2015 British Butterflies – 22: Brown and more Purple Hairstreak at Bernwood Forest sites, Bucks – 6th Aug

This being a sunny afternoon I went in search of Brown Hairstreak, choosing BBOWT’s Bernwood Meadows reserve (SP609112) on the Oxon / Bucks border. I had observed the species there previously in 2010 but not since, despite looking on occasions. Checking out places I remembered on either side of the parking area, l came across a male nectaring on bramble flowers below Ash trees at the second of these.

Two genuine enthusiasts (ie not butterfly tourists) who lived nearby then approached and were delighted with my find, saying they had been searching various sites for the past two weeks. The tell tale signs of busy human feet suggested that, as in 2010 this was a good spot to find BH. A second male then descended to the brambles. As Ewan points out on his own blog (see here) these butterflies are pretty much immune to disturbance when nectaring. So first one then the other of today’s two took their fill of nectar before flying back up to the overhanging trees. No habitat was trampled in gaining these images (below).

brown hairstreak_01.1504 bernwood meadows
Brown Hairstreak need to be caught fresh in photographs since they quickly become tatty once flying. Both today’s specimens exhibited wing damage. Second brood Common Blue were active along the meadow edges together with different, often fading summer browns. But this wonderful wildflower meadow has now had its late summer mow and, Hairstreaks aside things in a butterfly sense are almost over here for another season.

brown hairstreak_01.1502 otmoor

Otmoor female 4 days earlier

My companions on site told of very active Purple Hairstreak just up the road in Oakley Wood so I went on there. I quickly found the spot they had referred to, about 100 metres from the Forestry Commission car park (SP612118), where numbers of PH were fluttering about low in an Oak beside the main track. These were past their prime but I was pleased to get some off-beat if less than perfect images of a butterfly I had only seen higher up in the trees previously this season.

Two's company, three's a crowd

Two’s company, three’s a crowd

Equally battered Silver-washed Fritillary were still on the wing, their faded appearance a testimony to the transience of all adult insect life. But the four-stage life cycle begins anew and on what is likely to be my final Bernwood Forest visit of 2015 one thing is certain. The beauty and fascination of SWF, Purple Emperor, White Admiral, the scarce Hairstreaks and many more butterflies besides will all come around again next year, and forever may it continue.


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