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NEWSLETTER No. 86 – AUTUMN 2007

EDITORIAL

What a strange year it has been – summer in April, winter/monsoon season in summer, and now autumn wind and mist. The migratory birds were about early – my house martins almost two weeks early. Someone had told them it was sunny and warm here. A lot of birds started a successful breeding season, only to be hit with low temperatures and rain for the rest of the summer. But there seem to have been more baby birds bouncing about the garden than usual this summer, blundering into flowers and doing unintended roll-overs round thin branches.

The bird seed and nuts have not been much in demand, but when my finches fledged their parents took them straight to the feeder. It’s encaged in steel to keep squirrels out, so they had a pretty hard job landing on it, or on the curved arms that hold the feeders. It’s rather like toddlers being taken to a McDonald’s – an early introduction to fast food!

There was a feast of wild flowers – summer flowers very early, early and late summer flowers all out together, and spring flowers sometimes making a second go of it. One feared late summer might see the verges rather bare, but many plants are responding to the finer weather and flowering again. There are ribbons of moon daisies along the A40.

The hedgehogs who managed to avoid starvation in the dry spring were rewarded with the glut of slugs and snails in the monsoon season. But other animals were not so lucky. Many a rabbit and mole must have been forced to emigrate from the Oxfordshire meadows. Certainly there were molehills in the most unusual places. Even animals used to the water, such as the rare water voles, were sometimes washed away; at best only their burrows were flooded out. Tiny field mice no doubt would not always be able to move fast enough to avoid the rising water. The experts (my thanks to the excellent Oxford Times article by Debbie Lewis of BBOWT) fear this will affect the predators, such as barn owls, later on.
There have been increasing reports of shooting and poisoning of birds of prey in the area recently, including barn owls and red kites. But some people find them useful friends. I have just read about a mechanical peregrine that is having some success keeping birds off airfields and pigeons off monuments.

The cold and wet have made life hard for the invertebrates, so small predators will suffer, too, including the bat population. Even the marshland plants have suffered, and it is feared the underground parts of the fritillaries may rot in the wet. Perhaps we need the beaver back to help spread the flood-water over a wider area. This mammal is increasingly being introduced to places on the continent to create a more diverse range of marshland habitats. Beavers can help to save the cost of pollarding willows and other riverside trees, keeping the banks clear for other animals, such as otters, to make their homes in, as they cut them down in a cycle. Once they have exhausted the food near their lodge, they move on and dam up another part of the river, leaving their old dam and ponds to revert to marsh and then meadow. This leads to more biodiversity.

Despite the weather, the Club has been rambling around Oxfordshire and beyond as usual. We started the season with May flowers and birds in the meadows at Kidlington, a dawn chorus at Great Barrington with a follow-up spotting session in the afternoon, and a bluebell walk in Pinsley wood. But with the early spring the bluebells had beaten us to it – it was more a case of ‘spot the bluebell’.

We had a magical evening at Snelsmore Common. Other rambles ranged from Otmoor to Bourton-on-the-Water, Swalcliffe, Appleton Common and the countryside around the Cotswold Farm Park near the Guitings. At Aston Upthorpe and Juniper Valley, near the Ridgeway, we did not see so many butterflies as on last year’s joint trip with the Abingdon Naturalists, but this was more than made up for by sightings of two harriers, and some good chalkland wildflowers. We were lucky to have a fine, sunny day.

Our trip to Dry Sandford Pit rewarded the few of us who turned up with good views of butterflies and dragonflies and plenty of marsh plants. Dragonflies were also in evidence on a ramble around the Cotswold Water Park near Cirencester but not on Otmoor.

The Club also took two holidays – a week in Northumberland and a weekend in the New Forest, the latter led by Peter Creed.

Our summer party at the Swan Hotel at Radcot Bridge was enjoyed by all. Despite being almost alongside the river, they had narrowly missed being flooded. We enjoyed good food and excellent, friendly service.
JB

REPORTS OF FIELD MEETINGS

Minster Lovell and Crawley 15 April 2007

We set off for Crawley from the Minster Lovell Hall car park on an almost mid-summer-like morning – blue sky, no wind and a temperature of about 18ºC. As we approached the village we paused to admire the view across the river valley. Our route then took us through the village, over the river bridge, south onto the bridleway towards Witney, up the hill to the Crawley road, down through Maggots Grove, through the water meadows to the wooden river bridge, through the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall and the churchyard back to the cars. Bluebells were in flower along the footpath to Crawley, and so were Marsh Marigolds below Maggots Grove. Several butterfly species were in flight and a damselfly alighted on vegetation as we passed by.


Bird species seen/heard:

Chiffchaff
Wood Pigeon
Common Whitethroat
Mistle Thrush
Green Woodpecker
Great Tit
Carrion Crow
Blackbird
Willow Warbler
Mallard
Red-legged Partridge
Wren
Blue Tit
Coal Tit
Rook
Pheasant
Coot
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Blackcap
Jackdaw
Collared Dove
Dunnock
Robin
Chaffinch

Some of the flowers seen:

Lesser Celandine
Ground Ivy
White Deadnettle
Germander Speedwell
Wood Anemone
Wild Arum
Marsh Marigold
Red Deadnettle
Ivy-leaved Speedwell
Bluebell
Cuckoo Flower
Shepherd’s Purse
Herb Robert


Butterflies:
Peacock

Brimstone
Cabbage White
Speckled Wood

.
DR


Pinsley Wood, Church Hanborough 26 May 2007

The venue was originally arranged to see the spectacular display of Bluebells that is produced annually in this wood but, due to the unusually warm weather in April, the season was early this year, so we knew beforehand that we were to be disappointed. Undeterred, however, we set off on a circular walk, which took a little over an hour, during which we saw the birds and wild flowers listed below


Birds:

Swift
Chiffchaff
Wood Pigeon
Blackbird
Thrush
Pheasant
Robin
Long-tailed Tit
Jackdaw
Rook
Crow
Whitethroat (H)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (H)

Flowers:

Soft Cranesbill
Cut-leaved Cranesbill
Chickweed
Goosegrass
Buttercup
Hedge Woundwort
Bush Vetch
Ground Ivy
Wood Avens
Cuckoo Flower
Yellow Archangel
Stitchwort
Germander Speedwell
Dog’s Mercury
Jack by the Hedge
Herb Robert
Quaking Grass
Bugle
Hawthorn
Alkanet
Bluebell (very few!)

Miscellaneous:

Cardinal Beetle
Skipper Butterfly

(H) = heard only
TM

Snelsmore Common 10 June 2007

We had a magical evening at Snelsmore Common. This was a joint RSPB/WOFC trip. It was a warm (relatively) evening, with a soft peach sky and a slow sunset. While we waited for dusk to fall, we looked for small birds among the bushes and trees, seeing a range of finches, linnets and tits. As dusk fell, we were treated to some splendid views of Woodcock roding across the heathland. We had to wait until it was even darker for the Nightjars to start up. At first they were so faint that we had trouble distinguishing them from the noise of the nearby M4 motorway. Gradually the strange churring began to come at us from various directions, moving from place to place as the evening wore on. Eventually we arrived at a point where the Nightjars were actually hawking for insects over our heads. A real treat.


Birds:
Song Thrush
Robin
Blackbird
Kestrel
Carrion Crow
Willow Warbler
Tree Pipit
Chaffinch
Linnet
Woodcock
Nightjar
Green Woodpecker
Chiffchaff
*Red Kite
*Barn Owl


Otmoor 16 June 2007
This meeting, specifically set up for dragonflies, was a dismal failure. Only two of us turned up. Just after we set out from the car-park there was a prolonged heavy downpour and then more-or-less continuous lighter rain for the rest of the afternoon which stopped the dragonflies from flying.
DR

West Mead, Yarnton 20 June 2007

A windy but pleasant summer’s evening found us meeting in a lorry-filled lay-by on the A40 near Cassington for a walk led by Dr Alison MacDonald. We were joined by two of Dr MacDonald’s Dutch students. A short walk across an embankment and bridge found us in a tranquil plant-rich, riverside hay meadow. Apart from most interesting botanical information, Dr MacDonald explained the history of the Yarnton and Begbroke Meads, which date back to Saxon times. The Meads are divided into lots which the farmers of the parish have the right to mow for hay and graze stock on the aftermath. The lots are drawn annually and mowing is not allowed before 1 July. This regime of mowing followed by grazing is in no small measure responsible for the wealth of meadow plants.

The wind seemed to be keeping birds and butterflies grounded but a large number of House Martins were feeding and Meadow Brown Butterflies were seen.


Plants:
Oxeye Daisy
Devil’s Bit Scabious
Great Burnet
Meadow Foxtail (typical grass)
Golden Oat Grass
Smooth and Rough Meadow Grasses
Crested Dog’s Tail
Meadow Brome
Hay Rattle
Cut-leaved Cranesbill
Self Heal, Mouse-ear Hawkweed
Common Knapweed

Red Clover
Hawkbit
Hogweed
Lady’s Bedstraw
Meadow Buttercup
Meadow Vetchling
Quaking Grass
Creeping Bent
Common Milkwort
Dropwort
Tormentil
Meadow Barley
Ribwort Plantain
Jointed Rush
Tufted Vetch
Norfolk Reed (?)
Pepper Saxifrage
Tufted Hairgrass
Sweet Vernal Grass
Common Sorrel.

RE

Crawley road verge survey 27 June 2007

A small group of us gathered in the ‘Bird-in-Hand’ car park for a pre-walk talk. Briefly, road verges in so many places have become the last refuges for our native grassland flora, but even these are being lost as a result of nutrient enrichment (over-spread of fertilizer from adjoining fields and vehicle exhaust emissions), together with the practice of cutting the vegetation several times a year and not removing it, which results in the nutrients in the soil being increased as the vegetation rots down. To get an idea of how serious a problem this is, surveys need to be carried out and ideally experiments with different regimes of cutting and removing the top growth. There are a number of road-side nature reserves in Oxfordshire chosen for their rich flora but sadly even this designation does not guarantee that it will stay that way. The stretch of verge we were about to survey is one of these nature reserves.

Weather conditions were not ideal that evening for carrying out a plant survey in long grass on the side of the road. It was quite cold and windy. The skies were dark with heavy clouds and it was not long before the heavens opened. The sun did manage to show itself briefl,y resulting in a lovely rainbow. Despite this, our spirits were not dampened and we set to identifying and listing all we could find there. We were delighted to find a good selection of plants typical of calcareous grassland. It was surprising how long it took, and the light was beginning to fade as we reached the end. At some stage during the evening somebody must have glanced up from the vegetation and noticed a Barn Owl quartering the meadow away on the other side of the road. The only other birds we were aware of were a Yellowhammer singing in hedge opposite and two Skylarks singing their hearts out above us. Clinging to the stalks of grasses were several Six-Spot Burnet moth chrysalises and butterflies trying to shelter from the rain. Marbled White and Meadow Brown butterflies made brief sorties. Where the vegetation was less dense we disturbed a Common Lizard. In places the vegetation was particularly sparse and here there were light-green patches of the widespread moss Pseudoscleropodium purum.

The only other thing to note: a police lady passing in a patrol car stopped to ask us if we were OK! She must have thought we looked a bit suspicious!


Plants seen (not all in flower):

False Oat-grass Arrhenatherum elatius
Greater Knapweed Centaurea scabiosa
Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium
Hardheads Centaurea nigra
Cocksfoot Dactylis glomerata
Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon Tragopogon pratensis
Stinging Nettle Urtica dioica
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor
Black Medick Medicago lupulina
Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata
Self-heal Prunella vulgaris
Cow Parsley Anthriscus sylvestris
Hedge Bedstraw Galium mollugo
Field Bindweed Convolvulus arvensis
Musk Mallow Malva moschata
Red Clover Trifolium pratense
Bladder Campion Silene vulgaris
Meadow Vetchling Lathyrus pratensis
Hoary Plantain Plantago media
Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus
Field Scabious Knautia arvensis
Wild Basil Clinopodium vulgare
Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis
Common Vetch Vicia sativa
Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare
White Clover Trifolium repens
Common Rest Harrow Ononis repens
Marjoram Origanum vulgare
Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria
Perforate St John’s-wort Hypericum perforatum
Stemless Thistle Cirsium acaulis
Salad Burnet Sanguisorba minor
Dandelion Taraxacum officinalis
Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna
Small-leaved Timothy-grass Phleum bertolonii
Dog Rose Rosa canina
Wild Mignonette Reseda lutea
Burnet-saxifrage Pimpinella saxifraga
Prunus sp.
Woolly Thistle Cirsium eriophorum
Quaking Grass Briza media
Sweet Violet Viola odorata
Hairy St John’s-wort Hypericum hirsutum
Upright Brome Bromus erectus
Wild Clematis Clematis alba
Common Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii
Blackberry Rubus fruticosus
Mouse-ear Hawkweed Pilosella officinalis
Cowslip Primula verum
Purging Flax Linum catharticum
Glaucous Sedge Carex flacca
Common Broomrape Orobanche minor
Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera
Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare
Common Toadflax Linaria vulgaris
Smooth Hawk’s-beard Crepis capillaris
Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea Lathyrus latifolius
Common Mouse-ear Cerastium fontanum
Creeping Cinquefoil Potentilla reptans
Rye Grass Lolium perenne
Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens
Creeping Bent Agrostis stolonifera
Yellow Oat-grass Trisetum flavescens
Sheep’s Fescue Festuca ovina
Brown Bent Agrostis canina
Hard Fescue Festuca longifolia

BB


Dry Sandford Pit 1 July 2007

The WOFC party was reinforced by 50% when a dragonfly expert from Middlesborough joined us. This poor turnout was undoubtedly due to members’ listening to the weather forecast. Those of us who were more optimistic were rewarded with a dry but windy afternoon, with sunny periods.

The reserve has many solitary bees and wasps and we did not even need to leave the car park to discover that two holes in the main reserve notice board were inhabited by bees of unknown identity. Our new northern friend soon identified Blue-tailed Damselfly and Brown Hawker and Broad-bodied Chaser dragonflies. Although there were no uncommon species of anything observed during our visit, there was a fair number of common butterflies, including Ringlet, Marbled White, tens of newly emerged Meadow Browns, three Red Admirals, a newly emerged Comma, a single Large Skipper and two Large Whites. The White Letter Hairstreak, which I have seen here in the past, was not seen, probably due to the fact that the elms that used to flourish here and supply the food of this Hairstreak’s caterpillar, have now almost totally disappeared following Dutch Elm disease.

The highlight of the afternoon was undoubtedly the sighting at close range of a large Grass Snake basking in the sun. Good views were obtained by everyone before it crawled under a fence into long grass.

Birds seen included:

Crow
Magpie
Jay
Green Woodpecker
Sedge Warbler

Chiffchaff and Blackcap were heard but not seen.

Plants seen included:

Mullein
St John’s-wort
Weld
Mignonette
Centaury
Musk Thistle
Common-spotted Orchid
Twayblade
Marsh Helleborine
Red Campion
White Campion
Birdsfoot Trefoil
Scabious
Lady’s Bedstraw
Broomrape
Hemp Agrimony
Hedge Woundwort
Enchanter’s Nightshade
Agrimony.

Two of the party made a very brief visit to the nearby Parsonage Moor reserve, an SSSI, at the end of the afternoon. Due to the boggy conditions away from the wooden walkways, we were unable to find any of the reserve’s specialities (e.g. Sundew, Butterwort, Grass of Parnassus, Scarlet Tiger Moth). We also had great difficulty getting past the two ponies blocking our route over the walkway. These are ‘employed’ to graze the reserve at appropriate times of the year.
MB

Aston Upthorpe Downs and Juniper Valley 8 July 2007


This privately owned chalk grassland area between Wantage and Reading was once managed by BBONT (now BBOWT) in order to preserve the Pasque-flower. Nowadays, it is renowned for its butterflies and raptors. The season has been such that early butterflies such as Dingy and Grizzled Skipper were plentiful here, but the wet spell had delayed the emergence of later-emerging species. Butterflies seen by the WOFC party were: Comma, Common Blue, Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Marbled White, Small Tortoiseshell, Large Skipper, Small Copper and Gatekeeper. Day-flying moths such as the Cinnabar and the Six Spot Burnet were numerous.

As we entered Juniper valley (which contains many large Junipers) we saw several Red Kites (much commoner here than around Witney!) and two Buzzards. Particularly exciting was the sight of two Harriers (probably of the ‘Montague’s’ variety rather than the RAF one!) taking off from the ground and remaining in sight for several minutes. Shortly afterwards, there was an RAF connection – a WW2 Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft flew over! Yellowhammer, Sky Lark and Corn Bunting – all declining species were seen – as was a solitary Whinchat. Birds heard but not seen included Whitethroat, Blackcap and Green Woodpecker.

The weather stayed fine, and as we descended towards our cars, we saw a wonderful display of perhaps two hundred Pyramidal Orchids at the side of the footpath, and lower down, the start of what promises to be a heavy crop of hazel nuts.

MB


Plants seen:
Track leading to Juniper Valley
Meadow Cranesbill Geranium pratense
Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens
Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris
False Oat-grass Arrhenatherum elatius
Stinging Nettle Urtica dioica
Woody Nightshade Solanum dulcamara
Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata
Chicory Cichorium intybus
Hedge Bindweed Calystegia sepium
Yorkshire Fog Holcus lanatus
Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria
Wild Parsnip Pastinaca sativa
White Clover Trifolium repens
White Campion Silene latifolia
Welted Thistle Carduus crispus
Teasle Dipsacus fullonum
Wild Basil Clinopodium vulgare
Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense
Cut-leaved Cranesbill Geranium dissectum
Dog Rose Rosa canina
Upright Brome Bromus erectus
Rough Chervil Chaerophyllum temulum
Common Vetch Vicia sativa
Common Melilot Melilotus officinalis
Field Madder Sheradia arvensis
Silverweed Potentilla anserina
White Dead-nettle Lamium album
Germander Speedwell Veronica chamaedrys
Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare
Greater Knapweed Centauea scabiosa
Pineapple-weed Matricaria discoidea
Scarlet Pimpernel Anagallis arvensis
Hoary Plantain Plantago media
Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum
Field Scabious Knautia arvensis
Hedge Bedstaw Galium mollugo
Bird’s-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus
Herb Robert Geranium robertianum
Common Chickweed Stellaria media
Wood Avens Geum urbanum
Pyramidal Orchid Ophrys apifera
Tufted Vetch Vicia cracca
Pale Toadflax Linaria repens
Mignonette Reseda lutea
Marjoram Origanum vulgare
Self-heal Prunella vulgaris
Upright Hedge-parsley Torilis japonica
Greater Trefoil Lotus pedunculatus
Field Bindweed Convolvulus arvensis
Bladder Campion Silene vulgaris
Dropwort Filipendula vulgaris
Purging Flax Linum catharticum
Stemless Thistle Cirsium acaule
Small-leaved Timothy-grass Phleum bertolonii
Perforate St John’s-wort Hypericum perforatum
Black Medick Medicago lupulina
Wild Thyme Thymus polytrichus
Salad Burnet Sanguisorba minor
Red Clover Trifolium pratense
*Wild Candytuft Iberis umbellata
Quaking Grass Briza media
Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea
Creeping Cinquefoil Potentilla reptans
Red Bartsia Odonites vernus
Eyebright Euphrasia sp.
Common Rock-rose Helianthemun nummularium
Musk Thistle Carduus nutans
Common Forget-me-not Myosotis arvensis
Common Poppy Papaver rhoeas
Clustered Bellflower Campanula glomerata (white form)
Rough Hawkbit Leontodon hispidus
Smooth Hawk’s-beard Crepis capillaris


Juniper Valley


Clustered Bellflower Campanula glomerata
Chalk Milkwort Polygala calcarea
Mouse-ear Hawkweed Pilosella officinarum
Squinancywort Asperula cyanchica
Harebell Campanula rotundifolia
Ground Ivy Glechoma hederacea
Tor Grass Brachypodium pinnatum
Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis
Yellow-rattle Rhinanthus minor
Wild Carrot Daucus carota
Treacle Mustard Erysimum cheiranthoides
Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare
Rest Harrow Ononis repens
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Burnet-saxifrage Pimpinella saxifraga
Wild Basil Clinopodium vulgare
Field Forget-me-not Myosotis arvensis
Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis

*A Chiltern speciality.


Swalcliffe 28 July 2007

A cool but pleasant afternoon for a walk in the hilly countryside of North Oxfordshire. Just over a week previously we had experienced torrential storms but, apart from a short stretch, the conditions underfoot were good. The area is mainly arable with crops of wheat and oats; the oats had been almost completely flattened but the stiff short-staple wheat was largely unscathed. At a bridge over a small (unnamed) stream near Swalcliffe Mill there were signs of the inundation including a new sandbank on which a surprisingly large fish had been stranded (species unknown).

Very few birds were seen except for a flock of Starlings (c. 20). We walked beside a tall, dense, species-rich hedge but none of the trees looked very old. Cherry trees provided some sweet, ripe fruit and a small Bullace (wild plum), heavily laden with yellow fruit, was later revisited to pick the plums which made an award-winning chutney.
RE

Appleton Common 5 August 2007

We set out – post-floods – for an evening stroll by the edge of the wood on the common. Only one pretty damp area made us step carefully, although there were still plenty of flooded fields around. There was not a lot to see but – and normally – this is a pleasant walk down to the bridge over the Thames. Today, however, the post-flood stench of rotting vegetation made us unable to think of much else! One thing is certain, with this pretty awful miasma everywhere, I don’t think I shall ever contemplate visiting hot eastern places like Calcutta!

The Thames was still very high, of course, and there was the expected evidence of the muddy flood level, along with washed-up vegetation. There were really no flowers. However, we did see a Heron and a flock of about 40 Lapwings, probably just arrived from the continent.

The fields were all covered with the rotting grass, which had an odd whitish colour. We walked along the riverbank for a while but by general agreement thought we ‘had had enough’, so back we strolled in the dusk. It was actually a warm, pleasant evening somewhat spoiled!
TF

A Weekend in the New Forest 15/16 September

What a lovely way to spend a weekend! The weather was extremely pleasant, especially on Saturday when the sun shone all day. We stayed in a hotel in Lyndhurst which was well situated for visiting the sites of interest and which looked after us very well. This was a return visit to the New Forest for some of the members, who were in the group that visited the New Forest with the Club in September 1993. Once again, we found many of the New Forest specialities.

On Saturday morning we set out for Matley Bog and were soon recording all the plants we came across on the way there from the car park. It was amazing how many we saw and the list grew quickly. Once at the bog, even though we abandoned trying to keep our feet dry, we did try to avoid the areas where you could sink in up to your knees. My trainers still smell of this bog – a poignant reminder of a fascinating habitat. We were thrilled to find the Lesser Bladderwort, a very small insectivorous plant, which was in flower and showing the bladders in which it catches minute insects. But we were disappointed not to find the Bog Orchid (Hammarbyra paludosa) here.

Flying about over the bog were Keeled Skimmer Dragonflies (Orthetrum coerulescens), a species that breeds mainly in peat bogs and flies from June to September. Also we were privileged to see the UK’s largest grasshopper, appropriately named the Large Marsh Grasshopper (Stethophyma grossum) in the vegetation. This grasshopper is now restricted in the UK to Dorset and the New Forest, though apparently it used to occur in the Thames Valley until the mid-19th century.

We moved on to Yew Tree Heath and walked down to the wetter area where we were delighted to find the Marsh Gentian in considerable numbers, though these flowers were not obvious when in bud. Here, too, the Oblong-leaved Sundew grows. This species prefers the less-wet areas found here than the Round-leaved Sundew which grows in Matley Bog. We disturbed a Common Lizard as we plodded around in the vegetation.

After lunch in Brockenhurst, we drove to East End to look at the disused marl pits, which are renowned for their special flora. First we investigated a piece of common land where, in the damper areas, among other interesting plants, we found Penny Royal, Lesser Skullcap and Pale Butterwort. Walking over the turf kept short by the ponies produced the distinctive scent of Chamomile with its daisy-like flowers scattered about. The fruiting body of a fungus was identified as Blackening Wax Cap (Hygrocybe nigrescens), a widespread, common grassland species. The big disappointment here was that we only found one spike of Autumn Lady’s Stresses in an area where many had been found on the previous visit. On the other side if the road we had trouble finding Coral Necklace which normally grows in profusion in a wet depression here. We could only find this plant in a vegetative state at a time when we expected it to be in flower. The Least Water Pepper appeared to be crowding it out but then we spotted flowers of New Zealand Pigmyweed and realised that this invasive alien was growing in great profusion here, which is really bad news for the rare native plants.

The short walk to the next marl pit took us by a hedge where several interesting plants were found and a Small Copper butterfly was flitting around. Before reaching our objective, we came across an unusual sight of what appeared to be pink caterpillars in a slight depression in the ground, which turned out to be Coral Necklace in flower. Out came the hand lenses and, down on hands and knees, we examined these odd tiny flowers. Here we looked for the flowers of Yellow Centaury (Cicendia filiformis), but did not find any. The pond in the old marl pit we were approaching was rather pretty with pink and white waterlilies. Here we found Parrot’s Feather, another alien aquatic species.

Our return journey took us past Hatchet Pond. As this is another hot spot for rarities we stopped here. Leaving the tourists enjoying the late afternoon sunshine by the car park we wandered along the shore and found two different water plantains and Nodding Burr Marigold, and a rather good specimen of Arrowhead.

After breakfast on Sunday we headed for Keyhaven but stopped off on the way to walk in Whitley Wood, a good example of an ancient wood in the New Forest. As there had been no rain for several weeks preceding our visit there were very few fungi to be found. This wood is a renowned fungus-forager’s paradise but not so far this year. Conspicuous on the forest floor were clumps of a grey moss Leucobryum glaucum, which become detached and blow around. As expected, there were few flowers either, Cow wheat being the only notable find.

After lunch at Keyhaven some of us set out to walk to Hirst Castle along the spit. We found lots of typical seashore plants on the approach. Once on the shingle we walked along the inland side of the spit and were pleased to be out of the wind. Here we came across huge specimens of Sea Kale and Yellow Horned-poppy. The latter were sporting the long seed pods characteristic of this species. When our leader looked more closely at a knotgrass, he realised that it was Ray’s Knotgrass, a species new to him. He went home a happy man! When those of us who made it to the castle realised that there was a passenger ferry back to Keyhaven we decided to take it, as we had found the shingle hard going and returning the way we came we were unlikely to be able to get back to the car park before our parking ticket had expired. What a good way to end our trip to the New Forest.

The plants are listed in the order in which they were recorded, with the rare plants identified with an asterisk.

Plants and flowers:
Matley Wood

Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis
Sweet Gale Myrica gale
Bog Pimpernel Anagallis tenella
Marsh Pennywort Hydrocotyle vulgaris
Water Mint Mentha aquatica
Tormentil Potentilla erecta
Heather Calluna vulgaris
Dwarf Gorse Ulex minor
Marsh St John’s-wort Hypericum elodes
Cross-leaved Heath Erica tetralix
Lesser Spearwort Ranunculus fammula
Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens
Hard Fern Blechnum spicant
Lady Fern Athyrium filix-femina
Male Fern Dryopteris filix-mas
Marsh Ragwort Senecio aquaticus
Hartstongue Fern Phyllitis scolopendrium
Vervain Verbena officinalis
Water-pepper Persicaria hydropiper
Fool’s Watercress Apium nodiflorum
Buck’s-horn Plantain Plantago coronopus
Black Medick Medicago lupulina
Common Centaury Centaurium erythraea
Thyme-leaved Speedwell Veronica serpyllifolia
Redleg Persicaria maculosa
Marsh Cudweed Gnaphalium uliginosum

On roadside
Self-heal Prunella vulgaris
Enchanter’s Nightshade Circaea lutetiana

Matley Bog

Autumn Hawkbit Leontodon autumnalis
Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum
White-beaked Sedge Ryncospora alba
*Lesser Bladderwort Utricularia minor
Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia
White-headed Cotton Grass
Eriophorum angustifolium

Yew Tree Heath

Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Bell Heather Erica cinerea
Red Clover Trifolium pratense
Heath Milkwort Polygala serpyllifolia
Eyebright Euphrasia sp.
Sheep’s Sorrel Rumex acetosella
Mat Grass Nardus stricta

Bog area

Oblong-leaved Sundew Drosera intermedia
Hard Rush Juncus inflexus
Marsh Gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe
Toad Rush Juncus bufonius
Bog Pondweed Potamogeton polygonifolius
Yellow Sedge Carex viridula
Jointed Rush Juncus articulatus
Wall Cotoneaster Cotoneaster horizontalis
Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra
Mouse-eared Hawkweed Pilosella officinarum

East End Marl Pits

*Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile
Tufted Forget-me-not Myosotis laxa
*Pennyroyal Mentha pulegium
Clustered Dock Romex conglomeratus
Creeping Jenny Lysimachia nummularia
*Pale Butterwort Pinguicula lusitanica
Marsh St John’s-wort Hypericum elodes
Lesser Scullcap Scutellaria minor
Autumn Lady’s Tresses Spiranthes spiralis
Strawberry Clover Trifolium fragiferum
*Hampshire Purslane Ludwigia palustris
Least Water Pepper Persicaria minor
*Coral Necklace Illecebrum verticillatum
New Zealand Pigmyweed Crassula helmsii

On the way to and at 2nd marl pit

Black Nightshade Solanum nigrum
Heath Groundsel Senecio sylvaticus
Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia
Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum
Water Lily Nymphaea alba
Parrot’s Feather Myriophyllum aquaticum

Hatchet Pond

Bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata
Arrow-head Sagittaria sagittifolia
Water Plantain Alisma olantago-aquatica
*Lesser Water-plantain Baldellia ranunculoides
*Nodding Bur-marigold Bidens cernua

Whitley Wood
Common Cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense

Hirst Spit

Perennial Sow-thistle Sonchus arvensis
Common Reed Phragmites australis
Wild Carrot Daucus carota
Sea Aster Aster tripolium
Scented Mayweed Matricaria recutita
Hairy Tare Vicia hirsuta
Sea Purslane Atriplex portulacoides
Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare
Golden Samphire Inula crithmoides
Sea Beat Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima
Greater Sea-spurry Spergularia media
Common Sea Lavender Limonium vulgare
Rock Samphire Crithmum maritimum
Common Mallow Malva sylvestris
Sea Lupin Lupinus sp.
Hedge Bindweed Calystegia sepium
Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris
Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare
Spear-leaved Orache Atriprex prostrata
Hawkweed Oxtongue Picris hieracioides
Sea Campion Silene uniflora
Bird’s-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus
Opium Poppy Papaver somniferum
Smooth Cat’s-ear Hypochaeris glabra
Bristly Oxtongue Picris echioides
Purple Toadflax Linaria purpurea
Common Poppy Papavwe rhoeas
Herb Robert Geranium robertianum
Ragwort Senecio jacobaea
Tufted Vetch Vicia cracca
Wall Lettuce Mycelis muralis
Sea Plantain Plantago maritima
Cord-grass Spartina sp.
Common Glasswort Salicornia europaea
Annual Seablite Suaeda maritima
Sticky Groundsel Senecio viscosus
Sea Rocket Cakile maritima
Yellow Horned-poppy Glaucium flavum
Sea Kale Crambe maritima
Sea Mayweed Tripleurospermum maritimum
*Hare’s-foot Clover Trifolium arvense
*Ray’s Knotgrass Polygonum oxyspermum
Common Orache Atriplex patula
Sea Fern-grass Catapodium marinum
Thrift Armeria maritima

Fungi:
Panther Cap Amanita pantherina
Bare-toothed Brittle gill Russula vesca


Charcoal Burner Russula cyanoxantha
False Deathcap Amanita atrina
Beechwood Sickener Russula nobilis


Birds:

Magpie
Crow
Heron
Wood Pigeon
Stonechat
Swallow
Martin
Herring Gull
Meadow Pipit
Jackdaw
Collarded Dove
Starling
Blackbird
Jay
Pheasant
Mallard
Black-headed Gull
Pied Wagtail
Swan
Rook
Hobby
Cormorant
Turnstone
Redshank
Egret
Golden Plover
Ringed Plover
Blue Tit
Chaffinch

BB

 


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