Holmethorpe Sand Pits, Surrey ... 1st July 2011

An early morning wander around Spynes Mere at Holmethorpe Sand Pits for a couple of hours produced 14 Egyptian Geese, 13 Lapwings, a Lesser Whitethroat, 11 Common Whitethroats, 8 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, 3 Reed Warblers, a Nuthatch, a pair of Bullfinches, a Reed Bunting and two Yellowhammers.

As I approached the sand-spit at Spynes Mere, all the Greylag Geese that were loafing there took to the water honking like crazy and in a state of panic. I couldn't see what had caused this frenzied behaviour - no sign of a fox or a raptor - then low over the M23 motorway this appeared, losing height rapidly.

I didn't hear any screeching of brakes so they must have touched down just the other side of the M23.

Yesterday, Matt Farmer had seen a Purple Hairstreak and an Essex Skipper in the area and I was optimistically hoping that I might be lucky enough to connect with one or the other.

As it was still early in the morning and quite cool, I hadn't yet seen a single butterfly on the wing but this little micro moth had caught my eye. It is Acleris forsskaleana, sometimes called the Maple Button.

Acleris forsskaleana

I headed round to the southern side of Spynes Mere and, about half way along the path, a fast flying butterfly whizzed past me and landed on the hedge by the path. I couldn't believe my luck - a Purple Hairstreak. It stayed there for at least five minutes and I managed to get a few shots before it flew off towards a nearby oak tree.

Purple Hairstreak

I then decided to do another circuit of Spynes Mere as the sun was warming the air and the butterflies should be active by now.
A few Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Large Whites, Small Skippers, a Brown Argus and loads of Garden Grass Veneers had now appeared. I took a couple of shots of the Small Skippers and decided to head home as quite a few dog-walkers and joggers had turned up.

Garden Grass Veneer (Chrysoteuchia culmella)

After transferring the photos to the computer, I quickly flitted through them and noticed that one of the skippers was actually an Essex Skipper. Like the Purple Hairstreak, this is not a species that gets noted very often at Holmethorpe.

Essex Skipper

So, the birding may not have been that good this morning, but the butterflies made the visit worthwhile.


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