Brown Hairstreak in Worcestershire - Bulletin 91

March 2012

Dear Brownhairstreakers,

Thanks to those who joined in on February's Magical Mystery Tour. In the event, we split the day between exploring the perimeter of Lower Kites Wood, which is close to Grafton Wood, and looking for eggs around some of our possible assembly trees which we had identified last autumn. Despite rather horrid weather at times, we were successful on both fronts with an egg just inside the gate at Lower Kites and no fewer than 15 eggs close to a group of ash trees on Huddington Lane, despite the fact that the nearby hedgerows had already been flailed. Definitely, a group of trees to keep a close eye on as part of this year's Big Ash Bash. Our final egg hunt day for this winter is this coming Saturday, 17th March when we are hoping to focus attention on the area around the Lenches close to the Warks border. We shall meet outside Grafton Flyford church at 10 am and all are welcome. If we are lucky with the weather, we may also see some early spring butterflies on our travels. The sunny weather over the past week has produced sightings of all of the overwintering species and it should not be long now before we hear of the first Small Whites, Holly Blues and Speckled Woods on the wing.

The Thurs Streakers have also been out and about over the last few weeks with good effect, especially around the Feckenham area where visits to private gardens, a nursery and farmland in recent weeks have all produced eggs. A chance encounter with a local resident on Berrow Hill led us to visit a house belonging to a relative of David Newland, author of several butterfly books, and very appropriately we managed to turn up a couple of eggs in the garden which I am sure will be a welcome surprise to David on his next visit. A new project taken on by the Streakers has been to visit public open space sites owned by Wychavon District Council. These are mainly small plots of land that have been acquired on the back of new housing development but also include the new Droitwich Gateway Park around the restored Droitwich canal. Most of the sites consist of areas of closely mown grass with very little in the way of blackthorn or other wildlife habitat but do, in some cases, offer potential for new planting. Certainly, given the location of some of the sites, this could prove very productive and, once we have completed our visits, we plan to discuss possibilities of habitat improvements with the local authority. In the meantime, in this era of health and safety, we rather enjoyed the notice (see below) erected at the entrance to Hadzor open space. If only dogs could read!

We have now arranged dates for Brown Hairstreaking over the summer months beginning with a Brown Hairstreak caterpillar hunt on Sun, 20th May. This event forms part of national Save our Butterflies week and there are a number of other activities organised around this period which are open to the public (see for full details). Because of the problem regarding the theft of marked eggs referred to in the last ebulletin, we are having to shift this event away from Grafton Wood but will still meet at Grafton Church for 11 am that day ready to drive on to another nearby woodland. This is always a popular event with the honour of naming your own caterpillar for those that find them. If you think finding Brown Hairstreak eggs is difficult, try caterpillars! The fact that we have marked up a large number of eggs, however, should give us a fighting chance. As soon as we hear of the first adult Brown Hairstreak being spotted, which is usually late July, the Big Ash Bash will swing into action. This proved very successful last year in identifying a number of new assembly trees and Simon Primrose is drawing up another list of ash trees which we are hoping volunteers will visit. If you are good at getting up in the morning (most activity around the trees tends to be in the period 8 - 10 am) and would like to help in this please get in touch so that we can allocate trees well in advance. We will organise a training day at a known assembly tree for all those taking part and will let people know the date of this nearer the time. On Sun, 12th August we shall be involved in a rather different form of bashing when we make our annual visit to tackle blackthorn scrub in a privately owned woodland that is being managed with Brown Hairstreaks in mind. We shall meet at Grafton church as usual for 10 am and then make our way to the site. The plan is to spend the morning cutting blackthorn and then have a walk around the wood in the afternoon. Lunchtime refreshments are provided. This year's Brown Hairstreak open day at Grafton Wood is on Sun, 19th August and forms part of Pershore Plum Festival. This annual event which runs throughout August celebrates all things plummy and culminates in a Plum Fayre in Pershore on Bank Holiday Monday where Butterfly Conservation will also have a stall. Last year’s Plum Fayre attracted almost 20,000 visitors to the town so this should be a really good opportunity to get across the importance of the Brown Hairstreak to the local area and the work we are doing to conserve it. While the butterfly mainly lays its eggs on blackthorn (which itself of course is a prunus species), we have noted, particularly this last winter, an increasing number of eggs laid on wild plums and damsons, so our involvement in the Festival this year seems very appropriate. The Plum Festival organisers will be helping us with publicity for our open day and we hope that this will increase visitor numbers to the event. There will be a special Festival website at with links to Facebook and Twitter sites. More information on all these events nearer the time but please make a note in your diary of the dates.

Some people appeared not to have received the last ebulletin which was distributed in early February so please let me know if you would like me to resend it. Otherwise, back copies can be downloaded from the West Midlands Butterfly Conservation website. Hope to see some of you on Saturday or at some of our other summer events.

Mike Williams,
Brown Hairstreak Species Champion,
West Midlands Butterfly Conservation