A Brown Letter Day!

Having never seen Brown Hairstreak before, and being inspired by reading the Ash Brownies Blog all summer, I (Paul Brewster) and my wife Carys decided that when news of emergence came through we would attempt to catch up with this enigmatic species. Once Gill had posted that emergence was underway at Grafton Wood, Worcestershire, we started to plan, but just at that time the good weather and our days off started to go out of sync. I emailed Gill whose response was fantastic, providing me with lots of info regarding where to park, access details and the best areas to search in Grafton Wood, and even sending maps with highlighted areas for parking, footpaths and prime locations.

Eventually one of our days off coincided with a warm, sunny day and our plan swung into action on 20th August to be precise! We headed down the M6 from mid-Cheshire, onto the M5 and then off towards Grafton Flyford as directed by Gill. The 98 mile journey flew by and we soon pulled up at the church, parked and took the path through the farm down over the fields towards Grafton Wood. As directed by Gill, our search began along the old orchard hedges, full of blackthorn bushes and bramble flowers, both a good sign. A short distance on we came across two other brownie hunters with their camera lenses stuck into the hedge – this had got to be a good sign. On approaching them, sure enough, they were watching an egg-laying female Brown Hairstreak; success, we had seen our lifer butterfly. For the next hour at least she gave us a fantastic show, egg-laying and then basking, allowing brilliant photographic opportunities for all, even for my digiscoping set-up

Gatekeepers and Small Coppers also showed in the same hedge but soon we decided to reluctantly leave them all to have our lunch. After lunch we returned to the wood to explore further. At the pond we found a nectaring female Brown Hairstreak on the hemp agrimony, our second brownie and our first self-found one. Nearby we saw the first of many Silver-washed Fritillaries whizzing around as is their wont with several vanessid and white species also present. On the pond margins was a smart male Ruddy Darter Dragonfly and nearby several Southern Hawkers, both ‘lions’ to the Brown Hairstreaks’ ‘gazelles’ in this miniature world of predator and prey. We carried on through the wood, impressed at how it is being managed for butterflies and ended the day by finding the scarce and unobtrusive violet helleborine tucked away on the woodland floor.

We reluctantly left Grafton Wood and headed home northwards to Cheshire, certain that we would be back many times in the future. Again, I would like to say a big thank-you to Gill for all her assistance and for helping us see our first ever Brown Hairstreaks, in the same year as we had seen our first Black Hairstreaks and coincidentally had also seen Green, Purple and White-letter Hairstreaks – 2013 what a great butterfly year it has been.


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