Sunday, 29 July 2012

Butterflies and Frogs

Stayed up Friday night to watch the Olympic opening ceremony which was pretty impressive and a lot of fun. As a result of the very late night and not much sleep I was feeling pretty crap when I got up in the morning. Luckily we were not planning on doing much.
Totternhoe Knolls is a huge ex chalk quarry good for butterflies and plants, but being so large it is hard to know where to go. I have several references which helped a bit but in the end due to time (and heat!) we stuck to the south west section.
Lots of Meadow Browns and Ringlets as expected and Marbled Whites were everywhere. We had a few Skippers and Chalkhill Blues too. The flora in the quarry was interesting, with many Chiltern Gentians varying in size-some were huge. Not sure whether Autumn Gentian was present, or if there were any hybrids. We had hoped to find Frog Orchids, but apart from a couple of well past their best Pyramidals I only found a few Common Spotted gone to seed.

We were going to go to the south section of Aston Rowant but the nearby Watlington Hill looked promising so we went there instead. The hillside was covered in Self Heal, various Hawkweeds and Thistles, Perforate St Johns Wort, Cinquefoil and Centaury and as a result was very colourful. Overhead the constant calls of immature Red Kites was distracting. With less sun and a breeze, there were only a few Meadow browns flying which was a shame.
Orchids were hard to locate. The leaves of Twayblade were easy to find, but Frog Orchids were not. In some areas I had heard that plants were getting quite large so was expecting to find a few fairly easily. When I did locate one it was only an inch high! Careful scrutiny of the area produced eight more, including some with nice reddish tints, but none were more than two inches high.

A quick call in to the northern section of Aston Rowant did not last long as the wind was pretty strong and it was getting very cloudy. Only two Skippers were seen-both Small.

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