I've had the date in the diary for a while, and after the abject failure of Skipper hunting during the May half term week I was keen to make amends and do some more exploring in the Midlands. This time, the targets were Black Hairstreak and Wood White, before meeting up with friend Allan and an Oundle pub crawl.
Upon arrival at the Horse trail (see below; confirmation I was in the right place thanks to the scribbled b.h. and star that could be a Butterfly on the sign?) I had walked a matter of metres before I was stopped in my tracks by a Purple Emperor that landed on the track and briefly fed on salts, sun-bathed and finally disappeared high into the canopy. An incredible encounter, and I did not once think to grab the camera of course. Onwards, and White Admirals were flighty but numerous. The Damselfy below is I believe a female Beautiful Demoiselle, a nice bonus if so as this is a species I had not counted on seeing, and indeed have not seen at all in the UK. I scanned the tops of the Blackthorn, hoping for a glimpse of the rare and restricted Black Hairstreak. I found a smaller trail and could see where long grass had been walked over and felt this could deliver the goods. Sure enough, a Black Hairstreak came down to the ground and did allow me to observe and take a photo. Further sightings were mainly as the species skimmed along the top of the blackthorn bushes. I found this Butterfly easier to connect with than Brown Hairstreak last summer, which appeared to be a stronger flyer and less prone to settling. But this was a Black- rarer, apparently more approachable, and restricted to ancient woodland in the Midlands.
I spoke with a group led by a chap from Butterfly Conservation, who said they had only seen 1 Wood White. I didn't fancy the drive to Bucknell Wood south of here, and at this stage the elusive Wood White looked like it would remain to be just that. I continued to search for another hour, spying more Black Hairstreak flitting through the thorns and brambles. Finally, I got lucky. A very small white species appeared, rarely straying beyond or below a metre above ground level. I followed it up and down a forest ride, and concluded that I had never seen a white species look or behave like this. This was a Wood White! Another chap walked past, and confirmed my thoughts.
With my 2 targets achieved and numerous other species seen, I headed to Oundle. I knew I was close, Red Kites began to black out the sky. With the sun obscured by cloud, a trip to Glapthorn at this point of the day was probably not worth it. Instead, we investigated the local food festival and continued on to various drinking holes to watch football and rugby. The following morning, we emptied the Moth trap and I was pleased that both Privet and Poplar Hawk had made an appearance, as well as Large Nutmeg NFY and a couple of micros in Oak Green Tortrix and Large Ivy Tortrix.
I am back this way for a social event in July, and must pop in to the Chequered Skipper pub. Hopefully a few years down the line, and this species' reintroduction will be complete and another good reason to visit.