Our community planting day at Bourne Close on 16th February proved a great success and thanks to all those who came along to support the day and also to Wychavon Council for supplying the blackthorn whips. We achieved some good publicity with a live interview on Radio Hereford & Worcester on the morning of the event and a photo and article in the Evesham Observer 22nd Feb edition (www.eveshamobserver.co.uk/paper/). It was great to have the opportunity to promote the conservation of the Brown Hairstreak in this way and we were pleased to welcome several local residents to help with the planting. Despite some very soggy ground conditions, the extra help meant that all 140 whips were planted by lunchtime and we were able to spend a little time afterwards searching for eggs in the vicinity. The good news was that we found eggs within about 200 metres of Bourne Close and it will be interesting to see how long it will be before the site is colonised by the Brown Hairstreak. As they say, watch this space.
Recent weeks have seen the Thursday Streakers adding further to our ongoing survey of the fields around Grafton Wood with the running total fast approaching 600. On 21st Feb, by way of a change, we headed in the Redditch direction and looked for eggs around a suspected assembly tree SW of the town. This proved very productive finding almost 40 eggs very close to the tree where an adult was seen last autumn. Over the last couple of years, we have been getting much more of a feel for the characteristics of the trees used by Brown Hairstreaks and we were able to share some of our preliminary findings with other Brown Hairstreak enthusiasts at a workshop organised by Butterfly Conservation near Taunton last month. The aim of the workshop was to develop a standardised way of monitoring Brown Hairstreak eggs and it was good to be able to contribute to this based on our long experience at Grafton Wood. The new methodology will enable records to be fed into the national Butterfly Monitoring Scheme which up to now has only been able to receive data based on adult sightings which we know is not a good measure of how the butterfly is faring. Gill Thompson produced a flyer promoting the Ash Brownies blog site which she distributed at the event. This site is already attracting a lot of interest and is highly recommended to all those interested in "the brown one". Please do think about joining if you are not already a member and forward the attached flyer to anyone you think may be interested.
An important aspect of our work over the winter months is to encourage successful application to Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) by looking for eggs on farms thinking about applying. In recent weeks, the Thursday Streakers have looked at two candidate farms for HLS and hopefully our egg data will assist in the selection of hedgerows to be managed on rotatation. The current HLS scheme finishes at the end of the year and the future of agri-environment schemes is under review. Butterfly Conservation nationally is involved in the review process and we have been able to make a useful contribution to this from our experience locally. In the past we have been critical of some aspects of the delivery of agri-environment schemes especially the Entry Level Scheme (ELS) but there is no doubt that the Brown Hairstreak in Worcs has benefitted, particularly through farms entering HLS, and we hope that this will continue. With further fine tuning, better targeting and monitoring, the scheme could bring further gains for wildlife but unfortunately some of the latest news emanating from Brussels with regard to the wider reform of the Common Agricultural Policy does not fill one with optimism. Martin Warren, the Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation, has recently urged members, friends and supporters to contact their MEP over this issue and I hope readers of this ebulletin will do likewise.
With spring just around the corner (although by the sound of the weather forecast we may see a bit more winter first!) the egging season is drawing to a close. I am off on holiday for the rest of the month but Simon Primrose will be co-ordinating Thursday egg hunts in my absence so do contact him if you are interested in joining in (email: email@example.com). Simon is also looking for further volunteers to help in this year's Big Ash Bash which will take place over the summer.
Brown Hairstreak Species Champion,
West Midlands Butterfly Conservation