Saturday, 10 July 2010

Red letter day

The safari has gone one better than a Red Letter Day - we've had a White Letter Hairstreak day!
At lunchtime it was time to take Frank out for his constitutional so we grabbed the bins and headed to Patch 1. Not the best of days, heavy cloud threatening rain but still 21C and not too windy. We got to the rough bit of the Patch and noted a lot of butterflies on the grassland. No count but a guesstimate of well over 100 of which c.33 Meadow Browns, c.33 Large Skippers and c.33 Small Skippers + one immaculate Small Copper. The Bramble thicket on the northern edge held a few Speckled Woods too. Scanning the upper third of the surrounding trees gave us a couple more Speckled Woods and we noted that as with last year most of the once healthy Elm trees were starting to show signs of having contracted Dutch Elm Disease - not good this particularly as before the tournament started we predicted Holland to win the World Cup (unless England managed it of course).
We swapped over to the even rougher area on the other side of the path and scanned upwards. There! Going up between that Elm and the Sycamore a small bright butterfly. Either a skipper or Small Copper intent on getting vertigo. Gone through the treetops and over to the other side. Very suspiciously interesting! Cut through to the rough field and walked up and down the 'woodland' edge a few times - nothing. Plenty of the usual stuff in the long grass by the Brambles but no sign of anything to get the blood rushing.
Frank was getting bored hanging around so we went back to the rough area. Again scanning high got us a few Speckled Woods. Looking at the tree tops for the easy to recognise Elm leaves we fluked a pair of small butterflies spiralling in the lee of a small Sycamore, not a tree we've really taken much notice of before - small and stands alone. Lost em! Then they started again and we were able to follow one down onto a leaf. Fortunately it came to rest right on the edge of said leaf. White Letter Hairstreak! Job done! It promptly walked forward a couple of steps and was lost to view - or rather it wasn't as we could still see its shadow through the leaf and as we watched another landed adjacent to it and we can only assume from the shape of the shadow that they were mating. within a few moments a third arrived and broke up the proceedings - didn't see where one (female?) went but the other two started spiralling again but were soon lost up in the foliage. Spent another 20 minutes or so looking for them on this tree and around and about but gave up in the end. As we said; job well and truly done.
Just as we were leaving we had a perfect, brand spanking fresh, Comma in the open and right by the path and NO CAMERA!!!!!!!
In three quarters of an hour we'd seen the best part of 150 - 200 butterflies of six species which included none of the 'common, generalist' species, crackin' spider hunting wasp too - a great safari.
Where to next? Got a safari with a bit of a difference goin' on tomorrow but might be back in WLH-land with the camera after that.
In the meantime let us know if you've had a red letter day in your outback, or did the Red Herrings manage to win the day.


Warren Baker said...

Well done Dave, very exciting tale! I hope to find one one day :-)

Monika said...

100 butterflies! Now that I would like to see. I love your estimate of species breakdown :)

Amila Kanchana said...

Hi,That's a lot of butterflies! Photos? By the way,I've just posted a butterfly video I createdhere on my blog.

cliff said...

A fine haul of butterflies there Dave, thanks for the email with the directions to the Hairstreaks too, I'll definitely be having a search for them, I won't have time today though 'cos of family stuff, but given it's blowing a hoolie I doubt they'll be poking their heads out of cover anyway. I'll give you a ring in the week to see if you can act as my ghillie ;-)
It would be nice to see the Small Skippers & Small Copper too, I've only seen one of each this year amongst the hundreds of Large Skippers. Is it a sign of getting old when the Coppers look smaller?