Worcestershire Brown Hairstreaks

Further sightings were reported yesterday with the first Brownies - two males - being sighted in a known assembly tree in the garden of one of our local champions. Sightings in this particular tree, being in a garden and therefore obviously closely scrutinised at this time of year, usually herald the start of the season in Worcs.

I went to Grafton yesterday - unfortunately minus binoculars - but was fairly certain I saw a number of Brownies, along with some Purple Hairstreaks, flying high in some scrub on the edge of the wood.

One thing to please note this year, if you're intending to visit Grafton Wood - the farmer who owns the land immediately to the west of the wood - ie land containing the Orchard and adjoining hedgerows - has politely requested that people keep to the public rights-of-way and not trespass onto his land. As I'm sure you will all understand, it is very much in our interests to keep him happy, so could I please ask everyone to respect this request and keep within the bounds of the wood, all of which is publicly accessible. Last year, the best area for sightings was at the pond which is within the wood itself on the west side, towards the north. A map showing the location of this pond is displayed both near the car park at Grafton Church (just before entering the farmyard) and at the main entrance to the wood. Thank you very much.

Pembrokeshire Emergence Begins

From David Redhead:
Brown Hairstreaks definitely now on the wing at West Williamston Reserve with activity noted today by Nikki Anderson and myself in three seperate sets of ash trees. Difficult to be certain exactly how many seen but between 5 and 7. None definitely sexed but all bar one probably males. The odd one out had very bright underwings and sat in an ash for a long time but refused to open its wings. One of the notable things is that none of the numerous ash trees at West Williamston has any keys on. This is very different to last year when the most "active" tree was laden with keys.
One of the Brownies' favourite ash trees!

Sightings Update

Those elusive Brownies are being seen all over the country now! Reports are in from Dorset, Sussex, Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire, Surrey, Wiltshire, Worcestershire and Pembrokeshire that i know of so far.

Multiple adults have been seen at Alners Gorse, Dorset so far, including the first female seen by Martin Warren on 26th July. Also, good numbers reported from Knepp, Sussex. Emergence is now beginning at well known sites such as Chambers Farm Wood (Lincolnshire), Grafton Wood (Worcestershire) and West Williamston (Pembrokeshire), with additional reports of sightings at Rushbeds Wood (Buckinghamshire), RSPB Otmoor (Oxfordshire), RSPB Old Moor (South Yorkshire), Bookham Common (Surrey) and Selborne Common (Hampshire).

There has also been a possible Brownie sighting in central Bristol by Lee Gardiner, reported via Twitter. These little guys could be living in our urban garden ash trees and blackthorn bushes before we know it!

From what i can tell, sightings have been mostly of males so far which indicates the flight period has only just begun. Females will likely begin to emerge in southern England over the next week or so.

All Brown Hairstreak photographs and sightings reported on Twitter are retweeted on the Ash Brownies Twitter account so be sure to visit regularly to keep up to date with all of the latest goings on. Tweet us your sightings @betulae or hashtag #ashbrownies.

Also, please get in touch if you'd like to personally blog your sightings and photographs. Everyone is welcome!

Early Season Promise

My first Brown Hairstreaks of the season were seen at Knepp Wildlands in W Sussex early in the morning of Wed July 23rd - 9 fresh males in a 2 hour tour of outgrown sloe hedges in a 4x4 vehicle.  A trio were seen tussling with Purple and White-letter hairstreaks along a line of hybrid elms.  By 10.30 it had got too hot for them.  Previously, I had looked unsuccessfully for BH here on July 15th.  It probably started circa the 21st.

Knepp is worth visiting - see www.knepp.co.uk.  The enlightened landowner, Charlie Burrell, has taken 3000 acres of heavy clay land out of mainstream agriculture and is extensively grazing them with long-horn cattle, deer and a few ponies and pigs.  All internal fencing has been removed.  Sloe hedges have grown to 8m in width and support over 30 pairs of Nightingale and at least 9 pairs of Turtle Dove.  Many former arable fields quickly turned into sallow jungles, and the wildlands now hold the second strongest Purple Emperor population in the country.  I wouldn't be surprised if it holds the strongest Brown Hairstreak population, or certainly the most extensive (though much of the low sloe regrowth is now quite browsed - but there is much out of reach of browsing animals along the outgrown hedges ).

A Polish student called Pioter Szota, from one of the Sussex unis, is just starting to survey BH at Knepp.  He'll need help. 
If anyone wants to visit Knepp then please contact the estate's ecologist Amy Nightingale on 07872 691075. 

A single BH was seen at Selborne Common early in the morning on Thurs 24th, by NT warden Chris Webb.  That means it's out next door on Noar Hill. 

Yesterday, Sat 26th, I found BH nicely out in N Wilts.  I saw at least 12 males and a female in an hour early in the morning near Minety.  A reasonable population exists along blackthorn hedges here, centred on a large area of unimproved and semi-improved hay meadows managed by the Wilts Wildlife Trust.  As at Knepp, several males were active around a line of elms, rather than the usual ash trees.  They were fully active when I arrived just before 8am.  By 10.30 they had quietened right down. 

Today, I saw 25 males (no females) during a two hour visit to Shipton Bellinger Roughs, MOD-owned scrub land on the edge of Salisbury Plain just south of Tidworth on the Hants / Wilts border.  I arrived in dull but warm weather at 8.30, to find butterflies just getting up.  It soon started to clear.  Throughout, BH males were dashing about over sloe hedges - 'sloe searching' to coin a phrase (as in the Purple Emperor's sallow searching); BH males do a lot of this early in the morning, dashing about looking for girls.  They were just starting to set up territories, on ash, field maple and even a tall buckthorn when I left at 10.30.  The day's last was seen chasing off a chaffinch...

All this suggests that BH is emerging in excellent numbers this year, and very early too.  Just hope the weather holds...

(Apols for lack of photos but I haven't got time to load them)


 

Bookham Common

I had 10 mins with an accessible female at Bookham on Weds 23 July at 1.30pm. It was on the way back to Hundred Pound Bridge car park after 2.5 fruitless hours. Near the blackthorn at Nightingale Corner. Photographed with a compact camera.



2014 Season Now Underway!

Good news, folks! The first Brown Hairstreak of 2014 was seen at Alners Gorse, Dorset by 2 observers on Saturday 12th July. Im not sure any have ever been recorded this early before!

Its time to find your nearest Ash tree and blackthorn bush and get recording :D

Brownie Season Is On Its Way!

It wont be long now before the Brown Hairstreak will be seen on the wing in the south of England. I thought I'd post a photo to help get everyone get geared up for one of the best events of the Summer! Will 2014 top last year? Be sure to get involved and post your sightings on the blog!

This beautiful female was photographed at Grafton Wood last year. What a stunner!



WEST WILLIAMSTON BROWN HAIRSTREAK REPORT - MAY 2014

A fantastic Brown Hairstreak report has been provided for Ash Brownies by West Williamston NR Voluntary Warden, Nikki Anderson. It gives a bit of background about the site - its history and location, before getting to the nitty-gritty of the Brown Hairstreak egg surveys that have been conducted since 1995. More info on the 2013 flight period and a little piece on egg survival rates is also included.

Well worth a read! CLICK HERE TO VIEW.

Egg hatch underway

First hatchlings reported from Worcs yesterday (13th April) which is incredibly early for us.  Paul Meers, who is one of our local Hairstreak Champions and reserve manager at Feckenham Wylde Moor, found several eggs and also a couple of tiny larvae.  Out of 36 eggs found and examined, 10 had already hatched.  The Thursday Streakers are planning to visit later this week so hopefully a further update to follow.

HIGH EGG COUNTS AT GRAFTON


The last few weeks have seen the second and third of our formal Grafton Wood winter egg counts. Numbers of eggs recorded have generally been well up on last year, and in some cases in record numbers.

On Sunday 29th December we had our annual ‘New Year’ egg count. This event was as usual, very well attended, with the added attraction of not only mulled wine and mince pies, but this year with the introduction of homemade Sloe Gin as well!


The key search areas on this day were the Orchard and surrounding hedgerows. Some of these hedges, together with the areas searched on 17th November, constitute the ‘core Grafton Count’, a series of annual timed searches that consistently go all the way back to the 1970’s. Over 260 eggs were counted on the day at Grafton, with the result that the total ‘core hedgerow’ count of 234 (up from 183 last year) ended up as the highest since 2010/11 and the second highest since 2006/7.

A major highlight of the day (apart from the Sloe Gin) was the discovery of a cluster of six eggs on a small sucker growing in a ditch. This is the second time in four years that a ‘sixer’ has been found in the Grafton area. 

Last Saturday, our final organised weekend search of the winter took place with the aim of finishing our searches within Grafton Wood itself, along with carrying out a detailed search of a known hotspot area on the edge of the wood. A huge amount of management work within the wood - consisting mainly of widening the rides, cutting scallops into them and generally coppicing old blackthorn stands - has been carried out over the last few years with the aim of encouraging Brownies into the interior. So it was going to be interesting to see what effect this had had on egg numbers. Again, the event was well attended, attracting four new faces to our streakers group.

The results of this search were simply amazing! A record total of 170 eggs were found inside the wood which, when added to the 9 found on our first search in November, took the total ‘interior count’ to 179 - easily beating last years’ total of 86 which at the time, was the highest ever recorded.

However, this was not the end of our record breaking feats for the day. Over the last three years we have been monitoring a sheltered ‘paddock’ on the edge of the wood which, despite the presence of a lot of somewhat unpromising, old and overgrown blackthorn has consistently revealed surprising numbers of eggs and, last summer, sightings of both male and female adults. A detailed search of this area on Saturday gave us the staggering total of 198 eggs (compared to 40 last winter); which in turn took our total for the day to 368 - a single day record for Worcestershire!

Our total count now for Grafton Wood and the immediate surrounding hedgerows stands at 765 - the challenge is now on to reach the magic 1000.…..

Photographs courtesy of Mel Mason, Mike Williams and Gillian Thompson.