Paul Cox’s talk to members – Sharks in British Waters– is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from March 9th.
Graham Bellamy’s talk to members – A Brief Introduction to British Woodlice– is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from February 16th
The past twelve months have seen us living alongside a dreadful illness so severe and restrictive to our normal way of life, no other living person has seen the like in this country for well over a century!
One of the many consequences of this has been a reduction in the number of local wildlife-related projects carried out by skilled and enthusiastic people throughout the United Kingdom. You will not be surprised to learn our own MKNHS has no shortage of such talented individuals but finding the funds for these projects can be challenging.
A former member of our society, Gordon Osborn, generously bequeathed funds to us specifically for use by members of the MKNHS who need support for new or ongoing projects such as recording local wildlife, survey work in local areas, educational programmes, research and so on, in any field of natural history deemed as representative of our society’s aims and objectives.
The enhancement of knowledge of our local flora and fauna in such difficult times could be a daunting prospect; perhaps a little help from this unique fund can be the boost which is needed to transform a worthy project into a truly important and valuable contribution to our understanding of a particular patch’s importance or aspect of natural history or spreading ‘the word’ to others such that the future of our wild countryside and its inhabitants might be better assured.
Last year, understandably, no applications were received for help from this fund and so I am asking those of you who are interested in carrying out this vital work in your own time or as an extension to your normal working lives and who feel such financial assistance would benefit your particular project, to apply for some funding outlining the details of your work and what you would be using any grant for.
Generally, this would be in the region of a few hundred pounds but this is enough to purchase trail cameras, recording equipment, specialist books, computer programs, etc., which might otherwise be proving too much to fund from your own pockets.
So, please do apply for help from the Gordon Osborn Fund. That is what it is there for.
Further information can also be found in the MKNHS Guidance Handbook (page 11) found as a link in the Home section of this website or contact myself or Linda Murphy who are administrators of the fund.
Gwen Hitchcock’s talk to members on ‘Hazel Dormice in Northamptonshire’ is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from January 12th.
If you would like to contact Gwen about volunteering to help with Dormouse checking or habitat management in Northants or in Bucks, you can contact her at Gwen.Hitchcock@wildlifebcn.org. She will forward messages to the relevant people in either Northants or Bucks.
Due to the fact that we are unable to meet in person at the moment and the date for a return to the Cruck Barn is not yet certain, we have decided to run the competition via the Society’s website with voting by email. The process and timetable are explained below.
The competition is for the Ron Arnold Shield. Ron Arnold was an early member of the Society and a keen photographer. The competition was set up in his memory.
The competition is open to all members of the Society. Any non-members who would like to participate are welcome to join in order to take part (https://mknhs.org.uk/membership-2/ )
There are four categories:
All other animals, including mammals, fish, insects etc.
Plants and fungi.
Habitats, geological, astronomical.
The following rules apply:
This year, as foreign travel has been so restricted, images for all categories should have been taken in the UK between January 2020 and January 2021
Domestic animals and cultivated plants are not eligible.
People must not be a major subject of any photograph.
They can be horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait).
Each member may enter a maximum of 2 images per category. (That’s 8 images in total). If you are submitting more than 4 images, please split between 2 emails, or use WeTransfer.
Please state the category of entry for each image and provide a brief caption for each photo stating when and where taken and species if known/relevant. If you submit more than one photo, make sure it is clear which caption goes with each photo!
May the best photograph win! It could be yours!
How the 2021 Photo competition will be run, and key dates:
Members’ photos will be posted in the four categories on the web site photo competition page (Photo Competition 2021) one week after the deadline (i.e. on 02 February 2021)
Members have a week to decide their choice of top two per category for Round 1. Members send in their choices by email to the same mailbox. (Votes to be received by 09 February 2021)
The votes are counted and the top 8 photos selected. The top eight photos are posted on the website one week after the deadline for voting in round 1. (i.e. by 16 February 2021)
Members have one week to send in their votes for the top three photos. (Votes to be received by 23 February 2021)
Votes are counted and the top 3 selected.
Winners are announced at the MKNHS Zoom meeting on 02 March 2021 one week after the deadline for voting for round 2.
Winning photos will be shown at this meeting and winners will be asked to say something about their photos.
The final 8 will be put on the website gallery page for the photo competition winners 2021.
The winner will be presented with the Ron Arnold Shield* to hold for the year (when conditions allow). Their name will be engraved on the shield and they will receive a miniature shield to keep.
Please Note! Photos MUST be sent in by 11pm on 26 January 2021 at the latest!
Entries will NOT be accepted after 26 January 2021.
Votes cast after the deadlines for Round 1 and Round 2 will not be counted….
Please note that by submitting photos you are agreeing to your images being displayed on the Society website. Images displayed in the Society gallery after the competition will show attributed copyright.
Alan Birkett’s talk to members on ‘Winter Tree Identification’ is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from January 5th.
As we have reached the end of our autumn programme it seems a good moment to thank everyone who has participated in our Zoom sessions and helped to make them a success. Your contributions to members’ evenings and engagement with speakers has been brilliant. I can vouch for the fact that whilst giving a presentation over the medium of Zoom works, it is very difficult to gauge an audience’s response, even one I know so well so I was grateful for your comments and appreciation after my own effort. In the same way, it has been wonderful to see so many contributions to the news and sightings pages on the website which has doubled its number of ‘page views’ or visitors to the site over this time last year. It looks as if there may be some light at the end of the COVID tunnel now and the fact that one or two Society members have already had their first vaccination is a great Christmas present. We will nevertheless have to continue to be careful for some time yet, and as you’ll have seen, our spring programme will resume on Zoom from January 5th with another varied and interesting programme which hopefully has something for everybody.
May I wish each and every one of us a warm, peaceful and happy Christmas and a 2021 with a different and better outcome to the past twelve months.
I look forward to seeing you in what we all hope will be a better New Year, filled with amazing wildlife.
Dreaming of a holiday next year or perhaps just a nice day out? A selection of wildlife venues recommended by our members at the members evening on Tuesday 8th December is available to download through the following link:
Our annual Quiz Night was held on Tuesday 1st December. This year things were a bit different due to meeting on Zoom, so instead of deciding who to sit with and sharing our refreshments, teams were put together randomly using Zoom Breakout Rooms and we had to provide our own refreshments.
As usual Ann and Mark put together a very varied and challenging selection of questions that not only tested natural history knowledge but also our memory of recent stories from the news and managed to sneak in a bit of Greek at the last minute, just when we thought we’d got away with it this year! The winning team of Julie, Martin, Helen, Kenny and Mike romped home ahead of the field. Well done to them and to everyone who took part, and thanks again to our quiz hosts, Ann and Mark.
We look forward to next year’s quiz and hope that we’ll be back in the Cruck Barn as usual by then!
For the very first time, MKNHS has produced its own A4 calendar for 2021. The calendar features twelve beautiful images of wildlife taken in and around Milton Keynes, by twelve different Society members. Harry Appleyard and myself have selected images and designed the calendar. We are fortunate to have many talented wildlife photographers in our ranks so this is a fitting way to celebrate that. Many of the shots were taken during the first lockdown in Spring/Summer 2020. An image of the front cover can be seen above.
We are selling the calendars at the very reasonable price of £10.00 each – excellent value for money. To order calendars, simply email Martin Kincaid: email@example.com stating how many calendars you would like, and your postal address. The calendars – with envelopes – will be hand delivered in December. We would prefer payment by cheque, payable to MKNHS, otherwise by cash.
If there is enough interest this year, we hope to repeat this next year…and include pictures taken by other members.
Phil Wheeler’s talk to members “Treezilla – the monster map of trees” is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from November 24th.
Following Tuesday’s members evening exploring how to make our gardens even better for wildlife I have put together a summary of our discussion, some ideas of my own and a few useful links and recommendations of books. Thank you to all the people who contributed and sent me information and thoughts afterwards. Please feel free to write in (via the Contact us link) and tell us about your own personal gardens and what you are doing to make them more wildlife friendly and include some photos. It will be a way of bringing a taste of spring and summer into our lockdown lives.
One of our members suggested that we could put together a list of ‘Star’ plants for wildlife so I would be very interested to hear about your favourite plant. Ann suggested ivy and comfrey and mine would be pulmonaria officinalis (common lungwort).
The Royal Horticultural Society Companion to Wildlife Gardening by Chris Baines which is a revised edition of How to Make a Wildlife Garden. Published 2016, Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd. (Currently out of print.)
Wild your Garden by “The Butterfly Brothers” (Jim and Joel Ashton). Published 2020, Dorling Kindersley.
Members Garden visits
It was mentioned that Joe Clinch has a lovely meadow in his garden in Stony Stratford and as I also know that there are others living in Stony with lovely gardens I wondered if it might be possible for us to have a day next summer when we can organise a visit to a few of these gardens. Joe has kindly offered for us to come and have a wander around his garden.
A summary of our thoughts during Tuesday’s discussion
Thanks to Mervyn and Martin F for taking notes.
It is especially important to set up hedgehog highways – small holes under fence. They don’t need to be big – 13cm x 13cm is recommended.
Hedgehogs love fallen fruit from fruit trees
Purpose-built homes for wildlife
Mixed success with swift boxes and artificial house martin nests. Swift boxes are often not occupied but they might take a few years to move in. They are often used by other birds such as starlings and sparrows. It was suggested that one could block the access until later on in the year when the swifts arrive. Artificial martin nests can be useful to attract martins into the eaves even if they don’t actually use the nests but build a nest alongside – they are communal nesters so are attracted to eaves with nests already present.
We also talked about bat boxes and it seemed that these too have limited use by bats.
It was suggested that you can simply add seed to existing grass sward (this is not always particularly successful as the ranker grasses can out compete the resulting small seedlings)
Can provide useful cover for frogs, newts and grass snakes.
Best times to clear out a pond is the autumn.
One member had obtained a good pond kit from the RSPB
Plants to grow
Ivy for pollen and berries and cover.
Holly for berries
Comfrey for nectar – it is also the food plant for the scarlet tiger moth
Crab apple variety golden hornet
Rowan for flowers and berries
Climbers are good for birds’ nests.
You can work with your neighbours in providing a range of habitats and sharing your interests
Sheds without windows can provide very good nest sites.
Can leave out chicken bones etc for foxes (this might cause a problem with rats!)
Wood mice love runner beans.
When tidying up for winter don’t overdo it: especially in green houses and sheds, there may be nooks and crannies which are hibernating places so be careful not to disturb.
Avoiding everything harmful to wildlife: one member stressed the need to avoid the use of chemicals in gardens. Also take care with netting.
Seeing wildlife: One member has recently used a wildlife camera to identify which animals are using his garden and was disappointed with the result – Identifying a rat, a cat and a wood pigeon J Although one member regularly saw foxes and badgers in his garden.
Birds such as robins and blackbirds can become very tame if fed – they love mealworms.
Rotted wood chip provides a good home for newts and frogs.
Nest boxes – pros and cons of different heights. Safety from cats and other ground predators.
Corvids taking bird food and predating on birds’ nests
Several people are finding that they have fewer or no frogs in their gardens but more newts.
The right location for bug hotels is important – sunny is best?
Below are a selection of notes that I prepared for Tuesday. I thought they might be useful for others to read:
So can we really make a difference to the fortunes of wildlife in our gardens?
Dr Jennifer Owen systematically recorded every living thing in her suburban Leicester garden from 1972 over a thirty year period and found 2,673 species including 7 insects new to the UK, 4 of which were new to science.
The presence of this huge diversity has been backed up by an increasing body of work and as the nation’s gardens cover about 4300square kilometres we can actually provide homes for a whole host of wildlife if we so choose.
This past year has demonstrated to many of us how much we need our outside spaces and how much healing and joy they provide in a restricted world.
There does not need to be a conflict between our personal requirements in a garden and those of wildlife – a well-designed and planned garden can cater for both. Diversity is important in terms of different habitats, having flowers and berries available for as long a season as possible and providing nooks and crannies for a wide variety of creatures to inhabit.
If you don’t have a garden then allotments are another option offering you the chance to manage a bit of space for your own personal produce but also for wildlife.
Gardens can be complex habitats and as we have designed them to provide shelter from the elements for ourselves so they provide shelter to many creatures. Many bird species now find refuge in gardens as the wider countryside is no longer so hospitable for them. Amphibians such as frogs, newts and grass snakes also often use garden ponds as these habitats are rapidly disappearing in the countryside.
Diversity and Design
Different features we could have for wildlife in a garden.
Ponds, bog gardens, water and drinking baths, spring and summer meadows, flowery lawns, beds for arable weeds, hedges, trees, shrubs, fences and walls covered in climbers, piles of stones or stone walls etc., log piles, compost heaps, leaf bins, homes for wildlife (hedgehog houses, bee and bug hotels, bird and bat boxes ) bird feeders, vegetable plots or allotments
If you were starting from scratch how could you create a strong design with wildlife in mind (what to put where, different garden shapes and sizes)?
Try to create a strong design on paper first so that the garden is pleasing on the eye and covers all the requirements you have for a garden as well as the wildlife (make a list first). Think about shapes, sightlines and divide the garden into rooms if you have the space. Try to have the wilder areas away from the house and at the edges of the garden but try to link up these habitats so that there are corridors between them. Think about the animals you are trying to attract and consider what they need for food, drink, shelter from weather and predators, safe places to have their young etc.
Meadows and flowery lawns
What are the different ways in which meadows and flowery lawns are important for wildlife? Pollen and nectar for insects, food for insect larvae etc, cover and food for small mammals, amphibians, they improve the soil therefore good for soil invertebrates
Types of meadow – spring (containing spring flowers and bulbs), summer (late summer flowering plants) and flowery lawns.
Establishment (soil fertility, seeding versus plugs plants or leaving to colonise naturally). Meadows establish better on poorer soils but if you have a fertile soil you can still have a meadow but you need to establish strong growing plants and introduce yellow rattle. Plug plants work best on rich soils but seed works on poor soils. Flowery lawns tend to be colonised naturally by flowering plants.
Management (when to cut, how much and what to cut with) Spring cut in June, summer cut in September. And remove all cuttings to reduce fertility – into a heap for grass snakes. Leave some areas long each year for butterfly larvae and cover. Use shears, a hand scythe or a reciprocating mower depending on area to be cut.
Plants to include for spring and summer – primroses, snakes-head fritillaries, cowslips, bugle, for spring. scabious, oxeye daisies, knapweed, meadow cranesbill for summer
Providing for wildlife all year round
Food – Bird seed especially important in winter and spring, hedgehog food especially important in spring, in dry spells and in autumn, plants for nectar and pollen for as long as possible throughout the year, berries for hungry winter birds. Lawns are good for worms and cranefly grubs etc. Do not use herbicides or pesticides as the balance will be upset and pests will become a problem.
Homes – trees, climbers and shrubs for nests, ponds, log piles, messy quiet corners, bird boxes,
Plants to grow for nectar pollen and berries – ivy is one of the best but it has to be left to fruit, wild flowers generally better for nectar and pollen but single flowers better than compound (some ornamental varieties don’t have any nectar or pollen).
Ponds and other water features
What are the different uses that wildlife has for water? Why is water so important. To drink, to live in either permanently or for some of the time, to bathe in, for catching prey.
List of possible ways to bring water into a garden. Ponds, bog gardens, water baths, moving water. The greater the number and variety the better.
Management of ponds (algae, invasive or alien plants). Only fill up and top up with rain water or algae becomes a problem, floating plants cut out the light to algae and oxygenating plants in the water reduce the nutrients. Lists of invasive plants online.
How to make the best wildlife ponds (location, profile of pond, plants). Best in the sun and away from shade and leaves falling in, but near cover, profile best with a big shallow end and a smaller deep end. Plants depend on size of pond – list online.
Finally, here’s a photo of Jenny’s allotment, for inspiration!
What a privilege to have been selected as Chairman of the MKNHS for the forthcoming year. It is with great delight that I accept this honour and I think it is only right that you should know a little about me; with this in mind, I have put a brief resumé together in order that you may be better informed about me, my views and aspirations, warts an’ all…
I have had an abiding passion for all things natural since my earliest memories were formed. As a little boy, I can recall my father taking me out in a rowing boat on the river Axe in Devon and being fascinated with the Herons and Cormorants lining the banks there as we were towed back by a passing motorboat, having lost both our oars overboard! When I was eight, a distant relative left me a huge collection of birds’ eggs which he had put together prior to the second world war, some of which were from the mid eighteen-hundreds, every species which bred in this country was represented and I still have this collection housed in my study.
One would think that such a thing which is rightly so abhorred today, would have lead to me becoming a destroyer of birds but no, I was so fascinated by the myriad different patterns, colours and forms of egg that I was determined to see the birds themselves and this set me off on a lifelong journey of exhilarating exploration and wonder at the natural splendours we are surrounded by.
For my ninth birthday, a pair of 8×30 binoculars or a Flying Scotsman A3 4-6-2 locomotive for my railway set were the main gift options – binoculars won and from there on, I was hooked. Every holiday was spent bird-watching and living in a small Hertfordshire village meant I was out every spare moment, wandering the fields and woods surrounding my home. I can vividly remember the absolute joy of discovering my first ever Birds-nest Orchids and recording the fact in my diary (they later turned out to be Toothwort, an even rarer plant locally – they’re still there, fifty years later).
I spent my school years in Hemel Hempstead (well, someone had to…) and was fortunate enough to be at a school with a wood attached to the grounds. Many different extra-curricular activities took place in this wood but my interests were purely ornithological and I was able to record the nesting activities of a pair of Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers who were obliging enough to make their little nest hole at about head-height in an old stump there….this was part of my biology ‘O’ Level project, how lucky I was!
I left school and went into a precision engineering company, specifically manufacturing ships’ chronometers and eventually started to work towards my chartered engineer status until redundancy forced me to rethink my career options and I became a London Policeman. My time away from work was spent bird watching and yes, I was an avid Twitcher too but like many Twitchers, my interests broadened naturally and I veered away from purely chasing rarities to enjoying a far wider spectrum of the natural world.
I eventually specialised in Public Order policing and was able to take many tours of duty abroad where I became aware of the wider world around us and experience the sheer size of this beautiful planet and the enormous variety of fabulous flora and fauna it still contains. In particular, South America became a favourite location and I can recall my first impressions of this amazing continent, it’s inhabitants and of course, it’s incredible diversity of wildlife. This land, remote and magical always seemed so unattainable and yet some ten or twelve trips there later, one realises that such places as Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina are now fairly easily visited and with some forward planning, much less daunting to get to than you would imagine. I suppose my carbon footprint is not too impressive considering all the air travel, car hires, etc., I have used so that should be a personal goal for me to reduce.
I have a real and deep concern for the wellbeing of our worlds’ wild places now with rapidly burgeoning human populations, ever increasing requirements for land development for housing, industry and food production and a blasé attitude towards destruction of the decreasing number of wild places left, there really does not seem to be a willingness for nature and humans to live in any form of symbiosis.
One only has to look at The Pantanal in Brazil during the present Covid crisis to see that once the world is distracted from conservation, precious wilderness is being taken with tacit government approval…it is estimated that nearly a fifth of this vast and unique swamp has been ruined by drainage, burning and enclosure, principally for beef production, since February this year…nine short months! Places I visited and watched Hyacinth Macaws, Tapir, Jaguar and Giant Otter in 2017 are no longer there, it really is as stark as that! The island of Borneo has lost over half of it’s forest in forty years to oil palm plantations; I have seen these for myself in Sabbah, a tiny ribbon of primary jungle lining the rivers and then mile after stark mile of oil palm beyond. I suppose the reality is that The Pantanal and Borneo will still be victims of land-grabbing for commerce despite our distant opposition.
What on earth can we really do to stop this wanton degradation of the world we all love and wish to remain healthy and vibrant? My daughter lives in Fordingbridge in The New Forest and you’d be forgiven for thinking there were no problems with habitat loss and land abuse if you lived down there, it is such a wonderfully rural place.
But it is happening here too! The northern outskirts of Dunstable where I live are being transformed from a farmland-based, riverine valley into a huge housing and industrial estate. Parts of Milton Keynes are expanding so fast eastwards, I find it hard to remember it as it was a few years ago, other priceless areas such as Tattenhoe Park are earmarked for yet more housing, it is endless but I am optimistic that we do have the ability to make a difference locally.
My personal strategy for chairmanship of the society is to ‘enhance our clout’ through actively encouraging a younger society demographic, to have influence with MK’s projected expansion planning and to ensure that what wilder places we have locally should remain as they are, all things which the society is already striving to achieve through the diverse expertise and enthusiasm of our membership, so evident when we all come together.
I am looking forward to seeing you all once again – some for the first time, in the flesh in the not too distant future, let’s all hope and pray that our current situation enhances our country’s awareness and need for stunning green breathing spaces and that such tragedies as in central Brazil and Sabbah may be averted here.
During a recent phone call to Roy Maycock he told me that he and Andy McVeigh (another member of the Society) had recently taken the decision to step down as joint Vice County Recorders for Buckinghamshire. He also mentioned that the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) had awarded Roy the position of Emeritus Recorder for his long years of service to Botany.
I contacted the BSBI for more information and Dr Peter Stroh kindly sent me the following text:
Roy stepped down as the BSBI Vice-county Recorder for Buckinghamshire in August after an amazing 34 years in the post. During that time, he co-authored ‘A Checklist of the Plants of Buckinghamshire’ with Aaron Woods, the first modern checklist of the Buckinghamshire flora, and the first flora of any kind for the county since George Clarence Druce’s out-of-print and much sought-after work of 1926. Roy submitted tens of thousands of plant records for not one but two national plant Atlases as a VCR, and also contributed to the first plant Atlas. So he’s had a hand in all three atlases over a period of 70 years! In recognition of Roy’s dedication and contribution to plant recording and conservation, the BSBI awarded him Emeritus Status this year.
Peter also stated that the above text “can’t hope to reflect all that Roy has done!” so I think we should be very proud of our President.
Neil McMahon’s talk to members on the Wildlife of Pitsford Reservoir is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from November 10th.
Di’s talk on The Etches Collection of fossils is available to view by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from November 3rd.
Di has also provided this information about other videos and websites and printed materials on the Etches Collection, fossils and the Jurassic period.
Website links about The Etches Collection
The Etches Collection is very well represented elsewhere on the web with interesting videos and websites.
If you type ‘the Etches Collection’ into the search bar of YouTube you will get connections to several official videos or video collections. Steve himself narrates about 20 videos, some of which are about the collection of fossils, but the majority are tales about the specimens themselves.
YouTube also gives links to many videos, by other people, some on the Etches collection, some on other collections and specimens, and some on fossil hunting and the Jurassic coast.
You can access the official website here, www.theetchescollection.org, or using the search bar on your web browser. It is one of the best Museum webpages around.
The museum aims to be both for the collection and conservation of specimens, for the public to visit, and for education and research. Its pièce de resistance is a photographic documentation of all the collection.
As you would expect, it has lots of information on how to visit, special events, and news etc. There are pages about Steve Etches’ history in fossil collection including his awards and the specimens named after him. There are pages about the team, the supporters and the patrons including how to contribute yourself. There are also interesting side-shoots include information about guest artists associated with the museum and painting various interpretations of the animals and the surrounding countryside.
If you are interested in a new T- shirt or postcards or the books for the collection you can find them in the shop, including a fossil collectors set of tools if you wish.
Do also type ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ into YouTube. This will give you links into the many videos of animated dinosaur re-enactments prepared by the BBC. Hope you will find particularly interesting the ‘Sea Monsters trilogy’, ‘Sea Reptile birth’ and ‘ The Scientific Accuracy of Walking with Dinosaurs. Episode 3’.
There are also a couple of interesting websites showing comparisons of the size of marine animals, both ancient and modern.
The Scotese Paleomap site, www.scotese.com, shows maps and video animations of the paleogeography, both the movement of land mass and climate.
At the Members’ Book Evening on 13 October, a wide range of books were presented and recommended by members and are listed below. They include recent publications and old favourites that people return to year after year. Some examine current environmental issues, some provide useful advice and guidance, others were chosen for their writing style, or artwork. There’s something for everyone! A big “Thank You” to all the contributors. Enjoy!
For books currently out of print, companies such as ABE Books (https://www.abebooks.co.uk/ ) were recommended for second hand copies; NHBS ( https://www.nhbs.com/ ) supplies a huge range of books on Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation as well as the ubiquitous Amazon…
The Orchid Hunter by Lief Bersweden (2018: Short Books Ltd)
A Natural History of the Hedgerowand ditches, dykes, and dry stone walls by John Wright, (2016: Profile Books Ltd)
Woodland Plantsby Heather and Robin Tanner (1987: Impact Books)
Four Hedges: A Gardener’s Chronicle by Clare Leighton (2010: Little Toller Books)
Rebirding by Benedict Macdonald (2019: Pelagic Publishing)
The Wildlife Pond Book by Jules Howard (2019: Bloomsbury Publishing)
Wilding – the return of nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree (2018: Picador)
There is No Planet B: A handbook for the make or break yearsby Mike Berners-Lee (2019: Cambridge University Press)
How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything by Mike Berners-Lee (Profile Books: 2010/ revised updated & expanded edition 2020)
The Burning Question: We Can’t Burn Half the World’s Oil, Coal and Gas. So How Do We Quit? by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark (2013: Profile Books )
Wonderland, a year of Britain’s wildlife by Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss (2017: John Murray Press)
The Invention of Nature – The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt: The Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf (2015: John Murray press)
Eleven members attended this evening. First of all, we reviewed the list of suggestions for action put forward at the meeting on March 10th 2020, before considering a few of these in small groups and then pooling our thoughts.
Two groups spent most of the time on the Theme ‘Communicating our Message’. They agreed that Facebook was a key way of communicating information about the Society particularly to younger people to increase their interest in, and knowledge of, nature. It was felt to be important to widen our range of methods of communication to reach different audiences, rather than attracting ‘more people like us’. One member indicated willingness to help set up a Society Facebook presence. The local press has been a useful avenue for publicising the Society in the past but it was note noted that the Citizen carried less news than hitherto and distribution within Milton Keynes was patchy.
The theme ‘Conservation Organisations/Projects’ was explored. This could also form another line of communication and opportunity to engage a wider audience by publicising opportunities to get involved in a variety of organisations and projects locally, related to the protection and enhancement of wildlife and wider conservation issues. For example, the ‘Bats in Churches’ project, highlighted at a previous members’ evening, needs volunteers to survey churches in Milton Keynes in 2021; and the Global Bird Weekend on 17/18 October 2020 is looking to sign up as many people as possible to record bird species seen on those days in aid of Birdlife International’s Campaign to ‘STOP ILLEGAL BIRD TRADE’.
We can also publicise relevant reports and campaigns on our website such as:
– the WWF living planet report (see Living Planet Report 2020).
– the Wildlife Trusts’ initial response to the Government’s White Paper on Planning, which proposes fundamental changes to planning and would limit opportunities for public responses (see Preliminary Analysis of the Planning White Paper).
– the Wildlife Trust’s proposals for ‘Wild-belts’ to ‘Rewild the planning system’ (see Rewild the Planning System). This was covered in The Guardian 17 September 2020: see Wild Belts.
– the new RSPB report: ‘A Lost Decade for Nature: How the UK has missed its targets for nature. Why we must act now to revive our world’ (see A Lost Decade for Nature).
The theme of ‘Plans and planning’ was picked up in the third group which examined the theme of ‘Recording’. All participants in that group regularly record and discussed how records can be ‘made to count’. Many recording schemes are run by organisations devoted to specific groups of species, and they take records via specific apps or iRecord and are fed into County Records Offices such as BMERC. For example, birders are urged to submit records to Bucks Bird Club as these are regularly passed to BMERC. Those who live outside Bucks can check out their local Bird Clubs or use BTO Birdtrack. The latter can be used for records made on holiday in the UK and in Europe. The recording advice available on the Society website was noted. It was agreed that ‘common’ species such as moles or hedgehogs or house sparrows often don’t get recorded and we should make an effort to include them. The case for the importance of local recording is the fact that local records have to be consulted for planning applications, hence the relationship between these two themes.
Further general discussion touched on how to discourage littering and reduce use of single use/’disposable’ plastics, and palm oil.
We concluded by following Ann Lambley’s suggestion to cheer ourselves up by focussing on a beautiful wildlife image such as a wood in autumn!
I hope you have been enjoying our website during these strange times – I think it has helped to hold our Society together and has provided a means of communicating that has been very useful and enjoyable. We have had some wonderful articles sent in by members and very much hope that this flow of interesting articles will continue, especially if our lives are restricted yet again by one of the tiniest organisms in the world!
There is one section on the website that we now feel needs updating and we can do this most easily and efficiently by tapping into the knowledge of our members. It is the section called Identification guides under Reference (https://mknhs.org.uk/identification-guides/) where the best guides for the various groups in the animal and plant kingdom are recommended, with the aim of helping those interested in a particular specialisation to access the best sources of information, be that by book, app or website. We feel that in the five or so years since this was set up it may well have become out of date and we would be very grateful for input from you all.
We would therefore like you to look at the sources recommended in your specialism or interest area and let us know if there are any new books or apps or websites that are now useful and if there are any sources that have been superseded and need to be removed (it would also be helpful if you could let us know if you think that nothing needs changing). In fact, we would be interested to hear from anyone who has found a reference source useful as it is often relative novices in a subject that are the best judge of well laid out reference material. Obviously, this process is all rather subjective but we can only do our best and we feel that it is wrong to offer information without updating it occasionally.
For books, we need to know Title, Author and Publisher plus whether in your opinion it is useful for beginners or those more advanced in their knowledge.
For websites, please let us have the full url reference, and for apps, please give as much detail as is needed to help others find it.
The Society AGM meeting on 6th October will be appointing members of the Committee. There will be a number of vacancies to fill and this announcement invites expressions of interest from members or suggestions of others that might be interested (but check with them first!).
The Committee is responsible for the running of the Society. It normally meets 4 times a year in the evenings (but under recent conditions more frequently via Zoom). The work of the Committee is interesting and varied – from administering the finances of the society through to the planning of future activities. Members participate in meeting discussions and decisions, and usually take on wider roles within the Society.
If you are interested or have other suggestions please contact the Acting Chair, Joe Clinch (firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01908 562475 or write to 39 Tudor Gardens, Stony Stratford, MK11 1HX).
The much delayed 51st AGM is now scheduled for 7.30 pm on Tuesday 6th October via Zoom. The Agenda and papers for it will be circulated by the Secretary in due course.
This is to give advance notice about one important item of business for that meeting – the appointment of the Chair of the Society.
The Committee has agreed that the process for appointing the Chair should be coordinated by the Officers of the Society led by Martin Kincaid so that a nomination can then be put to the AGM. This email seeks expressions of interest from members in filling this role or in suggesting someone else that you think might be interested. If you are interested or if you are able suggest someone please communicate your thoughts to me in confidence either by telephone (01908 562475), email (email@example.com) or by post to my home address: 39 Tudor Gardens, Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes MK11 1HX. I will share responses with fellow Officers but not beyond.
Information about the role of the Chair can be found in the MKNHS Guidance Handbook(https://mknhs.org.uk/mknhs-guidance-handbook). In brief it is to lead the work of the Committee. Two of the current Officers and previous holders of the position, Linda Murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Martin Kincaid (email@example.com) have indicated their willingness to discuss the role informally on the telephone if you would find that helpful – again in confidence. Please email them to fix a time for doing this.
Our first edition of the new ‘Magpie Digest‘ is now available on the website. To minimise costs, it is only being printed and posted to members without online access. When our new team took over the running of the website it was decided a rethink was needed on the overlap of material that existed between the Website and Magpie newsletter. We are keen to continue to provide access to interesting publications/articles for all members so this publication is composed of a selection of the articles sent in by our members to the Society’s website over the past 4 months.
Partly thanks to Covid and also the enthusiasm and encouragement of our new team we have had a wonderful number and variety of contributions which we hope will continue to flow in our post Covid world. As editor of this Digest, I have not been able to use all the articles published on the website as the cost of printing them all would be too high but I have tried to select shortish articles which I feel translate best to the printed page and cater for a broad range of interests from plants to insects to birds etc. I have not included all photos submitted with the original articles and have very occasionally edited out some text, but I hope you feel that I have got the balance about right and apologise to anyone who is disappointed that I have not included their article. I am open to thoughts and comments about this publication. (Please send these to firstname.lastname@example.org.) Enjoy!
Reluctantly, the Committee has concluded that for the rest of this year the Society’s activities will have to be delivered virtually using Zoom technology or via the Society’s website. This decision has been taken in the light of the continuing government limitations imposed as a result of coronavirus on individuals and organisations, and advice from the City Discovery Centre that the Cruck Barn is unlikely to be available for hire earlier than the New Year. Should CDC be able to open safely earlier than this, they will let us know. You may already be aware of other local organisations which are having to make similar decisions and you may already have been using Zoom yourself with friends, family or work colleagues during the lockdown.
Zoom is a digital platform that allows multiple participants to meet together in real time with the option to be heard and seen, and to hear and see others. To access meetings you need either a PC (with camera), a laptop, a tablet, or an iPad. A smart phone can also be used, but the size of screen limits what can be seen. Before a Society meeting, members will be sent an invitation including a link to join the meeting (all these meetings are member-only events: visitors by prior arrangement may be possible for later events). If you are using a PC or laptop, simply click on this link and follow the instructions in order to join. If you are using a tablet, iPad or smart phone, you will need to download the app form the relevant app store.
More information about how to access and use Zoom features is available on the website’s new Zoom Support page.
Access to Zoom sound by telephone is still under investigation.
There will be several opportunities to try it out and get familiar with using Zoom during August.
In May we posted news of the death of Peter Kent, a former Chairman and active member of the Society over many years. For those MKNHS members who remember the Kents, we now pass on the news that his wife, Jean, also an active member, died just a few weeks after Peter.
The National Biodiversity Network Trust (NBN Trust) is accepting nominations for the NBN Awards for Wildlife Recording 2020.
The National Biodiversity Network are once again accepting nominations for their Wildlife Recording awards.
All being well, the ceremony is to take place in Milton Keynes this year…could be a good omen for any recorders in the Society who would like to enter for one of the awards. What are you waiting for?? Nominations close 26 July.
The enforced confinement most of us have been living under in the wake of Coronavirus has at least meant that we have all spent more time in our gardens or local patch. Fortunately, we have been blessed with consistently warm sunny weather for most of the spring and so I am sure many of us have been delighted to find new species of plant and animal – or perhaps familiar species in greater abundance – than in previous years. And of course, the much reduced human footprint in March and April has seen wildlife thrive across the UK.
Of particular note has been an increase in reports of hedgehogs. I have tried keeping in touch with many society members and other friends with an interest in wildlife and nearly everyone I have spoken to has seen a hedgehog in their garden or very nearby. I have heard a few comments such as “first time I have seen a hedgehog in the garden for at least five years” or “we normally just see one, but there were four feeding together last night”. You know who you are! So why should this be?
A high proportion of my hog sightings every year come in the form of road casualties. In April 2019, a work colleague and myself decided to count all of the roadkill hogs we could find around MK in one month. We counted 24. I repeated this in April 2020 (admittedly alone) and found just two. We were put into lockdown on 23rd March and although some of us were still driving for work, there were very few cars on the road for the remainder of March and much of April and crucially, almost no cars late at night when hedgehogs are most active. This is a very basic hypothesis but my feeling is that far more hedgehogs survived that vital post hibernation period, when they have to fatten up into breeding condition, than is the case in a typical year. In our Oldbrook garden, the hogs have been feeding very well and we are finding more and more droppings every week!
I would be very interested to hear from all and any of you about hedgehogs you see, specifically in your back or front gardens. I have a database which I can update with your sightings – just one record per garden is fine. What I need to know is:
Who – your name
When – date and time of sighting
Where – your postcode or 6 figure grid reference if you know it
You can either email me on email@example.com or phone me on 07765 010655. At the end of the year I will send all the collated sightings to BMKERC.
Finally, whilst we have all enjoyed the sunshine this year, as you may be aware hedgehogs are struggling to find enough to eat and especially to drink. If you think you have hedgehogs in your area, please leave out a shallow dish of water as often as you can, as well as any food you might put out. Tiggywinkles and other wildlife rescue centres report a huge increase in hogs with dehydration recently and this is something we could easily help to avoid. Remember also that we are now at the peak breeding season for these charming animals, so you may heard their noisy mating or, if you’re really lucky, find some hoglets in your own gardens.
Early this year BMERC held the first Wildlife Photography Competition 2020, with two categories ‘Wildlife’ and ‘Landscape’. The judges independently voted for two winning photos belonging to the same author – MKNHS member, Harry Appleyard, to whom go our congratulations. More details can be found in the BMERC newsletter, linked below, which includes both photos: ‘Shepherd’s Delight’ and ‘Waxwing in Tattenhoe, December 2010’.
The judges commented that some that some of the entrants ‘showed amazing level of passion and skills. The variety and beauty of some shots revealed incredible expertise and patience.’ The report notes that the judges had a tough job, before choosing the work of ‘an extremely talented young photographer’.
Peter Meadows reminds us that there is plenty of wildlife interest in Marston Vale Forest. The Forest Centre remains closed, but the park itself and the car park is now open from 9am-5pm. You can see what’s about by following this link to the weekly blog on Nature news (https://www.marstonvale.org/blog/nature-news-11th-may) from the Forest, with updates on plants coming into flower, bird activity video recordings and insect sightings.
We received news recently that Peter Kent, a former member of the Society, former Chairman and long-serving committee member, died on Easter Sunday. There may not be many members now who remember Peter and his wife Jean, who were very active in the Society during the 1980s and 90s. Apart from being Chairman for 4 years from 1989-1993, Peter will be particularly remembered for planning and organising a number of successful trips for Society members, which saw groups travelling to Crete, Turkey, Israel, Texas and South Africa. He also arranged trips in the UK, both long weekends, such as to Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire, and day trips to places like Westonbirt Arboretum. Due to the lockdown restrictions, a small funeral has been held, but a memorial service will be held later. His wife Jean, now 90, continues to live in Stoke Hammond, where they moved from Bletchley a couple of years ago.
The latest issue of our society newsletter ‘The Magpie’ can be viewed in the Publications section of the website or by clicking here.
Over the past few years it has become apparent to those of us involved with the website and our newsletter the Magpie that there is quite a bit of overlap and also some muddying of the waters as to what content should be sent to which of the two forms of communication. Combine this with the work involved in collecting and collating the articles for both and it has been decided that we need to look at integrating the two forms of communication to maximise the quality of our output.
To meet this end the Spring edition of the Magpie that has just been circulated will be the last in its current form. In future we (the communications/editorial team) will concentrate on encouraging people to submit content for the website eg. interesting articles, local wildlife news and recent sightings of local wildlife. Then this will be posted on the website as before on a regular basis.
However we are also aware that there are quite a few of our members who do not have easy access to the internet and we of course must continue to cater for them. To this end we will also produce a twice-yearly set of printed articles or ‘digest’ of interesting content taken from the website that will continue to be called the Magpie (quite apt as Magpies do love a good collection of interesting objects!) This will be sent out to the members who are on our mailing list for printed communications.
This change will allow the editor of the Magpie (Julie Lane at present) to spend more time providing support/back up to the website editors when and where it is required.
We hope you agree that these changes are the right way to go forwards ensuring that the Society remains up-to-date in its methods of communication and continues to inspire its members to value and celebrate local wildlife.
PS Please note a mistake was made in the emailed Spring edition of the Magpie newsletter saying that there would be one more edition of the Magpie. Apologies for the confusion but this is not the case – this Spring edition is the last in its current form!
Two events have prompted a re-think about the way the Society website is used and the focus of its content.
The first of these is the resignation of Peter Hassett from the role of webmaster resulting in the establishment of a new, but less experienced, editorial team. [See ‘Changes afoot on our website’]
The second is the recent survey completed by a substantial number of members of the Society. This survey indicated that certain parts of the website were highly valued and very well-used, but some pages were visited much less frequently. With regard to news items, the pages presenting Society News were visited far more frequently than ‘Other News’. We know (and very are grateful) that Peter spent a considerable amount of time and energy researching the amazing variety of natural history related stories that appeared in the Other News section every week. Unfortunately, we are not able to sustain that degree of effort, and plan to give this lower priority, particularly now we know that the pages are not viewed as often as this effort deserves! We also feel that the website should focus on news about wildlife and environmental issues in the Milton Keynes area in keeping with the aims of our constitution:
To promote and improve the knowledge and status of Natural History in Milton Keynes and the surrounding district.
To co-operate with other organisations, and to do such other things as are conducive to further the above objects as the occasion may arise.
As a result, the website team and Society Committee have agreed that from now on, we will concentrate on Society and Local News. Of course there will be national or international developments and reports that impact on us all in Milton Keynes, such as the recent ‘The State of Nature’ Report. We will retain the ‘Other News’ page for such items.
This change means that the website will very much rely on YOU, the Society members, to send in news items/experiences/thoughts/sightings/photos and observations you’d like to share with others.
The Sightings page is one of the most popular pages on the Society’s website. We think we can add to its interest, but it is changing and we need your help to do this.
The Sightings page is not only for experts to add their amazing sightings but for any MKNHS member, whether experienced naturalist or new member of the Society to submit their ordinary sightings.
Please look at the Sightings page every week to see what’s about. From time to time we will be adding new information about what to look for.
What we want to see on the sightings page
Up to now our website editor has laboriously transferred many individual bird records every day to the MKNHS Sightings page from the Bucks Bird Club website. To these he added any other sightings submitted direct to the MKNHS website, but there have been fewer of those. This has meant that those of you more interested in flowers, mammals or insects have seen less of interest on the Sightings page.
Bird sightings remain important and we would like you to submit those for the Milton Keynes area direct to the MKNHS website, as we will transfer very few from the Bucks Bird Club website ourselves. We explain later how you can find those elsewhere.
What to look for
Some of you may feel that what you see is hardly special enough to send in as an MKNHS website Sighting. But we want to widen what we all see on our Sightings page, so here are the kinds of sightings we will welcome:
Your local wildlife around where you live
Birds and insects in your garden
The first of the season (first bluebell seen, first swallow to arrive, first butterflies of the year, which tree leaves are opening first)
Birds, insects, flowers & fungi (wherever you see them in MK area)
Indoor sightings (which house spiders? Oak bush-crickets in late summer)
Plants or animals in unexpected places
Animals not often seen (such as an Otter or a Weasel, or simply a Hedgehog in your garden)
Road kill (such as badger, fox, hedgehog, owl)
Animals or plants that especially interest you (but local sightings please)
Sightings are enhanced when they come with a photo. It doesn’t need to be competition standard, just clear and in focus. So send these in, but sightings without a photo are equally welcome.
How to be sure of the identification of what you have seen
We don’t offer an online species identification service, but there are other ways you can check. When MKNHS meetings are running it is worth asking other members to find out who can help. If you have a few natural history field guides you may be able to work out possible options. Why not submit your sighting with what you think the species is but saying you aren’t sure or with two alternatives? But there is an online way of finding out through citizen science. Register for free with iSpot:
https://www.ispotnature.org/. You can then put a photo on the iSpot website and there’s a good chance other people will respond with the right identification. You can then submit your sighting to our website.
What information is needed for a sighting?
The basic information we need is: what, where, when, by whom. To which you can add a photo and a brief observation about what you have seen:
Where did you see it? Name of location, preferably with a grid reference.
When did you see it? Simply the date.
By whom? Your name
A photo (format?)
A brief observation. Such as how many you saw or what it was doing.
It is easy for you to view any bird sightings for Buckinghamshire simply by searching on Bucks Bird Club website. The quick route to the day’s sightings is: https://bucksbirdclub.co.uk/ then click on the drop-down in the top bar for Latest Sightings which is headed Buckinghamshire Bird News. Some of our MKNHS members are also signed up members of Bucks Bird Club and have registered to submit sightings to it. For example, on 1st April 2020 Harry Appleyard submitted 37 different sightings. Several other MKNHS members add their bird sightings to the Bucks Bird Club website. Joining fee for Bucks Bird Club is excellent value, as little as £15 a year.
After six years setting up and running our website from scratch Peter Hassett our webmaster finally stood down in March. We would like to thank him for the enormous amount of skill and effort he has put in to running such a great website and for his support during this changeover period.
To try and find a new team to carry this forward has been quite a challenge, but we are delighted to say that we now have two brave new volunteers who are prepared to give it a go. Both have little expertise in the running of websites so they will need a period of grace and understanding from Society members whilst they work their way into their new roles.
Firstly we have a new Administrator Rebecca Hiorns. Rebecca is a landscape architect, a profession she chose because of her love of the natural environment. She has recently joined the Society as she is keen to spend more time exploring and learning about our local wildlife. Rebecca will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the site making sure that it functions smoothly. She will also be responsible for implementing any structural changes that we have agreed are required to simplify the running and improve the layout of the site. We are hoping that these changes will enable our new team to run the site without having to be on-the-case every single day.
Then we have a team of three editors at present. However we are still keen to recruit one member more to join the editorial team.
Firstly a new editor Martin Ferns. Martin retired in 2018 from his post at the Open University where his roles included that of editor back in the 1980s – although not of websites. He has been resident in MK for much of the past 40 years interspersed with periods living and working in Malawi, Zambia (which he says is a wonderful country for wildlife/nature in general) and Cambodia. His interest in wildlife is general across the board.
Martin has agreed to take on the general editing of the site which will include postings of society announcements, society news, updating the Summer and Winter programme where/when necessary etc. The Recent Sightings page of the website is being re-focused with the help of Mike LeRoy to make it more relevant to MKNHS members by encouraging the reporting of more local sightings of a greater diversity of wildlife.
Linda Murphy our Treasurer has offered to lead on commissioning of articles and other contributions to the website in the short-term (until another editor has been recruited) and Jenny Mercer has offered to support her in this role.
Julie Lane who is at present editing the Magpie, our twice-yearly newsletter, is looking at ways to integrate the newsletter more effectively with the website. More about this later and in the Magpie itself due out at the end of the month.
As mentioned above the changes involved with getting our new team up and running as well as the changes in the actual website will take some time, so we ask for your patience and understanding at this time. We will be in touch in various ways letting you know more about our plans but obviously the first go-to place for information will be the website itself.
Following the closure of the Cruck Barn until further notice, all planned indoor meetings were cancelled, including the AGM, which was scheduled for 17 March 2020. Since then, the Committee has taken the inevitable decision to suspend all outdoor meetings planned as part of the Summer Programme. As and when the lockdown is lifted and it is again possible to get together, the Summer Programme will be resumed.
Milton Keynes Natural History Society has registered with #easyfundraising, a website which supports fundraising for hundreds of charities and good causes.
The Society Committee decided to take this step as it offers a way for members to make small donations to MKNHS when they shop online without actually having to pay anything more than the price of their purchase, because the donation is made by the retailers who have signed up to the scheme.
The donations received will help the Society to build up the fund set up in 2018 to replace, or upgrade, as necessary the essential equipment and promotional display items purchased in previous years.
Currently there are over 4,000 participating shops and sites which will donate to us when you use #easyfundraising to shop with them. These include well-known names such as eBay, Argos, Amazon, John Lewis, ASOS, Booking.com, Tesco, Sainsbury, M&S and Expedia, covering most retail sectors, from grocery shopping to holiday and travel bookings.
So if you buy anything online, do consider signing up to easyfundraising to support MKNHS. Donations may be small, but mount up over time, the more people participate.
If you don’t shop on line but would like to make a small donation you can do this via the Voluntary Donations scheme, launched last year, which gives members the option of adding a voluntary donation to the annual subscription (currently £25 payable from 1st April). Amounts suggested were £5, £10 or £20 but any amount however small (or large!) is welcome It is your decision to make a donation and you can cancel it at any time. Speak to the Treasurer if you want more information.
Of course there are other ways to support the Society, not just financial. If you would like to take on a more active, practical role in running weekly meetings, or in running the Society, the committee would love the hear from you!
Peter our webmaster is standing down in March and we are keen to retain and further develop our wonderful website which is proving such an asset to the Society.
If you have some technical or editorial skills already or are interested in acquiring these skills then we are looking to set up a small team of people to be involved in taking this forward.
Ideally we are looking for a couple of people to run the technical side of the website as Administrators and 2-3 to act as Editors providing content.
We very much hope that members of the Society will want to become involved but if you know of anyone outside of the society who might enjoy the challenge please let us know. We can be contacted either at a meeting by talking to Linda Murphy, Mike LeRoy, or Julie Lane or by emailing Julie Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org
The evening started from the Medieval Thornborough Bridge (pictured above) constructed from the local Blisworth Limestone which we were to see in the quarry. The route took us under the busy A421 upstream along the bank of the Padbury Brook (a few members took advantage of much nearer car parking courtesy of the local farmer so missed the walk but had time to set out the demonstration table above the quarry).
The Padbury Brook was a green corridor of reeds and rushes through the parched meadows. Late flowering summer flowers on its banks were still showing well including Great Willow Herb, Marsh Woundwort, Water Forgetmenot, Water Figwort, Angelica and Teasel.
Two Brown Hares on an arable field opposite offered early excitement. Unfortunately there were few insects in evidence and birds were few and far between but did include Grey Wagtail, Reed Bunting, Swallows, and a large flock of Rooks feeding on stubble.
Joe gave a brief introduction to the rock exposure in the quarry as observed from the viewing platform above it. Mainly drawing on the excellent Bucks Geological Society website and Interpretation Boards he explained that deposition was about 170 million years ago in the Middle Jurassic Period. The area was then at a latitude of about 40 degrees North. He explained that the Blisworth Limestone was deposited in low energy shallow warm marine conditions (as currently found in the Florida Keys). The Blisworth Clay above the limestone was deposited in lagoonal, mud flat and brackish marsh environments. There are fewer fossils but a dinosaur(Theropod) footprint had been found near-by at Thornborough Mill.
Of particular interest was a fault line (subsequent to deposition) which had displaced the younger rubbly Cornbrash seen to the east of the quarry downwards relative to the Blisworth Limestone. This could be clearly seen despite slumping of much later material.
Jenny then demonstrated how this had happened with a specially baked ‘strata’ cake! (Subsequently the cake was rapidly eroded by participants!)
Most of the group then spent about an hour examining the structural features of the quarry and some Blisworth Limestone samples. We noted that the latter are made up of accumulated fossil shell fragments bound together with a carbonate cement. The fossils that can be found here are of Bivalves, Gastropods, Corals, Ecinoids and Brachiopods. Members identified with some confidence Bivalves and Gastropods including a small number with complete shells. A worm like trace fossil was also found. Others proved more challenging to identify. Calcite crystals (precipitated after deposition) were also in evidence especially with the aid of hand lens.
During the time in the quarry area several members explored the wooded area adjacent to it: a Jay and Tree Creeper were seen and a Green Woodpecker heard. Some also found the ruins of the two 19thcentury lime kilns which operated on the site until 1890 and are now marked by an information board.
This outing was rather different from our normal living wildlife focus but apart from its attractive setting the geology observed was a useful reminder of a past habitat and some of the animals that lived in it.
Sherington now has an active and growing Biodiversity Group who are doing all they can to make the village more attractive to wildlife. The churchyard of St.Laud’s Church is managed with a light touch – large areas of the churchyard are left unmown to allow grasses and wildflowers to flourish and some areas have been enhanced with sown and planted wildflowers. ‘Bug hotels’ have been installed on the walls and hedgehogs are encouraged throughout the village.
On the evening that we visited the omens were not good. After a wet day, the skies were leaden and it was drizzling at 6.45pm. Nevertheless, twenty members turned up. Parking at the village hall, we made the short walk along Church End towards the church. As luck would have it, we had just reached the church when there was an almighty downpour. Luckily, we had shelter in the church porch which was quite cosy with 20 people in it! A good place, this, for the Harvestman enthusiast. However, the rain soon passed and we had a very enjoyable hour.
Speckled Bush Cricket by Peter Hassett
Martin Kincaid led the group from the church into the adjacent fields. One of these former arable fields has now been turned over to nature by the owner who has planted a nectar rich garden which is full of butterflies, bees and hoverflies. On the previous day Martin and Carol Allen had counted 13 species of butterfly here for the Big Butterfly Count. In the damp conditions, we did not see any butterflies flying about but before long people started to find roosting butterflies on grass stems – at first just Meadow Browns and Ringlets, and later a wider range including Common Blue, Brown Argus and Small Copper. Everywhere, Meadow Grasshoppers were leaping about and we managed to identify six species of Orthoptera. Probably most impressive were a number of adult Speckled Bush-crickets who were settled on the leaves of a Buddleia. Julie Lane found these and before long several of us had them crawling over our hands.
This garden is privately owned but signs dotted around make it clear that anyone is welcome to wander through and enjoy it – provided they clean up after their dogs. In a second clearing there was a large compost heap and around here impressive stands of Purple Loosestrife and Water Figwort.
Returning to the churchyard, we concentrated on plants. Roy Maycock had listed plants here in the 1980s as part of his county-wide churchyard survey. Mary Sarre, assisted by others, amassed quite a list this evening and will be interesting to compare this with Roy’s 30+ year old list.
Among the birds heard and seen were Swifts, Swallows and House Martins – which were foraging over the village – Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chiffchaff and Green Woodpecker.
A most enjoyable walk despite less than summery conditions and one worth repeating. We will provide Sherington Biodiversity Group with our records and observations.
Text by Martin Kincaid.
Photo at top of page is a Chiffchaff by Peter Hassett
Since I last wrote moth notes over a month has passed and that time has taken us in to the busiest part of the mothing season. I have spent some of that time on the Suffolk Coast in search of moths that do not venture inland. There has been plenty of mothing going on here though with visits to Goosey Bank and Barn Field, both near Olney, a night out at Howe Park Wood helping with the Bioblitz there on 1-2 July, a late night/early morning at the Woodland Trust owned College Wood, near Nash as well as the usual traps left at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve and in my garden here at Newport Pagnell.
The wet and cooler weather of the past few days has provided a little respite and has permitted time to check records, enter them on the data base and to write some mothing notes.
One of the moths I enjoy seeing in Suffolk is the Rosy Footman. I have never seen it in North Bucks so you can imagine my surprise when it was found in a trap at Linford Lakes on 13th July. I returned from Suffolk on the 12th and the trap it was found in was one that I had taken away with me so I suspect that I may have brought it back with me. I will include it in my records for Linford with an explanatory note but who knows, the moth may have found its way there on its own accord.
One that took the eye at Howe Park Wood on 2nd July was a Green Arches. There are a number of moths with Arches in their names and all have markings with a curved or pointed arch above a pair of columns. The caterpillars feed on Dock, Bramble, Primrose and Honeysuckle at the wood and they overwinter as caterpillars and pupate underground.
At Barn Field, near Olney on 17th July a lovely specimen of Yellow Shell was recorded. These are disturbed during the day and are on the wing between June and August. The caterpillars feed on Cleavers, Bedstraws, Dandelions and Docks and they too overwinter as larvae and pupate underground.
Found outside one of the traps on the same day at Barn Field was this Leopard Moth. The caterpillars of this moth feed on wood and stem tissue of many trees and because there is not much nutrition in wood they remain in the caterpillar state for between 2-3 years. The adult moth, like the one in the photograph, is incapable of feeding.
On the 25th June, a welcome visitor to the garden trap in Newport Pagnell was the very colourful Scarlet Tiger. The Tiger moths are as colourful as butterflies and their caterpillars are the “woolly bears”. The Scarlet Tiger seems to have been extending its range in recent years from a base in the south west of England. The caterpillars feed on Common Comfrey and Hemp-agrimony and when larger disperse on to Common Nettle, Bramble and Sallow. The micro-moth beneath the Tiger is known as the Yellow-spot Tortrix.
Text and photos kindly supplied by Gordon Redford. Click here to read the previous edition of Moth Notes
Looking back over the urban birding scene since edition 1, it is swifts that have dominated, more on them below. I have no more news about our urban peregrine falcons. I have seen from the numerous webcams and twitter feeds that the very numerous other sites nationwide have done extremely well. It is very disappointing that we in Bucks have been deprived of the webcam from County Hall that we had grown to know and love. I am not exactly sure of all the reasons but know a major difficulty is that the Aylesbury pigeon racing fraternity are doing their utmost to have the County Hall birds and their platform removed and are seeking to litigate to achieve this. In my opinion, it would help the peregrines if all who care about them could take the time to write to Bucks County Council to register their support of the project. Meanwhile, I am going to have to consider enduring another football match and making a visit to the MK Dons to see if I can what’s going on there!
Turning to the swifts, over the last 2 or 3 weeks they seem to have become very active – definitely in the north Bucks village where I live at least. Parties of what I take to be non-breeders have been zooming around in devil-may-care groups screaming their heads off. Younger non-breeding birds appear to be checking out potential breeding sites for next year by flying up to places and briefly clinging on – if this happens at wooden nesting boxes, it can make quite a bang, leading to some people calling such birds “bangers”. For the last few years, I have been attempting to supply BMERC with a list of exact nesting sites in Bucks. This is something that Bucks Bird Club reporting system does not lend itself to – nest sites can be difficult to see for sure and knowing how many are in a particular building is similarly tricky. Most difficult of all, I have been reporting exact addresses e.g. “43 Acacia Avenue” which is something that would be inappropriate on Bucks Bird Club’s systems, even if marked as confidential. My purpose in recording these details is not to make life difficult for householders but to try to help swifts. If a planning application came in at a property with known swift nests, it would help to make sure that work is carried out in the off season and also would give an opportunity to have a conversation with the property owner to see if they could do anything to mitigate any potential negative impact on swifts. If anyone is able to supply any data about breeding swifts, please email me on email@example.com
The last week of June also saw the second annual “Swift Awareness Week” with over 100 events taking place nationwide. They were an eclectic assortment – from walks and talks to garden parties and pop-up mini displays of information. Princes Risborough was fortunate to have a talk by Andrew Lack, son of the David Lack, the eminent ornithologist from Oxford.
As I write in mid July, it will not be long before our swifts depart, so if you are lucky enough to have any near where you live, don’t forget to appreciate them while you can.
Good Urban Birding until next month, Sue Hetherington
One of the UK’s largest and most spectacular butterflies is now on the wing in the city’s woods.
The Purple Emperor, a much-sought after insect by naturalists and photographers, has been seen in Howe Park Wood, Shenley Wood and along the North Bucks Way in the past week. The male emperor with a wingspan of 8-9cm, has an iridescent purple sheen on his wings which give him his name whilst the slightly larger female is black and white.
Whilst carrying out a butterfly survey at Shenley Wood on 5th July 2019, The Parks TrustThe Parks Trust’s Biodiversity Officer Martin Kincaid was amazed when this magnificent butterfly landed just a few metres away from him. These insects spend most of their life soaring around the tree canopy and only rarely visit the woodland floor where they feed on salts and minerals which they obtain from woodchip, puddles, carrion and even animal faeces! They rarely visit flowers.
Martin says “we have known that these butterflies are in our woodlands for the past five years or so but usually I just get a fleeting glimpse as one flies through the trees. To see one feeding on the ground like this, and with both wings showing vivid purple, is a rare treat. I was lucky that it stayed on the ground for 20-30 minutes and His Majesty permitted me to take lots of photographs with my phone and show him to some passing dog walkers”.
As well as this close encounter in Shenley Wood, flying Purple Emperors have been seen at Howe Park Wood and along the North Bucks Way near Oakhill Wood in the past few days. July is the peak season for this noble insect, so why not get out to one of our woodlands and see if you can spot one for yourself….?
If you fancy getting up close and personal with dragons and damsels there is no better place than the Business Park ornamental ponds at Caldecotte. Today there were a dozen emperors and four-spotteds mating and ovipositing. Also red-eyed, blue-tailed and common blue damsels. (And reed warblers).
Later there will be hawkers. Footpaths around half a dozen ponds, seating areas, odos buzzing around your head. Best to go at a weekend when you can park nearby in Monellan Grove or the small car park there at Caldecotte Lake (otherwise it is chockabloc with workers’ cars).
Text and pictures kindly supplied by Janice Robertson
What is Hen Harrier Day? Hen Harrier Day celebrates the beauty of this wonderful bird and highlights its threatened status which is almost entirely due to wildlife crime. Hen Harriers are illegally killed because they eat Red Grouse (among other things) which people want to shoot for fun. There have been Hen Harrier Day rallies since 10th August 2014 when four events took place, the largest of which was held in the Peak District in torrential rain and was attended by the ‘Sodden 570’ and hosted by Mark Avery and Chris Packham. It is an annual event timed around the “Glorious” 12th (ie the start of the grouse shooting season)
It started in 2014, at the Derwent Dam, my image attached (I was one of the “Sodden 570 ” in the aftermath of Hurricane Bertha). In 2015, it moved to the Goyt Valley, Derbyshire (my image attached) then to RSPB Rainham Marshes in 2017 (my image attached) It was in various locations in 2017 and 2018 (I was unable to attend these so have no images) As noted above, it is consolidating down to the one location in 2019 for the 6th HH Day. I am planning to attend. Not everyone is aware that these even happen and even if not wishing to attend may just like the information.
Twitter followers should use the hash tag ##HHDay19
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.
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
– 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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
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
A (long) week of SWIFT AWARENESS events is taking place nationwide from Saturday 22nd June 2019 to Sunday 30th June 2019 and everyone is invited! It has been organised by the amateur enthusiasts who are known as Action for Swifts with the support of Swift Conservation.
The full list of events listed so far can be found from the swift conservation homepage at www.swift-conservation.org Scroll down that page a little until you see a box labelled “Swift Awareness Week”. Click on this box to get a map and associated events. There is a real eclectic mix of events but the main thing is all are welcome, come and join in and celebrate our wonderful swifts and learn what can be done to help them. I have listed the Cock at Stony Stratford as a DIY visit.
One event that is part of SAW which may or may not get listed on the AfS website is happening at Bucks County Museum in Aylesbury. It is a small pop up display all about swifts and ways to help them. It will be on throughout the SAW week during museum open hours (check museum website for times) The museum entry charge is “by donation”.
I will be providing some nice leaflets produced by AfS at both Stony Stratford and Aylesbury as handouts for visitors to take away – they are super little leaflets, absolutely packed with information in a surprisingly small space.
Incidentally, Swift Conservation and Action for Swifts will once again be exhibiting at Birdfair but they will be twice as good as previous years as they are doubling their stand size! There will be masses of information and advice – it is after all how the seed of the Dinton church project was germinated!
I can confirm that the Dinton breeding swifts have eventually returned but (darn darn darn) have not yet chosen to use my nestbox despite unrelenting use of the caller system!
It is some 20 days since I last penned some notes and for much of that time it has not really been moth weather, temperatures have been low and there has been rain and sometimes windy too. I have run the trap in my garden every night over those 20 days but have only been to Linford Lakes Nature Reserve on 5 occasions and had only one visit to Hollington Wood.
That said, there has been a sort of spluttering start to moth season proper with the appearance of the aptly named Herald on the 21stApril at Linford Lakes followed on 30thApril there a Lime Hawk-moth, Pebble Prominent and Spectacle Moth.
The Herald is one of a small number of moths that overwinter as adults in sheltered locations such as sheds, barns and outhouses. The caterpillars feed on Aspens, Willow and Poplars of which there are plenty at Linford Lakes.
The Lime Hawk-moth is one of nine species of hawk-moth that are resident in the British Isles. There are nine other species that occur as immigrants but the early stages are unable to survive the winter. The Lime Hawk-moth does not feed as an adult. The caterpillars are not confined to Lime trees and will feed on Elms, Birches and Alders.
Pebble Prominent is so named because of the pebble like blotch on the fore wing. It is able to produce 2 generations in a year, one on the wing April to June and the other July to August. The caterpillars feed on Sallow, Willows, Aspen and Poplars.
The Spectacle is so named after the grey shape, like a pair of spectacles or goggles visible on the thorax when viewed front on. Like the Pebble Prominent, the Spectacle has two generations spanning April to September. The food plant of the caterpillars is Common Nettle.
On Moth Notes of 29thMarch, I wrote about Emperor Moths and showed a photograph of some eggs that had been laid after moths had mated. Well, on Saturday, 4thMay there was great joy and excitement in the Redford household because the eggs began to hatch. The caterpillars are about 2mm long and as the photograph shows have shiny black heads, black bodies with short black hairs. They will just eat and eat now till around August.
Text and photos kindly supplied by Gordon Redford. Click here to read the previous edition of Moth Notes
A fieldfare sightings has been confirmed by an RSPB Birder whom I met at Pilch on Friday last. They were very late to arrive and then left late from North Bucks this year. There is a great proliferation of Green-winged orchids and many cowslips still in full flower. Great for all you photographers out there, as colour of both is great.
There are strong purple to pink in the variations on the orchids this year which showed so well in the dullish 4pm onwards light on showery evenings.
Marsh marigolds are much more extensive this year with several new clumps in both fields.
The impact of BBOWT WORK Parties on clearing bramble in both field is welcome with very extensive areas of Adders Tongue on ridge and furrow clearings just in front of the trees area at far end of larger Pilch Field, uphill on the side of old pond area.
A glance at my notebook in which I record moths in my garden in Newport Pagnell shows very clearly that there have been some cold nights and not many moths recorded. Moths do not like cold, wind and rain and we have had some of all three since I last wrote. I was wondering what am I going to write about in these notes when a fellow mother came to my rescue. Andy Harding has permission from the owners (Bucks, Berks and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust) and the Warden of Little Linford Wood to trap and record moths there and he asked if I would like to join him at opening up time on April 17th.
I am not sure either of us was expecting much judging by our results at our homes but what a surprise was in store for us. The white sheet upon which the trap had been placed had one on there to make us gasp. It was a Lunar-marbled Brown (pictured above). It is nationally regarded as a common species but in my 24 years of mothing in this area I have recorded it just 7 times. It’s caterpillars feed on Oaks of which there are plenty at Little Linford Wood.
There was better to follow because on an oak tree adjacent to the trap was a Frosted Green whose caterpillars are also oak feeders. This was a new moth for me.
There were 2 other moths that had us salivating, neither rare, but both rather nice to see. The first was a Water Carpet which I first saw in Northumberland in the 1980’s. The caterpillars of this moth feed on bedstraws.
The second was a Purple Thorn, a beautiful moth that manages to get through the life cycle of egg-caterpillar-pupa-flying insect twice in the year so watch these notes in August for a re-appearance.
Nature Reserves and land owned and managed by the Wildlife Trusts are very important for moths because the plants and trees upon which they rely during their life cycles should have some measure of protection. Moths themselves are very important not least because all parts of their lives provide food for other wildlife.
I need not have worried really about having moths to show and talk about because today, Good Friday, at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve, a Chocolate-tip. Just right for Easter I thought.
Text and photos kindly supplied by Gordon Redford.
Lunar Marbled Brown and Frosted Green
Frosted Green – side and top views
Click here to read the previous edition of Moth Notes
The temperatures in the evenings over the 12 days or so since I last wrote have generally been on the low side and this along with winds and rain have tended to keep the numbers of moths visiting my traps often down to single figures. I have been moth-trapping in my garden in Newport Pagnell every night, at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve most nights and one night each at Hollington Wood and Goosey Bank, both near Olney. The owners/managers of the last 3 sites mentioned have granted me permission to leave traps on their land and my wife allows me to keep one in the garden.
I am often asked why do you do what do with moths? Setting up moth traps, carrying heavy batteries up hill and down dale and the getting up early in the morning to check them out, identifying them and then releasing them. Well, there are many reasons and one of them occurred at Hollington Wood on the that one night mentioned above.
I had left 2 battery operated traps there on the night of April 1stand it was a coolish night, lowest temperature at 2.3 degrees at home and probably a little higher in the shelter of the woodland. The 2 traps yielded just 23 moths of 11 species one of which was a White-marked ( a poorly named moth really because the white mark is more creamy-yellow).
I have mothed in this area since 1994 when we moved here from the North-East of England where I had also mothed for some years and never before had I seen a White-marked. So one reason that I pursue this strange hobby is that even after 30+ years, there is always a chance that something new might turn up. Every morning is just a bit like Christmas.
The others recorded on that morning at Hollington Wood were in order of appearance Dotted Border, Diurnea fagella, Pale Pinion, Common Quaker, Small Quaker, Hebrew Character, Satellite, Brindled Beauty, Clouded Drab and the Engrailed.
Text and photos kindly supplied by Gordon Redford.
Photos: Beautifully marked Dotted Border White-marked Pale Pinion Brindled Beauty
Click here to read the previous edition of Moth Notes
Great excitement today because my Emperor Moth pupae, which I have kept in the garden since late July, last year were waking up. Yesterday, mid-afternoon, a female chewed her way out of one of the cocoons and crawled her way up the net that I had placed her in. This morning I placed the net on a some fencing in the garden and, lo and behold, when I was in the shower, my wife called, “ there are males in the garden and I have netted one”. We have been married 47 years so I knew she meant moths.
If you are reading this with no knowledge of moths you may be thinking what is this man on about? Well, here’s the thing (Where has that come from? Everyone is now saying here’s the thing, me included). Moths and Butterflies, the Lepidoptera, have a life cycle of egg-caterpillar-pupa-adult. Some can achieve these 4 stages a couple of times a year, some it takes a year and some 3, 4 or more years. The Emperor Moth though, a native moth, is one of those that does it all in one year usually.
I was given Emperor eggs some ten years ago as a gift and have been rearing them each year since so the sequence of events is well practised. When moths emerge from the pupae ( usually in mid to late April , so note they are early this year) I separate the males from the females, which is simple with Emperor Moths not the least because they are visually different but also the male moths have feathery antennae while the females do not. The females are then placed in a net hanging from the washing line. The males are placed in a net too but locked up in the garage.
Where I am now with my female Emperor is that she is in the net on the washing line and, by emitting pheromones, has attracted a “wild” male which my wife has caught. This is part of the plan because I want the female mated with a “wild” male rather than with her brothers who are in the garage.
I, now dried and clothed I must say, have come down into the garden and have introduced the netted “wild” male to the net containing the female. He flaps around in a frenzy, it seems every where the female is not (oh! the passion of youth) but what is this? Another male is in the garden, attracted by the pheromones, who is caught and put in the net with the male and female and this boy knows what is what. He couples up with the female almost immediately. I leave them to it, not sure if insect porn is a crime. One hour later they are uncoupled. This troubles me a little because in the past those that have coupled stay that way for two to three hours. Has he done the business? I have done though as I usually do, which is once uncoupling is completed, placed the female in a box with egg laying material, and hope for the best. The males have been released. It is the best I can do for them.
I am writing this on the night of the 29thMarch so will not know till tomorrow whether eggs have been laid. I need not have worried though- the eggs are laid, I just hope they are fertilized. It usually takes three weeks for caterpillars to emerge from the eggs. Just watch this space.
Text and pictures kindly provided by Gordon Redford
Pictures from top to bottom: Emperors in cop Emperor Moth Eggs Female Emperor Moth Male Emperor Moth
Click here to read the previous edition of Moth Notes
Julie Lane asked for help in identifying this funds. It was seen in Salcey Forest on 31 March 2019.
Justin Long has identified the subject of Julie’s picture
“I’m pretty sure she has the immature form of the slime mould Enteridium lycoperdon. This will shortly coalesce and form a silvery coloured skin, before the spore mass inside turns into a brown powdery mass, with the skin eventually splitting to release the spores.”
I recently took my car for an MoT at Arden Park Garage Services in Old Wolverton Rd, Wolverton. I have used the garage for years for MoTs and the garage has the benefit that as well as providing a reasonable priced MoT, just happens to be directly opposite Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve.
So, instead of sitting in the waiting room reading an old magazine, I spent a very pleasant hour rising the reserve. I walked down to the Viaduct hide and then visited the Farm and Iron Trunk hides before returning using the path past the Manor Farm Court offices.
A Western Conifer Seed Bug Leptoglossus occidentalis (see photo) was found on Bradwell Common on 23rd March 2019, in almost exactly the same place it was recorded four years before on 28th March 2015.
Leptoglossus occidentalis is native to the USA west of the Rocky Mountains but has spread in America and was an accidental introduction to Europe through Italy in 1999, with first English records in 2007. It feeds on Pines, and sure enough, there are trees of both Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris and Corsican Pine Pinus nigra subsp. larico nearby in Bradwell Common. As both of these tree species were widely planted in and around housing areas and in the linear parks, by Milton Keynes Development Corporation, there is a good chance of you finding them this spring.
Look out for the squarish ‘shoulders’, the long splayed out antennae, the swollen femurs on the legs, the broken white lines at the outer edges of the wings and the rectangular white ‘box’ margins on the inner edges of its folded wings. It is one of the ‘true bugs’, the Hemiptera which means ‘half-winged’ and is in the family Coreidae. Hemiptera are plant-feeders that have sucking mouthparts tucked beneath them. Leptoglossus occidentalis sucks juices from pine-cones. Apparently this species make a buzzing sound when flying and can emit a smelly spray as a defence.
I set 2 x 40W Skinner traps last night at Goosey Bank ,Nr Olney for the first time as well as the Robinson at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve and the usual Robinson at home so had a busy early couple of hours at the beginning of the day.
I was intrigued to see what may turn up at Goosey Bank so woke at 0500hrs, still dark, so too early to set off. I kept myself busy with some ironing before setting off at about 0600hrs. It was too early to even pick up a newspaper on the way.
Arrived around 06:20hrs and went to the trap set on the Bank itself and recorded my first moth there, a March Moth on the veins around the bulb. That promising start did not continue though when the top was removed and the egg boxes inspected. One more March Moth was found and that was it. The moon was very bright and full last night so may be that explains the low number.
And so down to the second trap situated deliberately close to a large willow bursting with catkins on the lower ground-nothing on the outside of the trap to excite but I could see some moths inside. 18 moths later of 5 species, none of which were March Moths, saw me packing things up and wheezing somewhat carrying those 12V batteries up the steep slope. The 5 included the 3 regulars for this time of year, Hebrew Character, Common Quaker, Clouded Drab along with Small Quakers and a Shoulder Stripe.
Next stop was Linford Lakes Nature Reserve where a Cetti’s Warbler sang me a greeting as I arrived. Again though, it was rather quiet. 17 moths attracted to the 125W Mercury Vapour bulb and this time 6 species; as well as the regular triumvirate mentioned above there was a Small Quaker, a very fine Twin-spotted Quaker and a micro-moth with no common name, Agonopterix ocellana.
At home the max/min thermometer recorded a low of 6.6 degrees so wondered whether the trap here may be better than the others already checked but it was not to be. 10 moths of 5 species and only two thirds of the triumvirate, Common Quaker and Hebrew Character. To these were added Early Grey, Shoulder Stripe and a micro moth with a common name much longer than it, a Light Brown Apple Moth (abbreviated to LBAM in my notebook).
47 moths in total then and, by my reckoning, 10 species. That though is only the half of it. It was a lovely morning, I met no one, spoke to no one (except the Cetti’s Warbler) and enjoyed a splendid views across to the Country Park from Goosey Bank. It set me up nicely to deal with our weekly shop at Tesco’s.
Text and pictures kindly provided by Gordon Redford
Pictures from top to bottom: Shoulder Stripe Skinner trap Robinson trap March Moth Hebrew Character Agonopterix ocellana
Last Sunday, 17thFebruary, we had our second outdoor meeting of the year, an amble through Little Linford Wood to look for (very) early signs of Spring.
Little Linford Wood is a site very familiar to most members of MKNHS. Birders and botanists know if as a good site for woodland rarities and it has been the focus for the North Bucks Dormouse Group since a population was introduced there in 2000. Our Phil Sarre has been BBOWT’s volunteer manager for the wood for many years, leading work parties to carry out coppicing and other tasks throughout the year. We were fortunate that Phil was able to show us around on this warm and sunny February day although sadly Mary was not feeling up to joining him, having overdone the gardening!
Phil began by describing the wood’s changing fortunes down the years. Although ancient woodland, there are very few ancient trees present as much of the wood was clear felled in 1984. Fortunately, BBOWT were able to buy it up and re-planted the wood in the 1990s. For the most part, we avoided the main rides (which were quite busy with the glorious weather) and instead went into the woodland blocks, where Phil showed us some very impressive old ash stools. About fifteen feet up in one mature ash was a splendid epiphytic Fern Gymnocarpium spp.(See Photo).. Underfoot were thousands of Bluebells spiking through the leaf litter and a few Primroses had begun to flower.
There was plenty of birdsong to listen to and Harry Appleyard did his best to separate Marsh Tit song from the impersonations made by Great Tits! It took a while, but eventually we got to hear and see a marsh tit, flitting between oaks down the main ride. Other birds heard included Fieldfares overhead, Song Thrush, Blue Tit, Robin, Goldcrest, Tree-creeper and Nuthatch. Excitingly, there had been a rare sighting of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker the previous Friday and several of us were listening out for drumming woodpeckers all morning. Surprisingly, the entire walk was woodpecker-free.
We also saw a new pond which has recently been excavated as part of the new regional Great Crested Newt conservation scheme. The established pond near the heart of the wood looked good but there was no frogspawn apparent just yet. The final leg of the walk along the nature trail caused excitement when a Woodcock was flushed and shot through the cover, triggering songbirds to call out in alarm. We saw more Marsh Tits along this route and Phil showed us an area that had been coppiced recently with abundant Primroses. At the far end of the nature trail, Martin had a look for the early rosettes of Herb-Paris. None to be seen, but lots of the attractive heart shaped leaves of Wood Sorrel were found.
A final treat, spotted by Harry back at the car park, was a beautiful Peacock butterfly which settled on the ground allowing close viewing. For most of us, this was the first butterfly we had seen this year and was a fitting end to what had been a delightful spring walk. Many thanks to Phil and Mary for including it in the diary.
Text by Martin Kincaid
Marsh Tit Photo by Harry Appleyard
Epiphytic Fern by Julian Lambley
It is a rare occasion when I find the opportunity to dedicate a really good period of quality time to photography. And when I do, there’s not much I like more than to take a bimble round the woods with camera in hand, finding some fungi to shoot.
And so it was, on a cold but bright January morning, that just such an opportunity presented itself.
My lovely wife was away on a girlie weekend, and nothing else had managed to creep, or even barge its way to the top of my to-do list, so I decided to head up to Linford Lakes Nature Reserve to see what was about.
I had in mind getting some shots of the very photogenic Flammulina velutipes– the Velvet Tough Shank, which grows on hardwoods at this time of year. I already have a photo of this species from a few years back, but it’s not tack sharp, and besides which, my photographic skills and equipment have developed somewhat since then, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Linford Lakes is a good location for another early vernal species too – the Scarlet Elf Cup, and I did indeed find this species, but more about that another time perhaps…
A little technique I have developed over the years is to walk through an area looking for likely specimens or habitats, taking note along the way of anything interesting, and returning to the best spot once I have had a good look around. I have learned through bitter experience not to spend too much time on the first half decent mushroom that I come across, only to then find a much more photogenic specimen, and no time to do it justice!
And it was on this pre-photo recce that I came across this rather striking bracket fungus that I immediately recognised as Fomitopsis pinicola– the Red Banded Polypore. I say that I immediately recognised it, but in fact I had only ever seen this on the Continent before – in France and in Germany, so I had my suspicions that it might just be something a bit more common masquerading as a rarity.
So I took a number of photos from differing angles, including (importantly) the spore-bearing surface, showing the pores or tubes, from which the spores are ejected. I didn’t take any samples, as if it was indeed the Fomitopsis, I was unsure as to whether it had protected status.
Anyway, with that I headed home to do some research, bumping into Jane Grisdale on the way, and also stopping to get some photos of the aforementioned Scarlet Elf Cup. I mentioned to Jane that we might just have something a bit special here, but didn’t get too over enthusiastic, as identifying species on site, without reference material is always risky – especially for a potential rarity.
It turns out that there are 50 records for Fomitopsis pinicolaon the Fungal Records Database of Britain and Ireland (FRDBI), so I figured that we might be in with a chance of a first for the County. So, with excitement mounting, I checked the locations of each of the records on the database, starting with the first record from 1938.
With each record from a location other than Bucks, the chances of finding a county first at Linford Lakes increased, and before long I had reached the end of the list – all 50 species! But, alas, and you can imagine my disappointment, there it was, on the very last listing in the database – the 50th – a record from 2016, from Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire…
There was still a chance of course that my identification was wrong, but after conferring with friends at the Bucks Fungus Group, and further confirmation from the National Herbarium at Kew, it is now listed as a good record – the 51st.
So a second for the county, and only the second time this has been recorded on alder, it is still a great find for the Reserve, and, I think, time well spent.
A small group of hardy souls set off for the Ouse Washes near Ely in Cambridgeshire this Saturday. We left the rain behind in Milton Keynes and after an hour and a half’s drive which culminated in negotiating the long and somewhat hilarious switch back of an access road we arrived on site.
The Ouse washes is a vast area of flooded fenland bordered by high banks and ditches which form part of the flood control system for this area of the fenland. In the winter the area is flooded and is home to large flocks of duck, geese, swans and waders whereas in the summer the water drains away and the resulting wet fen is great for breeding waders.
Our first port of call was the spacious visitor centre where we could have a coffee and watch the busy bird feeders which thronged with tits, greenfinches, goldfinches, reed buntings, house sparrows and most exciting of all handsome rusty coloured tree sparrows.
We then set off eastwards along the track stopping at five hides en route. The water was fairly busy with rafts of coot and ducks such as mallard, wigeon, shovelors, tufties, gadwall, pochard, teal and the occasional goldeneye. There were a few whoopers and mute swans out there and lapwing flocks and every so often a marsh harrier floated by spooking the ducks into the air, testing their fitness. Sadly we didn’t see the hoped for short eared owl on the fields behind the dam but there were kestrels, a sparrowhawk, buzzard and a pair of stonechats on the track just ahead of us.
After a packed lunch back at the visitors centre we set off in the opposite direction and visited three more hides. There were more lapwing and quite large flocks of golden plover in this direction which made a particularly impressive sight as they wheeled and shimmered in the light with a backdrop of Ely cathedral. There must have been a peregrine around at one point as the whole lot went up in an amazing spectacle but sadly none of us spotted it. We also saw a small group of pintails – such a smart duck!
One of the fields behind the dam had a large flock of whooper swans feeding which was good to see as when I was there two weeks earlier the wash was full of them (see photo).
As the skies darkened we made our way back to the centre a tired but happy bunch.
Many thanks to Julie Lane for leading the walk and writing the trip report.
Entire stretches of the M1 motorway near Northampton will be completely shut between January 7 and January 15 overnight while trees on the verges are felled.
However, the trees can’t be allowed to fall and hit the ground or else they could disturb nearby dormice in the area – which means the trees must be slowly lowered onto lorry beds using specialist machines, then chipping them in separate vehicles.
Blackbird, CC BY_NC_SA Peter Hassett, Shenley Church End 2 January 2019
I have feeders in my garden and each year I complete the RSPBNBLG Garden Bird survey, as well as the Big Garden Birdwatch.
I provide Niger and Sunflower seeds, fat balls and fat pellets all contained in hanging feeders.
Looking at the survey results this year, I realised that I was not seeing any ground feeding birds in my garden e.g. Robin, Thrush, Blackbird, etc. so I asked Santa for a ground feeding tray and cover for Christmas (I have been a good boy this year, honest). The reason I wanted a cover for the feeder is that Wood Pigeons and Feral Pigeons visit the garden and I knew they would devour anything I put on the ground before the Robins and Thrushes got a chance.
Santa [ahem – your darling wife – edited by aforementioned] was very kind and also left me a ground feeding songbird mix comprising Sunflower Hearts, Peanut Granules, Pinhead Oats, Raisins, Oats, and Dried Mealworms.
I initially placed the ground feeder in the middle of the lawn and was surprised that no birds used the feeder. The Magpies were very interested, but couldn’t squeeze through the mesh. However, the local grey squirrel was very happy with the new offering, spreading his discerning palate between the hanging Sunflower feeders and the ground feeder.
After a couple of days I moved the feeder to the edge of the lawn by the bushes and flower borders and it was an instant success. The next morning I saw Robins, Chaffinches and Blackbirds investigating the feeder alongside the usual Blue and Great Tits. I’m sure more birds will come along once word gets around that a “new restaurant” has opened for business.
When choosing a cage for feeders, you need to decide what size mesh you want. Santa supplied mine from Ark Wildlife who give a very clear indication of the choices:
Large Mesh Ground Feeder Cage guards against cats and excludes larger birds such as pigeons, crows and pheasants.
Small Mesh Ground Feeder Cage guards against cats, medium and large sized birds along with most squirrels and starlings.
Please note: If you still want blackbirds to be able to access the food, please select the large mesh size.
I selected the large mesh as I wanted to attract Thrushes, I realised this meant that the squirrels could also squeeze through the mesh.
To ban those winter blues why not come on our day trip to the wonderful Ouse washes in Cambridgeshire for a chance to see up to 100,000 wildfowl and waders. You can also see whooper and Bewick’s swans from Iceland and hen harriers, short-eared owls, peregrines and merlins hunt on the reserve. Tree sparrows are usually at the feeders in the car park.
There are 10 hides, ranging in distance from the Visitor Centre from 300 m to 1.8 miles (3 km) which are set out at intervals in a line along the reserve boundary and access is fairly easy, although it is a bit muddy in places due to recent work on site.
There is a visitor centre with a hot drinks machine but please take your own lunch and a hot drink in a thermos to keep you warm. RSPB members are free but there is a fee of £3 for non-members.
Remember to wrap up warm and take stout footwear as it is an exposed site. Please bring binoculars and telescopes if you have them.
Please meet at 9am at Campbell park pavilion in Milton Keynes for car sharing as there is limited parking on site. The journey will take a couple of hours.
Address: RSPB Ouse Washes, Manea, Welches Dam, March PE15 0NF Grid ref TL471860
Many years ago, this society organised overseas wildlife trips for its members and these were enjoyed by many. The last couple of years Nature Trek, a company I have travelled with for nearly twenty years, have been organizing wildlife trips for R.S.P.B. groups and Natural History Societies. In fact, I understand that the local R.S.P.B. group’s latest trip to Poland was arranged through Nature Trek.
I contacted Naturetrek and they advised me that if at least eight members of our Society were interested in a particular country they can create a trip to cater for the interests of the participants.
I looked at over 20 eight-day holidays to Europe with a general interest in a variety of wildlife, and during a telephone conversation with Naturetrek an unusual destination, Bulgaria, was suggested. I obtained the 2017 tour report and found during that eight-day trip 88 species of birds were recorded, 87 species of butterfly, 60 species of moth,11 amphibians and reptiles, 23 dragonflies/damselflies, many other insects, and 9 pages of plants listed.
If less than 8 members are interested the cost is £1,495 and the official dates in 2019 are July 18th to July 25th.
However, for 8 or more, maximum 14, they could arrange a separate trip before or after the advertised one with a possible discount or a donation to our Society. There is no commitment yet, but if you may be interested contact either myself. Tony Wood, or Colin Docketty at the weekly meetings, or at my e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
I rose in a bit of a rush as my son had arranged a tour of Chelsea’s football Ground, Stamford Bridge, for my 70thbirthday and was due at 0900hrs. I had set my Robinson moth trap in the garden as usual and was on my way to check it when I spied a large grey moth on the side of the garden shed. I hurried to the garage to collect a Johnson’s Cotton Bud container as I reckoned it would be large enough to house the moth and the back to the shed only to find that the moth was not there. Disappointed, I looked down to the ground and there it was. It had dropped off the shed and on the ground where it was showing not only the upper wings but also the under wings and there was the blue.
It was a Clifden Nonpareil. There have been sightings south and west of here recently and this is believed to be the first for the north of the County. The moth was first described in this country by Benjamin Wilkes as the Cleifden Nonpareil in his book “British Butterflies and Moths” (1749). It states that the moth was found on an Ash tree, near Cleifden in Buckinghamshire in the month of July. Sadly, the year is not given. Cleifden or Clifden is the modern Cliveden, an estate on the edge of the Thames near Maidenhead and now owned by the National Trust.
A great start to the day in which blue was certainly the colour as it is Chelsea’s colour too.
Père David’s deer (Elaphurus davidianus) by Bob Phillips, Woburn Abbey 28 August 2018
Sika deer (Cervus nippon) by Bob Phillips, Woburn Abbey 28 August 2018
We met at Woburn Church car park at 7 pm on a warm late summer evening, dry with some sunshine. 30 members on the 2.5 mile walk to see deer, trees and water fowl.
We carefully kept to nominated foot paths, passing the sign showing deer casualties from traffic going through the park (2017 12 deaths, 2018 12 deaths so far with 4 months to go). There were signs warning of ticks and consequent Lyme disease on entry to park (Colin wore long red socks to prevent this).
The first part of the walk was through an arboretum with Lime, Oak, Cedar, Hornbeam, Scots Pine and Redwoods. The height of tall Lime tree near the path was estimated at 87 foot, and Redwood at 134 foot using triangulation and measured paces method.
The second part of the walk was at the entrance to the grassland area of the grounds where we were able to see 10 Red Deer stags (antlers up to 15 points), 30 Pere David Deer, 100 Sika Deer, 30 Fallow Deer, 3 Chinese Water Deer and 1 Muntjac. The small long pond had a mallard and one Garganey female (also seen on 27thAug).
Other birds seen included Heron, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard. Returned to car park via circular walk to and through the village of Woburn.
Thanks to Janice Robinson and Mike LeRoy for their input. The most likely option seems to be:
It could be a male. Males don’t have pollen baskets, have a seventh abdominal segment (females have six), they have a more blunt tip to the abdomen with no sting, their antennae have an extra segment and curve away from the face. Perhaps a closer look at the original photo might show some of these features? The possibilities then are:
1. The male of the Red-tailed bumblebee Bombus lapidarius, which has some yellow on the face, a band of yellow on the front of the thorax and a narrow one at the rear of the thorax, as well as the red tail. Males have visibly longer hair; the hair of the photographed bumble looks rather punky. Males of this species emerge from June.
2. The male of the Red-tailed cuckoo-bee Bombus rupestris, which has two faded yellow bands on front and back of the thorax, but also narrow pale straw-coloured bands on the abdomen, and the red tail. Males emerge July and August.
The Bilberry bumblebee Bombus monticola tends to be in mountains, uplands and moorlands. The only place I have seen it is amongst heather close to the Kerry Ridgeway in Shropshire, close to the Welsh border.
Original Post:Julie would like help to identify a Fuzzy Bumble (no it’s not something you do after a night at the pub).
In Julie words
Not a great photo but the only bee I can see that resembles it in any way is the bilberry bumblebee, bombus monticola which is not meant to be in this part of the country.
Lewis Dickinson led the walk. He explained that the site was important for whorled water-milfoil and bladderwort.
During the second World War gravel was extracted from Felmersham gravel pits to be used in the construction of local war-time air fields and other military needs. Over the decades the disused and flooded gravel pits have been managed as a nature reserve and they provide a protected area for many varieties of flora and fauna. It is also important as bird sanctuary, both as a breeding habitat and for birds on migration.
It is one of the best sites in Bedfordshire for dragonflies and damselflies. One problem managing the site is that areas have become overrun with Water Soldier. You can view an interesting video showing its removal using the Truxor Amphibious Vehicle
Lewis explained that there was some concerns raised with the removal of the Water Soldier as they were hoping it would attract the Norfolk Hawker dragonfly to the site. As a compromise, the Water Soldier is being removed from most of the lakes but is being left in one contained area.
To start the walk we crossed the road and headed North East where we had good views of damselflies, dragonflies and butterflies. There was lots of dragonfly activity, some ovipositing, a lot of aerial combat and one unfortunate dragonfly being eaten by another. After 1.5km we turned right as if we continued on our path we would have reached the fishing lakes which tend to be more shaded with less diversity.
We tried to spot Bladderwort in some of the lakes. There were no yellow flowers visible, but some people thought they could see the small hollow sacs that are used to capture and digest tiny animals such as insect larvae, aquatic worms, and water fleas.
We passed a couple of active badger sets and we saw a couple of Buzzards circling and calling overhead. Crossing the road, we continued in a circle back to the car park where we had excellent views of a Brown Hawker perched conveniently on a low branch.
We didn’t keep a species list, but some of the species we saw were:
Small Red-eyed Damselfly
Dock bug (Coreus marginatus)
Forest shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes)
Hoverfly Helophilus pendulus
Mother of Pearl
Click on any of the pictures for a larger image.
Unless captioned otherwise, photos are by Peter Hassett licensed under CC BY-NC-SA
I have been reading a fascinating book Dragonfly by David Chandler and Steve Cham where they describe a stage in the dragonfly life cycle that is new to me:
What comes out of the egg?
Often a Dragonfly’s life cycle is simplified as egg—larva—adult—egg. This misses out one vital if short—lived stage — the prolarva.
The prolarva is what comes out of the egg. It can leap and squirm, and its job is to get to water, which is often where it ﬁnds itself on hatching anyway. But that isn’t always the case. The Willow Emerald Lester Lestes viridis damselﬂy is unusual among its near relatives in that it lays its eggs in twigs and branches over water. When things go well, its prolarvae simply fall into the water. When things don’t go well, however, the prolarvae find themselves on the ground and have to make their way to water. Prolarvae are not able to walk or swim, but they can have remarkable jumping abilities — one leap from the prolarva of the Japanese Relict Dragonﬂy Epiophlebia superstes can take it about 100 times further than its own length.
When it gets to water, a prolarva’s job is done. It moults and a very small true larva takes to the water. The prolarva may have survived for just seconds or perhaps an hour or two. Those of Aeschnophlebia longistigma, an Asian species, can make it to 14 hours.
The Society held its second weekend meet of the summer at the Forestry Commission’s Bucknell Wood near Silverstone on Saturday 30th June 2018. The heatwave of the past week showed no signs of abating and by the time we started at 10.30am it was already hot and humid. Leader Martin Kincaid welcomed everyone to the wood, hoping that it would live up to the success of the 2017 visit at least in terms of butterflies.
A walk along the first wide forest track from the car park was immediately rewarded with sightings of many butterflies including the common whites and browns as well as White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary. The woods around Silverstone are known for the rare silver-green colour form of the latter, known as Valezina. Last year we saw a number of these lovely insects but we were content to get good views of a single Valezinathis time as she visited bramble flowers. One of the target species was Wood White butterfly, which has been on the wing in Northants since the beginning of May. We could not be entirely sure if the butterflies we were seeing were the last of the spring brood or the first of the summer emergence although most of them looked rather fresh. Paul Lund’s outstanding photo of a wood white in flight last year has won him several photography awards – and he claims to have bettered it on this visit!
Butterflies and other insects were everywhere but with the intense heat they were very active and tended not to settle very often. Half way along the main track the cry of ‘Emperor’ went up. Eyes were raised to the oak canopy and indeed one – and then two – Purple Emperors were soaring. Our group of 17 stood stock still and before long a spectacular male Purple Emperor flew around us in tight circles. Martin tried the ancient art of emperor baiting – leaving some smelly anchovies at the edge of the track! Although these were not successful in tempting His Majesty down (at least while we were there) Joe Clinch was treated to an audience when the butterfly settled on his shirt and spent about a minute there. What an honour for Joe! Over the next two hours we must have seen at least 10 emperors, including one female, soaring overhead and landing on the tracks. However, although we caught glimpses of the purple sheen we didn’t get the classic view – much to the photographer’s frustration.
On the return leg to the car park, heat and thirst were beginning to affect us! However, most of us obtained good views of Purple Hairstreaks flying around oaks, more purple emperors and a wonderful display as six male fritillaries chased an unmated female. Julian found an immaculate White-letter Hairstreak on the ground and several more were seen flying around elm trees. Among the other insects seen were a Six-belted Clearwing moth (although they did not come to the pheromone lures as hoped), Scarlet Tigermoth, Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker and Emperor dragonflies and the long-horn beetle Rutpela maculata. We also saw the increasingly common Beautiful Demoiselle in shady areas of the wood. Birds seen or heard included Marsh Tit, Chiffchaff, Raven, Red Kite, Buzzard and a Spotted Flycatcher in an area of Spruce. Mary Sarre was listing the plants and among the highlights were Broad-leaved Helleborine and Zig-zag Clover. The jury is still out on False Fox Sedge.
We were all ready for a cold drink and a bit to eat by the time we finished at 1.40pm. But what a wood this is.
Meadow Farm reserve is part of the Upper Ray Meadows, a network of wet meadows south of Bicester, and is only open to groups booked in advance. It was acquired by BBOWT four years ago, as it had been recognised as a prime example of unimproved, flood-plain grassland which had not been ‘cultivated’ in living memory. The river Ray runs through the site, currently reduced to a small trickle, but source of regular winter flooding to the extent that a bird survey this spring had to be abandoned as the water was too deep to wade through. This was hard to imagine on such a gloriously dry, hot, sunny evening!
The diversity of key wet meadow species was immediately obvious when we started our walk around the meadows. At first glance, we were met with a sea of Great Burnet, but a few steps in and many other species were to be seen, such as Fine-leaved and Tubular Water-Dropwort, Pepper Saxifrage, Yellow Rattle, Meadow Vetchling, Knapweed and Tufted Vetch, plus grasses such as Crested Dogstail and Meadow Foxtail. A patch of the rare True Fox Sedge was the botanical highlight of the evening! As we walked through the meadows, the contrast between the diversity on the ridges and smaller range of plants in the furrows became more obvious. The ridge and furrow system here is thought to date back to the 1600s.
Our BBOWT guides for the evening, Marcus and Graham, pointed out the plants and explained how small an area of wet meadows now remain in the UK and the significance of the Upper Ray complex. They also explained the management of the Meadows to maintain this diversity of flora and highlighted the contrast with a couple of fields acquired from a neighbouring farmer more recently where the diversity was low and the dominant plants were thistle and docks. They explained how they were attempting to remove the thistles and increase the diversity, but this was likely to take more than 10 years. Four days of thistle pulling by up to 12 volunteers a day had removed 16 one ton sacks of thistle, but made such a small impression that they were going to have to resort to selective herbicide in future!
We couldn’t have anticipated the heatwave when the evening was planned, but it meant that there were far more butterflies and other insects flying than is often the case on our Tuesday evening walks, even after 9pm. The hedges around the meadows are being managed for Black and Brown Hairstreaks, both of which have been found here. We searched hard for any lingering Black Hairstreaks without success, but the numbers of Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Marbled Whites and Skippers was impressive. We rounded off a very enjoyable evening with refreshments at the farmhouse which now serves as a BBOWT base for the area watching the full moon rising in one direction and a beautiful sunset in the other!.
This month (June 2018), a stretch of grassland along Grafton Street (V6) between Bradville and New Bradwell is a riot of colour. In previous years, these grass verges have been mown in early June but following concerns raised by local residents, The Parks Trust has reviewed the management regime for this area and the grass is not cut until later in the summer.
The early results of this change in practice are spectacular. I visited the area last week and was amazed to see hundreds of bee orchids – many of which seem taller than is usual – on the grass banks between Wheelers Lane, Bradville and the New Bradwell aqueduct (on the east side of the V6). Carol Allen, Helen Wilson and myself paid a visit on 10thJune and as well as bee orchids, noted the following species:
Bird’s Foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus
Common Vetch Vicia sativa
Black Medick Medicago lupulina
Self-heal Prunella vulgaris
Red Clover Trifolium pratense
White Clover Trifolium repens
Meadow Buttercup Ranunculus acris
Ox-eye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Sorrel Rumex acetosa
These flowers we noted in a quick, 15 minute visit and there are sure to be many more species to be found by the discerning botanist! Also seen were meadow brown, common blue and brown argus butterflies and burnet companion moths. Plenty of bumblebees too.
To witness this lovely display I would suggest parking in either Wheelers Lane or Nightingale Crescent, Bradville and then walking along the redway parallel to the V6 for 200 yards or so. But don’t leave it too long – it will be past its best in early July.
About ten of us made the rather long trek down to Aston Clinton on a lovely sunny but cold evening. The Ragpits are a tiny reserve full of interesting butterflies and flowers but as it was a cold evening the butterflies were not in evidence. However the orchids were putting on a a lovely show especially the fragrant orchids which looked gorgeous in the evening sunlight. There were also common spotted, butterfly and pyramidal orchids and many twayblades in flower.
Amongst the other floral delights was squinancywort, fairy flax, yellowort and white milkweeds. The quacking grass also looked lovely in the low sunlight. A blackcap was singing and kites were flying overhead.
Just as we were leaving Jenny found an orchid which nobody could identify on site which looks a bit like a southern marsh orchid to me – any ideas? (It has now been identified at a cross between a Common Spotted and Southern Marsh orchids).
We all agreed this reserve was a star visit for botanists in the MKNHS calendar (but not for hay fever sufferers).
Joe and I compiled a list of outstanding flora, and others contributed observations on fauna.
We met at the ‘Live and Let Live’ pub in Pegsdon, just off the road to Hitchin, Bedfordshire, where we were treated to a rapid passing of a Merlin. We then set off with Matt who had arranged for us to walk up the private farm track along which we had sightings of several farmland birds, including skylarks, partridge, whitethroat, and yellow hammer.
Then we headed up into the chalk hills and immediately found displays of the chalk fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) and impressive spreads of Dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris), and Hounds-tongue (Cynoglossum officinale), a member of the Borage family. The tight grassland sward showed the many characteristic plants of this habitat: fairy flax, milkwort, salad burnet, rock rose, Sainfoin, etc.
One of our target species, the Burnt tip orchid, (Orchis ustulata) was also abundant, as well as the Pyramidal orchid and a few Bee orchids.
The Pasqueflower was largely over (photo at top of page of the one last) but its presence was clear from the many fluffy seed-heads, mostly on the southern side of the hill. The Field fleawort and Moon-carrot were also spotted here.
The spires of Wild Mignonette, Reseda lutea and Weld, Reseda luteola were noticeable rising from the longer grasses as we walked along the ridge towards the Beech woodland on the top. Here we saw a few White Helleborines, and Sanicle, common in woodland on chalk and limestone.
Returning down by the field paths, we were intrigued by a field of red poppies, perhaps a crop for poppyseed, with fumitory, candytuft and Field madder on the edge. A Brown argus, brimstone and Common blue were seen here.
We were then ready for a very welcome sit-down and refreshment at the pub. Many thanks to Matt for his expert local knowledge and direction.
Last week (22 May 2018) on our walk around Stony Stratford Nature Reserve we saw lots of mayflies pulsating up and down above the river and settled in the foliage on the banks. On coming home I then read a very interesting article on mayflies by Nick baker in the BBC wildlife magazine and thought I would pass on some of the interesting facts here.
The mayfly we saw is I think the green drake or Ephemera danica which is the biggest of the British species, some of the other 51 species being absolutely tiny.
These mayflies, commonly copied by anglers for their lures, dance above the water in a mating frenzy with the females emitting an intoxicating perfume that attracts the males before she scatters her clutch of up to 8000 eggs into the waters to pass on her genes to the next generation. These eggs sink to the bottom and turn into nymphs which spend the next 1-3years developing in the sediment at the bottom of the river. Meanwhile their parents dancing above last but a day or two before they die (having no mouthparts they rely on the fat reserves laid down as a nymph to power them through this stage).
The nymphs carry on their lives in the river moulting up to 50 times before they are finally ready to return to the surface. At this stage they blow up like little air filled balloons and bob to the surface. Almost immediately on hitting the surface they unzip in a matter of seconds and emerge as adults with fully functioning wings. You might think this was their final moult but no they are unique in the insect world in having a second moult from one rather dull winged form to another, this time the sparkling beauty we saw last week. Why they do this no-one really knows.
Then the dancing begins and the whole lifecycle starts all over again.
One final fact – mayflies are the most primitive insects alive today and have been around since before the dinosaurs.
Two cranes arrived at Gallows Bridge BBOWT reserve on Wednesday 16 May 2018. They remain there to date (21 May 2018) so it is a possibility they will remain. They are unringed which gives some clues as to where they came from – or rather where they did not come from. Educated guesses say they may have come from Otmoor. Some display behaviour has been observed.
Text and photo by Sue and Andrew Hetherington
Buckinghamshire Bird Club have published a blog posting on the cranes which you can view here.
My daughter and her partner live in Cumbria and have starlings and swifts nesting in the eves of their house. Last year the starlings nested first and then the swifts moved in once the starlings had fledged. This year as normal the starlings are busy bringing up their babies in the usual place.
However last Saturday 12th May Susies partner heard a cacophony outside the house and saw a starling and swift tumbling together down onto the lawn followed by a tussle where the starling clearly had the upper hand and the swift’s life was at risk. He rescued the swift and after a rest launched it from an upstairs window. However after a while he saw the swift attempt to enter the nesting cavity and again the tussle ensued followed by another rescue and relaunch. Now a stalemate is in place where the swifts regularly fly by but the starlings are on high alert and drive them off.
This year they have erected two more swift boxes hoping to establish a small colony but it seems like this won’t be given a chance to happen until the starling family have fledged and moved out. But it leaves you with questions – does this competition happen regularly and do the swifts loose out. Or was it just because the weather was unseasonably hot that the swifts decided to try and get a move on early an start nesting?
Article by Julie Lane
And now an interesting response from Sue Hetherington:
Starling by Harry Appleyard, 20 April 2016
I was interested to read Julie’s article about the nesting territories under dispute by starlings and swifts. I can’t offer any advice about the eaves of the house. However, Andrew and I have had similar worries about the possibilities of uninvited guests grabbing boxes intended for swifts.
Before our box was used, we found evidence that it had been used for roosting by some bird over the winter and realised a problem could arise. What we then did as autumn turned to winter, we cleaned the box out (which we no longer do, it’s not necessary) and we blocked the entry hole with a bathroom (or car washing) sponge.
We reckoned our swifts came back like clockwork on 3rd – 5th May so about half way through April, we removed the sponge. We always meant to attach a bit of cord to the sponge so it could be pulled out with having to start going up ladders, but of course we always forgot. It always appeared to us that the starlings wanted an earlier slot than the swifts so our sponge method always seemed to work.
I have heard of swifts having savage territorial disputes amongst themselves but hadn’t realised that a swift/startling fight could be so vicious. This competition for nesting sites sounds like yet another problem swifts are struggling against.
30 members of the Society met at Westbury Arts Centre on Tuesday 8th May. In an introduction to the site, wildlife artist Kate Wyatt, and Martin Kincaid explained that the centre had gained funding last year for a project to research the history and natural history of Westbury farm.
The Society was invited to carry out surveys in the surrounding grounds to document the wildlife as part of this project. Mammals, birds, moths, and trees had been surveyed and this evening, members continued recording.
They were also able to look round inside the house, and to visit Kate’s studio as well as enjoying refreshments in the kitchen. A mothing session was held later in the evening and a trap was left overnight. Unfortunately temperatures dropped and a wind got up, so moth numbers were low. The final list was: Lime Hawk-moth, Brimstone (X3), Green Carpet (X3), Flame Shoulder (X2), Common Carpet, V Pug
Location: Stadium MK
Date: during first half of MK Dons v Scunthorpe Sat 28/4/18
Message: Just a record shot but it may be of interest to anyone unaware of the existence of a pair of breeding peregrine falcons at Stadium MK. They are using (for the first time) a platform provided for their use. As will be seen, it is high up, just before the transparent part of the roof, between aisles 10 and 11. Shortly after the photo taken, an adult peregrine flew from the platform and perched at the opposite end of the stadium. Andrew and I appeared to be the only people who noticed it. Having never been to stadium MK before, I had to ask many stewards for information before I discovered the platform location. One was particularly surprised and exclaimed “I’ve never been asked that before!!!”
Article and photograph kingly supplied by Sue Hetherington
Sue has also provided details of the Derbyshire Peregrine website: For anyone who would like to watch peregrines online, the Derby site is a really good one. It can be found here http://derbyperegrines.blogspot.co.uk/ Apart from detailed news about happenings at Derby, there is a page that lists all the known peregrine projects.
About a dozen MKNHS members and others assembled at Linford Wood at 2.15pm on Sunday afternoon 15th April 2018 at Breckland, by the north-west entrance to the wood. The weather was warm but cloudy and rain arrived shortly before the walk finished. There had been a rush of plants coming into flower over the preceding week of warmer weather and the first migrant birds had arrived not many days before.
In 2017, the MKNHS visit to Linford Wood had been on a Tuesday evening more than three weeks later (5th May) so this daytime visit, earlier in the season, provided a very different view of the wood and its flora. Mike LeRoy gave a brief introduction which was set out more fully in three handouts: 1) a map of the whole wood and its compartments; 2) a background note about the history, ecology and management of the wood; and 3) a note of ‘What to look and listen for’.
Five leaved Herb Paris by Peter Hassett, Linford Wood 2 May 2017
The group walked together on an anti-clockwise route along the western and southern sides of the wood, past compartments 13 and 7a which have been extensively coppiced and thinned during the past winter. At the south-east corner, we headed back towards the centre of the wood and diverted briefly onto the western woodchip path to find Herb Paris Paris quadrifolia before heading back to Breckland along the main horse-riding path as a shower started.
The main questions the group focused on were:
1. What plant species are flowering?
2. Where do you see Dog-violets or other Violets?
3. What bird species can you hear calling?
4. What woodpecker sounds do you hear?
5. Which Bumblebee species do you see?
6. What Bee-fly species do you see hovering?
7. Which of the ponds can you see?
Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa had been in flower for a couple of weeks and there must have been tens of thousands to see, scattered throughout most of the wood. Although it was the most dominant plant in flower, there were also considerable numbers of Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis nemorosa still in flower alongside the paths. There were also still plenty of clumps of Primrose Primula vulgaris in flower in and among the trees and along the edges of the ditches. The delicate leaves of Pignut
Conopodium majus were seen in a few locations on ditch and path edges. Only a few Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta were beginning to show. Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria were still in flower, but Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holostea had yet to emerge and no flowering Yellow Archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon were seen. The first few Herb Paris Paris quadrifolia were just emerging into leaf, but had not quite flowered. The group found a few clumps of Strawberry which turned out to be Barren Strawberry Potentilla sterilis (identified by Mary Sarre).
With the undergrowth yet to burst into full growth, Dog-violets and other Violets Viola spp. were more evident and found in small numbers through much of the wood. Most of the trees were barely into leaf so there were clear views well into the wood.
Although tree species were not a main focus of what we looked for, Mary Sarre noted at the edge of the wood near Breckland some Norway Maple Acer platanoides which flower with bright yellow-green flowers before they leaf and have been widely planted in Milton Keynes. Mike LeRoy mentioned Ash Fraxinus excelsior trees close to Breckland with their brief display of purplish-brown male flowers.
Aside from the permanent ponds, there were many areas of the wood with water lying on the surface. At one pond on the western side Martin Kincaid found Pond-skaters Gerris spp.
Red-Tailed Bumblebee by Harry Appleyard, Tattenhoe 11 April 2016
As we walked, we noticed numerous Bumblebees hunting low down within the vegetation rather than searching for nectar. Species seen included: Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius and Buff-tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris. Another insect present in many places was the Dark-edged Bee-fly Bombylius major. Less common was the Hairy-footed Flower-bee Anthophora plumipes. In several places we found 7-spot Ladybird Coccinella septempunctata.
Male Blackcap by Harry Appleyard, Tattenhoe, 17 April 2016
Sue & Andrew Hetherington led the recording of birds, almost entirely by calls and songs. In all they noted 17 species: Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Robin, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Nuthatch, Blackbird, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Jay and Magpie. Other species known to be sometimes present, but not seen or heard on this occasion, are: Marsh Tit, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard, Pied Wagtail and Stock Dove.
Early-purple Orchid by Peter Hassett, Linford Wood 2 May 2017
A week after our visit the Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta are out in profusion. The first Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holostea have emerged. A few stems of Yellow Archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon have been found, but are not quite in flower. And the first of the Early-purple Orchid Orchis mascula are just emerging.
There are species of flower in Linford Wood worth looking for in mid-April and others that don’t tend to emerge until late April into May. The wood is worth visiting at both these times to see how the season is changing.
At our recent joint meeting with the Milton Keynes Branch of the Inland Waterways Association, the talk by Richard Bennett from the Canal and Rivers Trust highlighted the enormous amount of work that goes into maintaining the canals and the wildlife they support. A couple of events were mentioned which are open to all who’d like to go along.
On Saturday 28 and Monday 30 April there will be a work party to re-paint the Wolverton Train Mural. For details contact Athina Beckett at email@example.com or 01908 661217.
On 25-27 May (possibly 28th too), there will be fundraising event at Three Locks, Soulbury, with demonstrations of how to work a boat through the locks There will be activities for children, and the Buckingham Canal Society will have a book and bric-a-brac stall.