Monday, 1 June 2009

Butterflies and Orchids

With birding starting to wind down for the summer, it was time to start concentrating on other wildlife subjects. The orchid  season is in full swing, and thanks to the warm weather, butterflies are starting to become more abundant. 
We decided to repeat a trip we did at the beginning of June last year, but miss out Devon, in the hope of spending more time searching for some of the scarcer subjects.
Martin Down in Hampshire is classic chalk downland, and harbours a great variety of plants and insects. Small and Common Blue butterflies seemed the most abundant, apart from the ubiquitous Small Heath, and there were several Brown Argus too, but Adonis Blue seemed to be scarce compared to last year. Grizzled and Dingy Skipper numbered one each, and we had all but given up finding Marsh Fritillary until we stumbled on a local butterfly group looking at one. 
Apart from Common Spotted Orchids, we only found a few Common Fragrant, and three or four spikes of Burnt Orchid.
Bentley Wood is a well known complex containing a great many butterfly species. Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary were everywhere, and were easy to distinguish from the older, worn Pearl Bordered of which we saw at least two. One surprise was when I was following an interesting butterfly, looked down and found a Duke of Burgundy, despite assertions from locals that our chances were zero. There had been reports of Willow Tit and Tree Pipit in the large clearing, but we did not see any.
Chappet's Copse is a wood not far from Old Winchester Hill (of White Throated Sparrow fame). It is best known for its large population of Sword Leaved Helleborine. I was concerned that we had left it a bit late, but there were several good spikes still left though most were going over. There were a few White Helleborines which made for an interesting comparison, and three or four Fly Orchids. Following guidance, and some help from a local dog walker we found three or four decent spikes of Birds Nest Orchid one of the chlorophyl free saprophytes. 
Wishing to avoid the motor-way problems we headed north through the Chilterns east of Oxford. The most prominent bird was the Red Kite-they seemed to be everywhere and we seemed to encounter one every few minutes. A far cry from our long journeys into Wales in the hope of finding one or two.
We finished up on the river Thames at Goring, hoping to find Club Tailed Dragonfly, a species that eluded us last year. Despite better conditions we failed again. Plenty of Banded Demoiselles and White Legged and Red Eyed Damselflies though.

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