After reaching the Ring I soon found my target for the afternoon, a handsome Great Grey Shrike.
In the meantime, the Thurs Streakers are continuing their efforts to search out new areas, monitor known sites and respond to requests from landowners to survey specific areas. A very productive recent visit was to a National Grid sub-station where we found almost 100 eggs. National Grid were very pleased at this news and have written an article with our input for their in-house magazine. Many of these site visits result in management recommendations being made to owners and hopefully, at the end of the day, some better hedgerow management measures being adopted. With changes in agri-environment schemes reducing the amount of grant aid likely to be available to farmers, we are having more and more to rely on developing good relationships with landowners and finding ways other than money of achieving change. Developing good links with other public bodies including local authorities is an important part of this, as is trying to make better links with businesses. We were very pleased to receive a donation of a further supply of blackthorn whips from Wychavon Council recently which we have planted out in an area of public open space where our previous planting of whips earlier in the year had produced 21 eggs. We are hoping that some of the blackthorn left over can be made available to local farmers and other landowners.
Encouraged by the great success of last year's Hairstreak Jelly, we also have followed up on the discovery of eggs on farmland near Redditch by persuading their farm shop to stock Brown Hairstreak ale in the run up to Xmas which we hope will be another way of getting across our important conservation message to the wider public. Talking of which, don't forget to order your own Xmas supply (www.fromthenotebook.co.uk). All bottles sold result in a donation to Butterfly Conservation. More Worcs updates as and when.
Tetrad results this autumn (where at least one egg has been recorded) is almost complete for the 116 tetrads where either eggs or adults have been located since 2009. Egg finds have been relatively easy despite leaf fall being late this year.
Dave Wilton is doing an excellent job as BrH Champion in co-ordinating the recording and mapping of the species in Bucks and Oxfordshire.
Finally, I thought people might enjoy this photo
I then went to the French Alps for three weeks.
On my return, I had given up the possibility of seeing one. Then, on 7 Oct at 2.45pm, a dull day, while looking for speckled woods (or anything), I was surprised when something brown fluttered by. Brown hairstreak didn't even enter my thoughts. Small copper or moth maybe?
Well, here she is. Only one-and-a-bit antennae, pretty tatty and it was pretty sluggish, to the extent that I could touch it. It stayed around half an hour. A great late treat!
It couldn't possibly be a WMBC calendar without a photo of a Brown Hairstreak and amongst the winning photos included is a shot by Simon Primrose taken at Grafton Wood. All proceeds from the calendar supports the work of Butterfly Conservation in the region.
There is a scatter of prominent ash trees along the scrub edge, and a 200m row of tall ash along an old lane between two rough grazing fields. Both sexes gather on these ashes, especially the ash row. I have seen mating pairs on the ash row (mid morning, no courtship, smash & grab, 45 mins duration). The grid ref for this ash row is SU 222456. Park in village hall car park at SU 228456 and walk up Burford Road byway.
Brown Hairstreak was 'discovered' here in the 1984-85 winter, when I surveyed the Andover area for eggs. Recently the site has become well known as a top BH area, and is well visited by Hants BC members. A BH transect has been set up.
I try to visit for a morning during the peak season period each year, to count BH around the ash trees. Recent counts are:-
30 in 5 hours on 15/8/08
44 (record) in 4 hrs on 9/8/09
26 in 1 hr (only) on 18/8/09
30 in 4 hrs on 15/8/10
24 in 2hrs 30mins on 19/8/12
On Sun Sept 1st 2013 I saw a probable 26 individuals, including 8 females. The males were very worn. The morning started cool, and no butterflies appeared before 9.30 when the Speckled Woods started. The first BH was seen at 9.45, sitting in an ash tree. From 10.15-11.30 they were nicely active around the ash trees.
I saw males flush females out of ash trees on three occasions, but the females must have been mated for they rejected the males. Males quietened down around 11.30 and the females started to get into egg-laying mode.
One thing that bugs me about BH is why do mated females visit ash trees infested by males in mid morning if they're not in need of male services? They don't seem to be feeding - ash-budding - and just get pestered. Are they merely keeping the males in situ in case they need a second mating? NB Purple Emperor females do not behave like this.
Note that both sexes descend from the ash row to sit on nettles and docks on the south side of the row in mid morning. I've no idea why but it's a good place to photograph them.
Here's a couple of photos, starting with the ash row -
Here's a map. Blue = ash, pink = scrub + sloe, orange = fields -
Discovering Irish Butterflies & their Habitats
BC Sussex member Leigh Prevost. Two visitors from Rochester appeared later in the day, just in time for Leigh to locate a Brownie for them; their first ever! Of the 7 females I saw at close range, 4 were in very good condition, and 2 were completely unmarked - a great result for September!
Eventually one of our days off coincided with a warm, sunny day and our plan swung into action on 20th August to be precise! We headed down the M6 from mid-Cheshire, onto the M5 and then off towards Grafton Flyford as directed by Gill. The 98 mile journey flew by and we soon pulled up at the church, parked and took the path through the farm down over the fields towards Grafton Wood. As directed by Gill, our search began along the old orchard hedges, full of blackthorn bushes and bramble flowers, both a good sign. A short distance on we came across two other brownie hunters with their camera lenses stuck into the hedge – this had got to be a good sign. On approaching them, sure enough, they were watching an egg-laying female Brown Hairstreak; success, we had seen our lifer butterfly. For the next hour at least she gave us a fantastic show, egg-laying and then basking, allowing brilliant photographic opportunities for all, even for my digiscoping set-up
Gatekeepers and Small Coppers also showed in the same hedge but soon we decided to reluctantly leave them all to have our lunch. After lunch we returned to the wood to explore further. At the pond we found a nectaring female Brown Hairstreak on the hemp agrimony, our second brownie and our first self-found one. Nearby we saw the first of many Silver-washed Fritillaries whizzing around as is their wont with several vanessid and white species also present. On the pond margins was a smart male Ruddy Darter Dragonfly and nearby several Southern Hawkers, both ‘lions’ to the Brown Hairstreaks’ ‘gazelles’ in this miniature world of predator and prey. We carried on through the wood, impressed at how it is being managed for butterflies and ended the day by finding the scarce and unobtrusive violet helleborine tucked away on the woodland floor.
We reluctantly left Grafton Wood and headed home northwards to Cheshire, certain that we would be back many times in the future. Again, I would like to say a big thank-you to Gill for all her assistance and for helping us see our first ever Brown Hairstreaks, in the same year as we had seen our first Black Hairstreaks and coincidentally had also seen Green, Purple and White-letter Hairstreaks – 2013 what a great butterfly year it has been.
Offering free samples of beer certainly helped to attract interest in our stall and we had an incredibly busy but productive day. The improved weather this summer and generally more butterflies around seems to have made the public more butterfly conscious and we sold many ID leaflets together with lots of beer! The Hairstreak Ale particularly was well received and we are hoping that we can now persuade a few of our local pubs and off licenses to stock it. In the meantime, for Hairstreakers a little further afield, the beer can be ordered at www.fromthenotebook.co.uk A donation from every bottle sold goes to Butterfly Conservation.
Sometimes it's nice to find peace and solitude while out butterflying, but Steyning provides the goods at the opposite end of the scale; there's often a real party atmosphere here as we celebrate the last few weeks of another season. When the scores on the doors are counted, this will prove to have been a rather average betulae season locally, and I believe some parts of the country have fared significantly better. If you want to see a Brownie in good condition this year, the coming weekend might be your last chance.
As I looked out of my window first thing on Sunday morning, I groaned....breezy and heavily overcast. However, the forecast promised better weather for the afternoon so my spirits were reasonably high as I drove over to Worcestershire. And when I arrived at Grafton church hall car park, 45 minutes before the scheduled start, there was already a reasonable (and expectant) crowd assembled.
I decided to set off straight away for the wood in an effort to locate a brownie before the masses descended. No chance! - a quick tour of all the recently favoured spots, that had provided so many sightings over the previous two weeks, yielded nothing at all. Not just no Brownies, but no butterflies of any sort, aside from the very occasional Small White and Meadow Brown.
Soon after, large groups of people started arriving in the meadow to the west of the wood, including a party from Cheshire and Peak District BC led by David Tomlinson. This was going to be tricky....how would we keep around 60 people entertained on a butterfly trip when there were NO butterflies flying.
By about noon the skies had lightened a tiny bit and the temperature had risen by a few degrees, to the extent that at least some butterflies had now stirred. A Brown Argus had been spotted, along with some Common Blues, plus a couple of Silver Washed Fritillaries, and spirits were definitely raised by the sight of a Painted Lady. However, the butterfly everyone had come to see was still proving extremely elusive and, although there were a few claims to have seen one or two Brownies briefly flying along the top of the high hedgerow bordering the orchard, there were no confirmed sightings at the point lunch was served back at the church hall.
Despite the lack of success during the morning, lunch had a party atmosphere, out on the lawn beside the church hall. Colin Bowler kept us all amused as he tried to dodge the wasps, whilst supplying samples of, and taking orders for, his recently launched range of Butterfly Beers. But, unfortunately, the majority of the 60 odd attendees for the morning search left straight after lunch and missed out on what was to prove a spectacular afternoon. The plan after lunch had been to go on the inaugural walk of the six-mile 'Hairstreak Trail' that takes in both Grafton Wood and a large chunk of the immediate surrounding countryside, comprising core Brownie habitat and distribution. However, with rapidly brightening skies and the appearance of the sun, it was decided to shorten the walk and concentrate on the part closest to Grafton Wood. By the time the group of 14 on the walk had reached the wood, Brownie sightings were being reported thick and fast - three females had been seen together on the core hedgerow. One was still present as our walk reached the location, followed minutes later by another three along an adjoining hedge. One observer remarked that once the sun came out it was like a switch had been thrown and incredibly, after having spent 2 hours during the morning with no sightings at all, six female Brownies had now been seen in the space of five minutes!!
Everyone who'd stayed for the walk got to see at least four of these females, the latter three all engaged in egg laying, and also enjoyed plenty of photo opportunites. At least, until the cows arrived and showed rather too much interest in the proceedings, whereupon we continued the walk through the wood and back up to the church hall again.
No more brownies were spotted, but the remainder of the walk was very interesting and informative, and ended in brilliant, hot sunshine. Elsewhere however, a seventh female was seen on the core hedgerow by another group, and two more were witnessed in the car park by Colin and his wasp entourage. All in all, a challenging but ultimately fantastic day!!
I've attempted to summarise and diary everything I know about - as follows:
Sat 10th Aug - I saw 2 Bramble nectaring males and one freshly emerged female on the main hedgerow to the west of Grafton Wood. One of these males was extremely obliging and I managed to take 314 photos of it. This despite inadvertently knocking it off its perch at one point, whereupon it flew out across the adjacent
field, landed in the grass for a couple of minutes, and then flew back into virtually the same position in the
hedge it had been in before, although this time in an even better pose. Luck was definitely with me that day!
Mon 12th Aug - Gill and Geoff Thompson and I had 8 more sightings of a mix of male and female, nectaring, Brownies both in and around the western side of Grafton Wood.
Weds 14th Aug - After Tuesdays washout - with no Brownie sightings being reported from Grafton - Wednesday's forecast looked much more hopeful. However, sightings were slow throughout the day with only 4 or 5 separate ones being reported - a mix of males and females - despite the presence of a number of experienced observers: Gill and Geoff were there from late morning onwards; a fairly large group of volunteers, who were cutting down overgrown blackthorn within the wood, were there for most of the day; and I was there from early afternoon onwards.
Away from the Grafton area Hugh Glennie saw 4 separate Brownies flying in the known assembly tree at Rous Lench - 3 landed in view and were all males. He later saw 3 flying in (what is now) a new assembly Ash nearby, 2 of these settled in view and were both male.
Having visited the known hotspot around Shurnock Court and failed to see anything in the main assembly there, I headed off to Hollowfields Road to an area close to where a large number of eggs were found last winter. No Brownies seen in any of the trees there but I did briefly see a male in the nearby hedgerow nectaring on Bramble.
Thurs 15th Aug - (The best day yet for sightings) Gill had up to 20 separate sightings throughout the day in the Grafton Wood area, of males and females, considered to represent at least 10 separate individuals. The majority of these were seen around the pond towards the NW corner of the wood, with a 'quiet period' between 13:30 and 15:15, where nothing was seen, followed by a resumption of activity with the last one being recorded around 6pm. Again most of these were seen nectaring on either Bramble or Hemp Agrimony.
1 male was also seen by Hugh Glennie well outside the wood, to the NE, flying in an Ash tree. This tree was unknown to us before but is now being monitored for possible 'Assembly Tree' status.
Sat 17th Aug - Whilst the rest of the core Grafton Wood Brownhairstreakers group were 'sunning' themselves on a weekend-away to South Wales's West Williamston Brownie site.....Geoff saw a female at Shurnock Court, exhibiting possible egg laying behaviour amongst the blackthorn.
Tues 20th Aug - Hugh Glennie and Pete Seal saw at least 3 separate Brownies in the known assembly tree at Rous Lench; 3 more in the newly discovered tree in the same area; and 1 male in a small Ash on Hollowfields Road.
Mike Williams had also, earlier, seen 1 male in that same small Ash tree on Hollowfields Road, but in addition saw 4 to 5 separate Brownies (all male as far as he could tell) in a newly discovered Ash on Huddington Lane, again in the vicinity of an area where plenty of eggs had been found last winter.
Gill, Geoff and I had 7 more sightings at Grafton comprising two egg laying females,1 female flyby, 1 female nectaring and exhibiting egg-laying behaviour, and 3 males on hemp by the pond. Estimate at least 5 separate individuals - males now becoming a little bit tatty but all females seen were still in pristine condition. Another 2 sightings were made by Paul Brewster, and one other Brownie fan, of males nectaring on hemp by the pond.
So, in conclusion, the breeding season so far seems to be panning out in a fairly predictable manner (pristine males seen first, followed about a week later by pristine females, males then starting to appear a bit tatty, females being observed laying eggs) - albeit this year with two notable differences:
1) There has been a huge increase in sightings of nectaring Brownies than in a normal year (especially in the Grafton area)
2) There have been many more sightings of adults than usual
Assume 'point 2' is (at least partly) as a direct consequence of 'point 1' although, even allowing for that, it does appear that this is turning out to be an exceptional year for the butterfly!
I have now seen just shy of 40 adults over 4 days on my 2013 Brownie Pilgrimage to Grafton which, for anyone unfamiliar with the butterfly, is an absolutely mind-blowing figure! Never before have so many adults been seen and there have been some fantastic photo opportunities for everyone who has visited. The first egg-laying females were seen on Tuesday so there is a good chance of seeing them on Sunday also, plus the chance to see one of the beautiful pinhead-sized "sea urchin" eggs up close. If you own a hand lens with good magnification (10x or more advised), do bring it along and you wont be disappointed!
We will be meeting at the Three Parishes Village Hall, Grafton Flyford (next to the church) at 11am and there will be a guided walk onto the reserve including lunchtime refreshments.
There will be the opportunity to order and sample the fantastic new Brown Hairstreak beer. A donation will be made to Butterfly Conservation for every bottle sold so get those orders in!
There is also the brand new Hairstreak Butterfly Trail to be walked. It is 6 miles in length and takes about 4 hours to complete but feel free to walk as little or as much as you like. And of course, the walk is around prime Brown Hairstreak habitat so theres always the chance you'll see a Brownie along the way :) Amanda Hill will be leading the walk along the trail at 2pm, starting from Grafton Flyford church.
For more information on the event, please contact Mike Williams at email@example.com.
Hope to see you all there :)
Last year my highest tally was eight, achieved on two separate occasions. Only the most favoured ash trees (which I call primary trees) were occupied then.
This Sunday my route totalled a record 23, including 3 females. Nearly all the ash trees with a history of being used were occupied, both the primary and the secondary trees. There was some overspill on to maple and elm. I almost saw a pair join, at 10.35 (no courtship, just an attempted smash and grab raid) but they were separated by a sudden gust of wind. By 11am the males had quietened right down, so I went Emperoring.
This suggests that the butterfly has emerged in good numbers in this district, despite the cold late spring and a lot of poor weather during the larval growth period. The previous highest tally here was 13.
The butterfly began in the N Wilts area ca Aug 7th (I saw 2 at the Minety site early on the 9th).
The habitat consists of old hay meadows (mainly SSSI) with thick and quite tall hedges, containing much sloe and a fair scatter of ash and other trees, on Oxford Clay.
Are many of you like me suffering a first sports injury? It's 'Arboreal butterfly neck' and indeed goes with the territory following an amazing Purple Emperor flight season surpassed by a sumglorious if late start, to the Brown hairstreak ash-party.
My BrH recording had a wonderful kick-off on the 8th of August with my first sighting being a pair in cop high on a regularly visit ash assembly tree here in Bucks. A singleton male at site B was the prelude to a further pair in cop high on another annually visited assembly tree at site C, a 3 minute's drive away. B and C were just over the border in Oxfordshire.
Many Ash Brownies may be familiar with the excellent piece of work carried out my Andrew Middleton, Liz Goodyear et al on 'Territorial Activity of Brown Hairstreak, in particular its timing' in 2008. A recent reread inspired me to do an early morning visit to the sites above. Wednesday 14th August was the awaited day with blue skies and unbridled sunshine at 7am in hometown Aylesbury Ducks.
I quickly set off with friend and butterfly authority Alan Wingrove arriving on site at 8.25am to local dappled sunshine. Air temperature perhaps 16 deg C? First sighting was a female which flew to a nearby hawthorn where it alighted sunning itself for 10 minutes. It made several flights around this hawthorn before moving to the ash assembly tree nearby where a second BrH was located by us at 8.47 am. Until 8.55 the light dappled cloud continued to dominate then cleared to trigger near constant BrH activity on the assembly tree. Being careful never to over-count we recorded at least 3 males and one female participating in this activity. A 100% view of the tree would perhaps have evidenced significantly more?
A return to site B above by 9.20 am was a further joy - 3 BrH immediately apparent on assembly tree. A further male clearly identified to total 4 individuals. We felt there were probably more than 4 but we were unable to substantiate this. There were several clashes carried out by varied combinations of the 4 males - no females identified.
The penultimate sentence of Andrew and Liz's paper states: "It is hoped that this short note will encourage observers to start recording earlier in the morning". I have finally managed to put these word of wisdom into practice - at least for one early start being a night-owl!
Meanwhile, down in Surrey we can report another possible first for the Brown Hairstreak with an appearance in a moth trap in Chessington. Jim Porter found a male in his 125W MVL Robinson trap on the night of 9/10 August. Apparently, eggs have been previously recorded about a mile from the house but the fact that it was a male and the slightly worn nature of Jim's photo perhaps suggests an assembly tree closer to home. Certainly, it appears, like Worcs, that the Brown Hairstreak is doing well in Surrey and expanding its range. Nevertheless, to turn up in a moth trap is highly unusual. I have certainly heard of Purple Hairstreaks being recorded at light especially when mothing within a wood but never before a Brown Hairstreak.
Yesterday yielded a minimum of 4 separate adults/sightings, at least 3 of which were male with the sex of the 4th undetermined. Today I had 8 separate sightings at different places spread across the 4 hours that I was there. All the butterflies I was able to observe closely were male. However, I bumped into John Tilt - reserve manager - at one point, and he reported that 2 females had also been seen (by him) today - these being the first recorded females of the season.
One interesting, and potentially important, fact to come from these sightings is that out of the 12 - assumed male - butterflies observed over the two days, 6 of them were found nectaring on Bramble - all in the afternoon. (Of the other 6 - 1 was feeding on honeydew off a Field Maple leaf, 2 were flying high along the top of a hedge, and 3 were seen in trees, exhibiting typical (male) 'assembly tree behaviour').
There was a theory aired a few weeks ago, during the peak of the Purple Emperor flight period, that one reason for the apparent large number of grounded Emperor sightings this year was due to the absence of aphids, and hence aphid honeydew, up in the trees. At that point we had discussed, if this theory was correct, whether it would have the same impact on Brownies and whether it would lead to an increase in sightings this year, especially of male butterflies, as they were forced lower down into hedgerows in order to search out nectar sources. Maybe it's too early to tell, but the fact that 50% of male sightings here, over the last two days, have been of nectaring butterflies....who knows!!
It was confirmed as a male and it was seen in a known and long-standing assembly tree. As this tree resides in the garden of a very keen (and very lucky) Brownhairstreaker, it is the most closely monitored of all assembly trees in Worcs and almost every year, naturally enough, gives rise to the first confirmed Brownie sighting in the county.
|It will soon be time for some of this behaviour!|
The Brown Hairstreak beer is described to be "a tawny ale to cheer dark beer fans with satisfying smooth and malty undertones". And if this isn't exciting enough, Butterfly Conservation will also receive 10p for every bottle sold, helping to better protect our butterflies, moths and the environment. The Brown Hairstreak ale label will even include a message about the consequences of hedge-flailing!
For more information on the beers, visit www.fromthenotebook.co.uk. The range is available to buy via www.northumbriangifts.co.uk.
If you've seen a Brown Hairstreak, please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or sign up to the blog to post your sightings and photographs. Click here for more information.
The Jelly has been produced in association with the Wayside Farm Shop at Wickhamford near Evesham and is on sale in the shop (www.waysidefarmshop.co.uk) and at events attended by West Midlands Butterfly Conservation. Each jar has a Hedgerows for Hairstreaks sticker on the lid plus a tie-on label with a Brown Hairstreak photo on the front (courtesy of Simon Primrose) and a conservation message on the reverse. If successful we hope that we can produce more Hairstreak Jelly next year and perhaps make it available more widely. It certainly tastes good!
The first of these was on Hollowfields Lane to the east of Feckenham. This location had been identified a couple of years ago, due to the presence of historical egg records, and a likely looking Ash tree had been found and included in the 'Big Ash Bash' for study during the 2011 flight season. Unfortunately, this tree was not visited during that summer but last winter the Streakers did go there and recorded 20+ eggs nearby. A note was made to keep this tree on the 'potentials list' and last summer I made one visit during the 'BAB'. Despite good weather on that day I wasn't able to spot anything in the tree but it was decided to persevere, hence last Thursday's visit.
I was about 5 minutes late arriving at the site but as I drove up I could already see Mike with GPS and notebook in hand, hurriedly darting between members of the team.....things were looking good! As I then got out of the car I could hear an almost non-stop chorus of "got one", "found another one", "there's a double here", "and here", and it immediately became clear that something fairly special was going on. About an hour and a half later we called time at this site having found 65 eggs in the close vicinity of the tree, including a treble.
We then moved onto our second target area, a small piece of young, recently planted, open woodland near to Feckenham Wylde Moor NR. The story here had been very similar to the Hollowfields Lane one, in which eggs had been found in both the two previous winters, although study of a nearby and very suitable looking Ash during the last two flight seasons, had provided no adult sightings. On Thursday, for the third winter running, we found plenty of eggs here - 33 in total. So, like the Hollowfields Lane location, we will be keeping this site in the target list for this summer's 'Big Ash Bash', in the hope of finally seeing some adult activity and confirming the presence of an assembly tree.
On our way back to the cars, we found (as of course we had to) the necessary 2 additional eggs to reach our century for the day. In fact we found 4 taking our total to 102 and, suitably satisfied, we retired to the pub. Ending in a flourish!
We have also been out looking for eggs in the vicinity of known and probable assembly trees and were pleased to eventually get to the tree near Redditch (photo left) we had been unable to reach in the January snow and find almost 40 eggs close by. As those of you that managed to attend the recent workshop in Taunton will know, we have been taking a particular interest in assembly trees and what makes them attractive to Brown Hairstreaks and would be interested to hear from other bloggers with their own observations. The Big Ash Bash will take place again this year and Simon Primrose who co-ordinates this on behalf of West Midlands Butterfly Conservation would be interested to hear from streakers in other parts of the UK who might be interested in taking a look at some of their local trees.
I am away for the next couple of weeks so will leave it to Simon to provide any further update before the curtain finally closes.
With only a dozen eggs found over six hours, spread over two visits, I was relieved to find a hotspot in the last hour, situated only a couple of hundred metres from a group of master trees I discovered during the flight season. Most of the blackthorn suckers had been nibbled back to a height of less than 40 cm, but they were liberally sprinkled with eggs. I found 23 along a 30 metre section, including a double and a treble. Bearing in mind that egg numbers drop off significantly by late winter (predation) and that many would have been lost through browsing, this is probably the work of quite a few female butterflies. The image shows how close the pair of eggs came to being deer fodder.
Mike Slater, Simon Primrose, John Tilt, Geoff Thompson et al.
A discussion about the current approaches to monitoring Brown Hairstreak abundance through egg counts and possibilities for a future, standardised methodology soon followed, with some rather amusing suggestions of using a cherry picker and even a helicopter to search the blackthorn for eggs above head height. Then came a rather depressing slide on the 2011 transect figures from around the UK. Some sites had no record of the Brown Hairstreak on the yearly transects at all, whereas many only had single sightings, with Noar Hill and Alners Gorse coming out on top with 13 and 7 sightings, respectively. It is hoped that this new approach will enable egg counts to be used to report on the species national population status through the UKBMS instead of relying solely on adult counts from transects which tend to be very low.
After lunch, everyone got ready to brave the freezing cold (and light snow) and go out for a spot of egging. With over 30 people, this must've been the most well attended egg search EVER! Not 2 minutes after arriving on site, the word got around that the first eggs had been found. Matthew Oates later decided that he was feeling rather optimistic and actually tried to jump into the middle of the hedge to give it a good search (below).
The session ended at around 3pm with the finding of additional eggs and another brief discussion on the suggested future species monitoring approach. I think many of us have high hopes that this new system will make a big difference to the way we currently monitor Brown Hairstreak abundance and distribution.
How lucky we were to have such a beautiful day for planting. It was almost sunbathing weather! 7 of us, including 3 of the Ryton Pools rangers (Ben, Craig and Steve) all had a fantastic afternoon digging holes, smashing bramble and sliding down the muddy slopes of the bank we were planting on. The whips were 2 year old growth and already looked more than suitable for egg-laying females. Hopefully, these will become even more substantial with another 5 months worth of growth (providing the rabbits and deer keep away!).
Late afternoon, we retreated back to the Visitors Centre for drinks, hot soup and biscuits. As always, we were entertained by the incredible sight of at least 70 birds in the feeding garden right outside the window. Being able to observe the Redpoll's and Siskin's at just 0.5 metres away is really an experience. A couple of Blue Tits even landed on the windowsill and knocked on the glass to say hello :) Total species seen that day: Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Brambling, Lesser Redpoll, Common Redpoll, Siskin, Blackcap, Reed Bunting, Dunnock, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Blackbird and Robin.
Blackthorn management and planting will continue throughout March with the aim of finishing by the beginning of April. Heres hoping for a 2013 bumper Brownie summer!
More horsing around later, we still hadn't found any eggs and were starting to get depressed. None of us could feel our feet, faces or hands thanks to the biting cold wind. It must've been about -10 degrees. Eyes watering from the wind, i could actually feel my tears trying to freeze up. Conversation didn't last very long either as all of our jaws had frozen. After a quick look in the adjoining woodland, we decided to call it a day and retreated back to the warmth of our cars for lunch. 45 minutes later and toes still numb, we stupidly decided to check out some other adjoining habitat at Bubbenhall Meadows. We'd looked at this the year previous and hadn't found anything but there is a nice south facing hedgerow with some good blackthorn so we figured we'd give it a go. The snow had eased but the wind was still a killer. We started searching the east facing side first but had no luck so we trekked over to the southern side which unfortunately didn't offer any more shelter from the wind. Almost at our limits, Simon soon shouted that he'd found one. AT LAST! Not 2 minutes later, i found 2 more and then another was spotted, all in the same area. As you can imagine, the minute i got my recording form out, the blizzard started. Geoff (my Dad) completely whimped out and retreated back to the car whilst Simon and I braved the arctic conditions and battled on, giving the rest of the south facing hedge a brief check without luck. It took me 90 minutes to warm up properly when i got home but it was well worth it. Brownie eggs have never been recorded at Bubbenhall Meadows before so this is a real result.
On 20th February, Simon and I returned to do a real thorough search of the south facing hedgerow again incase we missed any eggs. I found an additional 4, bringing the total to 8, with 5 more on the adjoining lane. There are now plans in the making to plant more blackthorn and cut some of the mature hedgerow to encourage suckering and increase habitat suitability.
The workshop is open to anyone who wants to learn more about Brown Hairstreak egg count methods or wishes to help shape method development. The day will comprise of a series of presentations on methods used in existing surveys, proposals for a new standardised approach with associated discussion, picnic lunch, followed by searching for the eggs and testing the method out in the field (Brown Hairstreak occurs nearby). The workshop is free and tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided.
If you intend to come along, please drop Tom Brereton an email at email@example.com or call 01929 406019 (mobile: 07816 786173).
10:00 - Coffee and arrival
10:30 - Welcome and aims of the day - Tom Brereton
10:35 - Brown Hairstreak ecology - Matthew Oates
10:45 - Current monitoring data used in the UKBMS - Marc Botham, CEH
Regional surveys for Brown Hairstreak:
10:55 - West Midlands - Mike Williams
11:10 - South Wales - Richard Smith
11:25 - Hampshire - Clive Wood
11:40 - Sussex and Lincolnshire - Ian Middlebrook
11:50 - Towards a common survey approach - Tom Brereton
12:05 - Discussion
12:30-13:15 - Picnic lunch (tea and coffee provided)
13:30-15:00 - Testing Brown Hairstreak survey methods
We have a Brown Hairstreak Conservation Day on 17th February at RPCP where we will be undertaking some of the aformentioned management work involving bramble clearance, blackthorn planting and cutting of over mature blackthorn. Any volunteers are very welcome to come along and help out. I will be there all day to offer help, advice and information about the Brown Hairstreak and will be able to show anyone interested the tiny eggs. The event will run from 12:30 - 4pm and we will be meeting at the Visitors Centre. It will be £2.50 per person to cover soup and hot drinks at the end of the session. Booking is essential so please telephone 024 7630 5592.
This prompted me look at a nearby hedge for eggs the following winter and I found 15. Since that time I have seen at least one or two females every year and about (c.15) eggs. It has been very disappointing not to see any adults in late summer 2012 and zero eggs this winter. I just hope this is a temporary blip and they will return this summer. I will update here as and when I have any more news.
I have included a montage of pictures taken in and around my Somerset garden over this period.
Not to be daunted by the weather the Thursday Streakers were out again today in Worcestershire's still very snowy countryside. Given the weather, we thought we would make it a bacon and egg day with the prospect of a lunchtime bacon roll as reward for a bit of extreme butterflying in the morning. The day certainly brought forth a fine array of headgear but sadly little in the way of eggs. We did have original plans to search for eggs on a country lane to the south west of Redditch where a female had been spotted last autumn but one look at the state of the aforementioned road persuaded us that this might not be a good idea. As it was, I needed a push to get my car out of the cafe car park after lunch. We decided to head into Redditch proper to search for eggs near the town park where we had found eggs before Xmas on the reasonable expectation that at least the roads might be better there. This certainly proved the case but, away from the roads, the snow was even deeper!
Anyway, not to be daunted we spent another hour or so shaking snow off blackthorn stems to look for eggs without success before returning to our cars defeated. The only good news was that the lunchtime bacon rolls were very good and the eggs we had found in the park before Xmas were still there.....and to think it was only a few weeks ago we were complaining about the rain.