Sunday, 18 June 2017

Rushbeds Wood and BBS: Silver-washed Fritillaries and disappearing Tree Sparrows

I have a bit of catching up to do on the blog front, so apologies for recent inactivity! 
Yesterday morning I made my second and final BTO Breeding Bird Survey visit to my 1km2 survey site near Moreton Pinkney in south Northamptonshire.  This is the eleventh year running I have surveyed this area and I have now seen 70 species in total - normally I record about 45 species each year (but nothing new this year, so getting harder to add new birds!).  For most of the common species the numbers are quite consistent, the main change is that Tree Sparrow has gone from really quite common - 23 in 2007 and 14 in 2010 - to none at all either last year or this year.  The species showing upward trends have been Goldcrest, Raven (now breeds very close to the survey square) and Buzzard.  Some of the scarcer birds seen over the years have included Barn Owl, Willow Tit, Hobby, Cuckoo and Kingfisher.  I would definitely recommend participating - the BTO website enables easy data entry and you can generate really useful summary reports from your own sightings.  You are also making a significant contribution to the national scheme that is so vital for monitoring our birds.

Later in the morning, a trip down to Rushbeds Wood nature reserve in the Bernwood Forest area south of Bicester was rewarded with some nice butterfly sightings and some stunning flower meadows.  This was my first visit and I was really impressed with the woodland and equally, the adjoining meadows of Lapland Farm, all managed by BBOWT.   I had hoped to find Black Hairstreaks, but didn't manage to connect despite scanning some excellent looking habitat, however I did manage to find several Silver-washed Fritillaries and a couple of White Admirals.
Silver-washed Fritillary
Silver-washed Fritillary nectaring on bramble
mating pair of fritillaries
Lapland Farm meadow, full of flowers and butterflies - in particular, numerous Meadow Brown and Marbled White
Flowers included Dropwort, Great Burnet and Common Spotted Orchid
Black-tailed Skimmer
Some good news for our local meadows from the Save Gavray Meadows campaign group.  Their tireless work to defend a cluster of meadows in Bicester from housing development achieved a notable success with the refusal by Cherwell District Council Planning Committee of the latest planning application from the developer, Gallagher.  However, there will be an appeal and no doubt this campaign will have to continue for some time to come.

Last week, on Wednesday, I continued my RSPB-organised wader survey in the Middle Cherwell Valley near Somerton (my third visit of the season).  Curlew continue to frequent the floodplain meadows in this area; on this visit one adult was feeding in a recently cut silage field.

This stretch of the Cherwell Valley is also good for farmland wildlife and is rewarding to visit year-round.  Common Poppies were particularly showy this time, with swathes of scarlet running through a couple of fields, especially near the margins.  Yellow Wagtails were gathering food from a large pile of manure, and Yellowhammers were singing from the tall hedgerows
Early morning view across the Cherwell Valley with dew-covered crops
Common Poppy