Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Oxfordshire - 15th July 2013

Nick Patel, Jonny Scragg, Ash Baines and I decided to utilise the nice weather and make our way to the chalkhills to try and mop up on butterflies. We hired a car with Thrifty Cars and headed down to Oxfordshire, arriving for just after lunch.
We started at Aston Rowant reserve between Oxford and High Wycombe and is famed for it's butterflies including Chalkhill Blue and Silver-spotted Skipper.
 Marbled White - Aston Rowant
It would appear that we were a touch early to visit the site and neither of the previously mentioned species were seen during out visit. We did however see lots of Marbled White - a butterfly that I have only seen once before, so to see c200 flying was excellent. I also was able to see my first Essex Skippers at the site which really took a lot of effort to find as Skippers just do not settle and as the main difference between the two species is the underneath of the tip of the antenna is black (rather than orange on Small Skipper), a settled butterfly was really required. We think we had 3 in total at the site. It was also nice to see lots of Dark-green Fritillary at the site as well as I'm only used to seeing them on Limestone areas such as Arnside Knott in Lancs.
 Silver-washed Fritillary coming down to drink. Bernwood Forest.
Once we realised that we were probably a bit early, we moved onto Bernwood Forest with the main targets being Purple Emperor and White Admiral. As we stepped out the car in the car park, the first thing we saw was a White Admiral which was excellent! A really gorgeous butterfly and a new species for me as I've only seen Southern White Admiral abroad. Moving on, we soon came across a few Silver-washed Fritillaries, which have to go down as one of the prettiest species of insect in the UK.
 White Admiral coming down to drink
We discovered a small muddy pond which we got told was a good spot for Purple Hairstreak and Purple Emperor to drink from. As we arrived at the pond, we flushed a Purple Hairstreak which flew up to the top of an Oak and then never came back down again. We did get some great views of White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillaries drinking though, which was really nice.
 Purple Harstreak at the top of an Oak
Brand new 13 plate Ford Fiesta with only 600 miles on the clock when we set off!
In addition to the butterflies, we saw several Muntjack, Red Kite and yaffling Green Woodpecker, and a plethora of supercars on the drive down. A really enjoyable day, despite the only slight success of target species seen. Driving a new, white hire car with air con, getting out the car into 30oC heat and seeing White Admirals really made it feel like we were abroad. A great day!

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