Monday 29 July 2013

Butterflies in Salcey Forest and a day at RSPB Otmoor - 29th July 2013

It has been a good weekend with plenty of opportunity for macro photography. The often cloudy weather was continuing from the previous weekend but this time the ever present chance of a thunder storm was thrown in too. The Saturday provided the best of the weather with long spells of prolonged sunshine which worked nicely in our favor as Jon Philpot and I had decided to meet up at Salcey Forest to see how the butterfly population was getting on. Right from the start of the walk we found good populations of butterflies everywhere with the best ones being the 3 Purple Emperor we found on the way from the car park to the Piddington Crossroads section of the wood. The walk between these two points is fantastic in the summer as a long row of flowers dominate the route along the path and it can take hours to walk it when trying to take pics. Lots of Ringlets and Meadow Browns were whirling around the flower heasds along with  Large and Small Skippers, Speckled Woods, Small Tortoiseshells and a very showy Silver Washed Fritillary. A White Admiral also shot through the woodland obviously having no intention of stopping for photo's. Brimstone Butterflies were also in prevalence and they looked fantastic feeding on the thistles along the route aswell as some stunning looking Peacocks which I couldn't help get some shots. It is a shame that the common butterflies are often so overlooked as a good view shows just how stunning they can be.

Brimstone Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly
Our trip to Salcey was cut short as the news came through of a Great White Egret turning up at Clifford Hill Gravel Pits and as this was a lifer for Jon we headed straight over and luckily connected. The heat haze and constant disturbance from the normal idiot dog walkers (who seem to have little respect for nature despite the signs asking people to avoid the shoreline) meant that a photo wasn't possible.

On the following day Jon and Kirsty and me went to have a look at the RSPB's reserve at Otmoor in Oxfordhire. Unfortunately the weather wasn't in our favour  with the sun really struggling to shine through the thick clouds and the wind was becoming quite strong too. Luckily it was still warm and insects were out on force so we spent the morning scouring the hedgerows for any bugs we could find. As always the dragonflies were playing hard to get as they just wouldn't stay still long enough for a pic but everything else seemed to be quite approachable. Common Blue Damselfies were everywhere and we were very pleased to find quite a lot of Emerald Damselflies too.

Emerald Damselfly (male)

Emerald Damselfly (female)
Common Blue Damselfy

Also the large amount of baby Toads meant that we had to be very careful where we trod. Some of them were absolutely tiny!

Baby Toad

We had a very enjoyable morning there and despite the lack of birds (with the exception of the Turtle Doves but more about them later) we had a great time trawling through the undergrowth looking for what we could find. The sunny spells started to become a bit more frequent for a time and really brought out the colours on some of the flies I took pics of. It is nice to see these creatures up close and perhaps gives one a new appreciation for these tiny little insects.


Soldier Fly (I think? Please correct me if I am wrong)
Scorpion Fly
 Ladybirds were also out in some numbers and it was good to be able see all the life stages. We had pupae creeping around on the stalks of plants, chrysalis on the leaves and adults on the flower heads. We also found this dapper looking Harlequin Ladybird too.

Harlequin Ladybird
Ladybird Chrysalis
As we walked slowly back to the car were awarded with nice views of Common Lizards on some of the log piles and a real treat in the shape of some Small Coppers zipping around some of the long grasses along the hedgrow. These are fantastic looking butterflies and despite them being very restless I couldn't help but start the chase to get a pic and luckily one finally gave up and let me get some photos.

Small Copper
As we approached the car park we took a detour through the newly opened meadow path. Plenty of butterflies around in here with some darters thrown in the mix aswell. Kirsty managed to pick out what I am pretty sure is a  Lesser Marsh Grasshopper too.

Lesser Marsh Grasshopper (once again please correct me if I am wrong)
The last thing to mention of course is the Turtle Doves. Due to a variety of reasons (habitat loss and persecution from our Mediterranean cousins) they are becoming a rare sight in the UK these days. So quite rightly the pair of Turtle Doves on the reserve really were the star of the show today. Their soft purring could be heard long before you saw them, and when you did see them they showed very well indeed. My friend Jon very kindly allowed me to pop my memory card into his camera so I could have a go with his 500mm lens and I managed to get the below images with it. What stunning looking birds, and it is such a shame they have disappeared so much from our countryside - lets hope more is done to encourage their return.

Turtle Dove
Turtle Dove
Turtle Dove
By now our stomachs got the better of us and we slowly returned to the car to head off to a country pub for a Sunday roast. Luckily though I manged to spot some Otter tracks in the mud on one of the bridges. I hold Otters pretty close to my heart after having some good views of local Northamptonshire Otters in the past and collating local Otter sightings to report to the Wildlife Trusts so whenever I am out I do like to look for the signs along the way. I just wish I'd had the foresight to put a coin in the pic for a sense of scale as these were pretty big. It was a nice end to a very nice day! I shall be keeping my eye out for Brown Hairstreak sightings from the area over the forthcoming weeks and when they are out I shall be returning to this fantastic reserve so hopefully see them.

Otter Tracks


  1. Isn't Otmoor a great place, you should also visit it in the winter, just as good. The Piddington section of Salcey and thanks to your previous post I was quite pleased to ID Purple Emperors too, I think we followed the same path (newly built with a Blue marker post?) if so I also found juvenile Spotted Flycatcher on the pathway, it was in the section that backs onto fields and had a couple of small wooden brdiges nearby, plenty of juvenile Treecreepers were also see.
    Almost forgot, cracking flight shot of the Turtle Dove, well done.

  2. I reallly like your first turtle dove shot. Stunning bird! The emerald damselflies and the brimstone shots are wonderful too :)

  3. Agree with Lou on the turtle dove shot! Stunning macros of beautiful subjects - the colours of the greenbottle are amazing !



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