Alners Gorse Females - 13/08/14

Having booked a week away in Dorset during Brownie season, how could i miss the opportunity to visit Alners Gorse for the first time? Unfortunately, the weather in Dorset this week has been pretty bad with torrential downpours and thunderstorms that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Thank goodness i took my waterproofs! With the intention of targeting female Brownie hunting (and a nice morning lie-in), Simon Primrose, Geoff Thompson and I arrived at around 11am and were immediately caught in a wonderful downpour - luckily we hadn't got out of the car yet! The sun emerged 15 minutes later so we had a good look at the blackthorn and ash trees near the carpark and along the immediate track down into the reserve but turned up a big fat zilch.

Not long after arriving, we got chatting to another couple of photographers who had been there since 8am and hadn't had a whiff of Brownie. Eyeing up a nice south facing hedgerow in a sheltered location, Simon and I decided to check it out whilst the others headed to other parts of the reserve. The plan was to scream if we saw one! Not 2 minutes after walking along the blackthorn edge, Simon yelled "THERE'S A BROWNIE ON THE GROUND!". Sure enough, an almost pristine female was crawling up and down a tiny little sucker about 15cm in height. I managed to bag a couple of quick shots without dropping the camera in excitement. She layed a single egg, flew a bit higher to bask and then shot off into the oaks above, never to be seen again. The whole thing lasted about 20 seconds but we were buzzing! The 5 of us spent the next couple of hours patrolling the same blackthorn hedge with binoculars on the overhanging oaks. We had 2 further sightings of different females, 1 of which landed out of reach and the other came down only for 10 seconds before zooming off into the oaks again. As always with Brownie hunting, it was a rather frustrating but exciting experience.

Along with the 3 Brownies, we also saw 3 Clouded Yellow, a Painted Lady and numerous Small Tortoiseshell, Purple Hairstreak, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Brimstone, Small White, Small Skipper, Peacock, Red Admiral and Comma.

I must take the opportunity to say what an absolutely wonderful reserve this is! A fantastic diverse range of habitat, masses of blackthorn for our favourite Hairstreak and it supports some of our key UK species such as Marsh Fritillary, Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper, White-letter Hairstreak and of course, the Brown Hairstreak.


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