There has been a wealth (and diversity) of Brown Hairstreak sightings in Worcestershire over the last 2 weeks, in what seems to be an exceptional year for this butterfly.
I've attempted to summarise and diary everything I know about - as follows:
Sat 10th Aug - I saw 2 Bramble nectaring males and one freshly emerged female on the main hedgerow to the west of Grafton Wood. One of these males was extremely obliging and I managed to take 314 photos of it. This despite inadvertently knocking it off its perch at one point, whereupon it flew out across the adjacent
field, landed in the grass for a couple of minutes, and then flew back into virtually the same position in the
hedge it had been in before, although this time in an even better pose. Luck was definitely with me that day!
Mon 12th Aug - Gill and Geoff Thompson and I had 8 more sightings of a mix of male and female, nectaring, Brownies both in and around the western side of Grafton Wood.
Weds 14th Aug - After Tuesdays washout - with no Brownie sightings being reported from Grafton - Wednesday's forecast looked much more hopeful. However, sightings were slow throughout the day with only 4 or 5 separate ones being reported - a mix of males and females - despite the presence of a number of experienced observers: Gill and Geoff were there from late morning onwards; a fairly large group of volunteers, who were cutting down overgrown blackthorn within the wood, were there for most of the day; and I was there from early afternoon onwards.
Away from the Grafton area Hugh Glennie saw 4 separate Brownies flying in the known assembly tree at Rous Lench - 3 landed in view and were all males. He later saw 3 flying in (what is now) a new assembly Ash nearby, 2 of these settled in view and were both male.
Having visited the known hotspot around Shurnock Court and failed to see anything in the main assembly there, I headed off to Hollowfields Road to an area close to where a large number of eggs were found last winter. No Brownies seen in any of the trees there but I did briefly see a male in the nearby hedgerow nectaring on Bramble.
Thurs 15th Aug - (The best day yet for sightings) Gill had up to 20 separate sightings throughout the day in the Grafton Wood area, of males and females, considered to represent at least 10 separate individuals. The majority of these were seen around the pond towards the NW corner of the wood, with a 'quiet period' between 13:30 and 15:15, where nothing was seen, followed by a resumption of activity with the last one being recorded around 6pm. Again most of these were seen nectaring on either Bramble or Hemp Agrimony.
1 male was also seen by Hugh Glennie well outside the wood, to the NE, flying in an Ash tree. This tree was unknown to us before but is now being monitored for possible 'Assembly Tree' status.
Sat 17th Aug - Whilst the rest of the core Grafton Wood Brownhairstreakers group were 'sunning' themselves on a weekend-away to South Wales's West Williamston Brownie site.....Geoff saw a female at Shurnock Court, exhibiting possible egg laying behaviour amongst the blackthorn.
Tues 20th Aug - Hugh Glennie and Pete Seal saw at least 3 separate Brownies in the known assembly tree at Rous Lench; 3 more in the newly discovered tree in the same area; and 1 male in a small Ash on Hollowfields Road.
Mike Williams had also, earlier, seen 1 male in that same small Ash tree on Hollowfields Road, but in addition saw 4 to 5 separate Brownies (all male as far as he could tell) in a newly discovered Ash on Huddington Lane, again in the vicinity of an area where plenty of eggs had been found last winter.
Gill, Geoff and I had 7 more sightings at Grafton comprising two egg laying females,1 female flyby, 1 female nectaring and exhibiting egg-laying behaviour, and 3 males on hemp by the pond. Estimate at least 5 separate individuals - males now becoming a little bit tatty but all females seen were still in pristine condition. Another 2 sightings were made by Paul Brewster, and one other Brownie fan, of males nectaring on hemp by the pond.
So, in conclusion, the breeding season so far seems to be panning out in a fairly predictable manner (pristine males seen first, followed about a week later by pristine females, males then starting to appear a bit tatty, females being observed laying eggs) - albeit this year with two notable differences:
1) There has been a huge increase in sightings of nectaring Brownies than in a normal year (especially in the Grafton area)
2) There have been many more sightings of adults than usual
Assume 'point 2' is (at least partly) as a direct consequence of 'point 1' although, even allowing for that, it does appear that this is turning out to be an exceptional year for the butterfly!