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.