Natural History Diary : July 2019
Monday 15th July
Cloudy again in the morning, but the sun eventually came out, so I headed over to Lardon Chase in the afternoon. The most unexpected sighting was of a Purple Emperor, which flew up the slope and disappeared behind the trees at the top. Not sure where that had come from! Today's target species was the Chalk Hill Blue, and I counted at least eighty males in about an hour, including five who were feasting on some animal excrement. I also saw ten Peacocks, five Brimstones, ten Gatekeepers and a dozen Marbled Whites. There were a few Common Blues, two Small Coppers and one Brown Argus, but no Small Blues. No Small Heaths either, but Meadow Browns were numerous; most were looking rather faded.
Chalk Hill Blue ♂, Lardon Chase, 15-Jul
Chalk Hill Blue ♂, Lardon Chase, 15-Jul
Peacock, Lardon Chase, 15-Jul
Chalk Hill Blue ♂ | Lardon Chase Chalk Hill Blue ♂ | Lardon Chase Peacock | Lardon Chase
Sunday 14th July
Mostly cloudy again today, but a couple of Gatekeepers were active in the garden when the sun did come out.
Saturday 13th July
Another mostly cloudy day. However there was still quite a lot of activity at the allotment. I saw at least six Essex Skippers and five Gatekeepers. In the garden I saw a Meadow Brown, two Gatekeepers, a Holly Blue and a Hornet Hoverfly.
Hornet Hoverfly, Abingdon, 13-Jul
   
Hornet Hoverfly | Abingdon    
Friday 12th July
Another trip to Bernwood Forest this morning. I was rewarded by having a grounded Purple Emperor all to myself in the car park! It didn't hang around for long, though. The next two hours were spent looking for more, but only one was seen flying around the tree tops. Otherwise, species were much the same as last time, with the addition of a summer-brood Peacock and a summer-brood Brimstone. I had a great view of a pristine valezina Silver-washed Fritillary, but if flew off before I could get a picture. I saw my first Southern Hawker of the year here.
I headed to Whitecross Green Wood, where I saw another Purple Emperor flying round a sallow on the main east-west ride. Species here were pretty much the same as at Bernwood, with the addition of a rather worn Dark Green Fritillary. There were at least five Emperor Dragonflies about, as well as four Brown Hawkers and two Southern Hawkers. I also saw my first Silver Y of the year.
Back at home there were two Gatekeepers in the garden (male and female), and a Holly Blue.
Purple Emperor ♂, Bernwood Forest, 12-Jul
Silver-washed Fritillary ♀, Bernwood Forest, 12-Jul
Dark Green Fritillary ♂, Whitecross Green Wood, 12-Jul
Purple Emperor ♂ | Bernwood Forest Silver-washed Fritillary ♀ | Bernwood Forest Dark Green Fritillary ♂ | Whitecross Green Wood
Southern Hawker imm. ♂, Whitecross Green Wood, 12-Jul
Emperor Dragonfly imm. ♂, Whitecross Green Wood, 12-Jul
Gatekeeper ♀, Abingdon, 12-Jul
Southern Hawker imm. ♂ | Whitecross Green Wood Emperor Dragonfly imm. ♂ | Whitecross Green Wood Gatekeeper ♀ | Abingdon
Thursday 11th July
A visit to the allotment around mid-day today didn't turn up anything new, except that a Comma was nectaring on marjoram flowers. In the garden I saw a Red Admiral and a Gatekeeper.
In the afternoon I visited Orchard Lake, mainly looking for dragonflies. I saw a Comma, some Meadow Browns and Common Blue Damselflies as I walked along the cycle track. I spotted a Variable Longhorn Beetle on a mophead. A fresh male Brimstone tried to hide in the vegetation. At the lake shore I saw several Ruddy Darters and Black-tailed Skimmers; both species were numerous. There were also a few Red-eyed Damselflies and a Red Admiral there.
Variable Longhorn Beetle, Radley Lakes, 11-Jul
Brimstone ♂, Radley Lakes, 11-Jul
Ruddy Darter ♂, Radley Lakes, 11-Jul
Variable Longhorn Beetle | Radley Lakes Brimstone ♂ | Radley Lakes Ruddy Darter ♂ | Radley Lakes
I walked slowly along the bank, and eventually I spotted a female Common Spreadwing and then a male. I saw five altogether. There were lots of Blue-tailed Damselflies here, with some pairs in cop. An Emperor Dragonfly was patrolling over the reed bed. I only found one macro-moth, which was a Shaded Broad-bar
Common Spreadwing ♀, Radley Lakes, 11-Jul
Common Spreadwing ♂, Radley Lakes, 11-Jul
Shaded Broad-bar, Radley Lakes, 11-Jul
Common Spreadwing ♀ | Radley Lakes Common Spreadwing ♂ | Radley Lakes Shaded Broad-bar | Radley Lakes
A bit further on I found a Black-tailed Skimmer perched on a reed stem, which isn't something they usually do. There were more Red-eyed Damselflies here, but they were quite wary. A couple of Four-spotted Chasers were patrolling the bank, and occasionally clashing with each other. I spotted my first summer-brood Peacock, but it was quite hard to approach. I was surprised to see what looked like a fairly large Common Carp in the shallows. It swam slowly around for a while, before disappearing back into the (relative) depths. I spotted a shoal of small Perch as well. I walked back along the track, where a number of Black-tailed Skimmers were basking, but they were hard to approach. There were quite a few Gatekeepers fluttering around the vegetation. Back at the beach I saw a group of three Small Whites and one Green-veined White mud-puddling (which shows how dry it is at the moment). As I got back to the cycle track I saw a Brown Hawker (earlier I'd found a Brown Hawker exuvia).
After dark I found an Old Lady moth in the garden.
Black-tailed Skimmer ♂, Radley Lakes, 11-Jul
Peacock, Radley Lakes, 11-Jul
Mud-puddling Whites, Radley Lakes, 11-Jul
Black-tailed Skimmer ♂ | Radley Lakes Peacock | Radley Lakes Mud-puddling Whites | Radley Lakes
Wednesday 10th July
A sunnier day than yesterday, with more of a breeze. I led an Abingdon Naturalists field trip to Aston Upthorpe Downs. On arrival there were several birds near the garin drier: Swallows, a pair of Pied Wagtails that were nesting inside the building, three Goldfinches and two Chiffchaffs. A Whitethroat was singing. There were some butterflies in the area east of the track: Large White, Meadow Brown, Large Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma. The recovery of the area that was devastated last year was amazing! There were masses of thistles, knapweeds and other nectar sources. At the start of this area a fresh-looking Red Admiral was seen, the first of at least six. As we continued towards Juniper Valley we saw Ringlets, Small Whites, Marbled Whites, Small Skippers, Small Heath and Gatekeeper There were at least six pretty faded Painted Ladies, mostly feeding on knapweeds. I saw one PL lay an egg on a thistle. There wasn't a lot in Juniper Valley apart from Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites, but I saw at least three Dark Green Fritillaries (flying very fast as per usual), three second-brood Common Blues, two Brimstones and a Brown Argus (but no Chalk Hill Blues). There weren't many moths; all I saw were three Cinnabar adults, and there were larvae on some Ragwort plants. I saw a Brown Hawker as we were walking back to the grain drier.
Later at the allotment I saw at least eleven Essex Skippers, three Small Tortoiseshells, Large and Small Whites, and some Marbled Whites. The most surprising sighting was on a Green-veined White taking liquid from the ground where I'd been watering.
Common Blue ♂, Aston Upthorpe Downs, 10-Jul
Essex Skipper ♀, Abingdon, 10-Jul
Green-veined White, Abingdon, 10-Jul
Common Blue ♂ | Aston Upthorpe Downs Essex Skipper ♀ | Abingdon Green-veined White | Abingdon
Tuesday 9th July
Another mostly cloudy day, with little sunshine. However there was some butterfly activity at the allotment: I saw two Small Tortoiseshells, two Essex Skippers, two Small Whites and a Ringlet. Later I saw my first garden Gatekeeper of the year, and another Holly Blue.
Monday 8th July
A mostly cloudy and warm day. I took part in the latest survey on the MoD land at Otmoor. Marbled Whites were present in huge numbers - probably over 400. Meadow Browns and Ringlets were also numerous, both easily into three figures. There were quite a few Large Skippers and Small Skippers, around sixteen Purple Hairstreaks, four Large Whites, three Gatekeeper, three Comma, and singletons of Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Copper and Green-veined Whites. The most surprising sighting was of a very late Black Hairstreak. Macro moths seen were a Yellow-tail and a worn Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet. Dragonflies were four Brown Hawkers, around twenty Ruddy Darters (some in full adult colours) and one male Beautiful Demoiselle. An interesting sighting was of a group of four Roesel's Bush Crickets. The pair of Curlew also put in an appearance.
Meadow Brown ♀, Otmoor, 08-Jul
Ringlet, Otmoor, 08-Jul
Black Hairstreak ♀, Otmoor, 08-Jul
Meadow Brown ♀ | Otmoor Ringlet | Otmoor Black Hairstreak ♀ | Otmoor
Large Skippers, Otmoor, 08-Jul
Roesel's Bush-cricket ♂, Otmoor, 08-Jul
Painted Lady ♀, Bernwood Forest, 08-Jul
Large Skippers | Otmoor Roesel's Bush-cricket ♂ | Otmoor Painted Lady ♀ | Bernwood Forest
I relocated to Bernwood Forest. Most of the action was down by the meadows, where a rather worn female Painted Lady was busy laying eggs on thistles. Again there were lots of Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns and Ringlets. I saw three Purple Hairstreaks, two White Admirals, around a dozen Silver-washed Fritillaries, a pristine Red Admiral, and eventually a Purple Emperor. As last week, HIM didn't oblige by coming down to the ground. The third stop of the day was at Bernwood Meadows, which were alive with butterflies. Apart from the grassland species I saw one Purple Hairstreak, three Small Skippers, thirteen Silver-washed Fritillaries (including a pair in cop), and two Commas.
At home in the garden I saw a Large White, a Red Admiral and my first summer brood Holly Blue.
Small Skipper ♂, Bernwood Meadows, 08-Jul
Silver-washed Fritillary ♂, Bernwood Meadows, 08-Jul
Comma, Bernwood Meadows, 08-Jul
Small Skipper ♀ | Bernwood Meadows Silver-washed Fritillary ♂ | Bernwood Meadows Comma | Bernwood Meadows
Sunday 7th July
After a cloudy morning the sun came out this afternoon. I spent longer than usual looking for butterflies at the allotment, and found my first Gatekeepers of the year. I also saw at least six Essex Skippers, two Large Skippers, ten Small Tortoiseshells, at least six Small Whites, one Comma, one Ringlet and ten Marbled Whites. When I got home I found a Small Tortoiseshell and a Red Admiral nectaring oh Hebe flowers. In the evening at least a dozen Swifts were flying around near my house.
Gatekeeper ♂, Abingdon, 07-Jul
Small Tortoiseshell, Abingdon, 07-Jul
Essex Skipper ♂, Abingdon, 07-Jul
Gatekeeper ♂ | Abingdon Small Tortoiseshell | Abingdon Essex Skipper ♂ | Abingdon
Saturday 6th July
A cloudy day, which didn't do much for butterflies. I saw two Essex Skippers and two Small Whites at the allotment in the morning. There is still no sign of any Gatekeepers.
Friday 5th July
A female Green-veined White was inspecting egg-laying plants in the garden this afternoon. In the evening I saw one Essex Skipper and three Meadow Browns at the allotment.
Thursday 4th July
I went to Bernwood again. It was much sunnier than yesterday. I got there early enough to see some Purple Hairstreaks coming down to the ground to imbibe dew. Species were much the same as yesterday, except that I saw a Speckled Wood and a Comma. The White Admiral count went up to four. Purple Emperors remained elusive; I had a brief glimpse of one oak-edging the car park oaks. There weren't many birds about but I did spot a Marsh Tit foraging in one of the oaks. A female Beautiful Demoiselle also put in an appearance.
After an unexpected diversion to Eynsham, I visited Dry Sandford Pit and Parsonage Moor on the way home. I looked for White-letter Hairstreaks at the pit, but again couldn't find any. There were quite a few Ringlets and Marbled Whites and Meadow Browns about, plus at least four Commas and a Small Heath. On the dragonfly front I saw a Brown Hawker, a Broad-bodied Chaser and five Keeled Skimmers (one was obelisking; I'd never seen a Keeled Skimmer doing this before).
I walked down the footpath to Parsonage Moor. On entering the reserve I flushed two juvenile Song Thrushes, and saw a female Pheasant with at least two youngsters in tow. Near the end of the boardwalk four female Broad-bodied Chasers were perched in the reeds. I disturbed six Small Whites which were mud-puddling. Along the small stream I saw five Southern Damselflies, one female Small Red Damselfly (but no males), and at least six Keeled Skimmers (including one pair in cop).
Purple Hairstreak ♂, Bernwood Forest, 04-Jul
Keeled Skimmer ♂, Dry Sandford Pit, 04-Jul
Small Red Damselfly ♀, Parsonage Moor, 04-Jul
Purple Hairstreak ♂ | Bernwood Forest Keeled Skimmer ♂ | Dry Sandford Pit Small Red Damselfly ♀ | Parsonage Moor
Wednesday 3rd July
I visited Bernwood again today. Bramble flowers were in demand from a White Admiral, lots of Silver-washed Fritillaries, Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Large Skippers. There was quite a lot of cloud, so activity was in fits and starts. I saw my first second-brood Green-veined White of the year, three Purple Hairstreaks, two Small Skippers and three Six-spot Burnets. Finally, at 11:45am, a Purple Emperor descended to the track near the car park, but it didn't hang around for long.
In the garden I saw a Comma, two Large Whites and a Red Admiral. In the evening I saw two Essex Skippers, a Comma and a Scarlet Tiger at the allotment.
Silver-washed Fritillary ♂, Bernwood Forest, 03-Jul
Silver-washed Fritillary ♀, Bernwood Forest, 03-Jul
White Admiral, Bernwood Forest, 03-Jul
Silver-washed Fritillary ♂ | Bernwood Forest Silver-washed Fritillary ♀ | Bernwood Forest White Admiral ♂ | Bernwood Forest
Six-spot Burnet, Bernwood Forest, 03-Jul
Small Skipper ♂, Bernwood Forest, 03-Jul
Essex Skipper, Abingdon, 03-Jul
Six-spot Burnet | Bernwood Forest Small Skipper ♂ | Bernwood Forest Essex Skipper ♂ | Abingdon
Tuesday 2nd July
Sightings today were one Small Tortoiseshell in the garden, a Hummingbird-Hawkmoth in Eynsham, and two Small Tortoiseshells at the allotment.