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.

Egging On The Knepp Castle Estate

Today I started a systematic survey of the Brown Hairstreak on the Knepp Castle Estate, home to Sir Charlie Burrell's exciting re-wilding project. The 'Wildland' is already home to the Purple Emperor, which has colonised the large areas of sallow scrub that have developed over the last ten years. There are also many miles of Prunus-rich hedgerow here and the habitat appears to be ideal for Brown Hairstreak, at least superficially . We know they're here ... but how many?

My initial visit was slightly disappointing, with timed counts over different areas varying from between three and four eggs per hour. There is still much work to be done, but it's possible that the re-wilding process may prove to be a 'double-edged sword'. The widespread and advancing blackthorn scrub looks to be perfect, at first sight, but the grazing pressure is very high, courtesy of the free-roaming longhorn cattle, fallow deer and Tamworth pigs. Over the next few years I will be comparing 'Wildland' counts with those made outside the perimeter fence. To save posting another image of an egg, here's a portrait of some of Charlie's handsome longhorns.

More Grafton Wood Egg Searches - Sat 12th Jan 2013

Yesterday saw the last of the formal ‘weekend’ egg searches for the Grafton Wood area for this winter. As the counts for the ‘core hedgerows’ had already been completed, it was decided to concentrate the search on areas inside the wood and on some of the nearby, external hedgerows, that don’t usually get looked at. So, Mike Williams, Pete Seal and myself set forth from Grafton church, braving the ridiculously wet, and in some places almost impassable, conditions in the fields en route to the wood.

We began by searching an area of new sucker growth inside the wood, near to ‘the Orchard’, where management work to cut back old blackthorn growth had been carried out in 2011. The suckers were strong and healthy and it was heartening to find a reasonable number of eggs in this area, proving the worth of the aforementioned management work. We then moved up the main ride searching any blackthorn we came across and recorded a steady stream of eggs all the way up towards the northern end of the wood. In total we found 46 eggs yesterday in these areas with the highlights being a number of doubles and a treble. It is now our intention to continue the searches within all other areas of Grafton Wood, in order to arrive at a total ‘in-wood count’, thereby replicating our efforts from last winter. Given that we have yet to search some of the best areas, it would seem certain that we will easily exceed last winters’ total count of 48.

Leaving the confines of the wood yesterday, we then made our way down the outside perimeter to the west, included a search of the ‘other’ (western) side of Hedgerow ‘A’, and ending up on a public footpath leading back towards the church. In all we recorded 39 eggs on these ‘outside’ perimeter hedgerows, taking the total count for the day up to 85.

In addition to completing the ‘in-wood’ count it is also our intention this winter (or at least our target!) to search all external hedgerows within a ¼ mile radius of Grafton Wood. The ‘Thursday Streakers Club’ will be undertaking this task over the coming weeks so if anyone would like to join us then they would be very welcome. We meet every Thursday at 10am, almost always at Grafton Flyford Church car park, but if you have not been before and would like to come, then please email me or Mike Williams beforehand as just occasionally we meet elsewhere.


Mike Williams, Jenny Tonry, Hugh Glennie and myself met as usual on Thurs 3rd Jan to go ‘streaking’ in the Worcestershire countryside.

Our plan on this particular Thursday was to search an area on the outside perimeter of a wood that lies close to the east of Grafton Wood, where BH eggs had never previously been recorded. (Last winter we had searched almost the entire perimeter of this wood but had found almost no suitable blackthorn and no eggs. On that day though, heavy rain had then curtailed our search just before we had reached the section of the perimeter that - unbeknown to us at the time - supported a reasonable amount of potentially suitable young blackthorn growth).

We therefore began our search on Thursday morning in this promising area. After a lot of detailed searching we eventually recorded some eggs on the western side, including a double. Only two hedgerows link this wood to Grafton - one to the southwest, and one to the northwest close to where these new eggs had been found. A theory was then put forward that the female BH that had laid the eggs we had just found, would have had to have found its way there by following this nearby hedgerow all the way from Grafton Wood. If that theory was to be proved correct then it seemed a reasonable assumption that we should find at least some eggs along the length of this ‘linking hedgerow’. We therefore began that search.

We did indeed record small but steady numbers of eggs along the entire length of this hedgerow up to the point it joined Grafton Wood, thereby (according to me at least!!) proving the theory J  In total, we found about 40 eggs in this area including a treble and a double separated by only about a centimetre – i.e. almost a ‘fiv-er’!!

In the afternoon we met the ‘Footpath Warden’ for the nearby (and delightfully named) village of Upton Snodsbury. She had invited us to come and search some footpath hedgerows that came under her jurisdiction and that were due for fairly imminent management. The idea being that we could both identify eggs that could thus be saved from the chop and, also provide specific advice on the best type of hedgerow management to adopt for these particular hedgerows. This search also proved very rewarding with the discovery of about 25 eggs.

New Year Egging at Grafton Wood

The Butterfly Conservation 2012 "End of Year" Brown Hairstreak egg hunt was held on 30th Dec 2012 at Grafton Wood in Worcestershire. 8 of us hardcore Eggheads braved the perilous journey from the carpark across the fields swamps and even enjoyed a mudbath or two along the way. Sinking, squelching, slipping and sliding, we finally made it to one of the Brownie core areas. After splitting into two teams and being assigned our respective hedgerows, it was decided that some friendly competition was in order: Warwickshire/Shropshire (the A-Team) vs West Midlands (the B-Team). 90 minutes of vigorous searching later, the A-Team were miles ahead with a fantastic 116 eggs.

This total is in fact the best count on this particular hedgerow since the 2001-2002 season and the 4th highest since monitoring began back in 1990. To celebrate, West Midlands Brown Hairstreak champion, Mike Williams, swiftly produced 2 flasks of mulled wine and 2 boxes of Waitrose mince pies. As you can see from the following photograph, i was obviously keen to discuss the size of Brown Hairstreak eggs!

Still sober but rather full after all those pies, we moved onto the next hedgerows which were unfortunately not as prolific as the previous. Never the less, the total for both teams for the day was 171 which is a really fantastic result. After saying goodbye to the rest of the group, 3/4 of the A-Team decided to spend another couple of hours searching a new area of blackthorn we discovered to have eggs for the first time last winter. The good news is we found 32, including another 9 along an adjoining east-facing hedgerow, whereas only 20 were found there last year. Yet another result, bringing the days total to 212!

So far, the 2012/2013 grand total egg count for Grafton Wood amounts to 358 with many more areas left to search.

Hampshire Forays

Happy new year.
As promised I have done a bit of exploration of likely hampshire sites visiting three squares adjacent the Sussex borders.
In all I have spent about twelve hours searching looking for likely habitat and egg hunting with zero return- for eggs - yet.
The Sussex border squares - mostly adjacent the Eastern  fringes of the Queen Elizabeth Country Park - have turned up limited areas of blackthorn and what I have found has generally been severely flailed - although the suckers have been missed mostly. However, in consolation, I have discovered a lovely remote little nature reserve that looks perfect for Duke of Burgundy .
In conversation with Peter Eales he mentioned that eggs have been found widely, if at low densities, around Noar Hill and I know there have been reports from Selborne Common across the valley so I paid a visit yesterday. Selborne is of course where Gilbert White wrote probably the first natural history book and I parked adjacent the museum and walked up onto the common. Adjacent the footpath from the car park is a private field with extensive blackthorn and suckers extending into the field - very reminiscent of the habitat at at Steyning.  The common itself is quite elevated and revealed some very promising areas of habitat similar to that where I have founds eggs at other sites - but none found on this visit. The area is only about a mile from the established colony at Noar Hill which you can see across the valley, and with  extensive hedgerows linking the two I will be making more visits as I am certain it will turn up trumps.
Interestingly I found my first blackthorn blossom of the year yesterday, and even, bizarrely, a small shoot with fresh leaves!