Following the very successful Norfolk Hawker sightings at Amwell, I had high hopes for Sunday. We had pretty much decided to go down to the Oxford area and search for Black Hairstreaks. I had heard that there were large numbers at Bernwood Meadows about ten days earlier, with many reports coming in from the usual sites. The forecast seemed reasonable, with bright spells and maybe a shower around mid-day.
When Colin arrived it was very cloudy and looked like rain was on the way so we thought that it would be best to do a bit of birding at RSPB Otmoor, and visit the butterfly sites later in the day when it conditions should have been better. We hit rain on the M40 and it continued for several hours, not good. As Otmoor is one of the more regular sites these days for Turtle Doves it was pretty much the target species and although I had a very brief sighting while getting ready in the car park we failed to locate any in the rather damp depressing conditions. Lots of warblers singing-Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow, Sedge and Reed, plus Reed Buntings and various finches. Seems to be a good place for Bullfinch as I saw several here.
We headed off to the main hide, getting rather wet in the process and waited out the rain. Buntings and Linnets were feeding on the track outside, and a nice but rather damp Bullfinch posed in a bush.
After a while we returned to the car to try and dry out, having not really seen much at all. Looking at the rain radar it was clear that it would continue for some time so we went to Warburg to see some of the orchids.
The main rides are looking superb, with carpets of Pyramidal and Common Spotted Orchids contrasting with the yellows of trefoils, Agrimony, buttercups and St Johns Wort, and the whites of umbellifers. Took some time but eventually around 15 Greater Butterfly Orchids were found. Marbled Whites, Ringlets were abundant in the more open rides.
No Helleborines, Birds Nests or Lesser Butterflies were seen, presumably that had gone over or got eaten. However after a very long search I managed to see a single Fly Orchid in the garden, having walked past the big yellow stick marking it several times.
As it was warming up, we returned to Otmoor, as one of the wardens had told us that the roman road was a good spot for Black Hairstreaks with ten the previous weekend. Luckily it had dried out a bit by the time we got back and was pleased to hear several Turtle Doves purring around the car park. Rinlets and Meadow Browns were out, along with many damselflies and by the time we got to the big Ash tree where the Brown Hairstreak was seen last year we had found a couple of small butterflies flitting around high in the trees. Eventually one came down and I got pretty good views, but getting images was a lot harder, and it did not help that a second Hairstreak was also present, leading to regular fights. In total I think we had three individuals, and eventually had long sustained views. The conclusion we have come to is that Otmoor with the bonus of good birding (and maybe Bramton Wood near Peterborough) is a lot better for us than the traditional site of Whitecross Green which has always been very frustrating and difficult to work.