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Diet and prey selection of urban-dwelling Peregrine Falcons

Falco peregrinus

Peregrine by Harry Appleyard, Hazeley Wood, 29 May 2016

Despite extensive research on city-dwelling Peregrine FalconsFalco peregrinus in mainland Europe and other parts of the world, little has been undertaken and published in the UK. We analysed the diet of Peregrines in three cities in southwest England – Bristol, Bath and Exeter – between 1998 and 2007.The wide range of prey species taken included many species associated with a variety of non-urban habitats. Some prey species appear to be hunted at night, while on migration. This paper summarises the diet of Peregrines in urban areas and reviews their night-time hunting behaviour.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Swallow Migration

Swallows are summer visitors to the UK. They start to arrive here from Africa in April. By early June most swallows have started breeding and by July, the first brood of young has usually left the nest and flown away. The parents will normally then go on to raise a second brood, sometimes even a third.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Swallow Migration | When Do Swallows Migrate? – The RSPB

RSPBNBLG Walk – Otmoor 6 July 2019

RSPB logoThe RSPB North Bucks Local Group are leading a field trip to:

Location: Meet in car park, SP 570 126. Space limited. RSPB requests car-share and do not overspill onto lane. From Abingdon Arms pub, Beckley (OX3 9TD), take Otmoor Lane for 1 mile and past firing range.

The RSPB has (with our Group’s support) restored this huge former wetland from intensive agriculture. Summer specialities include hobby, turtle dove and many dragonflies. Three hides but no toilets at this remote site. Paths level, but lengthy.

Walk leader : Mike Bird

Time: 10 am to 1 pm

Price: Free event

See the RSPB North Bucks Local Group website for more information

MKNHS is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites. You should check details of any events listed on external sites with the organisers.

Africa’s elephant poaching is in decline

African Elephant ©Peter Hassett, Mara North Conservancy, Kenya 19 February 2015

African Elephant ©Peter Hassett, Mara North Conservancy, Kenya 19 February 2015

Elephant poaching rates in Africa are declining, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

The annual poaching mortality rate fell from a high of more than 10% in 2011 to less than 4% in 2017, but the researchers warned that current levels were still unsustainable and could spell trouble for the future of the animals on the continent.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Africa’s elephant poaching is in decline, analysis suggests | Environment | The Guardian

FSC Biodiversity Projects

Our current project, FSC BioLinks, is all about invertebrates.  Invertebrates provide us with many useful ecosystem services which we cannot survive without but their numbers are declining. Few people know how to identify or record invertebrates meaning there is a lack of records, making it difficult for conservationists to address these declines. The BioLinks project teaches people how to identify and record invertebrates by providing subsidised training courses, learning opportunities and digital tools to generate more records.

Click here for more information. Biodiversity Projects | The website for FSC BioLinks and more besides

What ‘rewilding’ really means for forestry and heather moorland

The Guardian logo

The Guardian logo

Plantations are an excellent way to combat climate breakdown, writes Andrew Weatherall, of the National School of Forestry. And Rachel Kerr says heather moorland is rarer than rainforest and the underlying peat is more effective at carbon storage than trees

Click here to read the rest of the article.: What ‘rewilding’ really means for forestry and heather moorland | Letters | Environment | The Guardian

Using citizen science butterfly counts to predict species population trends

Linford Lakes NR BioBlitz by David Easton. 24 June 2016

Linford Lakes NR BioBlitz by David Easton. 24 June 2016

Citizen scientists are increasingly engaged in gathering biodiversity information, but trade‐offs are often required between public engagement goals and reliable data collection. We compared population estimates for 18 widespread butterfly species derived from the first 4 years (2011–2014) of a short‐duration citizen science project (Big Butterfly Count [BBC]) with those from long‐running, standardized monitoring data collected by experienced observers (U.K. Butterfly Monitoring Scheme [UKBMS])…

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Using citizen science butterfly counts to predict species population trends – Dennis – 2017 – Conservation Biology – Wiley Online Library

Using DNA Barcoding to Investigate Patterns of Species Utilisation in UK Shark Products

Many shark populations are in decline, primarily due to overexploitation. In response, conservation measures have been applied at differing scales, often severely restricting sales of declining species. Therefore, DNA barcoding was used to investigate sales of shark products in fishmongers and fish and chip takeaways in England.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Using DNA Barcoding to Investigate Patterns of Species Utilisation in UK Shark Products Reveals Threatened Species on Sale | Scientific Reports

Five facts you need to know about ptarmigans

Ptarmigans live in the mountains, and can survive quite happily at altitudes of up to 4,000 feet! To deal with the conditions in this part of the country ptarmigans have a range of fascinating adaptations, which are perhaps most evident come winter. Here are five interesting facts we thought you would enjoy about these birds.

Click here for more information.: Five facts you need to know about ptarmigans – Scottish Nature Notes – Our work – The RSPB Community

Badger facts

With their characteristic black and white-striped face and grey fur, the badger looks like no other UK mammal. Stocky, powerfully-built creatures, they typically weigh 10-12kg, with a whole body length of about 90cm.

Click here for more information.: Badger (Meles meles) – Woodland Trust

Found a baby bird fallen from its nest?

Baby birds are incredibly vulnerable. Without their parents and the relative security of their nests, they are at the mercy of both predators and the elements.

It is little surprise that so many passers-by want to transport them to safety, but this isn’t always the right thing to do. Your decision depends on the maturity of the chick.

Click here for more information.: Found a baby bird fallen from its nest? – Woodland Trust

Bucks & MK Urban Bird Notes – Edition 1    17 June 2019

Sue Hetherington and Bill Robson ©Sue Hetherington ringing the peregrine chick at Aylesbury in 2012.

Sue Hetherington and Bill Robson ©Sue Hetherington ringing the peregrine chick at Aylesbury in 2012.

I’m Sue Hetherington. I’ve been a member of Bucks Bird Club since 2009 when I decided that it was about time I joined given that I was then living next door to where the club was holding its indoor meetings at the time (we have both moved since then).  I remember my first field trip with Bucks Bird Club (to Wendover Woods) with shame – I didn’t even have a pair of binoculars, let alone a telescope!  Oh yes, I fitted into what Simon Barnes has termed “a bad birdwatcher”.  I’ve always been “into” all natural history but birds seem to have particularly invited themselves in to  my consciousness and have tried to take over.  I like all sorts of birds in all sorts of habitats but I have a particular interest in urban birds.  To see what I mean by the term “urban birds” take a look at David Lindo’s eponymous book.  And yes, David is my friend and hero.

It occurs to me that there may be others who share my interest in urban birds so I thought I’d write some monthly notes to share with like minded groups and organisations. This is edition 1!  I’m sharing this with Bucks Bird Club, Milton Keynes Natural History Society, North Bucks RSPB Local Group and BBOWT.

I love seeing birds in unexpected urban settings, I admire their enterprise in finding homes with us especially when we seem to be constantly shrinking their natural environment. It also makes it easy to birdwatch if it can be combined with a trip to town.  I’ve loved seeing waxwings in Aylesbury in those special winters they grace us with their presence.  I’ve also some seen some amazing starling murmerations there.  Come the summer, what could be better than to see (and hear) those most urban of birds, swifts.  My absolute favourites though are urban peregrines and particularly those from my home county.

I know many others share my Bucks and MK interest in our urban peregrines and would like to know the results from this year.  But first to summarise past years’ outcomes

– peregrines first bred on County Hall Tower Block in Aylesbury in 2011 using a provided nesting platform

Peregrine Platform at Stadium MK ©Sue Hetherington 28 April 219

Peregrine Platform at Stadium MK ©Sue Hetherington 28 April 219

– peregrines first bred in the MK Dons Stadium MK in 2015.  At first they used an old crows’ nest but a nesting platform was provided which they eventually used for the first time in 2018

There is no central news outlet for these peregrines so it was not until Mike Wallen, the County Bird Recorder, placed some notes on the Yahoo discussion board called bucksbirders that this years picture emerged.  This is the news that Mike gave on bucksbirders on 7/6/19

Bucks Peregrines- update

Aylesbury County Hall Tower Block.

Bad news complete breeding failure, no eggs, no chicks and it looks like the female has been lost, either before any eggs, or at some stage after. Whatever was there has been predated. There is a male present.  A webcam which has been available in past years was unfortunately unavailable this year.

StadiumMK

Much better news.  The birds went straight to the platform this spring and laid 4 eggs, 3 of which hatched and have done extremely well.

The first one fledged on June 3rd, but something wasn’t quite right and it had to be rescued, fortunately a member of staff there has a partner who is a vet, it was found to be dehydrated. It spent a couple of days with the vet where she (it was sexed) recovered well. This fortunately coincided with Rod Stewart performing so we didn’t have any trouble with Peregrine chicks causing havoc in the crowd. [although several birders who attended the concert reported how much they had enjoyed seeing the peregrines as an added bonus – Sue]

Yesterday (6th) the other two chicks were still on the platform, but exercising vigorously, one nearly came off, but hung on, fledging imminent.

At lunchtime the rescued bird was released at a high point in the stadium and after sitting still for a few minutes it then took off extremely strongly and went straight out of the stadium ! It was expected to return as peregrine fledglings do.  There has never been a webcam on this platform.

I for one have missed being able to follow the fortunes of the Aylesbury project on webcams, as have many others I am sure.  If anyone feels similarly deprived, I recommend the Derby Peregrine Project which has the entry point to almost everything you could wish to know about urban peregrines here  http://derbyperegrines.blogspot.com/ Ordinarily, they too would have a webcam but this too has been jinxed this year (building developments have got in the way of line of sight wireless transmission from the camera on the cathedral to a wireless base station – work is in progress to find a fix)  The Derby website has a list of some of the other peregrine projects that exist around the county (there are lots)

That’s all the Bucks and MK Urban Peregrine news I have.

Turning to another iconic urban bird, swifts, they are back in our towns and villages but many people think they were very late and have arrived in lower numbers than normal. When they made their 6000 mile journey to us from their winter airspace in Africa, it is thought that they hit severe storms in Italy, France and Spain.  It is believed they were badly hit, with many dying through starvation or hypothermia.  We’ve just had a prolonged bad weather spell here which can’t have helped breeding swifts. We hope for the best for these fantastic little birds.  Hopefully we won’t get a problem with grounded swifts (eg fledglings jumping before they are ready) but if you do, there is advice here https://www.swift-conservation.org/SwiftFirstAid.htm

I would add Tiggywinkes Wildlife Hospital, Haddenham to the list of carers, it’s where I would take a swift casualty.  If anyone needs a swift “ambulance driver” I am happy to be contacted on 07972 833 408

I have no news yet on various swift projects around the county, but I can confirm that my swift box (in its second season) has no occupants.  This would seem to bear out the “low numbers” theory as my village normally has a good population of swifts and interest was shown in my box last year.

Good Urban Birding until next month

 

 

Call of the curlew: what can be done to stop its decline?

We are home to a quarter of the entire global population of curlew. If the curlew dies out in the UK, they are in real danger of disappearing from the earth all together. The scary news is that UK’s curlews are in serious decline. The British countryside is no longer a safe place for curlews to raise their young. With too few chicks surviving to fledge, there are not enough youngsters joining the population to replace the adults. We’re facing a future without our wader – that’s if nobody does anything about it.

Click here for more information:
BBC Blogs – Springwatch
RSPB – Habitat management for curlew

Restoring the Lungs of the Forest

In my last blog piece I wrote about the lichen translocation work that we carried out at Tarr Steps National Nature Reserve on Exmoor as part of Plantlife’s Building Resilience in South West Woodlands project, as recently featured on BBC’s Countryfile. This work focussed on the rare Tree Lungwort lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria) – a superstar of the lichen world. This large and vibrantly coloured species has drastically declined due to air pollution and acid rain and the UK has an international responsibility to conserve it.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Plantlife :: Restoring the Lungs of the Forest

Butterfly Id – High Brown Fritillary

This large, powerful butterfly is usually seen flying swiftly over the tops of bracken or low vegetation in woodland clearings. In flight, the males are almost impossible to separate from those of the Dark Green Fritillary, which often share the same habitats. However, both species frequently visit flowers such as thistles and Bramble where it is possible to see their distinctive underside wing markings. The Dark Green lacks the orange ringed ‘pearls’ on the underside of the hindwing.

Click here for more information.: High Brown Fritillary

Saving Black-tailed godwits

At the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science there are around 60 full time scientists working on conservation problems around the world. My team specialise in tackling the problems faced by breeding waders and Project Godwit is one of our big projects over the next few years. This project aims to secure the future for breeding black-tailed godwits in the UK.

Source: The science of saving a species from extinction in the UK – black-tailed godwits – Saving Species – Our work – The RSPB Community

Orange Pine Tortrix ©Gordon Redford, Newport Pagnell 10 June 2019

Moth Notes 15 June 2019

The month of June began with the appearance of some old moth friends showing their faces for the first time this year.  It is always reassuring to see them, to see that they have survived the rigours of the past year and are in good shape to continue. Things have rather slowed down over the past week with the heavy rain, winds and sometimes cool temperatures.  My mothing has been confined to the garden in Newport Pagnell and Linford Lakes Nature Reserve using Robinson Moth Traps (See previous notes of for information about traps).

Oak Hook-tip ©Gordon Redford, Linford Lakes NR 31 May 2019

On the night of June 1st, 294 moths of 76 species visited the trap at Linford Lakes and amongst the catch was a lovely Oak-Hook-tip.  It is one of seven Hook-tip moths to be found in Britain and as the name suggests its caterpillars feed on the foliage of oak trees and the Hook part refers to the wing shape.  It is able to complete its life cycle twice in the year and will be on the wing again in late July to mid September.  

Green Carpet ©Gordon Redford, Linford Lakes NR 2 June 2019

Another on the 1st at Linford Lakes was one of the carpet moths, a Green Carpet.  There are 54 species of Carpet moths and none of them eat carpets.  They are named so because of the delicate patterns on their wings. It too has 2 generations in a year and the caterpillars feed on Bedstraws and Cleavers.

Cream-bordered Green Pea ©Gordon Redford, Linford Lakes NR 3 June 2019

June 3rd was not quite as busy as the June 1st with some 221 moths of 50 species at Linford Lakes.  One that took the eye though was the Cream-bordered Green Pea.  A friend of mine observed that it sounded more like something that should be on a restaurant menu rather than the name fora moth. It is a nationally scarce moth whose caterpillars feed on Willows and Sallows and seems well established at Linford Lakes.  

Ringed China-mark ©Gordon Redford, Linford Lakes NR 2 June 2019

The China-mark moths are emerging and have been visiting the trap too.  There are 4 species:  Small China-mark, Brown China-mark, Beautiful China-mark and photographed here, the Ringed China-mark.  They have aquatic or sub-aquatic caterpillars.  The Ringed China-mark caterpillar feeds on Pondweeds, Canadian Waterweed and other plants and spins leaves together and lives in an open web.

Orange Pine Tortrix ©Gordon Redford, Newport Pagnell 10 June 2019

In the garden this week it was good to see the return of the Orange Pine Tortrix.  It is a micro-moth whose caterpillar feeds on Scots Pine where it makes a silk tube along a twig.  The moth was first recorded in Britain in Surrey in 1945 so it has been here just 3 more years than me.

Text and photos kindly supplied by Gordon Redford. Click here to read the previous edition of Moth Notes

Caddisflies and Molinia

The Case for Caddisflies and much-maligned Molinia.

Over the past few years I have developed an interest in caddisflies – their life-cycles and ecology in particular – thanks in part to the enthusiasm of friend, neighbour and seasoned entomologist Graham Vick. All caddis are tied to water in one way or another by the aquatic or semi-aquatic requirements of their larvae and in Britain the group comprises some 200 species. Larval cases arouse a passing curiosity in most naturalists but the adults must be one of the most overlooked and neglected insect groups going.

Source: Guest blog – Caddisflies and Molinia by Paul Sterry – Mark Avery

Bringing nature back from the brink 

The news from the UN that the global rate of extinction is accelerating – with at least a 20% decline over the last century – caused reverberations around the world when it was published earlier this month.

Although the news shocked and surprised a lot of people, conservation organisations have long been aware of the challenges facing our natural heritage. We caught up with James Harding-Morris of Back from the Brink, a groundbreaking National Lottery-funded project set up to help reverse this decline.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Bringing nature back from the brink | The National Lottery Heritage Fund

BTO – Mammal monitoring

Mammal recording was introduced to the BBS in 1995 with a view to help improve our knowledge of the distribution and population trends of some of our commoner mammals.

Compared with birds, the population trends of mammals are relatively poorly known. Even though mammal recording has always been a voluntary addition to the scheme, around 90% of BBS squares now hold mammal data.

Click here for more information.: Mammal monitoring | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

How connecting landscapes can help hazel dormice

With their soft golden coat, furry tail and big black eyes, hazel dormice are one of Britain’s most endearing but critically endangered mammals.

Our State of Britain’s Dormice report in 2016 confirmed that hazel dormice have become extinct from 17 English counties since the end of the 19th century, with populations thought to have fallen by a third since 2000 – a rate of decline equivalent to 55% over 25 years.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: BBC Blogs – Springwatch – How connecting landscapes can help hazel dormice

The state of Buckinghamshire owls

Due to a combination of a cold, wet spring (the beast from the east), followed by the long, hot, dry summer last year was very disappointing for the owls and kestrels across Buckinghamshire. Many of the birds did not even try to breed and those that did deserted eggs and chicks because they could not find enough voles and other small mammals to feed either themselves or their offspring.

However, in 2019 the birds are really proving to be in the mood to make up for lost time. Buckinghamshire Owl and Raptor Group volunteers have been busy for the last few weeks checking the 700 + boxes located across the whole county and with very pleasing results.

Click here for more information.

Wood Wise – secrets of soils

This issue delves into the deep, dark depths of the soil – the foundation for much of life on Earth.

This issue explores the beauty and function of soil, the fascinating creatures that call it home, the threats to its health, and ways to manage it sustainably for future generations of flora and fauna (including humans).

Click here to download the publication.: Wood Wise secrets of soils – Woodland Trust

Blog – Barberry Carpet moth

One of the strongest recommendations from Mark Parsons and Phil Sterling, the moth gurus at Butterfly Conservation, in relation to #MyMothYear book was that I wrote about BC’s Back From the Brink project to restore populations of a geometer moth called Barberry Carpet. And so earlier this week, Wingman Will and I joined project manager Fiona Haynes and local moth-era Robin and Carol for a nocturnal survey (under license, as this is a legally protected species) in north Dorset. Phil Saunders was there for the first few hours – and netted the first Barberry Carpet. Brilliant!

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Dig It – June Tips from the Secret Gardener

It is such a delight to be in the garden this month – so many plants have burst into bloom that there is a mass of colour and a buzz of pollinators. The Springwatch programmes have also brought brightness to BBC2 and they have launched a big citizen science project called Gardenwatch to encourage people to assess their garden wildlife. It has inspired me to review my own space.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Dig It – June Tips from the Secret Gardener

Our best places for nature are also important carbon stores

Our “carbon in nature rich areas” story map highlights that the best places for nature across the UK also hold massive amounts of carbon. If lost to the atmosphere, this carbon would equate (very conservatively) to two gigatons of CO2, equivalent to four years of the UK’s annual overall COemissions.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Our best places for nature are also important carbon stores – we need to look after them – Martin Harper’s blog – Our work – The RSPB Community

Types of bee in the UK

Spring has never truly arrived until you catch sight of your first bee, but do you know what species it is?

You might be surprised to learn there are more than 250 species of bee in the UK. Bumblebees, mason bees, mining bees – these are just one small part of a big, beautiful family. Take a look at how to identify some of the most common types of bees in the UK.​

Click here for more information.: Types of bee in the UK – Woodland Trust

Plantlife – Road Verges Campaign

“…verges are actually fascinating habitats…because they are these fragments of the surrounding countryside that are preserved along ancient routes…” Most of us are aware now that biodiversity is in decline.

Plant biodiversity here in the UK has especially suffered: wild flowers have been lost from huge areas of Britain, and so have the pollinators and other invertebrates that depend on them. Conservationists are having to look to protect what’s left of our wildlife in areas that may not be optimal, but that nevertheless hold a surprisingly important range of flora and fauna. Along with our gardens, one of those areas is our rural road verges, those largely county council-owned strips of land next to our roads which, according to the UK charity Plantlife, make up a network that is equal to half of the country’s remaining flower-rich grasslands and meadows.

Click here to watch the video (30 minutes)

Festival of Nature 2019

MK Festival of Nature 29 June – 7 July 2019

It is that time of year again! For the fourth year running The Parks Trust and BBOWT (Wildlife Trust) in conjunction with MKNHS are putting on a magical week of wildlife events.

This year the week includes a ‘Return to Nature’ talk by Nick Baker, a Bioblitz event at Howe Park Wood, a Family bat and moth night, a Teens go Wild evening and of course it culminates with the wonderful Nature Day at Howe Park Wood.

To see a full programme of these events and to book go to MKfestivalofnature.org

Help wanted!

As a society we are particularly involved in the Teens go Wild event on Thursday 4th July 7-9pm at Linford Lakes Education Centre (Linford Lakes Nature Reserve) and the Nature Day at Howe Park Wood on 6th July. If you are happy to help for an hour or two at either of these events then please contact me Julie Lane at silverteasel@hotmail.com

Nominations for 2019 Awards – National Biodiversity Network

Linford Lakes NR BioBlitz by David Easton. 24 June 2016

Linford Lakes NR BioBlitz by David Easton. 24 June 2016

There are five categories of awards:

  •  NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Terrestrial (open to individuals 21 years +)
  •  NBN Award for Wildlife Recording – Marine (open to individuals 21 years +)
  •  NBN Group Award (no age restrictions)
  •  NBN Young Person’s Award (open to individuals aged 11-20)
  •  NBN Newcomer Award (open to individuals 21 years +)

Click here for more information.: Nominations for 2019 Awards – National Biodiversity Network

Chicks and ticks

By utilising data from an existing study, David Douglas and James Pearce-Higgins have discovered that Golden Plover chicks that carry more sheep-ticks Ixodes ricinus have a lower chance of survival. Their findings are written up as a paper in Bird Study. The work is only based on a small sample and the data don’t identify the mechanism that leads to increased mortality but, given the current interest in the biological effects of ticks, the findings are interesting.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Chicks and ticks | wadertales

Migrant watch

The Painted Lady butterfly and Humming-bird Hawk-moth are arriving from Africa and becoming increasingly common in the UK. To find out just how common, we need your help.

Click here for more information.: Migrant watch

Peregrine Platform at Stadium MK ©Sue Hetherington 28 April 219

StadiumMK Peregrines update June 2019

The birds went straight to the platform this spring and laid 4 eggs, 3 of which hatched and have done extremely well.

The first one fledged on June 3rd, but something wasn’t quite right and it had to be rescued, fortunately a member of staff there has a partner who is a VET, it was found to be dehydrated. It spent a couple of days with the VET where she (it was sexed) recovered well. This fortunately coincided with Rod Stewart performing so we didn’t have any trouble with Peregrine chicks causing havoc in the crowd.

Yesterday (6th) the other two chicks were still on the platform, but exercising vigorously, one nearly came off, but hung on, fledging imminent. At lunchtime the rescued bird was released at a high point in the stadium and after sitting still for a few minutes it then took off extremely strongly and went straight out of the stadium ! I expect it will return.

Text: Mike Wallen, Buckinghamshire Bird Recorder

Reproduced by kind permission of Buckinghamshire Bird Club

Bee-fly guide: revised version now available

The recording scheme guide to bee-flies in genus Bombylius has been updated to provide some more information on how to distinguish the two clear-winged summer bee-flies: Western Bee-fly Bombylius canescens, and Heath Bee-fly Bombylius minor. (The section on the two pattern-winged spring bee-flies remains unchanged.)

Sawfly ©Julian Lambley, Stonepit Field 4 June 2019

Trip Report Stonepit Field 4 June 2019

A grey damp afternoon and threatening dark clouds set the scene leading up to our visit to Stonepit Field (SP 84489 42160) on Tuesday 4th June 2019, but by the time we gathered the clouds had just begun to clear so the evening ended with bright sun and clear blue skies. Surprisingly, with such unappealing weather in the lead up, around 20 members had assembled to enjoy the visit.

Mike LeRoy gave a brief explanation of the site’s geology and its history since the 1960s. The woodland flanking the Railway Walk dates from the end of the 1970s, part of the New Town ‘advance tree planting’ by Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC). In the early 1990s a MKDC project was implemented to convert a former barley field into flower-rich limestone grassland. A ‘scrape’ of exposed limestone was formed at the same time. More recently, around 2007, two flood-management ponds were inserted into the lower slopes for the nearby housing at Oakridge Park.

Brown Chinese Character moth ©Julian Lambley, Stonepit Field 4 June 2019

Brown Chinese Character moth ©Julian Lambley, Stonepit Field 4 June 2019

Our walkabout started by the ‘scrape’ with Gordon Redford demonstrating use of a pheromone lure to attract Six-belted Clearwing moths Bembecia ichneumoniformis; a demonstration because these day-fliers are known to be present at the site but don’t turn out readily on a cool evening. The next centre of attention was Bee Orchids, which had come into flower on the scrape over the previous couple of days.

We then formed several smaller groups. One led by Harry Appleyard circled the more wooded parts of the site and the ponds in search of birds, and found a surprisingly wide range as this is not known as a bird site. 30 species were seen or heard, including Grey Heron and Little Egret on the east pond, at least two Bullfinch and over 16 Wood Pigeon, as well as two Song Thrush, with one singing beautifully.

Slender Ground hopper ©Julian Lambley, Stonepit Field 4 June 2019

Slender Ground hopper ©Julian Lambley, Stonepit Field 4 June 2019

An invertebrate search group was led by Gordon Redford. The wide range of plants and dense grassland at the site attract many insects and other invertebrates, but far more of them on a sunny daytime than on a cool evening after rain. Over 20 butterfly species are seen in the grassland and on hedges and trees, but not on this evening. Day-flying moths are also seen here and the Burnet-companion moth Euclidia glyphicais seen widely at present. The search group found five other moth species including the micro-moth Agapeta hamana. Several other insects were found including a whole group of Bishop’s mitre shieldbugs Aelia acuminata. A Common malachite beetle Malachius bipustulatuswas found as well as a Swollen-thighed beetle Oedemera nobilis.Several of the common Bumblebees were still flying low in the vegetation.

A tree and shrubs group was led by Alan Birkett. 15 tree species were found and nine shrubs. These included Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus, which is a foodplant of the Brimstone butterfly. A few exotic tree species were not identified, but these were not generally thriving.

Most opted to identify flora, led by Roy Maycock and by searches with Mary Sarre and Jenny Mercer. Although this is largely a created grassland from seeds sown over 25 years ago, other plants have found their way there. Only a few meadow grass species had been sown: these had been selected as ‘low competition’ species, together with a semi-parasitic plant, Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor. This has enabled other flowering plants to flourish. The group found another semi-parasitic plant in small numbers: Common Broomrape Orobanche minor. The remnants of plenteous Cowslip were widely across the grassland and the Buttercups were past their best, but the group found a wide range of meadow flowers including: vetches & trefoils, bedstraws, three plantain species, cranesbills, scabious, white and red campion, and numerous other plants. One of particular interest was the small bright crimson flower on a grass-like stem of the Grass Vetchling Linifolius nissolia. Other plants such as Yarrow Achillea millefoliumwere just emerging.

We had a surprisingly productive evening and found much more than might have been expected so soon after rain. The delight was a site full of flowering plants and alive with small creatures in a fine evening sunlight.

Mike LeRoy

Photo at top of page Sawfly ©Julian Lambley, Stonepit Field 4 June 2019

Bird List

  1. 3 Blackbird – with 1 singing.
  2. 2 Magpie
  3. 4 Starlings – Passing over, heading east.
  4. 1 Goldfinch (Likely more)
  5. 2 Feral Pigeon – Passing over towards new housing
  6. 7 Jackdaw 
  7. 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull – Passing over, heading east.
  8. 3 Swift – Hawking over the woodland.
  9. 1 Chiffchaff – Singing at the edge of the woodland.
  10. 4 Mallard – At least 4 seen, initially passing overhead and pair at one of the ponds later.
  11. 2 Wren – At least 2 heard singing and making alarm calls at perched Buzzard.
  12. 2 Song Thrush – At least 2 present, with 1 singing.
  13. 1 Blue Tit – Heard calling.
  14. 1 Blackcap – Heard singing.
  15. 16 Wood Pigeon – At least 16 seen, mostly passing over.
  16. 1 Collared Dove – Passing over, heading towards new housing.
  17. 1 Great Tit – Heard calling.
  18. 1 Dunnock – Heard singing.
  19. 2 Bullfinch – At least 2 present, with a male seen singing over one of the meadows and a pair in flight.
  20. 1 Buzzard – Perched in woodland.
  21. 1 Robin – Heard singing.
  22. 1 Mistle Thrush – Perched near the canal.
  23. 1 Chaffinch – Heard singing.
  24. 1 Kingfisher – Male, perched at one of the ponds.
  25. 1 Grey Heron – At one of the ponds.
  26. 1 Moorhen – At one of the ponds.
  27. 1 House Sparrow – Male, foraging in reeds at one of the ponds.
  28. 1 Stock Dove – Passing over, heading east.
  29. 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker – Heading towards Linford Lakes
  30. 1 Little Egret – on the Eastern pond

Click here to see the Stonepit Field Park Cumulative Site List of Species

Buckingham Swifts

I was very interested to read all about the activities of MK Swifts in the Summer 2019 “Magpie”. Living at Gawcott, near Buckingham, I am a little too far outside MK Swifts’ catchment area to make a meaningful contribution so I operate as Buckingham Swifts. I find that the most productive study is that carried out on one’s home patch and thus I am getting to know Gawcott’s swifts really well. Gawcott has an unusual “problem” with swifts – we have a huge main colony and at least one secondary colony BUT the big colony is in a horribly dilapidated property. This property is occupied by an elderly couple who have lifetime rights of occupation but there is a messy legal tangle to come when they pass away. The property is falling down around their ears and the assumption is that when they do pass on, the property will be sold for millions to a developer and torn down and redeveloped (yes, it has been reported to BMERC but at best this could only mitigate, not stop, redevelopment). Gawcott swifts thus have plenty of nest sites, they don’t really need my nestbox and accordingly I have not yet succeeded in getting it occupied.

I network with other swift enthusiasts nationwide and use the website Swift Conservation a lot. This is a not for profit organisation run by Edward Meyer.  The site is packed with useful information and has a section for “local experts and groups”. You will see that both Milton Keynes Swifts and Buckingham Swifts are listed here.

Back in summer 2018, I was surprised to be contacted by a lady who asked me “in your capacity as Secretary of Buckinghamshire Swifts” could I design her some swift boxes to install in her church tower. This came as rather a surprise, particularly since there is no such thing as “Buckinghamshire Swift Group” and I would not even be able to put a shelf up! However, through a Swift Conservation affiliate group called Action for Swifts (AfS), I knew of a genius designer called Dick Newell who I put the enquirer in touch with. I did very little else than “signpost” (and organise a crowdfunding appeal to fund the materials) but off they all went and produced a fantastic result at Dinton (near Aylesbury) church.
I have included the text of the report that was eventually posted on the AfS webpage.

Thursday, 28 March 2019
Dinton Church

This is a job particularly well done, so should be an inspiration to others. Back in August 2018 Sue Hetherington got in touch about swift boxes in the belfry of Saints Peter & Paul in Dinton, Bucks. The belfry has large louvres, more widely spaced than normal, meaning that 2 levels of entrances could fit between each pair of louvres. (We did something like this in St Mary’s, St Neots).

After batting photos and measurements back and forth we, AfS, suggested a configuration (see below) which has been very competently adapted and implemented by carpenter Nick Deschamps, resulting in 16 new nest boxes in the belfry. Rosemary Jackson takes up the story:

The Church of SS Peter & Paul, Dinton

The Church of SS Peter & Paul, Dinton

“The idea for installing swift nest boxes in our village church was triggered by three incidents in 2017.

We went to the Rutland Bird fair in August 2017 and there we saw the Action for Swifts display. An enthusiastic carpenter had brought the front of a bank of nest boxes which he told us fitted in his church tower and had attracted a new colony of swifts to his village.

Also, in 2017 there was a study group amongst the churches in my area about the idea of the Eco Church and how we could make our churches more environmentally friendly.

The next summer I found out that the only nest site for swifts in my area had been blocked up and we were then very concerned that we would not get swifts back in the village. Happily, one pair nested somewhere because we had five swifts screaming around the village in August and giving us such great pleasure as they always do.

I decided that I would act to promote swifts somehow. I wrote a book about a family of swifts for young children and an artist friend illustrated it. By amazing serendipity her husband had just retired and was looking for a project to pursue and the challenge of making swift nest boxes and installing them in the church tower fired his imagination.

The Church of SS Peter & Paul, Dinton - 16 boxes installed

The Church of SS Peter & Paul, Dinton – 16 boxes installed

We realized very quickly that this was no straightforward project. After examining the Action for Swifts website and contacting a Bucks Bird Club friend we were put in touch with Dick Newell who developed a plan of 16 nest boxes to fit our very ancient church louvres inside the bell chamber. Nick set to work on the carpentry and all the winter of 2018/2019 worked on 4 banks of 4 nest boxes. Eventually when the weather got warmer, we were able to try a model in the bell chamber, and eventually mid-March fitted the real things, even putting chicken feathers in the nesting cups to get the swifts started on the soft furnishings.

At the beginning of May we plan to start playing the screaming swift family calls to alert swifts coming back from Africa that there are nest boxes here inviting occupancy.

We also plan that, should we be fortunate enough to attract out own family of swifts we will fit a camera into the nesting box and arrange a CCTV so that we can have a birdwatching day with the local school children, setting up telescopes and a laptop with live pictures and information on this amazing miracle bird.

British wildlife is truly wonderful!

Rosemary Jackson, Church warden

Funnily enough, this project did have an effect on MK Swifts. Martin Kincaid had been approached by Newport Pagnell church where they also wanted to put swift nestboxes in the tower. Martin came along and looked at the Dinton project and was suitably impressed (the carpenter had done an incredible job) He tried to contact Newport Pagnell again but the interest seemed to have withered on the vine. However, he knew that the school opposite The Cock at Stony Stratford wanted to put boxes up so he took up this project instead. He asked Andrew Hetherington to construct 4 boxes which he was pleased to do (and to kindly donate). These boxes, plus, I believe some purchased ones are now installed at the school, as reported in the MK Swifts report.

To date, I am not aware of any take up by swifts of any of the new boxes but this is to be expected. It would normally take a minimum of 2 years before swifts will take to new boxes – even with a calling system in operation.

Speaking of AfS, the group have organised the second annual Swift Awareness Week (SAW). This is taking place from 22nd to 30th June 2019. An eclectic series of events will be taking place nationwide and some national publicity will hopefully begin soon – maybe even Chris Packham will be kind enough to mention it again on “Springwatch”! Click here for the Swift Conservation  events map

There will be a small pop up display at the Bucks County Museum in Aylesbury which some of you may care to have a look at if you find yourself in the town during the period.

I’ve not listed “The Crown” at Gawcott as a SAW event but I’d be pleased to meet anyone there during the swift season for a “swift half”. The big colony at the next door building can be observed from there. Late evening on a fine summer’s evening is a recommended time, leading up to around 9pm.

Text by Sue Hetherington 6 June 2019

Click here to read Sue’s article on Swift Awareness Week 2019

Photo at top of page  – Swift at Willen Lake ©Chris Ward

All other photos ©Action for Swifts

Oxford Natural History Museum Swift webcam

Rare butterfly returns after 52-year absence

A rare butterfly has been reintroduced to a site in Derbyshire where it’s not been seen for 52 years, thanks to an ambitious project by the National Trust and wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC).

The Grizzled Skipper has declined by 55% across the UK over the last 40 years and disappeared from its former stronghold in Derbyshire – the National Trust’s Calke Abbey near Ticknall – in 1967.

Click here for more information.: Rare butterfly returns after 52-year absence

What’s Under Your Feet? 2018/19

Help scientists at the British Trust for Ornithology understand the relationship between climate, the availability of invertebrates and how this impacts UK bird numbers and their migration patterns.

It’s easy to take part and children will love being citizen scientists and working outside of the classroom.

Click here for more information.: The Pod | What’s Under Your Feet? 2018/19

Prospects for the 2019 Purple Emperor Season

Purple Emperor ©Harry Appleyard, Bucknell Wood, 30 June 2018

Purple Emperor ©Harry Appleyard, Bucknell Wood, 30 June 2018

The first Purple Emperor of 2019 will take to the air at lunchtime on Friday June 14th, somewhere in Sussex or Surrey. An earlier appearance was on the cards but larval progress has been slowed down by cool nights and evenings during May (at one staged a May emergence was a possibility).

This prediction is based on the progress of larvae being followed in the wild (last year my prediction was less than 24 hours out…).

Click here to read the rest of the article.: The Purple Empire: Prospects and Predictions for the 2019 Purple Emperor Season

Gardenwatch Mission 3 – Bird detective

Is your outdoor space providing the resources birds need to breed (including food, shelter, water and nesting sites)? Watching what birds are doing, their behaviour, can provide the answers. We need your help to find evidence of how common garden birds benefit from our outdoor spaces at this critical time of year. Don’t forget to report back – your observations can help us understand how we can better support the birds and other wildlife on our doorsteps.

Click here for more information.: Mission 3 – Bird detective | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

Plan to return lynx to UK receives fresh boost

Lynx

Lynx

A plan to bring back the Eurasian lynx – Lynx lynx – to Britain has moved a step nearer with research that pinpoints the Kintyre peninsula in Scotland as the place this large carnivore has the best chance of thriving. From there, the research suggests, the lynx could spread to the rest of the Highlands over the next century.

Click here for more information.: Specieswatch: plan to return lynx to UK receives fresh boost | Environment | The Guardian

Flexibility in the timing of post-breeding moult in passerines in the UK

BTO research has used information collected by bird ringers to investigate large-scale differences and flexibility in the timing of feather moult across 15 passerine species that breed in the UK. Different moult strategies were found between migrant and resident species, alongside within-species regional variation in moulting schedules.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Flexibility in the timing of post-breeding moult in passerines in the UK | BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

Lord of the Stings – Wasp ID Guide

There are over 250 species of larger wasp in the UK, but about 6000 species in total, including tiny parasites and gall-wasps right up to the magnificent brown and yellow hornet, one of our largest insects, with quite a reputation. The wasps most of us know are the nine social species, the paper wasps, named from their nests, including the common wasp, the German wasp and the hornet.

Click here for more information.: Lord of the Stings – Wasp ID Guide | Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs & Northants

White stork pair could become first to breed in wild in UK for centuries

White Stork ©Peter Hassett, Biebrza Marshes, Poland 9 May 2018

White Stork ©Peter Hassett, Biebrza Marshes, Poland 9 May 2018

White storks nesting on top of an ancient oak tree could become the first wild pair to successfully breed in Britain for hundreds of years.

The enormous birds are brooding three eggs on the rewilded Knepp estate, in Sussex, as part of a project to reintroduce the species to south-east England.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: White stork pair could become first to breed in wild in UK for centuries | Environment | The Guardian

Butterfly Id: Silver-studded Blue

Males blue with dark border. Females brown with row of red spots. Undersides brown-grey with black spots, a row of orange spots, and small greenish flecks on outer margin. Males similar to Common Blue, which lacks greenish spots.

Click here for more information.: Silver-studded Blue

Microplastics in marine mammals stranded around the British coast

Plastic pollution represents a pervasive and increasing threat to marine ecosystems worldwide and there is a need to better understand the extent to which microplastics (<5 mm) are ingested by high trophic-level taxa, such as marine mammals. Here, we perform a comprehensive assessment by examining whole digestive tracts of 50 individuals from 10 species whilst operating strict contamination controls…

Source: Microplastics in marine mammals stranded around the British coast: ubiquitous but transitory? | Scientific Reports

The selfish case for saving bees

Tree Bumblebee by Harry Appleyard, Tattenhoe 24 February 2017

Tree Bumblebee by Harry Appleyard, Tattenhoe 24 February 2017

When I see a bee buzzing around my garden or in the park in early spring, I get a real thrill from being able to identify her. If she is black and darting among small, white tubular flowers with her long tongue protruding and her legs tucked under her furry, round body, I know she is a hairy-footed flower bee.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: The selfish case for saving bees: it’s how to save ourselves | Alison Benjamin | Opinion | The Guardian

2018’s extreme weather led to a tough year for the UK’s bumblebees

Red-tailed Bumblebee by Harry Appleyard, Howe Park Wood 14 March 2017

Red-tailed Bumblebee by Harry Appleyard, Howe Park Wood 14 March 2017

2018 was a tough year for many of the UK’s 24 bumblebee species according to a reportreleased today by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

The new report summarises trends in the UK’s bumblebee populations, using data gathered every year from 2010 by a country wide network of hundreds of ‘BeeWalker’ citizen scientists.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: 2018’s extreme weather led to a tough year for the UK’s bumblebees – Bumblebee Conservation Trust

E-moth Moths Count Update May 2019

It has been a slow start to the mothing season this year, we had a very early tease of spring for several days in February, which produced some interesting migrants. There were reasonable numbers of Euchromius ocellea reported widely with a first new record for Northern Ireland at Murlough National Nature reserve in Co. Down on 22 February. Another interesting sighting was that of Levant Blackneck near Hayle in Cornwall on 23 February and last, but not least, a Crimson Speckled was recorded on 28 February on Islay, it was the first record of this species for Scotland since 1961.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

May tips from the Secret Gardener

Stinging Nettles

The Common Nettle Urtica dioica has a vigorous spreading root system that brings a sinking feeling to most gardeners. Chemicals are often recommended to eradicate these troublesome weeds but that is a waste of a wonderful herb.

Nettles are important foodplants for the caterpillars of several butterflies and moths. They have also been grown in herb gardens for centuries and can provide many benefits for people too.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Dig It – May tips from the Secret Gardener