The eggs of a rare butterfly, considered threatened by habitat destruction in England, have been spotted in significant numbers in Oxfordshire.

A group of 15 nature lovers made the discovery at the start of this year during a four-hour search.

The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) staff and volunteers battled through icy weather to locate these small, ball-bearing-sized eggs.

Oxford Mail: The BBOWT egg count at Leaches FarmThe BBOWT egg count at Leaches Farm (Image: Hayley Beck)

The group used powerful magnifying glasses to search through the thorny undergrowth of blackthorn at Leaches Farm and nearby Ludgershall Meadows, near Bicester.

They found 219 of the white eggs during their outing.

In 2016, a similar expedition at these sites yielded only 39 eggs, which was the last time BBOWT had searched for these eggs.

The insects prefer to lay their eggs in thorny hedgerows which the trust creates and maintains but the number of eggs can greatly fluctuate from year to year due to various reasons including the weather.

Despite the unpredictability, the trust sees the 2024 total as a victory for wildlife.

Colin Williams, senior ecology officer at BBOWT, said: "This is a really brilliant result, especially for the members of our team who spent four hours hunting for eggs in the freezing cold this week.

"We are currently living through a nature and climate crisis, and the numbers of so many of our beloved species are declining across the UK, especially butterflies."

Oxford Mail: A brown hairstreak butterfly eggA brown hairstreak butterfly egg (Image: Hayley Beck)

He added: "The hedgerow habitat at these sites, like the habitats at all our nature reserves, is painstakingly maintained by our staff and our amazing, dedicated volunteers, and the fact that we counted more than 200 hairstreak eggs this week is absolutely a testament to their brilliant work.

"We'd like to thank all our staff and volunteers for the invaluable work they do which makes a real difference to our local wildlife."

Last summer, volunteers counted a record 303 glow worms at the charity's Whitecross Green Wood reserve, near Bicester.

The same site saw the rare southern migrant hawker dragonfly breeding in a new pond - the first time the species has ever been recorded breeding in Oxfordshire.

With climate change, habitat loss, and pollution posing severe threats to many species, the trust attributes their record results to the excellent work of its staff and volunteers in creating and maintaining important wildlife habitat.

The trust launched its biggest-ever appeal in September, The Nature Recovery Fund.

The fund aims to raise £3 million in three years to help tackle the growing nature and climate crisis.

For more information visit the BBOWT website.