Rushbeds Wood Egg Search

Dave Wilton led our latest organised UTB egg search at Rushbeds Wood here in Bucks yesterday Sunday 15th Dec 2013. This is a well established site and with its adjacent Laplands Farm reserve holds a strong colony of BrH. A team of 12 tackled an approximate 400 yards of hedgerow locating 75 eggs in 90 minutes. Dave felt this result was 'about average' for the location over recent years. This successful count contrasts with my difficulty in locating adults here in 2013 - both on several of the regularly occupied 'assembly trees' and indeed on the excellent stretches of blackthorn hedgerows which are abundant particularly at the Laplands Farm end of the site. Perhaps significant numbers of  BrH females on their characteristic sedentary perches have had the last laugh at my expense this year, in seemingly producing an abundance of eggs without showing themselves, in readiness for next year? Time will tell?

First 2013 Sussex Eggs

This afternoon (3rd December) I went walking on the downs around Chanctonbury Ring, parking at Washington and walking up through the disused chalk pits. The briefest of searches located my first Brown Hairstreak eggs of the winter, only a couple of hundred metres from the car park. I've always found them here in previous years, but it usually requires some effort to locate just one or two. Today I found 7 in under five minutes, including 2 pairs. It's too early to draw any conclusions yet, but this does look quite promising for a good 2013 crop.
After reaching the Ring I soon found my target for the afternoon, a handsome Great Grey Shrike.

So far so good

Interesting to read Tom's posting of record numbers of eggs at one of the Upper Thames sites.  Can't claim any record from our egg count at Grafton Wood on 17th November but numbers were up on the previous year on all three sections of blackthorn that make up part of our core count area which is an encouraging start.  We also seem to be getting a lot of multiple egg clusters this year for some reason with several trebles and even a couple of quads already recorded!  Our next planned session at Grafton is our Xmas/New Year special on Sun, 29th December when mincepies and mulled wine will be on offer as well as Brown Hairstreak eggs.  We meet outside Grafton Church for 10 am and all are very welcome. 

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 (  All bottles sold result in a donation to Butterfly Conservation.  More Worcs updates as and when.           

Record egg numbers today in Upper Thames!

A team of eight members recorded a total of 81 BrH eggs in just over 2 hours at a regular site near the Oxford bypass today.  It was a site record, the previous highest total being the 54 found there in 2009. It will be interesting to see if other egg counts have similar results?
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.

Positive early news from Worcs

Although it is early days, we seem to be finding plenty of eggs in Worcs this year and, where we have comparative data, counts are up.  We have already added 3 new 1km squares to our distribution map which is also encouraging.  We shall know better after this coming weekend when we undertake our first egg hunt at Grafton Wood.  If any Streakers from elsewhere want to join us, we meet at Grafton Flyford church at 10 am on Sun 17th November (the day after the national AGM where West Midlands Butterfly Conservation are having a stall).  Once again, we had an October sighting of an adult at Grafton Wood on 15th which is pretty late but not our latest which was 22nd October back in 2008.  Reserve Manager and Branch Chairman John Tilt managed a photograph which can be viewed on the Grafton Wood blog.  Particularly good news has been the discovery of eggs at the site of our Community Planting Day earlier this year (see previous posting) with four of the whips holding Brown Hairstreak eggs.  Wychavon Council are providing us with another 100 plants which we will be putting in later this month.

Finally, I thought people might enjoy this photo
.of a Ladybird eyeballing a Brown Hairstreak egg which one of our local champions photographed in his garden.  We awaited the outcome with bated breath but the good news is that the egg survived its ordeal and remains intact.  The fate of the Ladybird is less certain as it has disappeared.  Perhaps its house was on fire and it flew away home - we shall never know!  More seriously, evidence of what actually does predate Brown Hairstreak eggs seems in short supply.  We often come across half-eaten eggs in our searches but have never caught the culprit in the act.  Does anyone have any more information on this?
More updates later.

egg searching methodology

Did anything ever come out of the egg-survey methodology meeting earlier in the year?

Very late tatty sighting

I spent five successive but unsuccessful days at Bookham Commons mid-August looking for brown hairstreaks. (OK, I did see male and female through binos up a sycamore).
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!

Shop early for Xmas


Be the first to order the new West Midlands Butterfly Conservation calendar which is hot off the press.  In A4 landscape format in full colour, the calendar features all the winners in this year's West Midlands branch photographic competition.  The calendar is priced at £8 (£15 for two) and can be ordered from 8 Working Lane, Gretton, Cheltenham, Glos GL54 5YU.  Cheques should be made out to Butterfly Conservation West Midlands branch.  Copies can also be purchased from the West Midlands branch stall at the national AGM in Swindon next month. 

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.

Last Of The Season?

While at Beeding Cement Works (near Shoreham) on Friday 27th September, along with a small crowd which had gathered to watch a Long-tailed Blue, Pete Varkala spotted a female Brown Hairstreak. With most eyes now watching out for rare, late season migrants, she might be the last seen in Sussex this year.

Noar Hill

Unfortunately I haven't seen BH this year but I thought I might get my last chance today. There have been reports of reasonable numbers from Noar Hill in Hampshire in the last couple of weeks and the forecast for this morning was not bad. I set off about nine thirty but during the course of my half hour journey the cloud came over ensuring that adults were off the menu.
So I decided an egg hunt was in order. 
In the last couple of years my success at Noar Hill has been variable including last year when I found none at all in two visits.
However this time was much better finding 42 in about two hours searching from all over the site plus five old egg shells from this years hatch. A good number 10+  were outside the reserve itself along the lane to the north but it was disappointing to to see the hedgerow severely flailed on both sides up to the reserve which must have destroyed numbers of eggs.
It will be good to return in the winter, after the leaves have dropped, which will make it easier to count the eggs.

Hairstreak Butterfly Trail

The Brown Hairstreak in Worcs now has its own waymarked trail thanks to a partnership between Worcestershire County Council's Countryside Service and West Midlands Butterfly Conservation.  The 6.5 mile walk starts at Grafton Flyford church, passes through Grafton Wood and takes in part of the long distance Wychavon Way before returning to Grafton Flyford via Earl's Common and Himbleton.  The route passes through some very attractive Worcestershire countryside with distant views of Bredon Hill and the Malvern Hills.  Much of the route passes through farmland where hedgerows are being especially managed for the benefit of the Brown Hairstreak. There is a pub in Himbleton approximately halfway which should appeal to real ale fans.
The route is fully waymarked with signs which feature the Butterfly Conservation and Wildlife Trust logos and can be walked in either direction.  I have already walked a short section of the route earlier this month and spotted a female Brown Hairstreak so, as a change from Grafton Wood and the opportunity to record Brown Hairstreaks in new areas, the trail is highly recommended.  Our Thurs Streakers group have already committed themselves to searching for eggs along the full length of the trail over the winter.  A leaflet providing a route map and further details will be available shortly and can be downloaded from
One final plea, however, and this also applies to visitors to Grafton Wood, is to please ensure you keep to public rights of way.  Straying from footpaths (which are clearly marked on the map above) can lead to problems with local landowners which we are keen to avoid.  As a butterfly of the wider countryside, much of our success in conserving the Brown Hairstreak is about working with local landowners and retaining their goodwill. 

Doings at Shipton Bellinger

Shipton Bellinger Roughs consists of a large area of mixed scrub, with a high sloe content, rough grazing and arable fields on chalk and Clay-with-Flints near Tidworth on the Hants / Wilts border.  It is MOD land, part of Salisbury Plain Training Area but outside the red flag area.  It is criss-crossed by rights of way and is well used by locals. 

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 -

Butterfly Visit to Ireland 17th to 26th August 2013

Brown Hairstreak
Visits to a wide range of butterfly sites across the isle included four with specific Brown Hairstreak targets where success was achieved. The BrH stronghold is in the west - counties Clare, Galway and the most easterly location across the Shannon in Tipperary.
Dromore Nature Reserve and Gortlecka are two known BrH sites. Dromore NR  is a well-managed lakeside habitat of suitable blackthorn, ash and nectar sources on the edge of Dromore Wood. We were fortunate to locate one female briefly showing itself at ground level before disappearing into the hedgerow.
Gortlecka is typical Burren location on limestone pavement. The literature states that BrH behaviour here is not similar to their UK cousins in that sightings of males are more frequently seen on the ground. Our late visit, 5 to 6.30pm, didn't provide time to fully test this idea but our three sightings were indeed all at ground level including two males with none visible on the one or two ashes.
Carney Commons is the Tipperary easterly site and has regular BrH sightings. The management here is excellent providing many likely spots for Brown Hairstreak brethren. Soon after arrival we found an ash with at least three resident and highly active males competing for the territory. A joy to behold!
We returned to this area, Clare on the west coast, the following day despite less favourable weather with hopes of further BrH action. En route to Lake Bunny, a known BrH site, I was inspired to stop off at a side road I spied from the journeying car. It proved to hold magical Brown Hairstreak hedgerows accompanied by an initial half hour burst of warm sunshine. The resulting female sighting was quickly joined by a second some inches away. Disappearance of the sunshine enabled us to survey for suitable habitat for a mile or so down this quiet road before making a turn-about-heel (u-turn?). The Little People must have been our Guardian Angels for on return to our earlier sightings spot the sun broke out again highlighting a perfect female ovipositing in camera range on the blackthorn hedgerow, presumably one of the earlier individuals.
My visit to Ireland exceeded expectations in managing to see BrH on four sites leaving me feeling confident that this could be built on should I make further Brown Hairstreak visits to the Emerald Isle.
Should you wish to visit the Little People some recommendations:

Ireland's Butterflies - a review
Nash, Boyd and Hardiman

Discovering Irish Butterflies & their Habitats
Jesmond Harding

First Of The Month

Having seen a couple of Brown Hairstreak in perfect condition yesterday, I couldn't resist another bash at Steyning Rifle Range this morning (1st September). The weather was much better than forecast and I was surprised to have the place to myself, with the exception of
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!

Hairstreaks Making Hay

Visitor numbers are now decreasing at Steyning Rifle Range, but not the number of Brown Hairstreaks on view. Nine females were active this morning (31st August) in the warm harvest sunshine, including two which remained just above head-height. Both of these were in perfect condition and probably haven't started egg-laying yet. The others varied in condition, from battered to quite reasonable, with the specimen below being at the better end of the scale.

A Brown Letter Day!

Having never seen Brown Hairstreak before, and being inspired by reading the Ash Brownies Blog all summer, I (Paul Brewster) and my wife Carys decided that when news of emergence came through we would attempt to catch up with this enigmatic species. Once Gill had posted that emergence was underway at Grafton Wood, Worcestershire, we started to plan, but just at that time the good weather and our days off started to go out of sync. I emailed Gill whose response was fantastic, providing me with lots of info regarding where to park, access details and the best areas to search in Grafton Wood, and even sending maps with highlighted areas for parking, footpaths and prime locations.

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.

Only here for the beer

August Bank Holiday Monday saw the local Worcs Streakers manning an information stall at the Pershore Plum Fayre.  This was our second visit to this event which celebrates Pershore and the surrounding area's historical and cultural links with all things plummy.  We reckon the Brown Hairstreak qualifies because of its associations with various members of the Plum family and, in any event, it is a great opportunity to raise awareness of one of our plummiest butterflies with the wider community.  This year, we shared our stall with Colin and Graham of fromthenotebook who were launching the new Brown Hairstreak Ale.

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  A donation from every bottle sold goes to Butterfly Conservation.



Hairstreak Peak

The Brown Hairstreak now appears to be at peak in Sussex, based on results at the well-watched Steyning Rifle Range site. Large numbers of hairstreak fans continue to visit and yesterday (28th August) saw about half a dozen females at work in the blackthorn, with nearly as many staying up high. Some of the females are still in surprisingly good condition. The butterfly was very obliging (unlike the previous day), so everyone went away with some pleasing images.

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.

Grafton Wood Brown Hairstreak Open Day

Sunday 25th August saw the most anticipated, exciting day of the year for Grafton Wood  - the annual Brown Hairstreak Open Day!

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 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!!

More To Come

Steyning Rifle Range continues to draw more Hairstreak-hunters than Hairstreaks at the moment, with the now standard 'half dozen' females being recorded yesterday (23rd August). The better news is that there are still mint condition specimens to be found, although many of those which have been out egg laying are already accumulating nicks and scratches. A pristine female hung from a bunch of ash keys in the largest Master Tree, just above head height, refusing to drop any lower until her eggs have ripened. Another unblemished example was found in a shady area of blackthorn on the path up to the site, just above the allotments. The weather forecast needs to improve before my guided walk tomorrow (Sunday 25th August, see .

Recent Worcestershire Highlights

There has been a wealth (and diversity) of Brown Hairstreak sightings in Worcestershire over the last 2 weeks, in what seems to be an exceptional year for this butterfly.

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!

Brown Hairstreak Open Day

Attention everyone! Drop whatever you're planning to do on Sunday 25th August and come along to the annual Brown Hairstreak Open Day at Grafton Wood, Worcestershire!

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

Hope to see you all there :)

Slow Going In Sussex

Brown Hairstreak numbers have been a little disappointing at Steyning Rifle Range this season, although I'm convinced the best is still to come, just in time for my guided walk on Sunday 25th August (see Only 5 were seen on Tuesday (20th August) and it took me until 2.45 pm yesterday to wring out 6 females, most of which had suffered significant damage despite their relative youth.

Doings in North Wilts

On Sun 18th I carried out my customary systematic search along some hedge lengths of the Wilts Wildlife Trust hay meadow reserve system near Minety, north west of Swindon.  I try to do this on a couple of early mornings in each flight season.  In effect it's a Brown Hairstreak transect, conducted in suitable weather as the butterfly is approaching peak season, with the males fully active.  Whether the data actually mean anything is, of course, another matter.  This Sunday the butterflies seemed to be in catch-up mode, after losing a day to poor weather on the Saturday. 

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. 

Goings On In Upper Thames

Hi All

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!

Unusual Sightings

These Brown Hairstreaks certainly get around. It is often said that looking for Brown Hairstreaks is like waiting for a bus with nothing much happening for several hours then two turning up at once. Redditch Council has now gone one step further by providing the Brown Hairstreak with its own bus shelter (photo courtesy of Wayne Beard, Redditch Borough Council). This rather fetching mural has been provided for the bus travellers of Winyates Green on the outskirts of Redditch and was produced as part of the town's Britain in Bloom entry. The mural celebrates the Brown Hairstreak's arrival in north-east Worcestershire, a feat already chronicled on this site. So something to savour while waiting for the next bus to the town centre and hopefully something which will encourage local residents to keep a look out for Brown Hairstreaks in the area.

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.

Emergence well underway at Grafton Wood

The last two days has seen a flurry of Brownie sightings at Grafton Wood in Worcestershire. These sightings are the first to be recorded since the initial one on Sunday 28th July.

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!!

Sussex Off The Mark

The Brown Hairstreak season is now underway in Sussex, with sightings of both male and female butterflies. Knepp Castle Estate produced the first, beating bookies' favourite Steyning Rifle Range to the off. The latter came back strongly, with good views of two fillies yesterday morning (4th August). One female was followed for more than 20 minutes, during which time there was no attempt at egging. I suspect she had just emerged. Even if she has already been mated, it might well be a week before she's ready to lay. Expect the Steyning Stampede to start this coming weekend.

Another Worcestershire Sighting

Following on from Sunday's report of an adult Brownie being seen at Grafton Wood, a second Worcs sighting was confirmed yesterday afternoon. This time it was in a village, a few miles to the north of Grafton Wood.

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.

Grafton Wood Emergence Is Underway

Amid reports of the Dorset Brown Hairstreak's beginning to emerge a few days ago, i received confirmation today from West Midlands Brown Hairstreak champion, Mike Williams, that a female was seen at Grafton Wood this morning!

It will soon be time for some of this behaviour!

Brownie Beer Is Here!

As advertised in the Summer 2013 edition of Butterfly magazine, a new range of butterfly beers is now available from the wildlife-inspired beer specialists, From The Notebook Ltd. Founders Colin Bowler and Graeme Denton have created a range that consists of 4 different beers, including Red Admiral Ruby Ale, Orange-tip Amber Ale, Gatekeeper Best Bitter and our favourite - Brown Hairstreak Tawny Ale! The first 3 are available to buy now at £2.55 per bottle, with the Brown Hairstreak ale following in early August, just in time for the flight period.

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 The range is available to buy via

Brown Hairstreak Emergence Begins!

We've been waiting all year for this and now its finally arrived - the 2013 Brown Hairstreak emergence has begun! Our very own CEO of Butterfly Conservation, Martin Warren, reported on Twitter that adults were seen on his transect walk at Alner's Gorse in Dorset - 1 on 24th July and another on 26th. It looks like things have finally caught up, thanks to the hot weather!

If you've seen a Brown Hairstreak, please get in touch ( and/or sign up to the blog to post your sightings and photographs. Click here for more information.

Turning to Jelly

The emergence of the first hatchlings of the spring was celebrated in style in Worcestershire with the launch of the world's first Hairstreak Jelly.  I perhaps quickly need to add that no Brown Hairstreaks were harmed in the making of this product.  Hairstreak Jelly is in fact a very delicious jam made out of sloes picked by volunteers from West Midlands Butterfly Conservation and we hope a rather novel way of getting across to the wider community the importance of not cutting hedges every year.  If hedges are flailed on rotation rather than annually not only do we get more Brown Hairstreaks, farmers save money and we get more sloes to enjoy so really a win win all round. 

The Jelly has been produced in association with the Wayside Farm Shop at Wickhamford near Evesham and is on sale in the shop ( 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! 

Streaking with a flourish!

We had decided that Thursday 11th April would mark the end of the 2012/2013 Streakers Club egging season (although not, I hasten to add, the end of this winter's egg searching altogether - not just yet!). We weren't too sure though where to go searching.....before we retired to the pub for an end-of-season lunch and the chance to catch up with Mike Williams' photos from his recent Madagascar butterfly trip! We had finished the 'wider Grafton Wood' search a couple of weeks previously - and recorded a fairly decent count of 602 eggs. And Gill and I had/have almost finished the count around the Shurnock area - which currently stands at 302. But eventually, the decision was made to visit two locations near to a couple of previously identified potential assembly trees.

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!

More streaking adventures in Worcs

With the egging season drawing to an end (although no doubt a few more adventures yet to experience), I thought it might be a good time to provide an update.  The Thursday Streakers have continued to brave the cold and have been out looking for eggs.  The search for Brown Hairstreak eggs within 0.25 mile radius of Grafton Wood, referred to by Simon in an earlier posting, nears completion and is likely to top the 600 mark which is not bad going in what is clearly not been a great year for Brown Hairstreaks.  It has been striking just how many eggs we have found this year on the eastern side of hedgerows where conditions perhaps offer more by way of shelter for egglaying females. 

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.

An important part of our work over the winter is to undertake egg searches on farms looking to enter agri-environment schemes and last week we visited a cracking piece of unimproved grassland (photo right) which we hope will be going into HLS. We found 30 eggs across the site on extensive blackthorn scrub, some of which we hope will be now coppiced on rotation to the benefit of the Brown Hairstreak.  With the current uncertainties concerning the future of the Common Agricultural Policy the more farms we can get into HLS schemes this year the better.

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. 


On Friday (1st March) I continued my Brown Hairstreak egg surveys of the Knepp Castle Estate Wildland project area. The first three hours were hard going, with only a single find over a wide area, despite it being blessed with plenty of blackthorn. Although browsing pressure is undoubtedly high, this was well below expectations. A welcome relief from the growing boredom was provided by a pretty Drinker moth caterpillar, snuggled tight up against a blackthorn stem. It won't be long now before it stirs from its deep slumber.

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.

New Surveying Methodology In The Making

30+ people from all over the country attended the Brown Hairstreak Survey Methods Workshop in Ruishton, near Taunton on Saturday. The meeting kicked off at 10:30am with an informative and entertaining talk by Matthew Oates on Brown Hairstreak ecology. Mike Williams (West Midlands) followed on with an equally fascinating presentation on the Brown Hairstreak in Worcestershire. West Midlands branch were the first to begin wider-scale research on assembly ash trees so these findings went down very well, as did the impressive 44 years worth of egg data from Grafton Wood. Richard Smith (South Wales) did an excellent talk about the overall distribution of Brown Hairstreak in Carmarthenshire/Pembrokeshire and their surveying methodology. Further talks from Clive Wood (Hampshire/IOW), Roger Bristow (Devon), Roger Smith (Dorset) and Ian Middlebrook (for Pete Smith, Lincolnshire) were equally fascinating and it was very interesting to hear about how similar/different our current surveying methods are.

Above: Richard Smith, Matthew Oates, Mike Williams,
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.

Brown Hairstreak Conservation Day

Our annual Brown Hairstreak Conservation Day was held on Sunday 17th February at Ryton Pools Country Park, Warwickshire. Surveying at the park only began last year so you can imagine how surprised (and delighted) we were to find 70 eggs, including many more in our adjoining Butterfly Conservation reserve, Ryton Wood Meadows. This year, the count has increased to 118 eggs, leading to immediate talks for future long-term blackthorn management. For 2013 though, our main priority is the habitat in closest proximity to our newly discovered assembly ash tree which is actually located just over the fence in Ryton Wood Meadows. Thanks to regular monitoring, multiple adults were seen in this tree during the 2012 flight period making it one of the best years ever for adult sightings in Warwickshire. Thanks to Katie Brown (a student working with us) who managed to draw up a detailed blackthorn distribution map of the park, it became clear that we had some blackthorn connectivity issues and so 250 whips were ordered for planting.

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!

Egging in a Blizzard - Not Advisable!

After arranging an egg search on private land near our main Brown Hairstreak colony at Ryton Pools Country Park, Warwickshire on 13th February, it seemed a shame to cancel the visit due to the snow and freezing cold conditions. The snow had finally started to disappear underfoot and more wasn't forecast until 3pm that afternoon so we thought we'd get away with it. Not likely! A light dusting had already started to come down before we'd even arrived but by the time we pulled up, it had stopped altogether. RESULT! To get to the blackthorn, the three of us (Simon Primrose, Geoff Thompson and myself) had to trudge through the horses stables and squelch through the water-logged fields. Thank heavens for wellies! The nearby horses seemed to enjoy distracting us from our important work (the electric fence line was right next to us) and they kept sticking their heads over to see what we were doing. One decided he needed to get a closer look and actually ducked completely under the (turned off) electric fence and tried to eat my £190 weatherproof coat. It was rather endearing really, except when he almost pushed me head first into the ditch when he turned around, butted me with his behind and trotted off to see what Simon was doing. Obviously, he found me rather boring. It was at this point that it started snowing again. JOY!

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.

Brown Hairstreak Survey Methods Workshop

For anyone interested in the Brown Hairstreak, there is a national survey methods workshop at Ruishton Village Hall near Taunton, Somerset on Saturday 23rd February 10:00-15:00. The aim of the workshop is to devlop and test a new method for surveying Brown Hairstreak abundance through egg counts. It is hoped that this will become the standard method so that egg counts can increasingly be used to report on the species national population status through the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS). Currently, only adult counts from transects (usually of very low numbers) are used in the UKBMS.

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 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

Method Development:
11:50 - Towards a common survey approach - Tom Brereton
12:05 - Discussion

12:30-13:15 - Picnic lunch (tea and coffee provided)

Field Session:
13:30-15:00 - Testing Brown Hairstreak survey methods

Blackthorn Planting Day at Bourne Close, Flyford Flavell

Last winter, the “Thursday Streakers” had been asked by Wychavon District Council to come and survey for Brown Hairstreak eggs on various pieces of open-space land, left over after recent housing developments. These areas of land are owned and managed by the council, and are protected from future development. As a number of them fall within the distribution area of the Brown Hairstreak, and contain blackthorn, then we were very interested to get involved.

One such area was at Bourne Close, which is not too far away from Grafton Wood itself. When we had visited last winter, we’d found the site had great potential, although the blackthorn that was already growing there was in need of management as it was too old and overgrown to be of much interest to Brown Hairstreaks. Wychavon Council therefore kindly agreed to facilitate a ‘Community Planting Day’ that would allow us to plant some new blackthorn on the site. 

Part of the idea behind the day was also to raise awareness at a local level of the Brown Hairstreak and the importance of hedgerow management. The advantage of places like Bourne Close are that hedgerows there, on which any eggs have been laid, are less likely to be flailed than those in the wider countryside, so we are providing something of a safe haven for the butterfly as well as raising awareness.

And so it was, last Saturday, that four of our regular Thursday group: myself, Mike Williams (arriving ‘hotfoot’ after doing a live radio interview for BBC Hereford & Worcester to publicise both the event and ‘all things Brown Hairstreak’), Jenny Tonry and Pauline Jennings arrived at Bourne Close to plant out 140 blackthorn whips that had been provided by Wychavon District Council. The group of four quickly became seven as three local residents turned out to help as well and, despite the appallingly wet conditions, that made it incredibly difficult to even get a spade in and out of the cloying soil (mud!!), we’d finished all the planting by lunchtime. We then waited around for a short while for a photographer from the Evesham Observer to arrive and record our hard work!!

In the afternoon we decided to have a quick egg search at some adjoining and promising looking hedgerows to the east of the site and found four Brown Hairstreak eggs.

So all in all, a very successful and rewarding day, that gave us plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the continued success of the Brown Hairstreak in this particular little corner of Worcestershire.

Press releases:

Mike Williams, Brown Hairstreak Species Champion for West Midlands Butterfly Conservation said “The work follows a survey of all of Wychavon’s green space undertaken by Butterfly Conservation volunteers last year and the site at Bourne Close was identified as having the most potential for the butterfly. It is close to Grafton Wood, a nature reserve managed by Butterfly Conservation and the Wildlife Trust which supports a healthy breeding population”

Alex Morris, Parks Monitoring Assistant at Wychavon District Council said “We are delighted to be able to support this community project and hope that local residents will get involved. Most of Worcestershire’s Brown Hairstreaks are found in the Wychavon district and it is one of our most important and attractive butterflies. We want to do our bit to help protect it.”

Hard work in Hertfordshire

Spent a soggy Sunday morning with Paul Why at Cole Green searching the Blackthorn for Brown Hairstreak eggs.  There is good quality Blackthorn at this site and it is next to Blackthorn Wood, Welwyn Garden City where several suspected sightings of adult BHs were reported last summer. No great surprise there as its15 years since the last confirmed sighting of BH at any stage of its lifecycle in Herts or Middx. But the reports from east Welwyn GC seem plausible and our search continues. Next hunt is on Panshanger Aerodrome, meet at 10 am in the car park on Monday 25 Feb, contact malcolmhull@ for more information

Egging at Ryton Pools Country Park

Its taken quite a while but finally the egg searching at Ryton Pools Country Park (RPCP) has been completed. Im pleased to report we have 111 eggs, with 5 just outside the park and another 2 on the very busy A445 (its always fun risking life and limb to search there!). Last year, we had about 70 in the park so its a good sign that we've beaten this, especially as 2012 wasn't a great year for our favourite Brownies. More searches are planned for the surrounding areas over the next couple of weeks, starting on Wednesday. Its now a bit of a race against time as the blossom buds are already threatening to burst! We held a blackthorn management meeting last Monday and now that the blackthorn distribution map has been completed (courtesy of Katie Brown), we have been able to work out some immediate management for this year with more discussions to take place regarding long-term management in the future.

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.

The Brown Hairstreaks of Longaller

On friday 1st September 2006 saw my first female Brown Hairstreak in my garden in Somerset.
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.


Streaking in the snow

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.