Friday, July 20, 2012

Hairstreaks sparring with iris on a dull day in Upper Thames

Wendy and Mick Campbell went to Romer Wood yesterday, 19th July, and were joined later by Dennis. The weather was very overcast for almost our entire visit and quite cool (about 17-18C) but not very windy once we were inside the wood. Before Dennis arrived we stood at the "Poplar Tree" territory which is where we've had our best sightings of iris previously in this wood. We had sightings of two iris in the tops of the trees, but only very short flights. We managed to locate them with our binoculars, one landed in a large ash on the right side of the territory and the second in the top of a Poplar to the left of the territory. At 4.00pm, after Dennis arrived, we saw a wonderful display at the top of the ash. There were quite a few Hairstreaks flying in the ashes and all of a sudden the Purple Emperor which had been sitting in the ash flew up and engaged with the Hairstreaks, presumably trying to chase them out of its territory. For about 30 seconds iris turned into a huge Hairstreak, spiralling, clashing and turning on a sixpence in an attempt to chase them all away. But he was no match for several Hairstreaks and finally lost the battle, retiring to one of the Poplars! We never did manage to identify the Hairstreaks (too far away, so unable to see their colour) - they could have been WLH (Elm not far away), but we suspect they were PH based on the number of them present. Steve - if you get good weather when you go to Romer at the weekend, please could you look out for the Hairstreaks and see if you can get a positive id on any of them. Dennis tells us that he's never heard of iris clashing with WLH, so this would be a first. Our next sighting of iris was of one flying towards us above the track, our third individual. It headed towards the ash tree, circled and then flew back across the track and disappeared behind a large oak. Finally, Mick was scanning the Poplars in an area where we knew iris had been perching earlier and managed to locate it again. Photo (courtesy of Dennis) attached.

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