After a couple of very early starts this week to foray deep into West Sussex, I was in need of a relaxing stroll through one of my local Wealden woods yesterday. The season has arrived early for many species of butterfly this year and I was confident that I would see some freshly emerged Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia quercus) and Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) on the wing.
When I am looking for quercus, I tend to be in the woods by 0800hrs. At this time of day early in their flight season, you are just as likely to find them drying their wings low in the undergrowth as seeing them flying around the tops of oak trees. When they rapidly fly past you at low level, they give a silvery-grey appearance.
Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia quercus) (female)
Although I have seen mating Silver-washed Fritillaries before, they are usually quite high up in tree foliage, or they are quick to take off from lower levels when approached. The first photograph was taken when I spotted this pair about 10 feet from the ground. Their silver-washed markings help them blend in well to a background of leaves. About 20 minutes later, I found them on low vegetation and with stealth I was able to get close to them.
Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) (mating)
By 1100hrs the weather was bright and hot and I headed home for lunch, intending to return for a late afternoon visit. I was back on station by 1530hrs and it wasn't long before I spotted that tell-tale flash of silver-grey fly past me and land on the lower branches of an oak tree.
Purple Hairstreak (Q.quercus) (male)
The final treat of the day was to watch a male Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) basking low down in oak foliage. This normally difficult-to-approach dragonfly was clearly enjoying the late afternoon sun and it was unphased by my close proximity.
Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) (male)