Sunday, 27 July 2014

Oxhouse Farm and Lobbington Hall Meadows SSSIs: brown argus and spiny restharrow

An afternoon stroll around the two SSSIs in Warwickshire, just south of Kineton, part of which is managed by Banbury Ornithological Society as the Neal Trust Nature Reserve.

Walking in along rights of way from the nearby village of Butlers Marston, the path goes through Lobbington Hall Farm Meadow, marked by signage on the gateway.  There are green-winged orchids here in spring, just now there is a good display of spiny restharrow and pepper saxifrage and plenty of other meadow flowers and grasses.  This is type of meadow is rare in the south Midlands and this is a very good example.
spiny restharrow
meadow view
Continuing on to Oxhouse Farm, I'm nearly lost in a sea of tall nettles but survive to reach the next meadow, which has quite a different character: perhaps due to a greater influence from limestone bedrock.  Here the grassland has been less intensively managed and scrub has invaded around the edges.  Large ant hills have developed too.  This is where I stand a chance of seeing Dark Green Fritillary butterfly.  I search high and low but no luck.  But there is plenty else to see.  A few marbled white butterflies and plenty of field scabious with attendant longhorn moths.
Oxhouse Farm SSSI eastern meadow
shaded broad-bar
woolley thistle

Just north of the meadow is a small arable field with a flowery field margin colonised by brown argus - dozens are very active and I manage to photograph two together.  Very smart looking.  A back-lit brimstone is also very attractive.
brown argus
common blue nectaring on common fleabane
looks like this is an Essex skipper
Reading the rest of the SSSI citation I realise this is a place I must return to slightly earlier in June and July, when I might find white-letter hairstreak and more flowers.  Early July should be best for the dark green fritillary.
The woodland here is also very interesting with a lot of mature poplars and records of all three woodpeckers to encourage a visit it February or March.

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