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NEWSLETTER No. 90 – AUTUMN 2009

EDITORIAL
As I write, our ‘Indian summer’ appears to be breaking up. But between the clouds the golden evening light of autumn gives the countryside an enchantment found only at this time of year. The stubble glows almost as bright as the corn that preceded it, tree trunks are picked out in twisting golden ribbons, late bundles of straw cast long angular shadows across the fields, and even the rising moon has a golden tint. As I walked through the wood half an hour ago, a Roe Deer came bounding past at amazingly close range, backlit by the setting sun – one of those magical moments.
While the skies are emptying – right now not a single martin or Swallow to be seen – the garden is still full of butterflies, which at last seem to have had a good year. Dragonflies and damsels zoom between the shrubs, and all manner of bees are still busy collecting nectar from late-summer flowers.
The mice moved back in early this year – in the middle of August –the warm weather doesn’t seem to have tempted them to move out again, alas. Several small Toads have taken up residence this summer, but they are not big enough to make much impression on my hostas, Mecca to the garden’s slugs and snails. The Mock Orange has had a bad year – infested with leaf curl aphids too high up for me to tackle; in the end it got so unsightly that I pruned it heavily, to find that the whole tree was covered in Harlequin Ladybirds – it seems every possible morph was there, from large yellow-orange with spaced-out spots to small black and red ones. I counted at least 12 different patterns, but there are many more. It was literally raining ladybirds. And the big ones packed a painful bite. This is yet another example of biological control gone disastrously wrong.
As I write, the Canada Geese from the local gravel pit are wheeling around making a great noise. This happens every autumn and their loud cries go on late into the night. They no longer migrate in autumn, but I guess it is pre-migration gathering behaviour, much as Swallows and martins tend to line up on the telephone wires.
There has also been much squabbling among the Jackdaws as this year’s youngsters establish a dominance hierarchy. Why are Jackdaws like gorillas? Well, in my experience the oldest, most dominant males appear to have more silvery-grey necks and shoulders. A few years ago, the boss Jackdaw was badly injured, I know not how, with a mangled wing and broken leg. He managed well for a couple of weeks and at first the others accepted him as usual, though he had trouble competing when food was first put out. He took refuge on a nearby roof, and when I saw him near, I would attract his attention then put out food, giving him a chance to get to it before the mob. But eventually he died, and bob’s-a-dying broke out for days as they squabbled and argued and fought, presumably over who was to be the new leader of the pack. The winner was also silver-grey, but not as markedly as the old leader.
The Club has ranged widely over the Cotswolds and Chilterns, and had a summer trip to the Wyre Forest led by one of our regular leaders, Peter Creed. This much-neglected treasure is one of the largest nature reserves in the country. Sited over coal measures, with a mix of limestone and acidic strata, it boasts a remarkable mixture of plants, with parts of the oak woodland full of Lily-of-the-valley mixed with Bluebells. In places in the river vales, heathers grow alongside lime-loving species. Wood Warblers were singing across the valley, but we didn’t see the Black Redstarts the reserve is famous for.
The first walk of summer was at Lardon Chase, which overlooks Streatley and Goring and the River Thames, with magnificent views. We saw masses of Painted Lady butterflies on their migration north from North Africa, and various blue butterflies. There were leisurely evening walks around Minster Lovell, Asthall Leigh, and beside the river from Tadpole Bridge, where we were treated to a spectacle of 13 Red Kites wheeling above us. On a sunny August afternoon we had a circular walk from Fifield through fields of corn and stubble. There was a splendid guided walk and picnic in the Warburg Reserve, with its many species of orchids, lots of insects, including Silver-washed Fritillaries, and its open hillsides patrolled by Buzzards and Red Kites. Another sunny afternoon walk around the Rissingtons, led by Gordon Ottewell, an ‘old’ friend of the Club, was enlivened by his local knowledge and entertaining tales.
Two regular events in the calendar were the frosty dawn chorus at Barrington, led by our President, Graham Wren, when 43 species were counted. It began as the moon was setting above a blanket of mist in the valley below and ended in sunshine. Thankfully, it was dry for our Summer Party at Radcot Bridge this year, but it was still too cool to sit out by the river.
We now look forward to the start of the autumn meetings, trips to Otmoor and Gloucestershire, and an autumn excursion to Norfolk.
Jill Bailey

OBITUARIES


John W. Dossett-Davies MBE 1927–2009


Members of the Field Club were saddened to learn of John’s death in May. He will be


particularly missed at the indoor meetings which he attended regularly for many years. After a distinguished career in social work, John retired to West Oxfordshire in 1985 and became very involved in local affairs. For a long time he was Chair of the Oxfordshire Branch of the British Association of Social Workers. He will be remembered locally as one of the founder members and long-time chairman of the Witney Twinning Association, one of the founders and President of Witney and District Museum, one-time Chair and President of the Witney Branch of the British Legion and a member of the committee of the Witney branch of the CPRE. For a time he was an occasional music and art critic for the Oxford Times and Oxford Mail. He was awarded the MBE in 2004 for services to children and families. We extend our condolences to his wife, Anne, and his family.


Raymond George Edwards 1934–2009


When Ray died in August, the Field Club lost one of its very long-standing members – he had been a member since 1966! In March 2003, Ray became a Committee member and soon after Walks Programme Secretary, taking over from Avery Baines when she gave up organising the outdoor activities of the Club. Ray was keen on everything to do with natural history, but was particularly knowledgeable about birds and was a member of the RSPB and an active member of the Oxford Ornithological Society. He had been a qualified bird ringer for almost 50 years and many of the birds that ventured into his garden at Eynsham were ringed. Being very fond of

trees, when Dutch Elm Disease struck in the 1970s, Ray helped to organise an extensive tree re-planting scheme in Eynsham, an activity he continued until very recently – any sapling that came his way was found a home. He also enjoyed working with wood and became a skilled wood-turner. Ray extended his local conservation activities by joining the Friends of Wychwood. His support of the Wychwood Project was acknowledged by his family who chose this organisation to be one of the beneficiaries of the donations made in Ray’s memory. Those who lived near him appreciated his generous offer of lifts to Club events and committee meetings. Ray was the sort of person who could be called upon to help at any time, and as a friend and Club member he is already sorely missed. Twenty Club members, among many other relatives and friends, attended the requiem mass for Ray at St Peter’s Catholic Church, which is an indication of the esteem with which he was held. We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Margaret, and their four daughters.

Brenda Betteridge

YOUR NEWSLETTER

A big thank you to Jill Bailey who, once again, has written an interesting editorial. Thanks are also due to all of you who contributed to this newsletter.
Don’t forget this newsletter is intended to be used by members to share their observations, make comments, etc. on anything associated with wildlife and the countryside, as well as for reports of walks and trips that you make with the Field Club or with any other like-minded group. By the way, a copy of this Newsletter is passed on to the Thames Valley Record Centre, which is always on the look-out for new records of natural history and geological interest. With this in mind, if you include in your contribution to this Newsletter a sighting of an animal or plant which is particularly interesting, could you please state exactly where you saw it, preferably with a map reference.
The deadline for the next newsletter is the end of March 2010 but I’m happy to receive your contributions any time. Please send your contributions to me by e-mail as an attachment (Word is preferred) or on paper by post to the address given on the programme.

Brenda Betteridge (Newsletter Editor)
E-mail: bbetteridge@phonecoop.coop

REPORTS OF FIELD MEETINGS

The Barringtons 14 March 2009
It was a lovely warm spring afternoon as we began our circular walk from ‘The Fox’ car park situated between the villages of Great and Little Barrington. On our way to Great Barrington we crossed the bridge over a back-water of the River Windrush which leads to Barrington Mill. Here we met a young lady with small children who, being a local person, told us a bit about the Barringtons, and in particular about the ruins of a gamekeeper’s cottage and urged us to see it. The cottage, although in an advanced state of ruin, clearly had been a sizable and desirable property in its day, set on the edge of woodland and overlooking the River Windrush and its water meadows.
In the wood we came across a fungus, identified as being King Alfred’s Cakes (Daldinia concentrica), appearing as hard, reddish brown to black hemispherical shapes which normally, as in this case, grow on dead, fallen wood.
Returning to our planned route we continued uphill to the churchyard, hoping to see the magnificent display of snowdrops, but sadly they were past their best but still good enough to give an appreciation of their beauty. Also in the churchyard is an ancient and very tall Yew tree – taller than the Norman tower of the church.
Leaving the churchyard, we crossed the road into the new burial ground (which was graced with more snowdrops and also daffodils) as a short cut to the village. Great Barrington is a pleasant, quiet village with houses built largely during the 17th and 18th centuries. It is dominated by Barrington Park, which is beautifully landscaped and which holds a large herd of Fallow Deer; these were clearly visible on the day.
Continuing on through the village, and turning into a large field, we dropped down to Barrington Mill, no longer a working mill but a house conversion, where we saw more groups of snowdrops and daffodils.
After looking at the old mill building, we crossed the water meadows – aptly named as it was quite ‘soggy’ here and we found it rather difficult to get across. Having achieved this, we climbed a short and quite steep hill to the outskirts of Little Barrington, which is a small but attractive village surrounding a bowl-shaped green. This was originally a quarry from which the stone was used to build the two villages. From here it was but a short walk back to ‘The Fox’.


Birds seen during the walk:
Mallards
Rooks
Crows
Starlings
Pigeons
Pheasant
Chaffinch
Magpie
Great Tit
Wren
Canada Geese

Tony Mattingley


Dawn Chorus – Barrington Park Estate 10 May 2009 at 04.00 hrs

This was visit number 6 to Barrington for our annual Dawn Chorus meeting. Once again we are indebted to Mr Richard Wingfield who unfortunately was unable to join us. As I left home (Herefordshire) at 02.48 hrs the almost full moon was shining from the south in a totally clear sky – could it last? It was a very good turn out with 14 Club members and two Barrington residents. I was much encouraged to see some new faces. It was yet another perfect morning – dry, still, a clear sky and a definite chill in the air. At 03.52 hrs before the meeting had officially started, the distant sound of a rising Skylark gave us the traditional send off. We left Park Farm at 04.07 hrs taking the now familiar route. At 04.12 hrs, as 2 years ago, Rooks were the second bird on our list. There were raucous calls filling the early morning air, followed immediately by the wing beats of a flushed Woodpigeon. As we turned off the road towards Manor Farm the faint characteristic ‘wet my lips’ call of a Quail was heard, a first for the Dawn Chorus list. As we reached Chase Farm, Blackbirds were by far the dominant songsters. At 04.42 hrs the very welcome and unmistakable call of a Cuckoo, the first Dawn Chorus record here since 2005, echoed across the countryside. As we walked down to Manor Farm, looking slightly to the left, the now pale orange moon was just above the horizon and there was a carpet of mist along the Windrush valley below. This enchanting scene was certainly worth the early rise and I’m sure the Poet Laureate would have waxed lyrical at the sight!
There was frost on the gate as we went through into Moor Meadow, halfway across towards the Windrush – another first for the Dawn Chorus and indeed for the Estate was ringing in our ears. A Cetti’s Warbler with its explosive burst of song (even louder than a Wren!) was heard in the direction of the river bank. On returning to Park Farm we added House Sparrow, House Martin and Swift (not seen last time) to the list.
As we had been summoned to be seated for our ‘Full Hailey’ at 07.30 hrs, we had no time to look for a possible Collared Dove or Spotted Flycatcher but we did finish with a respectable total of 43 species. To my surprise Grey Heron made a third new one, giving us a grand total for our six visits of 67 different species.
Thank you as always to all participants and to Richard Rathband and his daughter Stephanie for contributing their local knowledge. The hospitality of Yvonne and Roger was as good as ever and more than satisfied our taste buds for the rest of the day at least! It was much appreciated by all – many thanks, indeed.

Bird list with the time of each first species recorded:
03.58 Skylark
04.12 Rook
04.12 Woodpigeon
04.13 Tawny Owl
04.13 Jackdaw
04.14 Pheasant
04.14 Robin
04.14 Dunnock
04.17 Red-legged Partridge
04.19 Quail
04.20 Carrion Crow
04.27 Song Thrush
04.28 Blackbird
04.33 Wren
04.42 Cuckoo
04.49 Buzzard
04.59 Barn Owl
05.00 Chaffinch
05.08 Blackcap
05.09 Willow Warbler
05.10 Mallard
05.13 Whitethroat
05.15 Grey Heron
05.16 Canada Goose
05.17 Reed Bunting
05.20 Cetti’s Warbler
05.22 Great-spotted Woodpecker
05.25 Tufted Duck
05.30 Moorhen
05.45 Chiffchaff
05.56 Great Tit
06.21 Green Woodpecker
06.22 Lapwing
06.25 Swallow
06.42 Greenfinch
06.43 Stock Dove
06.52 Starling
06.55 Kestrel
06.56 Yellowhammer
06.57 Goldfinch
07.00 House Sparrow
06.40 Collared Dove
07.02 Swift
07.03 House Martin


Graham Wren


Wyre Forest 15–17 May 2009
Despite the torrential rain on both the Saturday and Sunday this weekend was still enjoyable. Peter Creed (one of the Club’s Vice Presidents), who knows the area well, took us to the places of particular interest. Not only was Peter finding the unusual flowers which grow here but he was also finding and identifying the many bryophytes we came across. The most memorable thing for me was coming across a Service Tree in full flower – this was a sight I had not seen before. I am hoping to have a longer report with lists of plants and birds in the next newsletter but I would like to record my thanks to Peter for his knowledge and enthusiasm and to Yvonne Townsend for organising the accommodation in Stourport-on-Severn.

Brenda Betteridge
Lardon Chase 24 May 2009

What a perfect afternoon for a walk in a beautiful part of the country that was certainly new territory for me! Five of us turned up to walk with Malcolm Brownsword at Lardon Chase which is on a hill overlooking Streatley and Goring and the River Thames, in the Goring Gap. The views are superb and it is a beautiful area with woods all around. This particular afternoon there were Red Kites in abundance and their colouring really showed up as many of them were flying below us, some quite close and some interacting with one another higher up in the air – a good demonstration of how much use they make of their forked tails acting like rudders to manoeuvre their position in the sky.
The other remarkable thing of the afternoon was to witness the mass migration of Painted Lady butterflies coming over from North Africa via the continent and moving through like express trains on a mission flying north. They were flying singly and in pairs close to the ground and then rising up to climb over the trees and continued to come all the afternoon we were there. It was a clear blue sky, very warm with a very light easterly breeze.
There were good numbers of Common Blue butterflies and some Small Blues identified by Malcolm but the Adonis Blue, although seen by a butterfly group during the day, seemed to avoid us.
We followed up our walk on Lardon Chase by crossing the road to the adjacent woods, ‘The Hollies’. This was another beautiful area with Ash and Beech trees growing very tall in many cases to reach the light and with large open glades and good numbers of wild flowers again. We were very lucky to have Penny Pearce with us as she was able to identify many flowers we did not know or could not remember.
It was a great afternoon. Thank you Malcolm for leading us – with your great knowledge of butterflies and keen eye we made the most of our visit.


Some of the birds seen and heard plus flowers and butterflies:


Birds:
Red Kite (many) Chiffchaff Grey Partridge
Blackcap Green Woodpecker Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Tit Robin Blackbird
Song Thrush Meadow Pipit

Butterflies, etc.:
Painted Lady Large White Brimstone
Small Blue Common Blue Small Heath
Speckled Wood
Orange Tip caterpillar on stalk of Garlic Mustard
Shield Bug

Flowers:
Marjoram Gorse Eyebright
White Campion Bird’s-foot Trefoil Salad Burnet
Woody Nightshade Pyramidal Orchid (in bud White Bryony
Thyme and one in flower) Germander Speedwell
Wild Strawberry Deadly Nightshade Dog’s Mercury (gone over)
Wood Sanicle Oxeye Daisy Bluebell (many gone over)
Greater Stitchwort Herb Bennet Common Gromwell
Heath Speedwell Garlic Mustard Common Mouse-ear
Common Vetch (magenta) and Yellow Archangel Tormentil
similar with single flowers with
some white Black Medick

David Roberts


Bourton-on-the-Water 17 June 2009
David has not written a report of the walk he led at Greystones Farm as it would be very similar to the one he wrote after the last visit made by the Club on 18 July 2007, which appeared in Newsletter 87 (Spring 2008). Thank you David for taking the Club to this interesting area again.
Ed.


Circular walk from Minster Lovell via Crawley 23 June 2009
Eight members joined me for this walk on a perfect summer’s evening. We started from the car park near the church in Minster Lovell and made our way down to the river through the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall. We followed the river to the woods at Maggots Grove, where a highlight of the walk was good views of some Kestrels with their young. We then climbed steeply up through the woods before crossing Dry Lane and heading down the Windrush valley to Crawley. We looked in vain for the Grey Wagtails and the Kingfisher that can often be seen at the bridge. Another steep climb out of Crawley gave us splendid views over Crawley Mill and the meadows, and then it was downhill all the way back down to Minster Lovell and the cars. On the way we spotted a good number of birds and flowers, a few butterflies and a couple of mammals, and I was kept busy making the list as sharp-eyed members called out what they had seen.
As I write up this report in early September (whoops!) I look back at the list that I made that night, including the flowers and the Swifts, and it’s a nice reminder of a fine walk at the best time of year. Thanks to all who joined me.

Plants:
Herb Robert
Goosegrass
Creeping Buttercup
White Clover
Wood Avens
Foxglove
Bird’s-foot Trefoil
White Deadnettle
White Campion
Hogweed
Figwort
Dog Rose

Woody Nightshade
Brooklime
Watercress
Meadow Buttercup
Meadowsweet
Yellow Rattle
Ragged Robin
Sorrel
Meadow Vetchling
Lesser Knapweed
Creeping Thistle
Wild Privet
Yellow Flag

Comfrey
Spear Thistle
Silverweed
Wood Forget-me-not
Garlic Mustard
Hedge Woundwort
Black Medick
Poppy
Selfheal
Elder
Bramble
Dog’s Mercury
Pineapple-weed
Old Man’s Beard
Field Bindweed
Burdock
White Bryony
Hedge Parsley
Hemlock
Dogwood
Marsh Thistle
Horsetail
Dandelion
Teasel
Purple Loosestrife
Ivy-leaved Toadflax
Common Mallow
Black Horehound
Daisy
Pellitory-of-the-wall
Treacle Mustard
Weld
Mullein
Meadow Cranesbill


Birds seen or heard:
Song Thrush
Coal Tit
Blackcap
Carrion Crow
Woodpigeon
Jackdaw
Chaffinch
Wren
Chiffchaff
Green Woodpecker
Kestrel
Yellowhammer
Whitethroat
Swift
Swallow
Blackbird
Sedge Warbler
Pheasant
Moorhen
Mallard
Reed Bunting
Magpie
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Heron

Insects:
Ringlet butterfly
Meadow Brown butterfly
Five-spot Ladybird
Small White butterfly

Mammals:
Rabbit
Shrew (dead)

Sue Morton


Warburg Reserve 4 July 2009
This 267-acre reserve is in what is mainly chalk-land at Bix Bottom near Henley-on-Thames. Eight Field Club members gathered at the entrance where we met the Reserve Warden, Giles Alder, who, before commencing a guided tour, told us about the background and working of the reserve.
The land was purchased by the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Naturalist’s Trust (BBONT), as it was then, in November 1967 and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It holds a rich variety of plant, insect, animal and bird life and has attracted naturalists over many years. There are published records going back to the early 1800s.
Our tour started by going through a scrubby area where we saw a large number of butterfly species, orchids and other wild flowers that grow in that setting. The scrub has developed in many places where trees have been felled in the past.
We then proceeded up a hillside to the grassland area where we saw Red Kites and Buzzards. The grasslands are grazed from October to March by sheep and some cattle.
Finally we made our way to the woodland area which is mixed broadleaf with Beech, Oak, Birch, Ash and Hornbeam. Here we were very fortunate to see Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies. The woodland area also comprises mixed conifer with Larch, Norway Spruce, Corsican Pine and Douglas Fir.
At the end of the guided tour we thanked Giles for his time and for making the visit so interesting. We were very fortunate to have his services as, during the tour, he gave us a very relaxed commentary, pointing out many species of butterflies, flowers, trees, birds and other matters of interest. Without his knowledge the visit would not have been so fascinating. Some of us stayed on for a picnic lunch and later did another tour round before returning home.


Butterflies seen:
Ringlet
Marbled White
Small (or Essex?) Skipper
Silver-washed Fritillary
Gatekeeper
Comma
Large Skipper
Red Admiral
Large White

Birds seen/heard (H):
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Chiffchaff (H)
Pheasant
Red Kite
Buzzard
Magpie
Wren
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Chaffinch
Blackcap (H)
Greeen Woodpecker
Coal Tit
Goldfinch
Marsh Tit

Flowers identified:
Verbascum
Rosebay Willowherb
Hedge Bedstraw
Wild Marjoram
Pyramidal Orchid
Yellow Rattle
Selfheal
Red Clover
White Clover
Musk Mallow
Common Century
Bird’s-foot Trefoil
Red Bartsia
Broad-leaved Helleborine
Common Spotted Orchid
Common Twayblade
Bladder Campion
Chiltern Gentian
Wild Parsnip
Marsh Thistle
Fairy Flax
Common Milkwort
Salad Burnet
Orange Trefoil (?)
Ragwort
Perforate St John’s-wort
Rockrose
Nettle-leaved Bellflower
Field Scabious
Teasel
Moon Daisy
Hogweed

Miscellaneous:
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), a bracket fungus
Robin’s Pin Cushion

Tony Mattingley


Tadpole Bridge 15 July 2009
On a beautiful warm evening, 15 of us walked from Tadpole Bridge along the Thames to Tenfoot Bridge. At once we saw Tree Sparrows on the bridge itself. These birds are rather rare now but thanks to a project in nearby Chimney Meadows where specifically designed nest boxes were installed and food was provided during the winter of 2008/09 Tree Sparrows are once again breeding here.
This certainly was an evening for butterflies – many of them on the very large bushes of Hawthorn grown through with Bramble in flower. We spent so much time looking at these that we were eventually very late in getting back to the cars.
Further on we saw 13 Red Kites, some of them obviously juvenile, circling fairly low over us. They are likely to be nesting in the Buckland area. The meadows are wired off on the Thames side at least so we could not get down to see the Adder’s Tongue ferns which have been seen there previously. The wire fence should certainly be beneficial to the Curlews which always nest here, though none were calling this evening. The WWII pill box is now partially sealed off as a bat hibernaculum. We benefited from having Malcolm Brownsword with us to identify the insects. Altogether it was a most lovely evening stroll.

Butterflies:
Painted Lady
Meadow Brown
Small Copper
Gatekeeper

Speckled Wood
Ringlet
Red Admiral
Small Skipper


Large Skipper
Comma
Peacock
Green-veined White

Other insects:
Banded Demoiselle
Poplar Hawkmoth
Six-spot Ladybird
Harlequin Ladybird
Hornet

Birds:
Red Kite
Tree Sparrow
Song Thrush
Blackbird
Buzzard
Sparrowhawk
Blackcap
Swallow
House Martin
Moorhen (getting off the nest)
Chaffinch
Reed Warbler
Plants:
Hemp Agrimony
Tufted Vetch
Purple Loosestrife
Himalayan Balsam
Lady’s Bedstraw
Meadowsweet
Comfrey
Marjoram
Tony Florey


Fifield 8 August 2009



Some lunched first at the Merrymouth, others arrived in a more sober state at the village green in Fifield for a circular walk in pleasant, sunny, summer weather. Thanks to the advertisement in Elite magazine we had four visitors to swell the total to 18 walkers.
We started northwards along a footpath through the cottages into open fields and followed a barely discernable footpath through two wooded gullies, over low-level and high-level bridges crossing streams which feed a brook rising in Idbury. Over the hills between the wooded gullies and into the Idbury itself we enjoyed wide views over classical Cotswold landscapes.
We went through Idbury to pick up another path which leads eastwards to Hibberts Wood. We made a detour around the back of Idbury church to view the flying structure of Sir Benjamin Baker’s tomb. Sir Benjamin and Sir John Fowler designed the Forth Railway Bridge.
Leaving Idbury the club members went at various speeds according to the plants, etc. which interested them so that a long line stretched across the fields between village and wood. After Hibberts Wood it was necessary to avoid the horse-rutted, muddy Darcy Dalton Way and return to Fifield via a field path. How many members were aware that it was a bull that we sidled past to get through the gate into Fifield’s recreation ground – a large handsome beast more interested in his adoring cows than us?
The various plants noted included: thistles, burdock, Wayfaring Tree, Gelder Rose, Meadow Vetching, Pineapple-weed, Scented Mayweed, Herb Robert, Bramble, Bryony and Horsetail.
Butterflies were abundant and included Painted Lady, Gatekeeper, Small skipper, Meadow Brown, Small Copper and Cabbage White.
Of the birds, only a Heron and Kestrel were seen but many others were heard.

Derek Cotterill


Asthall walk 20 August 2009
What a lovely evening for a walk! At 6.30 p.m. ten of us gathered in Worsham Lane for a short walk. It was just as well it was a short walk as it was getting dark by the time we returned. I half expected Ken to send out a search party – I don’t have much of a sense of direction but I was on home ground so not likely to get lost!
We set off down the footpath walking into the sun and wind. To the south, the skyline was dominated by two enormous cranes, which are being used in the construction of an extension to the reservoir above Worsham. Ahead of us was the lovely view over Asthall and beyond up the Windrush valley. We entered a grass field through a metal kissing gate. Although this field is not floristically rich it does have a short south-facing bank where several interesting flowering plants can be found, the most notable of which is Wild Clary. It was late in the season but we did find a few flowering spikes and about 20 rosettes of leaves of this plant.
The birders in the group soon spotted four Grey Herons in the field on the other side of the river. Two Mute Swans floated majestically downstream and we could see a flock of white geese by the river further down. The attractive flowers of Purple Loosestrife stood out from the other river-side vegetation.
At Kitesbridge, the river widens where cattle have gone for water. Here we stopped to identify several plants typical of this habitat, like Water Forget-me-not, Water Mint and Water Chickweed. Those who moved on ahead were treated to a sighting of a Kingfisher – so fleeting that most of us missed it!
At Asthall Bridge we stopped to examine the carving of a rifle made by an injured soldier recovering in Asthall Manor which was used as a hospital in WWII. We also noted Wall Rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria), a small fern, with fan-shaped leaflets, growing on the stonework of the bridge. This plant was apparently once used as a herbal remedy for rickets. As a diversion from the intended route we continued along the road and walked round the village of Asthall before taking the side track up to the farm, leaving the pond on our right. It was good to see that the leaves on the Horse Chestnut trees in the village appear healthy – so many in this area are suffering from disease. Just before reaching the farm, there is a lovely display of cup lichens on the dry-stone wall, on which lots of thistledown had been caught.
As we passed the farmhouse we saw House Martins gathering on the wires – another indication of the time of year. Up the track, bulaces (both yellow and red varieties) were falling from the hedge, providing tasty refreshment. Somebody offered the information that these wild plums were introduced by the Romans but this is not certain. It was not until we reached the fields of beans, which were black and almost ready for harvest, that we started to find a few interesting plants again. Here a few arable ‘weeds’ like Heartsease and Black Bindweed had survived the herbicide sprays.
By the time we had reached the road, light was fading. So we upped our rate of progress on the final leg back to Stonefold. Unfortunately, a few days before the verges had been cut, but Field Scabious flowers had survived right under the hedge and some Yellow Vetchling was in flower in a rain water run-off channel. Further up I found some Wild Liquorice (Astragalus glycyphyllos), mostly gone to seed, which is a local species of rough grassland on dry limestone soils.
The evening ended with an enjoyable chat over coffee/tea and biscuits.


Flowers noted:
Red Bartsia Odonites vernus
Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea
Bladder Campion Silene vulgaris
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Musk Thistle Carduus nutans
Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare
Black Horehound Ballota nigra
Smooth Hawk’s-beard Crepis capillaris
Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum
Wild Clary Salvia verbenaca
Purple-loosestrife Lythrum salicaria
White Clover Trifolium repens
Stinging Nettle Urtica dioica
Water Forget-me-not Myosotis scorpiodes
Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris
Water Mint Mentha aquatica
Common St John’s-wort Hypericum perforatum
Water Chickweed Myosoton aquaticum
Blue Water-speedwell Veronica anagallis-aquatica
Common Bistort Persicaria bistorta
Great Willowherb Epilobium hirsutum
Good-King-Henry Chenopodium bonus-henricus
Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense
Greater Burdock Arctium lappa
Docks Rumex spp.
Blackberry Rubus fruticosus
Bittersweet Solanum dulcamara
Shepherd’s Purse Capsella bursa-pastoris
Water Figwort Scrophularia auriculata
Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria
Hemp Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria
White Deadnettle Lamium album
Meadow Crane’s-bill Geranium pratense
Field Bindweed Convolvulus arvensis
Soapwort Saponaria officinalis
Nipplewort Lapsana communis
Field Scabious Knautia arvensis
White Campion Silene latifolia
Fool’s Parsley Aethusa cynapium
Pineapple-weed Matricaria discoides
Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill Geranium molle
Fat-hen Chenopodium album
Scentless Mayweed Triplerospermum inodorum
Greater Plantain Plantago major
Common Knotgrass Polygonum aviculare
Hardheads Centaurea nigra
Field Forget-me-not Myosotis arvensis
Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris
Common Poppy Papaver rhoeas
Perennial Sow-thistle Sonchus arvensis
Field Pansy Viola arvensis
Black-bindweed Fallopia convolvulus
Dandelion Taraxacum sp.
Hedge Bindweed Calystegia sepium
Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvatica
Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata
Old Man’s Beard Clematis vitalba
Meadow Vetchling Lathyrus pratensis
Wild Liquorice Astragalus glycyphyllos

Birds noted:
Mute Swan
Grey Heron
Woodpigeon
White geese
Rooks
Jackdaws
Goldfinches
Kingfisher
House Martins
Blackbird

Mammals noted:
Brown Hare
Rabbit
Brenda Betteridge


Great Rissington walk 6 September 2009
On a fine Sunday afternoon, Gordon Ottewell led five of us from the Lamb at Great Rissington down the street and through the churchyard into a field with prominent ridge and furrow markings. We passed a ‘well blasted’ dead Oak tree which had a large hole in its side which was well marked with bird lime and must have been used for nesting over the years. A large flock of gulls, which probably come from nearby Bourton-on-the-Water lakes, were following some ploughing in the fields ahead.
Several Buzzards were calling and seen both high and low in the sky together with powered gliders from nearby Rissington airfield.
It was a good walk to find masses of ripe blackberries, sloes and crab apples. The most common trees were Ash but there were some good specimen Oaks and Field Maples which will turn a lovely colour in the autumn.
Game shooting must be carried on in the area because there were quantities of Pheasants – adult and juvenile – along much of the walk and also a couple of families of Red Partridge, well camouflaged against the freshly ploughed soil. Maize was growing in several fields and corners of cereals were left in some fields for the game birds. We walked as far as Little Rissington church and here, part of the churchyard was not cut and yielded good numbers of grasshoppers plus an exquisite Small Copper butterfly and two Common Blues of the female blue variety, one of which was very tiny. There were several wild flowers in the churchyard and it was good to see it partly left for wildlife.
We headed back up through Little Rissington village and returned to Great Rissington by way of another field path.
There were fine views over Bourton-on-the-Water and Clapton from places along the walk together with views towards the Stow-on-the-Wold area. Altogether this was an interesting and pleasant walk and we thank Gordon for leading us and sharing some interesting local knowledge and entertaining tales en route.



Some flowers and plants seen:
Red Campion Stitchwort(?) Field Woundwort
Ragwort Common Bistort Selfheal
Herb Robert Silverweed Rosebay Willowherb
Hart’s-tongue fern Great Willowherb Creeping Thistle
Meadow Crane’s-bill Ladies Bedstraw Blackberry
Meadow Vetchling Red Clover Yarrow
White Clover Black Medic Hedge Bindweed
Salad Burnet Knapweed Hogweed
Garlic Mustard Burdock White Dead-nettle
Robin’s Pin Cushion

Some trees/shrubs seen:
Oak Ash Poplar
Field maple Elm suckers Gelder Rose
Elder Spindle

Some butterflies seen:
Common Blue Small Copper Painted Lady
Red Admiral Small Tortoiseshell Speckled Wood

Some birds seen and heard:
Buzzard Crow Jackdaw
House Sparrow Chaffinch Blue Tit
Long-tailed Tit Yellowhammer Green Woodpecker
Pheasant Red Partridge Greenfinch
Herring Gull Swallows House Martin
David Roberts


MEMBER’S CONTRIBUTIONS

Occasional migrant moth found as a caterpillar – July 2009
I found a caterpillar of the Slender Burnished Brass moth in a bunch of Mediterranean thyme which I bought from Waitrose. It was green with a thin white stripe from its head to the end of its abdomen. It pupated in the thyme and emerged 3 weeks later as a moth on 7 July. As it is a scarce migrant I was unsure as to whether to release it. I telephoned David Redhead, Oxfordshire’s Moth Officer, who contacted Martin Townsend, the Oxfordshire County Moth Recorder. He came over at 8 a.m. the next morning! He confirmed the identification of the moth and took eight or nine photographs in quick succession. He was dead keen and in 10 minutes he shot off to visit a farm – perhaps to see another rarity. I released the moth that night and off it flew.

Uncommon bumble bee discovered in Witney – 7 July 2009
I have taken up the hobby of studying bumble bees which I usually find as road kills, mainly on the Witney to North Leigh road. I send them to Ivan Wright, who is the chairman of Shotover Wildlife and a member of BWARS (Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society). I send a few bees at a time to him and he identifies them for me. One of these was identified as an uncommon black (melanic) female bee Bombus ruderatus, which is a scarce and declining species. Furthermore he sent the specimen to be studied at a laboratory for further testing. The typical striped form of this bee has two yellow stripes on the thorax and one on the abdomen but the colouring is variable.

Alison Weaver (via Tony Florey)


BITS AND BOBS

Plant sale
Thank you very much for supporting our annual plant sale which was held once again at the last indoor meeting in May. We raised £40.50 which was a welcome boost to WOFC’s income. The plants which were not sold were given another chance of finding a home at Foxholes Open Day on 10 May or on the Friends of Wychwood plant stall at the Forest Fair on 6 September.
Brenda Betteridge


Message of thanks
I would like to thank everyone for their messages, kind thoughts and condolences on the death of my husband, John. A particular thanks to those who attended his funeral at Kencott and for generous donations. A sum of £600 was collected and sent to the Welfare Fund of the Witney Branch of the Royal British Legion, a charity close to John’s heart.
Anne Dossett-Davies


A Guide to Finding Fungi in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire
At this time of year when you are out in the field it is useful to have a good pocket guide to identify the fungi you come across. One that comes thoroughly recommended for local forays describes over 200 species of the wild mushrooms or toadstools that you are likely to find in Berks, Bucks or Oxon. It was compiled by Peter Creed, who as most of you already know is an expert on fungi and a first-rate photographer. As with other publications by the same publisher, it is attractively designed and beautifully illustrated with photographs. Published by Pisces, this book is available at www.naturebureau.co.uk/shop, priced £5.95.

Brenda Betteridge




 

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