14 Jul 2018

14 Jul 18 - A Local Hairstreak

For the last few years I've planned to look for a local speciality: White-letter Hairstreak. Numbers of this easily overlooked Butterfly crashed in the 1970s & early 1980s when Dutch Elm disease swept through the UK & wiped out most of the UK's Elm trees within a decade. I've been aware of a local site for a few years, but I have never managed to find a combination of suitable weather & my availability at weekends within the flying period. My friend who discovered this site has generally only seen them flying high around the Elms & has only seen one low down nectaring, so this has been another factor in the priority to have a look. Having been unable to get out for the last few days to the site, this morning was another hot, still day & so I suggested to mate, Peter Moore that we gave it a look. Peter picked me up late morning & a few minutes later we were leaving the parked car. There was a bit of a hike along footpaths before getting to the actual site. Once there we spread out to check a large patch of Thistles where they had been seen before. No joy in the patch of Thistles I started checking, but a whistle from Peter suggested a more positive outcome where he was. I swiftly walked over, but I didn't really need to hurry as it was still nectaring when we left about an hour later. Given there are well known sites in Dorset, this site will remain as a vague Swanage site, although Peter & I will forward details of the sighting to the county recorder. Having had problems with collectors at Map Butterflies site, then I won't be broadcasting specific, but not well known, sites of other locally rare Butterflies.
White-letter Hairstreak: Initial views
White-letter Hairstreak: Good mystery photo
White-letter Hairstreak
White-letter Hairstreak: It spent a fair bit of time upside down to frustrate the photographers. It worked as I went looking for another, but failed to find one
White-letter Hairstreak
White-letter Hairstreak
White-letter Hairstreak: I'm assuming with this body shape that this is a female
There was a good selection of other Butterflies present. In total I saw thirteen species there. A Holly Blue in my garden was a fourteenth species for the day.
Small Copper
Brown Argus
Peacock
Painted Lady: It was good to see such a pristine individual
Silver-washed Fritillary
One of the problems I though of as I was walking to the site was how to identify an Elm tree. Given their relatively scarcity then it was a tree I wasn't familiar with. Fortunately, Peter knew. He said they had a distinctive asynchronous leaf shape.
The distinctive asynchronous Elm Leaf shape
Not bad for an hour of looking for local Butterflies.

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