Brown Hairstreak at Otmoor and scarcer Oxon damsels – 30th Jul-2nd Aug

This afternoon I recorded my home area of Oxon, Bucks and Berks’ last butterfly of the season to emerge. Brown Hairstreak occurs throughout the Bernwood Forest complex to the north of Oxford. But in the last few seasons Otmoor RSPB reserve has been an easier place to see them and so has also become the duffer’s location of choice. The best time for observation appears to be around the middle of the day when BH come down from the trees to nectar on wild plants along a particular footpath here. Today was my third attempt since I have not been arriving until later in the afternoon.

That reticence is due in part to having lost enthusiasm for observing the precious jewels that are the scarcer Hairstreaks because of the attention they attract. The annual bun fight at Otmoor began in earnest two weeks ago and with it the habitat in the location where BH are most often seen has become progressively more badly trashed. Listening to some of the people who congregate here it is plain how little they know about butterflies. So why do they feel the need to crowd around Black and Brown Hairstreaks and flatten wild plants to get closer to these insects? The populist approach that all conservation organisations now seem to focus upon in their efforts to recruit new members, at the expense of permanent wildlife enthusiasts who are their lifeblood, has a lot to answer for.

2015 Brown Hairstreak at Otmoor

2015 Brown Hairstreak (female)

Whilst on site here today I achieved one of this summer’s ambitions of gaining an uncluttered picture of a Brown Hawker dragonfly (below).

Brown Hawker (male)

Brown Hawker (male)

Over the last four days I have also checked out two of Oxfordshire’s scarcer damselflies. Going for a Wood Sandpiper in the upper Cherwell valley near Banbury last Thursday (30th) was also an opportunity to stop at the White-legged Damselfy hot spot (SP465427) first visited on 19th June. On that previous occasion the males had all appeared pale compared to other pictures posted on Oxon Dragonflies, and I wanted to photograph them in their mature colouring. This time I found good numbers of males but apart from the eye colour, blue they didn’t look too different to last time. Perhaps there is some variation from site to site – advice anyone?

White-legged Damselfly

White-legged Damselfly (male)

Then this morning I went to see the Small Red-eyed Damselfly at Shellingford Pit (SU325943) near Faringdon. The species began to colonise England in the early years of this century and has since spread steadily north and westward. It favours water bodies with floating vegetation. At this site today I found low water levels and very little surface weed, making it possible to walk right along the water’s edge. The SRED soon started to appear, settling on what perches they could find. It was only a matter of time before one did so near the shore line and when that happened the job was done.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

The diagnostic is that the sides of segments 2 and 8 are blue, while 9 and 10 are entirely blue. Having observed this species, I have now recorded and posted pictures on this blog of all but one regular English damselfly. The exception is Scarce Emerald, the only one I have yet to see. By “regular” I mean all those that are not classed as vagrant or scarce migrant species.

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