Saturday, 22 August 2015

A hot butterfly day

Temperatures climbing rapidly today, predicted to hit 28-30C this afternoon. Glad I am not going to the Bird Fair, the heat and humidity in the marquees must be unbearable.
Had a chat with Colin and we decided to stick to the Bucks/Oxon Chilterns as it would be a good butterfly day, and there have been many reports of Brown Hairstreaks over the last week or so.
We first went to Bernewood Meadows. We have not had much luck with Hairstreaks here though it is supposed to be a good site. Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and large numbers of Common Blues were abundant and we had a Silver Washed Fritillary, a Brimstone, a Purple Hairstreak and a couple of Small Coppers. I have probably seen more Common Blues this morning than I have the rest of the year. Very few birds, it is rather quiet. Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers were also seen.

Our back-up plan was to go to Otmoor next as we knew it is reliable. On the way I heard that Mathew Oates had seen 76 Brown Hairstreaks at Shipton Bellinger on Salisbury Plain, rather too far away unfortunately and a bit of a big area to search considering I knew nothing about the place. Still we arrived at Otmoor, feeling inspired. Got out of the car and the heat and humidity really hit us.
Walking up the roman road, Colin walked straight past a female Hairstreak nectarine on an umbellifer. Luckily it remained on view for us and a couple of others  for a few minutes. We then carried on up to the ash trees and waited for a while. Probably three more Brown Hairstreaks were seen here though all were high up in the trees. A problem was the oak tree nearby which had several Purple Hairstreaks in it. More Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters, lots of Speckled Woods, browns and whites plus another Silver Washed Fritillary added to the mix as we made our way back to the car park. Another Brown Hairstreak at eye level kept us and others busy for a while.

Again few birds of note-Goldfinches and Linnets were very vocal, a family of Spotted Flycatchers remained largely hidden and a few warblers were heard, including a Willow practicing it's song.
As the heat was starting to be a bit of a problem we went to Aston Rowant for an hour then came home. Chalkhill Blues were present in large numbers, though most looked a bit past their best, there were a few Common Blues, and a Brown Argus or two, plus one or two very small (Small?) Blues which we never got close to. The Silver Spotted Skippers were pretty easy to photograph this year even though it was quite breezy on the top of the ridge, but the one Essex Skipper was too flighty.
We met someone who had seen Clouded Yellow just before we arrived but could not get to it before it flew off. A new photographic tick for me was the Stripe Winged Grasshopper.

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