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Off we went again, our gallant gang of four, this time in search of the rare Brown hairstreak at Butterfly Conservation’s Alners Gorse reserve in Dorset.

190803 alners gorse

This reserve is beautiful, the colourful swathes of wildflowers reminiscent of a painting by Monet or Van Gogh, the wide range of trees providing diverse habitats for local wildlife and welcome shade for butterfliers on yet another hot summer’s day.

190803 comma

Unfortunately, the Brown hairstreaks eluded us, and most of the other 20-odd people wandering around the reserve, staring intently, as we were, at bramble bushes, hedgerows and oak trees.

190803 essex skipper

One person, on turning a corner in the path, had almost bumped into a Brown, but the butterfly immediately flew off and wasn’t seen again. A couple said they’d seen one high in a tree but much tree staring failed to produce another sighting.

190803 purple hairstreak

Still, there were butterflies in abundance and my list for the day totalled a very respectable seventeen: Silver-washed fritillary, Purple hairstreak, Comma, Peacock, Red admiral, Painted lady, Essex skipper, Small skipper, Small white, Green-veined white, Common blue, Small copper, Brimstone, Meadow brown, Ringlet, Gatekeeper and Speckled wood. My companions also saw Marbled white, bringing the group total to eighteen – I was obviously staring at a tree at that time!

190803 red admiral

Alners Gorse is a well known site for Marsh fritillaries – now finished for this year, and we saw large numbers of other insects – hoverflies, bees, flies, crickets and grasshoppers, and several species of dragonfly, so it’s well worth a visit at any time of the year.

190803 small copper