Saturday, 16 July 2016

Ragpits and reservoir

Bug Mad Girl wanted to go to her favourite nature reserve, the Ragpits at Aston Clinton, today. It's an amazing place, bursting with thousands of orchids, wonderful butterflies and other insects, but the thing she likes most of all is the slowworms. We found four slowworms hiding under the metal sheets put out for them, but there were a lot of people there today (which is quite unusual) and they'd looked under the sheets before us, so I suspect more slowworms had 'legged' it already.

There were lots of marbled whites flying, as well as meadow browns and ringlets. We saw one large skipper, but there was no sign of any common or chalkhill blues, which we're still waiting to see emerge. It was very hot and humid, but not particularly sunny. Even so, the numbers of butterflies around at the moment are a bit disappointing. I hope they pick up soon as the big butterfly count started yesterday!
Marbled white
The orchids at the Ragpits are wonderful. Many have gone over now, but the pyramidal orchids are still going strong and there are a few common spotted and chalk fragrant orchids that haven't gone to seed yet.
Pyramidal orchid
Common spotted orchids

Pure white chalk fragrant orchid
Even when the orchids have gone to seed they make an impressive site and you can't help but skip and dance along the paths.

On the way home we called into Weston Turville Reservoir, where we bumped into a lovely family of swans.

It's another wonderful place to visit, where you can sit and watch the birds swooping over the water and the dragonflies buzzing all around you.

I believe these are black-tailed skimmers (but I'm happy to be corrected!)

There were plenty of birds flying over the water, including swifts or house martins (I don't think they were swallows as they didn't have long tails, but I'm not sure between swifts and house martins!) and white birds that were flying over the reservoir and diving down to the water.  We weren't sure what they were (maybe common terns), so Bug Mad Girl took a video of them.
Maybe a common tern
We also watched a great crested grebe as it swam around and then disappeared under the water. 

Great crested grebe
Two very different but equally amazing places to visit. It was such a lovely way to spend a couple of hours this afternoon.


  1. Hi BMG. The best way to ID common from Arctic terns is by the bill. if they have a pure red bill, it is an Arctic tern. If it has a black tip at the end, it is a common tern. The ones you have are common terns.