We managed to pick one of the few fine days over the Xmas period for our festive egg hunt and had a good turnout (see photo). An enjoyable day was had by all with lots of eggs and the added treat of homemade sloe gin, as well as mincepies and mulled wine over the lunchtime. The final egg count for the core area around Grafton Wood is well up on the previous year but the highlight for many was the discovery by Richard Hadfield of a cluster of six eggs along the edge of the wood following an earlier find of a quad by Dave Butler. Large egg clusters like this are very unusual and this is only the second time in all our years of monitoring that we have found a "sixer". To complete a good day, a few of us went over to Trench Wood in the afternoon where we increased the egg count there to 61 which is the highest total ever recorded for that location. The same day, Rob Mabbett and team visited a private woodland which we have monitored for several years and was pleased to report again an increased count on the previous winter.
Our run of good egg finds continued into January with well over 100 eggs found by the Thurs Streakers in hedgerows adjacent to Hollowfields Road near Bradley Green on 2nd which was very pleasing. Local Hairstreak Champions Paul Meers and Jenny Tonry have also been going great guns at Feckenham Wylde Moor on the other side of Bradley Green with the egg count there already up to 78 which again is more than ever previously recorded. Last Thurs, however, we returned to earth with a bump when we searched woodland east of the Lenches following a report of a possible Brown Hairstreak being spotted near Salford Priors last autumn. Blackthorn was fairly scarce and we could find little suitable looking habitat so, rather like previous isolated sightings of Brown Hairstreak in Kings Coughton and Droitwich (the famed Waitrose one), the Salford Priors report may have to go down as another unsolved mystery. So depressed were we that some of us returned to Grafton Wood in the afternoon to photograph the "sixer" (see Gill Thompson's splendid photo below which was only accomplished at some personal cost i.e. a wellington full of water!) and search along the NW side of the wood where 63 eggs were found in just 25 minutes! We don't seem to have had a lot of time this season to search much for Brown Hairstreak eggs beyond their known range but hope to concentrate more on this over the coming weeks. In what clearly has been a pretty good egg-laying season for the Brown Hairstreak, one would hope the chances of finding eggs in new areas would be reasonably high but we shall see. This Thursday, 16th Jan the Streakers are heading into Redditch, meeting up at Morton Stanley Park for 10 am in the hope of confirming breeding success there for the third consecutive year with hopefully time afterwards to then take a look at a few nearby unrecorded squares. All welcome.
For those of you that have missed out so far on the joys of egg spotting at Grafton Wood, and with the Winter Olympics about to begin, your final chance to participate in this particular winter sport comes this Sat, 18th January when we meet at Grafton Flyford Church for 10 am with the aim of completing our count of eggs in and around the wood. With the count along the woodland edge now finished, we hope to take a look inside the reserve, particularly in areas where a lot of good management has taken place. There were lots of adult sightings last year in the northern part of the wood around the pond so it will be interesting to see how many eggs have been laid in this vicinity. Do come and join us if you can.
Finally, a reminder of the regular work parties that take place in both Grafton and Trench Woods over the winter. Numbers of volunteers have dropped off recently at both reserves and extra help is needed. Conservation days are held virtually every week and further details are available from the respective reserve managers: John Tilt (firstname.lastname@example.org) in respect of Grafton Wood and John Holder for Trench (email@example.com). If you can help it will be much appreciated.
Brown Hairstreak Species Champion,
West Midlands Butterfly Conservation