Happy New Year!

West Williamston annual egg hunt

This year will be our twentieth transect count along the foreshore of this unique Brown Hairstreak site.  The event is being held on Sunday 7th December - meet at 10.00am in the small park just west of the hamlet of West Williamston in South Pembrokeshire.  Our lowest transect egg count was just 16 in 2002, and last year's count was 631 - a bumper year, so if you fancy coming along we would be very pleased to see you.  If the weather looks fair for the afternoon we will continue the count over the rest of the reserve, so bring a small packed lunch and warm drink.  Any queries contact Nathan Walton - Wildlife Trust Officer, Nikki Anderson or Dave Redhead

Early egg hunts in Worcs

The Thursday Streakers have been out and about in recent weeks and have been finding reasonable numbers of eggs.  The first real test, however, occurs at the end of the month when we carry out our first searches in and around Grafton Wood nature reserve where we have egg count data stretching back to 1970!  We shall be meeting at Grafton Flyford church for 10 am on Saturday, 29th November (Grid Ref  SO963557) and any Eggheads who fancy a day out in Worcs will be very welcome.  Further details from Simon Primrose (simonjprimrose@aol.com) who has taken over from me as the West Midlands Butterfly Conservation Brown Hairstreak Species Champion.

West Williamston Egg Predation Survey . Week 8 - 30th September 2014

And another unusual find ……….

With 212 eggs tagged over the last seven weeks and another 30  eggs found by David Redhead and myself today, the total number of eggs laid at this small survey site is now stands at 242.  
Interestingly outside the fence, in the youngest Blackthorn, the latest newly laid eggs are mostly on the outer edge and have totalled 7, 6 and 9 found by me – 9 being the latest weekly figure.  David Redhead, on the other hand, has been counting inside the fence nearer the trees.  His totals of new found eggs over the last 3 weeks are 19, 20 and 21 – 21 being the latest figure.
The overall total includes the 2 sets of triplets (was 3) and now 17 doubles (David’s 21 eggs found this week included 2 more sets of doubles).

               It is proving to be a most interesting survey.                       Nikki Anderson

West Williamston Egg Predation Survey . Week 7 - 23rd September

One Pale Tussock and 212 tagged eggs.

26  more eggs were found this week, exactly the same number as last week, and so the grand total of tagged eggs now stands at 212.  Three of those eggs have been predated (or at least can’t be found!).
There are 2 sets of triplets and 15 doublets.   No more doubles or trebles were found this week,  but the remains of one of the original 3 sets of triplets was found by way of a bit of dead twig lying on the ground, with the three combined tags on – no eggs though.  There is no doubt that a horse was the culprit, and she is now grazing in a lower field.
One of the bonuses of the project has been the unexpected.  For example, the very well camouflaged caterpillar in the attached photograph.  

Best wishes                      Nikki Anderson

West Williamston Egg Predation Survey – Week 6

26 more BH eggs were added this week, including one more doublet.  This takes the egg total to 183 including 3 triplets and 16 doublets, with 3 predations - 186 tags in all.
Spiders have been more in evidence too.

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: http://www.steyningdownland.org/Community/page68/blog-2/files/dcf26c5c28d78975d6c7727545a3830a-9.html 

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.

As of Tuesday the 23rd of September all have now sold..

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

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: britannicuspinbadges@gmail.com

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

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.