The thing that pulls our group together is our shared love of wildlife. In fact, Butterfly Conservation is the reason we all know each other. (Other than myself and Joy – she just happens to be my Mom!) So it should come as no surprise that Scarlet Tiger Project isn’t our only venture. We all have our green fingers in other pies and take every opportunity to get stuck in with other projects, surveys and charities. Counting Brown Hairstreak eggs at Grafton Wood, Worcestershire, is one of those pies…
While my Mom (Joy, STP Head Honcho) has accompanied other members of West Midlands Butterfly Conservation to Grafton previously, I had never visited, seen a Brown Hairstreak butterfly or spotted a Brown Hairstreak egg. It is a beautiful butterfly that has sadly been in decline over the last four decades, with numbers down by 43% since 1970. For this reason, Butterfly Conservation considers it a ‘high priority’ species. It is believed that the reason for such a devastating decline is the increased flailing of hedgerows rich with Blackthorn – the favoured plant for females to lay their eggs.
Brown Hairstreak eggs have also been found in much of the hedgerows and trees on the farm but numbers of enthusiasts tramping over the fields of this working farm don’t exactly do much for farmer/BC relationships so it is asked that people stick to paths and the gates put in specifically for visitors.
On reaching the wood, we were greeted with two informative noticeboards, explaining the history of the area and the significance of the wood in relation to the Brown Hairstreak.
Mike explained what we should look out for – the eggs being around the size of a pin head, white in colour and with a striking fractal appearance on close inspection. They’re usually found in the nook where smaller branches grow out from the central larger branch. So we got to it! It wasn’t long before we started spotting them, and I was chuffed to find one relatively quickly.
We carried on up the path from the entrance and came to a ‘crossroads’ which is a renowned egg hotspot. We all picked a spot and got stuck in – four-legged members of the team included. Thankfully, there were lots to count!
While Brown Hairstreak eggs were our main priority, there was plenty of other wildlife to see and hear at Grafton. The sound of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Nuthatches echoed through the wood and the effect of the mild winter we’ve had was apparent, with blossoms and flowers blooming.
After more counting, we stopped for a quick tea break and a team photo, minus a couple of party members who had to leave a little early.
While we had to shoot off before the total was counted, Mike posted this update to the Grafton Wood Blog…
“Great result today. 133 eggs along the rides in Grafton Wood. Many in areas where young blackthorn has been encouraged by some great management by West Midlands BC volunteers.”
It really is a testament to the volunteers that numbers are so good and I can’t wait to go back in the Summer to see the adults in flight – their hard work rewarded. To keep up to date with the ongoing work and Brown Hairstreak updates, keep an eye on the Grafton Wood Blog. To find out more about the Brown Hairstreak check out Ash Brownies, the national blog for the butterfly, with lots of informative posts and updates on conservation projects.
Another great blog for information on the Brown Hairstreak is Sutton Nature, based in the South of England, it’s gives a great perspective on the plight of the butterfly elsewhere in the UK. Here is a great introduction to the Brown Hairstreak, informative and a pleasure to read.
Thanks for taking the time to read our blog. If you’d like to get in touch, we’d love to hear from you, whether you’d like to get involved or find out more about us or the people we mention.