Sunday, 31 July 2016

White-letter Hairstreak and juvenile Sparrowhawks at Cranford Park today

If I had a good day yesterday, today was even better because I found my first ever White-letter Hairstreak butterfly.
We'd known for a couple of years that they were suspected to be on site at Cranford Park after Alison Shipley managed to get a photo of one on her phone. But despite searching in the same area in Cranford Woods for the next two summers, I couldn't find any sign of them. Even yesterday Paul, Susy and I had another look for them in the woods without success.
So today I wasn't expecting to see one either. But I am so chuffed that I did.
The facts below are taken from the UK Butterflies website 
White-letter Hairstreaks prefer woodland and is one of our more-elusive butterflies as it flits high in the treetops, often appearing as a dark speck against the sky.
It gets its name from the letter "W" that is formed from a series of white lines found on the underside of the hindwings.
Elm is the sole foodplant and this species suffered as a result of Dutch elm disease in the 1970s and early 1980s, especially in southern sites. All species of elm were affected and there was concern that this species of butterfly might become extinct in the British Isles as a result.
In 2011 this species was in serious decline and was therefore a priority species for conservation efforts.
This butterfly is never found far from its larval foodplant of elm, Wych Elm being preferred. Flowering elms are usually essential for successful larval development and this therefore suggests a certain maturity of tree, although there is some evidence that this species has successfully used non-flowering elms on occasion. Favourite sites are elms on the edge of deciduous woodland, but this species can also be found in more open habitat such as roadside verges if suitable elms are present.
I actually found this little gem whilst I was looking for another butterfly, the Small Copper. I had seen one and was following it when I came upon a patch of thistles (that funnily enough Paul, Susy and I had stopped at yesterday) when I found the White-letter Hairstreak. The patch is just on the outskirts of the Headland area and bordering part of Cranford Woods, where I know there are plenty of elms.
I watched it for an hour and luckily Sue made it to the park just in time to see it and get a few photos, before it suddenly took to the wing and we lost track of it across the meadows.
This is a big tick for Cranford Park, and only the second confirmed sighting that I'm aware of.
So I'm not going to apologise for the complete overload of White-letter Hairstreak photos as I don't know when I will see one again !

Before I found that wonderful little butterfly I had actually been following a noise around the woods. It was a 'mew' not unlike a Buzzard, but sharper and longer. I eventually found it was a family of Sparrowhawks.
 So our Little Owls have successfully fledged, our Kestrels have successfully fledged and now our Sparrowhawks have successfully fledged.
 I think we have four juvenile Sprawks as standing in the middle of the woods I had four calling from different directions. Hearing them was easy, seeing them was not.
Spot the Sprawk below.....
It's right in the middle of the photo, and below is a heavily cropped copy....

Another was a bit more obliging but still incredibly hard to photograph. In the photo below it's staring right at me....

Sue and I walked round and round the section of the woods they seemed to be favouring, sometimes catching a glimpse of them as they flew from tree to tree, but despite a lack of photos it's brilliant news that we now have a new family to watch out for.
Of course a visit to Cranford Park without going to see the Kestrels is unthinkable at the moment, and just like yesterday they didn't disappoint.....
and with two pairs of eyes searching for them it was great to confirm we still have six birds actively flying around....

An excellent day with a huge patch tick in the form of a tiny butterfly.

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