Piper’s Vale Brown Hairstreaks

Thecla betulae

Brown Hairstreak, Pipers Vale Suffolk

After seeing my first Brown Hairstreak in Oxfordshire last week, I travelled less than half the miles to Ipswich in Suffolk to seek more.  The site is called Piper’s Vale and is a local nature reserve.  It is a beautiful site covered in wild flowers with lots of blackthorn scrub, the hairstreak’s food plant.  The surroundings leave a little bit to be desired, in the shadow of the A14 Orwell Bridge and one side (although well screened) industry and a rather pungent sewage works.

Very obliging female



I met a local at the car park who was very kind in sharing his knowledge.  We searched the best looking areas, two pairs of eyes are better than one, many Common Blues were on the wing including females with a lot of blue, something I’ve been wanting to photograph for some time.

Female Common Blue



The sun and warmth had also brought out several Clouded Yellows.  This part of East Anglia is particularly good for these scarce migrants and I got loads of images, even watched a pairs courtship display deep in the grass.  The yellows don’t hang about long to nectar and were tricky to photograph, get it in focus and it’s gone to the next flower.

Clouded Yellow a delight to see so many



A wave of an arm, a hairstreak had been located.  She allowed a very close approach, either nectaring, or when she flew up to a hawthorn, I got some super shots.  These butterflies were introduced here a few years ago, the numbers are not high so any sighting is good, this lady was pristine.

Nice open wing shot



When my fellow enthusiast left I went for another look and re-found the hairstreak.  She had a shorter tail on the left wing.  It was a bit more active now and I lost sight briefly and then spotted her again except this one had two long tails and slightly worn wing fringes, two females!

First hairstreak with short left hand tail


Watched this second butterfly for a while, when she finished nectaring she flew to a near-by blackthorn and proceeded to lay eggs in the joints of new shoots, magic!

The second female in blackthorn



As I was leaving I couldn’t resist more shots of Clouded Yellows, it might be sometime before I see another.

Summertime and a Clouded Yellow reflects the sun
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Earlier in the week the weather was awful with northerly winds and heavy rain. Couldn’t resist this female Large White in the garden looking thoroughly miserable!

12 thoughts on “Piper’s Vale Brown Hairstreaks

    1. Hi Roger, have you been to Pipers Vale before? It is off Landseer Road turn up Sandyhill Lane the car park is by the right hand bend (the area is a bit ‘rough’ so lock car with nothing on show! locals tend to park away and walk) Go through the reserve entrance, down hill towards the Orwell Bridge in the south west corner. There is a small group of ash trees which had Hairstreaks flying around. The ones I photographed were in the narrow strip between the blackthorns along side the western boundary and sewage works. Good luck and thanks for dropping by. Brian.


      1. Thanks very much Brian for your help. I will drop in on the afternoon of 14 August before my meeting armed with macro lens and see what is around!


  1. Saw the Brown Hairsteaks exactly where you said and managed some photos. Thank you so much Brian, it is my 60th on Friday and this is the best present I could wish for! One female egg laying so bodes well for next year. Slightly pongy location but worth it.

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      1. Looking at your blog , I have been on my travels to almost exactly the same sites! Equally stunned by the Adonis blues. I also had a Zenit E and use a 3100 Slr! I did Wales though for silver studded and pearl bordered. Great minds think alike, but then fools seldom differ! Are the Hockley heath frits still going? I will let you know when I have a go at Swallowtails in your patch – possibly next year if I get a pass.
        Best Wishes

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  2. Update – I saved a brown hairstreak egg which had been laid on a hedge near the park which had been cut later. After nurturing for nearly a year through larval and pupal stages it hatched yesterday into a beautiful female which I returned to Piper’s Vale. Update 2- saw the Heath Fritillaries at Hockley this June which were magnificent. Thank you so much again! Dodge

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