It is proving to be a most interesting survey. Nikki Anderson
Tussock and 212 tagged eggs.
eggs were found this week, exactly the same number as last week, and so the
grand total of tagged eggs now stands at 212.
Three of those eggs have been predated (or at least can’t be found!).
There are 2 sets of triplets and 15 doublets. No more doubles or trebles were found
this week, but the remains of one of the original 3 sets of triplets was found by way of a bit of dead twig lying on the ground, with
the three combined tags on – no eggs though.
There is no doubt that a horse was the culprit, and she is now grazing in
a lower field.
One of the bonuses of the project has been the
unexpected. For example, the very well
camouflaged caterpillar in the attached photograph.
Spiders have been more in evidence too.
So it could that Steyning is drawing down but with the continued warm weather there may be a chance of some stragglers. To round up then, since early August at least 55 Brownies have been seen. Such numbers demonstrate the beneficial impact of the sympathetic conservation work that has taken place after Neil Hulme first discovered them there.
The February 2014 blog of the Steyning Downland Scheme has a link to video footage of the conservation work in action and well worth watching: http://www.steyningdownland.org/Community/page68/blog-2/files/dcf26c5c28d78975d6c7727545a3830a-9.html
The total number of eggs found to date in this small sample survey site is now 157
No more doubles or trebles were found this so week the overall count of 3 sets of triplets and 15 doublets remains.
Well yes, they arrived a couple of days early so I sent them out Thursday.
As of Tuesday the 23rd of September all have now sold..
A glorious morning, but where were the females?
Outside the fence I had 11 new eggs including 1 set of triplets. 54 eggs were re-found including 8 sets of twins and one set of triplets, with 1 predation. This makes a total of 65 eggs with one predated egg (66 tags).
Inside the fence David found 21 new eggs and re-found 48 eggs with 1 predation. There were 7 doublets and 1 triplet. This makes a total of 69 eggs with one predation (70 tags).
The overall egg total is now 134, with 2 predated eggs. This total includes 3 sets of triplets and 15 doublets (or twins)
One particular observation makes the whole study worthwhile. We have often wondered whether females lay 2,3 and more eggs when they are laden with eggs e.g. after bad weather, or do these multiples occur because there is something about the site that is extremely attractive, resulting in different females laying the eggs.
Last week twin eggs were tagged with white wool, and since then a third egg has appeared – now tagged with blue. Had the white tags not been there these eggs would have been described as a triple when it clearly wasn’t - evidence that the location itself was the attraction.
At least 11 were seen by visitors all over the reserve (well before 1.00pm). Then, on leaving, I was shown the above adult just a few metres from the car park, with 3 others nearby! Could the connection be that they were by the hedge on the side sheltered from that ‘gentle’ east wind?
|There's a Brownie in there somewhere! © Mike Williams|
At 11am, we all set off in groups to different parts of the wood to maximise the chance of seeing an adult butterfly. Whilst most people were staking out the orchard and other parts of the wood, i headed over to the pond where i'd recorded at least 15 different (grounded) individuals last year. My Brownie Sense was tingling! Within 5 minutes of arriving, i spotted a pristine female crawling along a young blackthorn stem, clearly checking it out as a potential egg laying site. The first Brownie of the day! Much excitement ensued from my small army of ~6 people, victory phonecalls were made and lots of photography took place all in the space of about 30 seconds. I think she was a bit camera shy as she soon took flight and perched on high to observe us. Simon Primrose's team arrived shortly after from the orchard, at which point, a second female Brownie was almost trampled on by myself and Colin Bowler. Id never seen one perch on a grass stem before! Its possible she had just emerged and was warming up. As soon as the shout went up, Brownie fans came running and more photography madness took place.
|The Brown Hairstreak pin badges sold like hot cakes!|
Another pristine female was spotted amongst some young blackthorn suckers not long after and she was a real show off. She stuck around (in the most awkward positions) for at least 30 minutes, alternating between basking and exploring young blackthorn shoots, searching for egg laying sites. She even landed on Rachel Fryer's hand briefly, much to her delight as it was the first time she'd ever seen a Brown Hairstreak!
As always, events like this one provide an excellent opportunity to explain to fellow Brownie fans a bit more about the species and the troubles they face with continued annual hedgerow flailing etc. It turned into a real social event with everyone chatting about their butterfly trips so far this year and it was really satisfying to learn that a few of the 50 strong crowd were seeing this beautiful butterfly for the first time ever. One avid fan had obviously left the best until last - our favourite Brownie was the last British species on his list to see!
|Photography mad! © Christopher Hancock|
Another, more faded female was spotted as well, along with a brief glimpse of a Brownie flying over the orchard hedgerow earlier on in the day. By about 1pm, it was completely overcast so everyone headed back to the Village Hall for refreshments and lunch, courtesy of Miriam Tilt who did an absolutely fantastic job. The cakes were divine! Poor Colin was overrun by people buying up his famous From The Notebook Brown Hairstreak ale by the case-load and he soon had none left! The new Deaths Head Hawkmoth stout was a real hit too, along with the other butterfly beers: Red Admiral, Orange Tip and Gatekeeper.
|Brown Hairstreak Watch from across the pond!|
After lunch when everyone had headed home, myself, Simon Primrose and Colin Bowler headed back to the wood in the hopes of seeing more Brownies. Unfortunately, we had no luck so instead turned the trip into an early egg scout. Its early days yet but it certainly looks like the Brownies have had a very good season so far with at least 25-30 eggs found on random blackthorn suckers we chose to look at. Colin even managed to find his first eggs, promoting him to official Egghead status :)
Overall, it was a fantastic day had by all with 5 individual Brown Hairstreak seen in just 2 hours.
|Still posing for photos! © Simon Primrose|
To close, here are some final photos from the day of our favourite Hairstreak, courtesy of Tony Penycate:
West Williamston egg predation survey - Week 1There has been some anecdotal evidence at West Williamston that early laid BH eggs may be more liable to predation than those laid later in September. The eggs were not tagged.
After the first eggs of 2014 were found by David Redhead we have established a small survey site in the top field (near the small car park) adjacent to the north side Ash trees nos 1 - 3.
On Sunday 10th August a total of 11 eggs were found by Jean Hambly, David and myself. These eggs were tagged with red wool, the intention being to change the wool colour weekly.
We will survey the site each week until the end of October then fortnightly until April. Are there other sites where predation numbers are looked at, if so we would love to hear from you.
Wildlife Trust Voluntary Warden
12th August 2014
Whilst a throng followed Neil to photograph the one he was watching, I went to a dense thicket where a female was now hiding.
A couple of us managed to impale ourselves on thorns which is par for the course.
That's about the best I could do without completely disturbing her from her chosen spot.
After chatting to a few regulars in the reserve area I headed up towards the northern flank with Susie Milbank, speculating that it was probably not quite sunny enough to bring many Brown Hairstreaks out to play. As I got to the top of the slope a female zipped across the open grassland in front of me and settled on an ash sapling. She stayed here long enough for other enthusiasts to see her, providing at least one person with a 'first'.
Almost simultaneously another was spotted 50 metres further up the path by Simon Cross and Mick Rock. This quickly developed into two females, which at one point were egg-laying less than a metre apart. By now most of the crowd from below had joined us for another Hairstreakfest, with Paul Fosterjohn spotting yet another. This one appeared very fresh, but she refused to come within range of the cameras and remained deep within a blackthorn thicket.
As 2 pm approached the sun reappeared, so I headed back to the reserve area for a last sweep. As soon as I arrived I spotted two more females. Bearing in mind that the weather conditions were far from ideal, a total of six females and a male in two hours demonstrates just how good the Rifle Range is.
I hope that everyone who purchased one enjoys wearing it and for those who are yet to buy one this weekend don't miss out.
SUN 24TH AUG - BROWN HAIRSTREAK OPEN DAY, GRAFTON WOOD
By far, this is the best opportunity to see this elusive species as there will be lots of pairs of eyes looking!
I will be there selling the last 25 limited edition Brown Hairstreak pin badges (more info here, and see the badge design above). They will be sold at a special rate of £5 each with £1.50 profit from each badge going towards future Brown Hairstreak conservation in the West Midlands area.
From The Notebook will also be there with their range of butterfly themed beers, including the famous Brown Hairstreak ale! Their brand new brew will also be there - the infamous Death's Head Hawkmoth stout!
The event is 11:00am - 03:00pm, meeting at the Three Parishes Hall at Grafton Flyford (SO963557). There will be a morning walk starting at around 11am followed by refreshments at the village hall.
For anyone interested in purchasing a Brownie pin badge, it might be worth arriving a little earlier than 11am to ensure you get one!
MON 25TH AUG - PERSHORE PLUM FESTIVAL, PERSHORE
Pershore and its association with the plum is not a new thing. The area has been famous for its fruit growing since medieval times. To celebrate this famous fruit, Pershore holds a Plum Festival throughout the month of August, when the town will turn “plum crazy”. The grand finale of this festival will be the Plum Fayre and Farmers Market on August Bank Holiday Monday.
On 25th August, Pershore will be full to the brim with plummy pleasures, providing a plum crazy day out for visitors coming from far and wide. Attractions throughout the town include: plenty of stalls (Plum Bazaar), a food village, farmers’ market, classic cars, Abbey Tower Tours and Teddy Parachute drops (Plum Abbey), children’s entertainment zone (Plum Fun Zone), learning and development area (Plum Parade), plum tastings, stalls and advice (Plum Alley), and a plethora of entertainment throughout the town! The Pickled Plum Pub will also be hosting the Plum Jam providing plenty of entertainment taking you into the evening. It promises to be a fantastic day and night out!
Butterfly Conservation West Midlands will have a stall in St. Andrews Garden where lots of information on the Brown Hairstreak will be available, along with advice on butterfly gardening and there will also be an exciting display of live moths.
The event runs from 10:00am - 5:00pm and park and ride is available from Pershore College or Pershore High School. For more information, please visit the website.
I left home about 10.00 and drove over, arriving and parking by the church at Grafton Flyford about an hour later. The morning had started off nice and sunny albeit with a bit of a nip in the air after a cold night, and by the time I arrived at Grafton some more cloud had built up with the sunny spells being warm but not lasting very long. At least the blustery wind of late had dropped with there being very little breeze today.
I walked across the fields and into the wood and then followed the main ride down to the southern end which is quite sheltered and where there has been some management of the blackthorn to encourage new growth. As with last week, Speckled Woods were everywhere along with some Meadow Browns and a few faded Gatekeepers and various whites.
Reaching the southern end of the wood I started scanning the Oaks and Ash and soon saw some Hairstreaks flitting about high up but which through my binoculars proved to be Purples, not Browns.
A little while later I met up with John Tilt and Dave Williams of West Midlands BC who were with a work party further in the wood and after having a chat we went for a wander back to the pond and the adjacent rides. Apparently the Brown Hairstreaks are very slow to get going at Grafton this year and there is a bit of concern about the low number of sightings, in fact John told me he has only seen one so far, a male. It is possible the recent weather has held them back; August so far has been cool and cloudy and quite blustery after the remnants of Hurricane Bertha passed through and a northerly wind has brought quite cool conditions for the time of year.
I then took a slow walk back through the wood and with more clouds building up I called it a day and headed for home.
Not long after arriving, we got chatting to another couple of photographers who had been there since 8am and hadn't had a whiff of Brownie. Eyeing up a nice south facing hedgerow in a sheltered location, Simon and I decided to check it out whilst the others headed to other parts of the reserve. The plan was to scream if we saw one! Not 2 minutes after walking along the blackthorn edge, Simon yelled "THERE'S A BROWNIE ON THE GROUND!". Sure enough, an almost pristine female was crawling up and down a tiny little sucker about 15cm in height. I managed to bag a couple of quick shots without dropping the camera in excitement. She layed a single egg, flew a bit higher to bask and then shot off into the oaks above, never to be seen again. The whole thing lasted about 20 seconds but we were buzzing! The 5 of us spent the next couple of hours patrolling the same blackthorn hedge with binoculars on the overhanging oaks. We had 2 further sightings of different females, 1 of which landed out of reach and the other came down only for 10 seconds before zooming off into the oaks again. As always with Brownie hunting, it was a rather frustrating but exciting experience.
Along with the 3 Brownies, we also saw 3 Clouded Yellow, a Painted Lady and numerous Small Tortoiseshell, Purple Hairstreak, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Brimstone, Small White, Small Skipper, Peacock, Red Admiral and Comma.
I made my way up to the top slope after exchanging form notes with Trevor and Katrina who between them had seen five individuals. My only reward at the top slope was to see a female making off back into the trees. After spending a good three quarters of an hour surveying the blackthorn before going back to the main group.
The weather forecast was right for once, cloud and lots of it. Then at around 2.15 the sun shone through and the wind dropped. We were rewarded with three more females between us including a really fresh one that was intent on laying.
This particular female was choosing the small saplings / suckers nearest the fence (no more than 30cm above the ground) and gave all of us a really good opportunity to watch ovipositing closely and to get some good photos of the eggs.
Although the photo of my first betulae ovum is typical in its location, Katrina and Trevor found one laid between the leaf and the stem. It will be interesting to see what the egg count is early next year.
So there you have it, between the group of us nine females were observed at Steyning today.