Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Otmoor Brown Hairstreaks

Readers may remember that earlier on in the summer I'd decided to try to see all the Hairstreak species this summer. I'd managed Green and Black successfully but rather came unstuck with White-letter with very few of them reported in or around the county this year. Despite this failure I could easily have got Purple at Bernwood had I had a mind to but somehow other things got in the way. However, with autumn fast approaching I thought that I'd have a final Hairstreak outing and would try to catch up with some Browns at Otmoor so with that in mind it was a matter of waiting for some good weather.

Today dawned a classic early September day: there was no wind, bright sunshine and a sense of calm before the onset of autumn. Spiders were everywhere in the garden as I emptied my moth trap this morning. It was a good catch by recent standards with more than a dozen Large Yellow Underwing all sulking in my Heath-Robinson trap. Other highlights were a Common Wave, a Square-spot Rustic, a couple of Setaceous Hebrew Character, two Green Carpets, a Marbled Beauty and a Vine's Rustic. The Wave was my 100th moth for the garden list, a rather modest total given that I've now run 20 sessions over the summer period but as I've mentioned previously, our urban garden is probably not ideally situated for moths.

Square-spot Rustic

 ..and Common Wave (no. 100 on the garden list)

As the weather looked so perfect for butterfly hunting I decided to head off to Otmoor as soon as work permitted. Fortunately, the financial markets (which occupy my working day) were very quiet today because of the US holiday so I was able to get away at around 10 a.m. and a short while later I pulled up in the car park. I headed straight down the Roman Road behind the car park where I'd been told that the best spot was the "master" Ash tree there. Quite what a "master" tree is was beyond me (though I subsequently Googled it - see here) so I thought that I would look for a tall Ash tree along the track. I soon found the first butterfly of the day, a typically co-operative Speckled Wood that posed for me nicely.

Speckled Wood's always pose nicely

Towards the end of the "road" (past the muddy puddle in case you're interested) the trees turned to Oak on the right and there were a few Ash on the left. I started scanning the latter and soon found a tree that had quite a bit of butterfly activity. These turned out mostly to be more Speckled Woods though high up near the top I did managed to spot a blob of orange. Thanks to my Super-zoom camera this is what I saw:

Brown Hairstreak high up in the tree

Job done! I wasn't going to get much better views than that I expected so I decided to head over to Long Meadow to catch up with the Redstarts there. These birds seem to be getting quite common in the county in the autumn now though they seem studiously to be avoiding my patch at Port Meadow and I've yet to see one there though a couple have been reported over the last few years. Anyway, I was keen to see these beauties and sure enough soon found a pair of them flitting about the isolated Hawthorn bushes and in the Blackthorn along the edges along with a couple of Lesser Whitethroats and a Willow Warbler. They were rather mobile so I don't know whether I was seeing the same two all the time or whether there were quite a few of them. Because of the range and their movement I didn't bother trying to photograph them. I did kick up a micro moth which I diligently photographed though when I got home and studied the shot it turned out to be a very worn Garden Grass-veneer, a very common grassland micro.

For illustrative purposes here's a Long Meadow
 Redstart that Badger (c) took recently

What to do next? I thought that I'd check out the Saunder's Ground for Whinchat and Wheatears and the Pill to see if there was anything interesting there. I'd come on this trip in my running gear though so far had only run the short distance from the Roman Road to Long Meadow and felt that I ought to make a bit of an effort. So I dutifully slogged my way across the Saunder's Ground though it was rather boggy and my feet were soon soaked. There were no Wheatears along the bordering hedge and near the gate there were several cows with their young calves standing right by the gate. There'd been a sign at the entrance warning people about the cows and they looked rather protective of their young so I decided that discretion was the better part of valour. Not that I have a problem with cows and I'll happily walk right through them on Port Meadow but I was getting bad vibes off these ones.

I ran back through the bog and decided to head back to the car park via the Bridleway and the main track by the bird feeders rather than the Roman Road. Just past the feeders I met a couple of women who were staring intently into a Blackthorn hedge. It turned out to be a Brown Hairstreak laying eggs. This was much better than the distant neck-straining views of earlier and I took some shots.

Egg-laying Brown Hairstreak

It then flitted across the path to settle on some wild flowers where it even opened its wings. Whilst we were watching it another one flew past us and settled on the other side of the hedge that bordered the Closes.

...and even an upper wing shot!

It's a shame it was rather a tatty specimen but I couldn't complain about the views I was getting. I headed back home for a shower and to check up on the markets (they were completely stagnant so I'd not missed anything). Whilst sorting out my photos I noticed that the Hairstreak in the tree had large chunks missing from its wings also and I did wonder whether it might have been the same one though a closer study of the details of the missing portions convinced me that it had indeed been a separate one so I'd managed a total of three different ones today. It had been a nice end to the butterfly season for me and a good excuse to spend some time outside on a gorgeous autumn day.

No comments: