Last Sunday evening Jean and I walked down to the churchyard in Shilton where Jean found a baby Swift in the grass. I took it home and put it in a cardboard box in the dark and contacted a friend who gave me the phone number of a lady who lives in the village of Laverton near Broadway. It was quite active in the box at times, scrabbling around.
Our annual walk in the Cutsdean area of the Cotwolds on Sunday 18 July. At 30C plus it was very (too!) warm but the compensation was that the butterflies and insects were very active. Everywhere was buzzing as I remember the countryside used to buzz.
Rather spectacular at the moment is this unusual ornamental specimen tree in Blenheim Park. It stopped me in my tracks on a recent press trip to the Palace as I was walking along the lakeside path between the Boathouse and the Cascades.
On Wednesday 26 June I shared an exciting morning with my neighbour, and fellow member Jill, in her garden watching Southern Hawker dragonflies emerging from their nymph bodies. The nymphs were attached to the plants surrounding Jill’s pond and Jill found 4 on the same day. They split their skin and popped out as winged adults. It took about 3 hours to complete the process so Jill very kindly provided tea and cake while we watched and waited. Luckily it was a sunny morning. When we watched one dragonfly leave, we weren’t alone. A sparrow flew down with amazing speed and nearly had the dragonfly but our shouts of alarm scared it off and the dragonfly lived to see another hour or so (perhaps).
The Lime trees in my road seem to be quite good for insects. Most years I see large Lime Hawk Moth caterpillars on the pavement underneath, and rescue those that haven’t been trodden on. Last year I rescued an Oak Bush Cricket I found strolling down the pavement under the trees.
The other day, when we found a large number of Ladybird larvae and pupae on the bushy basal shoots of the Limes, I decided on another rescue mission. About this time of year, the Council come round with noisy machinery and tidy up the trees, and all those Ladybirds would end up in the shredder. So I gathered a small ice cream tub of leaves with larvae and pupae, and a couple of small adults, and released them in my garden. Only after I had done this did I look them up, and discovered that the 3 larvae and some of the pupae were probably Harlequins. I’m pretty sure that the other pupae and the adults were non-Harlequins. Ladybirds are difficult!
Lots of Scarlet Tiger moths in my garden in the last few days. The black and yellow caterpillars feed on the comfrey at the bottom of the garden. The underwings are bright scarlet and usually can’t be seen unless they are flying. They are day-flying moths although they seem to prefer to fly in the early evening when they are unmistakable and fly quite high, often circling the tops of trees.
The comfrey flowers are also very popular with bees. Sometimes they enter the tubes for the nectar but quite often bite holes at the base of the petals.
After a morning scything the picnic site on the Windrush path with the LWVP volunteers on 14 May I spent a couple of hours enjoying the spectacle of (about – they’re hard to count!) eight Hobbies hawking along the shore of ‘Pit 60’ at Standlake, some flying right up to and around the windows of the hides. Heaven knows what they found to eat because there didn’t seem to be many insects about. There was also a good show of Orchids, probably Green Winged, in the Langley’s Lane meadow SSSI. However, because there’s no public access my ID was through binoculars and is a bit of a guess.
Our usual Easter Sunday walk from Witney Lake to Rushy Common and Tar Lakes. The variety of habitats means that it’s quite good for birds – we’ve clocked over fifty in the past – although this year the LWVP hide at Rushy Common was closed because of Covid. It was warm and sunny and lots of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, as well as some Willow Warblers, a probable Garden Warbler and a definite Cetti’s in the usual corner of Tar Lakes were singing. Also the first Hirondines of the year (Sand Martins) were congregating over the lakes in the quarry area. Not such a good display of Coltsfoot as usual on the shores of one of Tar Lakes and slightly past its best. Butterflies were well represented with lots of Brimstones and Peacocks and several very fresh Commas.