Thursday, 28 May 2009


A painted lady butterfly, this is a summer migrant to the UK and according to there are large numbers migrating in from continental Europe, originating from Morocco. The right weather conditions in Africa and Europe and the recent good weather in the UK could result in possibly the biggest for migration for decades.
The Butterfly Conservation website has a survey for these and migrant butterflies ( and these two sightings have now been added.

Unlike the painted lady, the peacock butterfly is not a migrant, instead they hibernate through the winter.

UK Butterflies:
Butterfly Conservation:
Complete British Wildlife Photoguide (Collins - 1997)

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Another water vole film

You can't have too many films of water voles, seen today along the river Ock, in the existing colony.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Sandford Brook

Sandford brook rises near Wooton to the north Abingdon and it is fed by a series of springs which form the Cothill Fens - a series of nature reserves and one of my favourite places in Oxfordshire

One of the springs is at Dry Sandford Pit, a former quarry, now a nature reserve run by BBOWT, the spring forms a fen, where marsh orchids and the rare southern damselfy can be found.

The fen fills several streams, where sticklebats and tadpoles can be seen, but not today, the light was too bright.

Before joining sandford brook at the edge of the reserve

And flowing along the boundry of the reserve

Before joining the Ock near Marcham.

Dry Sandford Pit is just one of the nature reserves in the area of Cothill: Parsonage Moor (another BBOWT reserve), Lashford Lane Fen (also BBOWT) & Cothill Fen (Natural England) are all fens, created by springs and contribute to sandford brook and eventually the Ock.
All of which I hope to explore as part of this blog.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Return to the Ock

Having been away for the past week, it is nice to go for a walk along the Ock and it is evident the nettles have been growing, making access to the water and banks almost impossible.

But the wildlife is still abundant, highlights include a water vole; a red kite, several banded damselfys and a heron:

And lots and lots of mayfly.

As I still have a few days off from work, I hope to explore Sandford Brook - one of the tributaries of Ock.

Bumblebee mating?

I witnessed these three buff tailed bumblebees this morning on my back lawn.

Initially I thought they were mating - which is apparently seldom seen, with the large bee being a queen and the two smaller ones males. But as they're still there (30 minutes after this picture was taken) it could be two female worker bees attacking a queen which hasn't yet nested.

I've contacted the bumblebee conservation trust and posted on the wild about britain forum and will update this post if I get any replies.

Update: After writing this post, posting on the forum and sending emails the bees have now gone, maybe they've finished or the local sparrows have eaten them.

Update #2: Just had this reply from the Outreach Officer at the Bumblebee conservation trust:

The larger bumblebee, the queen is mating with one of the males. The other little male is hanging around and hoping to get involved with queen too! This photo is a brilliant example of the mating culture of bumblebees.

There is also the possibility of the picture being used in the trust's news letter.

Although it may appear to be too early for bees to be mating, it could well be an 'early bumblebee', which are short lived colonies, producing males in April and are often seldom seen after July. So a lucky find.

For more bumblebee mating photographs please see:

Bumblebee conservation trust:

Friday, 15 May 2009

Red kite

Red kites were once a common in England, but they were classified as vermin and hunted to extinction in the nineteenth century.
However, in 1989 the RSPB and Natural England (or what ever they were called back then) started a series of reintroduction of red kites from spain into the Chilterns and have become one of the success stories of reintroduction programmes - in fact birds from the Chilterns are now being caught and released in the east midlands and yorkshire.

There was a time when they most likely to be seen near Henley or Watlington, however they are becoming more common and can frequently be seen over Abingdon, as seen in this photo, taken from my back garden.

Although they're raptors they mainly eat carrion (although they do catch voles and other small mammals).

Southern England Kite Group:

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Circumstantial evidence

Further up the ditch in the floodplain, there is evidence of feeding and possible footprints. This could indicate vole activity.

Despite this circumstantial evidence I have yet to have a sighting in this location, but I have now marked this area on my water vole map in amber and will return at a convenient time.

View Water Vole surveyed areas in the River Ock - Abingdon 2009 in a larger map

Wednesday stroll

I've made the most of the opportunity of some spare time to return to the west side of the Ock - from Drayton road to near the A45

The good news:

1. Not only has the rubbish bangs been cleared away, the biffa container has also been removed. So a thank you to the council (I guess) for removing it.

2. The swifts have returned and can be seen feeding at various parts of the Ock, especially on the floodplain past Tesco.
3. The kingfishers were feeding, but once again evaded my attempts to get even a bad picture of them.
4. Young moorhens can now be seen
5. There is circumstantial evidence to indicate water voles inhabit else where on the ditch (see later post).
6. Water vole sighted swimming across the river, near the footbridge to Mill Road.

The bad news:

1. These pictures were taken at the same place where the water vole video was taken and clearly shows larger footprints leading to or from where the water vole was seen.

I'm not an expert, and can't identify these prints but they could be a fox, mink or maybe just a dog They look to large to be stoat or weasel (although I have previously seen a stoats near the Ock).
From what I recall from a water vole surveyors course, there are over 25 species predate water voles, so there could be many culprits.
Having said that, there do seem to be fresh feeding signs (as seen in the second picture), so maybe all isn't lost.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Rubbish gone

It's been difficult to find time to get out and explore the river and it's locality with life getting in the way - work, chores and visiting relatives.
Still it's great to see that a quick stroll down the road has revealed the rubbish bags featured in the previous posting have now been removed.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

More bumblebees

Despite being May, the queen bumblebees can still be found seeking out new nest sites, like this red-tailed bumblebee

And this buff-tailed bumblebee seems to have finally settled on a nesting site.

Bumblebee Conservation Trust:

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


I don't know what annoys me the most, the people who spoil an area by leaving rubbish or myself for not doing anything about it.

Whether it's the cardboard recycling container, that has been a fixture of the Ock valley walk for the past two weeks.

Or the fly tipping on the old canal, which the local foxes have started to investigate

Anyway, the district council have been informed, so it will be interesting to see how long they remain there.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Water vole - the motion picture

My previous post discussed if the small mammal in the ditch was or wasn't a water vole. This clearly shows that it is.
It's 85Mb in size, 63 seconds long, contains shoddy camera work and the sound of the nearby A34.