Monday 24 June 2019

Butterfly trip to Oxford, Part II

The weather forecast for Thursday 20th June had always been for the best weather of the week and on opening the curtains of our hotel room that morning we were greeted with a clear blue sky - yes!

It was cool and a little breezy though and a few clouds started to appear in the sky as  we headed off out for the day. I had originally planned to visit Whitecross Green Wood, a nature reserve known for it's good sightings of black hairstreaks, but there had been very little news from there on the internet. There were however good reports (and photos)  from a place called Hewins Wood in Buckinghamshire, not far from Whitecross Green Wood, and so I switched plans and we headed off there instead.

We parked up in a layby by a gap in a hedgerow leading into the wood and within 60 seconds I had found a black hairstreak flitting over the brambles before flying up into the top of a tree and out of sight - result! More black hairstreaks were soon found flitting about and I managed to get some great views of them although in the sunshine they were very active and mobile, constantly flitting and fidgeting in the top of the trees but moving down lower and becoming inactive when the sun disappeared behind the clouds.

Black Hairstreak, Hewins Wood

Black Hairstreak

Black Hairstreak 

Black Hairstreak 

Black  Hairstreak 

Black  Hairstreak 

Black  Hairstreak

Black Hairstreak

Black Hairstreak 

Other butterly enthusiasts came and went and while I managed to get good views of the hairstreaks they were difficult to photograph as they were constantly moving about when resting on the leaves and at times dragging their tongues between their legs as they fed on honeydew secretions made by aphids.

Other butterflies were on the wing too (at last!) and I saw 2 large skippers, 2 small heath, a speckled wood, a few meadow browns, a brief and distant white species flying by and best of all 2 white admiral that were constantly chasing each other about and wouldn't settle for more than a few seconds.

I heard a lesser whitethroat singing for brief periods  my first of the year, and eventually I had a brief view of it as it dashed between trees. I also heard chiffchaff, willow warbler and great spotted woodpecker while red kites drifted past overhead and there were plenty of common spotted orchids dotted around on the ground.

Common Spotted Orchid, Hewins Wood

With David retiring to the car to read the newspaper and listen to the radio I eventually had to leave too but the butterflies had been beautiful insects to see and interesting to observe. I had hoped to get a good close up shot of one of them but only one individual posed nicely and unfortunately it was a little worn and tatty - never mind, there is always another time and I was just really glad and pleased to have seen them.

Black  Hairstreak, Hewins Wood

We drove back towards Bicester and visited an antiques centre where we had some lunch before driving on to RSPB Otmoor, a reserve I have not visited before. Turtle doves breed here on the reserve but typically there was no sign of them on my visit although there were plenty of stock doves and wood pigeons flying around - it is now the 4th RSPB reserve I have visited and dipped turtle dove, the other 3 being Minsmere, Lakenheath Fen and Fowlmere - maybe 5th time will be a charm?

Despite the lack of turtle doves I had an excellent time walking around the reserve and saw some great wildlife, the highlight being 2 common cranes feeding distantly out on the meadows and disappearing amongst the long grass when bending down to feed. Whether they are wild birds from the east or reintroduced birds from the west is unknown but they were still great to see.

Common Cranes, Otmoor

Other bird highlights included 2 hobby hawking insects over the fields, a female marsh harrier quartering over the fields before disappearing off over the reed beds, red kites regularly soaring by overhead, a flyby cuckoo with a second bird seen briefly disappearing into a tree, singing reed warblers and sedge warblers everywhere, Cettis warbler, chiffchaff, willow warbler and a garden warbler all heard but not seen, lapwing, redshank, a snipe and curlew in the boggy and wet areas in the fields and gadwall, teal, pochard, shoveler and tufted duck on the lake.

Black hairstreaks are found on the reserve but I failed to find any although I did see a red admiral, small tortoiseshells and large skippers. A harlequin ladybird larva was a spikey surprise and I found a very attractive looking caterpillar, ID'd as a Yellow-tail by the excellent @MothIDUK Twitter site.

Harlequin Ladybird Larva, Otmoor

Yellow-tail Caterpillar, Otmoor

A hare gave some nice views as it ran along a farm track, stopping briefly to wash its face before disappearing into the long grass.

Hare, Otmoor

It was soon time to drive back to the hotel in Oxford for our final nights stay but it had been an excellent day of wildlife sightings and at least the sun shone for most of the time and it didn't rain.

Friday 21st June and it was time to drive back home. It was sunny and warm and as we drove to Tyntesfield House near Bristol for a visit on our way back to Plymouth I saw some marbled whites flying around on a roadside verge to add to the trips butterfly list.

Tyntesfield House was very enjoyable, we visited here back in 2011 and it was interesting to return to see how the house and gardens are developing since the National Trust took over in 2002. An emperor dragonfly ovipositing in a pond was a nice find along with a few black-tailed skimmers and there were plenty of swifts dashing about overhead but it was soon time to continue on our way home.

Black-tailed Skimmer, Tyntesfield 

And so a great trip, another new butterfly species for me (now 2 in a week) and the feeling I need another holiday to get over it - so all in all a success!

No comments:

Post a Comment