Butterfly watching in January?
Biodiversity Data Specialist SxBRC
Of all Britain's 59 (there or thereabouts) species of butterfly, one of the most elusive is the Brown Hairstreak - even when you know where to find them, they're not easy to spot. For a start they are a bit of a rarity and in the UK mainly distributed in the southern counties, but they also spend most of their time resting on leaves high up in trees or shrubs, only occasionally coming down to nectar on flowers such as Hemp Agrimony and Common Fleabane.
Luckily Woods Mill is a bit of a hot-spot for the species and, in late July or August, it isn't too difficult to find them here (I managed to see about half a dozen last year). However, the very best time of year to find Brown Hairstreaks is mid-winter! Not the adults, but the eggs. These are tiny, brilliant white pinpricks, laid at the base of the thorns on Blackthorn (the preferred larval foodplant) stems and once you get your eye in, are quite easy to spot. The females lay their eggs in late summer, but it isn’t until the following spring that the tiny larva hatches and starts to feed inside the growing leaf-buds of the Blackthorn.
Winter can be a long, tough time, and we reckon, finding signs of the delights of summer to come is good for the soul!