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!