Friday, 20 September 2013

Hunting the Long-tailed Blue

female Long-tailed Blue, Lampides boeticus
This morning I headed off to Newhaven for the third time since last Friday. This time the weather looked very promising as the sky was blue and and the air felt warm. I Arrived at the Hope Inn at 10:20 and was pleased to see three Large Whites and a male Clouded Yellow. During the last two visits I saw no Large Whites on the lucerne so I wonder if they and the Clouded Yellow had crossed the channel in the past few days. I saw a blue butterfly cross the long grassy area by the hillock but lost it without identifying it. There were also Small Heaths. I then visited the Everlasting Pea by the Mill Pool but saw only Small Whites. On the way back to the car park I checked every patch of pea without a result. Finally, a hundred yards from the main path, I spotted a Small Copper, Small Heaths and then a blue butterfly roosting on a grass stem. I moved closer and probably missed a heart beat when I recognised a perfect specimen of my target  - the Long-tailed Blue. I captured some record shots, then took some less hurried photos. This was difficult as it was in the middle of a clump of grass. Having taken some open and closed wing shots I moved some of the obstructing grass which disturbed her (I had decided it was a female). She rose up and flew across the mill pool towards the ruins on the north side. I later met a gentleman who often takes butterfly photos here. He said he had taken photos of Common Blues on some Everlasting Pea where I had found my specimen. We couldn’t find any remains of the pea plant  but the story fits in with my butterfly having emerged where I found it at 1:15pm. It probably emerged late morning. In which case further specimens may emerge at TQ4587800271.
My sense of exhilaration and satisfaction at finding this rare butterfly is difficult to describe. It's natural home is beside the Mediterranean. About six weeks ago the winds brought across many immigrants from across the channel, including Long-tailed Blues. They were seen at Dover, Rye, Newhaven, Arundel and Hayling Island among other places. They laid eggs on Everlasting Pea and the resulting generation is emerging now. These are British Long-tailed Blues! Unfortunately they cannot tolerate our winters...

Migrant Hawker, Aeshna mixta


  1. Congratulations. Absolutely brilliant and a once in a lifetime find. The number of people who have seen a fresh, BRITISH born LTB is tiny. Fortunately for us this is a LTB annus mirabilis and I also saw one today (another female), on the White Cliffs of Dover. But I can guarantee that no others in the UK enjoyed the same pleasure!
    BWs, Neil

  2. Wow - a perfect specimen. I really like all the photos, especially the first one. The underside of the wing looks really stunning. I'm glad your persistence was so richly rewarded.

    Best wishes,


  3. Brilliant find Colin, a great reward for all the time and effort you put into your photography.

    I am very green at the moment

    Arthur Greenslade

  4. Pristine specimens can be bred from mange tout! Possibly less satisfying than finding a genuinely wild example.... ;)

  5. Thanks Arthur and Sarah. You are right Sarah, the exhilaration of finding it at the end of 3 trips and 15 hours of searching was amazing!


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