Brown Hairstreak at Shurnock

I met up with Simon Primrose at 1115 today (13th) at Shurnock for my first ever Ash Bash. I've never seen or attempted to see the Brown Hairstreak before, so wasn't building my hopes up too much beforehand. There is a very fine line between standing in a field staring up at a tree looking for butterflies, and just standing in a field staring up at a tree! Well, thanks to Simon's expertise by 1200 it was standing in a field staring up at my first ever Brown Hairstreak. I even managed a few fuzzy long distance photos. Simon got it lined up in his monocular where we could see that it was a faded but not too damaged male. It stayed more or less in the same position for over 30 minutes; long enough for Gillian and Geoff Thompson to be contacted and join us to view it. He could be seen probing some Ash buds with his proboscis and didn't seem bothered to move out into the strong sunlight. I examined some Ash buds lower down and they looked and felt completely dry, so I don't know what he was managing to get at with his proboscis.

At about 1230 we moved further up the field edge to some fresh saplings of Blackthorn, about a couple of feet high, where Geoff showed us 2 eggs. Another first for me. The farmer, who had been adding to the countryside ambiance with a bit of muck spreading, came over for a chat and was interested to see the eggs and hear about the BH that we had just seen. After Gillian and Geoff left us Simon got some great close-up photos of an egg.

We then moved on to the next field and another Ash, sun still blazing, blue sky and a curious cloud formation over-head that resembled the honeycomb pattern of the eggs we had just seen. By 1355 Simon had spotted another BH, this time a crisp bright female that looked as though it had only hatched out in the last couple of days. It flew over the top of the tree, and after losing sight of it for a while Simon was again able to locate it and get the monocular lined up on it. When we finally left at about 1530 she was still in the same spot having only flown twice by a distance of no more than 20cm or so before alighting in the same spot. There was no need to even move the monocular. We observed the same activity as with the male, appearing to probe the Ash buds with her proboscis. She did flex her wings open for a couple of minutes and we could see the beautiful gold markings on her upper wings. She was even higher up than the male so my photos are even fuzzier, but I was still able to get another 'record' shot. It made us wonder how many other BH were lounging about in the treetops that we couldn't see.

Thanks to everyone for such a successful trip. Male, female and eggs in different locations and able to observe some key behavioural activity. Very happy!


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