About 25 Milton Keynes Natural History Society members assembled in the Coachway car-park for a visit to Atterbury and a small section of the Broughton Brook on 9th June 2015. It was a cool and windy evening which did not favour invertebrates but we saw 33 species of bird, a wide range of tree and plant species, a few mammals, an amphibian, and some insects. Both Buckinghamshire County Botanical Recorders were on the walk so they compiled a significant plant list of 117 vascular plants, aside from the 20 tree and shrub species identified by the tree group. We also had experienced birders with us who noted 230 birds of 33 bird species. Many joined one or other of the recording groups for the evening, covering: trees & shrubs (Gordon Redford), flowering plants (Andy McVeigh & Roy Maycock); invertebrates & mammals (Jo Handford & Julie Lane), birds (Harry Appleyard & Ian Saunders). Each of the recording groups compiled a species list and these are being forwarded to the Bucks County Records Office (BMERC) and to The Parks Trust. All the areas we walked are managed by The Parks Trust, which took ownership of the site from the Homes & Communities Agency in 2012.
Our route took us on a Leisure path across a bridge over the Broughton Brook, then alongside the Brook under the A5130 Wavendon to Northfield roundabout road. Here we saw a pair of Grey Wagtail (which were still there when we returned). We took a path from the bridge, behind the Regis office building which faces H6 and alongside a meadow. Here there were unusual tree species planted alongside the path, including: Quince Cydonia oblonga and Medlar Mespilus germanica. As we walked around the far end of this a Fox was sighted but it soon slipped through the fence into woodland. Our route was then a series of circuitous grass paths through the Atterbury site which is a complex mosaic of wet woodland, dense scrub, ponds and Willow carr. There were plenty of birds singing and calling. Bird highlights were a Little Egret perched high on a large Willow, clearly visible from the long boardwalk over a drying-out pond by Bressingham Gate. Another Little Egret was circling it above. Then our attention turned to a Kingfisher perched on a low branch, just visible through the reeds. In the pond in front of that there was a quantity of Yellow Iris (Flag) Iris pseudacorus and egg-yolk yellow Great Yellow-cress Rorippa amphibia. From the boardwalk we walked around the outside edges of the Atterbury site, which had occasional wooden posts along it with discs indicating that this is the proposed route of the Bedford to Milton Keynes Canal. We left this route when we reached the Broughton allotments and diverted into a recently-managed area of dried-out pond where Willows, that had grown out of the middle of the pond leaning at low angles, had been cut back to grow again. Here was our sighting of a single Common Frog Rania temporaria.
Our route was then in the more open areas alongside the Broughton Brook. On the west side of the Brook by a footbridge we spotted a large cluster of Giant Hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum. As this is an invasive plant on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 list of species to be controlled, its presence was reported to The Parks Trust. They have been aware of these plants and have been carrying out control measures each year, but it can take years to eliminate these plants from a site. They have reduced the number by about half over the last couple of years. Advice of the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat is that “Contact with any part of this plant must be avoided as even minute amounts of sap can cause blistering of the skin following exposure to sunlight”. We followed the Brook, first southward, then across a footbridge to the old Broughton village, then northwards, back to the bridge over the A5130, under it, returning to the Coachway to finish a very satisfactory evening visit.
The following links will take you to the records submitted to BMERC:
Click on any of the pictures for a larger image.
Photos by Peter Hassett unless captioned otherwise