Wednesday 24 June 2020

Black Hairstreaks at Bernwood Meadows June 2020

I returned to Bernwood Meadows to spend another day with Black Hairstreaks. Their flight period is so short, a matter of weeks, that I wanted one more time in their company before it is all over for another year.

I chose a suitably sunny and warm day and got to the tiny car park at the bottom of the reserve early. I walked through the meadows, currently very dry due to the lack of rain, following the extensive blackthorn hedges that ring the reserve. As I was early, I left the reserve through the gate that leads into Bernwood Forest, following the track up to the main path through the forest.

What a contrast to the quiet and peace of the meadows greeted me, as the always popular track was already being well used by families and dog walkers. I stood at a cross roads of tracks for an hour wondering if I would see an early Purple Emperor in the surrounding oaks and sallows but there was no sign of one. A couple of White Admirals, always good to see, floated through the oaks and several Silver washed Fritillaries were on the wing, their bright, ginger biscuit coloured wings, a shock and flash of colour against the multitudinous greens of the forest as they hurried along beside the track.

White Admirals

Silver washed Fritillary - male 
Tiring of the endless stream of people and the resultant commotion I returned to the meadows to look for the hairstreaks. I went to the area of blackthorn where I had seen up to a dozen a couple of weeks ago but now there was little sign of any although it was obvious that they had been here recently as the grass was trampled where others had been watching them. Finally one showed itself for a few minutes, perching low on a glossy blackthorn leaf before fluttering up and over the hedge.

I decided to walk around the meadow, checking the blackthorn on the far side and came upon two large, low growing clumps of bramble, a torn tablecloth of white flowers covering the pale green leaves and alive with insects. Many Meadow Browns flew up on my approach, like leaves blown in the wind but soon settled back on the flowers, flexing their wings as if to indicate their delight in the nectar they were imbibing from the flowers.

I was looking for something different however, in the form of a tiny triangle of mouse brown wings perched on a bramble flower, which would indicate a Black Hairstreak and I was not disappointed. In minutes I found one, as usual immune to my close presence, allowing me to virtually touch it. Then another, un-noticed, fluttered up to give away its presence and looking further I found yet one more sharing the bramble flowers with a Dark Bush Cricket and a Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle.

Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle
Dark Bush Cricket
I wandered over to the other mound of bramble nearby and immediately found a Black Hairstreak slowly examining a flower for nectar and for the next hour I spent my time happily watching, admiring and photographing this, our rarest native hairstreak, by good fortune found in good numbers in Oxfordshire and Bernwood Meadows in particular .

There is nothing more to be said.

Here are some images of this scarce and beautiful butterfly.

In the above two images the uptilted 'tails' on the hindwings suggest this is a female as does the fat body
which is probably full of eggs

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