Coppers and Hairstreaks

Well okay, one copper and one Hairstreak.

The Small Copper (the only Copper now extant in the UK), and the Green Hairstreak – a sadly fuzzy picture of two of them which was taken for identification purposes.

Having said that, the Green Hairstreaks were the first ones I’d ever knowingly seen. And the Small Coppers are, though small as the name suggests, possibly the most exotic and shiny butterfly we get in our garden.

My first Green Hairstreak was bagged on April 22nd. There had been little of interest that I’d notice on our Salisbury Plain walk up to that point. I was taking a different route from the usual and I saw the butterflies chasing each other and being chased by a couple of hawthorn flies over a gap in the hedgerow that I was aiming for. I set the camera to a fast shutter speed and rattled of a few shots before they disappeared. They were in silhouette and some distance away so I had no idea what they were. And I couldn’t see where they’d gone when I got closer.

Back home, with the dark silhouetted images on the screen I had my suspicions of what they might be from the shape of their wings, and when I boosted the colour saturation was excited to confirm they were Green Hairstreaks: brown topsides, vivid green undersides and with a distinctive edge to the hind wings. My first! Identification only made possible with a fast shutter speed and a telephoto lens. The picture below was the best of a blurry bunch.

Despite returning several times, I didn’t see the Hairstreaks again. They are another challenge for next year.

We generally get Small Coppers visiting our garden early in the year and round about mid to late September. They like some tall pink flowers we have by the stream. The September visits are probably due to there being fewer nectar plants in flower at that stage, and these ones, judging by the number of bees on them, are good refuelling stages.

The first time we saw them, they looked like a tiny version of something you’d expect to see more in a rain forest than a Wiltshire garden. In some lights, they have a real metallic shine to them.

The pink of these flowers doesn’t contrast well with the orangey gold of their wings. But they are stunning little butterflies never the less. Will be hoping to do them more justice next time.

The Aristocrats

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