WWT & Oxford-Bucks Border Country

Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th August 2013
Silver-spotted Skipper, Aston Rowant NNR, Oxon
I spent much of the day Saturday at WWT Slimbridge, including going on the morning safari. The Spoonbill was on South Lake, asleep on a post, and was still there a few hours later when I checked after the safari. It awoke for just a couple of fleeting moment. Also on South Lake two female Ruffs, a Green Sandpiper and a Dunlin in addition to the Redshanks, Black-tailed Godwits etc. A Wood Sandpiper was on the Rushy along with four Green Sandpipers, an Oystercatcher and a juvenile Redshank. On the Tack Piece, another Green Sandpiper and two GCP Common Cranes. Fairly quiet bird-wise on the safari, though it was nice to see the 100-acre again after access via Green Lane had been stopped; apparently an announcement about access once again being available is imminent. It was a bit breezy, so not too many dragons either, but we did see a Migrant Hawker, a Brown Hawker, an Emperor, Common Darter and Common Blue Damselfly. Back in the grounds I saw my first Painted Lady of the year, on the Buddleias between Wader Shore and South Lake, and watched female Leaf-cutter Bees (Megachile sp.)collecting nectar and pollen near the centre.
Wood Sandpiper, WWT Rushy
Spoonbill, WWT South Lake
Migrant Hawker, WWT 100-acre
Common Blue Damselfly, WWT 100-acre
Painted Lady, WWT grounds
Leaf-cutter Bee, WWT grounds
On Sunday, the weather looked favourable to the east, despite the forecast locally. I wanted another butterfly tick and Aston Rowant in the far east of Oxfordshire was in my sights. With Linda for company again, as we progressed along the A40 the weather indeed got clearer, until by the time we hit the Witney bypass it was positively sunny and 21 degrees. Aston Rowant straddles the M40 just west of Stokenchurch and I had unknowingly passed through it before on countless occasions. Silver-spotted Skipper turned out to be by far the most straightforward of my recent butterfly ticks. We opted for the northern, Beacon Hill, half of the reserve. Once onto the steep grassland slope walking along one of several small paths, we were soon almost stepping on the Skippers every few yards. We must have seen getting on for 50, and not only were they very numerous but Chalkhill Blues were also out in force. With scattered clouds and temperatures here around 21 to 22 degrees, both species were obliging. The skippers tend to jump into the air very rapidly when disturbed, almost grasshopper-like, before whirring along quite low, and were quite hard to follow at first. As I got my eye in a bit more I was able to track them to their new resting place, often on a flower after having been surprised from the path. Here they revealed better their intricate under-wing pattern. Other butterflies here included Brown ArgusRinglet, Large White and Small Skipper. Also Six-spot Burnet, Woodland Grasshopper and Meadow Grasshopper.
Silver-spotted Skipper, Aston Rowant
Silver-spotted Skipper, Aston Rowant
Chalkhill Blue, Aston Rowant
Woodland Grasshopper, Aston Rowant
Meadow Grasshopper, Aston Rowant
Six-spot Burnet, Aston Rowant
Aston Rowant NNR, the south-west facing slope of Beacon Hill
We visited West Wycome park afterwards, a National Trust property in neighbouring Buckinghamshire. Beside the architectural and cultural interest, the local Red Kites provided additional entertainment; I counted at least six.
Red Kite, West Wycombe, Bucks

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