Natural History Diary : June 2017
Tuesday 27th June
This morning there was a Meadow Brown in the garden, and at lunchtime a Small Tortoiseshell was nectaring on Hebe flowers again. A quick trip to the allotment produced a female Essex Skipper nectaring on Marjoram flowers. Small Tortoiseshells and Small Whites were doing the same. A Marbled White, a couple of Meadow Browns, a Ringlet and a Comma were also seen. On the way out a patch of Creeping Thistle in the field was very popular with Marbled Whites, Small Skippers and Small Tortoiseshells.
Essex Skipper ♀ | Abingdon Marbled White ♀ | Abingdon Small Tortoiseshell | Abingdon
Monday 26th June
A Small Tortoiseshell was nectaring on Hebe flowers when I got home this evening.
Sunday 25th June
I found a probable Lunar Yellow Underwing in the house this morning. I saw a couple of Small Tortoiseshells at the allotment later.
Saturday 24th June
I visited Aston Rowant NNR in the late morning and early afternoon today. Although it was breezy with limited amount of sunshine, there was still a lot of butterfly activity. On the north side there were many Marbled Whites, quite a lot of Meadow Browns and a few Ringlets. Small Tortoiseshells and Commas were present in reasonable numbers, also a couple of Red Admirals and a Painted Lady. I saw my first British Small Skippers of the year, but I was unable to find any Dark Green Fritillaries.
I relocated to the southern side of the reserve. Although it was much more exposed on Bald Hill, I immediately began to find Dark Green Fritillaries! I saw at least eight. They were hard to photograph because of the wind, but eventually I managed some shots. Small Heaths were quite numerous here, whereas there had only been a few on the north side. There was also a Silver-washed Fritillary in the trees at the bottom of the hill. There was somebody there photographing Red Kites, and he'd put some food out to get them to come down. There were at least twenty birds circling round, which was more than I'd ever seen together before. It was quite a sight.
Small Skipper | Aston Rowant Marbled White | Aston Rowant Dark Green Fritillary | Aston Rowant
Friday 23rd June
An Old Lady moth came into the house this evening. Although it's as big as a Peacock butterfly, it was really hard to find when it was settled.
Old Lady | Abingdon
Wednesday 21st June
This morning I saw a Large White, a Small White and a Meadow Brown at the allotment. I also found an immature Green Bush-cricket in the garden. As far as I could tell it didn't have any speckles.
Tuesday 20th June
Today I saw a Large White and a Meadow Brown in the garden.
Monday 19th June
This evening I saw a Small Tortoiseshell at the allotment, and a Ringlet in the garden.
Sunday 18th June
Today I went to Waterperry Wood to see if any Purple Emperors were out. There were quite a few Meadow Browns (including a mating pair) and Large Skippers, three Ringlets, two Commas, one Speckled Wood and one White Admiral. I also saw several Hornets, a Black-and-yellow Longhorn Beetle, three Beautiful Demoiselles and a couple of Jays. Having failed to find HIM, I relocated to Bernwood, which if anything was worse for butterflies (it was very hot). It was only redeemed by three White Admirals (one pristine individual landed on the track) and three Silver-washed Fritillaries. I also saw an Emperor Dragonfly and a Brown Hawker. When I got home there was a Comma of the hutchinsoni form in the garden.
Meadow Browns | Waterperry Wood Black-and-Yellow Longhorn Beetle | Waterperry Wood White Admiral | Bernwood Forest
Saturday 17th June
I made an early start this morning, as the forecast was for it to be a hot day. I headed to Standlake Common, where I knew there were Elm trees, to look for the elusive White-letter Hairstreak. The track past the eastern hide was the hot spot; as soon as I went through the gate I saw two males spiralling upwards above a scrubby elm. I saw three here at the same time, and another in a different elm. Meadow Browns were again very numerous, there were a couple of Ringlets and four Commas (at least one of which was the pale hutchinsoni form). Common Blue Damselflies were very numerous, and I saw at least a dozen Black-tailed Skimmers, including an ovipositing female, and seven Banded Demoiselles. I also saw my first Brown Hawker of the year.
From the hide I saw at least sixteen Lapwings (presumably non-breeding birds), a Curlew, two Stock Doves and a distant Barn Owl. There was a Canada Goose creche, with five adults shepherding a dozen goslings. A first-summer Mediterranean Gull landed on a post in front of the hide.
In the afternoon I saw a Meadow Brown and an unidentified mouse in the garden.
White-letter Hairstreak | Standlake Common Banded Demoiselle ♀ | Standlake Common Banded Demoiselle ♂ | Standlake Common
Mediterranean Gull | Standlake Common Lapwing | Standlake Common Curlew | Standlake Common
Thursday 15th June
I spent a couple of hours at Whitecross Green Wood this afternoon. There was a fairly strong westerly wind, so the north-south ride was sheltered. I saw my first White Admiral of the year at the junction of the two rides, but it didn't settle. Further down near the pond I saw another one. In the same area I saw my first British Silver-washed Fritillary of the year, and then some rather worn Black Hairstreaks. Normally their flight period starts in mid-June, but it is already two-thirds of the way through. Meadow Browns were again very numerous, and Large Skippers also did well. Amazingly a male Brimstone was still going strong. At least four Emperor Dragonflies were patrolling the ride, and I saw my first Southern Hawker and Ruddy Darter of the year (both immatures).
White Admiral | Whitecross Green Wood Black Hairstreak | Whitecross Green Wood Southern Hawker | Whitecross Green Wood
Wednesday 14th June
I headed for Daneway Banks in Gloucestershire this morning. It was much less verdant than last year, probably because of the dry spring and early summer. Compared to Croatia it was a butterfly desert! Initially all I could find were Meadow Browns, Common Blues and a Painted Lady, but eventually a few Marbled Whites and my first Ringlet of the year showed up. However, there was no sign of any Large Blues, which seemed strange given the general earliness of the season. I saw a total of six Ravens - presumably the parents and four offspring.
At midday I'd given up on the Large Blue, and headed back east to Whelford Pools. This is usually an excellent site for Odonata, and so it proved. There were clouds of Common Blue Damselflies and Azure Damselflies. A female Emperor Dragonfly was ovipositing in the small pond, guarded by the male. He was harassed by several Four-spotted Chasers. A little further along the lake shore a male Black-tailed Skimmer was quite obliging for photos. I put a stick into the mud to see if he would perch on it. He didn't, but a Four-spotted Chaser of the praenubila form (darkened wingtips) did. On the lake there was a pair of Great Crested Grebes with two quite large youngsters. A Common Tern flew over and I heard a Cetti's Warbler.
Painted Lady | Daneway Banks Ringlet | Daneway Banks Emperor Dragonfly ♂ | Whelford Pools
Having exhausted the possibilities at Whelford, I headed back to Abingdon and stopped at Dry Sandford Pit on the way. The numerous species here by far was the Meadow Brown. I also saw another Ringlet, three Marbled Whites, a Keeled Skimmer and a Southern Damselfly. In the evening I saw a Small Tortoiseshell at the allotment.
Four-spotted Chaser f. praenubila | Whelford Pools Black-tailed Skimmer ♂ | Whelford Pools Marbled White ♂ | Dry Sandford Pit
Tuesday 13th June
Today I saw a Comma in the garden, and two Grey Partridges, a Meadow Brown and a Common Blue Damselfly at the allotment.
Monday 12th June
The drive back to Zagreb airport produced a number of birds: Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard Honey Buzzard, Hooded Crow, White Stork and Kestrel. A stop at a motorway service station produced a number of Marbled Whites and a Map (which was only seen by a few people).
Sunday 11th June
Our last full day in Croatia started with a pre-breakfast walk. We found a roosting Common Blue, which was covered with drops of dew; it was quite chilly at 7am. A number of Pallid Swifts were seen overhead, a Red-backed Shrike was seen on a wire, and a Golden Oriole was heard.
We headed for a location near Oltare. A Hummingbird-Hawkmoth landed on the track and folded its wings. That was the second one I'd seen do that. Nickerl's Fritillaries and Pearly Heaths were soon spotted. A Woodland Grayling was seen landing on the track, and later on a tree trunk. I found some Pearl-bordered Fritillaries higher up the hill. A small flowery meadow produced a surprise in the form of several Dukes of Burgundy. A large orange fritillary was patrolling this glade, but was reluctant to settle; it appeared to be a Dark Green Fritillary. I also saw a Comma and a Small Tortoiseshell. The sight of an Orange-tip confirmed the feeling that we'd gone back a month in time, since we were seeing species that had been on the wing in England in mid-May. That's what altitude does to butterfly emergence. I saw a couple of birds here: a Rock Bunting and a Jay. A Horvath's Rock Lizard was also seen; this is an uncommon species.
Red-backed Shrike | Croatia Pearl-bordered Fritillary | Croatia Duke of Burgundy | Croatia
The second stop was an impromptu one in the forest. Here I saw a Green-veined White, a Speckled Wood and a Bullfinch. From here we headed for the lunch stop. On the way our local guide spotted some droppings on the road; on inspection he pronounced them to be from a Brown Bear. The lunch stop itself was very productive. New species for the trip seen here were Knapweed Fritillary, Common Swallowtail and Broad-bodied Chaser. A maturing male of the latter was particularly spectacular. I found a Bee Chafer.
Green-veined White ♂ | Croatia Knapweed Fritillary ♂ | Croatia Broad-bodied Chaser ♂ | Croatia
The final stop of the day was a flowery meadow near to the village of Krasno. The main species of note here was a female Southern Festoon, which was a new one for me. It was very faded, though. Other species seen were Mazarine Blue, Amanda's Blue and Great Green Bush-cricket (male and female). Then it was back to the hotel to get ready to leave tomorrow.
Southern Festoon ♀ | Croatia Mazarine Blue ♀ | Croatia Gt Green Bush-cricket ♂ | Croatia
Saturday 10th June
After breakfast we loaded up the minibus and headed north into the Velebits national park. The first stop above Karlobag at Dabarska Kosa was at an altitude of around 950m. Scarce Swallowtails were feeding on thistles, and I saw a Tufted Marbled Skipper. Walking along the track produced some Niobe Fritillaries and Bright-eyed Ringlets; the latter was new species for me. A Common Glider flew past, but didn't stop. Up on the grassland I saw a pair of Geranium Argus and some rather unusual Small Heaths. Owl-flies (Libelloides longicornis) were quite numerous. I had never observed these hunting before; they were like slow dragonflies. There was also a red-winged grasshopper (currently unidentified) which made a loud buzzing noise when disturbed.
Niobe Fritillary | Croatia Bright-eyed Ringlet | Croatia Owl-fly | Croatia
The second stop was at Ostarijska Vrata, near the village of Baske-Ostarije. This was at a slightly lower altitude than the previous stop. Nickerl's Fritillaries were quite numerous here. There was another stunning Spotted Fritillary, also a Lesser Spotted Fritillary and the usual blues. After lunch we headed to another location in the northern Velebits national park. Notable species seen here were Large Grizzled Skipper and Safflower Skipper. We then had a longer than expected drive to the next hotel in the village of Krasno (the satnav was blamed). It was considerably cooler here, as we were around 780m above sea level.
Geranium Argus | Croatia Large Grizzled Skipper | Croatia Safflower Skipper| Croatia
Friday 9th June
Another hot and sunny day. Before breakfast I got some better shots of a Nine-spotted moth which was roosting on the lavender at the accommodation. After breakfast we walked along parts of the cycle track below the Paklenica mountains. This was more or less on the flat at an altitude of around 30m. Some birds were heard: Hoopoe, Subalpine Warbler, Blackcap and Turtle Dove. Butterflies were largely as we'd come to expect by now, with the addition of a female Spotted Fritillary. A patch of lavender proved popular, with a Scarce Swallowtail, Tufted Marbled Skipper, Mallow Skipper, Small Skipper and Lulworth Skipper taking advantage. We then found a Southern Comma, which was a bit reluctant to pose, but eventually it did. That was a butterfly I'd been trying to find for a while.
We took a break at a cafe in Selene, where a Turtle Dove was seen. We continued the walk from the cafe. A Cirl Bunting was heard calling, and it flew into a tree where it gave good views. The first Great Banded Grayling of the trip was also seen. We came across a house with a great deal of lavender in flower. A Clouded Yellow and a probable Berger's Clouded Yellow were seen here, as well as more Scarce Swallowtails.
Nine-spotted moth | Croatia Scarce Swallowtail | Croatia Tufted Marbled Skipper | Croatia
Southern Comma | Croatia Cirl Bunting | Croatia Great Banded Grayling | Croatia
After lunch (taken in a shady courtyard) we explored the Mala Paklenica gorge. A rocky spillway (with no water in it) was quite productive. Many Blue-spot Hairstreaks, a Southern White Admiral and a Large Grizzled Skipper were seen here. Then there was a shout of 'Little Tiger Blue!' - our leader had found one nectaring on Christ's thorn flowers (its larval foodplant). It was in pristine condition so must have emerged that day. I examined other Christ's thorns in the area but that was the only LTB found.
When I returned to my accommodation I found a Grayling and a Balkan Marbled White nectaring on the lavender bush.
Little Tiger Blue | Croatia Grayling | Croatia Balkan Marbled White | Croatia
Thursday 8th June
Today we ascended the slopes of the Paklenica mountains above Starigrad. The weather was warm and sunny. The first stop was at an altitude of 200m. The by-now-expected species were present, but Lulworth Skipper and a cracking Spotted Fritillary were new for the trip. The second stop was at 336m. Here we had Balkan Green-veined White, Eastern Rock Grayling, Southern Small White, Scarce Swallowtail and Large Wall Brown. A Golden Oriole was heard. Stop three was at an altitude of 665m. Species seen here included Ilex Hairstreak, Clouded Apollo, Oberthur's Grizzled Skipper and Mountain Small White. Birds seen were Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting and Serin, and a Nightingale was heard. I saw two Dalmatian Wall Lizards, one of which was missing its tail.
Spotted Fritillary | Croatia Large Wall Brown | Croatia Mountain Small White | Croatia
After lunch we descended to an altitude of 368m. Here we found a Linden tree in flower, and this had attracted a large number of hairstreaks, browns, a Scarce Swallowtail and a High Brown Fritillary. Everybody was amazed by how many butterflies there were on this tree. Also seen here were a Southern Small White and a Great Sooty Satyr. Overhead we saw about seven Alpine Swifts.
We descended to the coast and had a coffee stop. I saw a Black-headed Bunting as we were leaving the car park. At the accommodation I saw what I thought was a Hummingbird-Hawkmoth nectaring on lavender, but on closer inspection it turned out to be a Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth, a species I'd never seen before. After rapidly adjusting the camera for a higher shutter speed, I got some shots of it. The Turkish Geckos appeared after dinner again.
Rock Bunting | Croatia Dalmatian Wall Lizard | Croatia Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth | Croatia
Wednesday 7th June
A pre-breakfast walk turned up a Short-tailed Blue and a Pearly Heath. A Box Moth was caught in the trap. A Nuthatch was heard calling.
Today was transfer day, so we loaded up the minibus and headed south towards Bjelopolje. This was a pretty decent site, with lots of Black-veined Whites and Woodland Ringlets being seen (most of the latter were fairly worn). Four male Amanda's Blues were found together on a piece of manure.
Having exhausted this site, we headed south again, stopping near the town of Gracac for a coffee. I found a Chestnut Heath and a pristine Silver-studded Blue in the grassland across the road from the cafe. We went into Gracac to visit the supermarket. A Blackcap was found singing in a tree here.
Lunch was taken near a meadow above the town. This was another rich site. The first Scarce Swallowtail and Turquoise Blue of the trip were found here. A Short-toed Eagle was seen in the air, carrying a lizard in its beak. A couple of Grayling showed up.
Black-veined White | Croatia Woodland Ringlet | Croatia Amanda's Blue | Croatia
Silver-studded Blue | Croatia Chestnut Heath | Croatia Grayling | Croatia
After lunch we continued south-westwards, and stopped in the middle of nowhere where there was a concrete bunker overlooking a valley. There was a large, rather damaged fritillary fluttering about in the shade of this structure, which was eventually identified as a Niobe Fritillary. Also here were several Blue-spot Hairstreak and Ilex Hairstreak nectaring on yellow Sedum flowers. Also seen here was a Balkan Marbled White, some Alpine Chough and a very large grasshopper.
Finally we reached the coast at the town of Rovanjska, where another refreshment stop was made. The first Yellow-legged Gulls of the trip were seen here, and a Hummingbird-Hawkmoth was found nectaring on flowers.
We continued north to the hotel in the town of Starigrad. A walk down to the beach produced a few things, but on the way back I saw what looked like a length of hosepipe - until it moved! It turned out to be a European Glass Lizard, which was at least 60cm long. It looked like a large Slow-worm more than anything else. After dinner a a couple of Turkish Geckos showed themselves on the walls of the hotel.
Blue-spot Hairstreak | Croatia Hummingbird-Hawkmoth | Croatia European Glass Lizard | Croatia
Tuesday 6th June
It was quite cloudy this morning, but the moth trap had pulled in a few interesting species overnight, including a Lappet, a Swallowtail, a Lesser Emerald and a White Ermine. A Cuckoo was heard calling. We had an early breakfast with the intention of getting into the Plitvicka Jezera national park before it got too busy, but this plan was ruined by a car accident on the main road. So we had a lengthy detour to the other entrance, and did the planned walk in reverse. The lakes and waterfalls were stunning, but it wasn't butterfly habitat. However, this was made up for by the Odonata : Emperor Dragonfly, Common Clubtail, Norfolk Hawker, Beautiful Demoiselle, White-legged Damselflies and Azure Damselflies were seen. There were some birds too: a noisy party of Ravens and a Grey Wagtail were noteworthy. There were lots of very vocal Marsh Frogs at one point.
Marsh Frog | Croatia Raven | Croatia Norfolk Hawker | Croatia
We returned to the hotel to have lunch. In the afternoon we explored the flower-rich meadow behind the hotel. I saw a Hawfinch, a Marbled Fritillary and several Pearly Heaths before even getting to the meadow. A couple of Bee-eaters were sitting in a tree, and a Corn Bunting was singing from the top of another. The flowery grassland was incredibly rich in butterflies. Notable species were Queen of Spain Fritillary, Green-underside Blue, Large Copper, Purple-shot Copper, Glanville Fritillary, Heath Fritillary, Weaver's Fritillary, Mazarine Blue, Silver-studded Blue, Short-tailed Blue, Adonis Blue, Assmann's Fritillary, Tufted Marbled Skipper, Meleager's Blue and Nickerl's Fritillary. There were moths as well: an Emerald species, Foresters, Six-spot Burnets, Transparent Burnets, a Crepuscular Burnet and a Hummingbird-Hawkmoth. The latter landed on a sunny bank and folded its wings, at which point it became virtually impossible to see. Other birds seen were a Hobby and a Red-backed Shrike.
Marbled Fritillary | Croatia Pearly Heath | Croatia Weaver's Fritillary | Croatia
Mazarine Blue | Croatia Queen of Spain Fritillary | Croatia Purple-shot Copper | Croatia
Monday 5th June
Today was the first day of a trip to Croatia with Naturetrek. The weather on arrival at Zagreb was warm and sunny. We headed south, and made the only stop of the day near the hamlet of Gornje Taboriste at 14:40. The habitat here was a flowery meadow and some woodland. There were many butterflies about, although cloud cover had increased. Notable species seen were Wood White, Sloe Hairstreak, Short-tailed Blue, Marbled White, Heath Fritillary, Meadow Brown and Reverdin's Blue. The most unexpected sighting was of a Purple Emperor, which arrived at speed, did a couple of circuits of the group, landed briefly on the track and then shot off again. That was the only sighting of HIM during the trip. Also seen here were a couple of immature White-legged Damselflies and a number of Forester moths.
A Buzzard and a pair of Turtle Doves were seen from the minibus, and there was a Black Redstart at the first hotel in the village of Irinovac, near the Plitvice Lakes national park.
Short-tailed Blue | Croatia Sloe Hairstreak | Croatia Heath Fritillary | Croatia
Saturday 3rd June
Today I carried out my second survey of the Thames to the east of Abingdon, this time on the south bank. As I walked through Barton Fields I saw a rather tired female Orange-tip, a Broad-bodied Chaser and several Common Blue Damselflies. A Cuckoo was calling but I couldn't find it. Out on the river a Grey Heron was sitting on a post. Banded Demoiselles were numerous, and I found a few Red-eyed Damselflies, but there was no sign of any Clubtails. I got a Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn beetle to sit on my finger, but it didn't want to let go. This made taking photos rather difficult. I watched a female Banded Demoiselle catch a moth and then proceed to devour it. My first Meadow Brown of the year made an appearance, and it was followed by several more. A Four-spotted Chaser was the only dragonfly I saw. Other butterflies seen were three Small Tortoiseshells, a Painted Lady, a Large Skipper, three Common Blues and three Brown Argus. On the bird front I saw a Chiffchaff, two Whitethroats and three Buzzards. Walking back through Barton Fields produced a couple of Red Admirals.
Banded Demoisielle ♂ | Abingdon Small Tortoiseshell | Abingdon Meadow Brown ♂ | Abingdon
In the afternoon I visited Dry Sandford Pit. I only saw one Meadow Brown, a couple of Peacocks, five Common Blues and a Small Heath here. Dragonflies did better, with at least four teneral Keeled Skimmers and a couple of Southern Damselflies being seen. I also saw my first 6-Spot Burnet of the year. At the allotment I found a large Common Frog in the polytunnel. In the garden I saw a Red Admirals, and also noticed a female Blackbird with nesting material. That will be the third nest she's built this year.
Keeled Skimmer | Dry Sandfor d Pit Southern Damselfly ♂ | Dry Sandford Pit 6-Spot Burnet | Dry Sandford Pit