With the last of the Brown Hairstreaks (and probably summer!) now behind us, we can start to look forward to days of extreme cold, biting winds, torrential rain, heavy snow and serious floods - yes the Brown Hairstreak egging season is almost upon us. Of course, it is not always as bad as that and, before we get into any serious searching for Brown Hairstreak eggs, we have this coming Thurs (17th October) to look forward to when, rather than nuts in May, we shall be gathering sloes in October! The sloes are required for the next batch of Hairstreak Jelly which we hope to have available early in the New Year and, after the success of this year's jam, we are hoping that we can collect lots more sloes. We will be working again with Elspeth Robertson at Wayside Farm Shop who is making the Jelly on our behalf. We are meeting at Grafton Flyford church for 10 am on Thurs before heading off to Thistledown Meadows where Pauline Wilson has kindly given permission for us to pick sloes from her hedgerows (and look for eggs at the same time!) and, if any of our local Brown Hairstreakers could lend a hand with this task, that would be appreciated. Alternatively, if you would be willing to gather sloes on our behalf over the next few weeks, that would be terrific. They can be dropped off any Thurs at 10 am at the church or ring me on 07802 274552 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) to arrange collection. For anyone gathering at least 1 pound of sloes, we can offer you a free jar of Hairstreak Jelly in return.
While you may have to wait until after Xmas for Hairstreak Jelly, the new West Midlands Butterfly Conservation calendar (see below) is available now. This is the first time we have produced a calendar in the region and we are really pleased with the results. It is in A4 landscape format and printed in full colour using the winning photos in our branch photographic competition.
As befits our first calendar, one of the featured photos is of a Brown Hairstreak taken at Grafton Wood by Simon Primrose. Simon tells me it is one of the 314 photos taken of the same butterfly which I mentioned in the last eBulletin as a possible contender for the Guinness Book of Records so clearly persistence paid off (see below).
Both John Tilt (Grafton Wood Reserve Manager and Branch Chairman) and myself have copies of the calendar which we will bring with us to any events either of us plan to attend between now and Xmas, otherwise the calendar can be obtained by sending a cheque for £8 (£15 for two) made out to Butterfly Conservation West Midlands branch to 8 Working Lane, Gretton, Cheltenham, Glos GL54 5YU. The calendars along with, of course, supplies of Hairstreak Ale (order from www.fromthenotebook.co.uk) make ideal Xmas presents and all profits support the work of Butterfly Conservation.
While thinking about calendars, you may want to make a note of the dates of our planned egg hunts over the coming months. There are three days in total that have been set aside: Sun, 17th November, Sun, 29th December and Sat, 18th January and, in each case, we will meet outside Grafton Flyford Church for 10 am. For those who have not yet joined in on an egg hunt, finding Brown Hairstreak eggs is nowhere near as difficult as it sounds and full training will be given. We are a very friendly group and new faces are always very welcome. If you come along on the December date you will even be treated to mulled wine and mincepies! In addition, a smaller group of us go out egging most Thurs starting on 24th October (same meeting time and place) when we plan to visit, along with Caroline Corsie from WWT, the National Grid sub-station at Feckenham to search for eggs. If you plan to come on a Thurs, however, it is always best to check beforehand as occasionally we meet elsewhere.
Although the egging season has not officially started, we have already added two squares to the distribution of the Brown Hairstreak in Worcs: SO9764 and 9765 thanks to a sighting of a female Brown Hairstreak at Foster's Green Meadow by a visitor from Leics on 5th Sept who reported his record to the Wildlife Trust. Simon Primrose and myself went over to take a look at the area towards the end of the month and were pleased to record an egg close by in the adjoining square and presumably laid by the same female. These records represent a further northward expansion of the Brown Hairstreak and open up a new area of search, with the squares both to the west and east of SO9765 still unrecorded. Last winter, we only added 2 new squares to the distribution map during the entire season and have now matched this before the end of September so, hopefully, we will be able to add a few more squares to the map this year. Usually, we receive a few sightings of adults late into Sept and occasionally Oct, but the season seemed to go over early this year and largely peter out after the first week which is surprising as half decent weather continued through to the middle of the month. Perhaps everyone this year had managed to take all the photos of Brown Hairstreaks they could possibly want by the end of August and just stopped looking! There may have been Brown Hairstreaks still out there, however, as looking at the Ash Brownies national blog , I notice a report from Sussex as late as 27th Sept.
Closer to home, the new leaflet for the Hairstreak Butterfly Trail,(1.8MB pdf) which has been devised in partnership with Worcestershire County Council's Countryside Service, has now been completed. The leaflet will eventually appear on the County Council's website where it will be possible to download a copy but I thought people might appreciate seeing a copy in advance. Although best walked in the summer months when butterflies are on the wing, the Trail can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
Finally, it is good to report the receipt of a very nice letter from Redditch Council thanking us for speaking to the Britain in Bloom judges back in July about the work the Council had carried out in support of the Brown Hairstreak (see eBulletin 105). Apparently, the Council has just won its third gold medal in this competition so congratulations to them and we look forward to continue working together in the future with the goal of assisting the butterfly to expand further within the town.
Brown Hairstreak Species Champion,
West Midlands Butterfly Conservation