West Williamston Egg Predation Survey

West Williamston egg predation survey - Week 1 

There 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.

Nikki Anderson
Wildlife Trust Voluntary Warden
12th August 2014

It's behind you

It pays off to stand back and watch the action unfold when searching for the Brown Hairstreak and as Neil pointed out on Saturday we had some superb action at the Rifle Range. Whilst Neil and a group were watching a female move out of a thicket to a better vantage point both Susie Millbank and I noticed another female descend from the ash tree behind them..

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.

Crowd Pleasers

As I was passing close to Steyning Rifle Range this morning I couldn't resist another visit, despite the fact that the cloudy spells outweighed the sunshine. There was quite a crowd already on site and a very faded male had been seen on the ground earlier. 

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.

The Ash Brownie pin badge unveiled

I will be sending out all pre-sale pin badges over the weekend so keep an eye on your post for them to arrive.

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.

Bank Holiday Brownie Events in Worcs

What better way to spend your Bank Holiday time off work! The following 2 events will be taking place this Sunday and Monday in Worcestershire and are not to be missed!
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!

Supplies of the delicious Hairstreak Sloe Jelly will also be available on the day, courtesy of the Wayside Farm Shop.

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!

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.

Wednesday 20th August - A second try at Grafton.

This being the second Wednesday that I had booked off work and with my lack of success in seeing any Brown Hairstreaks at Grafton Wood last week I decided to have another attempt today.
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 few minutes later I was joined by a couple of fellow enthusiasts and together we scanned the trees and blackthorn. During one of the brief warm sunny spells we spotted a butterfly flying across the trees in front of us which we all thought was a Brown Hairstreak. It flew up into the trees before we got a really good look but it flew with the ‘jinking’ flight of a hairstreak and it was the right colour so on the principle of ‘if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck’ we agreed that it probably was one (a Brown Hairstreak that is, not a duck).
Just after that a Holly Blue settled and with a cloud blocking the sun stayed down for a while, not in the best place for photos being well into a large patch of brambles and unfortunately not opening its wings before flying off.

With another large cloud blocking the sun we then walked back up the main ride towards the pond area before going our separate ways to check out different rides.
Again, as with last week there were good numbers of Common Blue and Brown Argus scattered about as well as a couple of worn Small Coppers.

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.

John went back to re-join the work party whilst Dave and myself had another look by the pond. We had already seen a couple of False Brown Hairstreaks (Gatekeepers) when both of us at the same time spotted what at first looked like another one land on a clump of Hemp Agrimony. Happily this one was the real thing, a male Brown Hairstreak that stayed down for a few minutes before taking off and flying up into the Oaks behind us.


It was only as I took photos of this one that I realised that this was the first male Brown Hairstreak that I have ever photographed, all my previous shots have been of females.
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.
Neil Freeman.





More Steyning Brownies

Returns at Steyning Rifle Range were rather modest today, with only 5 females seen by the numerous visitors. The first was seen at 11.35 am and another 3 descended before 12.30 pm, at which point large banks of cloud appeared and the temperature plummeted. One more dropped into the thorn very briefly before close of play was announced soon after 1.00 pm.

End of Season Steyning Downland Scheme Brown Hairstreak Social Group

Today I joined the ‘End of Season Steyning Downland Scheme Brown Hairstreak Social Group’ at the Rifle Range, where annual gatherings celebrate the passing of another season and members hope to photograph one of our most beautiful and charismatic butterflies. 
Brown Hairstreak watching here is very much a social event and the more eyes the better! Although it sometimes gets so busy that you will find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with other participants, business is almost always conducted in a polite and cooperative manner, with most members returning home with close-up views and hopefully some good photographs. 
Today was no exception and the butterflies performed well, both for Team A on the northern flank, captained by Colin Knight, and for Team B in the reserve area, captained by Trevor Rapley. Together a total of 12 female Brown Hairstreaks were seen. I spent most of the 11.30 am – 2.00 pm period of activity on the northern flank, where we had at least one specimen in view almost constantly throughout the day. We are now at peak season, so a visit this weekend in warm sunny weather should give every chance of some red hot hairstreaking. 
I also spent a few hours here yesterday, but the weather was only sufficiently good to tempt a single female down. However, it was a case of quality over quantity and this near perfect specimen posed with open wings for more than twenty minutes. 

Alners Gorse Females - 13/08/14

Having booked a week away in Dorset during Brownie season, how could i miss the opportunity to visit Alners Gorse for the first time? Unfortunately, the weather in Dorset this week has been pretty bad with torrential downpours and thunderstorms that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Thank goodness i took my waterproofs! With the intention of targeting female Brownie hunting (and a nice morning lie-in), Simon Primrose, Geoff Thompson and I arrived at around 11am and were immediately caught in a wonderful downpour - luckily we hadn't got out of the car yet! The sun emerged 15 minutes later so we had a good look at the blackthorn and ash trees near the carpark and along the immediate track down into the reserve but turned up a big fat zilch.

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 must take the opportunity to say what an absolutely wonderful reserve this is! A fantastic diverse range of habitat, masses of blackthorn for our favourite Hairstreak and it supports some of our key UK species such as Marsh Fritillary, Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper, White-letter Hairstreak and of course, the Brown Hairstreak.

Late start at the rifle range pays off

After a ridiculously late start by anyone's standards, I arrived at Steyning at 1pm today. I expected there to by a large number of fellow brown hairstreakers to be on site but to my amazement  there were only five others. In the Sussex contingent were Katrina Watson, Trevor Rapley and myself. There were a couple on holiday from the north of England intent on finding some Ash Brownie action too.

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.