Local natural history

Natural History Notes Update July 2009

Following the wet summers of 2007 and 2008, despite very varied temperatures the summer of 2009 so far has been fairly dry, as any keen gardener will tell you. A third wet summer would have been disastrous for many insects, particularly butterflies. Of the common garden species seen in the spring, Speckled Wood, Orange Tip and Green-veined White butterflies were seen in reasonable numbers, although only a few Holly Blues were seen in the village. In early spring the rookery behind houses on the east side of York Road had expanded. The noise, particularly in the evening, was tremendous.

At the end of May, two White Helleborines flowered close to the edge of the bowling green in East Hagbourne. These plants are relatively common native orchids, but it was nice to see them growing successfully in such a position. They have now formed fat seed pods.

Red kites and buzzards continue to be seen frequently, and yellowhammers have returned to the area beyond the end of Manor Close after an absence of two years. Another species that has returned is the corn bunting. Its ‘jangling keys’ sound is unmistakable. In June, a hobby was seen hunting swifts at the east end of the village. This is probably the only bird of prey capable of catching swifts. Due to the loss of suitable nesting sites, there are now less seen in the village, but they remain a common sight until the end of July, when they return to Africa for the autumn and winter months.

At the end of May there was a large influx of Painted Lady butterflies all over the country. These originate from N. Africa and will have laid eggs all over the UK. When the imagos (adults) emerge in late summer, there should be very large numbers present in our gardens.

At the end of June and in early July, there were large numbers of a spectacular day-flying moth, the Scarlet Tiger. Although seen in small numbers in the village for several years, this year was exceptional, almost a hundred being seen near the junction of the two ‘legs’ of York Road (see images).
Scarlet Tiger moths
Scarlet Tiger moths mating

Comma butterfly
In June and early July many Comma butterflies (see image) were seen in the village, as well as occasional Small Tortoiseshells. Further afield, in some Oxfordshire woodlands, the rare Purple Emperor and uncommon Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral butterflies are having population explosions.

Adult female Green woodpecker (alone and feeding juveniles)
Green woodpeckers continue to breed in or around the village (see images, taken at 14, Manor Close in early July). An adult female was seen feeding two juveniles with their favourite food – ants.

Amongst the local mammals, squirrels and moles continue to be seen occasionally. The mole illustrated was captured in a plastic bucket on the lawn at 14, Manor Close.


Malcolm Brownsword 12 July 09
(All photos by Malcolm Brownsword)


If you have any comments, requests or observations concerning the flora and fauna of the village, please get in touch with one of us, and we will include them in the next update.
Malcolm Brownsword 01235 850668
Phillip Smith 01235 850618

See also Nature walks in and around West Hagbourne which describe four circular walks in and around the village and the wildlife you might see.