The earlier pictures were taken on my wee compact Canon ixus 970IS, which involved sneaking up on the butterflies. This can be very frustrating when they fly off, but very rewarding when they don't!

Since 2012 I have been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ150, which allows me to zoom in to the butterflies from a couple of metres away.



Sunday, 1 June 2014

Green Hairstreak - Callophrys rubi

I am not really sure how I feel about wind farms. I don't like the look of them, particularly as the few that were built are expanding and starting to merge together. On the other hand, it must be good to generate electricity without releasing carbon or producing toxic byproducts.

Actually, it is the large tracks that are cut into the landscape that worry me more than the turbines. Much of the area I was walking in today is very wet, but where the tracks have been created, there is a large ditch either side, allowing the water to drain off the hills. The hills used to act like a large reservoir of water, but now no sooner than it rains, the water runs off sometimes causing flooding downstream.

Today I went in search of Green Hairstreaks, Callophrys rubi, close to a large wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills.


I had been told of the location of some recent sightings of this butterfly, and many of them were tantalizingly close to the East Lothian border. I plotted the locations onto a map and there was a row of dots just a few metres outside East Lothian's boundary looking as though they were just about to mount an attack!

Up here the Green Hairstreak caterpillar food plant is Blaeberry, or Bilberry, Vaccinium myrtillus. I had been advised to look for boggy areas with tussocks of Blaeberry and the sightings that I had plotted all appeared to be close to Spruce plantations.

It was difficult to get through the boggy ground from the wind farm tracks to the areas I wanted to check out. I ended up taking quite a detour, and as I was getting close to a Spruce woodland I thought I would check the blaeberries growing close by. To my delight I saw a small green butterfly flying into the air in front of me. It was soon being chased by another. These were the first Green Hairstreaks I had seen in Britain!


I walked along a small valley to where I had been told that other Green Hairstreaks had been seen and I was delighted to see several more.




The reason that no Green Hairstreaks had been seen in East Lothian became apparent when I looked over the fence and saw that the farmer on the other side had improved his grazing, and instead of bog there was rough grassland. I searched all around the woodlands, but there was no sign of any Blaeberry and consequently no sign of any Green Hairstreaks on the East Lothian side of the boundary.

I then followed a stream all the way to a local nature reserve to see if there was any suitable habitat there. On my way down the stream, I was stopped in my tracks when I saw a Green Hairstreak on a leaf in front of me. I was very excited, as I thought this was my first East Lothian record, but then realised that I had jumped over the stream to get past some rocks and I was actually back on the other side of the border!



The butterfly was just below the centre of the picture above. On the right hand side of the stream is East Lothian, and on the left is Midlothian. You can see how close this was to being an East Lothian record!!

Although this didn't seem to be the right sort of habitat for a Green Hairstreak, I climbed up the slope and found Blaeberries growing.

I spent some time searching the slopes on the East Lothian side and found a few patches of Blaeberry growing, but sadly no Green Hairstreaks. At least I know the sort of habitat that I need to be looking for, so the search will go on!



13 comments:

  1. I love their metallic colour and how you're able to follow them around. I love the one on the leaves, but all of them are very nice. I'm not going to be seeing a Monarch season this year as the huge milkweed plant was pruned and there are no signs of life. So I will have to search somewhere else.

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    1. The Green Hairstreaks are very approachable, and even if disturbed they tended to come back to the same spot.
      I am sorry to hear about the milkweed. Is there any chance you can plant some somewhere to attract the Monarchs. It will be a great loss not to see any!

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  2. Hello Nick, that green hairstreak looks like some lichens attached to it. I see some butterflies in the vicinity of our house or garden area, but it is too hot outside and the butterflies are so quick! I would rather spend my time tending my hoyas, at least there is the black net to minimize the direct sun. And those windmills, the first time i saw a whole mountain side in Hawaii full of them, i was awed! Then few years ago they built those in my country and they are very tall, however i haven't seen them in person. It is in the north of the country.

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    1. Hi Andrea, The wind turbines on the wind farms in the Lammermuir Hills here are up to 126 metres tall! It is quite an experience standing underneath the turbines as they are going round!

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  3. Ack! How close you were to the first East Lothian record! I'm sure you'll find some on your side soon enough.

    The green hairstreak is really wonderful! It looks like some exotic Neotropical butterfly. I never knew very much about it and I was surprised to find out that it lives in bogs! And the place you saw them is beautiful too. In Singapore you'll never see such sprawling landscapes!!

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    1. Jonny, the exciting news is that I have been told that the biological recording areas follow old boundaries from the 1800s and that the last Green Hairstreak I saw by the stream was very definitely in East Lothian. I will try to find a map of the old Vice County areas to compare with the current border of East Lothian. Now all of the little nature reserve that I visit at Linn Dean is counted as East Lothian, so quite an exciting revelation. I really should have known about this, I suppose, but it was all news to me!

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  4. I saw plenty of these wind turbines when I was in Ireland last year. From far they look like plastic toy fans.

    The Green Hairstreak has glamorous shimmering scales under direct sunshine, particularly in the 4th photo. They appeared to have iridescent green dust sprinkled on them. I don't believe we have this type of butterfly in our regions.

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    1. Elsie, you have just made me realise how unusual the Green Hairsteak is!! I think all of the other blues or hairstreaks in the UK with metallic scales have them on the upper-side of the wings. The upper-side of Green Hairstreaks is dull brown!

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    2. I think it is a smart evolutionary move to have dull brown on the lower side as butterflies rest with their wings folded upwards. The metallic scales would attract unwanted attention from predators and curious photographers :) Fortunately for them, you are one of those safe and trusted ones!

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  5. That is one pretty butterfly! But I can imagine that its colouring makes it difficult to spot.Are its caterpillars green too?
    We do have a Tailless Metallic Green Hairstreak in India but I dont think it is common and is found in the north-eastern part of the country. Such a pity!

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    1. Hi Sunita, strangely it wasn't too difficult to spot at all, despite it being a similar colour to the vegetation around it. These examples are quite worn out and I hope to see some much greener individuals next spring now I know where to look.
      Yes, the caterpillars are also green, but I don't fancy kneeling down in a bog to search for them!

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  6. Hi Rick,
    These 2 latest posts are really interesting, and your work must be quite valuable to the naturalists of this area!
    When I encountered Green hairstreaks, they also were on or close to blackberry bushes.
    Next time I expect to see the hoopoe here! LOL!
    Enjoy your weekend! :)

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    1. It is great doing something that I really enjoy that also produces some useful information.
      The lady who had the Hoopoe in her garden took a picture of it on a plant pot less than a metre outside her kitchen window. She said that it stayed in her garden for three days and she was relieved when it left as she was growing tired of its call!!

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