Friday 13 June 2014

Black Hairstreaks 13th June 2014

Friday the thirteenth may be unlucky for some but not for me. A wondrous sunny morning had me up and about heading for the unglamorously named M40 Compensation Area, a strip of land between the edge of the Bernwood Forest and the M40 Motorway. This area is put by for butterfly conservation and the main attraction is the much sought after and rare Black Hairstreak although there are many other butterfly species also present to keep one interested

Large Skipper

Marbled White

Butterfly and flower rich ride between Blackthorn stands
Here the conditions seem just about perfect for Black Hairstreaks with large areas of mature Blackthorn forming sheltered and sunny rides with scattered Wild Privet mixed in for feeding and large mature Ash Trees in which to seek sanctuary.

The butterflies can be seen for a short three to four week period from early June and I usually find them nectaring on the Wild Privet flowers where they can be seen incredibly close, feeding on the white waxy flowers. Others can also be seen fluttering about high up in mature trees such as Ash, above the blackthorn and privet.

Ideal Black Hairstreak habitat with Wild Privet amongst the Blackthorn
To get to the area requires a long but not unpleasant walk through Bernwood Forest, the still of the woods becoming increasingly invaded by the noise of the ever busy Motorway as you get nearer to the compensation area. My favourite privet bush is literally yards from the hard shoulder of the Motorway separated by just a thin hedge but you somehow get used to the continuous noise of the onrushing traffic until it becomes an ever present but almost abstract background roar in your senses.

 Wild Privet - up to 15 Black Hairstreaks visited this over a 4 hour period
Today I spent over four hours here just watching the comings and goings of this rare and enigmatic butterfly. The sweet scent of the privet flowers permeates the air and slowly you are drawn into the private world of the Black Hairstreak which revolves around these flowers and the surrounding blackthorn. It is such a joy to see one suddenly drop from the trees above onto a privet flower and with mincing steps walk over the flowers, delicately and diligently probing every tiny flower for nectar with its proboscis  and then with a brief flutter move to another flower spike. Sometimes they remain for long periods and yet, on other occasions they remain but briefly before departing upwards to perch in the leaves of the trees above.

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