In contrast to last spring's editorial, which was written after a lazy
lunch-hour in the sun, this one comes from a rather fuzzy head after spending
much of the night watching the eclipse of the supermoon. Local conditions
were perfect - a crisp, clear and very star-spangled night set the scene
(no street lights here), and the main event was sufficiently high above
the horizon not to be obscured by hills or houses. I was surprised by
how astoundingly beautiful it was - the shades of blood-red to amber,
the detail of the dark shadowy figures, and the delicate lighting of the
rim as it approached totality. The brilliance of the supermoon emphasised
the heavy darkness of totality.
The night was punctuated by the cries of geese - a common sound even at
night during migration time. The last of the local swallows and martins
left last week. On Exmoor a couple of weeks ago the skies were full of
these agile fliers swooping among the brilliant yellow gorse bushes and
the still-purple heather, many probably already on their way south. Before
they departed, the last broods of summer lined up to be fed, not on the
telegraph wires but on roof.
The Field Club also has a nightlife, with visits to Swinford churchyard
to look for glow worms, to Sherborne and other venues to watch (and hear)
the various species of bats are they emerge for an evening's hunting,
and the regular moth morning, when we check out moth traps set the previous
But even stay-at-homes can find plenty to watch. Over the many years I
have lived in Oxfordshire I have seen the advance of the collared dove,
the disappearance of willow warblers, siskins and yellowhammers from my
garden, and the loss of the cuckoos who use to mate with such abandon
in the willows at the end of the garden. The latest newcomer is the red
kite, seen almost every day now. When it descends in to a small garden,
one realises just how big this bird is - with a wingspan of almost 2 metres.
A few weeks ago I found a dead young rabbit in my garden. Not unusual,
you might think, but it would be difficult for a rabbit to get under my
garden gate and it certainly hadn't tunnelled its way in. I assumed it
had been dropped by a bird. My neighbour took it out into the field and
set up his video camera. I was hoping to lure a kite down.
half an hour later I glimpsed a large bird dropping into the field. The
video footage we got showed that it was not a kite. First, two magpies
and a rook pitched into the carcass. Then a buzzard arrived and stood
possessively over it. The magpies took off straight away, but the rook
lingered. It fixed its eye on the buzzard, obviously much put out to lose
a meal. But when the buzzard rather disdainfully turned its head towards
the rook, the rook immediately began to peck at the soil, feigning disinterest.
As soon as the buzzard looked away, the rook resumed its angry staring.
The buzzard then spent some five minutes shuffling the carcass around
between its feet, before finally getting a good grip and flying off with
In parts of the Chilterns red kites, like seagulls on the coast, are getting
a bad name for stealing people's sandwiches, which can be scary. But whose
behaviour should we change? Do we drive the birds away so that people
can eat in the street? At least the kites don't resort to pecking humans.
Club members will remember visits to the Farne Islands where the nesting
terns, like the nesting seagulls, attack. I still have the image of Tony
Florey carrying a raised-up walking stick with a Cola can on the top as
a decoy - and it worked!
The Club will soon be heading north again, to Morecambe Bay for its autumn
birding trip. The botanist among us enjoyed the June trip to the Peak
District, blessed by warm, sunny weather and perhaps the longest species
list we have ever recorded.
Our hearty thanks to all our leaders, both Club members and others, who
have given up their time so that we can enjoy the great outdoors.
A big thank you to everyone who contributed to this newsletter, and especially
those who had to try more than once to get emails through. These reports
really bring back good memories for members, and help to show non-members
what is out there to be enjoyed.
Please can you let me have your reports of walks and other Club outings,
including any September reports that did not make it into this newsletter,
by the first week of April 2016 for the Spring newsletter, and any April
reports as soon as possible afterwards. My e-mail address is email@example.com.
E-mailed flora and fauna lists in a single column, not in a table or spaced
with tabs, please. If this is not convenient, please post handwritten
or printed reports to the address given on your programme.
Jill Bailey (Newsletter
REPORTS OF FIELD MEETINGS
Dawn Chorus at
Rushy Common 10 May 2015
Thirteen of us met up in the reserve car park just before 4.00a.m. on
an overcast but fine spring morning. As expected, the calls of the first
few bird species heard were from those on the Rushy Common Lake: Black-headed
Gulls, Coots, Mallards, Canada Geese and Lapwings. A Barn Owl was seen
just outside the car park entrance and tawny owls were calling in the
distance. I think we disturbed a Sedge Warbler nearby on the edge of the
lake because it uttered a few notes of its irritable sounding song - they
always seem to me as if something has upset them!
We did a circular walk to Hardwick and Gill Mill, via Tar Lakes, and finished
at the Rushy Common bird-watching hide. By the time we reached Tar Lakes
many of the passerine species were waking up and Reed Buntings, Robins,
Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Blackcaps and Wrens constantly sang along the
At this time of day, once one of a particular species sings, then others
of the same tribe soon join in. However, one of our party briefly heard
the only Common Snipe of the morning drumming not far away. Along the
way, a Barn Owl spent some time quite close to us quartering the grassy
areas around a fishing lake. We also had a very close view of a pair of
Red-crested Pochards on the river and, beyond them on the far bank, a
startled Muntjac deer.
As we ambled across the water meadow towards Gill Mill, a large flock
of grazing Greylag Geese completely ignored us, presumably because they
were used to seeing local walkers on a regular basis. From the bird-watching
hide a bit later on, in addition to the usual water bird species seen,
Common Terns, Oystercatchers and a Little Ringed Plover were spotted and
added to the growing species list, which eventually reached 45. Surprisingly,
some of the expected common species such as Greenfinch and Dunnock weren't
heard or seen, but nevertheless it had been a fruitful and enjoyable walk.
List of bird species logged, with the time the first of each was encountered:
03.54 Canada goose
03.58 Sedge warbler
04.00 Barn owl
04.14 Tawny owl
04.15 Reed bunting
04.26 Song thrush
04.27 Common snipe
04.42 Wood pigeon
04.52 Garden warbler
05.01 Carrion crow
05.05 Great tit
05.20 Grey heron
05.26 Green woodpecker
05.27 Red-crested pochard
05.30 Greylag goose
05.50 Blue tit
05.55 Common whitethroat
06.15 Great crested grebe
06.15 Common tern
06.16 Tufted duck
06.30 Mute swan
06.40 Sand martin
06.45 Little ringed plover
07.05 Great-spotted w'pecker
07.13 Stock dove
Hackpen Hill 31
The chosen date for this chalk grassland site visit coincided with that
of the Upper Thames branch of Butterfly Conservation, the latter due to
take place in the morning and ours in the afternoon. No-one turned up
for the morning visit, no doubt due to a poor weather forecast, but I
managed to contact Gillian and Mike Taylor, the intended leaders of the
BC visit, at noon. They live in nearby Childrey and agreed to join us
and give us the benefit of their considerable knowledge of the site, which
only became an open access area less than 10 years ago. As it happened,
the weather was much better than predicted! It did not rain, but a fair
wind was blowing for some of the time.
In an average year, I would have expected to see kestrel, buzzard and
wheatear, but this was not to be. However, we did see and hear corn bunting
and skylark, as well as a single red kite. Also seen were yellowhammer,
whitethroat, chaffinch and meadow pipit.
It was a little cool to observe many Lepidoptera, but there were plenty
of Narrow-bordered 5-spot Burnet moths and a Burnet Companion moth. These
5-spot Burnets are often confused with the 6-spot variety, but emerge
earlier in the year. We also found a caterpillar of a 6-spot Burnet. Based
on his earlier observance of Wood Tiger caterpillars, Mike Taylor told
us that the day-flying Wood Tiger moths, which are common here, were likely
to emerge three weeks later than average this year, so none were seen.
Despite the cloudy sky and low temperature we saw a few Common Blues and
Small Heaths, a single Small Copper, a few Green Hairstreaks and two Brown
Argus. On two patches of nettles we found caterpillars of Peacock and
Small Tortoiseshell butterflies.
Regarding the flora, we found a small number of Common Spotted and Pyramidal
Orchids in bud. Present in much larger numbers and all flowering were:
Quaking Grass (Briza media), Stemless Thistle, Horse Vetch, Rockrose,
Common Thyme, Salad Burnet, Milkwort and Mouse-eared Hawkweed, as well
as several species of buttercup, including Bulbous Buttercup. As we left
through a kissing gate we found some Heartsease (Viola tricolor).
Common Blue, Small
Heath and Burnet Moth Caterpillar
District 1-4 June 2015
An advanced party of three travelled up to Castleton in the High Peak
of Derbyshire, where we were staying at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn, the
day before the rest of the group and our leader Peter Creed.
On the Monday morning we were greeted by lovely sunshine and after breakfast,
while waiting for Peter to arrive, we walked from the car park at the
top of Winnats Pass to the top of Mam Tor, 517 m (1,696 ft) high, which
dominated the skyline to the north. Approaching the summit we had magnificent
views into the Vale of Edale on the left and on the right to Castleton
and the cement works. On the banks beside the path we were delighted to
see, among lots of other limestone grassland flowers, Meadow Saxifrage.
Overhead Skylarks were singing their hearts out.
Our return route took us through a wood where Bluebells were still in
flower, then on to what appeared to be an abandoned tarmac road. Further
up the hillside this road disappeared into a series of distortions. It
was snapped and buckled with deep cracks criss-crossing it and sheer drop-offs
to the left.
Above the distortions the road appeared normal again with double white
lines still showing. Mam Tor means 'mother hill', so called because frequent
landslips on its eastern face have resulted in a multitude of 'mini-hills'
beneath it. It was these landslips, caused by unstable lower layers of
shale, that had caused the devastation of the road which we found out
later was the original route of the A625 Sheffield to Chapel en le Frith
road. The Sheffield Turnpike Company first constructed this road in 1819
using spoil from the nearby Odin mine. The following 160 years saw constant
repairs and reconstruction which are all exposed in the remains. In 1977,
the landslide moved again and the road was restricted to single-lane traffic.
In 1979, the road was permanently closed to traffic. The landslips also
gave the hill its alternative name of Shivering Mountain.
As we continued back to the car park beyond the Blue John Cave we passed
a big depression in the ground, the bottom of which was very colourful
with Marsh Marigolds and Lady's Smock flowers. We noted that in this area
some of the Lady's Smock flowers were quite a deep pink in amongst the
more usual very pale violet/pink.
The weather had gradually deteriorated during the morning and it rained
intermittently as we reached the car park. We had had the best of the
day as it rained from then on and the strong wind made it difficult to
manage an umbrella. Never the less after Peter arrived two of us joined
him for a walk up Cave Dale, which gave us splendid views of Peveril Castle
perched on top of the steep cliffs above us. We were rewarded by finding
several of the Derbyshire specialities including Spring Sandwort and Lesser
Meadow-rue on the steep slopes and rocks on either side of the path. Peter
also pointed out two saxifrages that have become naturalised - Fringe
Cups and London Pride growing on a wall as we entered Cave Dale.
The next day with improved weather - drizzle giving way to clear skies
but with dark clouds, at times threatening to deluge us with rain, which
fortunately did not happen. The wind remained very strong so Peter decided
to take us to Cheedale to walk beside the River Wye from Wye Dale car
park where it was relatively sheltered. I don't know what colour the river
is usually but it was a lovely shade of brown and after all the rain the
previous day and night was high and running fast. As soon as we had left
the car park Peter was finding interesting plants and insects for us to
see. In a patch of Ransoms (Wild Garlic) male Ransoms Hoverflies were
flying around over the top of the plants (the females were hiding in the
foliage where they lay their eggs in the roots)
L Water Avens, C
Wood Avens, R Hybrid These were common in the woodland here.
As we progressed along
the good quality private road Peter was spotting interesting insects one
after another. He was thrilled these included four uncommon ladybirds.
We came across a small group of tall allium-type flowers which turned
out to be Nectaroscordum siculum (Honey Garlic) - one of only two sites
where this plant is found in Derbyshire. Then right on the side of the
road (one plant run over) we spotted Narrow-leaved Bittercress, a biennial
herb which is listed as Near Threatened. Chee Dale is one of the few places
it is found. The road followed the river at the edge of Topley Wood which
was on the steep slope to our right. Ken, ahead of the group, spotted
two Dippers, and on the way back Jill Bailey watched some Dippers feeding
two young. We were also lucky to see a Heron standing motionless looking
into the river.
Before we reached
the bicycle-hire shop and café some of us made a diversion to Chee
Dale Nature Reserve where, by the entrance, we saw two Dingy Skippers.
Here there were Early Purple Orchids and Cowslips in flower, reflecting
the late spring, and other limestone-loving plants like Mossy Saxifrage.
Some of us carried on after the Blackwell Mill and followed the river
on the other side on a narrow stony path. The wall on our left was covered
with mosses and the Comb-moss was particularly attractive. Further on
the steep banks to our left on the rocky outcrops and scree we could see
a few specimens of Rock Whitebeam, a rare tree found only on limestone
cliffs. On a shelf we could just make out a large clump of Bloody Cranesbill.
Here the path was hidden under the large leaves of Butterbur which was
in flower. At this point we retraced our steps, stopping at the café
for a coffee.
After a snack lunch eaten by the car we crossed the A623 to take the path
outside the Topley Quarry entrance fence to the entrance of Deep Dale
Nature Reserve. Before we reached there we saw the dainty grass Mountain
or Nodding Melick in flower on the bank. Here we climbed the steps up
the steep slope through the flower-rich limestone grassland and then followed
the path along the edge of the quarry with the extensive steep slopes
of the reserve to our left. There were hundreds of Twayblades coming into
flower and lots of Early Purple Orchids. Under outcrops of rock Peter
spotted the pretty fronds of Limestone Oak Fern. The path as it progressed
up Deep Dale was rocky. The grassland gave way to Hazel scrub, some of
which had been cleared, then large areas of scree which we decided not
to try to explore.
The next morning, with the weather improving, we set off up the road from
Cressbrook to enter the reserve. What a delightful place! There were lots
of woodland species on the roadside which continued once we had entered
the wood, where the steep slopes were carpeted with Ransoms stretching
as far as you could see. The road was edged with the delightful grass
Wood Melick, its flowering heads nodding in the wind. In the distance
a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming and other birds which we had difficulty
identifying were singing their hearts out. Once inside the wood the path
was very muddy and had been trampled by cows. We crossed a bridge over
a little stream and came to a steep slope of calcareous grassland. Flying
close to the ground was a Dingy Skipper and a beautiful Green Hairstreak
which stayed around long enough to be photographed.
As well as the more
common calcareous grassland species we found Lesser Meadow-rue and Rockrose,
just coming into flower. There were some attractive insects for Peter
to photograph, including a Violet Leaf Beetle. We took the lower path
through the reserve which was through woodland again. Once on the other
side the dale opened up into extensive slopes of grassland some of which
showed evidence of its lead-mining past. On the mine spoil we found Spring
Sandwort which is also known as 'leadwort' from its preference for this
habitat. Then came the highlight of the walk - thousands of Early Purple
Orchids still in flower. Peter reckoned that there were more Early Purple
Orchids in this one dale than there were in the whole of Oxfordshire.
At one point we could see them outlined against the sky at the top of
We continued walking up the dale until we had passed Peter's Stone and
could see the road at the other end of the dale. Here there was an almost
complete darker green circle of grass in which St George's Mushrooms were
still in good condition. As their name suggests they are a mushroom associated
with April rather than June - another indicator of the late spring.
Upper Cressbrook Dale
On the way back we took the upper path which left the valley floor and
crossed the grassland at an angle. From the top we had magnificent views
over virtually the whole of Cressbrook Dale. Once we left the grassland
and entered the woodland the path became stony and at one point we had
to clamber down over some rocks. Here we spotted Lily-of-the-valley leaves
which all appeared blind, which was rather a shame as it would have been
lovely to have seen their attractive flowers and smelt their sweet scent.
Here, too, Jill spotted an unusual-looking bramble by the path which Peter
immediately identified as Stone Bramble by its upward pointing petals.
It was such a lovely afternoon we were reluctant to leave and when Peter
suggested a walk by the River Wye from Cressbrook towards Litton we were
keen to join him. In the water by the weir we spotted a Rainbow Trout.
At the start the path was very wet and muddy due to the recent heavy rain.
We passed a boggy area which had one Large Bittercress plant in it. Peter
pointed out that with this sighting we had seen all five species of the
genus Cardamine on this trip. Most of the species we noted here were typical
of woodland or riverside.
Where a spring was seeping out of a rocky bank the rock face was covered
with a tufa-forming moss. At this point we were walking by Cramside Wood
Nature Reserve SSSI which was on the bank to our right. Aware that we
should be getting back we turned round and retraced our steps as far as
the notice indicating an alternative path back to Cressbrook which three
of us took to avoid the flooded area. This took us steeply up through
the wood, then out into a meadow with a magnificent view of Cressbrook
Hall ahead of us. It then went through another wooded area, coming out
on the road higher up from the other path. It was here that Ken and I
reluctantly left the party to return home while the rest went back to
the Castleton to stay another night
Brittle Bladder Fern
(mosses + liverworts)
Road by River Wye
(blue, pink + white forms)
Hairy St John's-wort
Scaly Male Fern
Brittle Bladder Fern
Hard Shield Fern
( and young)
Black and red Froghopper
Dock Leaf Beetle
Blue Soldier Beetle
Tree Bumble Bee
Giant Cranefly ?
Yellow Sally Stonefly
Green Nettle Weevil
Common Banded Hoverfly
Chee Dale Nature
Early Purple Orchid
Common Dog Violet
Grasses & Sedges
Dingy Skipper Butterfly
By River Wye from
Great Yellow Cress
Dog Lichen Peltigera sp.
Orange Tip Butterfly ?
Deep Dale and Topley
Pike Nature Reserve
Common Spotted Orchid
Limestone Oak Fern
Slender Ground Hopper
Red Velvet Mite
Common Dog Violet
Welsh Poppy (orange)
Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage
Hairless Lady's Mantle
Early Purple Orchid
Lily of the Valley
Hard Shield Fern
Brittle Bladder Fern
St George's Mushroom
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Speckled Wood Butterfly
Ransoms Hoverfly ?
Common Carder Bumblebee
Small Yellow Underwing (day-flying moth)
Walk by River Wye
Star of BethlehemMarsh Marigold
Hairy St John's-wort
Stream Water Crowfoot
Grasses, sedges & rushes
Wood Meadow Grass
Brittle Bladder Fern
Great Scented Liverwort
Turkey-tail fungus on
(adults + ducklings)
Green-veined White Butterfly
Silver-ground Carpet Moth
Visit to Over Norton
Park Farm 11 June 2015
Eight members of the Field Club enjoyed a lovely evening visiting Mike
and Sarah Kettlewell's farm, which is situated in rolling countryside
just north of Chipping Norton. Dr Alan Larkman also joined us - he has
been advising on conservation issues on this farm for many years but had
never visited in the summer. We were greeted by Mike and Sarah and the
first thing we saw was a large poster of photographs of the wild flowers
on the farm taken by Sarah between 23rd May and 3rd June this year, featuring
over 70 species in bloom. We knew then that we were in for a special treat.
Sarah's family has owned this farm for 400 years. The farm is 400 acres
with a pedigree herd of South Devon cattle, mixed arable crops and some
woodland. The farm has been in Stewardship schemes for 15 years to increase
biodiversity, all the arable fields have uncultivated margins and there
are impressive native hedgerows that are trimmed only every 3 years -
in one of them I counted 10 hedgerow species. There is a year-round feeding
programme for vulnerable farmland birds that have declined so badly over
the last 5 decades and to support this, 15 acres on the farm are sown
for birdseed. There are hanging feeders of millet year round to help Tree
Sparrows and Reed Buntings.
From late December to early May there is ground feeding to attract Chaffinches,
Yellowhammers, Linnets, Skylarks and Corn Bunting plus the usual hedgerow
birds. Yellow Rattle is introduced to the feeding areas to keep down the
grass and make the seeds more accessible to the birds. In places, double
hedges with a ditch in the middle, cut back every three years, help provide
shelter and nesting sites. Old ponds support reedbeds and birds such as
Little Ggrebes, Cormorants, Kingfishers, a colony of Reed Buntings and
some Sedge Warblers.
Mike and Sarah led us on an amble around the farm, including through a
beautiful meadow where Spotted Orchids were in flower. In the last field
the cattle were grazing including the impressive bull who was sitting
contentedly surrounded by his ladies and their calves. Your scribe watched
in amazement as Mike and Sarah went over to him, stroking him and talking
to him as if he were a pet cat!
thanks to Mike and Sarah for their hospitality. In our coming winter programme
is a visit to the farm in the winter hopefully to see a good range of
Common Spotted Orchid
Field Maple (NF)
Common Spotted Orchid
Quaking Grass (B. media)
Plant list Jill Bailey
14 June 2015
This was a joint trip with the Oxford RSPB Group. After a day and a half
of rain, the evening remained dry but overcast with a cool north-easterly
breeze, which meant that bird activity and song were subdued. However,
song thrushes and a willow warbler sang as 16 of us set out along the
path from the car park.
Once on the path that follows the line of one of the former taxiways of
this former military airfield, small flocks of linnets flitted by and
the occasional swallow and house martin were seen overhead. Owing to the
cloud cover, the evening light faded early, so we made our way towards
a formerly wooded area clear-felled some years ago, now covered with low
shrubs and isolated conifer and deciduous trees which nightjars prefer
as a breeding habitat.
As on previous visits,
woodcocks were the first of our two target bird species to appear, flying
a direct route above the remaining woodland beyond the open area. Later
on, two of them flew by just in front of us, heading in the same direction
as before and uttering their typical three or four note croaking call,
quickly followed by a short explosive high-pitched squeak. Then, much
earlier than usual, we heard the first nightjar's rattling reeling song
from some trees to our left. After a prolonged pause, it flew to more
trees immediately opposite us, where it sang again. This to-ing and fro-ing
carried on for some time, but on several occasions after that, one, and
then two nightjars flew almost over us, wing clapping and jinking here
and there almost bat-like as they caught insects as they passed. Several
times one alighted in a conifer immediately in front of us. It was probably
the best nightjar display we'd seen over the several years of coming here
to see them, and we went home pleased that we'd come along for this worthwhile
Bird species seen or heard:
Hook Norton 30
23 people gathered for a visit to a species-rich limestone grassland bank
(SSSI) and adjacent field, uncultivated for 20 years and now re-colonised
naturally. The location was near Hook Norton and our guide was Craig Blackwell
(former OCC County Ecologist). The group comprised Field Club members,
members of the Wychwood Flora Group and several visitors. The field is
in private ownership. Craig took us on a tour of both parts of the site
- it was a beautiful evening and there was so much to enjoy and appreciate.
Brenda Betteridge compiled the very impressive plant list. Craig pointed
out a Greater Butterfly Orchid that was just going over - this is a first
for the site. Butterflies and moths were on the wing in the evening sunshine
including a good number of Marbled Whites, Chimney Sweeper, White Plume
and Blackneck moths. Our thanks to Craig for a very special evening.
Left: 6-spot Burnet
Moths mating on Knapweed Above: Ghost Moth
Common Spotted Orchid
Chalk Fragrant Orchid
Hairy St John's-wort
Perforate St John's-wort
Greater Butterfly Orchid
Six-spot Burnet Moth
Mary Elford List by Brenda Betteridge
Walk Around Eynsham
7 July 2015
On a warm summer evening, Ken Betteridge led us on a walk around Eynsham.
We started off exploring the old site of Eynsham Abbey and its fishponds
- there is an explore trail there, with large pieces of masonry from the
Abbey dotted at intervals. Then we walked along the main road (formerly
the track of the old Oxford to Witney railway), towards Swinford Bridge.
Turning off across the fields, Ken explained that Swinford used to have
an important wharf for cargo barges, which explains the location of the
Talbot inn. The footpath is lined with trees planted to encourage undergrowth
to slow the flow of the water.
We came across an
old 'flash weir'. Along the river bank we saw a ring of posts with a bar
round it. This was where the old paddles used to insert into the nearby
sluices to control river flow were kept.
After an amble around stubble fields, we returned to the village through
the allotments and a string of small paths that led through the quiet
back streets of Eynsham.
It was unusual to have seen all three rues - meadow rue, wall rue and
goat's rue in the same day.
Species list (includes
some plants not in flower):
Perforate St John's-wort
White Field Forget-me-not
Pellitory of the Wall
List by Brenda Betteridge
Moth morning 8 August 2015
15 people came to Ken and Brenda's Betteridge's home near Worsham for
what has become an annual Field Club event. I set up 2 moth traps in the
garden and one in the adjacent former quarry. It was a reasonably warm,
calm night and Ken kindly covered the traps at the break of day to prevent
all the moths escaping as our arrival time was not until 9 am
It's been a poor year
for moths but we had a good selection for the time of year. I had taken
the precaution of bringing the following colourful moths from my own trap
for extra interest: Magpie Moth, Ruby Tiger, Knot Grass, White Satin,
Brimstone and Yellow Shell
In the absence
of an expert, we managed to identify the following moths:
Heart and Dart
Large Yellow Underwing
After examining the moths, we relaxed in the lovely morning sunshine and
enjoyed bacon butties and drinks - could the refreshment have enticed
people to come along, I wonder?! Thanks to Ken and Brenda for their hospitality
Bat walk at Sherborne 12 August 2015
A group of nine of us turned up in the courtyard behind the National Trust's
office in the village of Sherborne.It was a pleasant evening and we were
all eagerly anticipating seeing lots of bats and we were not about to
Whilst we chatted we could hear ravens 'kronking' in the cedar trees behind
us and we spotted one flying off as we turned to the sound. A swallow
flew in and out of one of the outbuildings at speed doubtless feeding
When our leader Mike Robinson appeared he invited us all into the office
where he gave us a short but very informative talk about the Sherborne
estate and also about bats, in particular the ones found on the estate.
There have been nine species of bat discovered on the estate, over half
of the seventeen known British species.
After the talk we were eager to see some bats for ourselves and we all
proceeded to leave the offices to be greeted outside by an absolutely
glorious sunset and our first bat, a pipistrelle, which was flitting around
over the roadway. This gave those who had borrowed bat detectors from
Mike an opportunity to try them out and we all clearly heard the clicks
emanating from the pipistrelle via the detectors.
We carried on a leisurely walk down through the village through clouds
of midges which we surmised would have been even greater without the sterling
efforts of the pipistrelle we could see flying through them.
We then turned into the old hunt kennels and waited outside a building
with two open doorways and in a very short space of time we saw our first
lesser horseshoe bats as they emerged from the doorways, flitted around
and went back in. Mike explained that this behaviour appears to be their
way of sampling the outside environment before venturing off on the night's
Soon though they started leaving and individuals were leaving at a constant
rate for the next forty five minutes or so. Mike told us there were probably
in excess of two hundred individuals in this roost! Listening to them
on the bat detectors was interesting; instead of the harsh clicks and
pops of the pipistrelle their calls had a rising and falling quality not
unlike some of the more avant-garde music compositions one can hear nowadays.
There was also a constant background 'chatter' from the bats remaining
in the building which did sound as though they were having a conversation.
After we had observed and listened to the lesser horseshoes for a good
time it was getting quite dark and Mike then led us down to the river
Windrush where it runs through the valley and where it has been widened
into a large pool above a small weir. We stood on the bridge over the
weir and a powerful torch was shone low across the surface of the water.
This soon picked up some Daubentons bats which were skimming low over
the water feeding on the proliferation of flying insects illuminated in
the beam. After some time enjoying the spectacle of their precision flying
we made our way back to our cars seeing more bats (probably pipistrelle)
as we returned.
As it was a clear evening Tony and Alison and I drove a short way to a
hillside near the village of Windrush and got out of the car to see if
we could spot any of the Perseid meteor shower which we had been informed
would be at its peak that evening. Whilst we sipped on mugs of tea from
Tony's thoughtfully provided flask we enjoyed watching a number of meteors
streaking across the sky, then at about ten-thirty p.m. we were treated
to the sight of the international space station passing overhead.
It seemed a fitting end to the evening, from watching one of the most
ancient of flying mammals to seeing the pinnacle of human flight all in
such a short space of time.
Visit to Hawk Conservancy Trust, Weyhill, near Andover 23 August 2015
Eight Field Club members enjoyed a good day at this wonderfully run birds
of prey centre where there are over 150 birds of prey on view set in twenty
two acres of grounds made up of woodland and a seven acre wildflower meadow.
The birds range in size from the diminutive Pygmy Owl to the enormous
Stellar's Sea Eagles.
The weather was rather wet on arrival but improved during the day. Two
of our group were able to avail themselves of the electric buggies to
get around. There were three impressive displays during the day. They
included a group of Sacred Ibis, eight Black Kites, American Bald Eagles,
Turkey Vultures, Barn Owls and Great Grey Owls among others.
There is a good restaurant and shop there and all the staff are very friendly
and informative. The National Bird of Prey Hospital is there and can treat
over two hundred sick, injured and orphaned raptors each year. The Trust
has been running for fifty years.
Emergence of Cockchafers (Part 2) 29 June 2015
Last year (2014) Alison and I saw a large emergence of cockchafers at
Cassington. This year on the same Monday night in June we saw a similar
- and larger - emergence. As last year, it was just dusk as we went in
the same field. All around us cockchafers were emerging and flying. Alison
held a mating pair in her hand - they had fallen off a sycamore tree.
A line of four or five youngish sycamores had hundreds, possibly thousands,
of cockchafers flying around each tree top in their courtship and mating
display. This was quite a sight, and one I would guess most people have
Tony Florey and Alison Weaver
'Ants in the sitting
room' July 2015
I lay down on my sofa hoping to have a doze. It was a hot sunny afternoon
and I was just drifting off to sleep when I heard a pattering on the window.
It sounded like rain and I sat up thinking it odd to be raining on such
a sunny afternoon. To my surprise my window was covered in flying ants,
and there were dozens of non-flying ants running around the windows and
up the wall. They were coming out of a small hole in the window frame.
I spent 10-15 minutes or more catching them and putting them out. Some
of them were bigger with large abdomens whilst others were tiny and wasp
like ants which I think were the males.
I eventually got all the winged ants out until I only had the dozens of
black wingless ants running around. After a few more minutes even all
of these had disappeared and it looked as if nothing had happened.
Ringing Baby Barn
Owls 20 July 2015
Alison, David Roberts and I were lucky to be invited to go with Pat Wixey
and a few O.O.S. members to visit three barn owl boxes. At Chimney Meadows
two young and very quiet chicks were ringed and likewise at Ham Court,
Bampton. The latter were slightly older and much livelier, flapping their
wings as Pat ringed them. Then on to Alvescot stud, where Pat got out
a very tiny owlet to show us, only a few days old. There was another of
similar age along with five eggs in this nest. This was a lovely experience
- we were out agood part of the day.
We hope that Pat will be able to repeat an event of this type for a few
WOFC members on another occasion.
Tony Florey &
Worms at Swinbrook Churchyard 1 August 2015
On an ideal night for glow worm searching (i.e. overcast and dull) Adrian
State, Tony and I looked in and out of the graveyard at Swinbrook and
found eight glow worms. One of these "went out" just as we spotted
it - they can "switch" on and off at will. Although we have
seen these over many years, we agreed that it is always a so-as-to-speak
magical experience with the bright emerald green lights in the grass.
Adrian took this excellent photograph. But we were trumped by Mary Elford
and others, who found ten glow worms the next night!
Alison Weaver, Tony Florey and Adrian State
Spectacular moth larvae in Leafield!
On 10 September I was at Bridewell Organic Gardens when someone showed
me the stunning larva of the Death's Head Hawkmoth with its Day-Glo colours.
It was about 10 cm long and munching away on potato leaves. It had been
found along with three others on a potato patch in a garden in Leafield.
Two had already gone underground to pupate. I contacted a Marc Botham
who is a butterfly and moth ecologist as I know that he loves rearing
larvae. He immediately left work at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
in Wallingford and hot-footed over to the Leafield garden.
I joined him there to discover that the fourth larva had been found by
the cat but had come to no harm! Marc did some excavating to see if he
could get the complete family but to no avail. So Marc took his new offspring
home and if they successfully hatch next year, he will return the adults
to the Leafield garden. Watch this space
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