New Surveying Methodology In The Making

30+ people from all over the country attended the Brown Hairstreak Survey Methods Workshop in Ruishton, near Taunton on Saturday. The meeting kicked off at 10:30am with an informative and entertaining talk by Matthew Oates on Brown Hairstreak ecology. Mike Williams (West Midlands) followed on with an equally fascinating presentation on the Brown Hairstreak in Worcestershire. West Midlands branch were the first to begin wider-scale research on assembly ash trees so these findings went down very well, as did the impressive 44 years worth of egg data from Grafton Wood. Richard Smith (South Wales) did an excellent talk about the overall distribution of Brown Hairstreak in Carmarthenshire/Pembrokeshire and their surveying methodology. Further talks from Clive Wood (Hampshire/IOW), Roger Bristow (Devon), Roger Smith (Dorset) and Ian Middlebrook (for Pete Smith, Lincolnshire) were equally fascinating and it was very interesting to hear about how similar/different our current surveying methods are.

Above: Richard Smith, Matthew Oates, Mike Williams,
Mike Slater, Simon Primrose, John Tilt, Geoff Thompson et al.

A discussion about the current approaches to monitoring Brown Hairstreak abundance through egg counts and possibilities for a future, standardised methodology soon followed, with some rather amusing suggestions of using a cherry picker and even a helicopter to search the blackthorn for eggs above head height. Then came a rather depressing slide on the 2011 transect figures from around the UK. Some sites had no record of the Brown Hairstreak on the yearly transects at all, whereas many only had single sightings, with Noar Hill and Alners Gorse coming out on top with 13 and 7 sightings, respectively. It is hoped that this new approach will enable egg counts to be used to report on the species national population status through the UKBMS instead of relying solely on adult counts from transects which tend to be very low.

After lunch, everyone got ready to brave the freezing cold (and light snow) and go out for a spot of egging. With over 30 people, this must've been the most well attended egg search EVER! Not 2 minutes after arriving on site, the word got around that the first eggs had been found. Matthew Oates later decided that he was feeling rather optimistic and actually tried to jump into the middle of the hedge to give it a good search (below).

The session ended at around 3pm with the finding of additional eggs and another brief discussion on the suggested future species monitoring approach. I think many of us have high hopes that this new system will make a big difference to the way we currently monitor Brown Hairstreak abundance and distribution.


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