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A Visit to the Windrush Valley

A Visit to the Valley – 17 July 2022

On the very sunny morning of Sunday 17 July, a small group of Field Club members set off to explore the flowers and wildlife of the Windrush River Valley. We started at the top of Tower Hill in Witney and headed very slowly in the direction of Crawley looking for plants and admiring the many Swifts overhead.

There was a good number of butterflies, including Speckled Woods, Ringlets, Large Whites, Gatekeepers and one Marbled White. In the top field we found the, now established, wildflower edge of a cultivated field. Because of the weather, some of the plants were past their best but we saw Lucerne, Sainfoin and Alsike Clover.

These species are probably all seeded from old crops once grown in the field. It was good to see the many black seeds of Black Medick, and the Wild Carrot just coming into flower. Sue found us several Brassy Longhorn Moths (Nemephora metallica) feeding on the plentiful Scabious. A marvelous sight. There were many very shiny little green beetles [later identified as Gastrophysa poygoni] to be found also.

Tracy spotted some lovely examples of Robin’s pincushion (Bedeguar Gall). John and Jill also glimpsed an enormous bee, probably a Violet Carpenter bee (Xylocopa violacea) although it buzzed off rather too quickly to be absolutely sure. It was certainly large – almost the size of a thumb! John also spotted a rather unusual fly with a redish body and a very bristly tail; he later identified it very tentatively as a species of Tachinid fly, which a parasites on caterpillars. Jill also thought that she had seen a lizard basking on a pile of stones, but we couldn’t find it again.

We dropped down to the floodplain, which was being cut for hay. Near the ditch the stragglers saw a Fritillary (exact species not known) and a Brimstone. We found plenty of Meadowsweet, Purple Loosestrife, Hemp Agrimony and Gypsywort as we walked along the river. Later we puzzled over Water Chickweed and Marsh Bedstraw found in a ditch along with Water Forget-me-nots.

On the way back from New Mill, we found Common Valerian and some Soapwort, just about to flower. Elaine also found Dwarf Mallow and Fumitory on her way to the car.

Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Kestrels were seen or heard, as well as a lone Grey Wagtail.

By the time we ended our walk we were fairly hot, ready for lunch and a cold drink. All in all a lovely morning with great company.

A full species list can be found here.

Maggie Collins, 19 July 2022