Chasing Butterflies

We went further afield this weekend chasing elusive butterflies – Cannock Chase for Green Hairstreaks (Callophrys rubi) to be precise. Cannock Chase is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) with large areas of heathland and woodland. Several areas within it are protected further as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Cannock Chase

We follow the West Midlands Branch of Butterfly Conservation on Facebook and had been jealously viewing lots of stunning photos on there of Green Hairstreak butterflies – a species that was on our “hit list” of ones to see for the first time. Many of these photos on Facebook had been taken on Cannock Chase, so we decided to stop off there on the way home from Chris’s Mum in Staffordshire. Clues gleaned from Facebook and Butterfly Conservation’s booklet on Butterflies of the West Midlands indicated that the carpark near the Glacial Boulder (seen below) would be a good place to start.

Glacial Boulder

So we headed out in hope and expectation, starting at the carpark just a few metres from the boulder. About a minute’s walk from the boulder we found this overgrown ditch which was warm and sheltered – an ideal spot for both us and the butterflies we hoped to see.

Hairstreak alley

Almost immediately I spotted one, then another and  we realised we’d hit gold – or perhaps green! There were maybe half a dozen Green Hairstreaks flitting around the bilberry bushes. Some pairs were chasing up into the air – presumably mating couples. The Green Hairstreaks are really small with green undersides with a white streak on. The uppersides of the wings are brown, but we only saw those in flight as they never settle with their wings open. In butterfly heaven we took loads (and I mean loads – thank god for the delete option with digital). So here are a selection of the best of our efforts – all Chris’s photos actually as he had the macro lens and also a much steadier hand!

Green Hairstreak 4

Green Hairstreak

Green Hairstreak 7

Green Hairstreak 6

Green Hairstreak 5

Green Hairstreak 3

Whilst happily snapping away at our prize butterflies, we met the very man (Terry) who had posted the photos on Facebook in the first place! He was extremely helpful (as have been all the butterfly enthusiasts we’ve met on our walks) and gave us tips as to what else we might see. Thanks to Terry we found a pond we would never otherwise have seen and subsequently spotted a new (for us) bird species too – a Reed Bunting. Apologies for rubbish photo, but they kept their distance, so this was the best I could manage. They looked like large sparrows with a white collar and were grabbing insects out of the air over the reeds.

Reed Bunting

Chris even spotted an adder, although it was too fast to get a photo – needless to say I missed it altogether!

All in all a very successful trip to Cannock Chase – far better than we’d dared hope for. The Green Hairstreaks are absolutely gorgeous little butterflies and well worth going that extra mile to see.


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