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Crab spider on Pyramidal Orchid (c) Malcolm Brownsword

No.94

AUTUMN

2011

Beetle on Common Spotted Orchid (c) Malcolm Brownsword

EDITORIAL

As September draws to a close, summer has finally arrived, but with the delicious crispness of autumn evenings, dewy lawns decked in myriad of tiny bejewelled spider webs, and a golden light that picks out the baring tree trunks, the newly cut stubble and the glorious Cotswold stone farmhouses and ancient barns. Like last year, the local house martins and swallows departed very early, but out in the countryside little groups of martins and swallows are passing south from further north, and migrating warblers slip quietly through the hedgerows.

One of the joys of dew-drenched grass is the way it shows up the trails of small animals. There is something about small paths that disappear into the landscape that intrigue me. I have only to drive past a footpath or bridleway to itch to get out of the car and explore it. In the woodlands of my childhood we used to follow rabbit and deer tracks to see where they went, and make a point of using these tracks rather than the main path. Before water voles became so scarce, you could find in the grassy banks the regular tracks to their favourite feeding patches. If you kept really quiet, you could sometimes even hear the vole chewing the grass – a regular rasping sound.

This year saw the almost total absence of greenfinches from my garden, a decline in the chaffinches, both due to disease, and the absence of young starlings, who usually attack the bird feeder in unruly teenage gangs in August. I can only guess that some roosting site has been destroyed nearby. Soon we shall begin to have the great spectacle of starling roosts - aptly named ‘murmurations’ of starlings. There are many theories about why starlings form these great gatherings. They do not appear to save energy, but they do seem to be related to avoiding predators. Starlings in areas where peregrines are common form larger, more compact flocks. Birds flying on the outside of the flock are most at risk, and the flocks are densest in the middle, with the birds constantly moving from the outside to the inside. Starlings can fly at speeds up to 40 mph and they can react to each other’s flight patterns with a reaction time of less than 100 milliseconds (compared to the best racing driver reaction time of 250 milliseconds). The largest flocks occur in my native territory, the Somerset Levels, where numbers can reach over a million individuals. Smaller but equally awe-inspiring murmurations occur on the RSPB Reserve at Otmoor.

Thrushes returned to breed in my garden only a few years ago after an absence of some 15 years. This year there were several young thrushes, and I was intrigued to see the fledgling blackbirds successfully chasing them off on all occasions. One of our local blackbirds does a very convincing imitation of an ambulance with the wailing siren followed immediately by several bursts of sound – even the pitch is correct.
Jill Bailey


Your Newsletter

This is the longest newsletter I’ve edited, certainly in its present format. Even though it runs to 16 pages I have not been able to include everything which has been sent to me. My apologies if your contribution is one of those held over for the next newsletter. Once again it starts with an interesting editorial by Jill. Thank you Jill and all you other contributors. – your efforts are much appreciated.

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 2012 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


Plant Sale

Our annual plant sale raised £42 which was a welcome boost to the Field Club’s finances. This was £1.70 higher than last year. Let’s try to maintain this trend and increase the figure raised still higher next year! Thank you for your support.
Brenda Betteridge

 

OBITUARY

Eunice Birds 1935–2011

Eunice sadly passed away in June after a long battle with cancer. With Arnold, her husband, she was a keen member of the Club from 1976 to 1994, going on many holidays with us.
She originally came from Chesterfield and for 21 years lived in a very nice flat in Faringdon House before moving to their present home in 1983.
In 1982 she started the Tourist Information Centre in Faringdon and later worked for the Thames–Chilton Tourist Board. At one point she was manager of both Faringdon and Abingdon branches, and she worked for Tourist Information until her retirement in 2000.
She was on the Faringdon Town Council and was their first woman mayor from 1981 to 1983. She also worked part-time for Faringdon Community College until last year.
Both she and her husband were very keen on the arts, especially music and antiques. At one time they a had a lovely collection of Wedgewood ‘Fairyland lustre’ china.
The Club was represented at her funeral in Faringdon Church.


Eunice when she was Mayor of Faringdon.

Tony Florey

REPORTS OF FIELD MEETINGS

Dawn Chorus meeting at Macaroni Farm, Eastleach 16 May 2010
This was visit number 4 to Eastleach for our annual Dawn Chorus meeting,. Once again we are indebted to Mr Charles Phillips for the privilege, and were delighted that he was able to join us. It was another perfect morning – dry, still and a clear sky. The silence was broken by a Mallard drake at 03.45 hrs before most participants had arrived, followed 5 minutes later by the hooting of a Tawny Owl and a barking fox. We departed from Sheep’s Bridge at 04.05 hrs, taking the now familiar route. Skylarks were certainly late on parade, the first not being recorded until 04.45 hrs.
It was certainly encouraging to hear so many Blackbirds and Song Thrushes while walking through the wooded area and even more so to see a Barn Owl hunting above the river bank.
The severe weather conditions throughout January made a direct comparison to the birds recorded on our previous visits, reflecting the now organic status of the farm unfortunately rather a non-starter, as small birds such as Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Goldcrest and Wren are particularly vulnerable to continuous sub-zero temperatures.
In the Scottish Highlands, where there was snow cover for 4 months, Barn Owls have been wiped out, as they cannot store food and have to feed regularly, and 95% of the Wren population has been lost. Our local Barn Owls have suffered too, so to see one hunting at 6.13 hrs has to the highlight of the morning

Bird list with the time of each first species recorded:
03.45 Mallard
03.50 Tawny Owl
03.52 Carrion Crow
04.12 Robin
04.14 Rook
04.15 Red-legged Partridge
04.18 Pheasant
04.22 Lapwing
04.23 Song Thrush
04.25 Blackbird
04.27 Buzzard
04.35 Skylark
04.36 Yellowhammer
04.40 Blackcap
04.40 Woodpigeon
04.50 Wren
04. 51 Chiffchaff
04.55 Great Tit
04.57 Chaffinch
05.30 Blue Tit
05.32 Jackdaw
05.33 Grey Heron
05.35 Great-spotted Woodpecker
05.37 Grey Partridge
05. 39 Whitethroat
05.40 Moorhen
05.41 Starling
05.44 Willow Warbler
06.13 Barn Owl
06.15 Mute Swan
06.25 House Sparrow
06.25 Dunnock
06.26 Greenfinch
06.27 Swift
06.32 Collared Dove
06.35 Green Woodpecker

We finished back at Sheep’s Bridge at 06.55 hrs with a total of 36 species, just one less than in 2008. Grey Partridge and Whitethroat were new to the list, giving us a grand total of 54 for the four visits. The ‘Full Hailey’ breakfast was thoroughly enjoyed by all attending members. Once again we have to thank Yvonne and Roger Townsend for their generous hospitality, not forgetting Jean Roberts for her valuable assistance. Many thanks indeed to you all for your support. Having led the meeting for the last 17 years I’m taking a break and handing over the reins to David Rolfe – a new leader, new venue.
Graham Wren

My sincere apologies for not including this in the last newsletter – Ed.

 

Appleton Lower Common, 17th April 2011
Four members joined me at the starting point on a warm and sunny afternoon for a stroll on Appleton Lower Common. John and I are regular visitors, particularly at this time of year as the countryside is coming back to life. It is a good walk for a late afternoon, as the return trip at dusk can sometimes be quite rewarding – and so it proved to be that day.
We set off through the edge of the wood at Appleton Lower Common. This is an SSSI and is home to Muntjac and Roe Deer, and a good population of warblers and other birds were singing away as we passed through. Spring flowers were coming up fast with the recent very


© John Cobb

warm and dry weather, and we found Wood Sanicle (the first time we had noticed it there) and a large patch of Town Hall Clocks or Moschatel, which we had never noticed before. This is one of my favourite flowers, although I’m not sure why – it is very small and hard to find until you get your eye in. Four of the five flowers are arranged like the faces of a clock tower (hence the name), with the fifth one facing upwards ‘for the Spitfire pilots’. Finding Town Hall Clocks never fails to cheer me up.

After a short walk through the wood, we emerged into a large open field with a fine view of the countryside down to the Thames and beyond. Seeing the Town Hall Clocks early on meant that our planned side route along the bridleway leading back through the wood was no longer necessary, so we carried on to the river, crossing over a footbridge and following the Thames Path for a short distance through a meadow that was full of Lady’s Smock.

We retraced our steps and John and I left the rest of the group to head back to his house on foot. As we left, I mentioned that we had seen a Barn Owl hunting over the fields where we were, and advised the others to keep an eye out for it. We went our separate ways, and very shortly afterwards the barn owl did indeed make an appearance, flying low over the fields and from time to time pouncing, only to rise again empty-clawed. We jumped up and down and shouted to the others, but unfortunately they were already too far away and didn’t hear us. We watched the Barn Owl hunting for quite some time until it eventually struck lucky and flew back to its nest with what looked like a vole in its claws. The direct route back was straight through an old World War II pillbox, in one side and out the other. John even managed to get a picture of it as it passed by.

Birds seen or heard: Blackcap, Great Tit, Blue Tit

Sue Morton


Dawn Chorus – Minster Lovell and Crawley
15 May 2011 at 04.00 hrs
Six Club members met in the car park at the top of the lane to the church and the ruins. The stars were still visible in the clear, but still dark, sky, and a cool light breeze was blowing from the direction of a faint brightness on the distant north-eastern horizon.
While we lingered to see if any late-comers would turn up, a Pheasant called at 04.10 hrs, and 2 minutes later a Red-Legged Partridge, a Carrion Crow and a female Mallard, presumably on the pond just beyond the ruins, called, their sounds heard clearly in the otherwise silent air.
As we walked down the lane towards the church, the first Song Thrush started singing its repeated phrases at 04.20 hrs. A few years ago these birds became very scarce in southern England, but to my mind over the last couple of years numbers seem to have increased considerably; we heard quite a few on the walk. A Tawny Owl hooted in the distance as we approached the ruins at 04.22 hrs, and the first Blackbirds and Robins started singing at 04.25 hrs.

While making our way across the water meadow to the footbridge over the river we stopped to watch a barn owl quartering, passing quite close to us on several occasions in the half-light. After we’d crossed the bridge we heard the distinct calls of a Treecreeper in the mixed woodland – I’d seen this species here on several occasions in the past, including a pair feeding young in a nest behind the flaking bark of a Crack Willow, so I expected to hear one. However, we didn’t hear the other species which is usually around in the conifers here, the Goldcrest. When we emerged from the trees into the meadows beyond, a large flock of rooks and jackdaws flew up from the rookery situated at the west end of Maggots Grove, swirled around for 5 minutes or so in the now bright sky, before dispersing, some back into the trees and some making their way further afield.

Later on, we encountered several singing Common Whitethroats, including a pair perched, sunlit, in a bush above a dry-stone wall. Near Crawley, in Roger Townsend’s flower meadow, we had a good view of a Roe Deer doe with her very young kid/fawn. At 05.31 hrs we heard a Sedge Warbler singing in the reeds and brambles alongside the bridleway, and a bit later on, a Lesser Whitethroat in the hedgerow. In Crawley village we added Swallow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, House Sparrow and Cormorant to our list. A Lapwing demonstrated its swooping display flight and undulating song and calls above an arable field off the path between Crawley and Minster Lovell. Yellowhammers are usually seen here, but not on this occasion. However, we watched several Hares frolicking in the meadows nearby. Back at the car park a pair of Collared Doves flew over at 06.44 hrs to complete our list.
I consider it an honour to have led this year’s walk. Thank you to those who came along and contributed to the list, which totalled 41 bird species

Bird list with the time of each first species recorded:
04.10 Pheasant
04.20 Song Thrush
04.32 Wren
04.12 Red-legged Partridge
04.22 Tawny Owl
04.32 Great Tit
04.12 Carrion Crow
04.25 Robin
04.33 Chaffinch
04.12 Mallard
04.25 Blackbird
04.38 Barn Owl
04.15 Wood Pigeon
04.30 Moorhen
04.45 Chiffchaff
04.46 Treecreeper
05.26 Great Spotted Woodpecker
05.47 Swallow
04.50 Jackdaw
05.31 Sedge Warbler
05.48 Blue Tit
04.55 Blackcap
05.37 Lesser Whitethroat
05.50 Cormorant
04.55 Rook
05.37 Greenfinch
05.50 Green Woodpecker
04.56 Grey Heron
05.30 Garden Warbler
06.07 Dunnock
05.15 Common Whitethroat
05.45 Long-tailed Tit
06.11 Lapwing
05.19 Skylark
05.45 Starling
06.36 Mistle Thrush
05.20 Stockdove
05.45 House Sparrow
06.44 Collared Dove
05.21 Magpie
05.56 Goldfinch

David Rolfe


Hackpen Hill/Devil’s Punch Bowl/Crow Hole Bottom 29 May 2011
A party of a dozen or so spent an enjoyable afternoon in this northern part of the North Wessex Downs, a few miles west of Wantage, on a fairly sunny but windy day. The Downs cover four counties: Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire. Although the whole of the Downs were designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1972, the Hackpen Hill area has only been open to the public for about 6 years.
After a short walk along The Ridgeway we were greeted by the sound of Skylarks, followed by that of a Corn Bunting – two species that have declined in recent years. Soon we saw Buzzard and Red Kite. Other birds either seen or heard included Yellow Hammer, Linnet, Bullfinch, Mistle Thrush and Swift.

As we walked along an almost horizontal path a hundred feet or so below the flat summit of Hackpen Hill we saw the first of at least a hundred Green Hairstreak butterflies. I first saw this species here in 2010 when there were probably several thousand present. Most were sheltering from the wind on the large patches of nettles.

Another spectacular denizen here is the day-flying Wood Tiger moth, whose bright colours are easily seen, even in flight. They rarely fly higher than about 10 feet above the ground, so were easy to spot. We saw at least a hundred, despite the windy weather. Other Lepidoptera seen were a Narrow-bordered Five Spot Burnet moth, a rare Forester Moth (probably the Cistus Forester) and the following butterflies: Large Skipper (my first of the year), Small Tortoiseshell, Common Blue (in large numbers), Brown Argus and dozens of Small Heath. The latter, once very common, have declined in most areas in recent years but are doing well here.

Several ‘ladybirds’ were seen during the afternoon. One with two large spots was assumed at the time to be a Two Spot Ladybird (which is very variable in colour and general appearance), but subsequent consultation revealed that it was probably a Harlequin, which is even more variable, both in colour and number of spots!

Malcolm Brownsward

 

Plant list in alphbetical order:

Achillea millefolium Yarrow
Anacamptis pyramidalis Pyramidal Orchid
Anisantha sterilis Sterile Brome
Anthriscus sylvestris Cow Parsley
Anthyllis vulneraria Kidney Vetch
Arrhenatherum elatius False Oat-grass
Bellis perennis Daisy
Blackstonia perfoliata Yellow-wort
Brachypodium pinnatum Tor Grass
Briza minor Quaking Grass
Bromus erectus Upright Brome
Bromus hordeaceus Soft Brome
Byonia dioica White Briony
Campanula glomerata Clustered Bellflower
Campanula rotundifolia Harebell
Capsella bursa-pastoris Shepherd’s Purse
Carex flacca Carnation Sedge
Cerastium fontanum Common Mouse-ear
Cersatium pumilum Dwarf Mouse-ear
Cirsium eriophorum Woolly Thistle
Crepis vesicaria Beaked Hawksbeard
Dactylis glomerata Cock’s-foot
Dactylorhiza fuchii Common Spotted Orchid
Euphrasia sp. Eyebright
Fumaria officinalis Common Fumatory
Galium aparine Cleavers
Geranium molle Dove’s-foot Cranesbill
Geranium pyrenaicum Hedge Cranesbill
Geranium robertianum Herb Robert
Geranium rotundifolium Round-leaved Cranesbill
Geum urbanum Wood Avens
Glechoma hederacea Ground Ivy
Helianthemum nummularium Common Rockrose
Hippocrepis comosa Horseshoe Vetch
Hyoscyamus niger Henbane
Lamium album White Dead-nettle
Lathyrus pratensis Meadow Vetchling
Leotodon saxalis Lesser Hawkbit
Leucanthemum vulgare Moon Daisy
Linum catharticum Fairy Flax
Lotus corniculatus Bird’s-foot Trefoil
Luzula campestris Field Woodrush
Matricaria discoidea Pineapple-weed
Medicago lupulina Black Medick
Myosotis arvensis Field Forget-me-not
Pantago lancelata Ribwort Plantain
Pilosella officinarum Mouse-ear Hawkweed
Plantago major Greater Plantain
Plantago media Hoary Plantain
Poa compressa Flattened Meadow-grass
Poa pratensis Smooth Meadow-grass
Polygala calcarea Chalk Milkwort
Potentilla anserina Silverweed
Ranunculus bulbosus Bulbous Buttercup
Ranunculus repens Creeping Buttercup
Reseda lutea Mignionette
Reseda luteola Weld
Rumex sp. Dock
Sambucus niger Elder
Sanguisorba minor Salad Burnet
Sheradia arvensis Field Madder
Silene dioica Red Campion
Silene latifolia White Campion
Sisymbrium officinale Hedge Mustard
Sonchus asper Prickly Sow-thistle
Taraxacum officinale Dandelion
Thymus polytrichus Wild Thyme
Trifolium pratense Red Clover
Trifolium repens White Clover
Urtica dioica Stinging Nettle
Veronica chamaedrys Germander Speedwell
Veronica persica Common Field Speedwell
Vicia sativa Common Vetch
Viola arvensis Field Pansy

Brenda Betteridge

Lashford Lane Fen and Dry Sandford Pit 4 June 2011
Lashford Lane Fen
Lashford Lane Fen is a small but diverse limestone valley formed some 160 million years ago through which runs Sandford Brook. The diversity of the area soon became apparent as we entered the reserve where we found a variety of habitats – limestone grassland, fen, reed beds, scrub and woodland – all of which are home to amphibians and reptiles such as frogs, newts and Grass Snakes and the somewhat rare mammal the Water Vole (‘Ratty’ in The Wind in the Willows). It is also home to the Reed Warbler, often a favourite nest for the Cuckoo in it’s quest to find a foster home for it’s young; and the elusive Water Rail.
We spent a few moments in the well-sited bird hide in anticipation of perhaps seeing one of these species, but it was a forlorn hope as there was very little bird life to be seen.
Moving on we heard the warning call of the Wren, the melodious song of the Blackcap, and saw a Moorhen and a Green Woodpecker; also a Red Kite made an appearance and flew round the reserve. A few butterflies were noted, among which were a number of Meadow Browns, Small Skippers and a Speckled Wood. The only other wildlife of note was a Hornet and a bracket fungus.
Jill Bailey listed the wild flowers.




Plants:
Agrimony
Daisy
Bird’s-foot trefoil
Black Bryony
Bladder Campion
Common Mouse-ear Chickweed
Cleavers/Goosegrass
Dewberry
Comfrey
Common Figwort
Field Horsetail
Common Spotted Orchid
Common Vetch
Field Bindweed
Cow Parsley
Creeping Buttercup
Cuckoo Pint/Lady’s Smock
Common Sorrel
Dog Rose
Dog’s Mercury
Dogwood
Elder
Meadow Buttercup
Field Forget-me-not
Field Scabious
Germander speedwell
Greater knapweed
Ground ivy
Hard rush
Hedge Woundwort
Hemp Agrimony
Herb Robert
Honeysuckle
Jack-by-the Hedge
Knapweed
Shade Horsetail
Watercress
Marsh Bedstraw
Welted Thistle
Meadowsweet
Black Medick
Moon Daisy/Ox-eye Daisy
Common Reed
Redshank
Ragged Robin
Red Campion
Red Clover
Soft Rush
Selfheal
Wood Sedge
Spindle
Star Sedge
Stinging Nettle
Touch-me-not Balsam
Great Mullein
Water Forget-me-not
White Clover
White Deadnettle
Wood Avens
Bittersweet
Mugwort
Yellow Rattle

Total 61 species

Liverwort:
Pellia


Birds:
Wood Pigeon
Blackbird
Pheasant
Rook
Jackdaw
Chiffchaff
Wren (heard)
Blackcap (heard)
Moorhen
Green Woodpecker
Kite

Dry Sandford Pit
After Lashford Lane Fen we made a brief visit to to Dry Sandford Pit. This, originally, was quarried for sand and limestone which ceased in the 1950s and narrowly escaped becomming a rubbish tip thanks to the foresight and persistence of geologists and naturalists.
The reserve has a rich mixture of chalk grassland, ponds and streams, fenland, scrub and woodland. It is full of interesting insects, plants and amphibians, reptiles and mammals.
The cliffs are full of fossils which give an interesting insight into the period when Oxfordshire was covered in sea water and the rock strata show the various stages as the sea receded leaving behind sandy beaches. The final top layer contains many corals. It is fascinating to consider that these fossils are evidence of life that existed when dinosaurs roamed the land.
As we progressed round the reserve we saw Marsh and Common Spotted Orchids, Twayblades, Marsh Marigolds and Fen Pondweed. In one of the ponds tadpoles were swimming freely and damselflies were hovering over the water. We also saw a Common Blue butterfly and a lovely iridescent big black/green beetle.
Gill Murdoch listed the wild flowers.

Plant list:
Rock Rose
Agrimony
Dog Rose
Bladder Campion
Bryony
Oxeye Daisy
Ground Ivy
White Campion
Germander Speedwell
White Clover

Birdsfoot Trefoil
Forget-me-not
Hop Trefoil
Field Poppy
White Deadnettle
Garlic Mustard
Woody Nightshade
Buttercup
Field Privet
Large White Bindweed
Common Spotted Orchid

Twayblade
Ribbed Mellot
Dove’s-foot Cranesbill
Upright Hedge Parsley
Weld
Toadflax
St John’s-wort
Mullein
Herb Bennet
Black Medick
Greater Knapweed

Tony Mattingley

Middle Lane, Upton, near Burford 15 June 2011
Nine of us met before 7 pm and sat around until 7.15 as there was a torrential downpour that made it impossible to get out of our cars! The rain then cleared up completely.
This tarmacced lane makes for a delightful walk with really lovely distant views on one side, some fields arable, others seemingly left for grazing or just rough ground.
Not many birds were about after the deluge, but we did see a Lapwing on a nest in (?just ploughed and sown) brashy field with chicks running about. This is a less common sight than it used to be. We also had an interesting sighting of a Buzzard right at the top of a dead tree holding out its wings to dry. Otherwise pretty regular birds were seen – Blackbird, Thrush, Dummock, Chaffinch, Swallow, Swift, Long-tailed Tits, Wren, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Yellowhammer.
Some plants seen were Comfrey, Knapweed, Rosebay Willowherb, Goat’s-beard, Lady’s Bedstraw, Meadow Cranesbill and Bird’s-food Trefoil.
A very large web in the hedge was deemed to be that of an Ermine Moth.
Just as we got into our cars to return home another very heavy downpour came on.

Tony Florey

Kingham 25th June 2011
A group of us met on the village green having lunched at the Kingham Plough. Gordon Ottewell gave us a short history of the life of William Warde Fowler who was a tutor at Lincoln College Oxford and a renowned ornithologist who lived in the village in the early 20th century. We set off through the village, saw the house he lived in and visited the churchyard where he and his sister Alice are buried. The walk took us across fields and flower meadows and along the Evenlode before returning to the village


Flowers:
Dog Rose
Large Bindweed
Corn Chamomile
Silverweed
Tufted Vetch
Himalayan Balsam
Speedwell
Water Mint
Cranesbill Water Lily
Black Medick Flowering Rush
St John’s-wort Purple Loosestrife
Butterbur Blackberry
Meadow Vetchling Agrimomy
Mallow Greater Burnet
Great Willowherb

Birds:
Reed Buntings
Swallows
Swifts
House Martins
Herons (3)
Cuckoo (heard)

Butterflies:
Ringlet
Meadow Brown

Gill Siuda

Bridewell Organic Gardens 6 July 2011
On a dull and rather chilly evening we were met by the manager, Ian Gourlay, who gave us an informative talk about the background, organisation and function of the gardens. Ian explained that ‘Bridewell’ is an innovative charity providing land-based therapeutic support to adults who are suffering from a range of mental-health problems, the objective being to improve the emotional well-being of the clients.

This is met by providing a safe rural setting in which the individuals can engage in satisfying and rewarding activities, and thereby aid the rehabilitation process and also provide opportunities to be part of the community by working as a team on physical and creative tasks.
Ian went on to say that Bridewell Gardens were founded in 1994 when the charity took possession of a derelict walled garden, which over the years has been transformed from a wasteland into a flourishing garden in which cottage plants, vegetables and fruit are grown and tended.
A range of small workshops with facilities for woodwork and blacksmithing provide alternative activities to gardening. Another activity is beekeeping from which the garden markets its own honey.

Following Ian’s introductory talk we proceeded along the vineyard and Ian explained a bit about viticulture, and told us that the vineyard provides valuable outdoor work in the winter months when activities in the garden are limited. The grapes, when harvested, are sent to a firm in Sussex for production into wine. It is one of the few organic vineyards (and the only therapeutic one) in the country. The wine is sold locally and generates useful publicity and income.

Finally we had a guided tour of the 1¼ acres walled garden where we were shown the ‘fruits of their labours’. It consisted of a delightful avenue of roses, various fruit trees, a knot garden, raised flower and vegetable beds, a herb garden, rockery, soft-fruit cages, greenhouses and a large fishpond all of which provide the necessary therapy for the clients.

One notable feature was the imaginative Monêt garden – a reproduction of the famous wooden bridge and water lilies (as painted by the impressionist, Claude Monêt). As we walked round the garden we also saw various ‘sculptures’ made in the blacksmiths workshop.
We finished the tour at the office where we were invited to have tea/coffee and biscuits and to taste the Bridewell organic wine. This rounded off a very pleasant evening.
Tony Mattingley

Oakley Wood and Bernwood Meadows 10 July 2011
This field trip was principally to see summer butterflies and flowering plants. The speciality here is the Purple Emperor or HIM (His/Her Imperial Majesty to some butterfly enthusiasts). A party of Butterfly Conservation (BC) members were also present in the wood and information was exchanged between the two groups during the late morning. The BC leader led two field trips here last July when 10 and 15 specimens, respectively, were seen on successive days in the species’ best year for many decades. Within half an hour we all saw the first of 4 Purple Emperors, following shouts from the BC party, and watched for about 5 minutes while it was posing for photographs. Perched on the main ride, as it moved we were able to see the beautiful blue (not purple!) hue on the wings. This is caused by refraction of light falling on the wings, not the presence of blue material.


© Malcolm Brownsword


As the butterfly turned round, the colour appeared, then disappeared according to the angle of its wings relative to the inclination of the sun. The other three sightings were of shorter duration and further away. Other butterflies seen included Large Skipper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Marbled White, Brimstone and Red Admiral, all in small numbers, but an additional highlight was the presence of Silver-washed Fritillaries, of which about 15 were seen. This species is one of the few whose numbers have increased in recent years. Although I have often seen White Admirals here, none were seen. These close relatives of the Purple Emperor have declined in recent years.
In addition to the Lepidoptera, another interesting insect was seen in abundance – we found a Wood Ants’ nest and watched these industrious creatures moving along their miniature highways for several minutes. Two unidentified dragonflies were also seen.
As one would expect at this time of year, few birds were evident, mainly Swallows and House Martins, but two or three members did see a Hobby.
We saw Common-spotted Orchids in fair numbers at the edge of the sunnier rides, but they were past their best. Other plants seen included White Bedstraw, Goat’s Beard, Eyebright, Perforate St. John‘s-wort, Lesser Stitchwort, Meadow Rue, Yellow Agrimony, Self Heal, Woundwort, Rose Bay and Greater Willow Herb, Burdock, Tufted Vetch, Common Centaury, Melilot, Yellow Toadflax, Black Medick, Water Mint, Herb Bennet, Yellow Rattle, Creeping Thistle, Lousewort, Silverweed, Chickweed, Chamomile, Hoary Cress, Pineappleweed, Cinquefoil, Knapweed, Ox-eye Daisy, Teasel, Hemp Agrimony, Scarlet Pimpernel, Oxford Ragwort and Betony.
We then walked along a narrow path to Bernwood Meadows, passing a small pond with Pond Skaters and Water Boatman on the way. In the late spring the meadows are covered with Green-winged Orchids and some of the seed capsules were still visible. Devil’s Bit Scabious was also present.
I think we all had an excellent field trip and for most, if not all of us, the highlight was the Purple Emperors.
Malcolm Brownsword

Bablockhythe 18 July 2011
This is always an enjoyable stroll alongside the Thames. However, that evening loomed rather dull but it was not cold and a good group of us strolled for about and hour and back.
There were few birds about and, of note, only a Green Woodpecker and a Reed Bunting were heard.
The usual – many gone over – riverside plants: Purple Loosestrife, Figwort, Branched Bur-reed, Bistort, Water Lily, Fleabane, Water Forget-me-not, Convolvulus and Woody Nightshade.
A Green-veined White butterfly and some Banded Demoiselles were also seen.
The Ferryman pub at Bablockhythe shuts one day a week. We had arranged our walk not for a Monday (the usual closing day) – no, bad luck they now shut on a Tuesday! Anyway we had a very enjoyable drink and chat in the Red Lion in Northmoor which is close by.
Tony Florey

Bourton Downs area 7 August 2011
The first description I came up with for this walk was ‘a walk in the middle of nowhere’, but then decided that prospective walkers needed a bit more to go on. Bourton Downs are marked on the Ordnance Survey map, and the nearest place most people will have heard of is Snowshill. The only settlement that we passed through was the pretty hamlet of Hinchwick. Our walk took us through varied habitats of woodland, farmland and limestone grassland and was an unusually long one at about 7 miles. Given the distance and the rather unpromising weather forecast, I was very pleased that six other intrepid members turned up at the start point.

John and I do a longer version of this walk early in August each year, as parts of it are particularly good for butterflies. Last year we saw a large number of Silver-washed Fritillaries, but we didn’t see any this year, due in part to the cool and damp weather. I was planning to stop for lunch on the edge of a wood where a flower-filled track is particularly good for many species of butterflies, but we were stopped short by a very heavy shower, and decided to shelter under a huge beech tree and eat our sandwiches while we waited for the rain to stop. The sun soon came out and after lunch we were rewarded with a better than expected show of butterflies and some interesting limestone flora.
There were also a good variety of thistles and we brushed up on our thistle identification skills as we went along. There were plenty of places where we slowed to the usual Field Club crawl when we found something of interest, but also places where we could stride on and admire the scenery rather than just focusing on the ground.
The last part of the walk, on Bourton Downs, gave us splendid views over the surrounding countryside. We also saw the next heavy shower coming and got into our waterproofs just in time. The last time I led this walk with the Club, in the long hot summer of 2003, there was a violent thunderstorm which memorably broke just when we reached the highest and most exposed point. No problems like that this time, thank goodness, but we did get a bit damp.

Flowers:

Rest Harrow
Bird‘s-foot Trefoil
Rockrose
Greater Knapweed
Lesser Knapweed
Creeping Thistle
Woolly Thistle
Spear Thistle
Musk Thistle
Stemless Thistle
St John’s-wort
Horehound
Eyebright
Yellow-wort
Centaury
Autumn Gentian
Pyramidal Orchid
Basil Thyme
Wild Mignonette
Rosebay Willowherb
Scarlet Pimpernel
Ragwort
Salad Burnet
Clustered Bellflower
Harebell
Wild Arum (berries)
Red Campion
Lady’s Bedstraw
Lesser Burdock
Meadow Cranesbill
Hedge Bindweed
Hogweed
Herb Robert
Enchanter’s Nightshade
Hedge Woundwort
Marjoram
Field Scabious
Corn Mint
Agrimony
Yellow Rattle
Tufted Vetch
Meadowsweet
Oxeye Daisy
Yarrow
Pineappleweed
Chicory
Figwort
Wall Lettuce
Wild Clematis
Silverweed
Tormentil

Birds:
Buzzard
Kestrel
Green Woodpecker
House Martins
Linnet
Swallow
Raven (heard)
Yellowhammer
Wood Pigeon
Skylark
Mistle Thrush
Redstart

Butterflies:
Large White
Meadow Brown
Comma
Speckled Wood
Large Skipper
Peacock
Small White
Small Copper
Common Blue

Mammals:
Roe Deer
Rabbits (including a black one)

Reptiles:
Lizard

Sue Morton

 

Rushey Common 14 August 2011
Lesley Dunlop took a group of 13 on a short walk round the worked-out gravel pits in the Rushey Common/Gill Mill area of the northern Lower Windrush Valley. Every so often Lesley stopped and told us about the landscape and geology of this area. The first part of the walk took us through Tar Farm Amenity Area where two small lakes (pits) have recently been landscaped with several benches placed round a very-user friendly path for those who cannot walk far from the car park. The name ‘Tar’, also been given to a nearby wood, is believed to be derived from Thomas T’ry’s widow who held land here in 1278–9 (info provided by Ken Betteridge).
Lesley showed us a large lump of conglomerate, the only local stone, which was used to build the nearby Devil’s Quoits.
Gravel was extracted from the Northmoor Terrace which is the youngest layer, about 2 m thick. Underneath it is Oxford Clay. The Lower Windrush Valley Project’s restoration of the pits for wildlife is conditional on permission to extract the gravel. After extraction has finished the steeply sloping sides are re-profiled to give sloping banks. Where the lakes are now the Windrush was once a braided river, but for at least 1,000 years the river has only been divided into two here.
Although it was intended as a geology walk, there was plenty of interesting wildlife to be seen. David Rolfe noted 29 birds. The plants (those in flower are listed below) found growing here are those typical of the various habitats through which our route took us – grass fields on the river alluvium of the flood plain, lake-side boggy areas, streams and rivers and recently disturbed ground. Young frogs hopped about in the long grass. There were lots of electric blue damselflies flying above the grass which were probably Azure Damselflies as identified using the app on David Rolfe’s mobile phone. A number of other insects were noted: small day-flying moths, a few specimens of six species of butterfly (Small White, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown and Common Blue), a large dragonfly, a cricket and Seven-spot Ladybirds. One member of the party pointed out what appeared like weaver bird nests on some willow trees. These are ‘witches’s brooms’, abnormal growths, the cause of which is uncertain. At Gill Mill on the western arm of the Windrush a dead poplar tree sported the fruiting bodies of wood-rot fungi – brackets on the trunk and clusters of mushrooms in various stages of decay round the root crown. The trunk of this tree was peppered with holes made by a Great Spotted Woodpecker. This year the fruit in the hedges is ripening early with Guelder Rose, Hawthorn, Blackberry, Rosehips, Sloes, Spindle, Crab Apples very much in evidence.

Plants in flower:
Arctium sp. Burdock
Atriplex patula Common Orache
Avena fatua Wild Oats
Bellis perennis Daisy
Brassica nigra Black Mustard
Bromus hordeaceus Lop Grass
Capsella bursa-pastoris Shepherd’s Purse
Calystegia sepium Hedge Bindweed
Carduus crispus Welted Thistle
Cerastium fontanum Common Mouse-ear
Chaenorhinum minus Small Toadflax
Chenopodium album Fat Hen
Cirsium vulgare Creeping Thistle
Cirsium vulgare Spear Thistle
Conium maculatum Hemlock
Conyza canadensis Canadian Fleabane
Crepis capillaris Smooth Hawksbeard
Daucus carota Wild Carrot
Epilobium hirsutum Great Willowherb
Epilobium parviflorum Hoary Willowherb
Erysimum cheiri Treacle Mustard
Galium mollugo Hedge Bedstraw
Geranium dissectum Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill
Geranium robertianum Herb Robert
Geum urbanum Wood Avens
Glyceria maxima Reed Sweet-grass
Heracleum sphondylium Hogweed
Holcus lanatus Yorkshire Fog
Impatiens glandulifera Himalayan Balsam
Kickxia elatine Sharp-leaved Fluellen
Lamium album White Dead-nettle
Lapsana communis Nipplewort
Lotus uliginosus Greater Trefoil
Lythrum salicaria Purple Loosestrife
Mentha aquatica Water Mint Mycelis muralis Wall Lettuce
Myosotis arvensis Field Forget-me-not
Myosotis scorpioides Water Forget-me-not
Papaver rhoeas Common Poppy
Persicaria maculosa Redshank
Phleum bertolonii Smaller Catstail
Phleum pratense Timothy
Picris echinoides Bristly Oxtongue
Poa annua Annual Meadow-grass
Poa pratensis Smooth Meadow-grass
Polygonum aviculare Knotgrass
Potentilla anserina Silverweed
Potentilla reptans Creeping Cinquefoil
Prunella vulgaris Self-heal
Ranuncuus repens Creeping Buttercup
Reseda luteola Dyer’s Weld
Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum Water-cress
Rubus caesius Dewberry
Rubus fruticosus Blackberry
Senecio jacobaea Common Ragwort
Senecio vulgaris Groundsel
Silene latifolia White Campion
Solanum dulcamara Bittersweet
Sonchus arvensis Perennial Sowthistle
Sonchus asper Prickly sow-thistle
Stachys palustris Marsh Woundwort
Symphytum officinale Common Comfrey
Taraxacum officinale Dandelion
Torilis japonica Hedge Parsley
Trifolium pratensis Red Clover
Trifolium repens White Clover
Tripleurospermum inodoratum Scentless Mayweed
Urtica dioeca Stinging Nettle
Viola arvensis Field Pansy

Birds seen:
Blackbird
Black-headed Gull
Blue Tit
Buzzard
Canada Goose
Carrion Crow
Common Tern
Coot Cormorant
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great-crested Grebe
Green Woodpecker
Grey Heron
Greylag Goose
Kestrel
Lapwing Little Grebe
Magpie
Mallard
Moorhen
Mute Swan
Pochard
Robin
Sand Martin Sparrowhawk
Swallow
Teal
Tufted Duck
Wood Pigeon

Brenda Betteridge

Moth Trapping 19/20 August
This was the second time we had hosted a moth-trapping evening for the Club – last year it was a week earlier and it rained. This year, although it was not a very warm evening it was fine and we were able to sit in the garden, which in itself was an enjoyable experience, a rare one this summer when there were very few evenings warm enough. David Redhead and Mary Elford had set up their moth traps in the garden before it got dark and every so often they examined them to see what had been enticed in by the light, bringing the specimens back to identify and show us with the aid of torches. At 11 o’clock we called it a day and leaving the traps running we went to bed. Ken got up early next morning to put blankets over the traps to prevent any escapees.

The next morning several of us re-gathered to watch David and Mary examine their catch and identify the different species. It is only when you look at these insects closely that you can appreciate how beautiful they are. Under a hand lens all sorts of fascinating details become apparent. Thank you David and Mary for sharing your expertise and enthusiasm for these often overlooked creatures.

David has supplied a list which is for macro species only (the micros taken home for later identification were accidentally given their freedom!). In total 29 macro species were caught which is 7 down on last year’s 36, partly due to not running an actinic trap in the quarry which added 3 macro species last year. There might not have been quite the variety of moths that we had last year but the quantity was definitely up with 231 macros as against 158 – perhaps not surprising as it was a better night. This difference was all down to one moth the Flounced Rustic – 2011 = 114, 2010 = 6. It also compensated for the Setaceous Hebrew Characters – 2011 = 27, 2010 = 50. So you could say what a difference a week makes!

Brenda Betteridge

David’s list of macro moths:
Hepialus sylvina Orange Swift
Xestia c-nigrum Setaceous Hebrew Character
Agapeta hamana
Xestia xanthographa Square-spot Rustic
Epirrhoe alternata Common Carpet
Hadena bicruris Lychnis
Camptogramma bilineata Yellow Shell
Mythimna pallens Common Wainscot
Cosmorhoe ocellata Purple Bar
Cryphia domestica Marbled Beauty
Horisme vitalbata Small Waved Umber
Amphipyra pyramidea Copper Underwing
Eupithecia centaureata Lime-speck Pug
Thalpophila matura Straw Underwing
Aplocera efformata Lesser Treble-bar
Mesoligia literosa Rosy Minor
Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone Moth
Mesapamea secalis agg. Common Rustic agg.
Peribatodes rhomboidaria Willow Beauty
Luperina testacea Flounced Rustic
Pheosia gnoma Lesser Swallow Prominent
Hydraecia micacea Rosy Rustic
Agrotis puta Shuttle-shaped Dart
Hoplodrina ambigua Vine's Rustic
Ochropleura plecta Flame Shoulder
Rivula sericealis Straw Dot
Noctua pronuba Large Yellow Underwing
Hypena proboscidalis Snout
Noctua janthe Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing

 

MEMBER’S CONTRIBUTIONS

Where not what
2011 was the year for experimentation. An ‘Old Pulteney’ (an excellent tipple) single malt whisky, cardboard bottle container with a metal top and bottom was used as nest box no. 13. It stood 11 inches high with a 22-mm hole 3½ inches from the top. Realising it would be very vulnerable to Great Spotted Woodpecker (Drendropos major) predation, it was erected in an area of fairly dense coniferous woodland in West Oxfordshire, not often visited by woodpeckers. A platform was placed above the nest box to keep off the rain which would obviously be detrimental.

The outcome was successful, with a pair of Blue Tits (Parus caeruleus) fledging eight young. This is surely proof that location is more important than type of nest box used. In simple terms, site selection is very important. It is where rather than what for successful use of a nest box. I have also had success with several other unconventional nest boxes in recent years. There are, of course, other relevant factors – predators, food availability and the weather, to name but three. So perhaps some of those ornate nest boxes offered for sale in many garden centres are not as impractical as they generally appear, if correctly sited of course!

Graham J. Wren

North Leigh Common 20 September 2011
This is a place worth visiting, especially at this time of year to see huge numbers of Fly Agaric fungi (and others). The Agarics are everywhere and quite a sight. With my friend Alison Weaver we tried many paths and came across two huge (not an exaggeration) areas of Devil’s Bit Scabious, hundreds of plants in flower. I have only seen Devil’s Bit Scabious before as isolated plants, so this was very unusual. They are a brighter and deeper hue than the regular Field Scabious we see at the roadsides. Definitely this is worth a visit.
Tony Florey


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