Natural History Diary : June 2018
Monday 18th June
I visited Otmoor this morning to take part in a butterfly survey on the MoD land. Unfortunately we couldn't do this as the gate was locked! So we walked along the roman road and along the hedgerow in Saunders Field. There were again lots of Azure Damselflies and quite a few immature Ruddy Darters along the roman road. I spotted a Chiffchaff singing from the top of a hawthorn bush. I head a Willow Warbler and a Cuckoo. Stangely we couldn't find any Black Hairstreaks along the roman road, but they did start to appear in the Saunders Field hedgerow; there were five or six in total. There were more dragonflies here: my first Southern Hawker of the year, a couple of Hairy Hawkers, at least five Brown Hawkers, four Four-spotted Chasers (one was of form praenubila), a mating pair of Emperor Dragonflies and one Common Spreadwing. On the way back down the roman road I saw a male Beautiful Demoiselle.
Common Spreadwing, Otmoor, 18-Jun
Four-spotted Chaser f. praenubila, Otmoor, 18-Jun
Beautiful Demoiselle, Otmoor, 18-Jun
Common Spreadwing imm ♂ | Otmoor Four-spotted Chaser | Otmoor Beautiful Demoiselle ♂ | Otmoor
The next stop was at Bernwood Forest. A couple of White Admirals appeared quite quickly, but they were intent on flying very low along the track and didn't want to stop. My first Silver-washed Fritillary of the year was more obliging, as it was feeding avidly on thistle flowers, although it mostly kept its wings closed. There were around a dozen Large Skippers, but only a couple of Ringlets. There were several Emperor Dragonflies about; I saw one catch a Meadow Brown up by the pond. Two male Broad-bodied Chasers were at the pond; they kept engaging each other in aerial combat. A female, meanwhile, was ovipoisiting around the edges of the pond. On the way back to the car park I saw a Common Lizard on the track. There were several Black-and-yellow Longhorn Beetles about.
Silver-washed Fritillary, Bernwood, 18-Jun
Large Skipper, Bernwood, 18-Jun
Black-and-yellow Longhorn Beetle, Bernwood, 18-Jun
Silver-washed Fritillary ♂ | Bernwood Large Skipper ♀ | Bernwood Black-and-yellow Longhorn Beetle | Bernwood
My final stop was at Whitecross Green Wood. Here the Large Skipper was the most numerous butterfly, followed by the Meadow Brown. Other grassland species seem slow to get going; I only found two Ringlets and two Marbled Whites. I saw my first summer-brood Small Tortoiseshell and Comma. The latter was of the pale hutchinsoni form. There were at least seven White Admirals along the ride, but as at Bernwood they didn't settle. The Black Hairstreak flight period is coming to an end; I only found eight today. On the dragonfly front I saw at least nine Emperor Dragonflies in various states of maturity, a Black-tailed Skimmer, several Ruddy Darters and one each Banded and Beautiful Demoiselle.
Small Tortoiseshell, Whitecross Green Wood, 18-Jun
Comma f. hutchinsoni, Whitecross Green Wood, 18-Jun
Ringlet, Whitecross Green Wood, 18-Jun
Small Tortoiseshell | Whitecross Green Wood Comma | Whitecross Green Wood Ringlet ♂ | Whitecross Green Wood
Friday 15th June
At the allotment this morning I saw a male Green-veined White with one spot on each forewing, so that's the first of the second brood.
At Dry Sandford Pit there were many Meadow Browns about. I found a dozen feeding on Wild Privet, and at least sixty in total. They were all males; it's going to be pandemonium when the females start to emerge! Otherwise the noteworthy species were my first Ringlet of the year, and my first Marbled White at the pit. In the marsh I saw three male Keeled Skimmers, several Southern Damselflies and an ovipositing Broad-bodied Chaser. A Scarlet Tiger flew past and I found at least eight Six-spot Burnets feeding on flowers.
Six-spot Burnet, Dry Sandford Pit, 15-Jun
Ringlet, Dry Sandford Pit, 15-Jun
Keeled Skimmer, Dry Sandford Pit, 15-Jun
Six-spot Burnet | Dry Sandford Pit Ringlet ♂ | Dry Sandford Pit Keeled Skimmer ♂ | Dry Sandford Pit
Thursday 14th June
I went over to Aston Rowant NNR this afternoon. It was partly cloudy, about 20°C with a fairly brisk WSW wind. On getting out of the car in the south side car park, a Dark Green Fritillary flew up, but by the time I'd got the camera ready it had disappeared, and I couldn't relocate it. I saw a Red Admiral as I was walking along the Ridgeway. The first field on the left was fairly sheltered and there were quite a few Meadow Browns flying about. On the other side of the trees the hill was quite exposed, so butterflies were keeping their heads down. I saw about a dozen Common Blues and nine Small Heaths, but the highlight was a male Adonis Blue, which I'd never seen on the south side before. On the way back to the car I saw my first Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet of the year. I drove over to the north side. At the top of the slope I found a female Broad-bodied Chaser, which seemed odd as the nearest water is over a mile away. Further down the slope I saw a Mistle Thrush fly into a tree. There were fewer Meadow Browns on the north side, but more Brown Argus, and I even found a worn Dingy Skipper and a a teneral Black-tailed Skimmer in the sunken pathway. The latter seemed very out of place! In the next field I finally found some Marbled Whites, and also a couple of Cistus Forester moths.
Adonis Blue, Aston Rowant NNR, 14-Jun
Marbled White, Aston Rowant NNR, 14-Jun
Cistus Forester, Aston Rowant NNR, 14-Jun
Adonis Blue ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR Marbled White ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR Cistus Forester | Aston Rowant NNR
Monday 11th June
I visited Dry Sandford Pit this morning, in sunny and warm conditions. I found a small number of Southern Damselflies (including a pair in cop), and a teneral female Keeled Skimmer. On the butterfly front Meadow Browns were easily the most numerous, with at least twenty-eight seen. I couldn't find any Marbled Whites or Ringlets though. I did see a late Green Hairstreak and a male Brimstone. In the garden I saw a Red Admiral and a rather tired Holly Blue.
Southern Damselfly, Dry Sandford Pit, 11-Jun
Keeled Skimmer, Dry Sandford Pit, 11-Jun
Meadow Brown, Dry Sandford Pit, 11-Jun
Southern Damselflies | Dry Sandford Pit Keeled Skimmer imm. ♀ | Dry Sandford Pit Meadow Brown ♂ | Dry Sandford Pit
Sunday 10th June
On the way back home, as the sun was shining, I stopped at Barnwell Country Park again, in the expectation that there would be more dragonfly activity. There were still teneral and adult Scarce Chasers in the same places they'd been on Friday, but I found some more at the north end of the site. There were also a number of Hairy Hawkers a couple of Four-spotted Chasers and many Banded Demosoiselles about. There weren't many butterflies though, just two Speckled Woods. I did see a bird that I hadn't seen on Friday, which was a female Mandarin with one duckling in tow.
Scarce Chaser, Barnwell Country Park, 10-Jun
Banded Demoiselle, Barnwell Country Park, 10-Jun
Mandarin, Barnwell Country Park, 10-Jun
Scarce Chaser ♂ | Barnwell Country Park Banded Demoiselle ♂ | Barnwell Country Park Mandarin ♀ | Barnwell Country Park
Saturday 9th June
My plan to visit the Norfolk Broads today to look for Swallowtails was wrecked by 100% cloud cover. So I decided to go to Titchwell Marsh instead. On the way to the first hide overlooking the freshmarsh I saw Sedge and Reed Warblers, nd a Reed Bunting. Somebody spotted four distant Red-crested Pochard, a bird I'd not seen at Titchwell before. There were lots of birds on the freshmarsh, most notably a lot of noisy Black-headed Gulls. There were lots of feeding Avocets and roosting Black-tailed Godwits; some of the latter were in their red summer plumage. I also saw my first Little Ringed Plover in this country this year. I moved on to the Parrinder hide, where a few Mediterranean Gulls were in with the Black-heads. There were seven second-summer Little Gulls, five Sandwich Terns and two Common Terns. There wasn't much on the saltmarsh, but as I got closer to the coast I spotted around fifty roosting Oystercatchers (the tide was in, so their feeding grounds were submerged). On the way back a Meadow Pipit showed well, and there were the inevitable Redshank. There wasn't anything of note on the eastern trail, with the exception of a Stoat.
Sedge Warbler, Titchwell Marsh, 09-Jun
Avocet, Titchwell Marsh, 09-Jun
Little Gull, Titchwell Marsh, 09-Jun
Sedge Warbler | Titchwell Marsh Avocet | Titchwell Marsh Little Gull | Titchwell Marsh
Mediterranean Gull, Titchwell Marsh, 09-Jun
Meadow Pipit, Titchwell Marsh, 09-Jun
Redshank, Titchwell Marsh, 09-Jun
Mediterranean Gull | Titchwell Marsh Meadow Pipit | Titchwell Marsh Redshank | Titchwell Marsh
Friday 8th June
Today I stopped at Barnwell Country Park near Oundle, en route to Peterborough. Although I hadn't been here before I quickly located my target species, the Scarce Chaser. A couple of immature females were perched in a nettle & bramble bed. Because it was mostly cloudy they were not very active. On the bank of the river Nene I found an adult male and a pair in cop. They were quite difficult to approach, but eventually I got pics of teneral and adult males. The most amazing thing was the sheer number of Banded Demoiselles present: easily into three figures. There were also quite a few Blue-tailed and Red-eyed Damselflies, but the only other dragonfly I could find was a female Broad-bodied Chaser. There were a few butterflies about: one male Orange-tip, a Red Admiral and a Speckled Wood. I heard a Cuckoo, as well as Reed Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff.
Scarce Chaser, Barnwell Country Park, 08-Jun
Scarce Chaser, Barnwell Country Park, 08-Jun
Scarce Chaser, Barnwell Country Park, 08-Jun
Scarce Chaser imm. ♀ | Barnwell Country Park Scarce Chaser imm. ♂ | Barnwell Country Park Scarce Chaser ♂ | Barnwell Country Park
Wednesday 6th June
Today I led a small group from the Abingdon Naturalists Society on a dragonfly hunt at Otmoor. I got there a bit earlier than the start time and found a female Brown Hawker along the roman road. There were many Azure Damselflies about, but only a few Blue-tailed, Blue-eyed and Large Red Damselflies. There were some Four-spotted Chasers along the old roman road, but up on the causeway there were many more. Hairy Hawkers were also present, with two being seen along the road and another on the bridleway. A teneral Ruddy Darter was found along the bridleway. At the hide a Black-tailed Skimmer was spotted over one of the pools, along with a male Emperor and an ovipositing female. Three male Banded Demoiselles were seen on the bridleway.
On the insect front, at least eight Black Hairstreaks were the highlight, along with two Red Admirals and a Painted Lady. We also found a group of Peacock larvae, and a single Small Tortoiseshell larva. Among the moths, a Blood-vein and a Silver-ground Carpet were the best sightings.
As far as birds were concerned, a Turtle Dove was feeding on seeds at the cattle pens, and there was another one calling from somewhere south of the roman road. A Marsh Harrier and a couple of Hobbies were seen over Greenaways.
Silver-ground Carpet, Otmoor, 06-Jun
Brown Hawker, Otmoor, 06-Jun
Hairy Hawker, Otmoor, 06-Jun
Silver-ground Carpet | Otmoor Brown Hawker ♀ | Otmoor Hairy Hawker ♂ | Otmoor
Turtle Dove, Otmoor, 06-Jun
Ruddy Darter, Otmoor, 06-Jun
Painted Lady, Otmoor, 06-Jun
Turtle Dove | Otmoor Ruddy Darter | Otmoor Painted Lady | Otmoor
After some refreshment I headed over to Whitecross Green Wood, where there were more Black Hairstreaks than I'd ever seen there before. I reckon that I saw twenty-five in 90 minutes. They were all males as far as I could tell, all searching blackthorn for females and not stopping very often. There were few other butterflies about though - four Large Skippers and a Meadow Brown were the only noteworthy species. However, dragonflies did better, with five Emperors, and teneral Hairy Hawker, Black-tailed Skimmer and Ruddy Darter being seen.
Black Hairstreak, Whitecross Green Wood, 06-Jun
Black-tailed Skimmer, Whitecross Green Wood, 06-Jun
Volucella bombylans, Whitecross Green Wood, 06-Jun
Black Hairstreak | Whitecross Green Wood Black-tailed Skimmer imm. ♀ | Whitecross Green Wood Volucella bombylans | Whitecross Green Wood
Tuesday 5th June
The second cloudy day on the trot. Not surprisingly there were no butterflies at the allotment in the afternoon, but I did see a couple of moths: a Silver Y and a Cinnabar. I also spotted a rather attractive hoverfly sitting on a nettle leaf, which I later identified as Xanthogramma pedissequum. Back at home I heard a loud commotion, and looked up to see a Sparrowhawk being hotly pursued by other birds. It all happened so quickly I couldn't tell whether the Sparrowhawk had a victim in its talons.
Xanthogramma pedissequum, Abingdon, 05-Jun
Xanthogramma pedissequum | Abingdon    
Sunday 3rd June
I headed south today, to Bentley Wood on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border. It was sunny and quite warm. Quite a lot of scrub clearance had happened since I was last here. The first butterflies I saw were two Speckled Woods battling each other in the car park. The third was a Pearl-bordered Fritillary which landed on my arm briefly. I had to follow it for a while (until it started nectaring on spurge) to confirm its identity. That was the only definite PBF I saw. Next was my first Meadow Brown of the year, which was followed by a couple of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries (seven in total), a Large Skipper, a Small Copper and a Brimstone. There was only one dragonfly, a female Broad-bodied Chaser. I also saw a huge queen Hornet. Birds did quite well - I heard Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat (finally!), Blackcap and Chiffchaff.
After 90 minutes here I drove back to Stockbridge Down. There were lots of Brimstones here. I counted at least twelve males and five females. I also saw eleven Common Blues, five Small Coppers, two Grizzled Skippers and a Peacock. The migrant theme continued, with a fairly distant sighting of a Painted Lady flying along a hedgeline, a female Red Admiral looking for places to oviposit, and six Silver Ys.
In the evening there were four or five Silver Ys feeding on buddleia flowers in the garden.
Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Bentley Wood, 03-Jun
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Bentley Wood, 03-Jun
Meadow Brown, Bentley Wood, 03-Jun
Pearl-bordered Fritillary ♂ | Bentley Wood Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary ♂ | Bentley Wood Meadow Brown ♂ | Bentley Wood
Large Skipper, Bentley Wood, 03-Jun
Broad-bodied Chaser, Bentley Wood, 03-Jun
Grizzled Skipper, Stockbridge Down, 03-Jun
Large Skipper ♂ | Bentley Wood Broad-bodied Chaser ♀ | Bentley Wood Grizzled Skipper ♀ | Stockbridge Down
Saturday 2nd June
A cloudy start, but I headed over to Standlake Common in the hope that the sun would come out (it did, eventually). At the top of Langley Lane I saw a Red Admiral perched in a bush, but it didn't really want to open its wings. There were dozens of Common Blue Damselflies perched on grass stems; they rose in a cloud when I got too close. There were a few Blue-tails and Red-eyed amongst them. Further down the lane I saw several Speckled Woods and Banded Demoiselles, and a male Orange-tip which looked quite fresh. There wasn't a lot of note on the lake, but I saw seven Little Egrets, two Oystercatchers and no fewer than fifty-two Mute Swans. At the other end of the lake I saw a Garden Warbler and heard a Whitethroat. There were more damselflies here too. On the moth front I saw two Silver Ys. These, along with the Red Admiral, suggested that there had been an influx from the continent. I saw both Red-headed and Black-headed Cardinal beetles.
Red Admiral, Standlake Common, 02-Jun
Orange-tip, Standlake Common, 02-Jun
Black-headed Cardinal, Standlake Common, 02-Jun
Red Admiral | Standlake Common Orange-tip ♂ | Standlake Common Black-headed Cardinal | Standlake Common
Over lunch at home I saw a large fly land on the greenhouse. It then flew into the greenhouse, so I was able to capture it. It looked very much like a Large Marsh Horsefly, even though the habitat seemed wrong. I then discovered that a sum plum Slavonian Grebe had been found at Farmoor, so I headed over there to see it (all my previous Slavonians had been in winter plumage). After a long walk (in the quite hot sun) to the south-west of F2 the bird obliged with some close-up sightings while it was diving for food. It was even more elegant than the Black-necked Grebe of a few weeks ago. I also saw a pair of Red-crested Pochards, and a female on her own.
There were some moths about - at least four Silver Ys, a Burnet Companion and a Mother Shipton. Butterflies included two more Red Admirals, five Common Blues and two Brown Argus.
Red-crested Pochard, Farmoor, 02-Jun
Slavonian Grebe, Farmoor, 02-Jun
Mother Shipton, Farmoor, 02-Jun
Red-crested Pochard ♂ | Farmoor Slavonian Grebe | Farmoor Mother Shipton | Farmoor
I went down to Buckthorn Meadow to look for dragonflies. As at Standlake there were many Common Blue Damselflies about, which quite a few of them being pairs in tandem. I saw a female Hairy Hawker, but it moved before I could get a photo. At the bridge over the pond I saw two Four-spotted Chasers and several Red-eyed Damselflies. There were lots of Banded Demoiselles about; I counted at least twenty males and seven females. There was nothing much along the causeway, except for four Common Terns at the eastern end.
Red-eyed Damselfly, Farmoor, 02-Jun
Banded Demoiselle, Farmoor, 02-Jun
Four-spotted Chaser, Farmoor, 02-Jun
Red-eyed Damselfly ♂ | Farmoor Banded Demoiselle ♂ | Farmoor Four-spotted Chaser ♂ | Farmoor
Friday 1st June
Garden butterflies today were a Small White and two Holly Blues. After disappearing for several days (presumably because of the weather) there were seven Swifts over north Abingdon this afternoon.