Monday, 22 July 2013


In our Leeds days, I benefited a lot from Yorkshire Butterfly Conservation and its enthusiastic members, and the same is now true of their counterparts at Upper Thames BC. They run a very good website and its Butterfly Sightings page led to an excellent Sunday outing for Penny and me.

Current entries on the page are dotted with encounters with that magnificent creature the Purple Emperor, so we decided to cross Otmoor to one of its strongholds and the scene of many of these sightings: the remains of the Anglo-Saxon Royal hunting forest of Bernwood.

The first entomological specimens we met in large numbers were human - fellow enthusiasts. I've never previously encountered butterfly or moth fans en masse and it was great to share in their bonhomie and generous pooling of information. As a result we saw a couple of Purple Emperors, albeit very high up above oak trees. Back on our own, we were lucky to find a sprawling honeysuckle on a grassy side path which attracted White Admirals down to human height. Photography still wasn't easy because butterflies aren't sleepy like early morning moths, but I got one passable pic which heads this post.

In the spirit of the enthusiasts, you can find this honeysuckle by turning left at the third 'crossroads' along the main track from the car park, shortly after it goes between two meadows. Turn left again after about 300 yards and the path winds along to the wooden observation tower in the third picture, which sadly is marked 'Not for Public Use'. The honeysuckle is on the right just beyond it.

Small Skipper - large appetite

One of the enthusiasts showed us a picture of a striking moth, perhaps a Vapourer, which he'd seen in some numbers in Bernwood Meadows nature reserve. We walked down there but didn't have any luck, so stand by for a second visit before too long. There's an impressive list of other Purple Emperor sites round here and the weather couldn't be better for the butterflies (and for us).

Marbled White hiding from us

There were lots of other butterflies around and I've added pictures of some of them. We were also alerted by repeated sharp tapping to the fascinating site of a 'thrush's anvil' - an almost tame bird which came very close to us with a snail in its beak, hopping from stone to stone and bashing the unfortunate mollusc on each of them until its shell cracked. Like one of those pistachio nuts which just won't open.

Large Skipper, also having lunch


Countryside Tales said...

Butterflies do seem to be easier to photograph at the mo- I spend days following them waiting for them in increasing frustration but since then things have settled down. It looks a nice place to spend an hour or two.

Countryside Tales said...

ps- I'm stuck on an ID. When you have a spare minute would you mind popping over to my blog to have a look please? It's near the bottom of today's post and the nearest I can come is some kind of sallow, but I don't think that's right. Much appreciated! CT :-)

MartinWainwright said...

Hi there - will do my best but I am VERY bad on small brown moths. Maybe Ben, Dave or Ray wll be able to help

all v best as ever - you are getting excellent moths!


Chiquita said...

This is cool!