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.


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