Up in the crown of the trees in oak forests a very special butterfly keeps hiding. The Purple Hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus), a small species that is challenging to get in front of the lens. It is hard to detect one of this butterflies at first place. Furthermore, due to the habits of Purple Hairstreaks, it often is impossible to chase them.
Purple Hairstreaks spend most of the time high up on old oak trees. Keep your head up and you may see some flying. Occasionally, one of them dives down to the ground of the forest to soak on flowers or fluids. It can easily be mistaken with a leaf falling from a tree. Only moments later it takes off again, flying back up and disappears. The grayish shades of the butterfly, in combination with its size, require full focus to keep track on a flying individual. Hit by a ray of sunlight they’re visible, but entering shadow they’re gone.
Once you locate their habitat here’s some tips based on my experience from this summer. Either browse through thistles nearby a forest of oak trees or alternatively position yourself close to a sunny spot under oaks. Finding a butterfly soaking on thistles will make things easier. You won’t have the rush, and sometimes the butterfly just focuses on a single flower for ages. One drawback in this case, the individual most likely won’t open its wings. On the ground of the forest I’ve personally had better luck getting a glimpse on the upper side of the wings. However, as mentioned they only land for a moment. And it’s still not guaranteed they’ll open their wings.
This species is amazing. Even though I love Hairstreaks in general this might be my favorite. Unfortunately, the only individual which was willing to open its wings to me was in a pretty bad shape already. Both male and female have an incredible blue and purple shimmer on their upper wing side. Since I did not get better shots this summer it’s an absolute target for next season to get better footage.
Last but not least, I’ll visit the nearby oak forest after stormy weather in the winter. Branches may have fallen from the trees, and these could contain eggs to raise butterflies in spring.