Natural History Diary : July 2017
Sunday 30th July
Today I saw a Red Admiral in my parents' garden in Eynsham.
Saturday 29th July
I went over to Standlake Common this morning, but I wasn't there for long before what sunshine there was disappeared behind cloud. Along Langley Lane I saw a dozen Common Blue Damselflies, two Blue-tailed Damselflies, one Banded Demoiselle and one Southern Hawker. Butterflies seen were Red Admiral, Green-veined White, Common Blue and Speckled Wood. There wasn't a lot of interest on Pit 60. I saw a female Black-tailed Skimmer ovipositing, with the male in close attendance. There were two Little Egrets feeding in the shallows, and an Oystercatcher with an injured leg or foot on the island. I counted thirty-five Mute Swans. Later at home I saw a couple of Large Whites and a Holly Blue in the garden.
Banded Demoiselle ♀ | Standlake Common Speckled Wood ♂ | Standlake Common Little Egret | Standlake Common
Friday 28th July
This morning I saw a couple of Large Whites and a Gatekeeper at the allotment, and another Gatekeeper in the garden.
Sunday 23rd July
I headed to Aston Rowant NNR this morning. By the time I got there the sun had mostly disappeared and there was quite a brisk wind. The field between the Ridgeway and Bald Hill was quite productive; I saw a Red Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillary, Dark Green Fritillary and Brown Argus nectaring on thistles here. It took quite a lot of searching, but eventually I found a rather damaged Silver-spotted Skipper attempting to warm up. I found a Fox moth caterpillar (black with yellow stripes) on a Hawthorn bush. As it warmed up a bit a few Chalk Hill Blues appeared. I went down to the botton of the slope where it was more sheltered, but then it started spitting with rain. On the way back to the car park I found some more Silver-spotted Skippers and Chalk Hill Blues. I found a Small Copper in the field.
Silver-spotted Skipper ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR Small Copper | Aston Rowant NNR Common Blue ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR
I relocated to the north side of the reserve. Initially the conditions were the same as they'd been on the south side, so most butterflies were sitting it out on Majoram or down in the grass. When the sun eventually came out, so did the butterflies. As usual Meadow Browns were the most numerous species, but were closely followed by Chalk Hill Blues and Common Blues. There weren't many Brown Argus about, but I did find five Small Coppers. Nymphalids seen were a Peacock, two Red Admirals, two Commas and two Small Tortoiseshells. At the top of the slope I found two more Silver-spotted Skippers, including one female. As well as Six-spot Burnets I saw a couple of Dusky Sallows and Silver Ys.
Chalk Hill Blue ♂ | Aston Rowant NNR Chalk Hill Blue ♀ | Aston Rowant NNR Dusky Sallow | Aston Rowant NNR
Saturday 22nd July
I saw a couple of Gatekeepers, Meadow Brown and a Large White at the allotment this morning. I saw a Large White and a juvenile House Sparrow in the garden. The pair of Blackbirds were again taking food away for youngsters; that it their fourth brood this year!
Wednesday 19th July
A Migrant Hawker was hawking for insects in my garden this morning.
Tuesday 18th July
I visited Greenham Common this morning. Although it was warm, there was a moderate south-easterly wind which reduced butterfly activity. However, in 90 minutes I found eight Grayling, which was my 43rd British species this year. The most numerous species was the Gatekeeper, with at least forty seen. Common Blues did quite well too, with at least eighteen seen. On the dragonfly front I saw five Emperor Dragonflies, five Black-tailed Skimmers, one Brown Hawker and at least seven Common Darters. There were some birds too - quite a few Linnets and Meadow Pipits, and a couple of juvenile Stonechats.
Grayling | Greenham Common Common Blue | Greenham Common Common Darter | Greenham Common
I then headed to Fence Wood. The butterfly fauna had changed quite a bit from my last visit on 2nd July. Silver-washed Fritillary, Comma Meadow Brown and Ringlet counts were way down from last time, but they had been replaced by numerous Gatekeepers and Brimstones. At least fifteen of the latter were feeding on Betony flowers. There were twice as many females as males. Dragonflies were well represented. I saw probably three Emperor Dragonflies, two Brown Hawkers and singletons of Common Darter, Migrant Hawker and Southern Hawker. Later at home I saw my first garden Gatekeeper of the year. I also saw a Common Footman moth in th egarden.
Brimstone | Fence Wood Southern Hawker | Fence Wood
Sunday 16th July
Another mostly cloudy day, but there was a bit more sunshine than yesterday, which pushed the temperature up. I saw ten species of butterfly at the allotment, including a Red Admiral and Green-veined White that I released from the polytunnel, a very faded Small Tortoiseshell (the larvae I found on Friday had separated into three groups), and a Common Blue. In the garden I saw a Small White and a couple of Large Whites. I also found a roosting Large Yellow Underwing.
Saturday 15th July
A pretty dull day for mid-July. The only butterfly I saw was a Small White in the garden.
Friday 14th July
At the allotment this afternoon I found a group of Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars in the nettle patch. The only adult butterfly seen was a Large White.
Sunday 9th July
Just a few sightings from the allotment today: at least four Large Whites, three Small Whites, two Essex Skipper, two Gatekeepers, one Brimstone and one Marbled White. I heard a Skylark and a Greenfinch singing.
Saturday 8th July
The weather turned out better than forecast today, although the sunshine was hazy at times. I went to Aston Upthorpe Downs in the morning. This almost rivalled Croatia in terms of numbers, with dozens of Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Ringlets and Marbled Whites feeding on flowers. My target species was the Chalk Hill Blue, of which I only saw two. Other lycaenids seen were four Common Blues and three Small Coppers. I saw my first summer-brood Peacocks and Brimstones. Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and Small Heath counts were in double figures. In all I saw nineteen species in 2.5 hours. I saw some moths: a Scarlet Tiger, a couple of Silver Ys, some Six-spot Burnets and a Lesser Pearl (the latter is a micro-moth). There were Cinnabar caterpillers on almost every Ragwort plant. There weren't many birds about, but I saw a Yellowhammer and when I got back to the car a Corn Bunting was perched on top of the grain drier.
In the afternoon I cycled to Bayworth and Sunningwell, to see if I could find any White-letter Hairstreaks on the Elms there. I couldn't find any WLHs, but I did find a footpath from the village to Bagley Wood. The hedgerow adjacent to this was alive with butterflies, principally Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Ringlets. The Gatekeepers outnumbered even the Meadow Browns, which is unusual. Also along the hedgerow I found a rather battered Silver-washed Fritillary and a couple of Broad-bodied Chasers.
Finally, a stop at the allotment produced four Gatekeepers, a couple of Essex Skippers and a Small Copper. That was the first Small Copper I'd seen at the allotment since 2014.
Chalk Hill Blue | Aston Upthorpe Downs Brimstone ♂ | Aston Upthorpe Downs Peacock | Aston Upthorpe Downs
Thursday 6th July
A late afternoon visit to the allotment produced singletons of Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Large White, Small White and Essex Skipper. A Grey Partridge was on the track as I left.
Wednesday 5th July
There were eight Swifts tearing about at low level near my house this evening.
Tuesday 4th July
I saw a Holly Blue in the garden at lunchtime. Later at the allotment I saw a Gatekeeper, two Essex Skippers and at least three Small Tortoiseshells.
Sunday 2nd July
Today I headed south to Silchester Common, in search of the Silver-studded Blue. In two hours I saw seven males and ten females, which was better than I usually manage at this site. Meadow Browns were fairly numerous, but I didn't find any Grayling. I saw two moths: a Beautiful Yellow Underwing (feeding on heather flowers) and a Grass Emerald. This site is usually good for dragonflies, but today I only saw three Emperor Dragonflies and a Black-tailed Skimmer. Along the path to the car park I saw a Silver-washed Fritillary and three Purple Hairstreaks.
I headed back north to Fence Wood, which last year I thought would be a good White Admiral site: I saw three. Silver-washed Fritillaries were much in evidence, with at least ten seen. The Comma count nearly matched this; I saw nine. There were some second-brood Green-veined Whites about, and I saw my first summer-brood Holly Blue. Dragonflies included four Emperor Dragonflies and a newly emerged Southern Hawker, which didn't seem to have quite worked out how to use its wings.
I saw four Small Tortoiseshells and two Essex Skippers at the allotment, and a Comma in the garden.
Beautiful Yellow Underwing | Silchester Common Silver-Studded Blue ♂ | Silchester Common Green-veined White | Fence Wood
Saturday 1st July
Yet another cloudy morning. The forecast sunshine took a long time to appear. However I headed off for Waterperry Wood anyway. I saw my first Purple Hairstreak of the year quite quickly, and this was followed by several more. None of them descended from their Oak trees, though. The weak sunshine was enough to get Ringlets and Large Skippers going. I managed to spot four Purple Emperors, but these were all flying over the tree tops and didn't come to the ground. Eventually some Silver-washed Fritillaries appeared, feeding avidly on bramble flowers.
Stop two was Bernwood Forest, where I walked up to the pond and back. There were no dragonflies at the pond, but I did see three Brown Hawkers and an Emperor Dragonfly along the ride. Silver-washed Fritillaries were quite numerous, with at least twenty (including three females) seen. I saw one Purple Emperor here, which again was flying along the tree line. At one point there was a Red Admiral and a White Admiral on the ground in the car park.
Stop three was at Whitecross Green Wood. There was more sun now, but the wind had picked up too. I only saw six Purple Hairstreaks here, but there were over twenty Silver-washed Fritillaries, including a mating pair. I also saw seven Commas and my first Gatekeeper of the year. There were also seven Emperor Dragonflies and four Brown Hawkers. A Black-tailed Skimmer was perched for some time on the information board at the junction of the two rides. There weren't many birds about but I heard Chiffchaffs here (and at the other two locations).
I found another Old Lady moth in the house this evening. This one didn't give me the runaround!
Purple Hairstreak | Waterperry Wood Silver-washed Fritillary ♀ | Bernwood Forest Gatekeeper ♂ | Whitecross Green Wood