Egg search in Sussex

Nature lovers are scouring Brighton in an egg-hunt with a difference.

The elusive Brown Hairstreak - a nationally scarce species which has suffered a dramatic decline in numbers over the last decade - was last year spotted in the city at Patcham.

Now Brighton & Hove City Council's countryside rangers and butterfly experts want to find out if the species is breeding in other parts of the city as well.

As a result they are organising hunts at six different locations on the weekend of February 25th and 26th for adults and children to search for the eggs of the Brown Hairstreak - which are easier to spot than the butterfly itself.

The aim is to discover just how far the range of the butterfly extends and help to extend it further by providing information on steps to encourage the Brown Hairstreak by providing suitable habitats.

Councillor Pete West from Brighton & Hove City Council, said: "Winter may seem a strange time to look for a butterfly, but in the case of the Brown Hairstreak the adults are so elusive, spending most of their lives in the tops of trees and bushes where it is hard to see them, that it is easier to find the eggs. These are laid on blackthorn twigs and children are particularly good at spotting them!

"We hope people of all ages will join in the hunts, they promise to be a great way of finding out more about wildlife on our doorstep."

Dr Dan Danahar, Conservation officer for the Sussex branch of Butterfly Conservation and a local teacher, added: "Butterfly Conservation is delighted that Brighton & Hove's Countryside Rangers are organising a hunt to look for the eggs of the Brown Hairstreak butterfly.

"This is a nationally scare butterfly species which has shown a decline of 40% over the last ten years. It spends the majority of its adult life in the canopies of trees, where it is difficult to observe but it passes the winter as a conspicuous white egg on Blackthorn bushes."

The butterfly lays its eggs in young blackthorn bushes in sheltered sites, in sunny aspects, so measures such as cutting back old blackthorn to create new growth, and sheltered spaces, can help to provide a suitable habitat.