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.


  1. Great little collection of bugs and birds! Enjoyed seeing so many I've nev er heard of before.

  2. Hi Jan.....your post today shows the many wonderful sights this small country of ours holds.
    It was an absolute pleasure to view the images.....

    The moth is indeed the 'Y' moth, much easier to identify when his wings are closed.

    You show the banded damoiselle....this is a particular favourite of mine. They have passed through the garden on occasions but I have never been able to capture them with my camera. I just love to know they are out there somewhere.....

    I am blessed to hear a cuckoo each day from mid April - end of June. I wait each year, holding my breath till I hear the sweet call again. It always stirs my emotions, as does the sky lark. Each day I listen to them and watch them as the spiral to the field floor. So amazing. I hope they will always stay in this area.....

    It is dry here, too dry. I am struggling, and so is the garden.
    I have a couple of trees that do not look very well, they are large specimens....a tree surgeon is coming out next week to view them......

    Thank you for the detail and care you take with your posts. They give such pleasure to many, of that I am sure.

    Have a lovely weekend and stay cool.......

  3. Hi Jan - thanks for sharing these wonderful photos, the summer heat hasn't quite made it over to Ireland just yet & I'm struggling to find that many butterflies :-(
    As for Cuckoo, I've not heard one here for 2 years!
    Can't wait for your next post!

  4. Great post of both narrative & images, Jan.

  5. Fantastic post, Shy! :-) A beautiful variety of photos. Do you feel that Summer is moving along too quickly?

  6. Great photographs.
    All of them.

  7. Nice to be able to leave you a comment for a change songbird!

    How strange you find a cuckoo when they have now finished calling ( int his part of the world). I agree with all your queeried sightings, enjoyed the photo's very much. Take care in the sun.

  8. Hi Songbird. Another nice varied post and lovely shots. I've just got back myself from taking photos of Banded Demoiselles, hope they've come out as good as yours! Tried to vist Otmoor myself a couple of years ago. Carol was doing some work for Abingdon Council so I dropped her off and went to Otmoor but got hopelessly lost on the way. Seems I missed out big time. I'll have to try and get her some more work there as soon as possible!! :-)

  9. A lovely selection of birds, dragonflies, bees, butterflies and a plant, such a good narrative to boot.

  10. HI,
    What a great collection of pictures. I'm starting to be jealous about all these butterflies shots, but I'll never do any over here ;-) The reed bunting and yellowhammer pictures you got are beautiful... Looks like you have been enjoying some sun. If you have too much, think about us ;-)

  11. A great series of bird and insect shots there Jan. So far I have seen very few flutters though they do seem to appear later round here.

  12. Thanks for sharing those wonderful photos!! Im especially loving the Comma with the light coming through the wings...awesome lighting on that shot, Im glad the area has been returned to a wetland, Mother Nature Knows BEST-the sooner we humans get that into our thick skulls the better off the Planet and WE will be...
    Here summer is always hot and humid in the southeast..but soon it will be fall and the cycle continues-

  13. Beautiful photos & post. Otmoor looks like a fantastic place visit.

  14. What a cracking post Jen.
    Loved the trip round Otmoor. Would you believe I tried to visit there a couple of months ago......and got lost lol
    I'll definitely try again.
    Loved all the butterflies too. The Ringlet is a real beauty, I think.

  15. Great bunch of pictures Songbird. Loved the Five Spot Burnet Moth, as far as moths go it's very colorful. Of course the birds you capture are always my favorites but those Damselflies are sure pretty. And the Banded Demoiselle is a beauty too.
    Thanks so much for stopping by. You were wondering how I did the Tipsy Pot. Just stick some rebar in the ground (or metal of some kind) and put the pots on through the holes in the bottom and angle them however you would like. I've even seen it done with watering cans which was really neat. Here's a 'how to' post.

  16. Superb post Jan
    you have captured the delights of this reserve in its full glory, enjoyed every image and written word.

  17. ShySongbird ,
    With confirmations done before I got here , I was able to enjoy your visit , with a great mix of pictures and words .
    If one was to be 'picky' , would I ? Your Large Skipper is in fact on Black Knapweed , same family as Cornflower , the Daisy .

  18. another wonderful post jan,
    Otmoor sounds like a nature lovers paradise, with such an array of birds, insects and plant life, and you've captured it all superbly,

  19. It's always such a pleasure to see all the different species you've found, Songbird! So many new ones that I've never seen here in the U.S. The blue damselflies are simply gorgeous, and the Burnet moth is one I've never seen before.

    As always, I enjoy the poetry accompanying your photos. I'm going to have to check out Cicely Mary Barker; I think you've quoted her before, and her poetry has such lovely images.

    Glad to hear summer has finally arrived for you, too, but not the heat. It's been so hot here that I have to get out very early in the morning to do anything in the garden. Evenings are cooler, but then I have to fight the mosquitoes!

  20. You have certainly taken a lot of lovely photos this post. I love the butterflies best but the birds and dragonflies are always fun to see.

    You have a wonderful place for hiking and birding. I need to get out to a few of our wild places to get some photographs. You have inspired me:)

  21. Randy Emmitt

    Thank you very much, Randy :)


    Thank you very much Cheryl and for confirmation of the Silver Y Moth :)
    You are indeed blessed to hear the Cuckoo regularly. I used to here but not in recent years :( It was such a delight to hear one at Otmoor. Thankfully we still see and hear Skylarks, when walking the dog about half a mile from our house, in the same place they have been for many years.
    I do hope the news is not too bad for your trees...


    Thank you very much, Sharon :) I heard on the TV that you were having a lot of rain, everything is very dry here. I'm sure once the sun arrives you will see the butterflies.


    Thank you very much, Dean :)

    Shady Gardener

    Thank you very much, Shady :)
    I do indeed feel that, I cannot believe it is the middle of July already!


    Thank you very much, Costas :)

    Warren Baker

    Thank you very much for your comments and also for the ID confirmations, Warren.
    The last date I know the Cuckoo was definitely calling at Otmoor was July 4th.

  22. Wonderful Post. I just cant get enought of photography right now.
    Viewing other gives me energy..
    Lovely beyond words.
    Have a great night.

  23. Phil

    Thank you very much Phil :) When we went for the first time we too got lost and a journey which should have taken us about an hour took about an hour and a half! Then when we went for our first return visit this year we managed to take a wrong turn quite close to our destination which put about ten minutes on the journey. However it was third time lucky :) If you ever get the chance again it is well worth going...good luck with finding it though!

    Bob Bushell

    Thank you for your kind words Bob :)


    Thank you very much, Chris. The Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer did pose nicely, just a shame it wasn't at the beginning of our visit when the light was better! I wish I could send some sun your way but we don't have any ourselves today, perhaps it has already gone to visit you :)

    Midmarsh John

    Thank you very much, John. I hope you see some flutters soon :)

    Dixxe's Doodles

    Thank you very much Dixxe. I was pleased with the Comma shot, if only the light was always in the right place :)
    I agree with every word you say re Mother Nature!
    Yes you are right, we have to try and enjoy each day whatever the weather, life passes so quickly...

  24. Hi Jan. What a delightful roundup in both words and images of your recent Otmoor visit. Despite the apparent lack of sunshine you produced many excellent views of our native wildlife.
    Definite change to the weather here today so the camera didn't get used much but pleasant walking with a fellow blogger.

  25. Pam

    Thank you very much, Pam :) It is indeed a great place and well worth visiting.


    Thank you very much, Keith. Yes, I would definitely believe it :) It is not the easiest of places to find and took us an hour and a half to find last year instead of an hour and the first time this year we still managed to take a wrong turn! If you can find your way into Beckley village and turn right in the main street you should be OK. You may have noticed in the comments above that Phil (Sharp By Nature) also got lost and like you never did find it!


    Thank you very much for your kind comments, Linda. The Burnet Moths are very striking, I look forward to seeing them each year.
    Thanks also for the info on the Tipsy Pot :) I will definitely check out the link, it was very nice of you to find it for me. I thought yours looked lovely, I had never seen it anywhere before.


    Thank you very much for your kind words, Monty, It is a delightful place to visit :)


    No, not picky Greenie, just very knowledgeable :) Thank you very much for correcting my very sloppy mistake and for your kind comments.


    Hello Denis, Thank you very much for your kind words :) It is a wonderful place to visit and with so much to see I am sure we will return there many times. I hope to post what else I saw there quite soon.

  26. Rose

    Thank you very much, Rose :) The Burnet Moths are colourful little things, quite poisonous to predators though!
    I think you would enjoy Cicely Mary Barker's work. I have her Flower Fairies books which feature her verse and exquisite paintings of seasonal flowers with a fairy theme.
    Not much sun here in the last few days, lots of rain and quite high winds today!
    Try to avoid those mossies :)

    Roses and Lilacs

    Thank you very much, Marnie, there are some wonderful places to see around here and sometimes it is all too easy to neglect the most interesting of places which are closest to home!

    Lisa RedWillow

    Thank you very much, Lisa :) The joy of the internet is being able to see so many images from all around the world from our own homes, such fun!

    The Early Birder

    Hi Frank :) Thank you very much. We have had rain the past couple of days and high winds today, not conducive to photography but glad to read you and Tricia made the most of your recent day out despite the weather!

  27. What a lovely place Otmoor is. It certainly seems alive with wildlife. I love the photo of the sky and water. So peaceful. I do love looking at all the different butterflies. I never realized how many different varities there are. Try as I might to photograph them, they are too fast for me! You must be a very patient person to get so many.

  28. nice photo; nice blog; bravo

  29. Dearest Jan,
    Once again I am over the moon! Your birds bugs and blooms are just exquisite! I love each photograph and the poetry you choose to compliment the scene just gave the perfect voice. Thank you.
    We also are walking at dusk when the heat and humidity is less. Still it is hot...
    Your Summer World is very lovely....
    Stay cool. Autumn will come before we know it.

  30. Hi again Jan, thanks for sharing with us all that you see on your walks. I do envy your ability to ID almost everything you discover too :-D

    Like John, we still await our butterfly time in the garden. Noticing plenty moths in the evenings though. Wow… impressive shots of the Burnets. I’ve never seen one here. A wealth of nice photos and interesting info once again :-)

    A wonderful snapshot of nature once again. Enjoy these days when you can get out to see it all. :-D

  31. Lovely post Jan. One of our local garden centres had a large selection of wildflowers, so I bought myself the Field Scabious and Wild Majoram. Both plants are doing well, the Field Scabious is in flower now. I was surprised to see the garden centre's wild flowers were selling really well, which is a good sign that some people are becoming more aware of our native wildflowers and want to encourage them in their own garden.

  32. Hi Jan, what a wonderful posting as ever. your photos are becoming gloriously professional, love this posting. I'm back, new blog and new direction, I'll keep popping in and out now and again. Looking forward to August. Andrew

  33. Another wonderful blog post with some great photos, prose and poetry. The place sounds devine, especially with all those different species of birds. I especially like your Reed Bunting photo as they will never pose for me as that one did for you! :-) And poetry wise I would have to single out the Cicely Mary Barker selection as my favourite: it makes me think of the sort of poetry I used to read as a child.

  34. Jan,

    What a beautiful walk, thank you for the amazing photos. Lots of amazing Butterflies and the Damselflies are just great to watch and find this ti me of year.
    Bueautuful words and great photos.

  35. Many apologies to:

    Morning Glories in Round Rock,
    Linda Yarrow,
    The Wessex Reiver,

    I'm afraid events overtook me and my operation was upon me before I could reply to your kind comments, however they were much appreciated and I hope to catch up with you all soon.


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