Yesterday Colin and I spent a day out in the Chilterns mainly targeting butterflies which, for me at least have been in short supply recently.
We started off at RSPB Otmoor, which has become a bit of a favourite at this time of year. Seems like a lot of others had the same idea as the car park was a bit full by the time we arrived.
The RSPB had opened up a seasonal trail through the meadow adjacent to the car park and it was full of insect life. Lots of Common Blues and Small Coppers (my first of the year) and large numbers of Common and Ruddy Darters. We kept our eyes open for the Turtle Doves which were still around, having been seen earlier but we were out of luck.
Walking over to the Wetland Watchpoint hide, we scanned the fields for waders and migrant chats-none seen. The Cranes proved to be too elusive and the best birds turned out to be some feral Barnacle Geese. We encountered more darters, some Brown and Southern Hawkers, family parties of Reed Warblers and Whitethroats and a few geese and swans. Lots of distant raptors proved to be Red Kites and Buzzards, but perhaps we should have payed attention as there had been a summering Hen Harrier, and a flyover Osprey though I think the latter was seen after we left.
The Ash and Oaks along the Roman Road were reasonably productive with both Purple and Brown Hairstreaks, though unfortunately they all stayed up in the trees. We found at least two Browns, which the visiting group were pleased to see-if the stickers in the cars were anything to go by, some had come a long way to see them.
Our next stop was Aston Rowant and by now it was getting rather warm. Again a lot of visitors were butterfly hunting and it was very productive, probably the best we've had here. Purple Hairstreak in the car park, whites all over the place, large numbers of very fresh brimstones and we hadn't actually got to the hillside. Silver Spotted Skippers were very abundant (in fact they were the only skippers seen all day), and Chalkhill Blues, Common Blues and Brown Argus were all over the hillside. We bumped into someone I knew vaguely, formerly from Hitchin and now Chelmsford, and he mentioned that he had found Adonis Blues at the bottom of the slope. I didn't know they were here, and neither did a few others I talked to on the way down. Fortunately at least one was picked out and posed quite well.
I spent a bit of time failing to locate Autumn Ladies Tresses but I did find a lot of Autumn Gentians.
We finished the day in a very hot and humid Warburg, another of our regular summer destinations. I knew from Bird Forum that we would be lucky to see any orchids as all the Narrow Lipped had been eaten. As it turned out so had the dozen or so Broad Leaved, and while we did see a few tiny plants in the cages where the Violet and Narrow Lipped occur it was rather disappointing. Yellow Birds Nest should have been there too but a search was fruitless.
Another failure were the Chiltern Gentians, though I found a few plants in bud that looked promising and compared to previous August visits, Autumn Gentians were scarce.
We encountered Marsh Tits in various spots, but otherwise birds were quiet, and butterflies were hard to find. Brimstones, Common Blues, Brown Argus and Peacocks were around, and the car park held Southern and Migrant Hawkers. A bonus was a single Silver Washed Fritillary bringing our day list up to a respectable 20 species of butterfly.