Last blast at the Rifle Range?

On Saturday the 13th, I spent the day at Steyning with Richard Roebuck in the vain hope of a last flourish of betulae  Unfortunately with a chilly north easterly breeze and broken cloud cover it proved difficult. After an hour we were rewarded with the appearance of a female in the reserve area. We lost sight of her completely and after half an hour decided to check the blackthorns by the entrance. There we found another female that had just finished laying. After managing a couple of photos she decided to head off.

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: 

West Williamston Egg Predation Survey – Week 5

The total number of eggs found to date in this small sample survey site is now 157

23 new eggs were found last week, and were tagged and added to the overall egg total.There have been 2 egg predations and possibly 2 more.  This will be confirmed next week – with no egg remnants to be found it makes sense to wait and compare these results with next weeks count.
 No more doubles or trebles were found this so week the overall count of 3 sets of triplets and 15 doublets remains.        
Best wishes   
Nikki Anderson

Brown hairstreak pin badges

I am receiving reports from hairstreakers across the country of an emergence of brown hairstreaks via the Royal Mail.

Well yes, they arrived a couple of days early so I sent them out Thursday.

I do have a small number left so if you want another drop me an email: and I'll let you know how to order.

Thank you again to all those who purchased them as all the profits will be going to BC Sussex.

West Williamston Egg Predation Survey – Week 4

A glorious morning, but where were the females?

David Redhead had already seen a female before my arrival at 10.00am.  With a mild east wind and glorious blue sky we felt sure that there would be egg laying around us in abundance.  It was not to be and they were all elsewhere(see below).
Count details are as follows
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.
Nor is counting ever boring.  We often find eggs laid in the six o clock position and today found one twig with 2 eggs laid around the same spine - one at twelve o clock and the other at six.  Nearby were triplets, twins and a single egg all found on the same twig within a five inches of each other.

And where were those females?  
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?
Nikki Anderson

Grafton Wood Open Day Success!

Grafton Wood in Worcestershire was THE place to be on Sunday 24th August. It was a beautiful, warm sunny morning which meant the Brownies were bound to be flying! As car after car pulled up in the carpark, Paul Fosterjohn's hugely popular Brown Hairstreak pin badges went flying off the table I'd set up, especially after I'd convinced everyone that wearing one would guarantee multiple sightings! 22 sold in 30 minutes, with the final 3 snapped up during the walk - this has got to be the most popular badge to date! Apologies again to everyone who missed out on getting a badge; its possible that more will become available in the near future.

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:

Life size brown hairstreak pin badge

Yes, folks your eyes did not deceive you a life size pin badge of the brown hairstreak is in production will be delivered to me on the 12th of September. Limited to 40 pieces and based on a photo taken at Steyning in August. The pin badge is of the underside of our favourite species in all its golden glory. The price including postage is £6.20 (includes a donation to BC Sussex branch.)

It will be presented on a backing card with another photo taken at Steyning two weeks later and have orange text.

These will very likely sell out very as have all previous designs so you will need to act fast and contact me at:

West Williamston egg predation survey – week 3

What a difference a week makes!
There are now 104 eggs, and to date no predations. 
On Tuesday I took 61 pale green lengths of wool with me to our study area (roughly 20m x 10m in size) and left with just 3.  Further additions had also made that day by David Redhead making this a very good count for a relatively small area.  Part of the reason for this may be that a nearby stand of Blackthorn has been recently removed as part of the ongoing BH habitat management.
And of interest …….. there are now 2 sets of triplets and 11 doublets, most laid very close to the ground.

Nikki Anderson                                                                                                                                  Week ending Tuesday 26th August

West Williamston salt marsh habitat

The Brown Hairstreak butterfly shown here was photographed on Tuesday down on the foreshore of the reserve – part of what makes West Williamston rather unique.  These grasses, Sea Beet, Orache and other saltmarsh plants are all covered by salt water when the tides are at their highest.

Strange but true - several of the lowest laid eggs can be found in winter covered in seaweed washed up by storms.

Nikki Anderson

West Williamston Egg Predation Survey

Week 2.    -  Week ending 19 August 2014
On Sunday 17th August David Redhead located all 11 tagged eggs and added a further 20 eggs to the count, tagged this time with white wool.
Out of these 31 eggs he recorded 5 sets of doublets – a high proportion of twins in a relatively small area. 
Many of the BH adults recorded so far this year were in trees on the right of this photograph.  The brown area visible below the Ash was the site of a large stand of Blackthorn cut at the end of July as part of the on-going and successful Blackthorn Management Plan.  This is a Management Plan carefully developed by Nathan Walton, Wildlife Trust Reserves Officer for Pembrokeshire, and  based at The Wildlife Centre, Cilgerran, in the North of the county.

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