About us



Recent News


Contact us






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

© Ken Betteridge
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 ideas!
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 heavy mortality.
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.
Jill Bailey


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.

Sue Morton


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 Gill Siuda.
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 Tony Mattingley).
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 cake.
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.

Jill Bailey


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 members.

Brenda Betteridge (Newsletter Editor)


Wendlebury Meads 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.

First field
Common Spotted Orchid
Meadow Buttercup
Yellow Rattle
Ribwort Plantain
Red Clover
Common Sorrel
Bird's-foot Trefoil
Quaking Grass
Meadow Vetchling
Spring Sedge
False Fox Sedge
Soft Rush
Dyer's Greenweed
Mouse-ear Chickweed
Lesser Spearwort
Marsh Bedstraw
Marsh Pennywort
Brown Sedge
Carnation Sedge
Cow Parsley
White Clover
Frog Orchid ×7
Common Knapweed (rayed form)
Spiny Restharrow (not flowering)
Crested Dog's-tail
Sweet Vernal Grass
Lesser Trefoil
Tufted Vetch
Cuckoo Pint
Adderstongue Fern
Hoary Ragwort
Hedge Woundwort
Midland Hawthorn
White Bryony
Lesser Water Parsnip
Greater Willowherb
Black Bryony
Herb Robert
Dog Rose
Reed Sweet-grass
White Deadnettle
Hedge Garlic
Water Plantain
Second field
Lesser Stitchwort
Oxeye Daisy
Great Burnet
Common Milkwort
Heath Spotted Orchid
Common Horsetail
Meadow Thistle
Cuckoo Flower
Common Black Sedge
Rough Hawkbit
Long-stalked Yellow Sedge
Devil's bit Scabious
Common Cat's-ear
Marsh Thistle
Common Spotted × Marsh Orchid hybrid
Cowslip (in seed)

Speckled Wood Butterfly
Common Blue Butterfly
Silver Y Moth
Yellow Shell Moth
Other insects:
Eristalis pertinax (tapered dronefly)
Syrphus ribesii (hoverfly)
Volucella bombylans (hoverfly - bee mimic)

Collared Dove

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.

Water Mint
Rosebay Willowherb
Michaelmas Daisy
Water Forget-me-not
Woody Nightshade
Purple Loosestrife
Common Daisy
Hedge Bindweed
Common Fleabane
Spear Thistle

Wood Pigeon

Alison Weaver

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:
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Mute Swan
Whooper Swan
Greylag Goose
Pink-footed Goose
White-fronted Goose
Canada Goose
Red-breasted Merganser
Marsh Harrier
Red-legged Partridge
Spotted Redshank
Black-headed Gull
Common Gull
Lesser Black-Backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Collared Dove
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Meadow Pipit
Pied/White Wagtail
Wren (H)
Song Thrush
Missel Thrush
Cetti's Warbler (H)
Long-tailed Tit
Marsh Tit
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Nuthatch (H)
Great Grey Shrike
Carrion Crow
Hooded Crow
House Sparrow
Lesser Redpoll
Bullfinch (H)
Reed Bunting

David Roberts

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

Adrian State

Fungi recorded:
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 Roof Nail
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 Curtain Crust
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 or Candlesnuff
Lactarius deterrimus False Saffron Milkcap
Wendy MacEachrane


Harcourt Arboretum 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.

Brenda Betteridge

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
Greylag Goose
Canada Goose
Red Kite
Golden Plover
Black-headed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Wood Pigeon
Green Woodpecker
Pied Wagtail
Song Thrush
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Carrion Crow

David Rolfe

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.

Flowers: Aconite, Snowdrop, Common Daisy, Groundsel, White Dead-nettle, Ground Ivy, Primrose
Birds: Fieldfare, Chaffinch, Buzzard, Red Kite
Fungi: a white jelly fungus, Jew's Ear
Alison Weaver

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

David Roberts

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 pinkish)
Invertebrates: Frogspawn, Roman Snail, Millipede, Gamerus (Fresh-water shrimp) in stream
Butterflies: Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone
David Roberts

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 it.
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.

Tufted Duck
House Martin
Mallard + 9 ducklings
Sand Martin
Missel Thrush
Red Kite
Little Grebe (heard)
Canada Geese
Heron. 9 on island
Black Swan
Great Crested Grebe
Tufted Duck

Incense Cedar
Sycamore with natural graft English Oak
× 2 Cut-leaf Beech (a sport)
Limes (Red-twigged?)
Horse Chestnut Flowers
Lebanon Cedar
Atlantic Cedar

Dog's Mercury
Common Daisy
Cuckoo flower

David Roberts


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 Small White.
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 second brood.
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!

Silver-washed Fritillary egg on moss photographed by Malcolm

Derivation of the word 'Tattle'
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.
Brenda Betteridge

Older newsletters - 98 97 96 95 94 93 92 91 90 89 88 87 86

(c) West Oxfordshire Field Club 2013
Terms and conditions