Doings in North Wilts

On Sun 18th I carried out my customary systematic search along some hedge lengths of the Wilts Wildlife Trust hay meadow reserve system near Minety, north west of Swindon.  I try to do this on a couple of early mornings in each flight season.  In effect it's a Brown Hairstreak transect, conducted in suitable weather as the butterfly is approaching peak season, with the males fully active.  Whether the data actually mean anything is, of course, another matter.  This Sunday the butterflies seemed to be in catch-up mode, after losing a day to poor weather on the Saturday. 

Last year my highest tally was eight, achieved on two separate occasions.  Only the most favoured ash trees (which I call primary trees) were occupied then. 

This Sunday my route totalled a record 23, including 3 females.  Nearly all the ash trees with a history of being used were occupied, both the primary and the secondary trees.  There was some overspill on to maple and elm.  I almost saw a pair join, at 10.35 (no courtship, just an attempted smash and grab raid) but they were separated by a sudden gust of wind.  By 11am the males had quietened right down, so I went Emperoring. 

This suggests that the butterfly has emerged in good numbers in this district, despite the cold late spring and a lot of poor weather during the larval growth period.  The previous highest tally here was 13. 

The butterfly began in the N Wilts area ca Aug 7th (I saw 2 at the Minety site early on the 9th).

The habitat consists of old hay meadows (mainly SSSI) with thick and quite tall hedges, containing much sloe and a fair scatter of ash and other trees, on Oxford Clay. 


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