Category Archives: Other News

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A late Dawn Chorus walk – and many other activities

For those who missed a guided walk on Dawn Chorus day on Sunday 5th May, there is another chance on 11th May at Marston Vale at the later time of 10.00 am (not quite dawn, you might think!) just a stone’s throw from Milton Keynes, over the border in Bedfordshire: Millennium Country Park, Marston Moretaine, MK43 0PR

The Marston Vale website contains news of many other interesting activities, many of them family-oriented, but some more specialised.

Also of interest is the BCN Wildlife Trust website,, which has details of a wide range of activities and events, including their programme of Wildlife Training Workshops, which are open to members and non-members alike.  There are also useful identification guides on the website.

And although MK is actually within the ambit of BBOWT (Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust), much of what BCNWT manages and arranges is as close or closer to MK than BBOWT’s equivalents.


The importance of flower-visiting insects in gardens – Hils Erenler – 24.02.24 – Winslow

Chris Roberts of the GREENER WINSLOW group has suggested MKNHS members might like to come along to this talk on Saturday 24th February 2024,
Local ecologist, Hils Erenler, will talk about The importance of flower-visiting insects in gardens
2.30 pm St Laurence Room, Market Square, Winslow MK18 3AB
Open to all.
Refreshments will be available.

You might also like to look at their website:
The group has 3 aims:
1) To research, promote and undertake activities that help reduce carbon output in the Winslow area
2) To promote and undertake activities that improve local biodiversity
3) To promote and protect local green spaces
They have a wide variety of activities working to achieve these aims.

Photo: Dark Green Fritillary on buddleia  ©  Martin Kincaid

Book now for WT BCN’s 2024 training courses

Booking for 2024 training courses run by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire (WT BCN) is now open to non-members.

The WT BCN Wildlife Training Workshops 2024 leaflet has 23 courses listed, from ‘Identifying Winter Trees’ to ‘Pond Dipping for Adults’, and ‘Woodland Plant Communities’, or learning to use identification keys on an ‘Introduction to Wild Flower Identification’, ‘Introduction to Dragonflies’, and many more.

You can download the leaflet here:

Book early to avoid disappointment. These courses are popular.

STOP PRESS: Applications for the BSBI Identiplant course in 2024 are now open.

The sooner you submit your application for the Identiplant course, the better. Places are limited. This online course has skilled tutors and is run by the BSBI (Botanical Society for Britain & Ireland). The BSBI say: ‘Identiplant is intended for beginners who have some knowledge of plants and are ready to advance from identification by matching pictures and remembering names to a systematic approach, using scientific names, written descriptions and keys. This results in the confidence and accuracy that is essential in identification and leads to further progress, either independently or through field meetings and courses or recording groups.’

Find out more on and on The closing date for applications is 31st December 2023.


2024 Wildlife Training Workshops by BCN Wildlife Trust

The programme for the 2024 Wildlife Training Workshops by the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cams & Northants (WT BCN) has been issued to their members and will be added to their website for everyone else in the next few weeks. The following kinds of day course are planned for 2024, among many others:

  1. ‘Introduction to Winter Tree Identification’
  2. ‘Introduction to Wildflower Identification’
  3. ‘Grasses I : A Beginner’s Introduction’
  4. ‘Grasses 2: Practising Grass Identification’
  5. ‘Pond Dipping for Adults’
  6. ‘Introduction to Dragonflies’.

If any of these interest you, keep checking the WT BCN website:

But check the date of the programme, as currently they are still showing the 2023 Training Workshop programme. Book early because most of their courses book up quickly.

Mike LeRoy
October 2023

BNHS Conference “Freshwater Invertebrates in Beds” – Sat 11 Nov – LAST CHANCE TO BOOK

Stop Press: Last few places, last chance to book for the ‘Freshwater Invertebrates in Bedfordshire’ conference run by the Bedfordshire Natural History Society on 11th November at Marston Moretaine. Good value at £25: seven illustrated talks, and it includes hot drinks, finger buffet lunch and free parking. Book now using the attached booking form.

Bedfordshire Natural History Society (BNHS) will be hosting the upcoming conference titled “Freshwater Invertebrates in Beds” on Saturday 11 November at the Forest Centre in the Millenium Country Park, Marston Moretaine, MK43 0PR.  This one is about Freshwater Invertebrates in Beds (not to be confused with the current news scare about ‘bugs in beds’!) .  BNHS used to run these conferences every two years, so this will be a welcome return of day conferences that have been to a very high standard.

The conference is open to members and non-members, and it would be good if plenty of MKNHS members to go to this conference on 11th November. But you will need to book soon as these events usually get fully booked and tightly fill the conference room at Marston Moretaine Country Park centre. If you do book and can share transport, please do.

Full information can be found through the BNHS website:
Further details and ticket booking form can also be found here.

BNHS say: “If you would like to attend the conference please complete and return the form according to the details featured. Payment is preferred by online bank transfer. Alternatively cheques can be sent – again details are provided.
Once the form and payment have been received an email will be returned to confirm your successful application. Tickets and programme can be collected upon arrival at the Centre.

We look forward to seeing you at this important event.
The BNHS Conference Working Group”

The Big Meadow Search 1st June-31st August

The Big Meadow Search (BMS) is a citizen science project which aims to encourage people to record plants in an area of grassland of their own choice.  The idea is to get them outside, to look at what they’re walking through, and to learn to identify the plants they find, thus raising awareness and interest in grasslands and their importance.  It began in 2021 as an initiative by the Carmarthenshire Meadows Group in West Wales, and was at first only intended to be carried out within our county; but it generated interest beyond Carmarthenshire and beyond Wales too, so we soon expanded it to cover the whole of the UK.

The BMS species tick list is based on the National Plant Monitoring Scheme grassland indicator species, plus additional species of interest from meadows and grasslands – but all plants found should be recorded, whether on the BMS species list or not.  Any type of species-rich grassland can be searched; meadows, churchyards, road verges, amenity grassland.  Obviously, if it’s not public access land, make sure to get permission!

To take part:

  • Select your grassland
  • Record the location name, grid reference and date
  • Walk around and write down all the plants you can see
  • If you aren’t sure on a species, take photographs from multiple angles of the flower heads, basal and stem leaves, upper and lower leaf surface, leaf base shape and either post on our social media or email to us and we will try and help to identify the species
  • Enter your results on our website and once we have finished our BMS analysis, we will send them on to your local environmental record centre (LERC)

You can find lots of information on our Facebook page Big Meadow Search, or on our Twitter account @bigmeadowsearch, or you can get in touch via email on

We have produced a book based on the social media posts containing ID tips using vegetative features for plants on the BMS tick list, and information on some of their associated invertebrates, galls, and fungi.  It’s available by mail order and costs £10 plus £2.70 p&p.  If you would like a copy, contact us on

Our website ( has lots more information, and you can enter your findings directly on the website.  This year’s BMS will run from June 1st until August 31st.

Laura Moss and Andrew Martin

Newt Conservation Partnership – support for landowners

NCP Landowners Factsheet Feb 21We have recently received information about the Newt Conservation Partnership from the project officer for Milton Keynes. They offer support to land owners for pond creation/maintenance to provide suitable habitat for newts. They cover all the capital costs of pond creation or restoration, and a multitude of other terrestrial habitat enhancement works such as tree planting and high quality grassland creation or restoration.

For more information follow the link to the NCP Factsheet.


Avian Flu – H5N1 virus

Just as the threat of human virus SARS-Cov-2 is thankfully diminishing, at least in our corner of the world, there is a terrible avian viral disaster raging. This is BIRD FLU ie the virus H5N1. This isn’t the time or place to explore the subject in detail but in case anyone is wondering what they should do if they spot dead birds (or indeed dead mammals as it appears transmission has started occuring) this government webpage may be of assistance:

In short, the advice to members of the public finding dead or sick wild birds i:

  • don’t touch them
  • call the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77

Defra are interested in hearing about the following:

  • single dead birds of prey (including owls)
  • three or more dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or gulls
  • five or more dead birds of any species


Contributed by
Sue Hetherington
27 November 2022

Fall into nature with Plantlife – events 10-14 October

Plantlife’s ever-popular annual digital events series, Fall into nature with Plantlife, in partnership with Laurent-Perrier is back, between Monday 10th -Friday 14th October.

Plantlife is ‘The Wild Plant Conservation Charity – see
or followthe link below:

View full programme and book your place

We kick off with a virtual walk through some of the world’s most magnificent temperate rainforests with renowned conservationist Dominick DellaSala.

Plantlife’s own renowned woodland ecologist and Lead Community Scientist Alison Smith will give us an introduction to bryophytes and the wonderful world of moss!

Lucia Chmurova is Plantlife’s Conservation Officer on the Magnificent Meadows Wales Project. Lucia will give us an introduction to waxcaps, their identification and management in species-rich meadows across Wales.

Keilidh Ewan leads Plantlife’s work in the Cairngorms and will present her team’s work in partnership with the community and other organisations to help save the rare and beautiful twinflower.

Plantlife botanical specialist Sarah Shuttleworth will help us to understand if we’re looking at grasses, sedges or rushes and why it matters!

Our Brecklands champion Jo Jones is joined by Green Squirrel’s Hannah Garcia for an evening of discussion and creativity, exploring the role stories play in conservation and connecting us with nature, with a special focus on the rare Field Wormwood.

Tim Pankhurst, our East of England Conservation Manager has spearheaded a remarkable conservation partnership success over the last 14 years to restore the beautiful fen orchid’s habitat and bring it back from the brink of extinction. Join him to hear how it was achieved.

Lisa Schneidau will introduce The World Tree: a storytelling dedicated to our beloved ash trees, past, present and future. Ash is one of our commonest trees but ash dieback now threatens our temperate rainforests, where ash trees provide a home for many important lichens.

We finish with Rachel Jones introducing us to lichens. You’ll see them on tree trunks, gate posts, walls and car bonnets, on every continent and in almost every habitat, Rachel will show you how to identify them.

We are sure that Fall into nature with Plantlife has something for everyone, we do hope you can join us. Click here to view the programme – some events have limited spaces. Let’s bring nature to your doorstep this autumn.


BMERC courses on How to Record (and How not to…) -20 and 29 Oct

Annually, and often at the Recorders Seminar, BMERC asks what kind of training you might be interested in which we can help with. One of the questions which keeps coming up in wider conversations is the subject of – “what is a good record, how do I make one” etc?. Clearly wider understanding is key to getting better quality information on all our wildlife. Skills and knowledge of this intriguing but slightly gnarly subject vary, so BMERC has come up with what they hope is a novel solution.

BMERC has hired Keiron Brown – some of you may be familiar with him from his work with the Field Studies Council (  or the Earthworm Society of Britain ( to create 2 short webinars to look at this subject. The materials will also later be made available later as YouTube content as a resource for everyone; the course content has been designed hopefully to suit all levels of interest.

The two courses are designed as a pair, only an hour each, deliberately in the autumn when we may be less active outside (apologies fungi recorders!). They are free to you all but you will need to sign up to get access to them; they are booked using on the Eventbrite platform and will run via Zoom on the day.

Bookings are now open, they are grouped into a ‘collection’  which can be located at

Or individually at


We are keen to get as many people to attend as possible so please do sign up. NB you will need to register for each course separately.

More information can be found in this BMERC leaflet

New microscopy page – Bucks Fungus Group

We received the following message from Penny Cullington, Secretary of the Bucks Fungus Group:

We’ve just set up a new page for microscopy on our website which might be of interest to some of you. So far it has just four articles, two of which were produced for our recent microscopy workshop and were well received, and more will hopefully be added including a gallery. The articles can be printed direct and the ‘Details of some common mushroom genera’ includes useful information for field identification as well as microscopy, so may be of interest even if you don’t have / plan to have a scope.





National turtle dove survey results warn of low numbers, but solutions give hope

The results of the first ever national turtle dove survey have been published. Whilst the survey is as a result of fantastic effort from volunteers, the population now stands at around 2,100 territories, down from an estimated 125,000 in 1970. Although the results are sobering, there is hope for this ‘sound of summer’ resident.

To read more, follow the link to the RSPB website:
National Turtle Dove Survey

Bucks and Milton Keynes Environmental Records Centre Recorders’ Seminar on Saturday 2nd April 2022

This annual free seminar for anyone interested or involved  in recording wildlife in Milton Keynes or Buckinghamshire is being held on Zoom. It can be attended by phone or computer

Booking is essential, and is first come first served. Booking will reserve your place, details of the meeting will be sent to you a couple days before the Seminar. The full programme of the day will be circulated soon.

Book your place here:

There are also details on the BMERC webpage

If you haven’t received any notification you aren’t on the BMERC mailing list.  If you’d like to be included for future events and information send an email to

Red Banded Polypore fungus (Fomitopsis pinicola) ©Justin Long, Linford Lakes NR 26 January 2019

Bucks Fungus Group roundup

As a group member of Bucks Fungus group the Society has  received a report  on this autumn’s activities. If you have found any interesting fungi the pictures and descriptions on the ‘Finds’ site may help you identify  them.

Dear members,

I thought I’d round off our extraordinary autumn season with a quick report. We have seen a remarkable and unprecedented increase in membership this year with 42 new applications,18 of which were for household membership, and I now have well over 100 addresses on the BFG circular list. Support for our autumn programme of walks has been consistently and considerably higher than previously, necessitating the introduction of our booking system kindly managed for us by Jenny Schafer, and we thank you all for your patience and understanding in complying with this. It remains to be seen whether we need to continue the system next year.

Our 14 autumn walks were held with one every weekend from August 29th to November 20th and produced a total of 1150 fungi records, including 12 new species for the county. Numbers were notably low until the latter half of October when fruiting began in earnest, with our last 6 walks averaging 108 species per event. This is a remarkable statistic on several counts: attendee numbers averaged around 30 per event until mid October but were limited to around 20 thereafter, yet it was at this point that the record numbers suddenly increased. Furthermore, in previous years we have ended our programme in early November – when fungal fruiting is often more or less over – but this year we extended it until November 20th to take advantage of the continued late fruiting and mild conditions.

All in all this has been an odd six months for fungi, to say the least! June and July saw many species starting to appear much earlier than normal (this reflected in our ongoing Members’ Finds webpage), but things then came to a halt and though we have often struggled with dry Septembers in recent years the prolonged dearth of fruiting this year has been extraordinary – likewise the prolonged later fruiting which is still continuing.

Since our programme kicked off at the end of August, Members’ Finds has been continuing on our website, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of our webmaster Peter Davis, though limited to those finds made by members over and above those on our walks. Last year – with no BFG walks – Finds topped 500 species from late August to.the end of December. This year we shall probably be considerably down on that figure despite starting in July. The reasons? I’m guessing here: The novelty is wearing off and life has returned to nearer normality with regard to Covid and Lockdowns (though it is evident that we are clearly not out of that particular wood yet). The lack of BFG activities last year coincided with arguably one of the most prolific fungal fruiting seasons in Britain for decades – sod’s law! Consequently folks were fascinated and went out looking and wanting to know what they’d found. Many rarities and species new to Britain were recorded from all over the country – it was a phenomenal year in more ways than one. Moreover this season members have possibly focused on attending our walks in preference to going out on their own, and clearly there has generally been less around to find in any case.

Nevertheless, please keep your photos coming in for Finds! There are plenty of fungi still out there despite the ending of BFG events. Yesterday (Dec 1st) I found Volvariella surrecta (Piggyback Rosegill), a real rarity and only the second time it’s been found in the county – the photos are on Finds. So this is definitely one to look out for at the moment but it only grows on rotting Clitocybe nebularis (Clouded Funnel) which, however, is in plentiful supply everywhere. It would be great to have more records of the Piggyback and I suspect it’s ‘having a good year’ unlike some other things.

We’ve decided against holding our Christmas Walk and Lunch this year: Covid is on the warpath again and our programme was a long and arduous one this autumn. So I’ll conclude by wishing everyone a Happy Christmas and a Healthy New Year and, as I said in my final report, we hope to do it all again next year! I’ll be back in touch if / when we plan any springtime walks.

Thank you all for your support. Keep safe and very best wishes,


PS If you’re interested in learning about truffles, you might like to sign up for truffle expert Carol Hobart’s online talk entitled ‘A truffler’s tale – Hypogeous Historical Snippets & Truffle Fungi in the UK’ hosted by the BMS but open to all. This is on December 15th at 19.30. Go to for free tickets.

Photo: Red Banded Polypore fungus (Fomitopsis pinicola) © Justin Long, Linford Lakes NR 26 January 2019

Mr Ulysses A Vincent and the Big Seal – Matt Andrews

The following story is from a first-hand recounting I was privileged to be present at some forty years ago and it concerns the account given to me in person in 1981 by the superbly named Mr Ulysses A. Vincent, affectionately known as ‘Vinnie’, a botanist who specialised in the recording and photography of Hebridean flora in the 1930s and 40s.

I was involved with the setting up and establishment of Pitstone Fen reserve in Buckinghamshire, near to Tring in the early 1980s;  this reserve later morphed into College Lake Reserve which lies adjacent to (but split by the railway from Euston north) Pitstone Fen and is probably familiar to quite a few of us now.  Pitstone Fen has been left to return to nature in favour of the larger College Lake but still has a good colony of Marsh Helleborines as well as Small Blue butterflies and Water Shrews amongst other little gems.

The late Graham Atkins was the principle driving force behind this project.  Graham worked as a cement lorry driver for the then Tunnel Cement company who owned the rights to quarry this location and he persuaded Tunnel Cement that they should consider their ‘green credentials’ and allow him to develop a small, abandoned piece of their quarry into a wildlife haven…Pitstone Fen. He was subsequently responsible for the founding, setting-up and running of the College Lake reserve. He was an exceptionally energetic and knowledgeable ecologist and we formed a lasting friendship.

During our conversations, Graham kept on mentioning ‘Vinnie’ and thought I ought to meet him as he had such wonderful accounts of his days in the Hebrides.  He was, I believe in his early nineties by then and although fully compos mentis, was nonetheless a physically frail person living in sheltered bachelor accommodation and unable to venture out on his own, much to his chagrin.  Well, we finally arranged a meeting one Saturday afternoon in late 1981 and along I went with Graham to see Vinnie in his charming little almshouse in Princes Risborough.

He was a wonderfully enthusiastic botanist still, full of anecdotes and recounting his adventures in the Scottish islands, in particular the Outer Hebrides where he spent most of the 1930s and 40s cycling around the various islands having got up there by train, bus and ferry and then bicycle. He would take his heavy and unwieldy square-format camera, lenses, glass plates and other paraphernalia along with his botanical recording books, etc., with him and stay at various guest houses up there, braving inclement weather, midges and other privations for several weeks at a time, two or three times a year and all at his own expense as far as I am aware.

Graham kept asking Vinnie to tell me his ‘big seal’ story, to which Vinnie would laugh and self-consciously look down muttering “he doesn’t want to hear that old nonsense” which meant of course, the more they bantered, the more I did want to hear it!  He eventually gave in to Graham’s pressure and said he would tell me the story but on the strict understanding that I was not to consider him anything less than fully sane and he then proceeded with the following incredible account which I have tried to recall as accurately as possible after some forty-one years and without any embellishment.

Vinnie was at his usual haunts one year, he didn’t say which year but it must have been in the late nineteen thirties by virtue of his most active period being then, on one of the long chain of Outer Hebridean islands but with no definite or precise location given.  He had gone out to count Grey Seals on a beach colony overlooked by steep cliffs.  If he mentioned the location, I cannot recall it.  Grey Seals were nowhere nearly as abundant as they are now and monitoring their populations at known breeding sites was carried out by many naturalists who otherwise specialised in different disciplines of natural history.

The time of year was not given but in view of the fact it was a Grey Seal colony, one may assume it was possibly in September or October as he would probably not have been looking for Hebridean flora throughout the winter pupping season.

He had a fair walk to get to the viewing location so went lightly equipped and once there, settling down on a grassy cliff overlooking the seal colony, Vinnie commenced his counting.  He had finished one count and was in the middle of a second confirmation count when he noticed an unusual looking seal and brought his binoculars up again to check it.

His description went as follows “…it was the same size, roughly, as an adult Grey Seal and was laying on top of a flat rock with a couple of seals nearby and with a slip-off access to the sea;  it was mid-grey in colour, possibly with darker blotches, again, similar in appearance to the surrounding seals but had a tapering neck about half as long as the body with a small but well-defined head attached.  It had two sets of flippers but these were clearly set at right angles to the centre-line of the body, totally different to the seals and a short, conical tail…it looked like a picture book illustration of a Plesiosaur.  I watched it for about an hour with good light using binoculars but didn’t have my camera so reluctantly left and went to fetch it.  By the time I returned, the creature had of course gone and I never saw it again, despite many repeat visits, both on that trip and subsequent ones“.

Sadly, Vinnie passed away a few months after this meeting so I was never able to hear this story again or indeed, have another chance to meet this fascinating old man but of course, have never forgotten this account of his ‘dinosaur sighting’!!

I suppose we must take this as another unconfirmed report of a strange and unfamiliar animal with no photographic evidence and no other eye-witness accounts. Nonetheless, I feel this is an account worthy of note purely because when I met Vinnie, he was an experienced field naturalist, clear and concise in his accounts of Hebridean botanical treasures, was clearly totally aware of his frailties but also of his mental state which was in excellent order;  finally, his story was short, modestly recounted and from Graham’s comments later, the same as it had always been and not added to for effect or to make it more believable. He was very bashful when starting the story but was absolutely convinced of what he saw.

I have tried to find Vinnie through various means both electronic and previously though library records, etc., but to no avail.  I would love to be able to pin down his Hebridean records of course, but sadly, until now, I have remained unsuccessful.

I must confess to being somewhat sceptical when the so-called Loch Ness Monster is attributed to a long-lost, land-locked plesiosaur-like creature.  Food availability, extremely low loch temperatures, a lack of numbers for breeding thus leading to inbreeding and eventual extinction make this improbable – and of course, the likelihood of a colony of large animals, reptilian or whatever, or their remains evading human sightings for thousands of years since the loch formed as a separate entity with no ready sea access and in such a restricted environment is so low as to be practically non-existent!  However, a reptile used to the colder temperatures of the open oceans and who is either living in these northern latitudes or indeed, is perhaps a Gulf Stream stray who wandered away from its normal home and found itself in a seal colony miles from its normal home much as a rare migrant bird, sea turtle or cetacean turns up in unexpected circumstances, might well be more plausible.

Saltwater Crocodiles swim many miles in the south Pacific and must often experience low sea temperatures too, yet still manage to not only survive but turn up at locations where they are not expected…!  I have seen for myself Monitor Lizards swimming to shore in Borneo from distant, barely visible shores and of course, Saltwater Iguanas have evolved a coping strategy for cold-water immersion, albeit for short periods in the Galapagos.  I have watched Loggerhead Turtles in the cold waters of the Mediterranean as well as Leather-back Turtles heaving themselves out of the Caribbean onto remote northern Trinidadian shores. Reptiles and some very large ones, can and do thrive in our oceans.

I sent this account off to Adrian Shine, who is the president of the Loch Ness Project and has featured many times on television as the principal collector of ‘monster’ stories and in particular Loch Ness’s very own and well known phenomena.  Although not able to take this account as being authentic, he is at the moment investigating Scottish west coast ‘monster’ sightings and felt this was noteworthy to the extent he has submitted it to the Highland Archive in Inverness. Plesiosaurs disappeared from the fossil records around sixty-six million years ago, the same time that Coelacanths disappeared … until they were ‘discovered’ in 1938 off the South African coast and latterly, the Indian Ocean too!  They are absolutely identical to Coelacanth fossils set down four-hundred and ten million years ago – so why not Plesiosaurs too?

Something to ponder upon and perhaps indicative of what amazing creatures remain ‘out there’ for us yet to discover…who knows what may turn up on Rebecca or Alan’s trail cameras in Simpson Stream or elsewhere in Milton Keynes?!

Matt Andrews
September 2021

Bucks Fungus Group walks update

Penny of Bucks Fungus Group has confirmed that members of MKNHS are welcome to join this walk, which is otherwise for BFG members only.  MKNHS as an organisation is a member of BFG, but you MUST BOOK IN ADVANCE mentioning that you are a member of MKNHS.

For further information and information about the booking system go to

This system has been put in place because of a recent large increase in attendance at BFG events, and concerns about health and safety issues. Numbers are being limited to 18 at any one walk.

Identifying Harvestmen – video from the Field Studies Council

Harvestman photo (courtesy Peter Hager CC0 Public Domain)

Just because something has 8 legs and is running around your house or garden, it doesn’t mean that you are necessarily looking at a spider!

Harvestmen are part of the order known as Opiliones, a sister order to the spiders (Araneae) within the class Arachnida. Unlike spiders, harvestmen have a turret on their had (an ocularium) with a single pair of eyes. They also don’t have venom glands or build webs. It’s their long legs that give them away though!

There are 30 species of Harvestmen in Britain and Ireland and they’re not too difficult to identify (for an invertebrate group). The Harvestmen Identikit is an online interactive guide to help identify species or learn about the features that can be used to separate the different taxa in the field.

Explore the Harvestmen Identikit here:

View the virtual ‘How to’ guide on our YouTube channel:



The Nightingale: Notes on a Songbird – Sam Lee at MKLitFest Thursday 7 Oct

As part of MK’s Literary Festival, MK LitFest, folk musician Sam Lee will be talking over Zoom on October 7 at 8.30pm about his recent book ‘The Nightingale’.

Tickets are available on a ‘pay what you can basis’ via the website:

Throughout history, the sweet song of the nightingale has inspired musicians, writers and artists around the world. In his new book, The Nightingale: Notes on a Songbird [Cornerstone, 2021], Sam reveals in beautiful detail the bird’s song, habitat, characteristics and migration patterns, as well as the environmental issues that threaten its livelihood.

From Greek mythology to John Keats, to Persian poetry and ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’, he delves into the various ways we have celebrated the nightingale through traditions, folklore, music, literature, from ancient history to the present day. The Nightingale is a unique and lyrical portrait of a famed yet elusive songbird.


Natural History Live Webinars – Free Virtual talks (FSC)

The Field Studies Council have several Natural History Webinars coming up that explore the secrets of the underwater world and its inhabitants. All their upcoming talks are listed below – including those on a range of non-marine topics, such as rewilding; monitoring England’s upland hay meadows; grasshoppers and crickets, and more.

For Our Iconic Seal’s: Think Seal! they will be joined by Sue Sayer, who is an internationally renowned researcher and author, and founder of Cornwall Seal Group. Sue will share her thoughts and knowledge gained from years of studying and watching these fantastic animals.

The second marine-based Natural History Live in October is all about How Scotland Protects the Largest Skate of Europe. For this talk, they will be joined by Tanja Schwank, who is a PhD researcher at the University of Aberdeen. Tanja will discuss the biology and conservation of the critically endangered Flapper Skate, as well as the citizen science used to help monitor the species.

These FREE virtual talks are open to all.

2021 Natural History Live Programme

  • 29 Sep    The Tanyptera Project
  • 06 Oct     Restoring Wilder Worlds: Rewilding & Species Reintroductions
  • 13 Oct     Our Iconic Seals: Think seal!
  • 20 Oct     How Scotland Protects the Largest Skate of Europe
  • 27 Oct     Wildlife Tracking for Conservation
  • 03 Nov    Save Our Seabed by restoring, educating and reducing recreational pressure
  • 10 Nov    Knepp Wildland: Rewilding and invertebrates
  • 17 Nov    Monitoring England’s Upland Hay Meadows
  • 26 Nov    Grasshoppers and Crickets
  • 01 Dec    Protecting the Health of Britain’s Rarest Wildlife: Veterinary contributions in conservation
  • 10 Dec    Gardening for Wildlife: How To Welcome Frogs, ‘Hogs and Everything In-between!

Missed a previous Natural History Live? You can watch  them on FSC Biodiversity YouTube channel.

Click here for more information and to book:

Spotlight on… Fungi Field Skills (Field Studies Council course)

The Field Studies Council is offering a new online course, timed for the fungi season.

They say “This beginners course is a starting guide to the skills required to begin identifying fungi in the field. You will learn valuable observational field skills; what to look for, what to record and how to record it. Looking at habitat, substrate and how the fungus interacts with its surroundings, this is the perfect course for novices looking to learn more about the fungi around them and start to identify fungi groups.”

Course information:
Fungi enthusiasts and beginners will explore the techniques for identifying fungi in the field through the following topics:

  • Fungi Field Skills: Field notes, understanding habitat and field equipment
  • Field Identification Skills

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Record useful field notes and use the correct equipment to safely collect fungi
  • Make accurate habitat and substrate observations
  • Understand key morphological features to begin a fungus identification
  • Share this knowledge with friends, family, and fellow volunteers

This 2-week online course covers 2 topics, for which you will complete a variety of online resources and activities. Each topic is then concluded with an interactive Zoom workshop to complement the content.

Please note that bookings will close at 9 am on Monday 11th October to allow for all participants to be enrolled to the online platform – booking will not be taken after this time.

Each individual needs to place their own order to ensure we can sign you up to the learning platform and give you access to resources.

Find out more and book your space on Fungi Field Skills

If you are aged 18-25, you are eligible for a £25 discount thanks to the Generation Green project, click here to find out more.


Bucks Fungus Group: Sat 18th Sept at Stoke Common, Sun 26th Sept at Hodgemoor Woods

Herewith a last minute reminder from Bucks Fungus Group for their walk at Stoke Common this coming Saturday, September 18th:

‘As the event forms part of our funded project for the City of London, owners of both this site and Burnham Beeches, we may extend into the afternoon if there’s been enough rain to trigger good fungal action. So if you’d like to stay on please bring a packed lunch in case. If we have enough specimens to make it worthwhile we hope to hold an informal ‘show and tell’ at the end of the morning.

Please take note of parking arrangements etc online at .

The following weekend we visit Hodgemoor Woods on Sunday, September 26th.’

Unless otherwise stated, BFG walks start at 10.00 am, and finish around 1.00 pm.

National Harvest Mouse Survey 2021-22

Can YOU help Britain’s harvest mice?

The Mammal Society is conducting a National Harvest Mouse survey in 2021-22. Full details can be found here:

If you are interested in being involved in the National Harvest Mouse Survey as a volunteer, trainer, or coordinator in your area, please fill out the short form here so we can add you to our list and keep you posted on the survey. You can also email the team on 


Bucks Fungus Group – Walks and Meetings

Buckinghamshire Fungus Group (BFG) have recently announced their Autumn/Winter programme of Fungi Walks and Meetings.  These begin on Sunday August 29th with a visit to Bernwood Forest on the Bucks/Oxfordshire border, followed by Ivinghoe Common on Saturday September 4th.

You can find full information on the BFG website:

Note that their walks are all arranged for BFG members only this year (2021), but if you’d like to go on a particular walk but are not yet a member, joining is very cheap and very easy: just click here.

All are most welcome – especially families – and no previous experience is needed.

Unless otherwise stated, walks start at 10.00 am, and finish around 1.00 pm.If weather conditions are bad (very windy, frosty or snowy) it would be wise to check with the leader before setting out.

With thanks to BFG for the information, and to Joe Clinch for drawing this to our attention.

BCN Wildlife trust update – £8m award for Great Fen

Thanks to Peter Meadows for bringing to our attention this news from Beds, Cambs and Northants Wildlife Trust :

Peatland Progress Heritage Horizon Award

We are delighted to announce that the National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire an £8m Heritage Horizon Award!
This funding will means that the Great Fen can expand our pioneering work of peatland preservation vital for combatting climate change and reducing carbon emissions. We will also be working closely with young people, showing them that climate change is being tackled on their doorstep and empowering them to take action.

MKNHS Publicity: Facebook and Instagram

This is to announce that Milton Keynes Natural History Society has taken a small step into the world of Social Media, through the establishment of Facebook and Instagram accounts.

The Facebook and Instagram icons will shortly be added to the website’s sidebar. But for more information about how the Society will be using these social media tools, and how to access them,  please follow this link:

MKNHS Publicity – Facebook and Instagram

Sue Hetherington, MKNHS Publicity Coordinator
July 2021

The best bits of Bucks geology – a talk by Jill Eyres

Please see below information on the next up-and-coming Bucks Geology Group free Zoom talk on Thursday 1st July from 5-6pm

Dr Jill Eyers will be talking about “The best bits of Bucks geology “.  A lively virtual field trip from top to toe of Buckinghamshire showing the best locations to see geology. The tour travels from tropical Jurassic seas to the freezing tundra of the Ice Age, and the tour bus stops at all your favourite places.

The details of the Zoom talk are copied below, please keep these somewhere safe as you will need them to log in!

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 853 9537 4055
Passcode: 693313


Julia Carey
Senior Environmental Records Officer
on Behalf of Bucks Geology Group

Lestes sponsa

News from the Forest of Marston Vale

Peter Meadows has suggested that the following news items from the Forest of Marston Vale (drawn from their monthly e-newsletter) may be of particular interest to members:

There is a list of their May wildlife sightings. 

This should perhaps be more accurately titled ‘May bird sightings’, but there is clearly much more than birds to be seen in the park, as the second item reveals:

Dazzling dragons and damsels – a guide to these wetland wonders
A total of 11 species of dragonfly and eight damselfly species have been recorded at the park in recent years, and this article gives some information about their lifecycle, and the differences between them.

Featured photo of an Emerald Damselfly in Tattenhoe Park 21.06.16 © Harry Appleyard, from the MKNHS archive

Introduction to Invertebrates with Brian Eversham 12 May (BCN online event)

Discover the diversity and importance of invertebrates and learn how to identify them

BCN Wildlife Trust are offering an online event to both members and non-members on Wednesday 12 May 19.00-20.30 (with optional outdoor event on Saturday 16 May). Full details through the link below.

This workshop will introduce the diversity of invertebrates, and demonstrate how important they are for conservation and ecology. We will explore which kinds of invertebrate are most important in which habitats, and how their lifestyles make the different groups useful for understanding and monitoring nature reserves. You will see the sorts of features used in identifying species in different groups, and point the way to studying any chosen group in more detail. There will be a summary of the range of books, keys and websites which are available, in addition to the basics of photography for identification purposes.

There is the opportunity of a visit to Old Sulehay nature reserve, Northants, on Sun 16 May. in a small group(s). See ticket options.


Art competition launched to highlight the plight of the nation’s floodplain meadows

A floodplain meadow in bloom

Budding artists of all ages are being asked to take part in a national arts and crafts competition to help raise awareness of the UK’s diminishing floodplain meadows.

The OU and the Floodplain Meadows Partnership have launched the competition encouraging people to visit a local floodplain and create a piece of art that represents the importance and beauty of these natural habitats.

Anyone can enter the competition and judges are hoping artists will use a wide variety of art and crafts to capture the floodplain meadows, from sketches and paintings through to sculptures, ceramics and even video.

Artists are encouraged to be as creative as possible whilst also thinking about the role of floodplain meadows in managing climate change, their role in nature, and the contribution of floodplain meadows in a sustainable agricultural system.

For more information and how to get involved go to:

“Your Forest”

The following information may be of interest about a new project about urban forests, woodlands and parks, which an organisation called Wild Rumpus has just launched in Milton Keynes (and eslewhere), in association with local radio stations – here, Secklow Radio 105.5. There are short talks by naturalists, as well as an opportunity to contribute sound recordings.

“We’ve brought together a network of community radio stations throughout England to broadcast a special series about urban forests and trees – looking at how important these green areas to communities living in and around towns and cities.

You can listen to the series as it goes out, via our website or tune into your local radio station, Secklow 105.5, for more info.

As part of the project, we’re creating a unique sound map of recordings from local parks, woods or forests. We’re inviting people to go to their local area of trees, record a minute of sounds on their phone and then submit it to be part of the map. It’s really easy to do and explained on the ‘Your Forest’ website

Kiran Chittazhathu

A book recommendation from Bucks Fungus Club

The following notice was sent recently to Bucks Fungus Club members, forwarded here in case it’s of interest to MNHS members:
“As I know quite a few of you have copies of the first two volumes of Geoffrey Kibby’s Mushrooms and Toadstools, I thought you might like to know that vol 3 is now complete and will be available in May. However, you can order it from Summerfield Books now at a slightly reduced price (£37 instead of £42) at

This volume covers those Agarics having darker spores including Agaricus, Psathyrella, Stropharia, Cortinarius and more, though volume 4 is planned to complete the coverage.
If you’ve not yet come across this series it is one well worth investing in. The volumes are probably just too big to fit in a pocket as a field guide but contain many useful field tips, are simple and easy to understand and Geoffrey’s excellent paintings show salient features really well. Basic microscopic details are included in his descriptions and he uses the up-to-date names but with synonyms given – all in all they provide an extremely useful general reference guide for use at home.”

Earth Optimism: 26 March – 4 April 2021

An online event aimed at those of you who’d like some positive news, which comprises a number of public events available through the Earth Optimism website – linked with Cambridge Conservation:

The event organisers say “In these unprecedented and difficult times, we need optimism more than ever – to uplift us, inspire us, and help us build a new path forward. The #EarthOptimism movement brings people together to talk about what’s working to protect the future of our planet. Through Earth Optimism, we invite you to learn what is working in conservation and why. Discover how every one of us can become more involved in the fight to protect the natural world.”




Online Events from BCN Wildlife Trust

Below are brief details of two potentially interesting online events coming up, both available through the BCN website: BCN Events and Experiences

A view across Rymes Reedbed on World Wetlands Day - Great Fen

The Climate: The Landscape: The Future – The Great Fen response to a changing climate


Join Brian Eversham, CEO Wildlife Trust BCN, and Kate Carver, Great Fen Project Manager, for an informative evening discussing climate change and how the Great Fen is responding.

Bechstein's bat

Online talk: Calling in the dark- developing tools and infrastructure for large-scale acoustic monitoring of wildlife, by Dr Stuart Newson

7 – 8.30pm

In this talk, Dr Stuart Newson explains how his pioneering bat work is improving our understanding of bats, bush-crickets and more.

A new grant for Bucks Fungus Group

Bucks Fungus Group have just announced that they have been awarded a three year grant of £9700 by the City of London Corporation to apply DNA sequencing to the study of fungal diversity at their two Buckinghamshire sites, Burnham Beeches and Stoke Common.

The State of Britain’s Larger Moths 2021

The report on The State of Britain’s Larger Moths 2021 is now available from Butterfly Conservation (link below). It  summarises current knowledge of the state of Britain’s c.900 species of larger moths, presenting analyses of long-term change based on millions of records gathered through the Rothamsted Insect Survey (RIS) and National Moth Recording Scheme (NMRS).




HS2 – an item of better news

Architect’s impression of how the HS2 rail tunnel will be integrated with the Colne Valley Western Slopes. (Photograph: Courtesy of Grimshaw Architects)

The Guardian reports (in an article by Patrick Barkham) on the plan announced this week to rewild 127 hectares around its 10-mile tunnel through the Chilterns:”

The area is to be seeded with 70 grass and flower species and planted with native trees to create wood pasture,

More free online talks! London NHS and ZSL

A couple of opportunities for those who are interested:

London Natural History Society is offering a free, online series of talks on Thursday evenings at 18.30.  To view the programme and register for any of them, follow the link.

Also, the Zoological Society of London is offering a series of lunchtime talks in February and March which you can either join, or watch on YouTube after the event. Go to:

Bucks Urban Peregrines – an update

Here’s a note taken from a Bucksbirding googlegroup posting from our County Bird Recorder about BUCKS URBAN PEREGRINE PROJECTS.  This is such great news for us all, especially peregrine fans! So, we have two MK sites for people near enough to keep an eye on during local exercise walks and a webcam hopefully coming on stream at Aylesbury again that we’ll all be able to watch from the comfort of home. [Sue Hetherington]

I thought I’d bring you up to speed with our breeding/ territorial Peregrines as I’m sure we could all do with some positive news during these tough times.

Pair in residence and little doubt they’ll utilise the platform inside.

Old Wolverton
On-going project to erect a platform on the chimney, currently at the meetings and planning stage, hopefully progress soon.

New cameras are being purchased, one with sound and both with night vision. With the kind assistance of a local ‘internet’ firm we hope to have these up and running and a nice clean platform within a couple of weeks. I’ll update when there’s developments.

Marlow (Church)
Project being run by ‘Wild Marlow’, a platform is currently being constructed and the plan is to have camera’s on that too.You will not be able to see the platform from the outside.

High Wycombe (Church)
Project with Dave Parmenter, we added some gravel to a hoped for nest site last year, and have plans to improve the site but Church currently closed due to the pandemic.

There are Peregrines, including pairs at other sites in the county. A favoured nest site in rural areas is pylons (old crows nests), so please be careful when submitting records to GoingBirding database at times when the species is not ‘blocked’.
Putting a record in for the site/ area can be really useful, but if there’s a pair around then please leave out- Pylon.

Good Birding

Mike Wallen
County Bird Recorder

BMERC’s Photo Competition 2021

For those who have been fired up by this year’s MKNHS Photo Competition, and wondering where else to submit your photos, BMERC’s Photo Competition 2021may be just the opportunity for you – see the details below extracted from their email to Recorders. Submission deadline is Monday 1st March.

You might also like to view the winners of the Natural History Museum’s People’s Choice Award 2021, for which the public can vote among 25 photos selected from the 49,000 entries to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition:  peoples-choice

BMERC wrote:

Dear Recorders
As we quite rapidly approach this year’s Recorders Seminar the whole BMERC Team are focussed on all manner of preparations, a key one currently is this year’s Photo Competition.  We are keen to encourage entries be they from total beginners dabbling in the visual arts to those of you who have been keen on the media for many years in a non-professional way; all are welcome.  Its free to enter; there are prizes!

So, as they days start to lengthen and all our thoughts turn to looking for spring, how about we dig out those hidden gems and give them a gentle airing. The deadline for submissions is March 1st. This year we have gone for a broader theme to give everyone more flexibility – “The Beauty and Magnificence of Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes: 2020 and beyond”.

To enter please fill in the attached form, rules and  conditions are explained on the second page. The form along with your photos should be  sent to   Please clearly mark the email as a Photo Competition Entry.

Both the guidance and the entry form are attached to this email, but can also be downloaded from the BMERC website at

[The last link contains all the details for the BMERC Recorders Seminar, scheduled for Saturday 13th March, 2021.]

Best wishes
Julia Carey and The BMERC Team.
Environment Team, Planning, Growth and Sustainability Directorate
Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Environmental Records Centre (BMERC)
Buckinghamshire Council, 6th Floor, Walton Street Offices, Walton Street, Aylesbury HP20 1UY
Tel:            01296 382431

North Bucks Bat Group – Winter meetings offer for MKNHS members

Our friends at North Bucks Bat Group have very generously offered free admittance to any of the remaining talks from their winter programme to MKNHS members.   Their programme can be found here. The final meeting, on 21st April 2021 might be of particular interest as it is about the “Bats in Churches” project that I have mentioned several times.

If any member is interested, please email Rhona Bate at stating which talk(s) are of interest.  Rhona will then add you to the mailing list for when she sends out the invite for that particular talk or talks.

Sue Hetherington


BCN Wildlife Trust online events in February

Peter Meadows has kindly drawn to our attention the latest Beds, Cambs and Northants Wildlife Trust eNewsletter which includes information about two online talks in February;

Wednesday 10 February 2021, 7.30pm – 9.30pm
KBAs for Conservation: Lessons from Africa and Applications to Britain (Online Talk)   Identifying key biodiversity areas for conservation from Africa & applying them to Britain by Andy Plumptre.

Wednesday 17 February 2021, 7.00pm – 8.30pm
Flies: The good, the bad and the ugly
with John Showers (online and optional outdoor).  Come and join John Showers online as he shares some interesting facts about flies and their ecology.

You can book through the link above, or by going to the events page on the BCN website

Nature 365 – daily wildlife videos

A photographer friend has also recommended the Nature 365 website to me. When you sign up you will receive one email a day for the whole of 2021 showing a video clip of wildlife in Minnesota and elsewhere around the world.

The following link gives a flavour of what to expect:
Alternatively, go to the Nature 365 website, and select ‘Archives’, where you will find the video clips so far posted this year.

I am looking forward to it and think it is something that others might enjoy as well. We all need uplifting moments in nature at present and as we can’t travel far from our local patch this is a way of escaping into the wild without actually leaving our homes.

Julie Lane

(Photo © Jim Branderburg)


Two links from Sue Hetherington: BMERC newsletters and E-W Rail link

BMERC Newsletters

Sue has suggested that the BMERC newsletters may be of interest to members – these are a relatively new development, since the first lockdown.  For example, the latest issue (Autumn 2020) includes a great write up about the activities of the North Bucks Dormouse Group, among others of interest (not least one written by Sue.)

You can sign up to receive these newsletters on a regular basis, contacting BMERC.

East-West Rail: Environmental surveys underway

For those who are interested in, or concerned about, the potential environmental impact of the East-West Rail link between Oxford, MK, Bedford and on to Cambridge, their website is very informative about plans and progress.

Of particular interest may be the environmental surveys they are conducting, which can be found here:

“As we develop the project we need to undertake surveys in and around the area, to learn as much as we can about the land and local environmental features. Understanding these important characteristics at this early stage of the project will help us identify the potential benefits and impacts of the project and get the right design for the communities we’re serving and the environment.”

There is also a potentially useful interactive map, which you can access through the Community Hub part of the site.

Latest from BCN Trust and Forest of Marston Vale

Peter Meadows has suggested the following may be of interest to members:

The latest newsletter from the Forest of Marston Vale contains news of their tree planting plans, including two new sites adjacent to Houghton House (between Ampthill and Houghton Conquest), as part of the government’s Trees for Climate progamme. These will comprise a total of 54 hectares, the first 16ha site being planted with native trees and shrubs by March 2021. See:

And Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northants Wildlife Trust latest news contains news of ‘an exciting new landscape project’: Bedfordshire Chalkscapes.  “The Chilterns Conservation Board has been awarded £232,600 of development funding by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to design Chalkscapes. This exciting new landscape project looks to inspire a wide range of communities in Central Beds, Luton and Herts to take action for nature and wildlife. You can read more at:





Bucks Fungus Group update – Members’ Finds Autumn 2020

Extract from a recent email sent by Penny Cullington to members of Bucks Fungus Group, of which MKNHS is one:

Though the group’s activities have been somewhat curtailed this year I just wanted to alert everyone to the amazing achievement of those members who’ve been contributing to our Members’ Finds Autumn 2020 project, ongoing since the beginning of September online. We seem to have reached the staggering total of 500 different species all photographed across the county!

Contributions have been sent in by 34 members, mostly requiring identification by me (with Derek’s advice at times), sometimes named by the sender either with or without the use of a scope and then confirmed by me, a few collections have even required molecular sequencing and have proved to be exciting finds. May I thank all of you who’ve sent me photos – it’s been a fascinating exercise which I’ve much enjoyed. On our lengthy list we have many species previously recorded only once or twice in Bucks, 32 species entirely new to the overall county list, two of which are now molecularly proven to be new to the UK and several more awaiting testing may prove to be equally significant. Wow, what an autumn season!

Photos and information about the finds can be found on the BFG website:


My Octopus Teacher – a recommendation

A note from Julie Lane:

I would like to strongly recommend the following film to anyone who has access to Netflix. It’s called My Octopus Teacher and is an amazing documentary about a diver and photographer in South Africa who forms a relationship with a wild common octopus. It was filmed over the period of a year in a cold underwater kelp forest at a remote location in False Bay, near Cape Town.

The photography is stunning and it gives a wonderful insight into the life of the octopus and the effect it has on the man himself. Very moving and beautiful!

Oxford/Cambridge Arc Plans

If you want to keep up to date on this issue, and haven’t already done so, you might like to sign up to receive news up-dates by email from the No Expressway Group ( or check out their website(

The latest news forwarded by Mary Sarre includes details of the Group’s activity between March and October and of up-coming virtual meetings which are open to the public.

There are two free webinars with opportunity for Q/A:

On Tuesday, 17th November from 1200 to 1330hrs the Arc Leadership Group (ALG, under the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, MHCLG) will hold a virtual meeting on “The Oxford-Cambridge Arc: A global asset and national investment priority”
For a few more details, and to register, please use this link:

Before the meeting, you may like to read the ALG’s “The Oxford-Cambridge Arc: Economic Prospectus” document that you can find here:

On Friday 20th November from 1330 to 1430hrs the Arc Universities Group (AUG) will hold a virtual meeting on “Building a green economic region: the environmental ambitions of the AUG”
For a few more details, and to register, please use this link:

The Arc Universities’ Group home page is here:

Linda Murphy / Mary Sarre

The map shows the “preferred corridor” announced by Highways England in September 2018. No final decision on the route has yet been taken.



Bucks Fungus Group – Autumn 2020

Photo: Amanita muscaria with Chalciporus piperatus Turville Heath 12.09.2020 (Bucks Fungus Group)

Autumn 2020 is proving to be a very good season for fungi. We have recently received the following news from Bucks Fungus Group with information about how you can get help with identifying what you find. They are keen to add more specimens from north Bucks. Happy hunting!

“Bucks Fungus Group has cancelled all activities for the rest of 2020 due to Covid 19 restrictions. However, we have a new project up and running on our website at which may be of interest. BFG Members are sending in fungi photos taken in the county to Penny Cullington for naming (where possible) and if suitable these are then uploaded to the web page Readers Finds Autumn 2020 with helpful notes on recognition etc. As we have very few photos taken from the north of the county, do join in and send to Penny at . Photos must show all features needed for identification including gills, stem, etc. with information about the date found, the site, the habitat and substrate. “

The photo at the beginning of this item is a good example of what they require.

Alfalfa Leafcutter Bees in Wolverton

Here’s a picture of a bee seen in early September at the Urb Farm in Wolverton, which we have identified as a non-British species, the Alfalfa Leafcutter Bee (Megachile rotundata)

Alfalfa Leafcutter Bee (Megachile rotundata) (Photos © Florie Bryant)

While honeybees get much of the fame, Alfalfa Leafcutter Bees are actually 15-20 times better at pollinating than honeybees. The female leafcutter bee carries pollen on the underside of her hairy abdomen, scraping it off upon returning to her nesting hole to create a pollen loaf (food) for her egg. Using her large jaws she will cut a perfectly circular hole from nearby leaves (generally only up to 300 feet from her nesting hole) to create a cocoon of leaves for her egg to develop. A solitary bee, the Alfalfa Leafcutter Bee is often found nesting alongside its neighbours in bee hotels and these fascinating creatures are well worth having in your garden!

We have plenty of habitat just perfect for leafcutter bees, so we have been pleased to welcome them. We have seen a fair few different types of leafcutter/solitary/bumble bee at the farm over the years, and particularly this year.

Florie Bryant
Urb Farm, Wolverton

Lesser Night Gecko

Mauritius Reptile Rescue – Sue Hetherington

I’m a life member of Durrell (aka Jersey Zoo) – inspired many years ago by Gerald Durrell’s books.  Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT) reacted to the recent oil spill close to the coast of Mauritius by rescuing a few little reptiles back to Jersey to act as an insurance policy to prevent species extinction (that’s actually the whole raison d’etre of DWCT) . I thought members might like to share a mini doc from Jersey – a bit of good news for once, something actually being done rather than just telling us how bad things are and making us feel helpless.

YouTube video: Mauritian Reptile Rescue

or you can read about it on Durrell’s website: Rescue mission for Mauritian reptiles

This is a passionate reminder of why we need to look after the only home we have, Planet Earth!  I probably don’t need to remind you that Mauritius is where our species made the dodo extinct.  The dodo was chosen as DWCT’s emblem to emphasise what they are about.

Sue Hetherington

Global Bird Weekend 17-18 October 2020

Thanks to Sue Hetherington for this item about the Global Bird Weekend, over 2 days on 17-18 October – which is organised by Tim Appleton of Global Birding In association with BirdLife International, eBird and Swarovski Optik.

Tim Appleton was the first warden of Rutland Water and the “inventor” of Birdfair which he organised for many years until “retiring” recently.  Global Birding is his “baby”.  The Weekend is the biggest ever low carbon birdwatching event.  It’s all, of course and as per usual, on its own website

In essence, Covid-19 made people more aware of their local natural surroundings.  The event aims to encourage everyone to show their love for nature and birds worldwide in their own local patch.

The October Big Day is aiming at a world record for the largest number of birds seen (over 6,000 species) by the greatest number of people globally.

We hope that at least 25,000 participants will go out Birdwatching on Saturday 17 October 2020 and tell us what they see on this peak migration weekend. To date there have been registrations from over 70 countries.

The aim is to record as many different species of bird as possible, with a target of more than 6,000 bird species. Let us know by recording your sightings on eBird:

Then on Sunday 18 October take your camera, phone, friends and/or sketch pad to your favourite birdwatching area and share those places with your new Global friends on our social media pages using
and upload your images to eBird’s dedicated Global Bird Weekend page. You can still upload your bird sightings to eBird that day too!

The final aim is to raise funds for the birdlife conservation project:  to help stop the illegal trade in birds.

You can click here to register for the world record event.

A dormouse in the garden

Anne Baker from Henley on Thames (to whom thanks) has sent in this photo of a dormouse in her garden.  She writes:

“We have seen a Hazel Dormouse quite a few times in Middle Assendon *, Henley on Thames. The first time my husband spotted him walking to the bird food outside our kitchen window. We have filmed him/her a few times as well at night and in the daytime. We also found a dead one about a year ago in an old bird box so they are obviously around here quite a lot.

We have a wild garden with a lot of hazelnut trees and honeysuckle which I believe they like too. Maybe that is why they are here. They seem to be nesting close to the house by the look of it and don’t seem to be frightened. ”

Sightings like this are worth submitting to the local county environmental records office (see

*Middle Assendon is close to BBOWT’s huge Warburg Nature Reserve (106 ha) which has a known population of dormice.

Low water levels at Willen Lake good for waders!

Thanks to Mike Wallen of Bucks Bird Club for this news, written on 6th September:

For those not already aware there are significant developments at Willen and we are going to get some waders !!

The North lake has a problem with a valve on the sluice; to repair it they’ve had to dig down a way and have created a large breach to the lake. They have tried to dam it but the dam has collapsed.

So far the South lake has dropped by about half a metre and mud is developing around the edge! This is because the south lake is draining into the North lake in the south-east corner.  However the water is leaving the North lake much quicker than it’s coming in, and 30% at least of the North lake area is now mud!! I’d estimate the water level there to be down well over a metre already.

This morning (6th) it has already attracted a Dunlin, then 2 x Black-tailed Godwit flew in, shortly afterwards another 2 x Black-tailed Godwit flew in.
Over the next week (and hopefully longer) this could be seriously good for waders.

Mike Wallen

(Photo of Willen Lake North, taken from W, midday on 7th Sept. Photo: Martin Ferns)

A British record day for Common Swift passage

The Birdguides website ( reported, in a blog by Ben Ward on 4th July, that 46,026 swifts were seen passing Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire on 29th June 2020.  This is considered to be the highest single-site count made in Britain, surpassing the previous highest of 31,350, which was also made at Gibraltar Point, on 31 July 2019. For the full story, including short videos, go to a-british-record-day-for-common-swift-passage

National Moth Night – 27-29 August 2020

This year’s National Moth Night takes place over three nights: Thursday 27th-Saturday 29th August.  Information about activities can be found at

“Organised by Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Moth Night is the annual celebration of moth recording throughout Britain and Ireland by moth recording enthusiasts.

Each year a theme is chosen with one or more target species to look out for. [Moth Night 2020 coincides with the flight periods of four of the Red Underwing moths recorded in the British Isles – and this is a theme this year.] But Moth Night is about all moths and participants are encouraged to find and record as many different species as they can. If you are new to moth recording, then go to our Taking Part page for information on how to get started.

In previous years public events have been a feature of Moth Night. In 2020 however, due to the ongoing situation with Covid 19 we are not encouraging or promoting public events as part of Moth Night. We hope to be back with a public event element in 2021. Moth Night is the perfect event for garden participation, however, and we hope that people will make the most of the opportunity to look at what moths occur in their gardens.”

(Photo of Dark Crimson Underwing © Gordon Redford.)

Bird Photographer of the Year 2020

“From diving cormorants and gannets, to delicate hummingbirds and petrels, you can view the winning and shortlisted images from this year’s Bird Photographer of the Year here.

Bird Photographer of the Year is an annual international photography competition which celebrates birds.owned by conservation charity Birds on the Brink, and the money generated from the competition will used to award grants to conservation projects that benefit birds.”

(Based on an item in the BBC’s latest online newsletter, Discover Wildlife.)

MK Festival of Nature, 31 August- 6 September 2020

Press release from The Parks Trust

MK Festival of Nature is a special programme of activities to celebrate the beautiful and inspiring nature found in Milton Keynes’ green space.

To find out more about the events or to book follow the link here:

This year’s MK Festival of Nature was due to take place in June but due to the situation around COVID-19 we’ve postponed this until August. The festival will now run from 31st August – 6 September 2020. We’ve also adapted the activities that were due to take place to comply with the current government.

So now over this week-long festival, you can join us at one of our ticketed events or can get involved with some of the online activities that we will be sharing via our social channels throughout the week. All of these are designed for you to either do at home or in your local park.

If you fancy getting out and about then why not take part in one of our walks. We have a variety to choose from including; evening Bat walks, where you’ll join our bat enthusiasts for a walk around Walton Lake to discover these nocturnal animals that fly through our parks. Or maybe try a Wellbeing Walk for Families, where you’ll connect with nature, use your senses to take in your surroundings as well as taking part in relaxing activities.

Grown-ups will also be able to join in the fun of the festival in our Foraging Walk for Adults which is being held at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve. This session is designed to give you an introduction to locating and harvesting food for free in our parkland spaces. But not only that it will also help to increase your confidence in identifying wild plants, berries and nuts.

For those budding star gazers why not enjoy our event, Explore the skies with UK Astronomy. In this virtual event you’ll find out more about our solar system and beyond in this fascinating talk by the team.

If you’re looking for something more creative, then you could join local artist Kate Wyatt for a morning of artistic discovery at Great Linford Manor Park. In this session for adults you’ll learn how to record the natural environment through sketching and other artistic techniques. Kate Wyatt is a professional artist based in Milton Keynes and her speciality is British wildlife, flora and fauna. You will be drawing outdoors from life using different media and beginning a journal of ideas and observations of your surroundings.



BCN Wildlife Trust events on Bumblebees and other Pollinators

You may be interested in two upcoming online events which are being run by Beds, Cambs and Northants Wildlife Trust on 20th and 26th August:

1. Introduction to British Bumblebee Ecology and Identification with Ryan Clark (20 August, 7-8.30pm)

Join Ryan Clark, Northamptonshire’s Bees, Wasps and Ants County Recorder, as he introduces participants to the fascinating ecology of bumblebees and guides participants through the identification of the most common species found in Britain.

For booking information, click here

2. Introduction to Pollinators and Pollination with Professor Jeff Ollerton
(26 August, 7-8.30pm)

Join Jeff Ollerton, Professor of Biodiversity in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at the University of Northampton, for an introduction to the natural history of pollinators and how they interact with the flowers that they pollinate.

For booking information, click here

Hen Harrier Day online, 8 August 2020 – Sue Hetherington

As a postscript to the item below, Sue Hetherington adds:
I’ve just called on my local MP to urge for our governments to protect the wildlife and habitats of our uplands, for nature and for people.  Join me and contact your local politician.

Saturday 8th August was “Hen Harrier Day 7”, an annual event which started in 2014 with “the sodden 570” at the Derwent Dam. It is the day when people stand up and be counted to say they protest at the threatened extinction of the Hen Harrier as a breeding bird in our country.  This year, events were planned at 7 locations – Snowdonia, Arne, Rainham, Cairngorms, Sheffield, Aberdeen and Kirriemuir.  Wild Justice (Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay) said in March this year “These events are sufficiently far away that it would be premature to fear they won’t happen but it would be a brave person who was sure that they would”.  Well, none of us need reminding about the devastation SARS-CoV-2 has wreaked!

Last year, in Derbyshire, Wild Justice organised the largest ever Hen Harrier Day event with at least 1500 attendees.  This year we’ve been part of the gang but a new charity, Hen Harrier Action, has organised Hen Harrier Day. When they started they thought that they would be helping lots of local organisers set up their own events, big and small, across the UK but coronavirus put paid to that.  Instead we had Hen Harrier Day online going right through from 10am until 4pm. A flavour of the event can be seen from the video of the event’s evening final here

The image above is from Hen Harrier Day 6, in Derbyshire.  Andrew and I were both there and we are in the photo.

Sue Hetherington


Bee by Paul Lund

An opportunity for bug photographers in MKNHS

A new invertebrate photography competition has been launched.

The new annual photography awards will celebrate insects and other invertebrates in 10 categories, with judges including Buglife president Germaine Greer, naturalist and BBC Wildlife columnist Nick Baker and professional invertebrate photographers such as Levon Biss.

For further details go to the Luminar Bug Photography Awards 2020.

The Grand Prize winner of the competition will be awarded £2,500 cash and the title of ‘Bug Photographer of the Year 2020’, as well as other prizes. There is also a title available for ‘Young Bug Photographer of the Year’ for the 13-17 age group.

Entries close 7 Sept 2020.

The featured photo of a bee in this item was taken by Paul Lund in his garden, and won first place in the 2015 MKNHS Photo Competition.

Wilding plans – Bison in Kent and an ambitious proposal for East Anglia

(Photo: Kent Wildlife Trust)

With the effects of the climate crisis on the environment becoming increasingly clear, there are some interesting plans to re-wild areas with benefits for wildlife, ecosystems – and people too.
A very local project is the planned introduction of European Bison in Blean Woods near Canterbury, under the management of Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust *:

Another on a much broader scale, led by a group of farmers in East Anglia, is the subject of an article by Patrick Barkham in The Guardian on 14 July:

Farmers hatch plan to return area the size of Dorset to wild nature

*Thanks to Peter Hassett for sending the links.

Development, Planning and Growth – Pressures on wildlife

Brian Eversham, Chief Executive of Beds, Cambs and Northants (BCN) Wildlife Trust, outlines their stance on the Ox-Cam Arc, and sets out the principles by which this, and any other development, should abide if the biodiversity crisis is to avoided. Brian has given talks to MKNHS on a number of occasions. BCN Wildlife trust works closely with BBOWT through the Nature Recovery Network and their campaign to strengthen the Environment Bill.

Both trusts together with the RSPB have set out a set of principles For ‘Nature’s Arc’ which can be found in full on the RSPB website. They are encouraging members to contact their MPs to express the importance of strengthening the Environment Bill

You may also be interested in the following critical perspective from George Monbiot:

Perhaps he has a point if it is the case that there is still a chance that the whole project might be dropped. However, given that the same organisations have been campaigning vigorously on this issue for some years with only minor successes, maybe the new approach is more pragmatic.   The same debate applies to new development in and around MK – is it better to resist the building of new homes, or accept that it is inevitable (‘people have to live somewhere…’) and work to ensure that the planning of new housing developments both conserves as much wildlife as possible, and where possible provides new opportunities?

‘In conservation’ with David Lindo, The Urban Birder

You may recall the name David Lindo – he’s The Urban Birder, author, naturalist, media personality etc. – and he generously wrote a piece for The Magpie 50.  During the pandemic disruption he is hosting quite a few free hour-long zoom webinars, which you can book to join in live, or you can access a recording later.  You just need to go to web address and scroll down to ‘Join In the Conservation’ (yes, that’s a pun – conservation/conversation).

There are upcoming ones which can be booked – mostly these are totally free.  You just click on the link and check out as you’d do with any online purchase, except this one has a charge of £0.00.  In due course you get an email confirming your order, which gives you a link to click on at the scheduled start time.  Easy as that!

Of particular interest is that Edward Meyer was ‘in conservation’ with David on the theme of Save our Swifts on Tuesday 23rd June. This and other past sessions are listed under the upcoming ones, by date.  You just click on the one you want to see and it starts there and then.

The ‘In Conservation’ series is in association with Leica Nature and Birding, and is part of the Nature Unwrapped season at London’s Kings Place – in which there a lot of other interesting events, past and planned (moved online until further notice). See

Sue Hetherington

Access to Wildlife Trust Reserves – update

Government advice now allows travel to other places in England so you may be thinking of visiting nature reserves further afield. If you are a member of either the BBOWT or BCN Wildlife Trusts you will have received an up-date on the current situation on reserves access. If not, do check out the advice on their websites: and

In both cases most reserves are open, but car parks, visitor centres and bird hides remain closed.

Biodiversity in Britain at risk from standstill due to corona-virus

Wildlife Trusts warn of effects from neglected reserves and species loss, to fly-tipping and illegal shooting (Caroline Davies, The Guardian, 24.04.2020)

While lockdown has allowed some a greater appreciation of spring and the fun of seeing goats, sheep and deer foraying into urban landscapes, Covid-19 is wreaking havoc with UK biodiversity as vital conservation projects are put on hold.

On Friday conservationists warned of “desperate times” with an explosion in invasive non-native species during prolific spring growth and the deterioration of rare and historic wildlife meadows that could take years to restore. …

The full article can be found here:

How does climate change affect garden birds?

Our climate is changing. 2019 was the Earth’s second warmest year since modern records began in 1880. The average UK temperature has increased roughly 1deg C since the 1960s, leading to warmer and wetter winters, and the evidence is growing that changes in our UK climate are affecting our birds.

Source: How does climate change affect garden birds? – Saving Species – Our work – The RSPB Community

River insects and lichens bucking trend of wildlife losses

Green Drake mayfly, Ephemera danica by Frupus (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Green Drake mayfly, Ephemera danica by Frupus (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Freshwater insects, mosses and lichens are bucking the trend of wildlife losses in the UK and have expanded their ranges since 1970, according to a new study. Reductions in air and water pollution are the most likely reason.

Source: River insects and lichens bucking trend of wildlife losses | Environment | The Guardian

Identification guides for soldierflies and allies extended

We’re spoiling you with a second new ID guide in less than a week! This time to the genus Pachygaster and allies – small, rounded soldierflies that are easy to overlook. But not any more! We look forward to lots more records of them this year!

A new feature on the website: a list of species recorded in each vice-county. You should be able to filter by species and see which counties it’s been recorded in, or filter by county and see which species have been found there.

Source: Identification guides for soldierflies and allies | Soldierflies and Allies Recording Scheme

Mass poisoning blow to the largest colony of Griffon Vultures in Greece

We are devastated to report that eleven Griffon Vultures fell victim to poisoning in the area of Klisoura Gorge in Greece. Unfortunately, nine vultures died from the incident, and two are alive but currently in recovery.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: Mass poisoning causes a heavy blow to the largest colony of Griffon Vultures in mainland Greece, news via @RareBirdAlertUK

Dormice need your help!

More dormouse surveys needing volunteers!

Following the successful trial of the dormouse footprint tunnels last year, we are planning to use them in a few other locations in Northamptonshire to identify where dormice are present along this northern edge of their core range.

To make this work I will need team of local volunteers to help check on the tunnels so if anyone is interested in getting involved these are the locations we are looking at next:

  • Hazelborough Woods near Silverstone *NEW SITE*
  • Salcey Forest/adjacent hedgerows north of Milton Keynes
  • Stoke Wood, adjacent to last year’s survey site near Corby
  • Fineshade Forest near Peterborough (joint with Friends of Fineshade)

Click here for more information.: Dormice need your help! | Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs & Northants

For peat’s sake: how to protect bogs

Bladderwort: garden pond, ©Ian Saunders Stoke Goldington 15 July 2018

Bladderwort: garden pond, ©Ian Saunders Stoke Goldington 15 July 2018

In a shallow pool amid a mossy landscape is a trap, a tiny triggered vacuum that sucks in unexpected prey at great speed, absorbs what it needs, then ejects the empty husk of its victim. If you’ve sunk and splashed your way through a peat bog in summer, you may have caught a glimpse of the plant’s more alluring feature, the showy yellow flowers that wave above the water.

Click here to read the rest of the article.: For peat’s sake: how to protect bogs | Alys Fowler | Life and style | The Guardian

RSPB Calls for Nests Not Nets

The RSPB wants to see nests and not nets, and is appalled to see netting used once again to prevent birds nesting. We are facing a twin nature and climate crisis: wildlife must be allowed to thrive and we all have a role to play in not letting this practice go unchallenged.

Click here for more information:
Discover Wildlife