West Williamston egg predation survey - Week 1There 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.
Wildlife Trust Voluntary Warden
12th August 2014
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.
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.
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.
SUN 24TH AUG - BROWN HAIRSTREAK OPEN DAY, GRAFTON WOOD
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!
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!
MON 25TH AUG - PERSHORE PLUM FESTIVAL, PERSHORE
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
FIRST EGGS COUNTED
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.
1. Female showing characteristic behaviour of crawling along twigs looking for egg-laying sites
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:-