Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A Rare Butterfly Siting by Ben Smart and Peter Hardy

FoCM Moth Expert, Ben Smart e-mailed me yesterday with the following exciting news:

It’s been a long time since I saw a new (for me) butterfly here in the Mersey Valley. I found a Purple Hairstreak today (29.8.10) nectaring on Canadian Golden-rod in my back garden on Redland Crescent! The butterfly presumably descended from the nearby group of oaks on Hardy Farm meadow (where the football complex was planned). There are very few records of this butterfly in Greater Manchester. It is very rarely seen even when it does occur as it normally spends its entire life flying and resting at the top of an oak tree. They very rarely descend to nectar. Unfortunately the butterfly was very worn, so not as photogenic as the ones at:


Some of my photographs are included above.

It’s worth looking for the adults flying around the tops of oak trees within its flight period (July and August), or even for the eggs on oak twigs.
I emailed Peter Hardy (butterfly recorder for Greater Manchester) with the record. He replied:

“Ben, this is quite amazing. I have NEVER heard of this species using Canadian Golden-Rod before (I do have one record on file of Satyrium w-album (White-letter Hairstreak) using this plant, gleaned from a "Butterfly conservation news" magazine in 1994, but no other Hairstreaks).
The nearest location to you where I have definitely recorded Neozephyrus quercus (Purple Hairstreak) is on the line of oaks adjacent to the overflow river channel between the canal and Chester Road, Stretford, SJ793935, in July 2006; I have looked for it annually since then but not seen it. Even on that 2006 occasion they were only visible with great difficulty (and with the assistance of P.M.Kinder's sharper eyes) as tiny dots up in the trees. In 2007 I think I saw one in the Southern Cemetery, which isn't far from you, but was unsure and could not record it.
I believe the species is quite widely distributed over greater Manchester but extremely difficult to see on account of its tree-top habits. I have certainly never seen one in anywhere remotely near a photographable position so I do hope you were successful in attempting to photograph it.”

Ben Smart and Peter Hardy, August 2010

If you are interested in butterflies you may like to have a look at Peter’s Butterfly website is at: www.pbh-butterflies.yolasite.com