Natural History Diary : August 2019
Saturday 31st August
A late afternoon trip to Farmoor today produced the following, in addition to the usual residents: Sand Martin (50+ juv), Common Sandpiper (2), Little Egret (1), Grey Wagtail (1 juv) and Ringed Plover (2 juv).
Pied Wagtail (juv), Farmoor, 31-Aug
Little Egret, Farmoor, 31-Aug
Grey Wagtail (juv), Farmoor, 31-Aug
Pied Wagtail (juv) | Farmoor Little Egret | Farmoor Grey Wagtail (juv) | Farmoor
Thursday 29th August
Quite an autumnal feel this morning. I headed over to Otmoor. The roman road was still mostly shaded at 10:15, but there were a few butterflies active: Meadow Brown, Green-veined White, Comma and Speckled Wood, as well as a few Common and Ruddy Darters. Up on the bridleway I saw more darters and Southern and Migrant Hawkers. A party of a dozen or so House Martins flew over. An unexpected sighting was of a rather battered Black-tailed Skimmer; this is not common on Otmoor. I walked down to the first screen. A family party of Bullfinches were the only birds of note. At the first screen the exposed mud was mostly occupied by Greylag and Canada Geese, Mallard and Lapwing. The Barnacle Goose flew in, accompanied by its Greylag mate, and three hybrid offspring. A Little Egret was busy at the north end of the lagoon.
On the way back it has warmed up, so there were a lot more dragonflies about. I heard at least two Cetti's Warblers and a Chiffchaff calling. There were two or three Kestrels over Greenaways. A couple of trips up and down the roman road turned up a male Brimstone, but no Brown Hairstreaks. But I did see a Brown Hawker.
Green-veined White ♂, Otmoor, 29-Aug
Migrant Hawker ♂, Otmoor, 29-Aug
Brimstone ♂, Otmoor, 29-Aug
Green-veined White ♂ | Otmoor Migrant Hawker ♂ | Otmoor Brimstone ♂ | Otmoor
Wednesday 28th August
I visited Folly Park in Faringdon this morning. There were masses of Common Pond Skaters on the water. After a search I eventually found three Small Red-eyed Damselflies, as well as a few Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies. Aeshnids did quite well - I saw one Emperor Dragonfly, one Brown Hawker, four Migrant Hawkers and two Southern Hawkers. A male of the latter species came and inspected me, and I found a female ovipositing on moss-covered wooden pilings supporting the bank. Common Darters were numerous. There were a few butterflies about: I saw Comma, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown and Green-veined White. There weren't many birds, but I saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Marsh Tit.
From there I visited Chimney Meadows, where I saw two Migrant Hawkers in the car park. The only other species seen were Common Darter and Ruddy Darter. Meadow Browns were a bit more numerous here; I saw eleven. I also saw at least eight Common Blues, a Painted Lady and a Small Copper.
Back at home I saw a Painted Lady and two Small Whites.
Small Red-eyed Damselfly, Faringdon, 28-Aug
Southern Hawker ♀, Faringdon, 28-Aug
Common Darter ♂, Faringdon, 28-Aug
Small Red-eyed Damselfly ♂ | Faringdon Southern Hawker ♀ | Faringdon Common Darter ♂ | Faringdon
Monday 26th August
Garden visitors today were a Green-veined White and a Common Darter.
Sunday 25th August
A visit to a hot and sunny Farmoor this morning. There were six or seven juvenile Black Terns on F2, but they stayed well out of camera range. Otherwise there wasn't a lot else of note on the bird front. Down at the Pinkhill hedge I started to see some Common Darters (later than usual this year). Near the water inlet I saw a couple of very late male Banded Demoiselles, and also a couple of Migrant Hawkers. As I walked along the river the number of darters and hawkers increased. At the pond on Buckthorn Meadow there were two more Migrant Hawkers and two pairs of ovipositing Common Darters. There were some butterflies about, including three Red Admirals and a Painted Lady.
At home I saw one each of Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell, as well as Large and Small Whites. I tempted the Wood Mouse out with some crushed hazelnuts.
Banded Demoiselle ♂, Farmoor, 25-Aug
Migrant Hawker ♂, Farmoor, 25-Aug
Wood Mouse, Abingdon, 25-Aug
Banded Demoiselle ♂ | Farmoor Migrant Hawker ♂ | Farmoor Wood Mouse | Abingdon
Saturday 24th August
I had another attempt at finding Grayling this morning, this time in the heathy conifer plantations west of Mortimer in West Berks. Conditions were warm and sunny, with a light wind. At first I saw Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Common Darters, but eventually by the pond at SU640651 I started seeing Grayling. They preferred feeding on heather that was party shaded, and from time to time landed on the trunks of the conifers, where they became very hard to see. I saw about sixteen here. There was a Brown Hawker over the pond, a couple of Ruddy Darters and a female Black-tailed Skimmer. I crossed the road into the Hundred Acre Piece, where I found several Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, a Comma, a Peacock and a Brimstone, all feeding on buddleia (except for one Comma on blackberries). I found four more Grayling as well. On the pond at SU638650 there were lots of Common Blue Damselflies flying low over the water, and a couple of male Southern Hawkers, one of which gave me a close inspection. There were a few birds here, mainly juvenile warblers and tits.
After 2½ hours I went back to the car and drove to the eastern end of Greenham Common, where I had another look on the pond for Red-eyed Damselflies. This time I found two pairs two pairs, and also some Common Blue Damselflies. Each pond had an Emperor Dragonfly patrolling it; I saw three of them. Birds of note were a Little Egret and a Grey Heron.
In the late afternoon a Holly Blue turned up in the garden.
Grayling, Mortimer, 24-Aug
Comma, Mortimer, 24-Aug
Common Darter ♂, Mortimer, 24-Aug
Grayling | Mortimer Comma | Mortimer Common Darter ♂ | Mortimer
Thursday 22nd August
I visited the north side of Aston Rowant NNR this morning. Two Spotted Flycatchers greeted me as I got out of the car; there may have been more. Although a nice sighting, I had really come for butterflies, so I headed slowly down the slope. I quickly saw the first of many Meadow Browns and Small Whites. My target species were Silver-spotted Skipper and Adonis Blue, and these duly obliged, with nine and sixteen seen respectively. The skippers were all females, but 75% of the Adonis were males.
I also saw around thirty Chalk Hill Blues (mostly worn), ten Common Blues, at least a dozen Brown Argus, two Small Coppers, half-a-dozen Painted Ladies, two Small Tortoiseshells (one was an aberration, which had the normal yellow costal patches replaced by white. This may be ab. alba), one Red Admiral, one Comma, one very fresh female Speckled Wood, one very worn Gatekeeper and six Small Heaths. I spotted a Fox Moth caterpillar sunning itself on a bit of bare ground. Other birds seen were at least five Red Kites, two Buzzards and three Kestrels.
When I got home there was a Green-veined White in the garden (only the second one recorded there this year).
Spotted Flycatcher, Aston Rowant NNR, 22-Aug
Silver-spotted Skipper ♀, Aston Rowant NNR, 22-Aug
Adonis Blue ♂, Aston Rowant NNR, 22-Aug
Spotted Flycatcher | Aston Rowant NNR Silver-spotted Skipper ♀ | Aston Rowant NNR Adonis Blue ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR
Painted Lady, Aston Rowant NNR, 22-Aug
Speckled Wood ♀, Aston Rowant NNR, 22-Aug
Fox Moth larva, Aston Rowant NNR, 22-Aug
Painted Lady | Aston Rowant NNR Speckled Wood ♀ | Aston Rowant NNR Fox Moth larva | Aston Rowant NNR
Wednesday 21st August
A juvenile Sparrowhawk turned up in the garden today, much to the consternation of the local sparrows. It perched on the roof of the bird table for a few minutes before flying off.
Monday 19th August
There were two Wood Mice in the garden this morning.
Sunday 18th August
At the allotment this afternoon were a Comma, two Painted Ladies and at least ten Small Whites.
Saturday 17th August
This morning there were two Small Tortoiseshells, three Painted Ladies and a Red Admiral on the buddleia at the allotment. the garden I saw at least four Small Whites, and two Migrant Hawkers were patrolling overhead.
Later in the afternoon I visited Farmoor. Numbers of Tufted Duck had gone up a lot since my last visit. There were around fifty Sand Martins, but I didn't see any other hirundines or Swifts. There were two juvenile Sanderling and two juvenile Dunlin working the north shore of F2; as usual they were not bothered by me taking pictures of them. I went down to the river and found two Commas and a very nice male Southern Hawker, which was very obliging for photos. I spent around 20 minutes in the Shrike Meadow hide, but there was no sign of any Kingfishers. On the way back I found two juvenile Greenfinches, which poked about in the grass a few feet from me, totally unfazed. There were a few Herring, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the causeway as I walked back.
Sanderling (juv), Farmoor, 17-Aug
Dunlin (juv), Farmoor, 17-Aug
Comma, Farmoor, 17-Aug
Sanderling (juv) | Farmoor Dunlin (juv) | Farmoor Comma | Farmoor
Southern Hawker ♂, Farmoor, 17-Aug
Greenfinch (juv), Farmoor, 17-Aug
Herring Gull, Farmoor, 17-Aug
Southern Hawker ♂ | Farmoor Greenfinch (juv) | Farmoor Herring Gull | Farmoor
Tuesday 13th August
I visited Greenham Common this morning, but I was again unable to find any Grayling. They are having a really poor year for some reason. The most abundant species by far was the Gatekeeper, with around forty seen. Other species were Painted Lady (3), Common Blue (4), Small Heath (8), Large White (2), Small Tortoiseshell (1), Small Copper (1), Small White (2) and Meadow Brown (1). Moths seen were four Lesser Treble-bar. I saw an Emperor Dragonfly, and the pond to the east of the control tower had several Common Darters and Common Blue Damselflies. Birds of note were three Wheatears and a juvenile Sonechat.
I went across the road to Bowdown Woods and walked up and down the Bomb Site. Common Blue Damselflies were quite numerous here, and there were also several Common Darters and a Migrant Hawker. I saw three Green-veined Whites and another Small Copper. I spotted a Swift overhead.
The only butterflies seen at the allotment were Small and Large Whites.
Small Tortoiseshell, Greenham Common, 13-Aug
Small Copper, Greenham Common, 13-Aug
Lesser Treble-bar, Greenham Common, 13-Aug
Small Tortoiseshell | Greenham Common Small Copper | Greenham Common Lesser Treble-bar | Greenham Common
Monday 12th August
A pretty cloudy and cool day, but I visited Otmoor again anyway. On my first walk up the roman road I saw a female Southern Hawker, several Gatekeepers and a few Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods. There were at least three Brown Hairstreaks and a Purple Hairstreak in the usual ash tree, but they didn't come anywhere near the ground. I continued along the bridleway. There wasn't a lot in the way of birds on Greenaways, but I did see a Buzzard perched on a post. There were quite a few Ruddy Darters about, but I could only find one Common Darter. A pair of Painted Ladies were taking nectar from teasel flowers.
Southern Hawker ♀, Otmoor, 12-Aug
Speckled Wood ♂, Otmoor, 12-Aug
Common Darter ♀, Otmoor, 12-Aug
Southern Hawker ♀ | Otmoor Speckled Wood ♂ | Otmoor Common Darter ♀ | Otmoor
At the first screen there was a lot of exposed mud, which was largely occupied by around 175 Lapwing. I saw at least four Snipe, a Dunlin and a Little Egret. The bank to the left of the hide was full of ragwort, and at least three Painted Ladies were feeding on this. I saw a very pale PL which at first I thought was an aberration, but from the photos it was just a bit faded. I went back to the car park and had another walk up the roman road. Conditions were worse now than they had been earlier, but I found a male Brown Hairstreak nectaring on bramble flowers - it was at eye level; exactly what I'd been after. After ten minutes I left it still feeding. Going back to the car park I saw a Migrant Hawker and a couple of Commas.
Moorhen (juv), Otmoor, 12-Aug
Painted Lady, Otmoor, 12-Aug
Brown Hairstreak ♂, Otmoor, 12-Aug
Moorhen (juv) | Otmoor Painted Lady | Otmoor Brown Hairstreak ♂ | Otmoor
Sunday 11th August
I visited a very breezy Farmoor this morning. Apart from the normal residents, I saw around a dozen Swifts, a large mixed flock of hirundines (mostly Sand Martins), a juvenile Turnstone, four Common Terns, a Bullfinch and a Nuthatch. I spent nearly an hour in the Shrike Meadow hide, but no Kingfishers turned up. I saw an Emperor Dragonfly, Black-tailed Skimmer, Brown Hawker and two Red-eyed Damselflies while I was waiting.
Turnstone (juv), Farmoor, 11-Aug
Common Tern, Farmoor, 11-Aug
Turnstone (juv) | Farmoor Common Tern | Farmoor  
Saturday 10th August
The blustery weather continued today, but during a sunny spell in the afternoon I saw six Small Whites, a Painted Lady and a Gatekeeper at the allotment.
Friday 9th August
Despite the blustery weather this afternoon, several Small Whites and a Comma were active on the allotment.
Thursday 8th August
First up today was a Hummingbird Hawk-moth in the garden, feeding on Phlox flowers. That was the first one I'd seen in the garden this year. Then I went over to Otmoor, where I walked along the old Roman road. Initially there were just Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns, plus a few Speckled Woods and Purple Hairstreaks. Also a Southern Hawker and a Brown Hawker. Along the hedgerow in Saunders Field I saw quite a lot more Meadow Browns, some Common Blues, and a dozen or so Ruddy Darters, with several pairs in cop. Then it was back down the roman road. The temperature had risen, and now there were a few Brown Hairstreaks in their usual Ash tree, but none came near the ground. A bit further south down the road I found a male nectaring on brambles, but it was still too far away for a good photograph. A Peacock, three Commas and a Red Admiral were also on bramble flowers. There were quite a few Common Darters about by mid-day.
Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Abingdon, 08-Aug
Ruddy Darters ♂ & ♀, Otmoor, 08-Aug
Ruddy Darter ♂, Otmoor, 08-Aug
Hummingbird Hawk-moth | Abingdon Ruddy Darters | Otmoor Ruddy Darter | Otmoor
Then it was on to Whitecross Green Wood. There were a few Silver-washed Fritillaries still dashing about, and some Common Blues and Brown Argus, but the main highlight was seeing around twenty Migrant Hawkers feeding around 12 feet above the main ride. By 3pm it had clouded over, and most butterfly activity had ceased, so I called it a day.
Brown Hairstreak ♂, Otmoor, 08-Aug
Southern Hawker ♂, Otmoor, 08-Aug
Brown Argus ♂, Whitecross Green Wood, 08-Aug
Brown Hairstreak ♂ | Otmoor Southern Hawker ♂ | Otmoor Brown Argus ♂ | Whitecross Green Wood
Monday 5th August
There were two Painted Ladies and a Brimstone on the allotment Buddleia this morning. I also saw a Small Tortoiseshell.
Sunday 4th August
A rather disappointing trip to Greenham Common this morning. It was mostly cloudy but quite warm. I spent 90 minutes trying to find a Grayling, but without success. About the only butterflies seen were dozens of Gatekeepers. There were some Common Blue Damselflies and Common Darters about, but only one Emperor Dragonfly. I did better with birds, seeing a dozen Stonechats, a couple of Meadow Pipits, and several Linnets and Goldfinches. At the eastern end I saw two Green Woodpeckers and a Little Egret. My second disappointment of the day was failing to find any Small Red-eyed Damselflies on their usual pond adjacent to Bury Bank Road. In fact there weren't any dragonflies on this pond at all.
I relocated to Fence Wood, and had a lot more success there. There was a lot of Knapweed in flower down the main ride, and this was being utilised by Peacocks (10), Painted Ladies (6), Gatekeepers (15), Green-veined Whites (2) and a Brimstone. I also saw two Common Blues, three Brown Argus and an aberrant Small Copper (ab. caeruleopunctata). I saw a couple of dragonflies, one Migrant Hawker and one Brown Hawker. Most unexpected was watching a Peregrine mobbing a Buzzard!
Stonechat ♀, Greenham Common, 04-Aug
Brimstone ♀, Fence Wood, 04-Aug
Peacock, Fence Wood, 04-Aug
Stonechat ♀ | Greenham Common Brimstone ♀ | Fence Wood Peacock | Fence Wood
Painted Lady, Fence Wood, 04-Aug
Brown Argus ♂, Fence Wood, 04-Aug
Small Copper ♂ ab. caeruleopunctata, Fence Wood, 04-Aug
Painted Lady | Fence Wood Brown Argus ♂ | Fence Wood Small Copper ♂ | Fence Wood
Saturday 3rd August
A fairly cloudy day, but quite warm and humid. These conditions definitely helped at Lardon Chase this morning, as the butterflies weren't rushing around, but stopping to feed and bask. Species of the day was the Chalk Hill Blue, with at least 120 being seen in two hours. A fair proportion of them were females. Second most numerous was the Meadow Brown, with around 80 seen. The reason for going was to see second-brood Adonis Blues, of which I saw six males. Other lycaenids seen were one Holly Blue, three Common Blues, one Small Copper and eight Brown Argus. The Painted Lady emergence has started; I saw nine individuals, which were mostly feeding on majoram. Gatekeepers were fairly numerous, but I only saw three Marbled Whites and four Small Heath. I also saw three Hornet Robberflies.
I stopped at Lids Down on the way home, but there wasn't much to see there. Five Small Skippers and a Red Admiral were noteworthy.
At home I saw two Holly Blues in the garden. At the allotment I saw a Brown Argus, and several Gatekeepers, Large Whites and Small Whites. A Buddleia was hosting two Painted Ladies, a Peacock, a Comma and a Small Tortoiseshell.
Adonis Blue ♂, Lardon Chase, 03-Aug
Chalk Hill Blue ♂, Lardon Chase, 03-Aug
Painted Lady, Lardon Chase, 03-Aug
Adonis Blue ♂ | Lardon Chase Chalk Hill Blue ♂ | Lardon Chase Painted Lady | Lardon Chase
Friday 2nd August
A trip to Farmoor this morning didn't produce a great deal. Four Common Sandpipers were busy along the causeway, but as usual it was impossible to get close to them. A female Tufted Duck with three ducklings, three Common Terns, a Little Egret and a Little Grebe were the only other species of note. There were a few butterflies and dragonflies about, but again nothing of note.
In Eynsham I saw two Painted Ladies and two Peacocks on a buddleia. Back at home I saw two Gatekeepers and a Holly Blue in the garden.
Common Tern, Farmoor, 02-Aug
Common Tern, Farmoor, 02-Aug
Tufted Duck ♀ & juvenile, Farmoor, 02-Aug
Common Tern | Farmoor Common Tern | Farmoor Tufted Duck ♀ & juvenile | Farmoor