Colin and I had a short day out yesterday, visiting a couple of sites new to us in Northamptonshire. It was supposed to be ok weather-wise, with warm sunny spells, but it started off dull and cool so we weren't expecting to see much.
We started off at Glapthorn Cow Pasture, not knowing that we were 20 minutes early for a guided walk of the reserve. This is a key Black Hairstreak site, which had actually peaked a few weeks earlier than usual but we were told that there were still a few tatty individuals around.
We went in on our own and I found a hairstreak almost immediately. I didn't get good views but obtained a distant photo and assumed from zooming in that it was a White Letter, but it turned out to be a Black with rather worn forewings missing the orange edging. We had lots of Silver Washed Fritillaries, Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Commas, Tortoiseshells and Skippers, plus several Brown Hawkers.
In the next ride we were joined by some of the walk leaders and soon after one of them picked up a Black Hairstreak that posed quite nicely.
Eventually we carried on picking up a few Purple Hairstreaks, a female Common Darter and a Southern Hawker. For some reason I had a lot of trouble getting the camera on this Purple Hairstreak and Colin managed to capture the purple in the wing really well.
We spent the next couple of hours in Fermyn Wood which has over the last week or so been very popular for very good reasons. I saw more Purple Emperors in two hours than I had done in the last ten years, and we never got to to bit where they are most abundant.
Our first two were seen outside the gate by the road which were in constant danger of being run over by cars being parked. A chat with a regular sent us a short distance down the ride where there was a birch which was the location of White Letter Hairstreaks, but by now the cloud had built up and we never managed to locate any here or anywhere else (and everyone else seemed to be unsuccessful as well). Joining a guy from Norfolk we followed him westward to a large open ride with lots of brambles roses and honeysuckle in flower. Several more Purple Emperors here and a number of White Admirals provided a good size and shape comparison. Silver Washed Fritillaries of course, plus all the usual butterflies enlarge numbers.
Colin and I eventually returned to the ride and headed south to an elm and bramble patch where the White Letters are usually seen, and we then carried on to the outskirts of Lady Wood with a couple of others, which is supposed to be a good spot, but of course failed. Did get to see even more Emperors, White Admirals and Fritillaries though. Returning to the birch, a Hairstreak finally appeared, but it settled high up and largely hidden and only two of us managed to get on it-unfortunately the other guy realised it was a Purple which my two poor images confirmed.
I reckon we saw at least 15 Emperors, a similar number of White Admirals, and perhaps 30 Silver Washed over the course of the day. Not a bad haul considering the rather poor weather conditions.