Friday, 30 July 2010

Farewell for a Few Weeks

I am not really supposed to be using the computer at the moment, so shh, don't tell anyone :) I had planned to post before my eye surgery but there was so much to do at home before I had it done that I just ran out of time. Anyway it is done now although it was a bit more complicated than the last time and I won't know for three weeks or so how successful it has been. For those reasons this will be my last post for some weeks and I'm afraid I won't be able to visit all your lovely blogs at the moment either. Consequently this post is really just photos taken on our last visit to Otmoor.

I hope my Ids are accurate but as always I welcome correction although I may not be able to amend them immediately.

Above and below
Ruddy Darter

Small Skipper

Above and below a particularly beautiful
Gatekeeper Butterfly

Grey Heron

Brown Hare

Meadow Brown Butterfly

Rhagonycha fulva
(commonly known as Hogweed Bonking Beetle)

Fat-legged Beetle (Oedemera nobilis)

Above and below
Common Darter

Green-veined White Butterfly

Little Egret

Above and below
Emerald Damselfly

Sorry it is not my normal type of post but I can tell I have been here too long already. Apologies too that I wasn't able to answer all the comments on my last post. I look forward to being back with you all and will miss you.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Summer Sights

Summer finally arrived in all her glory and my goodness it has been hot, hot and unfortunately humid too for much of the time. The grass is parched and the birdbath needs refilling frequently. Very hot and humid weather doesn't do me any favours at all but we have taken our chances where we could and enjoyed some nice walks towards the end of the day when the air is a little cooler.

'That beautiful season the Summer!
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.'

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

We revisited Otmoor twice recently, it is a lovely place which we first visited last year. It is an area of approximately 400 acres of wetland and wet grassland in Oxfordshire. Watered by the River Ray, it was until the early 1800s unenclosed marshland, and regularly flooded in winter. An Enclosure Act was passed in 1815, under which the area was extensively drained. This disadvantaged the local farmers and led to civil disturbances known as the Otmoor Riots of 1829 to 1830.The semi-wetland landscape provided habitat for many rare species of birds and butterflies. These were threatened in 1980 by a government proposal for the route of the M40 motorway to cross Otmoor. Opposition to this plan was led by Friends of the Earth. An alternative route was eventually adopted by the government, and since 1997 a large part of Otmoor has become an RSPB nature reserve with large areas of land being returned to marshland.

When we visited recently, at the end of June, it was a lovely sunny day...until we arrived at our destination! Within moments of our arrival the sun disappeared and only showed itself occasionally which didn't help at all with photography.

The first thing which greeted us was that most welcome and quintessential (though sadly not so common now) sound of an English Summer's day - the Cuckoo. After not hearing one for at least three years it was a real joy to be accompanied by its call for much of our visit.

I saw these Burnet Moths busily ensuring the continuation of the species.

Five Spot Burnet Moth

These Damselflies posed nicely for the camera.

Blue-tailed Damselfly?

Common Blue Damselfly?

Edit: Thanks very much to Warren for confirming my ID of both damselflies.

While photographing the damselflies I caught sight of what I think was a fritillary butterfly but it was gone before I could get the camera on it. I think it may well have been a Marsh Fritillary as this site has the only colony of Marsh Fritillary Butterflies currently known in Oxfordshire, and represents the second most easterly location for this butterfly in Britain.

I did see this lovely moth which I have had difficulty identifying, I think it might be a...

Silver Y Moth ?

Edit: Thanks very much to Cheryl for confirming my ID.

Otmoor is a great place for birders. Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Marsh Tit, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Red Kite, Peregrine Falcon, Reed Bunting and Cetti’s Warbler are just some of the birds which can be seen regularly all year round and Hen Harrier and Merlin are regularly seen in Winter. It is one of the best places in England to see Hobbies which enjoy the abundance of dragonflies during the Summer months. A Great Bustard was seen there in April of this year and last year in June a Marsh Warbler was seen.

When we were there the air was alive with the sound of Reed and Sedge Warblers singing from the reed beds. Grasshopper Warblers reeled from an adjacent field and Skylarks sang overhead. Being 'that time of year' most of the birds were staying well hidden and if only I were more adept at identification by song and call I could have given a list of what was heard but not seen.

We spent some time watching Lapwings from one of the hides and trying to decide if the white birds we could see in the very far distance were Little Egrets which are seen quite regularly there. Towards the end of our walk I saw this Reed Bunting perched quite openly on a branch completely unconcerned by my presence.

Reed Bunting

Mirroring our experience last year, as we returned to the car parking area with the light failing fast, I saw this Yellowhammer repeatedly treating us to its familiar song of ‘a-little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheeeeeese’.


'Ah homely bird ! thou canst not know
How far into my heart doth go
That melancholy key,
How from thy little straining throat
Each separate, successive note
Beats like a pulse in me.'
(Frederick William Faber)

and this Whitethroat.


I also saw these Cormorants, I counted five but there may have been more. Perched in trees in a darkening landscape they almost looked like they inhabited some distant foreign land.


Otmoor is an atmospheric place which holds many unusual species and is well worth visiting and revisiting. My next post will show what I saw there when we visited again a couple of days ago.

'Oh, the summer night
Has a smile of light
And she sits on a sapphire throne.'
(Barry Cornwall)


Another walk, last week, was to see what butterflies I could find locally and I didn't need to go far to see this Small Tortoiseshell which was literally on my doorstep! It was on a Lavender plant right by the front door.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

I was pleased to find this Large Skipper on a Cornflower.

Edit: Whoops! Thanks very much to Greenie for pointing out my very sloppy and elementary mistake, the flower below is not Cornflower but of course Black Knapweed!

Large Skipper Butterfly

and a butterfly I don't recall seeing before but which seemed to be everywhere I looked that day.

Ringlet Butterfly

This one with wings open

The Meadow Brown is more familiar to me.

Meadow Brown Butterfly

This Burnet Moth was posing very prettily

Five Spot Burnet Moth

and I thought this Comma looked lovely with the light shining through its wings

Comma Butterfly

'The Butterflies, by eager hopes undone,
Glad as a child, came out to meet the sun.'
(John Clare)

and this one with wings open.

I also saw this damselfly glistening in the sunlight.

Banded Demoiselle

I think this is a Broad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser

Finally this pretty wild flower is the Field Scabious also known as Gypsy Rose, Blue Button and Lady’s Pincushion.

Field Scabious

'Like frilly cushions full of pins
For tiny dames and fairykins;

Or else like dancers decked with gems,
My flowers sway on slender stems

They curtsey in the meadow grass,
And nod to butterflies who pass.'
(Cicely Mary Barker)

Enjoy the beauty of Nature wherever you are.