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.


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