Purple Hairstreaks

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Purple Hairstreaks

Postby KJE » Sun 16 Aug 2020 16:29

Purple Hairstreaks seem to be exceptionally numerous at the moment, at least in Dundee. I saw 14 in Balgay Park on Thursday and 10 at Ninewells Arboretum yesterday.

Now might be a very good time to look for them in other places - they must surely be in Edinburgh and probably Aberdeen as well (and everywhere in between). Anywhere with a clump of mature oaks will do, but they do tend to stay very much at the tops of the trees, so binoculars are essential and a telescope would probably be useful to confirm identification. I usually look for them in late afternoon (4.30-6.00), preferably when it's sunny.
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Re: Purple Hairstreaks

Postby ChrisStamp » Sat 29 Aug 2020 21:23

I have found them at many new sites around South East Perthshire this year - Blairgowrie, Moncrieffe Island in Perth, Meikelour, Kinrossie, Birnam - almost everywhere I’ve looked early evening around oaks. Culminated in finding them in our garden, which has a large oak, and then finding an egg on windfall branches in our village.

A couple of other people found new sites also this year after seeing my reports - Aberntye, Tay Reed beds, more Perth city sites.

I meant to locate sites at Backmuir Wood and Camperdown in a Dundee, but struggling for suitable evening weather now.
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Re: Purple Hairstreaks

Postby KJE » Sun 30 Aug 2020 21:15

Yes, unfortunately the weather has not been very helpful recently, but I have found a couple more sites in Dundee, at Reres Park in Broughty Ferry and in the trees between Riverside Avenue and the railway, just east of the road entrance to the Nature Park. It really does seem as if they are just about everywhere where there are a few oaks.
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Re: Purple Hairstreaks

Postby ChrisStamp » Wed 02 Sep 2020 14:16

Good news about the new sites.

I have found another egg near my house - the recent stormy weather brought down branches and twigs, and with persistence it seems possible to find the eggs on and around the terminal leaf buds. Very interesting under a microscope. I have used both a telescope and a microscope to look at Purple Hairstreaks this year!
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Re: Purple Hairstreaks

Postby ChrisStamp » Fri 04 Sep 2020 11:28

This is a picture of another windfall Purple Hairstreak egg I picked up. I have 4 now that otherwise would have perished as their detached leaf buds would have died off by the time the caterpillar emerged. I will aim to rear them, and photograph and release the butterflies, with a bit of luck.

My technique is:
    After windy weather, walk around picking up windfall twigs and branches from under oak trees known to contain purple hairstreaks, ideally from the south side of the tree.
    With secateurs, clip off the ends of the twigs with the terminal leaf buds on, filling up a carrier bag.
    Once home, inspect the leaf buds at the kitchen table with a magnifier, looking for likely eggs wedged between, or placed just below, buds, setting aside those that look promising. With practice you can identify them confidently at this stage. They are white at this time of year and relatively easier to spot, but I estimate only 0.5 - 1.0% of twigs have them, so you need to inspect more than 100 buds to find an egg! I was lucky with the first one though and found it quickly otherwise I would probably never had persisted.
    Inspect the selected ones under a USB microscope connected to computer. Photograph the confirmed ones and store carefully in an open container with kitchen roll tied over the top, ready to go in the fridge over winter.
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Re: Purple Hairstreaks

Postby NickMorgan » Mon 07 Sep 2020 22:04

Interesting. I look forward to seeing how you get on.
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Re: Purple Hairstreaks

Postby ChrisStamp » Thu 10 Sep 2020 12:13

I’ve had a bit more success with discovering eggs, to the point where I am able to find news sites for the species by finding eggs. I’ve recently found a couple of new colonies by cycling around lanes with hedgerow oaks, inspecting fallen branches. I have 7 eggs now. I can’t say it’s easy and can feel like a futile endeavour at times, but certainly rewarding when you do successfully find one Especially if you can contribute a new dot on the distribution map, for whichever of the frustratingly non-integrated datasets there are to choose from (BC, iRecord, NBN etc)
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Re: Purple Hairstreaks

Postby KJE » Sun 13 Sep 2020 09:55

Very impressive! I've looked for eggs on fallen branches and twigs in Balgay Park in Dundee, but without success so far. I'm interested to know if you ever see the butterflies lower down in the trees, and what height you think the eggs were. The trees in Balgay Park are quite big, and in nearly 10 years of watching, I've never seen a hairstreak come lower than about two-thirds of the height of the oaks (even though in other places, such as Ruthven near Alyth and in the south, I have seen them in small trees or even on a hedgerow or the ground). Presumably this means that the eggs are also mostly very high in the trees, whereas the pieces which have broken off, at least the bigger ones where I can see the break, seem to be from lower down.
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Re: Purple Hairstreaks

Postby ChrisStamp » Sun 13 Sep 2020 23:48

I have only seen Purple Hairstreak low down once in Scotland, and that was in my garden- went past me as I was mowing the lawn then landed in a beech sapling at about 8 feet. This was before I had discovered them in our oak tree, so was a mystery at the time. However other people have seen mating pairs at low level this year around Perth and the Carse. I think females do also lay eggs at lower levels but I haven’t caught them at it yet.

The key thing for eggs I think is is that they are from outer branches, preferably south facing, where they will get some sun. I find larger twigs more likely candidates, as they have more substantial buds, preferred for egg laying.

I am up to 15 eggs now, helped greatly by the fact that there is a large south-facing limb down next to the cricket pitch at Rossie Priory, so I got 7 there today in about an hour. Happy to show you if you like.
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Re: Purple Hairstreaks

Postby KJE » Sat 31 Oct 2020 18:13

I had almost given up hope of finding an egg in Balgay Park, but this morning I saw a small piece of oak lying on the path, and when I picked it up as usual to check, there was an egg!
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