Green Hairstreak butterflies in Wanstead

The nearest record of a Green Hairstreak to the Wanstead area shown on the Essex Field Club's website is dated 2011 and is from the south part of Forest Gate. The Green Hairstreak is a butterfly which may be found in a variety of habitats including heaths, downland and scrubby wasteland. It is a widespread species, although becoming localised. It was previously more common, but much of its territories have been lost due to a variety of changes to its habitat by man-made activities.

Green HairstreakGreen HairstreakI have only seen one possible individual locally, near to the Grotto and quite some years ago, and so was excited when on 27th May I received a text from Tim Harris which read "Green Hairstreak colony on Wanstead Flats". I of course enquired of the whereabouts, and was instructed to look for a bramble patch on the Flats, where he had seen six or possibly more.

The bramble patch which I thought may be the one showed no sign of butterflies. Indeed, by the time I arrived the wind had increased and clouds were beginning to build up - neither good for butterfly flight. I walked further on and in a patch of scrub with brambles, hawthorn and a persistent Chiffchaff singing, saw about five Green Hairstreaks making forays each time the sun came out, as well as two Holly Blues playing. Green Hairstreaks never open their wings on landing, so once they have alighted their green colour against the green of the foliage can be something of a camouflage. Too, I was some way off their actual position beyond a bramble patch - and they were quite high up, perched mainly on hawthorn. For a frustrating hour or so I tried to get a decent photograph, but conditions did not aid things. However, eventually I managed a photograph that I was satisfied with.

Tim has just contacted me as I write this, saying how nature can surprise us. We could travel miles to see something less than usual, and yet have some wonderful - and sometimes even quite scarce - creatures on our doorstep!

Paul Ferris, 28th May 2013