Category Archives: Society News

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The links in the sidebar and News menu will take you to the current year’s sightings.

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

MKNHS Group Wildlife Holiday 2019

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 woodmice@tiscali.co.uk.

Details of the trip can be found on the Naturetrek website

Tony Wood

Clifden Nonpareil moth ©Gordon Redford, Newport Pagnell 16 September 2018

Blue is the colour

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.

Text and photo kindly supplied by Gordon Redford

Red Deer ©Peter Hassett, Woburn Abbey 28 August 2018

Trip Report – Woburn Abbey Grounds 28 August 2018

Père David's deer (Elaphurus davidianus) by Bob Phillips, Woburn Abbey 28 August 2018

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

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.

Steven Cousins

 

Spot the Fuzzy Bumble

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.

Send your answers to webmaster@mknhs.org.uk

Holly Blue, CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Trip Report – Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Felmersham Gravel Pits is a 21.6 hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest between the villages of Felmersham and Sharnbrook in Bedfordshire.

The site is managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.

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:

Butterflies
Green-veined White
Holly Blue
Large White
Speckled Wood

Dragon/Damselflies
Brown Hawker
Common BlueDamselfly
Emerald Damselfly
Rudddy Darter
Small Red-eyed Damselfly

Insects
Dark bush-cricket
Dock bug (Coreus marginatus)
Forest shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes)
Hoverfly Helophilus pendulus
Scorpion Fly

Moths
Straw Dot
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

Click the pictures for a larger view.

One of the many ponds ©CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

One of the many ponds

Female Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) ©Paul Lund, Faversham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Female Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) ©Paul Lund

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) ©Paul Lund, Faversham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) ©Paul Lund

Dock bug sp. ©Paul Lund, Faversham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Dock bug (Coreus marginatus) Final instar – Coreus marginatus on the left with an instar of Gonocerus acuteangulatus on the right ©Paul Lund

Ruddy Darter ©Paul Lund, Faversham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Ruddy Darter ©Paul Lund

Scorpion fly, CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Scorpion fly

Holly Blue, CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Holly Blue butterfly

Female Ruddy Darter, CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Female Ruddy Darter

Brown Hawker, CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Brown Hawker

Green Veined White, CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Green Veined White

Speckled Wood butterfly, CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Speckled Wood butterfly

Emerald Damselfly, CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Emerald Damselfly

CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus)

Guelder rose, CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Guelder rose

Male Ruddy Darter, CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Male Ruddy Darter

Small Red-eyed Damselfly, CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

Common Blue Damselfly, CC BY-NC-SA by Peter Hassett, Felmersham Gravel Pits 11 August 2018

Common Blue Damselfly

Female Willow Emerald ovipositing by Harry Appleyard, Tattenhoe Valley Park 4 October 2016

Willow Emerald fascinating fact

The Willow Emerald was first found in Buckinghamshire by a member of the Society, Harry Appleyard. You can read more about Harry’s discovery here.

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.

Peter

100,000 page views on 18 July 2018

Our website reaches a new record

Top 10 countries viewing website 18 July 2018

Top 10 countries viewing website 18 July 2018

Today we achieved 100,000 page views. That’s right, people have now viewed the website 100,000 times since it was launched on 17 March 2015.

Although we mainly publish articles about wildlife in the United Kingdom, our website has been accessed by over 100 different countries. Our top 10 countries are shown on the right

If you have any comments on the website,  wildlife related article or local wildlife events that you would like to be published, please let me know at webmaster@mknhs.org.uk

If you enjoy reading the website, have you considered joining the Society? See our membership page for more information.

Thank you for your support

Peter

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

Trip Report – Bucknell Wood, South Northants  30 June 2018

Group picture  ©Harry Appleyard, Bucknell Wood, 30 June 2018

Group picture ©Harry Appleyard

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!

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

Purple Emperor ©Harry Appleyard

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.

White-letter Hairstreak ©Harry Appleyard, Bucknell Wood, 30 June 2018

White-letter Hairstreak ©Harry Appleyard

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.

Text supplied by Martin Kincaid

True fox sedge ©Julian Lambley, Meadow Farm reserve, 26 June 2018

Trip Report – Meadow Farm 26 June 2018

Walking around the reserve ©Julian Lambley, Meadow Farm reserve, 26 June 2018

Walking around the reserve ©Julian Lambley

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!

Grasshopper on Great Burnet ©Julian Lambley, Meadow Farm reserve, 26 June 2018

Grasshopper on Great Burnet ©Julian Lambley

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.

True fox sedge ©Julian Lambley, Meadow Farm reserve, 26 June 2018

True fox sedge ©Julian Lambley

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!

Marbled White on Knapweed ©Julian Lambley, Meadow Farm reserve, 26 June 2018

Marbled White on Knapweed ©Julian Lambley

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!.

Trip report by Linda Murphy

Bee Orchid Stonepit Field

Spectacular display of Bee Orchids along Grafton Street

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.

 

Martin Kincaid

 

Cross between a Common Spotted and Southern Marsh orchids © Julian Lambley, Clinton Ragpits 12June 2018

Trip Report – Aston Clinton Ragpits 12 June 2018

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).

Julie Lane

Pasqueflower ©Phil Sarre, Knocking Hoe NR 9 June 2018

Trip report – Knocking Hoe Nature Reserve 9 June 2018

Leader: Matt Andrews

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.

Burnt-tip orchid ©Mary Sarre, Knocking Hoe NR 9 June 2018

Burnt-tip orchid ©Mary Sarre, Knocking Hoe NR 9 June 2018

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.

Article supplied by Mary Sarre
Photo of Pasqueflower ©Phil Sarre

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

Mayflies

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.

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

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

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.

What an amazing insect!

Article kindly supplied by Julie Lane

Cranes by Sue and Andrew Hetherington, Gallows Bridge 16 May 2018

Cranes in Buckinghamshire 2018

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.

Starlings v Swifts – updated 21 May 2018

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

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.

Sue Hetherington

Visit to Westbury Farm 8th May 2018

Westbury Arts Centre – Westbury Farm

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.

Green Carpet moth

Green Carpet ©JGordon Redford, 08 May 15

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

For more about Westbury Arts Centre: Westbury Arts Centre

Peregrine Platform at Stadium MK ©Sue Hetherington 28 April 219

Peregrine Platform at Stadium MK

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

29 April 2017
An update from Mike Wallen of the Buckinghamshire Bird Club

StadiumMK
Great news here, the single egg has hatched today and there’s currently a little ball of white fluff in the middle of the platform with Mum looking proudly on.

14May 2018
An update from Mike Wallen of the Buckinghamshire Bird Club

Sad and tragic news that the single chick died yesterday, the female carried it away from the platform in the evening.

You can read the previous update on the Stadium MK peregrines here.

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.

Early-purple Orchid by Peter Hassett, Linford Wood 2 May 2017

Trip Report – Linford Wood 15 April 2018

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

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

Wood Anemone

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

Pignut ©Peter Hassett, Pilch Field 8 May 2011

Pignut ©Peter Hassett, Pilch Field 8 May 2011

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).

Violet sp.  ©Peter Hassett Stanton Wood, 12 May 2010

Violet sp. ©Peter Hassett Stanton Wood, 12 May 2010

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

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

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.

Postscript

Early-purple Orchid by Peter Hassett, Linford Wood 2 May 2017

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.

Mike LeRoy
22nd April 2018

Grand Union Canal by Peter Hassett

MK Branch – Inland Waterways Association events 2018-19

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 athina.beckett@waterways.org.uk 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.

Other events are listed in the IWA events diary.

Snow dusted crocuses in February ©Harry Appleyard

Weather Watcher profile: Harry Appleyard

Snow dusted crocuses in February ©Harry Appleyard

Snow dusted crocuses in February ©Harry Appleyard

Harry Appleyard, one of the great photographers within the Milton Keynes Natural History Society, contributes photos to the BBC’s Weather Watchers.

The BBC has published an article and a section of Harry’s beautiful photographs which you can view using this link: Article – BBC Weather Watchers

 

You can see more of Harry’s nature photos in the Members Photos section of the website.

50th anniversary celebration badge label in golden color

50th Anniversary Celebration

On Tuesday 27th March 2018 we held our 50th Anniversary event at the beautiful Chrysalis Theatre at Camphill in Milton Keynes.

It was a wonderful evening of celebrating our 50 years of existence. Our initial fears that the Theatre which seats 200 might feel rather empty were completely unfounded as there were very few available seats left and the foyer was full to bursting at the interval. There was a lovely atmosphere of people meeting old friends and catching up, a real buzz!

The evening started slightly tensely as our poor speaker Patrick Barkham was held up in traffic on the A14 and only arrived 10 minutes before the talk was due to start. In his words he was ‘a bit flustered’ at the beginning but he recovered quickly and gave an excellent talk which left many of us yearning to visit some of the many islands dotted around our large island.

Peter Hassett had prepared a presentation about the Society from its beginnings to the present day which was a lovely start to the evening (you can view the presentation here). Lewis our new Chairman said a few words to introduce himself and at the end of the evening the Mayor of Milton Keynes David Hopkins presented our esteemed President Roy Maycock with a painting of a badger to mark his 50 years as a founder member and pillar of the Society.

The evening was a wonderful team effort by all concerned which just goes to show what a special Society we have. Here’s to the next 50 years!

What follows is just a few of the many comments we have received starting with one from the Mayor:

“Susan and I found the evening enlightening and compelling with the guest speaker Patrick Barkham truly engaging as he took us on an animated tour of Britain’s finest islands. Please pass on my congratulations to your President Roy Maycock for fifty outstanding years of committed service to the Society. I felt privileged to present him with the splendid picture of the badger.”

“Last night was very special.”

“What an excellent evening! The speaker this evening was absolutely amazing. And what turn out. The evening was almost perfect.”

“Nice to catch up with many people that we don’t get to see very often.”

“Tuesday was a fantastic evening in every way and a fitting celebration of the Society’s 50 years.”

“Well done to everyone for putting on a fantastic evening, which seemed to go down with everyone. A good engaging speaker and great venue.”

“Thank you very much for such a wonderful evening we had a really good time and now want to go on a small island for a holiday too!”

Click on any of the pictures for a larger image or  visit our photo gallery to see all the photos from this special evening.

Special thanks to Julie Lane and Lewis Dickinson for writing this article and to Paul Lund for providing the photos.

 

The Chrysalis Theatre

The Chrysalis Theatre

Julie Lane opens the event

Julie Lane opens the event

The auditorium

The auditorium

Patrick Barkham giving his talk

Patrick Barkham giving his talk

Teo (Theatre Manager) and Carol (Head Barrister) plan for the interval

Teo (Theatre Manager) and Carol (Head Barrister) plan for the interval

Refreshments are served in the interval

Refreshments are served in the interval

Martin Kincaid (vice-president) asks David Hopkins (Milton Keynes Mayor) to make a presentation to Roy Maycock (President)

Martin Kincaid (vice-president) asks David Hopkins (Milton Keynes Mayor) to make a presentation to Roy Maycock (President)

Roy Maycock (President) accepts his painting from David Hopkins (Milton Keynes Mayor)

Roy Maycock (President) accepts his painting from David Hopkins (Milton Keynes Mayor)

Patrick Barkham signing books

Patrick Barkham signing books

Falco peregrinus

Stadium MK Peregrines – update

Falco peregrinus

Peregrine by Harry Appleyard, Hazeley Wood, 29 May 2016

Mike Wallen of Buckinghamshire Bird Club has kindly agreed to let us publish this update on our local peregrines:

The birds have finally decided that the purpose built platform put up for them is desirable after all and the female is on it, sitting on at least 2 eggs. I was very happy to receive this news today. There is a camera ( plus other security) on this platform, no plans to stream the images to the public yet, but we’ll see how things develop in the coming weeks.

Good Birding
Mike

28 March 2018

Linford Lakes Nature Reserve visitors enjoying an Open Sunday

Planning Application Linford Lakes – Result of Appeal March 2018

Dear All
I am delighted to inform you that the appeal against the refusal of planning permission at Linford Lakes has failed and the appeal has been rejected.
I have copied the Planning Inspector’s summary below – but in short he has found that although MK Council have failed to demonstrate a 5 year housing supply, in this case the considerations of Landscape and Ecology (Biodiversity) outweigh the National Planning Policy Framework’s presumption in favour of development.
I believe this decision has been significantly influenced by the evidence and submissions of those who attended the enquiry and spoke against the appeal and all those who wrote in to oppose the appeal on grounds of ecology.
It is a tremendous validation of the power of persuasion by people who truly deeply care about our environment and local resources.
I congratulate all of you who took the time and effort to get involved.
Tony Bedford
Chair FoLLNR
Inspector’s Conclusions
 
Compliance with the development plan
  1. The appeal proposal would conflict with MKLP Policy S10 by being located in the countryside. It would also conflict with Policy S11 by failing to protect or enhance the Area of Attractive Landscape, and with Policy NE1 by adversely affecting the Wildlife Corridor’s biodiversity.
  2. In relation to Policies S12 and KS3, the scheme would to some extent advance the aims of those policies in respect of public access to the Ouse Valley Linear Park and Linford Lakes areas. But it would conflict with S12’s requirements as to landscape and nature conservation matters.
  3. Looking at all of these relevant policies together, I find that the appeal proposal is in clear conflict with the development plan as a whole.
Other material considerations
98. The Council has been unable to demonstrate a 5-year supply of land for housing, and the development plan is silent as to how this shortfall is to be made up. Consequently, even though none of the policies directly affecting the appeal site are concerned with housing, the ‘tilted balance’ in NPPF paragraph 14 is engaged.
  1. On the positive side, the appeal proposal would provide 250 dwellings towards the Borough’s housing shortfall, and 30 per cent of these would be for affordable housing. In the light of the evidence, these dwellings are required to meet housing needs that would otherwise be unmet, and this carries significant weight. The economic benefits carry moderate weight. For the reasons already explained, the provision of public access to the ‘blue’ land also carries moderate weight; but any proposed landscaping or new habitat creation, either on- or off-site, would be essentially mitigatory or compensatory, and these therefore carry no more than neutral weight.
  2. But on the other hand, the development would intrude into the countryside, and into a designated AAL and Wildlife Corridor. It would cause substantial and irreversible harm to the Ouse Valley’s valued landscape. It wouldpermanently destroy priority habitats, threaten important wildlife, and weaken ecological networks. It would also take 15 ha of land from the Linear Park, reducing the scope for informal and passive recreation uses in the future.
  3. Cumulatively, it seems to me that these adverse impacts would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits that have been identified. The scheme therefore does not benefit from the NPPF’s presumption in favour of sustainable development.
Overall conclusion
 
102. Having regard to the requirements of section 38(6) of the 1990 Act, these other material considerations do not indicate a decision contrary to the development plan. I have taken account of all the other matters raised, but none changes this conclusion. The appeal therefore fails.
John Felgate
INSPECTOR
Many thanks to the Friends of Linford Lakes for allowing us to publish these details.
Crows ©Julie Lane, Olney 28 March 2018

Murder of crows

Crows ©Julie Lane, Olney 28 March 2018

Crows ©Julie Lane, Olney 28 March 2018

I have a large group of crows outside my room all cawing their heads off. Why would they be doing this? There are usually only two local crows but it seems they have all come together for a meeting and are making an awful racquet!

Photo and text by Julie Lane

©Peter Hassett, Floodplain Forest NR, 4 March 2018

Trip report – Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve 4 March 2018

Our most recent winter walk took place at Floodplain Forest, Old Wolverton on 4th March 2018. With the chaos brought about by ‘The Beast from the East’ over the previous 2-3 days, leaders Joe Clinch and Martin Kincaid had considered calling off the walk. On Friday the conditions were treacherous and the access road into Manor Farm Court was impassible. However, by Sunday the thaw had set in and conditions were much improved. No fewer than 23 Society members and guests arrived for the 2pm start.

We divided into two groups with Joe taking a group clockwise around the nature reserve and Martin taking his anti-clockwise. The first sighting of note was a very large flock of Canada geese grazing in the fields below the farm buildings. Joe’s group soon had binoculars and cameras trained on one of the local little owls as it sat up in its usual ash tree roost. These tiny owls nest around Manor Farm each spring – look out for them through the spring in the dead trees behind the Farm Hide. The many water bodies were still largely frozen so wildfowl numbers were down but among the commoner duck were 10 goosander and about the same number of shoveler. A few snipe were also observed by both groups, usually as they flew away from us at speed.

There was very little in flower compared with the same time in 2017, but the bright yellow flowers of colt’s foot were seen on the muddy banks and wild plum was in blossom. At the eastern end of the reserve, Martin’s group spotted kestrel and, a rarity on this site, little grebe. Eagle eyed Sue also picked out a solitary female pochard among the wigeon and tufted ducks. Passerines were still few and far between but a few small charms of goldfinch were spotted and we enjoyed watching a wren work its way along flood debris in the river.

Fortunately, Alan Piggott had brought his scope and he set this up by the Iron Trunk hide. We had noticed one of the male goosanders displaying to the females. This courtship display is similar to that of the goldeneye, with the male bird stretching his neck straight up and giving a little flurry. As we watched, one of the females went into a submissive posture, with her head below the water. The drake swam around her several times, almost as if he didn’t know what to do, before quickly mounting and mating with her! None of us had every witnessed this behaviour before so we felt quite privileged to have seen it today. Goosander have been breeding in our area for at least 7 years now and regularly nest at Olney and Newport Pagnell. As we stopped to view the little owl in his tree, a large flock of wigeon came out of the water to graze on a patch of ground close to the Farm Hide. We had a fine view of these handsome ducks. Here too we had a grisly discovery – the half-eaten carcass of a lapwing, presumably the work of a fox.

The two groups merged again to walk back up the hill to the car park. We had all enjoyed getting outdoors after the big freeze and had amassed a fairly respectable list of birds. Thanks to everybody for braving the elements and making this meeting a success.

Birds: Great Crested Grebe; Little Grebe; Cormorant; Mute Swan: Canada Goose; Greylag Goose; Goosander; Mallard; Gadwall; Teal; Wigeon; Shoveler; Tufted Duck; Pochard; Grey Heron; Little Egret; Snipe; Coot; Moorhen; Black-headed Gull; Herring Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Kestrel; Woodpigeon; Little Owl; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Carrion Crow; Rook; Jackdaw; Magpie; Wren; Blackbird; Redwing; Fieldfare; Robin; Great Tit; Long-tailed Tit; Goldfinch.

Flowering Plants: Colt’s-foot; Wild Plum.

Briefing at the start of the walk

Canada Geese near from buildings

Canada Geese near farm buildings

Little Owl ©Julian Lambley, Floodplain Forest NR 4 March 2018.jpg

Little Owl ©Julian Lambley, Floodplain Forest NR 4 March 2018.jpg

Colt's-foot, by ©Peter Hassett Floodplain Forest NR 25 March 2016

Colt’s-foot, ©Peter Hassett Floodplain Forest NR 25 March 2016

Wren ©Peter Hassett Floodplain Forest NR, 4 March 2018

Wren ©Peter Hassett Floodplain Forest NR, 4 March 2018

Cormorants ©Peter Hassett Floodplain Forest NR, 4 March 2018

Cormorants ©Peter Hassett Floodplain Forest NR, 4 March 2018

Goosander ©Peter Hassett Floodplain Forest NR, 4 March 2018

Goosander ©Peter Hassett Floodplain Forest NR, 4 March 2018

Goosanders mating

Goosanders mating ©Peter Hassett

Goosanders mating ©Peter Hassett

Goosanders mating ©Peter Hassett

Goosanders mating ©Peter Hassett

Goosanders mating ©Peter Hassett

 

Brimstone nectaring on Sanfoin, Pitstone Quarry, 28 May 2017

MKNHS 2018 Photo Competition results

MKNHS Photo Competition 2018

The Society’s annual photos competition was held on Tuesday 23 January 2018.

Each member could enter a maximum of 2 prints in each of the following categories:-

1) Birds
2) All other animals, including mammals, fish, insects, etc.
3) Plants and fungi.
4) Habitats, geological, astronomical.

MKNHS Photo Competition 2018

Sixty photos were entered. Each member present at the meeting was asked to select their first and second choice in each of the four categories giving us a shortlist of 8 photos.

In the second round of voting, members were asked to select their first second and third choice.

The winning photos were:

First place – Brimstone nectaring on Sanfoin by Peter Hassett

Second place – Laccaria amethystina by Peter Hassett

MKNHS Photo Competition 2018

Third place – Wood White by Paul Lund

You can view the shortlisted photos in the photo gallery.

Sympherobius klapaleki Zeleny by Sympherobius klapaleki Zeleny CC by 4.0

Rare Lacewing discovered in Milton Keynes

Sympherobius klapaleki Zeleny by Sympherobius klapaleki Zeleny CC by 4.0

Sympherobius klapaleki Zeleny by Fogh Nielsen CC by 4.0

A rare lacewing, Sympherobius klapaleki Zeleny (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae) has been found in Milton Keynes by the well known entomologist Mark G. Telfer who has kindly provided this article.

Sympherobius klapaleki is a brown lacewing in which the basal two segments of the antenna are yellow-brown, strongly contrasting with the remaining segments which are all blackish. The first British specimen was reared from a pupa found on dead oak twigs at Silwood Park, Berkshire, in April 1994 (Whittington, 1998). Three further British records are known to the author, from South Essex, Nottinghamshire and Hertfordshire (Colin Plant and David Gibbs, pers. comms) (Table 1). David Gibbs’ Nottinghamshire record was of a female swept from tree foliage in an area of coniferised woodland.

Table 1: Previous British records of Sympherobius klapaleki in chronological order.

Locality Grid reference Vice county Date Collector
Silwood Park c. SU9468 22 April 1994 Mark Shaw
Larks Wood TQ382928 18 15 Jun 1999 D. Hackett
Shooters Brake, Pittance Park, Edwinstowe (Center Parcs Sherwood Forest) SK6364 56 22 Sep 2007 David J. Gibbs
West Road, Bishops Stortford TL485205 20 31 May 2008 Colin W. Plant
Figure 1: Aerial bottle trap outside a branch socket on the veteran oak at Kingsmead Spinney.

Figure 1: Aerial bottle trap outside a branch socket on the veteran oak at Kingsmead Spinney.

Two females of S. klapaleki were captured by an aerial bottle trap during 11 May to 2 June 2017 in Kingsmead Spinney, Milton Keynes (SP82433381; VC 24). The trap was suspended outside a decaying branch socket on the trunk of a hollow veteran oak Quercus on the southern boundary of the spinney (Figures 1, 2). Flight interception trapping in such a position is intended to capture saproxylic insects (especially beetles) which are either emerging from within the trunk, or are attracted towards access holes into tree trunks. This record of S. klapaleki is suggestive evidence for breeding in oaks but not conclusive; though the two females may have been flying out of or heading into the hollow trunk, it is also possible that they were captured incidentally.

Figure 2: The veteran oak on the southern boundary of Kingsmead Spinney.

Figure 2: The veteran oak on the southern boundary of Kingsmead Spinney.

The Kingsmead Spinney record appears to be the fifth British record and the first record for Buckinghamshire (VC 24), though the records to date are suggestive of a widespread and rather under-recorded species.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Martin Kincaid of The Parks Trust, Milton Keynes, for arranging the survey, and David Gibbs and Colin Plant for sharing records and information.

Reference

Whittington, A.E. (1998). Sympherobius klapaleki Zeleny (Neur.: Hemerobiidae) new to Britain. Entomologist’s record and journal of variation, 110, 288 – 289.

50 years of Milton Keynes Natural History Society!

25th Birthday Celebration

25th Birthday Celebration

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Milton Keynes Natural History Society. It began with an article in a local newspaper on 8 February 1968 inviting those interested in forming a natural history group to meet.  At this time development of the new city of Milton Keynes was just beginning and there was concern about the possible impact on local wildlife. From these beginnings, the Society has grown to around 100 members and developed interests and expertise in a very wide range of species, habitats and environmental concerns.

40th Birthday Celebration

40th Birthday Celebration

Some of the original members are still very active in the Society today. You can find out more about the history of the Society by clicking here.

The Society meets every Tuesday. In the winter, talks are held in the City Discovery Centre at Bradwell Abbey. Between May and September, we explore local natural history sites. Have a look at our current programme for more information.

You can also find out what wildlife can be seen locally by visiting our Recent Sightings  and Wildlife Sites pages.

To celebrate this special occasion, the Society is delighted to welcome Patrick Barkham to talk on the subject of “Islanders”. Apart from being a natural history writer for The Guardian, Patrick Barkham is also the author of a number of excellent books including “The Butterfly Isles” and “Badgerlands”. Recently he has published “Islander:  a journey around our archipelago”, which is an exploration of eleven of the smaller islands of Britain, in search of their special magic. This latest project will be the focus of his talk which is on the evening of Tuesday 27th March at the Chrysalis Theatre in Japonica Lane, Willen Park South, Milton Keynes, MK15 9JY.

Save the date and look out for further details!

 

Grey Heron by Harry Appleyard, Howe Park Wood 19 April 2016

MKNHS Photo Exhibition at Howe Park Wood Visitor Centre

If you missed our wonderful photographic exhibition at MK Library earlier this year, fear not – you have another chance to see it in all its glory! The fabulous banner, displaying beautiful photographs taken by many Society members, is now on display at The Parks Trust’s Howe Park Wood Visitor Centre.

The exhibition will be housed here until at least January 2018 and hopefully beyond. The Visitor Centre and café are open 9am-3pm on weekdays and from 9am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

BBOWT 2017 AGM and conference - featured image

BBOWT 2017 AGM and conference

BBOWT 2017 AGM and conference

BBOWT 2017 AGM and conference

This Saturday 14th October I attended the BBOWT AGM and conference in Oxford. The AGM in the morning was, as is usual for these events, not particularly exciting but after an excellent lunch there was a very good debate about The Future of Food, Farming and Nature.

Prof Dieter Helm from Oxford chaired the debate, which included speakers from conventional (NFU deputy president) and conservation farming, a former civil servant who worked in Brussels and The Wildlife Trusts representative. It was an extremely interesting couple of hours which allowed for plenty of input from the audience. I won’t even try to summarise the discussion here, but I was very glad that I made the effort to go and would recommend the day to members in future years. You don’t have to be a member of BBOWT to attend the afternoon conference.

The following videos were played during the conference:

Our fantastic year 2016-2017
Highlights of the year 2016 – 2017

Julie Lane

HRH Prince Cambridge visits MK exhibition

HRH Duke of Cambridge meets MKNHS

On 26th September 2017 His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge paid a visit to the Milton Keynes Rose in Campbell Park, as part of a special visit to celebrate the city’s 50th birthday.He met a number of community leaders before joining a ceremony at the Milton Keynes Rose which for those of you who don’t know features a calendar of days important to local people represented by 105 pillars arranged in the geometric design of a flower.

The Duke made a short speech before unveiling a new pillar to celebrate the city’s founders. However before the ceremony the Duke attended a festival zone in the park showcasing the city’s innovations, diverse communities, cultural aspirations and green heritage. And MKNHS was one of the organisations that was invited to welcome him! Myself, Joe Clinch and Tony Wood arrived in the early morning mist to set up our display.

We were one of four organisations in the green zone alongside The Parks Trust, The Canal and River Trust and the new electric car system that is due to operate from the Train Station in the not too distant future. We had our new information boards on display showcasing the work of the society and whilst the Duke spent only about a minute with us talking about the the society, he commented in particular on the large amount of green space in the city and also the importance of involving and enthusing the younger generation, which I assured him was one of our priorities.

It was a privilege to be part of the occasion and is perhaps a reflection of the importance that the city places on its natural history and the reputation of MKNHS itself.

Click on any of the pictures for a larger image.

Words and photos by Julie Lane

HRH Prince Cambridge visits MK exhibition

HRH Prince Cambridge visits MK exhibition

HRH Prince Cambridge visits MK exhibition

HRH Prince Cambridge visits MK exhibition

 

 

Field Guide to Trees of Britain and Europe Paperback – by Alan Birkett

Field Guide to The Trees of Britain and Europe by Alan Birkett


I’m delighted to announce that our resident tree expert, Alan Birkett has published a Field Guide to The Trees of Britain and Europe.

The ISBN is 9781921517839. The book is available on-line from Waterstones or Amazon UK or from any bookseller quoting the ISBN above.

The ever-popular subject of trees is covered in this fantastic field guide which includes more than 150 species that are likely to be encountered in Britain and elsewhere in northern and central Europe. This includes native species such as Hawthorn, Wild Cherry, English Elm and Sessile Oak together with trees which have been widely introduced from other parts of the world. The book’s USP is its ingenious set of identification keys at the start of the guide, which cover broadleaf and conifer leaves, buds, cones, catkins, flowers, fruit and bark and cross reference with the tree species and families in the main sections of the book.

The guide is suitable for beginners and more knowledgeable readers and the text has been written in an easy-to understand style while there is a detailed glossary at the end of the book to explain any technical terms. Each species account covers a spread and includes a photo of the whole tree together with close-up detail of other features such as leaves, bark and so on while the accompanying text describes key characteristics for identification, including a useful ‘Quick ID’ section.

In short this is a wonderful new field guide. The author, who has also taken all of the images himself, has been working on the idea and format for many years and is confident that the title offers something new in this market and that the book will be among the very best available in its category.

Alan has also produced an app for the iPad “Tree Guide UK” which is available from the Apple app store in Standard and Premium editions.

Field Vole ©Julian Lambley, Edgewick Farm 1 August 2017

Changes to News section on our website

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Society Posts sidebar

We are keen to receive more articles on natural history.

We have made changes to the Milton Keynes Natural History website To place more emphasis on members’ contributions:

We have split news in the sidebar and new menu into:

  • Society News, and
  • Other News

We hope this will encourage you to send articles or links to items of interest to info@mknhs.org.uk

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Loughton Brook - Briefing in the car park

Trip Report – Loughton Brook – 22 August 2017

With only two weeks remaining until the Society returns to its traditional home at Bradwell Abbey, we made a premature visit for the start of our latest summer walk, meeting at the upper car park. There was a distinctly autumnal feel to this walk – both sun and rain flirted with us but most of the walk took place under heavy cloud. However, there was still plenty of flora and fauna to enjoy.

Walking south from the car park, we took our time at the edge of the Loughton Brook. The water here is very clear in places allowing good views of the gravel beds. For once we were able to concentrate on fish, with large shoals impressing us with their speed and coordination. We saw Minnows, 3-Spined Stickleback, Rudd, Perch and Common Dace – and probably several other species which we couldn’t identify! But it was a good indication of just how much life small watercourses like this can support.

Few birds were seen (the stretch is particularly good for kingfishers) but a Little Egret flew overhead and large parties of Long Tailed Tits delighted us as they moved along the hedgerows. We heard, but did not see, a small party of Bullfinches.

Among the plants growing along the brook were Knotgrass, Purple Loosestrife, Marsh Woundwort, Himalayan Balsam and Meadow Cranesbill. We crossed the brook and walked through an area of old ridge and furrow grassland where we added Agrimony and Lady’s Bedstraw to our list.

The return leg took us along the course of the railway, through some flower rich areas and scrubby woodland. Roy pointed out some attractive ferns on the railway bridge. As the skies darkened, we began to find Mother-of-Pearl moths in good numbers and then, as dusk closed in, the bats appeared. Both Common and Soprano Pipistrelles were flying around us on the edge of Bradwell Village and were easily identified with bat detectors.

The finale was a walk through the somewhat atmospheric railway tunnel over the brook. Here we saw lots of Spiders on the walls (which, illuminated by the tunnel lights, looked superb) and a good number of impressive Old Lady moths clustered on the brick work. We arrived back at the car park just as it began to rain but before we left there was one more highlight, as a pair of Brown Long-eared Bats started hunting along the fence line of the pony paddock.

It was nice to see some new faces among the 28 people who attended this meeting. Everyone agreed that it had been a different sort of evening and we had seen an interesting variety of habitats and wildlife.

Text by Martin Kincaid
Photographs by Peter Hassett

Click on any of the pictures for a larger image.

Briefing in the car park

Briefing in the car park

Looking for fish in Loughton Brook

Looking for fish in Loughton Brook

Spleenwort in wall of old railway bridge

Wall Rue growing in old railway bridge

Wall Rue growing in old railway bridge

Old Lady moth (Mormo maura) ©Julie Lane, Loughton Brook 23 August 2017

Old Lady moth (Mormo maura) ©Julie Lane, Loughton Brook 23 August 2017

Toadflax growing beside the railway line

Toadflax growing beside the railway line

Wood White ©Paul Lund, Bucknell Wood, 8 July 2017

Trip Report Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017

Bucknell Wood, just to the north of Silverstone, is a relic of the once extensive Whittlewood Forest. Owned and managed by the Forestry Commission, it is reputed to be one of the best butterfly sites in Northamptonshire and certainly lived up to this reputation when 16 MKNHS members and one other visited last Saturday. Following Martin’s request, members car shared as much as possible, but it was still something of a squeeze in the car park.

We were blessed with blue skies and warm conditions as we met at 11am. Even as we assembled in the car park, we were treated to views of White Admiral and Silver Washed Fritillary butterflies drifting around.

Butterflies were certainly the main focus of the walk and before long we had added the common browns, whites and skippers as well as a number of purple hairstreaks who would occasionally descend from the high oaks to tantalise us with brief views.

Martin had mentioned how long the wood white butterflies were lasting and sure enough, one appeared before long. These dainty little butterflies are currently the subject of a three year habitat restoration project in the Silverstone woods and as is so often the case, this individual led us a merry dance as it flitted along the main ride but refused to alight on any plants.

We eventually saw four or five wood whites and Paul Lund was lucky enough to see a female egg-laying on one of its food plants, meadow vetchling and get some fine shots. These late wood whites were the last of the brood which began way back in April and it will be interesting to see if the warm summer weather triggers a rare second brood this year.

The stars of the show though were the Silver Washed Fritillaries, of which we saw dozens in including several pairs in cop. Few of us had seen this many before.

Marsh Tit and Coal Tit were both heard calling and brief views were obtained with 2 Buzzards and a Red Kite soaring over the wood. A Common Lizard was glimpsed as it scuttled across a fallen branch.

A surprising sighting enjoyed by a few was a Bank vole which was climbing along a blackthorn branch. We all had fantastic views of Emperor dragonflies and Brown and Southern Hawkers were also on the wing.

Early July is usually the best time to see the elusive Purple Emperor butterfly, but they had emerged in the third week of June this year so the chances of seeing a male low down were slim. We had to settle for a brief view of one soaring regally over the oak canopy and of course more Purple Hairstreaks. A lucky view got a very close look at a White Letter Hairstreak on bramble flowers before a thuggish Ringlet chased it off.

We were joined by a local butterfly enthusiast Kevin Boodley, and he was a great help in spotting some of the more unusual species. The last target before we left was the rarer Valezina form of the Silver Washed Fritillary and Kevin said he has seen several earlier in the day moving between two large bramble patches in a large clearing.

We searched and searched but got no more than brief views of a single Valezina female. However, we did see her ovipositing low down on an oak. There were many more White Admirals in this area too.

We made our way back to the car park at about 2.15pm, a little weary but delighted with what we had seen. Those who had visited Bucknell Wood for the first time were keen to re-visit.

Click on any of the pictures for a larger image. You will find more pictures from the field trip on our Members’ Photos page.

Text by Martin Kincaid.

Photos from top to bottom:

Members of the Society enjoying the walk©Peter Hassett  

Members of the Society enjoying the walk©Peter Hassett

Wood White in flight ©Paul Lund

Wood White egg laying ©Paul Lund

Wood White egg ©Paul Lund

White Admiral ©Paul Young

Silver-washed Fritallary (male) ©Paul Young

Ringlet ©Paul Young

Purple Hairstreak underside ©Paul Young

Large Skipper ©Paul Young

Gatekeeper ©Paul Young

Silver-washed Fritillary (valezina form) ©Kevin Booden

Emperor Dragonfly (male) ©Peter Hassett

 

Members of the Society ©Peter Hassett enjoying the walk in Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Members of the Society ©Peter Hassett enjoying the walk in Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Wood White in flight ©Paul Lund, Bucknell Wood, 8 July 2017

Wood White egg ©Paul Lund, Bucknell Wood, 8 July 2017
White Admiral ©Paul Young, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Silver-washed Fritallary (male)©Paul Young, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Ringlet ©Paul Young, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Purple Hairstreak underside ©Paul Young, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Large Skipper ©Paul Young, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Gatekeeper ©Paul Young, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Silver-washed Fritillary (valezina form) ©Kevin Booden, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017

Emperor Dragonfly (male) ©Peter Hassett Bucknell Wood, 8 July 2017

Paul Young has provided this amazingly comprehensive species list from our visit to Bucknell Wood:

Species Common name Taxon group
Stachys officinalis Betony flowering plant
Bombus (Pyrobombus) hypnorum Tree Bumblebee insect – hymenopteran
Satyrium w-album White-letter Hairstreak insect – butterfly
Myodes glareolus Bank Vole terrestrial mammal
Lomaspilis marginata Clouded Border insect – moth
Milvus milvus Red Kite bird
Apatura iris Purple Emperor insect – butterfly
Gonepteryx rhamni Brimstone insect – butterfly
Periparus ater Coal Tit bird
Zootoca vivipara Common Lizard reptile
Centaurium erythraea Common Centaury flowering plant
Pyronia tithonus subsp. britanniae Gatekeeper insect – butterfly
Rhagonycha fulva Common Red Soldier Beetle insect – beetle (Coleoptera)
Aeshna grandis Brown Hawker insect – dragonfly (Odonata)
Phylloscopus collybita Chiffchaff bird
Thymelicus lineola Essex Skipper insect – butterfly
Anax imperator Emperor Dragonfly insect – dragonfly (Odonata)
Thymelicus sylvestris Small Skipper insect – butterfly
Vespa crabro Hornet insect – hymenopteran
Leptidea sinapis Wood White insect – butterfly
Sylvia atricapilla Blackcap bird
Potentilla anserina Silverweed flowering plant
Favonius quercus Purple Hairstreak insect – butterfly
Ochlodes sylvanus Large Skipper insect – butterfly
Columba oenas Stock Dove bird
Buteo buteo Buzzard bird
Filipendula ulmaria Meadowsweet flowering plant
Pieris napi Green-veined White insect – butterfly
Prunella modularis Dunnock bird
Troglodytes troglodytes Wren bird
Vanessa atalanta Red Admiral insect – butterfly
Turdus merula Blackbird bird
Limenitis camilla White Admiral insect – butterfly
Prunella vulgaris Selfheal flowering plant
Maniola jurtina Meadow Brown insect – butterfly
Stachys sylvatica Hedge Woundwort flowering plant
Sitta europaea Nuthatch bird
Pieris brassicae Large White insect – butterfly
Aphantopus hyperantus Ringlet insect – butterfly

Linford Lakes Development – Letter of Objection

Below is the draft letter which Milton Keynes Natural History Society is sending to Milton Keynes Council in objection to the proposed housing development, adjacent to Linford Lakes Nature Reserve,  we need to encourage as many people as possible to fight this development and  to write to Paul Keen at MK Council. They can either email him at paul.keen@milton-keynes.gov.uk or send a letter to the Civic Offices. It is important that the Ref No. 17/01937OUT is quoted in all correspondence.

Please use as much info in this template as possible but please put things in your own words as much as you can. I have been advised that the deadline for comments is 15th August 2017

Dear Mr Keen 07.08.17

Ref: Planning Application 17/01937/OUT Land at Linford Lakes, Milton Keynes

We are writing to you with reference to this proposed development of up to 250 hours. We wish to express our deep concern about this proposal on behalf of the members of Milton Keynes Natural History Society, an action supported by our committee on 31/07/2017.

The land in question forms part of an Area of Attractive Landscape in the Milton Keynes Local Plan (2001-2011). The Society has commented with respect to Policy SD10 in the recent Draft Plan:MK Consultation that “the Society strongly endorses the policy statement relating to the Linford Lakes Area. It forms a key component of the Ouse Valley extended linear park and wildlife corridor as well as an ‘ecological resource’ in its own right. This is undoubtedly one of the most biodiverse areas in Milton Keynes and its importance cannot be overstated. Any development next to Linford Lakes is likely to have a detrimental effect on its biodiversity”.

The proposed development is immediately next to Linford Lakes Nature Reserve, owned and managed by The Parks Trust. This area of lakes, species-rich grassland, scrub and wet woodland is arguably the most important ecological site in Milton Keynes. Established as a wildfowl centre in the early 1970s, the site is now known to local bird-watchers and naturalists for its biodiversity. Among the many protected species which thrive here are otter, water vole, hedgehog, barn owl, cuckoo, great crested newt and at least eight species of bat. All of these are nationally rare and/or declining. No other single site in Milton Keynes can match this in terms of rare species. Twenty three species of butterfly and over 400 species of moth have been recorded in the past three years. A botanical survey in 2016 listed over 240 plant species.

Linford Lakes Nature Reserve and its Study Centre are open to the public on an annual permit basis. This means that everyone who visits the site has bought a permit and has a vested interest in the flora and fauna the site supports. It is one of the very few locations in Milton Keynes where cats and dogs do not visit and to some extent this explains the abundance of wildlife.

The site also has long been used as a centre for environmental education, originally by Milton Keynes Council and latterly by The Parks Trust who purchased the nature reserve in 2015. Generations of local school children have enjoyed education sessions here, learning about the natural environment and the variety of wildlife on their doorstep. Again, low visitor numbers and the absence of dogs make this site ideal for this purpose.

In my opinion, if this development goes ahead, there will be enormous and irreversible damage to this very important ecological site and the surrounding landscape. We can expect many of the vulnerable species to decline or disappear due to disturbance from humans and pets. Additionally, the site will lose its value as an education resource as visitor numbers increase and habitats are damaged. Fragmentation of landscape and habitats are a major cause of the decline in UK wildlife. Currently, the land in question is attractive to wildlife but the construction of houses here would leave many species isolated.

The Environmental Impact Assessment that the developer was obliged to carry out concluded that there would be a ‘significant negative effect on biodiversity at a county level’. The survey concludes that the zone of impact that the development would have could extend to 2km, which would of course include the nature reserve.
We can think of nowhere in Milton Keynes less suitable for housing than this site. If biodiversity has any future at all in our city it is vital that this development is not approved.

Yours sincerely

Julie Lane, Joint Chairman Linda Murphy, Joint Chairman

Martin Kincaid, Vice President

Milton Keynes Natural History Society

Field Vole ©Julian Lambley, Edgewick Farm 1 August 2017

Trip Report – Edgewick Farm 1st August 2017

Field Vole ©Julian Lambley, Edgewick Farm 1 August 2017

Field Vole ©Julian Lambley,

The farm was a former dairy farm now maintained for local people. To find out more about this site, please visit our Wildlife Sites page.

Today members met in the town car park and, before reaching the farm fields, swifts were in the eaves of the local chapel.

Viola led the walk and was not hopeful of seeing lots to interest us. Wrong! Before long, in the second field visited, a Purple Hairstreak butterfly was seen, captured, viewed by all and then released. Several oak tree surrounded the field. After a few minutes a Short-tailed (=Field) Vole was seen taking a stroll through the short grass. This, too, was captured, viewed and released. How lucky was that!

Birds that took our interest were House Martins, Swallows and a Kestrel. Plants in flower were few – like Nipplewort, Birds’-foot Trefoil and Shepherd’s Purse. Immature Grasshoppers and Shield Bugs were plentiful but not able to be identified to species level.

Further into the site a wet area (erstwhile a pond) was encountered with Lesser Spearwort (evidence of the acid conditions). Leaving the fields we continued the walk along the adjacent footpath. Here a few brave souls were encouraged to take a quick nibble of a small bit of a leaf of Water-pepper. Within a short time the strong flavour was evident – not to be forgotten.

Time then to return to our cars by following the footpath and pavements between the houses. At one point along the path was a memorial seat behind which was the “flower of the evening” – Elecampane – a rare plant in Bucks. Thanks Viola for a good evening .

Article kindly supplied by Roy Maycock

Trip Report – Rushmere Country Park 18 July 2017

No less than thirty society members turned up for this walk which was led by Gordon Redford together with Ian Richardson of the Greensand Trust. The threatened rain and thunderstorms held off for the walk although the storm later in the evening was quite spectacular.

Ian gave us a brief introduction to Rushmere Country Park standing on the viewing deck at the Visitor Centre. Here we had great views of the lake and heronry. Although most of the herons fledged some time ago, there were one or two late nests.

We had a fairly brisk ninety minute walk around the woods and meadows. Among the highlights were a Slow Worm, spotted by Harry Appleyard as it crawled through the leaf litter, calling Goldcrests, a Spotted Flycatcher and Purple Hairstreaks flitting around mature oak trees in the late
evening sunshine. We also saw a couple of tiny Common Toads and Brown Hawker dragonflies around Black Pond. Along the way we nibbled the leaves of Wood Sorrel (very tasty) and listened to grasshoppers singing. Towards the end of the walk we stopped in an area of acid grassland with lots of Ragwort plants. Some of these were covered in the distinctive larvae of the Cinnabar moth whilst other plants had already been stripped of their leaves. We netted a Lesser Marsh Grasshopper for a closer look and heard, but did not see, Dark Bush-Cricket.

A big thank you to Gordon for stepping in to lead this walk and to Ian Richardson for his time.

Text by Martin Kincaid
Photos ©Harry Appleyard:

Click on any of the pictures for a larger image.

Society members viewing the heronry and ©Harry Appleyard, Rushmere Country Park 18 July 2017

Society members viewing the heronry and ©Harry Appleyard, Rushmere Country Park 18 July 2017

The Black Pond ©Harry Appleyard, Rushmere Country Park 18 July 2017

The Black Pond ©Harry Appleyard, Rushmere Country Park 18 July 2017

Slow Worm ©Harry Appleyard, Rushmere Country Park 18 July 2017

Slow Worm ©Harry Appleyard, Rushmere Country Park 18 July 2017

Wood White ©Paul Lund, Bucknell Wood, 8 July 2017

Trip Report Bucknell Wood – 8 July 2017

Bucknell Wood, just to the north of Silverstone, is a relic of the once extensive Whittlewood Forest. Owned and managed by the Forestry Commission, it is reputed to be one of the best butterfly sites in Northamptonshire and certainly lived up to this reputation when 16 MKNHS members and one other visited last Saturday. Following Martin’s request, members car shared as much as possible, but it was still something of a squeeze in the car park.

We were blessed with blue skies and warm conditions as we met at 11am. Even as we assembled in the car park, we were treated to views of White Admiral and Silver Washed Fritillary butterflies drifting around.

Butterflies were certainly the main focus of the walk and before long we had added the common browns, whites and skippers as well as a number of purple hairstreaks who would occasionally descend from the high oaks to tantalise us with brief views.

Martin had mentioned how long the wood white butterflies were lasting and sure enough, one appeared before long. These dainty little butterflies are currently the subject of a three year habitat restoration project in the Silverstone woods and as is so often the case, this individual led us a merry dance as it flitted along the main ride but refused to alight on any plants.

We eventually saw four or five wood whites and Paul Lund was lucky enough to see a female egg-laying on one of its food plants, meadow vetchling and get some fine shots. These late wood whites were the last of the brood which began way back in April and it will be interesting to see if the warm summer weather triggers a rare second brood this year.

The stars of the show though were the Silver Washed Fritillaries, of which we saw dozens in including several pairs in cop. Few of us had seen this many before.

Marsh Tit and Coal Tit were both heard calling and brief views were obtained with 2 Buzzards and a Red Kite soaring over the wood. A Common Lizard was glimpsed as it scuttled across a fallen branch.

A surprising sighting enjoyed by a few was a Bank vole which was climbing along a blackthorn branch. We all had fantastic views of Emperor dragonflies and Brown and Southern Hawkers were also on the wing.

Early July is usually the best time to see the elusive Purple Emperor butterfly, but they had emerged in the third week of June this year so the chances of seeing a male low down were slim. We had to settle for a brief view of one soaring regally over the oak canopy and of course more Purple Hairstreaks. A lucky view got a very close look at a White Letter Hairstreak on bramble flowers before a thuggish Ringlet chased it off.

We were joined by a local butterfly enthusiast Kevin Boodley, and he was a great help in spotting some of the more unusual species. The last target before we left was the rarer Valezina form of the Silver Washed Fritillary and Kevin said he has seen several earlier in the day moving between two large bramble patches in a large clearing.

We searched and searched but got no more than brief views of a single Valezina female. However, we did see her ovipositing low down on an oak. There were many more White Admirals in this area too.

We made our way back to the car park at about 2.15pm, a little weary but delighted with what we had seen. Those who had visited Bucknell Wood for the first time were keen to re-visit.

Click on any of the pictures for a larger image. You will find more pictures from the field trip on our Members’ Photos page.

Text by Martin Kincaid.

Photos from top to bottom:

Members of the Society enjoying the walk©Peter Hassett  

Members of the Society enjoying the walk©Peter Hassett

Wood White in flight ©Paul Lund

Wood White egg laying ©Paul Lund

Wood White egg ©Paul Lund

White Admiral ©Paul Young

Silver-washed Fritallary (male) ©Paul Young

Ringlet ©Paul Young

Purple Hairstreak underside ©Paul Young

Large Skipper ©Paul Young

Gatekeeper ©Paul Young

Silver-washed Fritillary (valezina form) ©Kevin Booden

Emperor Dragonfly (male) ©Peter Hassett

 

Members of the Society ©Peter Hassett enjoying the walk in Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Members of the Society ©Peter Hassett enjoying the walk in Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Wood White in flight ©Paul Lund, Bucknell Wood, 8 July 2017

Wood White egg ©Paul Lund, Bucknell Wood, 8 July 2017
White Admiral ©Paul Young, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Silver-washed Fritallary (male)©Paul Young, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Ringlet ©Paul Young, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Purple Hairstreak underside ©Paul Young, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Large Skipper ©Paul Young, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Gatekeeper ©Paul Young, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017
Silver-washed Fritillary (valezina form) ©Kevin Booden, Bucknell Wood 8 July 2017

Emperor Dragonfly (male) ©Peter Hassett Bucknell Wood, 8 July 2017

Paul Young has provided this amazingly comprehensive species list from our visit to Bucknell Wood:

Species Common name Taxon group
Stachys officinalis Betony flowering plant
Bombus (Pyrobombus) hypnorum Tree Bumblebee insect – hymenopteran
Satyrium w-album White-letter Hairstreak insect – butterfly
Myodes glareolus Bank Vole terrestrial mammal
Lomaspilis marginata Clouded Border insect – moth
Milvus milvus Red Kite bird
Apatura iris Purple Emperor insect – butterfly
Gonepteryx rhamni Brimstone insect – butterfly
Periparus ater Coal Tit bird
Zootoca vivipara Common Lizard reptile
Centaurium erythraea Common Centaury flowering plant
Pyronia tithonus subsp. britanniae Gatekeeper insect – butterfly
Rhagonycha fulva Common Red Soldier Beetle insect – beetle (Coleoptera)
Aeshna grandis Brown Hawker insect – dragonfly (Odonata)
Phylloscopus collybita Chiffchaff bird
Thymelicus lineola Essex Skipper insect – butterfly
Anax imperator Emperor Dragonfly insect – dragonfly (Odonata)
Thymelicus sylvestris Small Skipper insect – butterfly
Vespa crabro Hornet insect – hymenopteran
Leptidea sinapis Wood White insect – butterfly
Sylvia atricapilla Blackcap bird
Potentilla anserina Silverweed flowering plant
Favonius quercus Purple Hairstreak insect – butterfly
Ochlodes sylvanus Large Skipper insect – butterfly
Columba oenas Stock Dove bird
Buteo buteo Buzzard bird
Filipendula ulmaria Meadowsweet flowering plant
Pieris napi Green-veined White insect – butterfly
Prunella modularis Dunnock bird
Troglodytes troglodytes Wren bird
Vanessa atalanta Red Admiral insect – butterfly
Turdus merula Blackbird bird
Limenitis camilla White Admiral insect – butterfly
Prunella vulgaris Selfheal flowering plant
Maniola jurtina Meadow Brown insect – butterfly
Stachys sylvatica Hedge Woundwort flowering plant
Sitta europaea Nuthatch bird
Pieris brassicae Large White insect – butterfly
Aphantopus hyperantus Ringlet insect – butterfly

MK50 public walk at Willen North Lake

Walk, Willen Lake 4 July 2017

Briefing before we set off for the walk

On Tuesday 4th July 2017 a large crowd of society members were joined by a few members of the public and one small dog for a beautiful walk around the lake at Willen. It was a lovely sunny evening and there was so much on the wing both on the lake and in the meadow near the hide that it took over an hour to reach the hide (and that was all of us not just Roy!!). However the consensus was that it was such a glorious evening that we should press on and do the whole lap of the lake. Arriving back at the cars as the sun was setting we all agreed that it was one of the best outings this summer. Thank you to Martin for doing the introduction.

Walk, Willen Lake 4 July 2017

Sunset over Willen Lake 4 July 2017

Butterflies: Essex Skipper, Small Skipper, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Peacock larvae

Moths: Brown Plume Moth, Cinnabar, Shaded Broad Bar, Smoky Wainscot, Silver-y, pupae of Burnet moths.

Other insects: Roesel’s bush-crickets, meadow grasshoppers, Emperor dragonfly, Brown Hawker

Flowers: Agrimony (v. common), Perforate St.John’s Wort, Marsh Woundwort, Lady’s Bedstraw, Hedge Bedstraw, Flowering Rush, Yellow Water Lily, Purple Loosestrife, Ox-eye Daisy.

Walk, Willen Lake 4 July 2017

The  bird hide,  Willen Lake 4 July 2017

Birds: Little egret, Grey heron, Ringed plover, Common terns with young and at least two Artic Terns, Black headed gulls, Reed bunting, Reed warbler, Sedge warbler, Cettis warbler, Lesser whitethroat, Cormorant, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, a flotilla of Coot, Tufted duck, Great crested grebe, lots of Mute swans on the lake.

Photographs and text by Julie Lane

Milton Keynes Natural History Society – new logo

Milton Keynes Natural History Society logoWe hope that you like our smart new logo which we will be using on our website, display boards and posters.

We ran a competition inviting our members to design a new logo. Paul Lund come up with the winning design.

Out thanks are due to Paul Lund for creating the design and Ian Saunders for working his magic in Photoshop.

 

Introduction to Bird Song

Song Thrush by Harry Appleyard, Howe Park Wood 30 April 2016

Song Thrush by Harry Appleyard, Howe Park Wood 30 April 2016

In recent years, a number of Society members have expressed an interest in learning how to identify bird species by sound. Here at last is the opportunity!

A three-part introductory course aimed at Milton Keynes Natural History Society members in April/Mary 2017. Each session will be based at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve and we will also include a visit to nearby Little Linford Wood. By the end of the course attendees should be able to:

• Recognise up to 20 bird species by song alone.
• Distinguish between full bird song and other vocalisations.
• Improve their listening skills.

The course will be delivered by Society Members Peter Garner and Martin Kincaid. There will be no charge for this training course. To reserve a place, or for more information, please contact Martin at mkincaid1971@outlook.com

“What’s About” is now “Recent Sightings”

Recent Sightings graphicSince the website was launched, we have posted details of recent sightings of wildlife in the Milton Keynes area. These sightings have been published as weekly news items called “What’s About”.

Our members have said that they would prefer a single page with all sightings, rather than the individual weekly news items.

From January 2017, we have introduced a new page on the website called “Recent Sightings”. You can access the page from the menu at the top – choose “News”,  then “Recent Sightings”. There is also a quick link in the right hand sidebar under the Magpie logo called “Click Here For Recent Sightings”.

Sightings are listed in date order with the most recent at the top of the list.

We hope you like this change. Please send your sightings and photos to sightings@mknhs.org.uk so that we can share them with everyone interested in wildlife in the Milton Keynes area.

The new sightings mailbox has been added to the contact form on the contact us page.