Wednesday 20th August - A second try at Grafton.

This being the second Wednesday that I had booked off work and with my lack of success in seeing any Brown Hairstreaks at Grafton Wood last week I decided to have another attempt today.
I left home about 10.00 and drove over, arriving and parking by the church at Grafton Flyford about an hour later. The morning had started off nice and sunny albeit with a bit of a nip in the air after a cold night, and by the time I arrived at Grafton some more cloud had built up with the sunny spells being warm but not lasting very long. At least the blustery wind of late had dropped with there being very little breeze today.
I walked across the fields and into the wood and then followed the main ride down to the southern end which is quite sheltered and where there has been some management of the blackthorn to encourage new growth. As with last week, Speckled Woods were everywhere along with some Meadow Browns and a few faded Gatekeepers and various whites.
Reaching the southern end of the wood I started scanning the Oaks and Ash and soon saw some Hairstreaks flitting about high up but which through my binoculars proved to be Purples, not Browns.

A few minutes later I was joined by a couple of fellow enthusiasts and together we scanned the trees and blackthorn. During one of the brief warm sunny spells we spotted a butterfly flying across the trees in front of us which we all thought was a Brown Hairstreak. It flew up into the trees before we got a really good look but it flew with the ‘jinking’ flight of a hairstreak and it was the right colour so on the principle of ‘if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck’ we agreed that it probably was one (a Brown Hairstreak that is, not a duck).
Just after that a Holly Blue settled and with a cloud blocking the sun stayed down for a while, not in the best place for photos being well into a large patch of brambles and unfortunately not opening its wings before flying off.

With another large cloud blocking the sun we then walked back up the main ride towards the pond area before going our separate ways to check out different rides.
Again, as with last week there were good numbers of Common Blue and Brown Argus scattered about as well as a couple of worn Small Coppers.

A little while later I met up with John Tilt and Dave Williams of West Midlands BC who were with a work party further in the wood and after having a chat we went for a wander back to the pond and the adjacent rides. Apparently the Brown Hairstreaks are very slow to get going at Grafton this year and there is a bit of concern about the low number of sightings, in fact John told me he has only seen one so far, a male. It is possible the recent weather has held them back; August so far has been cool and cloudy and quite blustery after the remnants of Hurricane Bertha passed through and a northerly wind has brought quite cool conditions for the time of year.

John went back to re-join the work party whilst Dave and myself had another look by the pond. We had already seen a couple of False Brown Hairstreaks (Gatekeepers) when both of us at the same time spotted what at first looked like another one land on a clump of Hemp Agrimony. Happily this one was the real thing, a male Brown Hairstreak that stayed down for a few minutes before taking off and flying up into the Oaks behind us.


It was only as I took photos of this one that I realised that this was the first male Brown Hairstreak that I have ever photographed, all my previous shots have been of females.
I then took a slow walk back through the wood and with more clouds building up I called it a day and headed for home.
Neil Freeman.






It's OK all the females are waiting until Sunday's open day to show themselves - same as last year!

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