Exciting Update About Brown Hairstreak Butterflies
 Late Summer 2020

 Jean Cheesman

After two days of searching we finally found the elusive Brown Hairstreak butterfly at the Westcombe Reserve! I was just getting ready to photograph the two eggs that I had found on the Blackthorn stem when she appeared at my side!

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Brown Hairstreak eggs on Blackthorn
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The Beautiful but Elusive Adult

Butterfly conservation statistics state that the Brown hairstreak has declined in the UK (where it is only found in some southern areas) by 49% since the 1970s. Because it emerges late and lays its eggs on the new young growth of Blackthorn, it is particularly susceptible to over zealous hedge trimming. Our decision to leave much of the Blackthorn uncut each year is obviously paying off! We are delighted to know that they are still here and thankful to Jean and Dudley for their diligent searching!

Other Butterflies seen at the reserve this summer include Orange-tip, Red Admiral, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Marbled White, Holly Blue, Brimstone, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell.

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Wildflowers in the Meadows

Wildflower meadows are one of the country's most depleted habitats. Over 90% have been lost. Our meadows offer a precious reminder of how diverse and beautiful the countryside was before the industrialisation of farming.

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Primroses, Cowslips and False Oxlip are abundant in spring. 

Early purple, Pyramidal and Common spotted Orchids pop up in the meadows along with Birds-foot Trefoils, Clovers, Knapweeds, Vetches etc. etc.

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Common Centaury

Centaurium erythraea

Pyramidal Orchid

Anacamptis pyramidalis

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Goat's-beard

Tragopogon pratensis

Also known as Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon, Showy Goat’s-beard, Shepherd’s clock, Meadow Salsify, Oyster Plant

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Common Broomrape

Orobanche minor

A parasitic plant that produces no Chlorophyll but derives its nutrients from the roots of other plants.

Weird and Wonderful

As well as admiring the flying birds, bees and butterflies, it's always worth looking down into the grass. All sorts of fascinating things could be lurking there!

Glow worm

There is plenty of night-time activity on the reserve. Owls, badgers, foxes, bats and even glow worms are about but they are not easy to photograph!

Glow Worm

Not a worm but an insect. Female glow worms are flightless and glow to attract the male. Like much of our native fauna, glow worms are under threat so we are delighted that we have them on the site.

Great green Bush Cricket
Great Green Bush Cricket
Swollen-thighed beetle
Swollen-thighed Beetle

Bumblebees

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In the summer months the meadows are abuzz with insects. Yearly surveys by John and Alan, volunteers with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, have found all 7 common bumblebee species -

Red-tailed, White-tailed, Buff-tailed, Early, Garden, Common Carder and Tree Bumblebee - as well as cuckoo bumblebees and honey bees. Our dream is to find the elusive Shrill Carder Bee, nationally very rare but found not too far from us at Lytes Cary. How wonderful that would bee!

Surveying the small meadow
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Common Carder Bumblebee
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Red-tailed Bumblebee
2011

Slow Worms

Summer 2011 offered an exciting opportunity for enhancing our wildlife credentials when we were approached by environmental surveyor Lee Bullingham-Taylor to accept a colony of slow-worms found on a development site in nearby Somerton.

In all, over 160 of the reptiles were relocated and four hibernacula were built by volunteers to provide suitable overwintering shelters.

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Early Spring

from Roger Musgrove

Three visits on Feb 11th, March 13th and 30th. As expected not much to report although on Feb 11th a roving party of Blue and Great Tits on the edge of the copse around the large meadow contained Marsh and Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Goldcrest. On March 13th six Bullfinches were present around the entrance to the site and both Blackbird and Song Thrush were singing. More to see and hear on the 30th with a lot more birds in song including Blackbird, Song Thrush, Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. Overhead several Buzzards soared and called, a female Sparrowhawk zipped through but the real sign of spring was the sight of two Sand Martins heading north-west over the reserve

Late Summer 

from Roger Musgrove

Two brief visits in July and August were as expected fairly quiet on the bird front all the usual suspects were around Blackbirds, Nuthatch, Whitethroat etc, but a Spotted Flycatcher on August 4th was a bird I had expected to see but had failed to locate so far. We will never know whether it was a local breeder or an early returning migrant. A slightly longer visit on September 27th turned up several sightings of Hobby a bird which probably breeds fairly close to the reserve and a distant Peregrine over Somerton Moor. A small mixed tit flock on the woodland edge held a single Goldcrest and two Chiffchaffs while at least two Blackcaps were seen nearby. Plenty of Swallow and House Martin activity overhead involving several hundred at one point, probably local breeders gearing up ready for their journey south.

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Treecreeper

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Blue Tit

Bird Sightings 2010
2009

Brown Hairstreak eggs

A visit by local butterfly experts Jean and Dudley Cheesman early in 2009 confirmed the presence of eggs of the elusive Brown Hairstreak butterfly. The eggs are hard to spot but, apparently, easier to find than the adults themselves. These butterflies emerge late in the year laying their eggs on young Blackthorn growth. Over zealous hedge trimming then is something to be avoided, and we will need to consider leaving areas of blackthorn untouched each year.

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