well! Of course Watlington Hill Oxon is a wonderful place to see them but if I remember rightly when I posted on it you said you had been there many years ago while looking for orchids.

Warren Baker said...

Excellent day again Greenie, just goes to show what can be found out there - Its just a shame we have to look so hard for them.