Natural History Diary : July 2018
Tuesday 31st July
I went to Whitecross Green Wood this morning. Ruddy Darter and Migrant Hawker were quite numerous, but I only saw a few Common Darters, one Emperor Dragonfly, one Southern Hawker and three Brown Hawkers. The only Migrant Hawker which landed had a bent abdomen. The usual butterflies were present, with Common Blue being the most numerous species. There were still a few Silver-washed Fritillaries about, all looking quite tired. I saw folur Small Coppers. As I searched oak trees, I found at least seven Purple Hairstreaks, and finally a single male Brown Hairstreak. On the bird front I saw a Bullfinch, Jay and Raven.
Small Copper, Whitecross Green Wood, 31-Jul
Ruddy Darter, Whitecross Green Wood, 31-Jul
Migrant Hawker, Whitecross Green Wood, 31-Jul
Small Copper | Whitecross Green Wood Ruddy Darter | Whitecross Green Wood Migrant Hawker | Whitecross Green Wood
After two hours, I relocated to Otmoor, which was extremely dry. I walked along the old roman road. There were loads of Ruddy Darters about, but only a few Common Darters and no Migrant Hawkers. I found a female Common Spreadwing. The usual butterfly species were present, including four Commas, five Speckled Woods, a Small Copper and a fresh Small Tortoiseshell. Strangely I couldn't find any Purple Hairstreaks, but eventually I saw a male Brown Hairstreak nectaring on bramble (there was precious little else in the way of nectar sources). I saw a Treecreeper along the roman road, an a Little Egret on Greenaways.
At the allotment I saw a male Brimstone, and there were two Holly Blues in the garden.
Southern Hawker, Otmoor, 31-Jul
Brown Hairstreak, Otmoor, 31-Jul
Southern Hawker, Otmoor, 31-Jul
Southern Hawker | Otmoor Brown Hairstreak ♂ | Otmoor Small Tortoiseshell | Otmoor
Monday 30th July
Still pretty cloudy this morning. I saw a Gatekeeper and the usual whites at the allotment, and two Green-veined Whites, two Holly Blues, a Migrant Hawker and an immature Southern Hawker in the garden.
Southern Hawker, Abingdon, 30-Jul
Southern Hawker | Abingdon    
Sunday 29th July
A dull but warm afternoon after a wet morning. I found a very worn Holly Blue in the garden, nectaring on Echinops flowers. A Hornet Hoverfly was doing the same.
Hornet Hoverfly, Abingdon, 29-Jul
Hornet Hoverfly | Abingdon    
Friday 27th July
This morning I found a Common Blue and two Gatekeepers at the allotment.
Thursday 26th July
Back in the UK. I could only find a Gatekeeper and a Meadow Brown at the allotment, and a Red Admiral and Holly Blue in the garden. A Migrant Hawker was patrolling the airspace for a while, but it didn't land.
Wednesday 25th July
The moth trap produced a Grey Daggar, a Ruby Tiger and a Small Elephant Hawkmoth. Before we departed I walked down the lane south of the hotel and found a Scarce Swallowtail and an Arran Brown. A Red Admiral and a Hummingbird-Hawkmoth saw us off. The first stop was at a memorial at Valchevrière, where we saw a Crested Tit and a distant Golden Eagle.
Grey Daggar, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 25-Jul
Small Elephant Hawkmoth, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 25-Jul
Ruby Tiger, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 25-Jul
Grey Daggar | La Chapelle-en-Vercors Small Elephant Hawkmoth | La Chapelle-en-Vercors Ruby Tiger | La Chapelle-en-Vercors
As we were driving to the next stop a Red Squirrel crossed the road in front of us, and a Black Kite was seen flying. We stopped at a quite lane north of Le Mas, where a number of Silver-washed Fritillaries were nectaring on Dwarf Elder. A White-letter Hairstreak, a Heath Fritillary and a Jersey Tiger were among them. Up the hill a bit I saw an Apollo and a pair of Great Sooty Satyrs. Further up the lane we found some fresh Provencal Chalk Hill Blues taking minerals from an old salt block. Also seen in the area were a Niobe Fritillary, Wood White and Southern Small White. At the farm at the end of the lane we saw a family of Red-backed Shrikes and also a Black Redstart.
At a motorway rest area on the way back to the airport we had Pearly Heath, Scarce Swallowtail, Large Blue and Sooty Copper.
Jersey Tiger, Ruisseau de Chasau, 25-Jul
Great Sooty Satyr, Ruisseau de Chasau, 25-Jul
Provencal Chalk Hill Blue, Ruisseau de Chasau, 25-Jul
Jersey Tiger | Ruisseau de Chasau Great Sooty Satyr | Ruisseau de Chasau Provencal Chalk Hill Blue | Ruisseau de Chasau
Tuesday 24th July
There was no moth trap this morning, as we needed to get away earlier than usual to reach the cablecar station at Villard de Lans. The principal objective was to make a day-long visit up towards the Pas de l'Œille. The cablecar reached an altitude of 1720m - real montane country. We started walking along the ridge. A pair of Citril Finches was spotted feeding on the ground, and we saw several more during the day. There were quite a few Common Brassy Ringlets, Arran Browns and False Heath Fritillaries about. In a sheltered depression we found Scotch Argus, Escher's Blue and Geranium Argus. Both Mountain and Moorland Clouded Yellows were spotted. Some of the latter stopped to feed or bask.
Escher's Blue, Pas de l'Oeille, 24-Jul
False Heath Fritillary, Pas de l'Oeille, 24-Jul
Moorland Clouded Yellow, Pas de l'Oeille, 24-Jul
Escher's Blue | Pas de l'Oeille False Heath Fritillary | Pas de l'Oeille Moorland Clouded Yellow | Pas de l'Oeille
There were three ringlets which caused some identification problems. Eventually we decided that we'd seen the Eriphyle Ringlet, the Lesser Mountain Ringlet and the Blind Ringlet. We heard an Alpine Marmot calling, and spotted him sitting on a rock.
Alpine Marmot, Pas de l'Oeille, 24-Jul
Geranium Argus, Pas de l'Oeille, 24-Jul
Eriphyle Ringlet, Pas de l'Oeille, 24-Jul
Alpine Marmot | Pas de l'Oeille Geranium Argus ♂ | Pas de l'Oeille Eriphyle Ringlet | Pas de l'Oeille
A Carline Skipper was a nice find after lunch. We also found a Marbled Skipper and a Painted Lady as we retraced our route along the ridgeline. Finally (at last!) I found a couple of Mountain Ringlets on the slope leading back to the cable car. One was even pursuaded to open its wings.
Back at he hotel (earlier than usual) I found a Silver-washed Fritillary, a Small Tortoiseshell and a Scarlet Tiger nectaring on a buddleia. There were also a couple of Common Blue Damselflies sitting on the emergent vegetation at the edge of the pond/swimming pool.
Carline Skipper, Pas de l'Oeille, 24-Jul
Mallow Skipper, Pas de l'Oeille, 24-Jul
Mountain Ringlet, Pas de l'Oeille, 24-Jul
Carline Skipper | Pas de l'Oeille Mallow Skipper | Pas de l'Oeille Mountain Ringlet | Pas de l'Oeille
Monday 23rd July
The moth trap produced Black Arches, Chocolate-tip, White Point, Blood-vein, Guernsey Underwing and Purple Thorn, among others. At breakfast a Great Banded Grayling perched on the hotel's porch for some time, and a very tired Ringlet flopped onto the breakfast table.
Black Arches, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 23-Jul
Purple Thorn, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 23-Jul
Great Banded Grayling, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 23-Jul
Black Arches | La Chapelle-en-Vercors Purple Thorn | La Chapelle-en-Vercors Great Banded Grayling | La Chapelle-en-Vercors
We headed south today, over a very windy Col de la Bataille. We stopped south of La Chaffal to explore a lane, which opened out into an alfalfa field. Here we had Lulworth Skipper, Oberthür's Grizzled Skipper, Mazarine Blue, Grison's Fritillary, Pale Clouded Yellow and Clouded Yellow. There was also a Hummingbird-hawkmoth.
Lulworth Skipper, La Chaffal, 23-Jul
Oberthür's Grizzled Skipper, La Chaffal, 23-Jul
Mazarine Blue, La Chaffal, 23-Jul
Lulworth Skipper | La Chaffal Great Banded Grayling | La Chaffal Mazarine Blue | La Chaffal
We continued further south to an area of scubby woodland next to an alfalfa field. I saw my first dragonflies of the trip here: several Emperor Dragonflies. The alfalfa looked desiccated, but its flowers attracted Clouded Yellow, Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail, Wall Brown, Pale Clouded Yellow, Woodland Grayling, Painted Lady, Silver-washed Fritillary and Queen of Spain Fritillary. A solitary Silver-spotted Skipper was seen taking liquid from a dung heap. After lunch I watched a Scarce Swallowtail laying eggs on a St Lucy's Cherry. Cicadas were very loud; after a careful search I located one on the trunk of an oak tree - it was incredibly well camouflaged. An exporation of the area south of the road turned up a Black-tailed Skimmer (which caught a butterfly), a Dingy Skipper, several Spotted Fritillaries and a Lesser Spotted Fritillary.
We headed back north to a bit of wasteland near Beaufort-sur-Gevanne, where a Cleopatra and a Red-underwing Skipper were found. Then it was back up to the Col de la Bataille, where an exploration of the roadside verges just before the tunnel didn't turn up very much of interest.
Queen of Spain Fritillary, Gigors, 23-Jul
Spotted Fritillary, Gigors, 23-Jul
Cicada, Gigors, 23-Jul
Queen of Spain Fritillary | Gigors Spotted Fritillary | Gigors Cicada | Gigors
Sunday 22nd July
The moth trap was back in action overnight. Selected species were Green Arches, Black Arches, Brown-line Bright-eye, Guernsey Underwing, Chocolate-tip, Brimstone Moth and Common Footman. I saw a Black Redstart and a Goldcrest.
Green Arches, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 22-Jul
Brown-line Bright-eye, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 22-Jul
Common Footman, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 22-Jul
Green Arches | La Chapelle-en-Vercors Brown-line Bright-eye | La Chapelle-en-Vercors Common Footman | La Chapelle-en-Vercors
We had quite a long drive to La Molière. The car park was already quite full when we got there at about 10:30. We walked up the track through woodland. There wasn't a great deal to see (it was quite windy and not too warm at 1625m), but when we got out into the more open area there were more butterflies about, including Apollo, Large Grizzled Skipper, Titania's Fritillary, Common Brassy Ringlet and Mountain Clouded Yellow. A couple of new blues were found: Chalk Hill Blue and Damon Blue. Coming back down the slope I spotted a butterfly I'd been after for ages: a Large Tortoiseshell! It was basking on a large thistle. Also in the same area I saw a Swallowtail and also Oberthür's Grizzled Skipper. A flock of around thirty Alpine Chough flew past.
Damon Blue, La Molière, 22-Jul
Large Tortoiseshell, La Molière, 22-Jul
Swallowtail, La Molière, 22-Jul
Damon Blue | La Molière Large Tortoiseshell | La Molière Swallowtail | La Molière
Lunch was taken in the nearby Forêt Communale d'Autrans, where there wasn't much to see. We did hear Crested Tits calling though. After lunch a roadside verge turned up Twayblade, Fragrant Orchid and Dark Red Helleborine, and a Black Kite was seen overhead. A stop at a wet meadow at Belle Combe produced Grison's Fritillary and Meadow Fritillary. Finally we stopped at a wetland area near Les Bruyères, where we tried to find a Marsh Warbler, but without success. There were a number of Marsh Frogs in the pond. Despite a fast-flowing stream running through the area, there were no Odonata to be found.
Grison's Fritillary, Forêt Communale d'Autrans, 22-Jul
Meadow Fritillary, Belle Combe, 22-Jul
Marsh Frog, La Bruyeres, 22-Jul
Grison's Fritillary | Forêt Communale d'Autrans Meadow Fritillary | Belle Combe Marsh Frog | Les Bruyères
Saturday 21st July
The moth trap hadn't been run overnight because of rain on Friday evening. After breakfast we headed west towards the Route de Presles. At the first stop we explored the banks and meadows beside a quiet lane. Species seen here were Woodland Grayling, Large Blue, Berger's Clouded Yellow and Scarce Swallowtail. A second stop by the roadside produced quite a few Silver-washed Fritillaries and also our first High Brown Fritillary of the week.
Woodland Grayling, Route de Presles, 21-Jul
Berger's Clouded Yellow, Route de Presles, 21-Jul
High Brown Fritillary, Route de Presles, 21-Jul
Woodland Grayling | Route de Presles Berger's Clouded Yellow | Route de Presles High Brown Fritillary | Route de Presles
The next stop was in the Forêt Domaniale des Coulmes, where we explored a woodland-fringed meadow. This produced a good range of species including White Admiral, Ilex Hairstreak, Marbled Fritillary, Essex Skipper, a Painted Lady caterpillar, Woodland Brown and White-letter Hairstreak (previous Woodland Browns I've seen were very wary, but this one was fairly amenable to being approached).
Ilex Hairstreak, Forêt Domaniale des Coulmes, 21-Jul
Woodland Brown, Forêt Domaniale des Coulmes, 21-Jul
Marbled Fritillary, Forêt Domaniale des Coulmes, 21-Jul
Ilex Hairstreak | Forêt Domaniale des Coulmes Woodland Brown | Forêt Domaniale des Coulmes Marbled Fritillary | Forêt Domaniale des Coulmes
The next stop was at the roadside near Presles. Notable sightings here were of Wood White, Reverdin's Blue, Mazarine Blue, Large Blue and Weaver's Fritillary. We then moved on to the town of Pont en Royans. While eating our ice creams we were surprised to find a Geranium Bronze nectaring on ornamental flowers.
Reverdin's Blue, Presles, 21-Jul
Large Blue, Presles, 21-Jul
Geranium Bronze, Pont en Royans, 21-Jul
Reverdin's Blue | Presles Large Blue | Presles Geranium Bronze | Pont en Royans
We then drove a little way out of the town to a patch of buddleias above the river Bourne. There was an impressive selection of insects here. A Dryad landed on the boot of one of the group. There were several Scarce Swallowtails, Silver-washed Fritillaries, Berger's Clouded Yellows and Clouded Yellows on the buddleias, as well as a Hummingbird-hawkmoth and a Broad-bordered Bee-hawkmoth. The most impressive find was a Wasp Spider, a species I hadn't seen before.
Wasp Spider, Pont en Royans, 21-Jul
Dryad, Pont en Royans, 21-Jul
Wood White, Pont en Royans, 21-Jul
Wasp Spider | Pont en Royans Dryad | Pont en Royans Wood White | Pont en Royans
Friday 20th July
This morning there was a Poplar Hawk-moth in the trap, as well as another Leopard Moth, a Scarce Footman and a Herald. There was a Mottled Beauty (form conversaria) on the wall.
Poplar Hawk-moth, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 20-Jul
Herald, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 20-Jul
Mottled Beauty, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 20-Jul
Poplar Hawk-moth | La Chapelle-en-Vercors Herald | La Chapelle-en-Vercors Mottled Beauty | La Chapelle-en-Vercors
To avoid the Tour de France we drove east to the Réserve Naturelle des Hauts Plateaux du Vercors. We parked at La Coche. Exploring the roadside and forest tracks and clearings we found Arran Brown, Pearly Heath, Titania's Fritillary, Black-veined White, Heath Fritillary, False Heath Fritillary, Lesser Marbled Fritillary, Knapweed Fritillary, Scotch Argus, Scarce Copper, Berger's Clouded Yellow, Oberthür's Grizzled Skipper, Carline Skipper and Sloe Hairstreak. An unusual find was finding a whole bunch of Heath and False Heath Fritillaries on a piece of dung. There were some moths here, including a Scarlet Tiger, a Wood Tiger, a Treble-bar and the inevitable Silver Y. There were lots of Green Mountain Grasshoppers to be seen. There weren't many birds but I did see a Crested Tit. After lunch we had the remarkable find of a female Mountain Alcon Blue ovipositing on Cross Gentian.
Green Mountain Grasshopper, Hauts Plateaux, 20-Jul
Scarce Copper, Hauts Plateaux, 20-Jul
Mountain Alcon Blue, Hauts Plateaux, 20-Jul
Mountain Green Grasshopper | Hauts Plateaux Scarce Copper | Hauts Plateaux Mountain Alcon Blue | Hauts Plateaux
After lunch we explored the forest road to the rear of the plateau. We found Safflower Skipper, Sloe Hairstreak, Blue-spot Hairstreak, Apollo and Heath Fritillary. At one point there were two Arran Browns sitting on my hand, taking water and salts on board. At the next stop on a roadside verge we saw a Large Blue. The final stop of the day was at the Col de Rousset, where there was a path at the base of a south-facing cliff. The highlight here was seeing about ten Apollos all nectaring on the same patch of knapweed. Also of note were Black Satyr, Cleopatra, Blue-spot Hairstreak, White-letter Hairstreak and Meleager's Blue. I also saw a Violet Carpenter Bee and a Rosel's Buch Cricket.
Sloe Hairstreak, Hauts Plateaux, 20-Jul
Blue-spot Hairstreak, Hauts Plateaux, 20-Jul
Apollo, Col de Rosset, 20-Jul
Sloe Hairstreak | Hauts Plateaux Blue-spot Hairstreak | Hauts Plateaux Apollo | Col de Rousset
Thursday 19th July
The moth trap at the hotel overnight produced some interesting species, including Pine Hawk-moth, Scarce Silver-lines, Rosy Footman, Large Emerald and Leopard Moth. Both colour forms of the Box-tree Moth, and an Antlion, were on the wall near the trap. Around the hotel I saw Common Swift, Coal Tit, House Martin and Goldfinch. En route to the cemetery at Vassieux a Short-toed Eagle was spotted.
Around the cemetery we saw the first butterflies of the trip: Marbled Whites, Small Heath, a Great Banded Grayling, a Heath Fritillary and a few Small Skippers. There was also a Crepuscular Burnet amongst the Six-spot Burnets.
Pine Hawk-moth, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 19-Jul
Large Emerald, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 19-Jul
Box-tree Moth, La Chapelle-en-Vercors, 19-Jul
Pine Hawk-moth | La Chapelle-en-Vercors Large Emerald | La Chapelle-en-Vercors Box-tree Moth | La Chapelle-en-Vercors
From the cemetery we drove to Font d'Urle, a ski station at 1500m ASL. Here we saw several Griffon Vultures soaring above the ridge. Back on the ground butterflies were abundant. We saw Scotch Argus, Dark Green Fritillary, Niobe Fritillary, Rock Grayling, Almond-eyed Ringlet, Woodland Ringlet and an Apollo. There were some birds here too, including Black Redstart, Alpine Chough, Wheatear and Water Pipit. A family of Alpine Marmots were heard calling, and we saw a couple of them. Proceeding onwards we saw Common Brassy Ringlet, Mazarine Blue, Berger's Clouded Yellow, Purple-edged Copper and Queen of Spain Fritillary. A large Wart-biter cricket was found on the path back to the car park. At the lunch stop in the Foret de Beauvante we saw a Cleopatra and a long-horn beetle called Monochamus galloprovincialis.
Rock Grayling, Font d'Urle, 19-Jul
Almond-eyed Ringlet, Font d'Urle, 19-Jul
Common Brassy Ringlet, Font d'Urle, 19-Jul
Rock Grayling | Font d'Urle Almond-eyed Ringlet | Font d'Urle Common Brassy Ringlet | Font d'Urle
After lunch we drove down the Route Combe Laval and stopped at a viewpoint. Here we saw Titania's Fritillary and Scarce Copper butterflies, and some Alpine Swifts. We continued to the supermarket at St. Jean en Royans. On a bit of wasteland nearby we had Short-tailed Blue, Scarce Swallowtail and Red-underwing Skipper.
Titania's Fritillary, Route Combe Laval, 19-Jul
Short-tailed Blue, St. Jean en Royans, 19-Jul
Red-underwing Skipper, St. Jean en Royans, 19-Jul
Titania's Fritillary | Route Combe Laval/td> Short-tailed Blue | St. Jean en Royans/td> Red-underwing Skipper | St. Jean en Royans/td>
Wednesday 18th July
Today was the first day of a trip to the Vercors plateau in south-east France with Naturetrek. The day was mostly spent travelling. I only saw a few birds on the way from the airport to the hotel in La Chapelle-en-Vercors: Grey Heron, Buzzard and Carrion Crow.
Tuesday 17th July
I visited Radley Lakes this morning, a place I have neglected this summer even though it is quite close to where I live. I went to Orchard Lake as this is usually the best place for dragonflies. On arrival I was greeted by Gatekeepers and Green-veined Whites. It took a while for other species to appear, as it was quite cloudy. I spotted a fresh-looking Brown Argus and then a Four-spotted Chaser. I started to see Blue-tailed Damselflies; I saw at least a dozen. While looking at these I saw a pair of damselflies in tandem, and on closer inspection they turned out to be Common Spreadwings (aka Emerald Damselfly). There was also a solitary male which kept harassing the couple. There were quite a few Red-eyed Damselflies on floating vegetation. I also saw a Brown Hawker and an Emperor, but where are the hawkers?
Brown Argus, Radley Lakes, 17-Jul
Green-veined White, Radley Lakes, 17-Jul
Common Spreadwing, Radley Lakes, 17-Jul
Brown Argus ♂ | Radley Lakes Green-veined White | Radley Lakes Common Spreadwing ♂ | Radley Lakes
Monday 16th July
I counted eight Gatekeepers at the allotment this morning, as well as two Essex Skippers and two Brown Argus. In the garden I saw a female Green-veined White and a female Speckled Wood searching for plants to lay eggs on.
Sunday 15th July
I saw six species of butterfly at the allotment this morning; a Comma and a male Brimstone were new additions. In addition I saw my first Hummingbird Hawk-moth of the year. In the garden I saw another Comma and a Holly Blue.
Saturday 14th July
I made another visit to the southern side of Aston Rowant NNR this morning. There were lots of Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Marbled Whites and Large Whites about, and a surprisingly large number of Dark Green Fritillaries (I counted eighteen). Eventually I located my target species - a female Silver-spotted Skipper nectaring on a Scabious flower. Over the next 90 minutes I found six more. There were also about twenty Chalk Hill Blues, including one pair in cop. I spotted a couple of Purple Hairstreaks in the oak trees again. In the sheep field I saw what looked like a Meadow Brown with white (or very pale) hindwings, but I couldn't get near enough for a photo. On the moth front there were quite a few Silver Ys and Six-spot Burnets.
Dark Green Fritillary, Aston Rowant NNR, 14-Jul
Silver-spotted Skipper, Aston Rowant NNR, 14-Jul
Chalk Hill Blue, Aston Rowant NNR, 14-Jul
Dark Green Fritillary | Aston Rowant NNR Silver-spotted Skipper ♀ | Aston Rowant NNR Chalk Hill Blue ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR
After a couple of hours I drove the short distance to Watlington Hill car park. After some lunch I spent an hour on the hill. The species were much the same as they'd been at Aston Rowant. There weren't any Chalk Hill Blues but there were several Common Blues, a Holly Blue, a Small Copper, a couple of Silver-washed Fritillaries, a dozen or so Dark Green Fritillaries, and best of all three Silver-spotted Skippers. By 2pm it was getting too hot so I left for home.
Peacock, Watlington Hill, 14-Jul
Silver-washed Fritillary, Watlington Hill, 14-Jul
Small Copper, Watlington Hill, 14-Jul
Peacock | Watlington Hill Silver-washed Fritillary ♀ | Watlington Hill Small Copper | Watlington Hill
Friday 13th July
This morning I released an Essex Skipper, a Meadow Browns and a Large White from the polytunnel. There were a couple of Gatekeepers and at least four Small Whites feeding on marjoram.
Thursday 12th July
Today I had an afternoon visit to Cothill Fen, Parsonage Moor and Dry Sandford Pit, as it had been cloudy in the morning. At Cothill I was immediately struck by the number of Green-veined Whites flying low over the vegetation; there were at least twenty. I didn't have to venture far into the fen before I found a pair of Small Red Damselflies in cop. At the entrance to the wood I saw a Silver-washed Fritillary and a Peacock nectaring on Hemp Agrimony flowers. On the west side of then fen I saw another fritillary, lots of Meadow Browns and a few Gatekeepers nectaring on thistles, and three Southern Damselflies and five Keeled Skimmers (one pair in cop) over the fen. I also spotted a Purple Hairstreak flying around the top of an Oak tree.
Moving over to Parsonage Moor, I saw a couple of Ruddy Darters before another Purple Hairstreak flew into a tree right in front of me. All the ponds on the moor had dried out, but the small stream at the end of the boardwalk was still flowing, and this was where all the activity was. In a fifty-yard stretch I saw around twenty Keeled Skimmers, including one pair in cop and an ovipositing female. I'd never seen this many Keeled Skimmers here before. I also saw at least eight Small Red Damselflies and twelve Southern Damselflies. A pristine Red Admiral landed, presumably for water, and on the woodland edge there were quite a few Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers on thistles. There was an obliging Comma by the gate.
Small Red Damselflies, Cothill Fen, 12-Jul
Purple Hairstreak, Parsonage Moor, 12-Jul
Southern Damselfly, Parsonage Moor, 12-Jul
Small Red Damselflies | Cothill Fen Purple Hairstreak | Parsonage Moor Southern Damselfly ♂ | Parsonage Moor
Finally at Dry Sandford Pit even the marsh was much drier than normal, and in consequence there were only a few Keeled Skimmers about. However there were lots of butterflies, principally Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Gatekeepers, Green-veined Whites and Brown Argus (some of the latter were very fresh). I only found three Marbled Whites though, so their flight period must be about over. Also of note were a Dark Green Fritillary (the first one I'd seen at DSP), a Red Admiral, three Peacocks and five Commas.
Comma, Parsonage Moor, 12-Jul
Keeled Skimmer, Dry Sandford Pit, 12-Jul
Brown Argus, Dry Sandford Pit, 12-Jul
Comma | Parsonage Moor Keeled Skimmer ♀ | Dry Sandford Pit Brown Argus ♂ | Dry Sandford Pit
Wednesday 11th July
There were no butterflies at the allotment this morning as there was 100% cloud cover. When this broke up mid-morning, there was quite a lot of garden butterfly activity: two Gatekeepers, a Comma, Large, Small and Green-veined Whites, and at least two Holly Blues.
Tuesday 10th July
Somewhat cooler today, which was welcome. I headed to Greenham Common this morning. The target species here was the Grayling. I managed to find seven in about ninety minutes, most of them in the area south-west of the old control tower towards the cruise missile bunkers. The most numerous species by far was the Gatekeeper, of which I counted at least fifty-five. Second-generation Common Blues and Small Coppers were present in small numbers, and there was also a female Dark Green Fritillary. I was surprised to find an immature Mute Swan on the large pond, where there were also at least ten Black-tailed Skimmers. I saw three male Emperor Dragonflies and an ovipositing female. Other birds were several Goldfinches and Linnets, and a Meadow Pipit.
Grayling, Greenham Common, 10-Jul
Dark Green Fritillary, Greenham Common, 10-Jul
Small Copper, Greenham Common, 10-Jul
Grayling | Greenham Common Dark Green Fritillary ♀ | Greenham Common Small Copper | Greenham Common
Next I drove down Crookham Common and walked to the small pond near Bury's Bank Road. The target species here was the Small Red-eyed Damselfly, which I found quite easily as they were resting on vegetation near the water's edge. I saw at least ten. There were also some Red-eyed Damselfies, around twenty Common Blue Damselflies and a Blue-tailed Damselfly. The most numerous dragonfly was the Black-tailed Skimmer. I saw two pairs in cop, one female ovipositing, and several other males which kept clashing with each other. There were also a couple of Four-spotted Chasers. As I was going back to the car I spotted a Hobby, which was after dragonflies. On the shore of one of the lakes in the red zone I saw a couple of dozen Lapwings, including some juveniles.
Red-eyed Damselfly, Crookham Common, 10-Jul
Small Red-eyed Damselfly, Crookham Common, 10-Jul
Black-tailed Skimmer, Crookham Common, 10-Jul
Red-eyed Damselfly ♂ | Crookham Common Small Red-eyed Damselfly ♂ | Crookham Common Black-tailed Skimmer ♂ | Crookham Common
Finally, I stopped at Fence Wood and walked down the main ride. There were fewer butterflies than last time, although there were still reasonable numbers of Meadow Browns and Ringlets. There were still some Silver-washed Fritillaries, but only about eight (half the number seen on 1st July). However there were quite a few summer-brood Brimstones nectaring on Betony flowers. I saw three Purple Hairstreaks flying near Oak trees. There were two Emperor Dragonflies patrolling their territories, and I also saw my first Migrant Hawkers of the year. On the was back up the ride I started to see White Admirals; why I didn't see them on the way down is a mystery. I saw four in all.
White Admiral, Fence Wood, 10-Jul
Brimstone, Fence Wood, 10-Jul
Large Skipper, Fence Wood, 10-Jul
White Admiral | Fence Wood Brimstone ♀ | Fence Wood Large Skipper ♂ | Fence Wood
Monday 9th July
Another pretty warm day. This morning saw the next instalment of the Otmoor butterfly survey (on MoD land). First off, a pair of Drinker Moths were rescued from the toilet block. Out in the grassland there were many Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites, with smaller number of Ringlets. There were quite a few Purple Hairstreaks flying around and between oak trees - at least a dozen were spotted. Other species seen were Large, Small and Green-veined Whites, Small and Essex Skippers, and singletons of Peacock, Comma and Brimstone. Other moths were several Silver Ys, a Large Yellow Underwing and a Garden Tiger (the latter was also found in the toilets!). There were also masses of grasshoppers. Dragonflies were well represented, with dozens of Ruddy Darters, at least five Brown Hawkers and two Emperors. I was only able to positively identify one Common Darter, though. On the bird front a Whitethroat was singing near the car park. A combine was working somewhere off to the east, and this had attracted two or three Red Kites and at least six Buzzards, all spiralling around in the thermals. A Green Woodpecker was spotted flying across the meadow.
Ruddy Darter, Otmoor, 09-Jul
Purple Hairstreak, Otmoor, 09-Jul
Large Yellow Underwing, Otmoor, 09-Jul
Ruddy Darter ♂ | Otmoor Purple Hairstreak | Otmoor Large Yellow Underwing | Otmoor
Sunday 8th July
Still hot. This morning I saw what looked like a Purple Hairstreak flying around the top of a Sycamore tree in a nearby garden. At the allotment I saw the usual species, with the addition of a fresh Peacock. I rescued four butterflies from the polytunnel!
Saturday 7th July
Early on I saw Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell and Essex Skipper at the allotment.
Then it was on to Besselsleigh Wood (near Appleton) for an Abingdon Naturalists field trip. We saw 17 species in two hours, including at least six Silver-washed Fritillaries, a very faded Painted Lady and three Purple Hairstreaks. Both White Admiral and Purple Emperor have been seen here, but there were none today. There were a few dragonflies about, including a couple of Ruddy Darters and a rather tired female Black-tailed Skimmer. I saw a Coal Tit in the wood, and a Raven and Buzzard were seen overhead.
Brimstone, Besselsleigh Wood, 07-Jul
Common Blue, Besselsleigh Wood, 07-Jul
Black-tailed Skimmer, Besselsleigh Wood, 07-Jul
Brimstone ♂ | Besselsleigh Wood Common Blue ♂ | Besselsleigh Wood Black-tailed Skimmer ♀ | Besselsleigh Wood
Thursday 5th July
Another hot day. In the morning I saw Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Marbled White, Large White, Small White, Small Tortoiseshell and Essex Skipper at the allotment.
Wednesday 4th July
I had a trip over to Aston Rowant NNR this morning. It was cooler than recently, with some cloud. I started on the south side. There were many Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns, Small Heath, Large Whites, Small Whites and Small Skippers. I was looking for Dark Green Fritillaries, of which I saw about twenty-six in two hours, and Chalk Hill Blues, of which I saw none! There were also a few Gatekeepers, Ringlets and Green-veined Whites, and two Purple Hairstreaks in the oaks at the top of the slope.
On the north side the species were mostly the same, but numbers were lower. Additions were half-a-dozen Brimstones, six Brimstones, an Essex Skipper and finally one female and nine male Chalk Hill Blues.
Back at home I found Small White and Green-veined White eggs on brassica plants I was going to plant on the allotment. At least two Holly Blues were flying about, and a Gatekeeper also put in an appearance.
Dark Green Fritillary, Aston Rowant NNR, 04-Jul
Gatekeeper, Aston Rowant NNR, 04-Jul
Large White, Aston Rowant NNR, 04-Jul
Dark Green Fritillary ♀ | Aston Rowant NNR Gatekeeper ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR Large White ♀ | Aston Rowant NNR
Chalk Hill Blue, Aston Rowant NNR, 04-Jul
Chalk Hill Blue, Aston Rowant NNR, 04-Jul
Essex Skipper, Aston Rowant NNR, 04-Jul
Chalk Hill Blue ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR Chalk Hill Blue ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR Essex Skipper ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR
Tuesday 3rd July
At the allotment this morning I saw a couple of Gatekeepers. In the garden I had another couple of Gatekeepers, plus a couple of Small Whites and a female Green-veined White, which was ovipositing on perpertual Wallflowers. An immature male Common Darter also put in an appearance. At 17:00 a male Brimstone flew in. I've rarely seen summer-brood Brimstones in the garden.
Monday 2nd July
I went over to Bernwood this morning. There were a couple of Silver-washed Fritillaries on the bramble bush in the car park, and some Purple Hairstreaks in the oak tree above. As I walked down the main ride there were lots of Ringlets and skippers in the grass. I then spotted a Purple Emperor, which proceeded to land and stuck its proboscis into a bit of dog dirt. It stayed there for around 20 minutes, and drew a small crowd of admirers. I walked up to the pond and back, and saw a total of eight PEs. All but two were oak-edging. I spotted a Red Admiral ovipositing; that's the second one this year. Silver-washed Fritillaries were numerous; I saw at least twenty-one males and three females. Purple Hairstreaks were also numerous, and some were coming down to the ground. As I was about to leave I saw a White Admiral.
At the allotment in the evening there were several Small Tortoiseshells and Essex Skippers, and three or four juvenile Long-tailed Tits.
Purple Emperor, Bernwood, 02-Jul
Purple Emperor, Bernwood, 02-Jul
Silver-washed Fritillary, Bernwood, 02-Jul
Purple Emperor ♂ | Bernwood Purple Emperor ♂ | Bernwood Silver-washed Fritillary ♀ | Bernwood
Sunday 1st July
Another very warm and increasingly humid day. I visited Silchester Common, where the target species was the Silver-studded Blue. I saw at least 43 in 90 minutes, which was easily the highest number I'd ever seen at Silchester. There were lots of Meadow Browns, at least nine Large Whites, and a few Gatekeepers, Ringlets and Large Skippers. I saw at least seven Emperor Dragonflies, and to my surprise a female Goldenring. On the way back to the car a female Purple Hairstreak crash-landed in the grass in front of me. She sat on my finger briefly before flying off. I saw a few other PHs in the oaks along the footpath to the common. Then, near the car park, I came across another Goldenring!
Silver-studded Blue, Silchester Common, 01-Jul
Silver-studded Blue, Silchester Common, 01-Jul
Purple Hairstreak, Silchester Common, 01-Jul
Silver-studded Blue ♂ | Silchester Common Silver-studded Blue ♀ | Silchester Common Purple Hairstreak ♀ | Silchester Common
My next stop was at Fence Wood, where it was even hotter (around 30°C). The main ride, which is normally quite damp, was bone dry. However, there were many butterflies to be seen, with Ringlets being the most numerous. There were also quite a few Meadow Browns and Large and Small Skippers, and a few Marbled Whites. Male Silver-washed Fritillaries were very active, only occasionally stopping to take nectar from thistles. I saw at least sixteen of them, and four White Admirals, and my first summer-brood Brimstone. There weren't many dragonflies here, just a couple of Emperor Dragonflies and a Brown Hawker.
Later at the allotment I saw at least six Small Tortoiseshells, five Essex Skippers (my first of the year), four Meadow Browns and a Marbled White. There was a Holly Blue in the garden as well.
Marbled White, Fence Wood, 01-Jul
Brimstone, Fence Wood, 01-Jul
Essex Skipper, Abingdon, 01-Jul
Marbled White ♂ | Fence Wood Brimstone ♂ | Fence Wood Essex Skipper ♂ | Abingdon