July’s butterflies

In grassland fields near Theydon Bois in Essex, huge veteran oaks and long defunct hedgerows of blackthorn, bramble and elm play host to little owls, woodpeckers and flocks of young blue and great tits and the July butterflies are abundant. One of the old oaks has a single purple hairstreak looking old and worn but still active, but there is no sign of white-letter hairstreaks on or below the elms.

July Butterflies 3 (1)
Purple hairstreak on an old pedunculate oak tree

Second brood holly blues are surprisingly common and males patrol the bramble and persistently chase one another with unmitigated aggression. But then a trio of males gather to take salts from a bird dropping and they arrange themselves in the most compact and harmonious configuration and patiently imbibe with neither a flinch nor a flutter.

A male chases a female and they then settle side by side in the centre of a bramble patch before flying off in opposite directions; the male sits again at the edge of the bramble on the lookout and the female disappears.

A brown argus also chases and and is then chased by a common blue male. On waste ground the blues are abundant on the swathes of hop trefoil; a handful of small tortoiseshells race around the heads of the abundant teasel and gatekeepers are on every patch of bramble.

There are just a few fresh flowers on the brambles that are now dripping with fat blackberries and there is a race by the social insects to forage and provision and the butterflies to mate and lay before the days shorten.


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