Since the last newsletter, we have had a dramatic winter of gales, floods,
mountainous seas and coastal inundations. Some of our favourite haunts
have been changed forever. The lagoons at Snettisham and Gibraltar Point
were inundated by the sea when it burst through shingle ridges and dunes.
At Cley the north hide was destroyed and the sea breached the shingle
bank, as well as shifting it by up to 200 metres in places. The coast
roads at Cley and Salthouse were at one point covered in several metres
River Windrush in flood at Worsham February 2014
of shingle. At Gibraltar Point the information centre and accommodation
were extremely badly damaged and remain closed. In Oxford we saw canoes
take to some of the major streets, and the county suffered the loss of
many mature trees.
For Britain's wildlife, however, the outcome has so far been mixed but
most of it has been deleterious. The devastating floods on the Somerset
Levels and parts of the Thames valley must have drowned many small animals
in their burrows - moles, voles, wood mice and bumblebees, and even badgers.
Mammals that did manage to escape would have found themselves in others'
territories, subject to more stress and conflict. Many fish and small
fry have been swept away, then stranded if the water subsided too quickly.
Over 5,000 dead fish were discovered in fields near Goring. Flooding can
also wash away the eggs and fry of migratory species such as salmon and
trout, which lay their eggs in shallow water river gravels. Otter and
badger cubs, which are born in January and February, have been washed
away, while many hibernating hedgehogs will not wake up again.
Populations of soil-dwellers such as earthworms, snails and beetles must
have been reduced, thus affecting birds and other animals higher up the
food chain. The loss of earthworms may start a vicious circle, as they
help keep the soil aerated - without them it tends to compact and become
more likely to get waterlogged. The floods were made worse by extending
over areas containing pesticides and other toxic chemicals, which coated
riverside grazing. Even animals adapted to a life along the river bank
were seriously challenged, as submerged vegetation began to decompose,
reducing the oxygen in the water and giving off harmful sulphurous fumes.
More than 600 guillemots, puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars, gulls
and even shags have been washed up on the east and south coasts, and thousands
more have been found dead on the French coast, victims of the fierce storms
and extremely rough seas. Hundreds of seals have been found drowned, stranded
or injured along the coasts of Norfolk, Cornwall and the Channel Islands,
and thousands of pups orphaned or separated from their mothers have had
to be rescued. Kingfishers can find the silty flood water too murky to
fish in. Good weather for ducks, you might think. But not always. While
species such as teal, tufted duck and pochard have new areas of open water
in which to feed, dabbling ducks can't dabble in deeper water.
So there are some winners. The flooding may help water voles - in 2012
they were able to colonise new areas using temporary water channels. Waders
and wildfowl have taken advantage of the extra feeding grounds. Also the
seeds of aquatic plants and riverside plants can be dispersed far and
wide this way, increasing their range when they are deposited in a favourable
habitat. Unfortunately this also includes invasive species like the Himalayan
balsam which can be spread further on the flood water.
Perhaps we don't need the Dutch engineers to combat the flooding, but
rather the European beaver! Beavers can help regulate water flow, increasing
water storage, impounding sediment and reducing the erosion of river banks,
maintaining a high diversity of aquatic and riparian habitats. Another
suggested solution to the problem of flooding another rewilding one which
is to turn swaths of upland pastures back to woodland. This would have
the effect of slowing rainwater run-off and reduce flood peaks. Both controversial
The mild winter temperatures have encouraged the growth of mould, which
can attack hibernating insects. Fortunately, many insects, such as butterflies,
had a good breeding summer last year, and my garden has already seen tortoiseshells,
peacocks, brimstones and orange-tips. The early spring is offering plenty
of nectar to build up their strength, but a cold snap now could lead to
The Club's winter walks ranged widely from an October trip to Morecambe
Bay and Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve to the welcome warmth of the Wildlife
Photographer of the Year exhibition at Twigworth in January and the March
delights of Slimbridge. We had our usual fungus foray in Bernwood Forest,
autumn colours at Nuneham Arboretum, a trip to the historic snowdrop collection
at Colesbourne Park, and more local walks as well. Our talks have covered
wildlife and wildflowers from Europe to Africa and the Antarctic.
We are very glad to welcome Alison Weaver as a new member of the Committee,
following Gill Suida's departure, and send our thanks to Gill for all
her hard work as Minutes Secretary.
The 51st Annual General Meeting of the West Oxfordshire Field Club was
held at the Methodist Church in High Street, Witney on the 7th of March
2013. The meeting was chaired by the President, Graham Wren.
Apologies for Absence
These were received from Avery Baines, Derek Cottrell, Mary Elford and
Minutes of the 50th AGM These were circulated, approved and signed.
Treasurer's Report The Treasurer, Antony Florey, said that the Club's
finances were in a healthy state, with a small increase in assets over
last year's. Speaker's fees had been reasonable overall, and the plant
sale and summer party raffle had brought in £229. Predicted increases
in expenses for 2014/15 were low, so there should be no need to raise
subscriptions. He thanked Adrian State for putting together and printing
programmes and newsletters, which had made a valuable saving in costs
for the club. The Report was adopted (motion proposed by Gillian Oldfield
and seconded by Margaret Edwards).
Appointment of Auditor Gardner has agreed to audit our accounts again.
The reappointment was accepted (proposed by John Cobb and seconded by
Chairman's Report Sue Morton reported on the year's activities. Members'
Night in January had had to be cancelled because of the snow and ice.
There had been many outdoor meetings, which had attracted quite a number
of visitors. The Club had spent a gloriously sunny long weekend in the
New Forest under the leadership of Peter Creed. This trip included a day
on the Isle of Wight, where rare endemic species of plants were found.
We benefitted from Peter's expertise in wildflowers, mosses and insects.
There was an autumn trip to Morecambe Bay.
A very successful 50th anniversary party had been held at Shilton Village
Hall, where Graham Wren presented his Fiendish Quiz (postponed from January).
Yvonne Townsend and Margaret Edwards were thanked for their splendid celebration
Thanks were given to the Programme Committee (Mary Elford, David Roberts
and David Rolfe), and to Yvonne Townsend, who organised the holidays.
Election of the Committee The Members voted to re-elect the Committee
en bloc. The motion was proposed by Tony Mattingley and seconded by John
Cobb. We welcomed Alison Weaver as a recently co-opted member of the committee.
Any Other Business There was no other business.
The meeting concluded
with a beautifully illustrated talk on wildflowers associated with bird
nests in Britain and Scandinavia by our President, Graham Wren.
A big thank to all of you who have contributed to this issue, especially
Jill who once again has come up with an interesting editorial. It is good
to have on record reports of our meetings and what we see on our walks.
We are grateful to those of you who take the time to write these. They
enable us all to share in the Club activities.
Please send me reports of walks and other club activities for inclusion
in the Autumn 2014 newsletter by the end of August 2014 by e-mail or written
clearly on paper by snail-mail to the address given on the programme.
Don't forget we also like to include any observations and experiences
of the natural world you have had that you would like to share with other
REPORTS OF FIELD MEETINGS
22 June 2013
Peter Creed led a fascinating walk across Wendlebury Meads on a blustery
but sunny day. These traditionally managed meadows overlie a complex mix
of soils and drainage. Much of the site we looked at was originally cultivated
by the ridge and furrow method, the furrows being left uncultivated. The
underlying geology is of glacial drift, mainly various calcareous alluvial
soils. The fields lie in the flood plain of the River Ray, so they are
inundated from time to time.
The ridges and furrows support different flora because of differences
in both their cultivation history and their underlying soils. It is not
uncommon to find some acid-loving species close to lime-loving species.
Heath Spotted and Common Spotted Orchids can sometimes be found close
together, and we found some hybrids between Common Spotted and Marsh Orchids.
On earlier walks here in June we have seen large numbers of Green-winged
Orchids. Sharp-eyed botanists can also spot the rather inconspicuous Frog
Orchids (the only meadow site in three counties) and Adderstongue Ferns.
In the furrows and watery places were brilliant yellow Spearwort flowers,
and patches of misty Marsh Bedstraw and Forget-me-not. Many of the hedges
on the meads are ancient, and we found a number of Midland Hawthorn there.
Some 160 species of plants have been found on the meads, which form part
of the 3% of our ancient meadow and grasslands that have not been lost
to cultivation, urbanisation and drainage since 1940. There were good
spreads of Yellow Rattle and Devil's-bit Scabious, ancient meadow species
such as Dropwort, Dyer's Greenweed, and species typical of wet places,
such as Marsh Pennywort, Marsh Thistle, Meadowsweet, Water Plantain, Reed
Sweet-grass, Watercress, Lesser Water Parsnip, Lesser Spearwort and a
wide range of sedges. We were lucky that a long, cold spring had led to
early summer species flowering later than usual, so we had a good mix
of early and late summer species. As usual, Peter gave us an interesting
commentary on which plants were to be found where and why. His walks are
always highlights of the Field Club year.
Common Spotted Orchid
False Fox Sedge
Frog Orchid ×7
Common Knapweed (rayed form)
Spiny Restharrow (not flowering)
Sweet Vernal Grass
Lesser Water Parsnip
Heath Spotted Orchid
Common Black Sedge
Long-stalked Yellow Sedge
Devil's bit Scabious
Common Spotted × Marsh Orchid hybrid
Cowslip (in seed)
Speckled Wood Butterfly
Common Blue Butterfly
Silver Y Moth
Yellow Shell Moth
Eristalis pertinax (tapered dronefly)
Syrphus ribesii (hoverfly)
Volucella bombylans (hoverfly - bee mimic)
Jill Bailey and Alison Weaver
A walk along the River Thames 26 September 2013
Three of us met in the pub car park at Bablockhythe. We knew before we
set off that we would be coming back in the dark - and we did! It was
a very calm, still evening with dusk gently coming on. There was very
little noise. A couple of boats near the pub had radios on quietly and
once we had passed them the only noise was birds calling. We went as far
as we could before it got too dark to see the way back. It was pitch dark
when we got back to the pub. There was not much wildlife to report but
we heard Tawny and Little Owls and saw two Grey Herons close up. On the
hedges there were lots of hips and sloes.
Leighton Moss 18-20 October 2013
Our three-night trip to Leighton Moss started well when some of us called
off at Martin Mere Wildlife and Wetland Centre in Lancashire. The sun
came out and after lunching there we spent some time in the Swan Link
Hide looking out on a mass of different birds on The Mere, a large lake
with islands. We were surprised to see so many Whooper Swans at really
close quarters, together with many Pink-footed Geese. From the upstairs
floor of the United Utilities Hide we had good views of three Peregrine
Falcons spaced along a fence and we enjoyed watching them fly, although
two of them looked quite bedraggled after some earlier rain.
We all (13 of us) met up at the The Strathmore Hotel for dinner and the
daily bird count.
After 8.30 am breakfast we all headed for Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve for
the day. Some of us called off at Wharton Crag on the way looking for
Peregrines which we had seen there 12 years before on our previous WOFC
visit to the area. They were not to be found but we did see a couple of
Ravens interacting with a flock of Jackdaws, so we were well pleased.
We enjoyed a great day's birding at the wonderful Leighton Moss Reserve
and the weather was extremely mild and stayed dry until late afternoon.
Some of the highlights were a Great Grey Shrike on top of a middle-distance
dead tree, wonderful views of a Bittern and Kingfisher together and a
beautifully marked and coloured Marsh Harrier shining orangey gold as
it coasted out over the reed beds in the bright afternoon sun.
Late afternoon, whilst watching two Curlews, Sandpipers, Dunlin and Ruff
from the Allen Hide on the coastal side of the reserve, we were keeping
a weather eye on an advancing storm approaching from the sea with thunder
and lightning and heavy rain. We returned to our cars just as it started
and returned to our hotel through quite a downpour which blew over in
about an hour. We were able to talk about our day over a delicious meal
followed by the daily bird count.
On the following day, Sunday, after breakfast we all crossed over the
road to do some bird watching on the approaching high tide due to peak
at 12.45 pm. Morecambe Bay is a fantastic tidal bay with many waders and
sea birds to be seen. The hotel is in a great position for instant birdwatching
right on the doorstep. We spent a couple of hours with telescopes and
binoculars identifying the different birds. The tide came in quite fast
during the morning and pushed a lot of the birds further up the estuary.
Some of us followed them by car a few miles up the road and enjoyed the
spectacle of the high tide filling the huge bay, with the mountains of
the Lake District in the distance - a beautiful area. After lunch taken
at a handy farm restaurant some of us returned the short distance to the
coastal part of Leighton Moss where we had aborted yesterday and enjoyed
more time in the Allen Hide and Eric Morecambe Hide which are both super
large new hides. Our star bird there was a Spotted Redshank and, oddly
enough, I remember seeing one here on our visit 12 years before.
We were sorry to leave for home the following morning after what had been
a super weekend's birding. The hotel had worked out very well in an ideal
position. Some of us met up for lunch and further birdwatching at Martin
Mere on the way home and were lucky to see a White Fronted Goose among
a large flock of Pink Feet which landed in front of us viewed from the
top floor of the United Utilities Hide.
Birds seen (H = heard only) totalled 85 and were as follows:
Great Crested Grebe
Lesser Black-Backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Cetti's Warbler (H)
Great Grey Shrike
Fungus Foray Bernwood Forest 20 October 2013
On what was a mild but decidedly damp morning ten stalwarts led by Peter
Creed had a very enjoyable fungus foray. A total of 63 species were expertly
identified by Peter and carefully recorded by Wendy which was an onerous
task in the incessant drizzle. However, it was a very successful outing
with a number of interesting specimens being discovered. We also very
much enjoyed hearing from Peter how many of the common names for these
fungi had originated and his descriptions of the taste of some of them
has certainly deterred us from trying those specimens for ourselves.
© Adrian State
Otodia onotica (Hares ear) with spider
Amanita citrina False Deathcap Lactarius quietus Oakbug Milkcap
Amanita rubescens The Blusher Lactarius tabidus Birch Milkcap
Armilleria sp. Honey Fungus Leccinum scabrum Brown Birch Bolete
Boletus badius Bay Bolete Lycogala epidendrum Pink myxomycete (slime mould)
Calocera cornea Small Stagshorn Lycoperdon perlatum Common Puffball
Calocera viscosa Yellow Stagshorn Marasmius ramealis Twig Parachute
Cantharellus tubaeformis Yellow Legs Mycena aetites Drab Bonnet
Clavulina cristata White Coral Mycena epipterygia Yellowleg Bonnet
Clitocybe gibba Common Funnel Mycena metata
Clitocybe nebularis Clouded Funnel Mycena polygramma Grooved Bonnet or
Clitocybe odora Aniseed Funnel Mycena rosea Rosy Bonnet
Clitocybe vibecina Mealy Funnel Otidia onotica Hare's Ear
Collybia butraycea Buttercap Paxillus involutus Brown Rollrim
Collybia fusipes Spindleshank Pluteus cervinus Deer Shield
Collybia maculate Spotted toughshank Postia caesia Conifer Bluing Bracket
Crepidotus variabilis Variable Oysterling Psathyrella sp.
Cystoderma amianthinum Earthy Powdercap Rickenella fibula Orange Mosscap
Hebeloma crustuliniforme Poisonpie Russula atropurpurea Purple Brittlegill
Helvella crispa White Saddle Russula betularum Birch Brittlegill
Hemimycena lactea Milky Bonnet Russula gracillima Slender Brittlegill
Hydnum rufescens Terracotta Hedgehog Russula maculate
Hypholoma fasciculare Sulphur Tuft Russula nigricans Blackening Brittlegill
Inocybe petiginosa Scurfy Fibrecap Russula nobilis Beechwood Sickener
Inocybe geophylla White Fibrecap Russula queletii Fruity Brittlegill
Inocybe geophylla var. lilacina Lilac Fibrecap Stereum hirsutum Hairy
Laccaria amethystine Amethyst Deceiver Thelephora terrestris Earthfan
Laccaria laccata The Deceiver Trametes versicolor Turkeytail
Lactarius aurantiacus Orange Milkcap Tricholoma sulphureum Sulphur Knight
Lactarius blennius Beech Milkcap Tricholomopsis rutilans Plums and Custard
Lactarius chrysorrheus Yellowdrop Milkcap Xylaria hypoxylon Stag's Horn
Lactarius deterrimus False Saffron Milkcap
3 November 2013
We had come to see the trees but it was the fungi which took up much of
our attention. Members of the Field Club like to know what they are looking
at. In an arboretum it is easy to name the trees as most of them have
identification tags on their trunks but to find out the name of a fungus
is not so easy. We did not have a mycologist among us but by consulting
the various fungus-identification books we carried we were able to name
most of the specimens we came across.
On the recommendation of the lady who took our money at the entrance we
started our stroll round the arboretum along the Acer Glade for the best
autumn colour. We had not proceeded far when we spotted some very impressive
toadstools under one of the acers which turned out to the Parasol (Macrolepiota
procera). Nearby was another relative giant - a Coastal Redwood (Sequoia
sempervirens) - whose soft bark glowed red in the afternoon sunshine.
A bit further on Penny spotted a rather strange-looking fungus which turned
out to be White Saddle (Helvella crispa). We stopped to stroke the shiny
red bark of a young Prunus serrula tree. As we made our way through the
wood we came across 'The Barn' which is an impressive open-sided building
constructed in the traditional way from timber and roofed with shingles.
On the way back we came to a clearing where there is a very large stump
of what must have been an ancient oak. Looking closer Alison noticed lichens
with fruiting bodies growing on the buttresses of the old trunk. Just
behind, on the ground in front of rhododendron bushes, were lots of yellow
funnel-shaped fungi in various stages of development which were identified
as Tawny Funnel Cap (Clitocybe flaccida). At the other end of the clearing
is a fascinating wooden sculpture which I found out later was created
by Ian Freemantle. Just before getting back to the car park is another
of Ian's works of art - an amazing wooden statue of the Greenman.
We all enjoyed our stroll through the woods on this lovely sunny autumnal
afternoon. Even though the autumn colours were disappointing there was
a lovely ambience here. Birdlife was not conspicuous but we were aware
of tits fitting through the canopy calling to each other. The afternoon
ended with cups of tea and cake at nearby Notcutts Garden Centre.
Port Meadow Walk 15 December 2013
Ten of us met up at the Walton Well Road car park on an overcast but mild
morning for the time of year. A large flock of feral Greylag Geese were
grazing nearby on the southern-most part of the Meadow but were soon put
to flight by an excited dog. Fortunately, the birds that were loafing
and feeding on the almost permanently flooded part of the Meadow were
not distracted by this and other dogs and their walkers. Wigeons, Teals
and Shovelers made up the large flock of wildfowl on the flood, and Black-headed
and Lesser Black-backed Gulls made up the other large flock of birds.
There was also a small flock of Dunlins loafing in a very shallow area.
As expected these days, there was a Red Kite overhead and a couple of
Cormorants perched in a river-side tree. Some distance off several flocks
of Linnets kept us busy finding and identifying them in the grass and
nearer to us Pied Wagtails uttered their 'Chiswick' flight calls as they
flew to and fro. In Burgess Field, a former refuse tip and now a scrubby
nature reserve located between the Meadow and the railway, a few Fieldfares
and Redwings were around, as was a charm of Goldfinches. As we left the
reserve, a Roe Deer was flushed, and then a Woodcock, seen by a couple
of our party. On our way back past the flooded area, a large number of
Golden Plovers in the sky above us were uncertain about landing on several
occasions and eventually gave up and moved off westwards. Our riverside
walk from Medley back to the car park wasn't that fruitful, just Great-crested
Grebes on the water and a few small bird species flitting about in the
trees; but it had been an enjoyable winter's morning out.
Bird species noted:
Great Crested Grebe
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Tew 2 February 2014
On a cold afternoon we set off on a 3-mile walk to look for Winter Aconites.
The first stop was at a small wood in a corner of a field where a track
joined the road. Here there were plenty of Aconites poking up through
the Ivy under the trees and also on the road verge. Walking on to the
second site, 300+ Fieldfares were spotted feeding in a field. The second
site was in the very over-grown garden of a ruined cottage with a large
disused bird-rearing pen behind. Hundreds of Snowdrops were here - both
single and double flowered. Continuing our walk over a field we came to
a man-made lake on the River Dorn, which some of us had to go and have
a look at. We passed the disused walled kitchen gardens of the big house
in Great Tew Park on the way to the last site which was the churchyard
where there were masses of Snowdrops and some Aconites. We then spent
some time in the church itself before we set off back to the cars.
Snowdrop, Common Daisy, Groundsel, White Dead-nettle, Ground Ivy, Primrose
Birds: Fieldfare, Chaffinch, Buzzard, Red Kite
Fungi: a white jelly fungus, Jew's Ear
Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust 9 March 2014
It was interesting to compare the Field Club visit to Slimbridge on 9th
March with the RSPB visit on 19th January. Both days were beautiful blue-sky
days but in March there was definitely Spring in the air and all the Bewick
Swans had departed for their breeding grounds in Siberia. This was several
weeks earlier than usual due to the very mild winter. I see they are now
being referred to as Tundra Swans after the North East tundras by the
Arctic Ocean. Although specially protected, many deaths are inflicted
directly or indirectly by man: flying into over-head cables, lead poisoning
from shotgun cartridges and illegal shooting on migration are all threats.
The loss of traditional wetlands has resulted in 90% of the European winter
population being concentrated on just ten sites in England. In Siberia
the growth in oil, gas and mineral exploration also causes some concern
for the future of this species.
There were still good numbers of White-fronted geese, grazing out on the
fields and these were the European race that breeds in Northern Europe
and Russia and winters in England particularly around the Severn and Swale
estuaries. The distinctive Greenland race is generally larger and darker
with a longer, heavier orange bill and heavier barring on the chest -
these are scarcer and winter in Scotland and Ireland.
We had good views of an early Chiffchaff which was calling loudly and
displaying well in the warm sunshine on top of a bush. Another vociferous
bird was Cetti's Warbler which proclaimed its presence loudly and as usual
was difficult to spot.
Twelve of us enjoyed the day and recorded the following list of birds.
(H = heard)
Cormorant Little Egret Grey Heron Mute Swan
White-fronted Goose Greylag Goose Canada Goose Barnacle Goose
Shelduck Wigeon Teal Mallard
Pintail Shoveler Pochard Tufted Duck
Buzzard Kestrel Moorhen Coot
Crane Oystercatcher Lapwing Dunlin
Black-tailed Godwit Bar-tailed Godwit Curlew Redshank
Black-headed Gull Lesser black-backed Gull Woodpigeon Wren
Robin Blackbird Song Thrush (H) Cetti's Warbler (H)
Chiffchaff Blue Tit Magpie Jackdaw
Rook Carrion Crow Starling House Sparrow
Chaffinch Greenfinch Goldfinch Reed Bunting
Circular Walk from Combe via North Leigh Roman Villa 30 March 2014
Fourteen people turned up for the Combe walk on 30th March and it was
good to have a couple of young children along - Thomas a 9-year-old lad
who showed a great interest in nature, especially 'bugs' and his 4-year-old
sister who managed to walk most of the 3 miles.
As the circular walk included two crossings of the River Evenlode it took
two recces after the unprecedented wet winter to check the route was passable.
On the first one 10 days before, the railway bridge with a tunnel near
the Roman ruins proved to be impassable with a foot of water and the second
one the day before luckily showed the route to be OK with just a little
bogginess in places. On the first recce we managed to see a pair of Goosanders
flying off the river close to the first crossing at Combe and this is
the first time I have seen them there, having walked this route many times
in the past.
The weather on the day turned out to be beautifully warm and sunny. With
thanks to Alison Weaver, who is a very sharp eyed and knowledgeable member,
I have appended her list of what we saw. Of particular note were the following:
20+ Toothwort which were found in the wood above North Leigh Roman Villa
under a Hazel bush, their pink fleshy colour blending in well with the
ground; a Roman Snail also in the wood, very apt to be found just above
the Roman Villa.
Alison also found a small squashed black beetle with a Nematomorpha, commonly
known as a Horsehair Worm or Gordian Worm attached to it. Horsehair Worms
can be discovered in damp areas such as watering troughs, streams, puddles
and cisterns. The adult worms are free living but the larvae are parasitic
on beetles, cockroaches, etc. In short, the larvae have rings of cuticular
hooks that are believed to be used to enter the hosts. Once inside the
host, the larvae live inside and absorb nutrients directly through their
skin. Development into the adult form takes weeks or months and the larva
moults several times as it grows in size. This is an extraordinary life
cycle that I had never heard before which makes fascinating reading.
There were signs of a possible otter close to the banks of the Evenlode.
We made the following list of recordings.
Birds (H = heard): Black Headed Gull, Robin, Blackbird, Starling, Red
Kite, Buzzard, Wren (H) , Chiffchaff (H) , Green Woodpecker (H) , Skylark
(H) , Red-legged Partridge (H)
Plants: Sweet Violets, Dog Violets, Cowslip, Buttercup, Dog's Mercury,
Groundsel, Ground Ivy, White Dead-nettle, Common Daisy, Ramsons, Wood
Anemone, Germander Speedwell, Toothwort on Hazel
Fungi: King Alfred's cakes - both older and newly grown (young ones are
Invertebrates: Frogspawn, Roman Snail, Millipede, Gamerus (Fresh-water
shrimp) in stream
Butterflies: Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone
Trees of Blenheim Park with Ian Gourlay 6 April 2014
Despite a dire forecast a few days before, Sunday turned out dry for our
walk although it was quite chilly in a strong breeze. Twenty people turned
up to what was an interesting walk with fascinating information on the
trees mixed in with local history from Ian who was born and brought up
in Woodstock and obviously had a passion for the area.
Walking from the car park to the entrance through Old Woodstock we stopped
at a house on the left with a plaque on the side. It was here that George
Dempster lived. He was a local tailor who planted the original kernel
of the Blenheim Orange (Dempster's Pippin), a cultivar of a well-known
apple, in 1740 which began to be catalogued in about 1818. It received
the Banksian Silver medal in 1820 and thereafter spread through England
to Europe and America.
We walked down from the Grand Avenue, the original grand approach to Blenheim
Palace which must have looked impressive in its day with stately English
Elms. Sadly these went the way of most elms in the late 1960s and 70s
when 20 million elms out of an estimated UK population of 30 million were
dead within a decade and by the 1990s the number was probably well over
25 million. We could see the remains of the old Elm stumps but they have
been replaced by a double avenue of Lime trees, a strange replacement
which will never reach the majestic proportions of the Elms (why not use
English Oak trees?).
During our walk we were introduced to other trees, like the impressive
specimens of Cedar of Lebanon. A Giant Redwood tree which was only 20
years old but had grown to about 20 feet and looked beautiful with foliated
branches down to the ground (I wonder how large this will become in 100
or more years.). We also saw a 30-year-old specimen of a Cut-leaf Beech
tree, quite unusual and with a pretty leaf. An impressive Alder tree of
well over 100 years of age caught my eye, the largest Alder I have ever
seen. One of the Beech trees had a large bracket fungus protruding from
Then there was the famous Harry Potter tree (a Cedar of Lebanon?) which
was very stately despite having a massive hollow trunk and having been
set fire to by arsonists it still lived and was obviously sought after
by Harry Potter fans and played in by many children, big and small.
Enough of trees! I saw some birds, notably my first House Martins of the
year, flying low over the lake with Sand Martins. There were also several
Nuthatches calling along our walk and I had a good view of one quite high
in a tree.
Very many thanks to Ian for taking us around the Park and also to Alison
for the following notes of wildlife seen on the walk.
Mallard + 9 ducklings
Little Grebe (heard)
Heron. 9 on island
Great Crested Grebe
Sycamore with natural graft English Oak
× 2 Cut-leaf Beech (a sport)
Horse Chestnut Flowers
Addendum to report
on visit to Aston Rowant NNR on 7 July 2013 by Malcolm Brownsward by e-mail
on 15 October 2013
In addition to the butterflies listed by Tony and Alison the following
were also seen: Dark Green Fritillary, Small Skipper, Large Skipper and
Early July always has a dip in numbers of many common species, e.g. Green-veined
White, Common Blue, a week early for Chalkhill Blue and Large White. This
is due in most cases to the early July period being between first and
I was very lucky to watch a Silver-washed Fritillary lay an egg on moss
on a tree trunk at Homefield Wood a couple of weeks ago - see attached
image. The egg is less than 1 mm in diameter!
egg on moss photographed by Malcolm
Derivation of the
In his report on a Club walk from Nether Westcote (Newsletter 97 Spring
2013) David Roberts asked what 'Tattle' means. Well here is the answer!
It appears that the name for the open area now known as the Tattle originated
from the name of the common pasture called Tatwell which separated the
two parts of the village of Westcote which developed at either end of
it. From the 15th century the two parts were regarded as separate entities
and are now called Church Westcote and Nether Westcote. Part of the common
pasture remained open land and became known as Tatwell Green or the Tattle.
newsletters - 98 97
96 95 94