One of the few of the county's butteflies that I've yet to see is White-letter Hairstreak. To my knowledge they can only be found down in the southern end of the county so I'd been meaning to take a trip down there some time over the next couple of weeks - in fact I'd even made a tentative arrangement with Peter Law and Ewan Urquhart to look for them this week. Then my younger daughter reminded me that she was going to Devon to stay with a school friend for a few days and could I give her a lift to the station. She would have to take the train from Oxford to Reading where she would change for a west-bound train. My scheming brain started to whirr into action as Reading station is only a few minutes from the Hairstreak location. I nobly offered to give her a lift to Reading so should wouldn't have to worry about changing trains etc and even too Luke with me too so my VLW, who unfortunately is rather poorly at present, could have some time on her own for rest and recuperation.
Thus it was that at around 8:45 on Sunday morning we set off in the car for Reading. Fortunately there was little traffic and we arrived in good time. Daughter no. 2 was safely seen off and then we headed back the way we'd come to the Hairstreak spot. It was getting on for 10 am now though fortunately it wasn't too hot yet. The key spot turned out to be a hedge of mixed trees including the all-important Elms (which were relatively small in size) and with some nice in-flower Bramble at the end. I wandered around staring upwards as you do for Hairstreaks and fortunately within about half an hour managed to spot one nectaring on the Bramble flower. It looked remarkably similar to the Black Hairstreaks that I'd been watching a few weeks earlier with John Chapple et al. but of course missing the diagnostic black dots of that species. I took plenty of snaps with my super-zoom until it flew off into the tree-tops.
As Luke was getting impatient by this stage I decided to spend a bit of time doing what he enjoys which is rummaging around at low level for bugs, butterflies and moths. In a narrow bit of un-mown grass nearby we found all sorts of goodies including a Yellow Shell moth, a Soldier Beetle, loads of Ringlets and Meadow Browns and an accommodating Six-spot Burnett that sat on his finger quite happily for five minutes whilst he wandered around looking at things.
Luke's Burnett finger moth
After a while we decided to head on to a second destination which I'd lined up, namely a stroll along the river at Cholsey to see if I could find any White-legged Damselflies. Ferry Lane appeared to be rather busy with every man and his dog seemingly out on the river today, either swimming, boating or fishing a fishing match. This last event was particularly annoying as it meant that lots of the decent spots where I wanted to look for damselflies were taken up with anglers. Still Luke and I wandered along the bank to see what we could find. For the most part this turned out to be Banded Demoiselles - there were dozens of these delightful insects darting here and there where ever you looked. There were a few Azure's about as well, quite a few Brown Hawkers and a couple of Black-tailed Skimmers. We loafed around in one of the pretties spots and I took some snaps.
Try as I might though I couldn't turn up any White-legged at all. In the end we gave up and wandered back to the car. I drove to a local convenience store where I got Luke the ice cream which I'd promised him earlier as inducement to come on the walk. We then headed for home, glad to be out of the heat finally but having enjoyed a very pleasant morning admiring the insect world.