The hot July has bought us the welcome bonus of large numbers of butterflies and other flying creatures to the reserve. Flocks of peacocks in particular are quite amazing, with several hundred on Sandy Ridge alone. Scarcer species, such as purple hairstreak and silver- washed fritillary are being spotted regularly as well. If you walk around, you will be pretty sure of coming across comma, red admiral, brimstone, small tortoiseshell, gatekeeper, meadow brown and ringlets- and a good chance of seeing several more less common ones!
Peacock butterfly; Grahame Madge (rspb-images.com)
It's also a great summer for bees and wasps, with mining and cuckoo bees joining the regular thrum of the honey bees as they lead their busy lives. Several very scarce scarce and even possibly some new species to the reserve have been found by our warden Andy Schofield in recent weeks, and these are being identified a the moment.
On the bird front, after an uncertain period, we can confirm that the hobbies have fledged one young on the new heath, which is excellent news. The spotted flycatchers are still feeding their young and are ranging further away from the nesting area , which was on the path towards the hide. We aren't sure if they were successful in fledging a second brood, but two pairs have raised at least one family each again this year.
We may get a few odd showers, but this week still looks like a nice sunny one, so come and take a walk and enjoy the reserve- and especially the butterflies while the weather lasts!
Anthea, our Monday morning Visitor Centre volunteer had a surprise today as she stood outside the building, when a two foot grass snake slithered across the path towards the heath. There have been a few sightings here lately -I even managed to see one myself!
The spotted flycatchers are settling down to raise their second brood, with the adult (s) on the nest in the broken birch, on the left of the track, not far after the first gate on the way to the hide. As I chatted to a couple of photographers at this site today, another spotted flycatcher family were calling and feeding in trees a few yards up the track, so you are almost guaranteed a sighting at the moment.
It's a much better year for butterflies, with15 species seen during one lunch time by staff member Mark Ward, who noted that it's probably the most he'd ever seen here in one day. The line up included silver-washed fritillary in the woods not far from the owl memorial, 3 purple hairstreaks (one in a favoured clearing in the woods, one that landed and showed well in an oak at the bottom of the old heath and one, unusually, in grass - seemingly blown down by the strong wind), along with Essex skipper and 3 marbled whites.