Doings at Shipton Bellinger

Shipton Bellinger Roughs consists of a large area of mixed scrub, with a high sloe content, rough grazing and arable fields on chalk and Clay-with-Flints near Tidworth on the Hants / Wilts border.  It is MOD land, part of Salisbury Plain Training Area but outside the red flag area.  It is criss-crossed by rights of way and is well used by locals. 

There is a scatter of prominent ash trees along the scrub edge, and a 200m row of tall ash along an old lane between two rough grazing fields.  Both sexes gather on these ashes, especially the ash row.  I have seen mating pairs on the ash row (mid morning, no courtship, smash & grab, 45 mins duration).  The grid ref for this ash row is SU 222456.  Park in village hall car park at SU 228456 and walk up Burford Road byway. 

Brown Hairstreak was 'discovered' here in the 1984-85 winter, when I surveyed the Andover area for eggs.  Recently the site has become well known as a top BH area, and is well visited by Hants BC members.  A BH transect has been set up. 

I try to visit for a morning during the peak season period each year, to count BH around the ash trees.  Recent counts are:-

30 in 5 hours on 15/8/08
44 (record) in 4 hrs on 9/8/09
26 in 1 hr (only) on 18/8/09
30 in 4 hrs on 15/8/10
24 in 2hrs 30mins on 19/8/12

On Sun Sept 1st 2013 I saw a probable 26 individuals, including 8 females.  The males were very worn.  The morning started cool, and no butterflies appeared before 9.30 when the Speckled Woods started.  The first BH was seen at 9.45, sitting in an ash tree.  From 10.15-11.30 they were nicely active around the ash trees. 

I saw males flush females out of ash trees on three occasions, but the females must have been mated for they rejected the males.  Males quietened down around 11.30 and the females started to get into egg-laying mode. 

One thing that bugs me about BH is why do mated females visit ash trees infested by males in mid morning if they're not in need of male services?  They don't seem to be feeding - ash-budding - and just get pestered.  Are they merely keeping the males in situ in case they need a second mating?  NB Purple Emperor females do not behave like this. 

Note that both sexes descend from the ash row to sit on nettles and docks on the south side of the row in mid morning.  I've no idea why but it's a good place to photograph them.

Here's a couple of photos, starting with the ash row -

Here's a map.  Blue = ash, pink = scrub + sloe, orange = fields -


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