Thursday 31 July 2014

Brown Hairstreaks and Wall Browns Bring The Butterfly Yearlist To 50! - 27th July 2014

The weather was bright and sunny on the Saturday of the 26th of July and me, Jon and Kirsty and Sam Candy had already planned to go to Aston Rowant to see the site's specialities of Silver Spotted Skipper and Chalkhill Blue. This site is simply amazing to see, in fact you don't just "see" Aston Rowant you "experience" it in mid summer as the whole place shimmers with butterflies everywhere and on the right day it truly is a sight to behold as Chalkhill Blues fly around your feet. Today didn't disappoint with the wanted species all over the place but I have no idea what was causing it but something out there was causing my hayfever to explode which put a dampener on the morning for me at least as my nose streamed and eyes ran. I did manage a couple of record shots of Chalkhills and Silver Spotted but as I'd achieved better shots last year I didn't try to hard as my eyes were itching like mad.

Chalkhill Blue, Aston Rowant

Silver Spotted Skipper, Aston Rowant
Despite the site being amazing it was somewhat of a relief to me when we left as my sudden attack of hayfever had become pretty bad so we headed to the next target species at the RSPB's reserve at Otmoor. I'd only ever seen one Brown Hairstreak before and that was last year and down the Old Roman Road behind this reserve's car park. So we parked up and headed straight back to the place we'd seen them a year before . I've got to be honest although I was outwardly very confident we'd see one deep inside I didn't think we'd see one at all! Certainly not like we did last year as one came quite far down, the best I was hoping for was a glimpse in the tops of the trees if any. We headed to the particular tree and as me and Jon were discussing what area we saw the previous years butterfly in Sam (who I have to say has a peculiar luck when it comes to finding Brown Hairstreaks) calmly pointed to a thistle right infront of us and said "isn't that one?" We couldn't believe our eyes! A Brown Hairstreak was slowly rotating the way Hairstreaks do on the top of a Thistle flower just at our waist height. It performed fantastically as it flew from flower to flower while slowly rubbing it's wings together and pirouetting around while we all took lots of shots. Unfortunately the base of one of the wings on one side was slightly damaged but other than that it was a nice looking butterfly. Here's a few of the pics below.

Brown Hairstreak, RSPB Otmoor

Brown Hairstreak, RSPB Otmoor

Brown Hairstreak, RSPB Otmoor
After while this little cracker shot back up into the canopy of a nearby Ash but soon enough Kirsty managed to find another one further along the track and this one was just as stunning, in fact it was almost pristine! By now a few more people had arrived and we took it in turns to snap away at this superb butterfly and I also grabbed the opportunity to get a short video too.

Brown Hairstreak, RSPB Otmoor

Brown Hairstreak, RSPB Otmoor

I carried on searching the Roman Road while the others explored the reserve but the best i could do was another Brown Hairstreak high up in a tree. A Common Darter posed nicely on a perch for a moment so I grabbed a quick pic as the sun shone through it's wings.

Common Darter, RSPB Otmoor

We then headed home via Grange Park and we were lucky enough to see a Clouded Yellow just before it was probably about to go to roost for the night, a nice end to a fantastic day!

Clouded Yellow, Grange Park, Northants
 The following day we decided to head to a couple of sites in Cambridgeshire for Wall Brown butterflies. I have admit I didn't realise the were so easy to see in the county as we had intended to head to Norfolk to see them along with Grayling but as these were relatively close to home we gave it a go. After some helpful directions from a mate on a Facebook Group we found ourselves at King's Dyke reserve near Peterborough (please note it's permit only) and had a handful of Walls right underneath the Buddleia opposite the car park. We were pretty ecstatic when we saw them as this was our 50th British butterfly species for 2014! Unfortunately due to the incredibly nice weather they wouldn't stay still for very long so getting pics was certainly a challenge. I managed to get this though all the same which I am very happy with, that underwing is pretty spectacular.

Wall Brown, King's Dyke, Cambs
After we left we headed to Ring's End reserve to see some more Walls before the heat got the better of us and we headed home to have a beer to celebrate the 50.

I haven't mentioned it before as I didn't want to jinx it but me, Jon and Kirsty had set ourselves the challenge to try and see 50 species of British butterfly this year in one season. It's harder than it sounds (especially when working full time) as it requires a lot of nice weather that coincides with days off from work and a considerable amount of luck helps too! Luckily for us we've been very lucky this year considering this is the first time we've attempted this and needed to do quite a bit of prior research to not only find butterfly sites but also to find out where you need to be at the site as some of the butterflies can be tucked in a small corner! We've also met some great people who have helped immensley this year so many thanks to you all. I've also found a great deal of information by carrying out lots of searches using the UK Butterflies forum and various Facebook groups - we'd have never have found the Pearl Bordered Fritillaries at Hailey Wood earlier in the year if it wasn't for people posting online! Hopefully 2014 will bring a couple more butterflies but for now it's a nice feeling to be able to head into the slow lane for a bit. I have to say that chasing butterflies is certainly addictive and this year so far has been superb and very enjoyable with some trips to some amazing places. Biggest thanks of course go to Jon and Kirsty (especially as Kirsty drove on most of the trips!) as we saw them all as a small group and without all of our enthusiasm it wouldn't happen, and of course to Matt for helping us see the Scottish specialites. For me though the Hairstreaks have to be the stars if the year, we have been very lucky to get such good photos of some very elusive insects!


  1. Big ask. How about listing your 50, when you saw them and when. Anoraks like me love a list.
    Great website.

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