Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Beautiful Hairstreaks and a Big Shock 3rd sept 2012

Today was to be my final Butterfly trip of the year, so sad to think the season is over. But today's species the Brown Hairstreak is probably one of the most beautiful , and so rarely seen.  i always seem to be lucky when i visit Grafton wood in Worcestershire , except 2 weeks ago when they didn't show themselves :)  but all species are late this year, compared to last year when i visited on 17 th Aug and 24 th Aug.  . So today has to be my only chance this year , fingers crossed the weather is looking perfect, warm and sunny :)   i arrive at Grafton flyford at 10.25 am  and parked by the church, the best time to see the female hairstreaks is between 11 and 1.30 for some reason.
i make my way through the farmyard , past the cows and down the track to the wood and start looking along the blackthorn hedges along the way, i have already noticed that some of them have been flailed already Arghhhh.   all the fresh growth that the butterflies usually lay on has been destroyed but at least it has been done Before the eggs have been laid.

I have arrived at one of the best areas, just where the  track branches to the left to go towards the "orchard" a noted hotspot.  i watched Hairstreaks laying eggs here last year so i am giving it a good search but not a sign of any unfortunately. i carry on walking and come to a recently flailed section, and almost straight away i have just spotted my first Brown Hairstreak of the year, perched at eye level  Yay!

i only managed the one shot before she flew high up into the tree :(       but she was perched nicely so out comes the 300mm lens and i manage to take a few images, this is the best one.

then she suddenly flew down onto the blackthorn about 12 ft from me, at eye level again , perfect i though and proceed to take these images,  the blue sky really making a good background to show off these beautiful butterflies :)

she didn't stay long and fluttered of over the hedge , so i continue along towards the orchard, as you can see in this image , cattle wires have been put up since last time which might be a problem trying to get close to any butterflies low down!

 walking all the way along the hedge , through the orchard and have seen nothing , not even any dragonflies which is quite unusual for this area.   i did however shoot this Brimstone feeding :)

i have started walking back towards the place i shot the first one and as i was looking up at the blackthorn a fellow photographer coming the opposite way shouted my name , it was Dave who i have met previously. we started talking and suddenly he shouted out  "THERE'S ONE"   low down on the blackthorn , then i spotted another one about 12 ft to the right :)   they where basking in the sun and then occasionally going down a blackthorn stem looking for a suitable spot to lay eggs .

            i decided to try shooting a video clip, its not great and sound no good obviously  lol

i followed one along the hedgerow for about 40 ft and it perched perfectly on a leaf tip, unfortunately the electrified cattle wires were in the way!  i knelt down and put the camera between the wires, keeping my eye on where the wire was , i almost had a perfectly composed in focus image in the viewfinder when "BANG" i was knocked backwards into Dave!   he said " are you alright"   my forehead must have touched the wire  Arghhhh    i have touched these low voltage wires before and they do give a large jolt ,but in the head was completely different.

     my head was ringing and a big headache coming on!!!  and on top of that i Didn't get the shot!

  i felt a bit dizzy for about 5 minutes after this incident!  the things we do to get a perfect shot :D
walking up and down this hedgerow we spotted 3 or 4 different Hairstreaks laying eggs intermittently , here are a few images

watching them laying eggs, they are crawling right down to almost ground level , making it impossible to photograph. presumably because all the higher growth had been flailed, walking down a blackthorn stem and resting for a while in the sun before seemingly looking for a suitable leaf joint to lay in.
  i have managed this video clip of one attempting to lay an egg , could not see whether she had actually layed one for sure though!

         here is an image of an egg shot last year at high magnification, size approx 0.7 mm diameter.

                    look at this , perfect perch and a dam grass stem gives a shadow  Arghhhhhhhh

                           another really bad video clip, by now my head is really hurting!!

This one is feeding on what looks like honeydew dripped from an ivy plant above onto the leaf.


By now i decided to go and have a look around the rest of the wood,saying good bye to Dave,i start with the pond , hopefully get a few dragonfly shots.  there are a few migrant and southern hawkers flying but not perching as usual, but i have just spotted what looks like a Ruddy Darter , using 300mm lens i got this shot

walking into the wood along the main track that runs right down the centre i take a side path to go and check out the very good blackthorn on the outer edge of the wood , there are some wonderful "lone" trees in the fields, always wondered WHY!

i have searched all the blackthorn and spotted no Brownies :(     but i have just shot a lovely Comma near to this old building.

                                     and opening wings to show the bright colouration :)

making my way back onto the main track and have come across an area with loads of freshly emerged Brimstones :)    amazing , i can see about 8 all within  10 ft.

leaving them to carry on feeding i want to check on the flowers down at the opposite end of the main path , this is where the male brown hairstreaks come down to feed in the afternoon. when i arrive all i can see are hoverflys, hundreds feeding on the flower heads, and one common darter dragonfly which i have shot with 300mm lens.

making my way around to the bridalway i notice a nice spider on one of the fence posts, cant resist a quick natural light shot :)

again i have not seen anything else along this track so back into the wood , as i pass the Brimstone spot i take another image :)

My head is really banging now, i just have to head home, really not feeling good!     a quick Nutty shot on the way back.

 This was the last Butterfly trip of the year,  its been a very good season considering the really bad weather we have had this year and numbers are well down on previous years, but  i have seen 45 species,way more than i expected :D

                 I had quite bad headaches for about 4 days after the electric head shock,

             "note to self - never touch cattle wire with head again"   Arghhhhhhhh


  1. The magnified egg is amazing and the red dragonfly :-)

  2. I also think that the egg is amazing and the Brimstones are like fairies in their ballgowns! Oooh your poor head :-(

  3. I don't know how you do it Phil, you must have the patience of a Saint, but you do get results.