If there was an award for Worcs' most frustrating weather, the conditions we often seem to experience for our annual Brown Hairstreak open day would surely win hands down. After weeks of great weather with good numbers of Brown Hairstreaks on the wing, the morning of 25th August dawned both cool and overcast which was a real shame because we had the highest attendance we had ever seen at the event, a mixture of local people, some who had never seen a Brown Hairstreak before, and others from much further afield, including a group of Butterfly Conservation members from Cheshire. Only after lunch, when many people had given up, did the sun come out together with the Brown Hairstreaks! For those who stayed the course, most were rewarded with really good views of several female Brown Hairstreaks in excellent condition low down on vegetation posing beautifully for the photographers (see below).
At least those who missed out on the Brown Hairstreaks could console themselves by sampling the new Brown Hairstreak beer as well as the usual tasty lunchtime refreshments (with thanks as always to Miriam Tilt who, this year, had the additional challenge of the refurbishment of the village hall to contend with). Brown Hairstreak Tawny Ale saw its national launch over the Bank Holiday weekend with free samples at the Open Day before being sold direct to the public at a very busy Pershore Plum Fayre on the Monday via the West Midlands Butterfly Conservation stall. For those who missed out on the beer or who would like more, it can be ordered online at www.fromthenotebook.co.uk or purchased direct from the Wayside Farm Shop at Wickhamford on the Evesham - Broadway road tel. 01386 830546. We are hoping, eventually, that the Hairstreak Ale will be available in other local outlets and if you know somewhere who might be interested in stocking the beer please contact Colin and Graeme at From the Notebook. Four different styles of butterfly-themed beers have been produced so there should be something to suit everyone's palate and, each bottle of beer sold, raises more money for Butterfly Conservation.
The afternoon of the open day also saw the first opportunity to try the new Hairstreak Butterfly Trail, a 6.5 mile circular walk starting and finishing at Grafton Flyford church (see route map below).
The route passes through Grafton Wood and takes in part of the Wychavon Way before returning to Grafton Flyford via Himbleton. The route is through very attractive Worcs countryside and includes farmland where hedgerows are being especially managed for the benefit of the Brown Hairstreak. Despite the best of intentions, we didn't get too far along the route on 25th as we kept getting distracted by sightings of Brown Hairstreaks but it really is a very splendid walk and I am sure that, being fully waymarked along its length, it will prove popular with Hairstreakers and ramblers alike. A leaflet about the walk will be available shortly and can be downloaded from www.worcestershire.gov.uk/countryside I walked a very short section of the route on 2nd Sept and was rewarded by the sighting of a female Brown Hairstreak sitting on a hedge close to the start of Huddington Lane. In true Hairstreak style, I first spotted it at 9.35 am and it was still there when I left half an hour later! Hopefully, the trail will lead to other new reports of Brown Hairstreaks in the wider countryside away from Grafton Wood and we are always keen to receive records.
The Thurs Streakers have already committed themselves to search for eggs along the full length of the trail over the winter. If you do walk the trail, and this applies to all other farmland around Grafton Wood, please ensure that you keep to public footpaths. Straying from footpaths could lead to problems with local landowners which we are anxious to avoid. For more photos of the Grafton Wood open day and the Plum Fayre as well as all the latest news, see the national Ash Brownies blog and the Grafton Wood blog
Away from Grafton Wood, there have been reports of Brown Hairstreaks being seen at Trench Wood and near Shaftland Cross by Richard Southwell and others, while Simon Primrose reported a female at the assembly tree in Blaze Lane at the edge of Redditch. Geoff Thompson has been paying regular visits to Shurnock and has seen a male there plus, subsequently, an egg laying female. The good news from Martyn Ganderton is that 'Lonesome George', the solitary male on his Stock Green assembly tree reported in the last ebulletin, eventually found a lady friend so hopefully a happy ending after all. A further appeal via the two Redditch newspapers for residents to keep a look out for Brown Hairstreaks produced an excellent response with reports from several parts of the town. While some of these may well have been misidentifications, they will be followed up by egg searches over the winter when hopefully we will be able to confirm that further colonisation has taken place. One interesting additional report came from Matchborough of a large grey moth sitting on a peg bag which turned out to be no less than a Convolvulus Hawkmoth, an uncommon migrant species to Britain and one of the largest moths in Europe.
Conservation work has now restarted at Grafton Wood every Wed and extra help is always welcome. Already, a substantial area of blackthorn on the western side of the wood has been cut which should produce plenty of young suckers suitable for egglaying next season and volunteers have now started on the first of this year's coppice plots. The meeting place is the car park outside Grafton Flyford church at 10 am and further details can be obtained from John Tilt on 01386 792458..
Finally, a bid for an entry into the Guinness Book of Records has come from Simon Primrose who tells me that he took 314 shots of a single Brown Hairstreak at Grafton Wood last month. I get the impression that an awful lot of Brown Hairstreak photos have been taken in recent weeks by lots of people but can anyone beat this?
Brown Hairstreak Species Champion,
West Midlands Butterfly Conservation