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.

West Williamston Update - 10/08/14

From reserve warden, Nikki Anderson:
Dedication to the cause has finally delivered results at West Williamston - the photograph below was taken today despite the remnants of 'Bertha' lurking off the south coast of Wales.

The male Brown Hairstreak was on the wing at 12:25pm in the top field of the reserve and was observed for several minutes. The sun was intermittent, there was a gusting wind and it was seen in Ash 5.

A few minutes later, a second BH was seen leisurely flying in Ash 4, then flew down and along Blackthorn to then fly up into the top of Ash 5. Probably female but not confirmed.

David Redhead and Jean Hambly were also on the reserve today and we embarked on an egg count in a sample survey area in the top field where we found 11 eggs. We will carry out weekly counts with the aim of establishing whether or not early laid eggs are more likely to be predated.

Steyning Rifle Range - 09/08/14

From Harry Faull:
Please find attached shots from Steyning today of my first and only Ash Brownie so far, on my second successive weeked 4 hour round trip from Colchester! Thanks to Neil Hulme last weekend for telling me when and where to look, and to Katrina for spotting it.

Grafton still showing well

Only 14C and cloudy at Grafton earlier this morning, but sun out by 11am and two fly-by sightings at 11.30am. At 12pm, first female flew down from the canopy to bask near blackthorn, by the pond. Exactly the same place as mentioned in my last post on August 4th.

This female basked for 2/3 minutes and flew deep into the nearby blackthorn to crawl along the young shoots looking for egg laying sites.
After 10 minutes alternating between crawling along twigs, basking and egg laying, she flew higher in the blackthorn to bask.
However, it started raining just after 1pm and she flew for shelter.  Earlier, I did have chance to find some eggs in the blackthorn nearby.
If you fancy a visit, Grafton is still showing well.

Just for interest

As Bertha seems set to disrupt things for a couple of days, I thought I would share some more photos from Grafton. All were taken around 12.00 p.m. on August 4th, near the pond area. Forgive the quality of some of the images but my camera (and head) were poking through blackthorn bushes, at the time.
1. Female showing characteristic behaviour of crawling along twigs looking for egg-laying sites
2. Ovipositing on the shaded side of a twig junction.

3. Basking low down in the shrubbery, near blackthorn, in between spells of ovipositing.

4. Basking higher in bramble opposite the pond.
 Last year, the first egg-laying I observed at Grafton was on August 20th (stand to be corrected) which would make this year more than two weeks earlier!!

More News From West Williamston

From David Redhead:

Egg laying has commenced in Pembrokeshire with two fresh eggs found this morning (8th August) in the top field at WTSWW's West Williamston Reserve. They were found on sucker growth in the top field opposite ash tree 2 - see previous reports by Nikki Anderson. An adult has now been seen at a second Pembrokeshire location, a private site near Jeffreyston a few miles to the east of West Williamston.

And from reserve warden, Nikki Anderson:

Had a good morning unexpectedly yesterday - it had rained in night so didn't expect it to be fine until I woke up and saw the sun.

Same site - the line of Ash by the car park - as follows...

8.25am: none to be seen
8.38am: 2 BH males at top of Ash 6, on the wing for 3-4 secs
8.49am: 1 female in Ash 5 (the small one) in slow flight, 7-8 secs

Temperature on arrival was 21 degrees on the thermometer when I took it out of my bag. By 8.50am it was 25 degrees, and at 9.15am, it was registering 28/29 degrees.

9.10am: male BH 4-5 secs, flew up to RHS of Ash 4
9.15am: female to top, LHS of Ash 1
9.15am: male flitting on top, RHS of Ash 1
9.16am: fritillary (Silver-washed or Dark Green), flew up to centre of Ash 1
9.29am: BH in Ash 5 - middle to RHS - not able to identify male or female

So, 7 Brown Hairstreak in an hour (4 males, 2 females & 1 unidentified) - all went quiet after this. It could have been because it was simply too hot by then - 29 degrees.

Purple Hairstreak were seen at 8.37am in Ash 6, and 9.28am in Ash 5, with 2 Speckled Wood in the trees there too.

No luck at Whitecross Green Wood

What a contrast. Spent the morning of Thurs Aug 7th at Aston Rowant NNR trying to avoid stepping on Silver Spotted Skippers and Chalkhill Blues and lunchtime at Whitecross Green Wood, on my way home. Finding Brown Hairstreak is a much more difficult challenge. The habitat looks perfect for Brown and Black Hairstreak, with ancient deciduous woodland and blackthorn along all the rides. However, I spoke to 4 or 5 local people, who knew the wood and the best sites to see Brownies, but all said that it was "hard work". On the day, only one "hairstreak sighting" high in an ash tree, but not by me. Nevertheless, I suppose it is the hours spent searching without luck that make the actual sightings so much more satisfying.

Deeper inland in West Wales, yet to stir?

Ben Williams, one of our fairly regular surveyors, but like me more than an hour's drive from Wales's brownies, took a chance on Tuesday 5th and spent nearly 6 hours in sun, cloud & some rain at West Wales Museum of Childhood in mid Teifi valley, where we manage 3 fields for brownies, with enthusiastic support of owners, Hilary & Paul Kennelly. Ben got there at 1100hrs and left at 1630 after a day of sunshine, rain and overcast skies.

West Wales inland sites always seem to be later, but perhaps weather on the day, had some effect. We're hoping that some keen volunteers living a bit nearer might chance their arm, as soon as weather settles a bit! Good to hear news from West Williamston however.  

West Williamston Update

From reserve warden, Nikki Anderson:

Arrived at the reserve at 8.15am on the 4th August - glorious morning, no wind, blue sky and already very warm. Was full of confidence, armed with the Trust project camera and battery fully charged. It was not to be - none of the following were stationary at all....

8.31am: BH flew from right to left and disappeared into Ash 5 - the small bushy one
8.43am: BH flew across top four fifths of Ash 2 - did not settle by clear ID
8.43am: BH in top third of Ash 2 (same tree same time) wings almost open buy quickly crawled out of sight
8.43am: Same tree - third BH in same moment

NB 8.43am: Small fluffy cloud for max 90 seconds - resulted in a flurry of activity with BH & PH. Prior to this the temperature had risen to 29C.

9.20am: BH in Ash 4 on the wing

Left at 9.45 having seen 5 Brown Hairstreak (not possible to say male or female) and 7 Purple Hairstreak in the same trees.

For anyone with mobility problems this is an excellent row of trees to pay a visit to being so close to the car park - only holds maximum of 4 cars however. The trees can be seen from the lane, or nearer by using the simple style put in by Nathan Walton. There are often one or two horses in the field but we are very respectful of their presence and so far they have totally ignored us.

I have numbered the key trees for ease of passing on information to others - these are the trees where sightings have been made consistantly over the last 4 years.

Brownie Bonanza

This morning (7th August) Steyning Rifle Range hosted a social gathering of Brownie fans from near and far. I had arranged to meet my father, Simon Primrose (BC West Midlands), Brian Henham and Paul Fosterjohn, but our number was swelled further by several other Steyning Downland Scheme members and visitors, all eager to see the site's fabulous hairstreaks.

Simon and I stayed for the longest period and we eventually clocked up a minimum of 7 different females, all appearing between 11 am and 2 pm. There were also plenty of Wall Brown and a few Clouded Yellow on the northern flank of the valley.

Sussex Females Get Going

As always the Brown Hairstreak season in Sussex has started slowly, at least in terms of close encounters. The males have been active for several weeks up in the canopy, and this is where the early season females have been lazing about, doing very little while their eggs ripen. 

Although it is currently only a trickle, females are now beginning to descend to lay their first eggs. It will be another week before multiples are guaranteed, assuming good weather of course. This morning I stopped off at the small chalk pit on Steyning Round Hill, before continuing on to the Rifle Range. I struck gold here and the stunning female I spotted sat motionless for more than 20 minutes under cooling cloud cover. 

At the Rifle Range I saw a single male flitting around a master ash, but no females in the fenced reserve area. Just before heading home I found a second female in perfect condition, up on the northern (right-hand) flank of the valley. I find this species almost as addictive as the Purple Emperor, so it won't be long before I return.

Double-deckers at Grafton

Thought today would be a perfect day at Grafton: 20C, blue sky and no wind. After two hours searching in the rides by the pond area, and not even a fly-by sighting, I was beginning to think otherwise and was about to leave. Then, low down in the blackthorn, only 10m to the East of the pond, I saw my first Brownie of the year - an egg laying female.
 As I moved in to photograph, I noticed a second egg-laying female only 12 inches away basking. It was like catching a bus, nothing for two hours and then two come along in a minute.
A couple from Leicester joined to see the spectacle and we spotted a third female, nearby. She flew high into bramble and proved a photographers nightmare, staying perfectly still with open wings for 20 minutes
but too high to photograph. The sightings were around 12.00p.m and I left as it clouded over around 12.45 p.m.

Latest Doings

Delighted to report 25 apparent individual males in my local patch, Ravenroost Meadows near Minety in N Wilts, in two and a half hours this morning.  That's the most I've ever counted there, and was managed despite an irritating breeze.  They kicked off at about 8.15, when my car thermometer was reading 14C, and only tailed off when a ribbon of cloud came over at 10.45. 

From 8.30 to about 10.00 males were dashing about like mad, searching the tall sloe hedges and rising up to visit ash and field maple trees (the latter was as popular as ash today).  When two meet they behave a little like Purple Emperor males: they circle round each other effing and beeing, before one chases the other off. 

Crucially, all activity was out of the wind this morning.  The word 'leeward' needs to be an important part of the Brown Hairstreaker's vocabulary, alongside 'sloe searching'. 

At last I managed to photograph a male here - the first in 20 years:-