Field Event Reports

1 July 2015 - RSPB Otmoor - butterflies and other insects

Leader: Richard Lewington

An excellent group of 15 members met in the Otmoor car park on what promised to be a hot day, and indeed became the hottest July day on recent record. Our primary target were Black Hairstreaks, some of which had been seen recently on Otmoor – it was a couple of weeks too early for Brown Hairstreaks. Our walk started with the Roman Road, a narrow pathway through the grass, with mature trees to one side and tall scrub the other, both with a substantial understorey of grasses, nettles, brambles, sloe etc. Plenty of butterflies were about as well as damselflies and numerous Brown Hawkers. The most notable find was a Purple Hairstreak spotted by hawk-eye Richard.

From the Roman Road we walked slowly along the raised track bordering Greenaways passing the cattle pens and on to the Wetland Hide. Notable finds were: a stunning Emperor Dragonfly hawking the water channel beside the trail; a Cuckoo Bumblebee, which Richard happily handled as they apparently do not sting; and dozens of Black-tailed Skimmers zooming across a water-filled scrape on Greenaways. Richard also spotted a Hairy Dragonfly caught in a spider's web, which he retrieved and used to show us key features of these insects; the dragonfly was still very much alive and flew off rapidly after a short rest on a grass stalk – saved by AbNats! Plenty of butterflies and damselflies were visible along the track. There was a brief rest in the Wetland Hide to take on liquid and sustenance, when it was decided among those that had managed to endure the heat so far that a return walk to the Car Park was in order. Just before leaving the hide area we hesitated to look up the ditch bordering Greenaways, where as well as other damselflies Richard spotted a Banded Demoiselle. Our return walk took us down the Car Park track bordered by sloe hedges. Still we hunted for Black Hairstreaks, but sadly none were found, although apparently some had been spotted by other other visitors.

While 'birding' was not the primary aim of the visit, this cannot be escaped on Otmoor. Generally birds were relatively few in number (or at least visible), but many were heard and identified, including a good number of warblers. When we exited the Roman Road some of us were lucky enough to have a stunning view of a Marsh Harrier flying directly at us at low level over the Greenaways marshland. A Turtle Dove, whose 'purring' was quite often heard, was seen feeding in the cattle pens and a large flock of Lapwing arrived as we left the Wetland Hide.

Despite the heat, an excellent time was had by all. Many thanks to Richard without whose expertise few of the innumerable insects seen would have been spotted and identified.

Green-veined White, Large White, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Purple Hairstreak, Peacock (caterpillars), Common Blue.
Dragonflies etc:
Ruddy Darter, Brown Hawker, Four-spotted Chaser, Broad-bodied Chaser, Emperor Dragonfly, Black-tailed Skimmer, Hairy Dragonfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Azure damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Red-eyed Damselfly, Banded Demoiselle
Other Insects:
Cuckoo Bumblebee, Scorpionfly, Heart and Dart Moth, Wave Moth, white Plume Moth.
Birds (seen/heard):
Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Buzzard, Mute Swan, Mallard, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Moorhen, Kingfisher, Heron, Curlew, Redshank, Lapwing, Skylark, Wren, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Carrion Crow, Magpie.
Richard Lewington, Graham Bateman, Hugh Summers, David Guyoncourt, Barry & Beryl Stayte, Gillian & Michael Taylor, David Perrow, Tony Vincent, Tony Rayner, Mr & Eleanor Dangerfield, Gerry Quinn, Nigel Gregory.

Graham Bateman