Category Archives: Society News

Society News – Please send your news items to webeditor@mknhs.org.uk

Training opportunities from BMERC, the Bucks Environmental Records Centre

BMERC are planning to run four courses this year about:

  • How to make a good Record
  • Mosses of Buckinghamshire
  • Introduction to Veteran & Notable Trees
  • Introduction to Surveying for the Noble Chafer.

These courses will be free for recorders and other volunteers. This is a generous opportunity for Milton Keynes Natural History Society members and others.

One course will be online: the others will be at various sites across Buckinghamshire. Further details are in the box below. Fuller details about each course will be sent later to those who have said they are interested.

At this stage BMERC aren’t looking for firm bookings, merely expressions of interest. Once booking starts, this will be managed on a first-come first- served basis. You can  express your interest by completing the sign-up sheet, which you will need to download and send back to BMERC: erc@buckinghamshire.gov.uk.

The sign-up sheet can be found here: Training-courses-signup-sheet-20220513

Title Organiser Trainer(s) Date(s) Format Location
How to make a good record BMERC Kieron Brown Autumn (October? tbc) Likely to be a pair of sessions, each 1-2 hours long. Online.
Bucks’ mosses BMERC Sean O’Leary (County Recorder) End May – first half August, weekday dates will be available. Most likely half day sessions. Onsite, at various venues around Bucks. Some may not normally be open to the general public.
Introduction to Veteran and Notable trees BMERC Claudia Bernardini and Matt Sharp assorted weekday dates possible On-site sessions, likely to be half days. Onsite, at various venues around Bucks. TBC
Introduction to Noble Chafer surveying and habitats (including frass hunts and likely nectaring.) BMERC Julia Carey End May – End July On-site sessions, 2-3 hours long. 2 dates likely, which will either be Tuesdays or Thursdays Pitstone Green Farm Museum, Pitstone.

 

 

 

 

 

Bury Common walk 10 May 2022 – Ann Jones

It was still dry after a period without rain when around 25 members walked a route around Bury Common on the 10th May. Some of us walked through the paddocks down by the river – a permissive path, as the paddocks are owned by Mill House (I believe). This allowed us to get a rather distant view of the little owls in the willow which can be seen from across the first paddock. Little owls have been in this vicinity for years. It was probably a little early in the year to see the first damselflies although I have seen some since.

At the end of the paddocks, on reaching the lower meadow, and getting safely across the bridge with a rotten middle, we turned up left towards the main common and met up with those walkers who had avoided the stiles on the riverside path. We walked along the boundary between the upper and lower meadow. This field has not been fertilised nor grazed for many years now, and can be rich in plantlife. We walked around the lower meadow and the botanists amongst us were busy checking out plants.

I had hoped that the kestrel nest I had spotted and watched weeks earlier would have been inhabited but it had been abandoned for a while and was still abandoned although we saw the kestrels. However an eagle-eyed person spotted a large raptor nest on the other side of the river but visible from our path. At the time it was thought this was a buzzard’s nest as a black tail and brown upper body of a bird could just be seen. (However, photos I took a couple of days later revealed a red kite on the nest, and I also saw a kite perched nearby.) We paused at what is called locally ‘the beach’ to watch a number of silvery fish jumping out of the river.

It was a lovely evening with almost a mackerel sky some of the time, and larks were still singing as we walked the lower meadow. Finally, as we walked back to the car park through the “cut” (where the ‘railway-that-never-was’ was to be sited) we had a lovely sunset.

The Common is also known as Bury Field. There is an account of its history here: https://newport-pagnell.uk/history/bury-field/. And thanks to Mike LeRoy for letting us know of the much more extended account here: https://www.mkheritage.org.uk/nphs/bury-field-history-and-walk/ Thanks also to Martin Ferns, in particular for joining me on the recce, providing information on the site’s history and leading the non-stile route and keeping an eye on the rear.

I also wrote a small piece on Bury Common during the first 2020 lockdown which is available on the MKNHS site: https://mknhs.org.uk/spring-on-bury-common-ann-jones/

Ann Jones

 

Bird list Bury Common 10 May 2022 (not necessarily comprehensive – just what was noted)
Songthrush
Buzzard
Swifts over Newport Pagnell town
Reed buntings
3 Skylarks
Grey Heron
Mallards
Swallow
Red Kite
2 Kestrels
2 Little Owls
Sedge Warbler
Female Goosander
Raven
Pheasant
Whitethroat
Rooks
Long-tailed Tits
Hobby?
Jackdaws

Other sightings of interest
Hundreds of buttercups
Yellow iris in flower Iris pseudacorus
Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis
Red and Black Froghopper Cercopsis vulnerata
Common Frog (deceased)

Walk to Yardley Chase to hear nightingales, 3 May 2022 – Julie Lane

It was a very pleasant mild evening when 20 of us met up in Olney for a 5.5mile hike cross-country to Yardley Chase to hopefully listen to a nightingale. I had done a recce the night before and knew he was back singing in his usual spot so was very much keeping my fingers crossed that such a big group wouldn’t affect his performance!

On the way we saw a several hares and a brief glimpse of a small group of fallow deer which included several white individuals. The primroses and bluebells were putting on a good show in the hedges and woods and we passed a magnificent oak tree with a huge girth. As we approached the area where the nightingale was we saw a barn owl in the distance quartering the edge of the field. We slowed down and crept quietly up to the nightingale who was happily warbling away in the woodland out of sight. I felt it was important that we kept our distance as they are rare breeding birds and I didn’t want to disturb him. In some ways that was a pity as we weren’t near enough to appreciate the sheer volume of his song but it was still a magical experience in the gathering gloom when the other birds were starting to quieten down for the night – although the local song thrushes were still putting up stiff competition.

Recording of nightingale singing, Yardley Chase 3 May 2022 (Recording by Julie Lane)

After a while in his company we turned for home, surprising a fox on his nocturnal wandering. Sadly the grasshopper warbler I had heard the night before was silent, or had moved on, but we were thrilled to hear brief utterances of a second nightingale in another part of the wood.

Whilst crossing the field of beans we were treated to the sound of two lapwings calling in the dark – a lovely end to a special evening. Thank you to all who came – you will have slept well afterwards!

List of notable species seen (not comprehensive)

Birds
2 x nightingale singing
Barn Owl
Cuckoo
Raven
Whitethroat
Blackcap
Yellowhammer
Song thrush
Willow warbler
Chiffchaff
Lapwing
Grey partridge

Mammals
Fox
Hare
Fallow deer including several white deer

Moths
Silver Ground Carpet
Green Carpet
Brimstone

Plants
Primrose
Cowslip
Bluebell
Lesser celandine
Bugle
Ground ivy
Perforate St John’s-wort
White deadnettle

Society Walk at Howe Park Wood SSSI – 26th April 2022

 Our first Tuesday night outdoor meeting of the season took place at Howe Park Wood last week. Leaders Colin Docketty and Martin Kincaid were joined by around 30 members who were clearly keen to get out and reconnect with old friends. Although the traditional rain stayed away, it was a grey, chilly evening and by 8.30pm we were all learning the new skill of torchlit botanical ID.

Martin mentioned that most visitors head straight into Howe Park Wood and don’t pay much attention to the species rich meadow between the wood and Tattenhoe Street (V2). So the walk began with a look at this and the three ponds nearby, where a devoted moorhen sat calmly on her nest bemused by all the attention.

Cowslips are prolific this year and the carpet of cowslips in this small meadow was a delight to see. Martin also pointed out the spreading population of Sainfoin, which will flower in June. This species is relatively new to Milton Keynes but has been present at Howe Park for 4-5 years now. A few Common Spotted Orchids were found in rosette but no Bee Orchids could be located as yet.

Entering the wood from the main northern entrance, we soon saw the expected spring species, dominated by Bluebells and Greater Stitchwort. Wood Anemone, Bugle and Lesser Celandine were all easy to find too, Common Dog Violet less so.

One of the objectives of this walk was to identify likely nest sites of Red Kite, which certainly nested in the wood in 2021 and has been seen carrying sticks. Kites teased us in the evening with their whistling calls, but one was seen towards the end of the night flying off of a probable nest.

We made a lengthy stop at the clearing in the wood which holds a small pond. Carla Boswell explained that the Parks Trust has tried repeatedly to fence this pond off from dogs, but that the rustic fencing has again been vandalised and nothing of it remains. The water is therefore very turbid and little marginal vegetation remains on the side nearest the path. However, patient watching showed us that the pond still holds a healthy population of newts. Both Smooth Newts and the larger Great Crested Newts were observed swimming to the surface, taking a breath and quickly diving again. The night was too cold for most invertebrates, but a Great Diving Beetle at the pond was a nice sighting.

Moving into the western side of the wood, we turned our attention to bats. Our route took us past two trees which Harry Appleyard has found to contain roosting Noctule bats. We could not hear bats at these trees, but a single Noctule bat and both Common and Soprano Pipistrelles were seen later by various members. Colin and Martin had found Goldilocks Buttercup on their recce visit and were pleased to show people this diminutive woodland flower. This was where our torches came in useful as the light faded! One species searched for without success was Early Purple Orchid, which has become very scarce in the wood in recent times. (Happily, Janice Robertson found several flowers later in the week and her photo is shown below.)

Early Purple Orchid, Howe Park Wood April 22 (Photo © Janice Robertson)

The last stop was to look at the veteran Crab Apple tree on the north-west edge of the wood. This venerable tree, affectionately known as ‘Edna’ (any Simpsons fans out there?) is currently in flower and looked even more impressive in the dwindling light.

Since it was our first Tuesday night walk for some time, Martin opened up the Visitor Centre so that people could enjoy some refreshment and chat. It also gave us a chance to see again the impressive MKNHS banner created for our 50th Anniversary in 2018, featuring photos taken by many of our members down the years.

 

Winter 2021-22: Wildlife in the local area – Tony Wood

The trees are turning green with some in blossom, some plants are in flower, birds are singing, and there is frogspawn in the ponds – yes, it`s spring again; but before we get too excited, how did our local wildlife fare during the past winter?

Generally, it was a mild winter with a few exceptions. The end of the year recorded the warmest New Year`s Day on record, January was the sunniest and driest for East Anglia, and during January we suffered three storms, Dudley, Eunice, and Franklin.

Once more our society members have been using our website to record their sightings and this is a summary of these records during the period October to December 2021, and January to March 2022:

Mammals – During the first three months of this year there have been records of otters at Great Linford Reserve, Stony Stratford Reserve, and the River Ouzel near Caldecotte, During December last year a water vole was seen in the Stony Stratford area and at Little Linford Wood a hare was recorded. Both myself and my neighbours have been blessed with regular nightly visits with badgers to our gardens throughout the winter, and during March two young ones were reported.

Butterflies and other insects – On the 6th October a Painted Lady was seen at Caldecotte, a species that unusually there were very few records of in 2021. The bright sunny days in February attracted a variety of butterflies starting with brimstones and during the following weeks tortoiseshell and comma.  Other unusual insect records included a Buff-tailed bumble bee in my garden as late as 30th December and a western conifer seed bug at Bradwell Common on 10th October. It would appear that this bug was first recorded in the UK in 2007.

Birds – The winter months attract numerous sightings of birds passing through the local sites particularly the lakes. There were numerous records of large white, little and even cattle egrets, pintails and goosanders. But during the last three months of 2021 the following unusual local records were submitted:
Willen Lakes – rock pipit, black redstart Siberian chiffchaff and Mediterranean gull
Floodplain Forest – 3 whooper swans, and a ruddy duck
Caldecotte -great northern diver
Furzton – Slavonian grebe
Newport Pagnell – hen harrier
Back Wood, Brickhills – 3 crossbills

During the first three months of this year the following special birds were recorded locally:
Floodplain Forest – marsh harrier, peregrine and curlew
Linford Lakes Reserve – bittern and marsh tit
Stony Stratford Reserve – oystercatcher
Walton Hall, River Ouzel – 4 Bewick swans
Willen  – avocet
Caldecotte – mandarin duck
Magna Park – Siberian chiffchaff

A fantastic selection of wildlife sightings locally during the past winter – congratulations.

With spring and summer ahead of us there will be a plethora of species to enjoy, So share your records on our Society`s website, and as usual look, learn, record – but most of all, enjoy.

Tony Wood
26 April 2022

Walk in search of Wood Anemones led by Colin Docketty and Mike LeRoy – Linford Wood, 10th April 2022

16 members and friends joined the 10th April Sunday morning walk through Linford Wood. A map was handed out to show the paths and compartments of this 39ha (97 acre) wood. As soon as we had left the TV-mast car-park a few newly-emerged Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holostea came into view beside the path. This plant is an Ancient Woodland Indicator, an AWI.

There were three handouts during the walk. One about Woodland History & Management, another about Current Woodland Management, and the third was a Species List, giving a brief summary of flora and fauna worth looking for at various times of the year.

The ‘search’ for Wood Anemones Anemone nemorosa (AWI) could not have been easier. There were few sections of the wood where there were not carpets and swathes of hundreds and thousands of these in full view along the edges of many woodland compartments. A sunny morning made the whole Wood bright with their whiteness – though a few small clumps had a pinkish-violet hue.

Wood Anemone (Photo © Julian Lambley)

Among them were Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria which had emerged many weeks before. Scattered among the trees, deep into the wood were bright clumps of Primrose Primula vulgaris (AWI) that had flowered in February and still looked fresh. Scattered among and beyond these, often deeper into the Wood were the earliest Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta (AWI) coming into flower, with plenty more emerging around them. Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis (AWI) was in an almost continuous spread along the edge of most ditches and paths and in flower, but few people notice it or its slight spikes of male flowers that look rather like catkins, or the female flowers on separate plants that have wider leaves.

We were asked to look for two kinds of small, low-growing purple flowers. One is very common, not only in woodland: this is Ground-ivy Glechoma hederacea. The other is the family of Violets Viola. The ones we were looking for are tiny and easy to miss. These are the Early Dog-violet Viola reichenbachiana (AWI) and the Common Dog-violet Viola riviniana (AWI). Probably, the ones we saw were V.reichenbachiana which flowers earlier than V.riviniana, but checking the features on such small plants requires very close attention and, even then, there are hybrids of these two. Several we saw were exquisitely delicate and beautiful. It was too soon for Sanicle Sanicula europaea (AWI) to be in flower but Chris Coppock found its lower leaves, which are similar to those of Wood Anemone but with a few distinctively different characteristics.

Early Dog Violet (Photo © Julian Lambley)

We walked in a broad circuit along a path around the north of the Wood and back to its centre before heading down the broad central ride to the southern end. But before heading further south we took a brief look at Herb Paris Paris quadrifiolia (AWI) that were only just emerging in the shade of other plants. When we reached the southern end of Linford Wood it was too late to fit in a visit to Stanton Wood, so we passed the peaceful pond beneath trees close to H4 Dansteed Way and returned up the western side of Linford Wood. Here we noted leaves that were probably of Yellow Archangel Lamiastrum galiobdolon (AWI) which should flower around May with bright yellow flowers like those of dead-nettle. Further on we passed some shrubs of Spindle Euonymus europaeus, noting their dark green and rectangular stems. This is an undistinguished plant until autumn when its bright pink and orange fruit makes it highly visible.

All the time there were the sounds of birds. Greater-spotted Woodpecker were drumming, and Green Woodpecker were yaffling but perhaps the noisiest sounds were the squawks from five boisterous Jays flying back and forth together. Little was heard from Nuthatch, but there was a Buzzard flying over and calling to another at the top of a tree.

Throughout our walk there were occasional bumblebees busily in search of pollen and nectar and a few queens still searching for nesting sites. Those we saw were mostly White-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lucorum or Buff-tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris, but there were also some Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus pratorum. One Brimstone Butterfly Gonepteryx rhamni sped away from us along the ditches.

There has been plenty of woodland management work during the winter, with Ash Fraxinus excelsior trees at risk of falling being removed near paths, and their timber and logs either waiting to be removed or laid to rot down as useful deadwood for use by invertebrates. At a few points we could see standing ‘deadwood’ well away from the paths: trees in decline left to provide nest holes for bats and birds and soft rot for saproxylic beetles to use. Already there had been new plantings of trees and shrubs to take the place of felled and fallen trees. Some Pedunculate Oaks Quercus robur had been planted by volunteers, from acorns grown-on from this Wood. Oaks tend not to regenerate naturally within the closed spaces of established woodlands.

It was flowers that had taken most of our attention, because April to June is probably the best time to see these in ancient woodlands. But they were set against the character of all of Linford Wood, which varies from compartment to compartment, and has the grandeur of a woodland that is over 700 years old.

Mike LeRoy
April 2022

 

My World of Bats – Daniel Hargreaves – Tuesday 12th April – on Zoom

A recording of Daniel Hargreaves talk about Bats around the world is now available to view for the next 30 days.

To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/wWQqz5gfjZNhdldHWkBWjqwrmEJWOC5fkaop9XJjZVqio8BUOv7zTKEzY6a42al1.HvwUXbEGpc1s68lK

Passcode: 8#Nb?K&Q

To find out more about the work of the Bat Conservation Trust and support their work go to:

www.bats.org.uk

Dancersend: Cradle of Nature Conservation – An illustrated talk by Mick Jones MBE – Tuesday 5th April – on Zoom

A recording of Mick Jones’ talk about the Dancersend Reserve is now available to view for the next 30 days.

To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/7pfHv199by_Xc4V4ztSwMwH16uiZH-hrkbySy0-IDL1GBRfuopNfC-fyoEOftmfC.0APYcSgDdqeMq21K

Passcode: 1W8$x9Ki

A trip to Florida in the company of our Chairman Matt Andrews – Tuesday 29th March – on Zoom

A recording of Matt Andrew’s talk about springtime in Florida is now available to view for the next 30 days.

To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/6MZRCiMwe0UjIHaNa1a2xVL56pBfJw3t9RzEqiZXDeX_XKhTfUBDpt_ZTZyMv_66.MIHaTOHSXNWMRulr

Passcode: 70ufW7K.

3 Sunday morning walks – Reports from December-February – Colin Docketty

Sunday 12 December – Caldecotte Lake – 11 participants

Weather mild and cloudy, then some rain (which did not stop us), followed by sun later.
We did a complete circuit of the lake at a slow pace, taking 3 hours, including stops to look at things.

We saw a cormorant colony in the trees, Canada Geese and one Greylag, Swans, Little Egrets, Grey Heron, gulls including Black-headed, coot, moorhen, mallard (the only ducks), Little Grebe (10) and a Great Crested Grebe. A juvenile Great Northern Diver was present but not showing well. I saw it myself briefly for a second, before I it dived, and I could not relocate it. Also, Julian got a very distant photograph of it with his new large lens. I was hoping to show it to everyone, but the bird decided otherwise.

Passerines seen were Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed tits, Goldfinch, Song Thrush (2), Robin, Blackbird – and a Cetti’s Warbler calling.

A swan had come to grief after hitting the Bletcham Way road bridge. Nothing is wasted – the unfortunate death of the swan was a bonanza for a fox which had a few days of easy dinners. There was just enough for Sunday’s dinner. On Monday morning, all that would be left following the unfortunate accident would be the skeleton bones.

We also saw several Spindle trees with red ripe fruit.

The walk was enjoyed by all.

Sunday 16 January  – Tongwell Lake – 17 participants

A very nice walk on a sunny winter’s day.

Tongwell Lake is a good place to see Goosander, and we saw 6 male and 3 female. There were many other birds too: Pochard (pair), Wigeon (3), Shoveler (pair), Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose (1), swan, Moorhen, Coot, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Great Crested Grebe, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull (1) and a Water Rail was heard.

Passerines – Redpoll (3 in a tree), Dunnock, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blackbird. Robin, Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail, Siskin, Carrion Crow. Also a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on top of a lamp post, and a Red Kite.

There was an attractive Portugal Laurel nearby one of the houses around the lake.

Sunday 6 February – Ouse Valley Park and Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve, Old Wolverton – 20 participants

After 2 hours of heavy rain, 20 hardy participants turned up at Manor Farm at 10.30. We first walked down to Holy Trinity Church to view the snowdrops. In the churchyard was a lovely Cedar of Lebanon tree. We also saw two active badger setts.

On the Floodplain we found Goosander (pair), Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Cormorant and Little Egret. A large flock of Lapwing was also present. A single Lapwing was seen in perfect plumage, the light showing its green back and red legs to perfection – a sight not often seen. We also saw the Konik ponies which are there to keep the vegetation down.

A peregrine was seen sitting on the side of the waste facility chimney – there is actually a pair which have taken the chimney as their home. They are probably too young to breed yet, and could possibly be from the successful breeding peregrines at Stadium MK, or the Bucks Council office in Aylesbbury. When they are older, they will probably breed, but meanwhile they are defending their home from other peregrines.

The morning finished with a rainbow in an arc against a cloudy background, but it only lasted a minute, gradually vanishing from left to right.

An enjoyable walk, despite the very rough weather.

Colin Docketty

Exploring the Origins of Life – A Scientific Programme – Zoom talk by Professor Nigel Mason – Tuesday 1st March

A recording of Nigel Mason’s talk on Tuesday 1st March is now available to view for the next 30 days.

(Unfortunately the first 10 minutes of the talk were not recorded)

To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/sBJh14CcO7ybg7rTx34Mcj5dmtVnMYyptCy6YFP8OSZMObtm800NKXzyiAL1NbwA.tNJwjrUCSCtRCVEw

Passcode: P$0=ec4E

Bird Surveys of Britain – Zoom talk by Mike LeRoy,  Tim Arnold, Kenny Cramer and Andy Harding – Tuesday 8th February

A recording of this talk on Tuesday 8th February is now available  to view for the next 30 days.  To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/KUi4vZOOTh99e3DHF-TmT6w-_HJoafQu_fHAwCLsvteD4-rfWuTum6cmXPnVSh7G.PDyZgNLz5BSjMh87

Passcode: C07y.6s#

Farmland Conservation in the Chilterns  – Zoom talk by Nick Marriner – Tuesday 1st February

A recording of Nick Marriner’s talk on Tuesday 1st February is now available  to view for the next 30 days.  To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.

The recording is in two parts. To move from one part to the next, click on the forward arrow below the video where is says ‘2 recordings’

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/MXVKbrEiuk5ZCHHlKVvxvzo00TMfZOiNvsY-y8xNK4IUcsVBJvuniiKfGul_VB6V.kugFQeS7y3slEtBl

Passcode: D13!R3Vy

Would you like to be part of our team?

This is your chance to get involved with helping to run our brilliant Society!
We have lots of new members in the Society and we are hoping that some of you might be prepared to get involved in its smooth running. Anyone would be very welcome to get involved and will receive full support from the committee.

There are currently two positions that we are hoping to fill:

  • Summer programmer/walks coordinator
  • Nature Day Coordinator

Summer programme/walks coordinator

After the sad loss of Mary Sarre who kindly organised our summer walks programme for the last five years or so, with the support of her husband Phil, we are now looking for someone (or two people) to take over the role.

This involves organising a meeting at the beginning of the season to plan the locations and the leaders for the summer walks – this meeting is due to take place on 8th March but the person taking over will receive plenty of support from the committee to run the meeting this year. Then follows the collating of the summer programme and ensuring that the walks run smoothly over the summer season. Further details can be found in the MKNHS Guidance Handbook pages 23-24 (which can be found on the website in the dropdown menu under the Home heading).

Nature Day coordinator

We are also looking for someone to organise the Society’s contribution to Nature Day on 2nd July this year. The day takes place at Howe Park Wood, is now run by The Parks Trust and the local Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and is a really lovely day out for many families in MK. Our Society initially instigated the event in memory of Bernard Frewin, one of our founding members who used to take his barn owl into local schools to show the children. It then morphed into a very successful annual event (part of a week of nature-based activities) so it would be lovely if we could keep up our involvement. We have our Society display boards on show and we also run a nature-based activity for children which has taken various guises over the years such as quizzes on animal poo, tracks and trails, feathers etc.

Nature Day is always such a fun day – very hands-on and great to see families out enjoying themselves together and learning more about wildlife. I have been the main organiser since the start with help from other members but I would now like to hand over the task to someone else who can bring their own creativity and enthusiasm to the role. I have lots of equipment and ready-made activities that I can pass on to get you started.

****

If you are interested in either of these roles or would like to find out more then please contact me Julie Lane silverteasel@icloud.com or Linda Murphy lindamurphy49@btinternet.com either directly or via the website info@mknhs.org.uk

Julie Lane
30 January 2021

Dinopedia- The John Wickham Lecture – Zoom talk by Darren Naish – Tuesday 18 January

A recording of Darren Naish’s talk on Tuesday 18th January is now available  to view for the next 30 days.  To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.

In this talk, palaeontologist, naturalist, author and researcher Darren Naish outlines the major and fascinating changes in our understanding of dinosaurs and their behaviour as discussed in detail in his book Dinopedia.

To view the recording, follow the link below and enter the pass code when prompted to do so.
https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/VvrviNVAy8cCp-EtY-i

Passcode: KG3uQ*Vb

The John Wickham Lecture is held annually in memory of John Wickham who joined the Society shortly after it was founded in 1968 and undertook many roles in support of the Society including responsibility for membership and communication with members, co-ordination of the Hazeley Wood Study Group and as a Vice President of the Society until his death in 2019. John was a passionate naturalist with a particular interest in invertebrates and scientific inquiry, who was always ready to help other members and share his expertise.

MKNHS Weekend Walk Report – Tongwell Lake, 16th January 2022

Tongwell Lake. All photos © Harry Appleyard

Today’s Society walk was hosted at Tongwell Lake by Colin Docketty. With mild sunny spells and very little wind, it was an ideal day for a winter visit with waterfowl being the main attraction. In recent years it has been one of MK’s most reliable sites for wintering Goosanders, sometimes found in double figure flocks. It attracts many other species of waterfowl including Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Pochard. Bitterns have occasionally been spotted among the reed-beds in the past and the increasingly common Great White Egret was also recorded here for the first time in November 2019.


Male Goosander

Our walk took us on a full lap of the lake, scanning the water, reed-beds, and the surrounding thickets. It wasn’t long before attendees were treated to excellent views of 3 Lesser Redpolls, perched and preening for a few minutes in a small thicket overlooking the lake. One of them was sporting a silver ring on its right leg, perhaps a recent catch from Kenny Cramer at Linford Lakes?


Lesser Redpoll

The dense belt of conifers on the north side of the lake offered brief glimpses of at least 5 Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff while a Water Rail and Cetti’s Warbler called from the reedbeds nearby. Goosander was a target species of our host and luckily at least 7 were present, including 5 males and 2 females spread across the lake. The subtle green sheen to the males’ heads was shown off well by the low winter sunshine. Other species across the lake included at least 18 Gadwall, 20 Tufted Ducks, 3 Wigeon, 3 Cormorants, Great-crested Grebe and 6 Pochard, the latter of which has sadly become a scarcer sight across the county in recent years.


Goldcrest

Some birds perched on the island in the middle of the lake included 3 Redwings, 4 Siskins, a possible 4th Lesser Redpoll and 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers. One of the two Woodpeckers was very keen to be heard as the walk came to a close, drumming on a lamppost near the car park! A Grey Wagtail also made a passing appearance at the start of the walk and a Sparrowhawk and at least 2 Red Kites were seen throughout, circling and gliding in the distance.

Many thanks to Collin Docketty for hosting this excellent walk at one of MK’s overlooked wildlife sites.

Harry Appleyard
17 January 2022

 

 

Gordon Redford and George Higgs memorial moth night – Saturday 17th July 2021  – Postscript

After a lot of work on co-ordinating lists and micro identification following the event, we now have the ‘almost final’ list of moths trapped at this special mothing event.

Just one or two micros remain and await dissection to confirm their identification, the only way to be certain in these cases. This list contains 230 species, confirming the feeling at the time that it was a fantastic night. Big thanks are due to Martin Albertini, Bucks County Moth Recorder, who has pulled the records together and to everyone involved in trapping and recording on the night as well as working through all the follow-up identification.

To remind yourself about the event, read Andy Harding’s news post click here
and to see the moth list for the night, click here.

The photo above is a Peach Blossom Thyatira batis (Photo © Andy Harding)

Camera Icon

Photo Competition 2022 – Round 1 voting open until 25 January

UPDATE: Round 1 voting is now open until end of 25 January. Go to the 2022 Photo Competition page for instructions.

MKNHS Annual Photographic Competition 2022

Due to the fact that we are still unable to meet in person at the moment and the date for a return to the Cruck Barn is not yet certain, we have decided to run the competition via the Society’s website once again with voting by email. The process and timetable are explained below.

The competition is for the Ron Arnold Shield. Ron Arnold was an early member of the Society and a keen photographer. The competition was set up in his memory.

The competition is open to all members of the Society. Any non-members who would like to participate are welcome to join in order to take part (https://mknhs.org.uk/membership-2/ )

There are four categories:

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

The following rules apply:

  • This year, as foreign travel has been so restricted, images for all categories should have been taken in the UK between January 2021 and January 2022
  • Domestic animals and cultivated plants are not eligible.
  • People must not be a major subject of any photograph.

Format guidelines:

  • Digital images only can be entered, by email to Photos2022@mknhs.org.uk
  • Please use jpg files. Maximum file size 4MB
  • They can be horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait).
  • Each member may enter a maximum of 2 images per category. (That’s 8 images in total). If you are submitting more than 4 images, please split between 2 emails, or use WeTransfer.
  • Please state the category of entry for each image and provide a brief caption for each photo stating when and where taken and species if known/relevant. If you submit more than one photo, make sure it is clear which caption goes with each photo!

May the best photograph win! It could be yours!

Paul Lund

 

How the 2022 Photo competition will be run, and key dates:

  1. Send your entries to the mailbox (Photos2022@mknhs.org.uk) by 11pm on 11 January 2022
  2. Members’ photos will be posted in the four categories on the web site photo competition page (Photo Competition 2022) one week after the deadline (i.e. on 18 January 2022)
  3. Members have a week to decide their choice of top two per category for Round 1. Members send in their choices by email to the same mailbox. (Votes to be received by 25 January 2022)
  4. The votes are counted and the top 8 photos selected (top 2 per category). The top eight photos are posted on the website one week after the deadline for voting in round 1 (i.e. by 01 February 2022).
  5. Members have one week to send in their votes for the top three photos. (Votes to be received by 08 February 2022)
  6. Votes are counted and the top 3 selected.
  7. Winners are announced at the MKNHS meeting on 15 February 2022 one week after the deadline for voting for round 2.
    Winning photos will be shown at this meeting and winners will be asked to say something about their photos.
  8. The final 8 will be put on the website gallery page for the photo competition winners 2022.
  9. The winner will be presented with the Ron Arnold Shield to hold for the year (if/when conditions allow). Their name will be engraved on the shield and they will receive a miniature shield to keep.

Please Note! Photos MUST be sent in by 11pm on 11 January 2022 at the latest!

Entries will NOT be accepted after 11 January 2022.

Votes cast after the deadlines for Round 1 and Round 2 will not be counted….

Please note that by submitting photos you are agreeing to your images being displayed on the Society website. Images displayed in the Society gallery after the competition will show attributed copyright.

Recovering lost hay meadows in the UK – Zoom talk by Irina Tatarenko – Tuesday 14th December

A recording of Irina’s talk about the work of The Floodplain Meadow Partnership on Tuesday 14th November is now available  to view for the next 30 days.  To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/D0EK3deAwvpEJIKTbxih59M7Thds-SnHNsH5Bbf6x8WB_io2_F51KBKOqACQFuJT.NJiBufBHJfEXfEtZ

Passcode: s9n#?vah

Caldecotte Lake – Weekend walk – Sunday 12th December 2021

The weather was overcast and drizzling at times but it was warm without wind. Led by Colin Docketty, the walk started in the Windmill car park and began southwards, eventually completing a loop of the whole lake, north and south. Goldfinch were on Teasel by the water near Blue-Tits and Long-tailed Tits. As we progressed around the lake, we spotted gulls of various types and ages. There were some Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls along with juveniles and first- and second-year birds. Little Grebes were spotted in a large group of seven. Further around the lake in another area, three more were seen giving a total of ten. Crossing the bridge near the business park, a Cetti’s Warbler gave a partial song but, as expected, was not seen!

A flock of Goldfinch were in trees near gardens and there was a probable Siskin sighting. A Heron perched high up on a house made a good photo opportunity. A Spindle tree brightened the day with its pink splashes of colour. Under a bridge, a Little Egret stood in a stream patiently waiting for lunch. On approaching the bridge, the bird flew into a tree giving the group the perfect opportunity for viewing. The Little Egret’s yellow feet wrapped around a branch as it watched a Cormorant below.

Towards the end of the walk, two Song Thrushes were seen near the car park chasing each other around some shrubs near the water’s edge.

Martine Harvey

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

Mary Sarre – tributes from members

Lead photo: Burnt-tip orchid, Knocking Hoe NR 2018 © Mary Sarre

Many of us were shocked and saddened last week to hear of the death of Mary Sarre after a long battle with cancer. We send Phil and the family our love and sympathy.

Mary and Phil have been members of the Society for a long time now. Since Roy our President has taken a back seat as our botanical expert we came to rely increasingly on Mary’s in-depth knowledge on all things to do with plants. She has also been a valued committee member for many years (always a quiet voice of reason) and did a great job as our summer programme secretary until ill health forced her to stand down earlier this year. We are so grateful for all she did for the Society.


Mary and Phil at Stony Stratford Nature Reserve, with Joe and others.

I first met Mary, a qualified garden designer, when I had recently qualified in the same profession over 20 years ago. She was generous in her advice and support and it was good to share our passion for garden plants and our experiences when designing gardens for clients. I was keen to introduce wilder elements in my designs as Chris Baines and others were beginning to promote gardening with wildlife in mind – it was an exciting time!

We then lost touch for a few years as I changed careers to work in local schools (that is another story) but when Mary and Phil started to come along to MKNHS meetings it was lovely to see her more regularly. Phil has been the warden of Little Linford Wood for many years and I occasionally joined the work parties at the weekends creating coppiced clearings to open up the wood for the plants and insects etc. I always seemed to manage to get to the one just before Christmas where Mary would turn up along with their two lovely black labradors with hot drinks and mince pies. They always welcomed me even though I wasn’t really a regular!

I have been helping as an assistant editor on our website and Mary had sent me several articles for the website recently including a fascinating piece she had written about mistletoe.

Misteloe – Central Milton Keynes (Photo: Mary Sarre)

The day after receiving the incredibly sad news of her passing I was walking in Salcey and I looked up and saw a tall tree with several large bunches of mistletoe in its crown and there guarding one of these bunches was a mistle thrush (living up to its name). It felt like a strange coincidence as I have never seen mistletoe in Salcey before, but it is at this time of the year that the lime green bunches becomes more obvious as the trees shed their leaves. However the sight was a comfort at a sad time. Nature is a great healer and I hope it helps Phil and the rest of their family to remember the happier times with Mary. They had so many wonderful holidays in their second home up in the Pyrenees and many other beautiful parts of the world.

Julie Lane
November 2021

If others in the Society would like to share their memories of Mary on our website then please send them to webeditor@mknhs.org.uk

From Jenny Mercer

Mary Sarre,  July 1945-November 2021

In the natural world and in gardening, Mary worked with vigour to show the goodness and beauty of the world.
She showed us much.
She knew and taught us much.
She drew nature
landscapes with trees
still life with flowers

She made maps and drafted garden designs which she highlighted in watercolours.
She showed us all kindness and encouraged us to do more in our lives.
She will be missed by me, and by many.

Dear Mary
We value all you gave us.
You taught us many things about life and how to live it, and now you have shown us how to die courageously.
Your voice in our hearts and our love for you remain, and your voice in our heads  will keep on challenging and encouraging us to love nature and each other.

Jenny Mercer

From Sue and Andrew Hetherington

The news of Mary’s death has come as a dreadful bolt out of the blue to us, we had no idea that Mary was even ill.  As relative newcomers, we have no long back history of stories and anecdotes about Mary but we know she was the go-to expert for all botanical questions.  I recall the mistletoe article Julie Lane has mentioned.  Mary wrote about seeing more of it around Milton Keynes and wanted people to tell her about new sightings.  I’ve been keeping a look out ever since and corresponded with her at the time.  We confided in each other that apart from the purely botanical aspect we were fascinated with the mystery and pagan aspects of this strange plant (or should I say hemiparasite) Thus when Julie Lane “posted” her mistletoe and mistle thrush sighting in Salcey on the Society’s facebook page, it was Mary that came first to my mind.  Unlike Julie, I had no idea of what had happened at that time so it feels like even more of a strange coincidence that it made me think of Mary.

We will miss Mary very much and the Society will be all the poorer for her absence.  I shall keep looking out for mistletoe and whenever I see it I shall give a nod to Mary’s memory, I wish I could actually tell her about it though!  We send love and sympathy to Phil, the family and all who knew and loved Mary.

Sue and Andrew Hetherington

From Mervyn Dobbin

Over many years, our paths crossed in different settings. These included: during Marys
involvement with the City Discovery Centre at Bradwell Abbey; as a consultant on garden
design at the Milton Keynes Quaker Centre; and as a member of Milton Keynes Natural
History Society.

At one point, I appointed her to advise me on planting for my own garden. Together, but
with her guidance, we prepared the ground and dug in the spots where the new shrubs and
trees were to be positioned. This working together with her oversight, is a warm memory to
reflect on. The prideofplace in the garden is the winter flowering cherry, which every year
without fail, produces an array of pink blossoms. The small flowers have recently appeared
again, a colourful canopy against the sky, to brighten up the darker days of this 2021 winter.

Mary in her personal relationships always conveyed a reassuring, nonjudgemental
acceptance of others. She was a gentle presence.

Thank you Mary.

Mervyn Dobbin

From Linda Murphy

My memories of Mary always take me to Society evening and weekend summer walks, in a variety of locations, especially Pilch Field. No matter where we have been, there are always plants to look at and identify, some common, some much rarer and exciting, but many of them easy to confuse with other species.  Mary was never taken in by a quick glance. She knew what features to look for and quietly and patiently checked them out to ensure an accurate record of what had been found. She always had a field guide and hand lens, but more importantly, knew how to use them! As Julie says, in recent years we increasingly turned to her for help with plant identification and ‘what do you think this is, Mary?’ became a regular question. But she didn’t just ‘tell us the answer’. She would gently discuss the options using the field guide, looking at leaf shape, stems, hairiness etc. and making comparisons, asking questions of us, too, in a non-judgemental way that put people at ease and avoided anyone feeling they’d asked a silly question. Jenny has talked about how much Mary knew and showed us, and I for one will be thinking of her and remembering her as I look at plants again next season, still hearing her voice in my head and trying hard to live up to her example, to continue plant recording in her memory.


Green-winged orchid, Pilch Field, May 2021 (Photo © Mary Sarre)

Thank you Mary.

Linda Murphy

Quiz night –  Tuesday 7th December – on Zoom

Our annual quiz hosted by Ann and Mark Strutton proved as challenging as usual (not least in getting everyone in and out of the same group/breakout room for each round)! Congratulations to Ann and Mark on pulling together such a varied set of questions once again, covering insects, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, invertebrates and ‘the killer’ general knowledge! It was a very close contest, with few points separating the teams throughout, but the eventual winners were Alan Piggott, Viola Read, Mike LeRoy, Matt Andrews and Linda Murphy.

When these competitions are held at the Cruck Barn, the winning team have gained custody of a mounted picture of a dragonfly. Does anyone know its whereabouts??

During discussion before the meeting, attention was drawn to a petition about the shooting of woodcock https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/595483

Also to a recording of a session at the BTO conference about Woodcock available on Youtube, the middle talk in the session on ‘Wondrous Waders’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88q1rq7pHTs

 

Walton Lake and Ouzel Valley Park North – Weekend walk – Sunday 21st November 2021 – Colin Docketty

Weather sunny and cold. 6 participants.
We walked from Walton Lake to Marshalls Lane, Woolstone, following the River Ouzel and back again. With stops to look at things on the way, we were there for three hours.

We saw 10 species of passerine birds, including a Long-tailed tit which gave us super views of it, and two Red Kites. There were a Moorhen and Grey Heron on Walton Lake, which was devoid of any other water birds, being now a shadow of its former self.

We viewed the Black Poplars. Unfortunately, the interpretation board provided by the Open University has been wrecked by vandals.

Other life included a few species of mushroom, the odd dandelion and one buttercup plant in full flower. No insects were seen as, although sunny, it was too cold.

At Woolstone we saw the medieval fishponds, with an interpretation panel showing what they looked like in their heyday.

Although not a lot of natural history was seen due to the time of year, it was nevertheless a very pleasant sunny walk, enjoyed by all.

Colin Docketty

Wildlife and Scenery in the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica – Zoom talk by Audrey Brown – Tuesday 23rd November

A recording of the talk by Audrey Brown on 23rd November is available to view for the next 30 days.  To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/_aqIChrNbWDgxmRQcY2hTqSZcW4g4Bns4L3GidSaWHiywzavoeyIVd5yzdCODuzM.zltuBf7jOWuo520b

Passcode: r3n5#nmF

Weekend walk Linford Wood led by Colin Docketty – Sunday 24th October 2021

Autumn Tints, Fungi and woodland birds
Weather sunny. 12 participants

We walked every surfaced path in the wood over 3 hours. Unfortunately the trees were very late changing colour this year, and only one tree in the entire wood had autumn tints – a North American Oak.

Most of the wood carvings have now disintegrated with time. There is still a bear and a monkey on the ground, and an owl in a tree. Rupert Bear has succumbed.

Fungi: We saw a fair number of fungi including some species growing in a circle. One very spectacular mushroom looked like a piece of discarded orange peel – the Orange Peel Fungus Aleuria Aurantia.

Orange Peel fungus (Photo © Derek Taylor)

Insects: When it warmed up after midday we saw a Bee Fly, a male Common Darter dragonfly, and several Speckled Wood butterflies, one of which perched beautifully for us to admire and photograph. We also saw a hornets’ nest on a tree, found by a visitor who joined us on the walk.

Birds: We only heard Jay and Green Woodpecker.

A very pleasant walk enjoyed by all.

Colin Docketty

Wild Shetland –  Zoom talk by Steve Race – Tuesday 16th November

A recording of the talk by Steve Race on 16th November is available to view for the next 30 days.

To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.
https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/B3x-b6DcvZAHM241vmMyPzya-MdpaVCZ1aBgbODANIlLhTl6ntpE8t6GbUKpLYK6.R3ledMQJpLVipAER

Passcode: jQz%7Ehv

Unfortunately the musical background to the short video clip at the end of Steve’s talk is not very clear until about half way through, but the images are stunning as they are throughout Steve’s talk

We are grateful to Sue and Andrew Hetherington for sponsoring this talk.

Justin Long’s talk on Fungi in and around MK (October 26th 2021 on Zoom)

The Zoom link to Justin Long’s  talk on Fungi in and around Milton Keynes will expire shortly. As there is such a lot of useful information in this talk and members may still want  to revisit it, we have downloaded it and stored it so that it can be used as a resource.

If you want to view the video again, please email Webeditor@mknhs.org.uk and request a link to the video.

 

MKNHS Book Review Evening: Book List from 9th November 2021

BOOK REVIEWERS & BOOKS REVIEWED

Below is a list of books which were reviewed at the MKNHS book review evening on 9th November.

2 of the reviews had to be left out or cut short due to lack of time. These are available as links:
Ian Saunders’ review of Ghosts of Gondwana, by George Gibbs
Mike LeRoy’s review of Swifts and Us, by Sarah Gibson

  1. Julie Lane
    The Seabird’s Cry: the Lives and Loves of Puffins, Gannets and Other Ocean Voyagers – Adam Nicholson  (2018: William Collins)
    [Winner of the Wainwright Prize 2018; USA title: ‘The Seabird’s Cry: the Lives and Loves of the Planet’s Great Ocean Voyagers’]
  2. Charles Kessler
    English Pastoral: An Inheritance – James Reebanks
    (2020: Allen Lane/Penguin Books)
  3. Sue Weatherhead
    Butterflies (British Wildlife Collection, Number 10) – Martin Warren
    (2021: Bloomsbury)
  4. Tim Arnold
    Much Ado About Mothing: A year intoxicated by Britain’s rare and remarkable moths
    James Lowen
    (2021: Bloomsbury)
  5. Mary Sarre
    The Consolation of Nature: Spring in the time of the Coronavirus –Michael McCarthy,
    Jeremy Mynott and Peter Marren
    (2020: Hodder)
    A Claxton Diary: Further Field Notes from a Small Planet – Mark Cocker
    (2019: Jonathan Cape)
  6. Ian Saunders
    Beasts Before Us: The untold story of mammal origins and evolution – Elsa Panciroli
    (2021: Bloomsbury Sigma publishing)
    Ghosts of Gondwana: The history of life in New Zealand – George Gibbs
    (Fully revised edition, 2016: Potton and Burton)
  7. Colin Docketty
    A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies: a celebration of Britain’s 59 species – Jonathan Bradley
    (2020: Merlin Unwin Books, Ludlow)
  8. Mike LeRoy
    Swifts and Us: The Life of the Bird that Sleeps in the Sky – Sarah Gibson
    (2021: William Collins)

MKNHS Calendar for 2022

The Society will be producing a calendar for 2022 following the great success of our first calendar in 2021 which enabled us to make our usual Christmas donation to Willen Hospice, despite not being able to hold our Christmas raffle .

The format of the calendar will be similar to last year, with 12 more stunning photographs taken by Society members.

The price remains £10 per calendar.

To order your calendars, please send an email to info@mknhs.org.uk  with the title MKNHS Calendar and give your name, address and the number of calendars you want to order.

Calendars should be ready for distribution in early December with payment by bank transfer or cheque made out to Milton Keynes Natural History Society. Full payment details will be provided at the time of distribution.

Bird ID Using Song and Characteristics – Zoom talk by Martine Harvey and Matt Andrew – Tuesday 2nd November

A recording of the talk by Martine and Matt is available to view for the next 30 days.

To view the recording, click on the link below and then enter the passcode when asked to do so.
https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/iteaq0A2xYPiRt1BJCChZLn8jLoHX-fbqcIkYNpBAQUQ_71DrTr_eSNZ2DH7T9uu.sm5KCLrzWkV1UUsv

Passcode: $8?e0=@S

For a better quality of sound for the bird recordings in Martine’s talk, you can listen to the files here:
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/15Dv1oB-B8kh9GNYcR0kaiIeRLbaZSjSf?usp=sharing
or  here
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/yxsm29vyi65kgy2/AADuVtTObaOXXDf3B1E9wbC2a?dl=0

Members Evening 19 October: the COP26 and COP15 Summits – Mervyn Dobbin

The focus of the presentation was on the loss of biodiversity globally and in the UK and linked to Climate Change causes and effects.  Mervyn asked the question ‘What can we do?’ The Climate Change Summits will take place in Glasgow, COP26 31 October – 12 November and COP15 Kunming, China, from 25 April-8 May 2022.1 Both Summits include goals related to biodiversity, especially the Summit to be held in China next year which is billed as the ‘Biodiversity Summit’.

A recent UK government report on biodiversity ‘Biodiversity in the UK Bloom or Bust’ is available at:
https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/6498/documents/70656/default/

Other reports mentioned during the talk and which might be of interest to members are the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report and the UN Global Assessment Report.  Summaries can be found at:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/09/ipcc-reports-verdict-on-climate-crimes-of-humanity-guilty-as-hell

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/06/biodiversity-what-the-un-has-found-and-what-it-means-for-humanity

Mervyn has written a supportive and encouraging letter to Sir David Attenborough who is the ‘People’s Advocate’ for the COP26 Summit.  Should any member wish to write a similar letter to Sir David, his address is: Sir David Attenborough, People’s Advocate COP26, David Attenborough Productions Ltd, 5 Park Road, Richmond, Surrey TW10 6NS. Mervyn is also writing to his MP and Alok Sharma, President, COP26.

Mervyn gave an example of one unusual way to highlight the importance of the COP26 Summit: a pilgrimage.  Right now, groups of walkers (pilgrims) are making their way to Glasgow from cities and towns throughout Europe. On 12 September, one such group walking from London to Glasgow had an overnight stay in Milton Keynes.  As they were leaving on the next stage of their pilgrimage walk, the group gave a card to their hosts which stated:

‘…..and we make our way in kinship with the peoples and the creatures of the earth who are suffering and displaced by climate change and ecological breakdown.  We do so peacefully and lawfully, ready to engage and learn, because we care and we have hope.’

Members might be interested in keeping in touch with progress at the Summits in Glasgow in November and in China April-May 2022.

Mervyn Dobbin

1 COP – Conference of the Parties

Setting up a Natural History Society in Pembrokeshire – Steve Brady’s Zoom Talk – Tuesday 12th October

A recording of Steve’s Zoom talk is available to view for the next 30 days.

To view the recording, click on the link below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kRjnUU8ocgDPNNhGET5mXGrVEyF-hFC8/view?usp=sharing

Steve has provided a link for the video clip if you’d like to hear the seals as the sound didn’t come through on the recording.

Click here: 20200927_154523.mp4

Tattenhoe Wildlife – a video talk by Harry Appleyard

Congratulations to Harry Appleyard on landing a much sought-after Conservation Traineeship at Spurn Nature Reserve, East Yorkshire.

In the run up to his departure, he gave a talk on Tattenhoe Wildlife for Bucks Bird Club and has provided a link for any MKNHS members who would like to watch it  at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uzXebBFRBE

He describes it as “A presentation for the Buckinghamshire Bird Club all about my local patch, the Tattenhoe area in Milton Keynes, featuring seasonal highlights from the past 13 years including my rarest bird finds, new species of insects for MK, elusive suburban mammals and more.”

As you might expect, the photos are stunning!

Report of weekend walk at Waterhall Park – 25th-26th September – Colin Docketty

Saturday 25th September 2021 10.00 am; same walk repeated Sunday 26th
Location: Waterhall Park; Weather fine

Participants: Saturday 3, Sunday 5

What did we see?

Lombardy Poplar: The main focus of the walk was to see a mile-long avenue of these beautiful trees, on both sides of a made-up footpath. A wonderful sight.
Birds: A total of 22 species were seen/heard.
Grey Heron, Moorhen, Mallard
Buzzard
Green Woodpecker, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove
Grey Wagtail (feeding on Water Eaton Brook)
Magpie, Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinch, Robin, Blackbird, Wren, Pied Wagtail
Great Tit, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Carrion Crow, Jay, Jackdaw, Chiffchaff

Other things seen:
Large White butterfly, Comma, Migrant Hawker
Buff-tailed Bumblebee, Hairy Shieldbug, White-lipped Snail
Crayfish
Grey Squirrel
Robin’s Pincushion
3 species of fungi at very large Ash tree suffering serious dieback (Type not yet known)
Plants: Large Bindweed, Indian Balsam (aka Policeman’s helmet)
Arrowhead (leaves in middle of river – visible all year)

Colin Docketty

A Moth Night at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve – Tuesday 31 August 2021 – Andy Harding

Above: Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing. Photo © Harry Appleyard.

As we all know, moths need to be attracted. So, prior to the meeting, Janice Robertson and I, with the assistance of Martin and Margaret, the residents of ‘The Holt’, organised a mercury vapour lamp over a sheet (equipment courtesy of Rachel Redford) on the lawn of ‘The Holt’ and a Robinson trap on a white sheet with a similar 125w  bulb in the overflow car park.  With no great confidence, five trees were liberally daubed with a concoction of various alcoholic drinks, molasses and other sweet substances (courtesy of Ayla Webb): a process known as ‘sugaring’.

Because the meeting was scheduled for a 7.30 pm start, which is a while before moths could be expected to be on the wing, I had brought along a small viewing net  (also courtesy of Ayla Webb) with a selection of the more striking moths I had caught the night before in my garden traps. I also had about a dozen moths in plastic pots, which I found particularly interesting and with which I made a desperate attempt to maintain the attention of the group. However, before any moths were discussed, the group were warned not to do any tree-hugging … the results would have been horrible to behold.

As the level of interest started to flag, we moved to examine the sheet below the light on the lawn, which held a small range of flying insects but no moths. To keep the circulation going we moved to the first tree, and to everyone’s surprise a Copper Underwing was feeding on the liquor. This and subsequent Copper Underwings have been recorded as Copper Underwing agg. (aggregated) because Svensson’s Copper Underwing and the equally common Copper Underwing are extremely hard tell apart without handling these extremely slippery moths.

Copper Underwing and Svensson’s Copper Underwing. Photo © Andy Harding

The other trees were not so productive, but on arrival at the Robinson trap the first couple of the beautiful Green Carpets put in an appearance as well as the other most frequently encountered species of the night, a tiny micro, almost certainly Yponomeuta yvonymella. Again caution had to be exercised because of the other very similar ‘Ermine’ moths and attempting genital dissection of the poor creatures to confirm the ID seemed inadvisable, and not something I practise. Back at the lawn a striking moth, and a clear sign of autumn, was on the sheet and was successfully identified by a couple of the group since it was a species I had brought in the display net – Centre-barred Sallow.   Several bright lemon yellow Brimstone moths also mirrored the contents of the net.

Centred-barred Sallow. Photo © Andy Harding

At this point some people were keen to get back to the tree trunks and we were all treated to up to 4 Copper Underwings on a tree, with the odd Square-Spot Rustic and Angle Shades.  Much larger was an Old Lady Moth, not in great condition, but drinking eagerly.

Old Lady Moth. Photo © Andy Harding

The last tree viewed produced the star of the night, a huge Red Underwing, quite happily opening its wings for the cameras at point blank range.

Red Underwing. Photo © Andy Harding

It was now unclear which was the best spot to stake out and a couple more circuits produced a probable total of 10 Copper Underwings, a second Old Lady, and a third superbly marked one flying in and out of the Robinson trap.  Common Wainscot, Setaceous Hebrew Character, White Wave, Large Yellow Underwing and the much scarcer Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing were easily seen on the sheets.  An intriguing moth proved to be a very worn Dun-Bar, rather than anything more exciting.

Several of the group left around 9.30 pm and, with things changing very little and the density of midges afflicting the throat passages around the Robinson becoming unbearable, things drew to a close at 10.30 pm.

A very successful evening, with thanks to those who came along and especially to Martin and Margaret, who live at the Holt, in tolerating, nay, facilitating, our mothing evening.

Postscript

The Robinson was allowed to shine all night and at 7 am the next morning Janice, Rachel and I opened a small actinic trap, which I had left in the reserve, as well as the reserve permanent trap and the Robinson.  The result was 40 species of macro-moth, of which Common Wainscot, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Large Yellow Underwing, Common Wave and Small Square-Spot were in double figures; Square-spot Rustic and the Snout numbered over 20 and top of the pile was Green Carpet with 28 individuals.  8 micros were identified and 2 others were photographed but not yet identified … lazy me.

Andy Harding

Would you like to write an article for our website?

If there is anything you would like to share with other society members about your wild summer then please send it in to webeditor@mknhs.org.uk

It could be an interesting wildlife sighting or a special place you have visited, with a photo or two if you have them , though that’s not essential.  It doesn’t need to be a long article so please don’t be reticent. We would love to hear from you.

Thank you.
MKNHS web editors

Trip Report Summer Leys Nature Reserve Saturday 31st July 2021 – Joe Clinch

Photo montage of some of the species observed contributed by Martine Harvey

Introduction

This Saturday visit was the Society’s first to Summer Leys Nature Reserve since June 2011. The reserve was planned and developed in the latter 1980s and early 1990s and is managed by BCN Wildlife Trust. It covers 47 hectares of former gravel workings in the Nene Valley and is designated a SSSI and SPA. The site consists of several habitats: a large reed-, tree- and grass-edged lake with a scrape inlet and several islands the water level of which is managed; rough grazing adjacent to the lake; a small area of preserved meadow; two other managed meadow areas; two ponds; hedges; and strips of woodland. A Society Walk Description of the reserve undertaken in 2020 can be found at https://mknhs.org.uk/mknhs-summer-leys/). There is also a BCN leaflet ( www.wildlifebcn.org/summer-leys).

Twelve members and one visitor participated in this mid-morning walk on what proved to be an overcast but thankfully dry day. We followed the perimeter footpath anti-clockwise from the car park to take in the four bird hides, the managed and preserved meadows, and one of the ponds (the second was visited after our return to the car park). This report consists of a brief description of the habitats and wildlife observed. An annex provides a checklist of species recorded during our visit (go to: Summer Leys Species Checklists).

The walk

We were off to an excellent start with the discovery of a Red Underwing at rest on one of the wooden posts at the edge of the car park. The small area between this and the lake is a flower rich scrubby meadow. Common Fleabane, Teasel, Great Burnett, Meadow Sweet, Water Figwort, Angelica and Common Centaury were amongst the flowering plants.  Insects included Ruddy Darter, Small Copper, Essex Skipper, Gatekeeper, Tiger Hoverfly, and many not identified. Linnet was heard and Reed Bunting seen.


Red Underwing and Small Copper (Photos © Julian Lambley)

The two bird hides close to the car park offer views over the lake and one of them also the scrape. The first sighting was a Sparrowhawk flying past. Black Headed Gulls breed here and were much in evidence but Common Terns another important breeding species were absent perhaps already on their way south. The scrape had Great and Little Egret close enough together for easy size comparison. The only waders seen during the walk were Lapwing (another breeding species) and Common Sandpiper.


Great White Egret and Canada Geese in flight (Photos © Harry Appleyard)

The perimeter path then took us through a covered area of semi-mature deciduous trees of which alder, ash and willow predominated, hedges and occasional clearings. We heard Song Thrush in full voice; had brief glimpses of Blue Tits, Tree Creeper, Goldcrest; and heard the calls of Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Wren and Dunnock; and saw Red Admiral and Peacock in the clearings, and Speckled Wood in the overhung areas.

We stopped briefly at the third hide which provides another view of the scrape with semi-aquatic plants in the foreground including Flowering Rush.  The route then offered good distant views of the lake with Canada and Greylag Geese, Cormorant, and Lapwing on the islands. The fourth hide is the feeding station where birds are fed throughout the year: Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, and Collared Dove were taking advantage of this service during our visit.


Young Goldfinch (© Peter Barnes) and Scorpion Fly (© Julian Lambley)

The final stop was the preserved meadow and pond in the north-west corner of the reserve. This proved to be very rewarding. The meadow is flower-rich with Great Burnet, Lady’s Bedstraw, Yarrow, and Bird’s-foot Trefoil amongst the species. Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Brown Argus were active. The pond was also our best stop for dragonflies with the day having warmed up a little. Banded Demoiselle, Common Blue Damselfly, and Azure Blue Damselfly were on the wing. More excitingly, Harry Appleyard spotted egg galls of the Willow Emerald Damselfly, a species he first identified in Milton Keynes in 2016. He is currently consulting on the status of this find.

We turned round at this point and the walk back offered further opportunities for wildlife exploration. The short extension to the other pond when we got back to the car park was disappointing for dragonflies but gave us a close-up view of young Reed Warblers.


Willow Emerald Damselfly egg galls (© Harry Appleyard) and Banded Demoiselle (© Jenny Mercer)

Overview

The focus of the walk was to experience the richness of the biodiversity of this important SSSI and to keep a record of what we had identified. We were a typical Society group: some expert in their field and some generalists, and all there ready to share their knowledge. The species checklists are a product of this approach and I would like to thank Harry Appleyard, Peter Barnes, and Linda Murphy for compiling them; Harry, Peter, Martine Harvey, Julian Lambley and Jenny Mercer for their excellent photographs especially Martine’s montage; and visitor Ann Plackett for further information about the planning and early development of the reserve with which she had been involved.

Joe Clinch, Walk Leader
August 2021

Report on Fairy Flax Walk, Old Wolverton – 20th July 2021

The Fairy Flax walk took place on 20th July, starting from Old Wolverton’s Holy Trinity churchyard. Our route took us down the hill passing the now just mown floodplain meadows to join the Great Ouse riverbank footpath as far as the Grand Union Iron Trunk aqueduct over the River Ouse, through the narrow tunnel under the canal, and finally returning to the churchyard by the Canal Towpath.

Two thunderstorms rather interrupted proceedings, but of over 30 members who assembled at the church, 14 of us did the walk in full.

All had the opportunity to visit the interior of the church, and many heard the outdoor talk by John Brushe on the ‘natural stones’ used to build the church between 1809 to 1815. Limestone and sandstone from quarries in Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Isle of Portland were used, with canal transportation facilitating the build.  The church is probably the earliest example of the English Norman Revival movement.   A guidebook, written by John is available from Jenny Mercer.   Our thanks go to John for a most interesting talk, and to Terry Collier for opening up the church for the Society members.

Interestingly this wet and hot summer has ensured the Fairy Flax has remained unseen at its possible location of 14 years ago (on the path between the Canalside to the south of the Iron Trunk and the Old Wolverton fields, as it is impenetrable this year!)   My first ever sighting of Fairy Flax was then, with Roy Maycock, on a Society walk.

There is a Plant List below, compiled by Mary Sarre – a short list, as the weather was not conducive to much searching.  Of note was the reed sweet-grass, which was evident in both the River Ouse and the Grand Union Canal. I recall seeing the reed sweet-grass on a very lovely evening on a Society walk at Olney some years ago where the cattle were wading into the river to eat this much-loved sweet treat.

There is also a Bird List below. Thanks to Harry Appleyard for the bird photos and the sunset…

Black-headed Gulls: just a few of the c.150 on a newly mown meadow (Photo © Harry Appleyard)

A Quiz was provided for anyone inclined to explore the churchyard, and a copy of the quiz and churchyard map is provided through this link, with answers at the end.   I am hoping to get Society members interested in making recordings of mammals (there is a badger sett nearby), insects and plants etc. For anyone willing to volunteer, contact details are on the Quiz sheets.

Jenny Mercer
July 2021


Sunset over the River Ouse (Photo © Harry Appleyard)

MKNHS Old Wolverton sightings 20.07.2021

Birds (recorded by or reported to Harry Appleyard)
Goldcrest
Carrion Crow
Little Egret
Starling
150+ Black-headed Gull
Common Gull
Common Gull (Photo © Harry Appleyard)
Grey Heron
Cormorant
Sedge Warbler
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Green Woodpecker
Song Thrush
Swallow
Reed Bunting
Starlings (Photo © Harry Appleyard)

Plants (recorded by or reported to Mary Sarre)
Marsh woundwort, Stachys palustris
White deadnettle, Lamium album
Ragwort, common, Senecio jacobaea
Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna
Crab apple, Malus spp.
Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa

In the river:
Club-rush, probably the common, Scirpus lacustris
Reed sweet-grass, Glyceria maxima
Common reed, Phragmites australis
Yellow waterlily, Nuphar lutea

Canal bank:
Orange balsam, Impatiens capensis
Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria
Meadow vetchling, Lathyrus pratensis
Flowering rush, Butomus umbellatus
Water figwort, Scrophularia auriculata

Simpson Walk 13th July 2021 – Trip Report  

Photo above – Simpson Manor Field, with cattle

A walk around Simpson led by Peter Barnes and Rebecca Hiorns, looking at a variety of habitats and the parish council’s initiatives to understand and enhance them, in line with their commitment to help address climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

The evening was warm and dry when, just after 7pm, 30 members and guests set off from the Parks Trust car park off Walton Road and headed north down the path beside the River Ouzel.  It was difficult to see the river with all the ruderal growth but when a cry of ‘Greater Dodder!’ went up from Julian Lambley – the nettles entwined with the parasite suddenly became much more interesting.


Greater Dodder entwined through stinging nettles

Proceeding back towards the village Stock Dove were spotted and a pair of Mute Swans flew overhead low enough to hear their wings beat, a beautiful sight against the bright blue sky.

Our first stop was St Thomas’ churchyard, a complex habitat supporting a wide range of species, some not seen anywhere else in the parish. These include plants, fungi and invertebrates associated with the old grassland, the tall mature trees and the church walls, which provide nesting space for several species of solitary bee and a colony of wild honeybees. The older sandstone and limestone gravestones are covered in rich patterns of lichen and mosses.  The Parish Council has initiated a project to help manage and enhance the habitats, hoping that species will repopulate other areas of the parish.  A record is being made of the flowering plants and compared with the species list compiled by Roy Maycock for his survey of all the churchyards in Buckinghamshire, in the early 1980s.

This year, a revised mowing regime has enabled grassland around the older graves to grow as a meadow.  This has benefitted many pollinators and enabled plants to flower that haven’t been seen in recent years, including 24 Bee Orchids and one Pyramidal Orchid, which was a delightful surprise when it revealed itself just before our visit.


Pyramidal Orchid

During our visit Harry Appleyard spotted a Scarlet Tiger Moth, Common Blue Damselfly and Purple Hairstreak and Mike LeRoy and Justin Long reported a Waxcap Hygrocybe conica.

 
Male Emperor Dragonfly – Harry Appleyard


Male Banded Demoiselle – Harry Appleyard

We then proceeded across the stream via the small wooden bridge stopping to look at the otter footprints adjacent to the water’s edge.


Otter footprints

Walking into the Simpson Manor Field (managed by The Parks Trust as pasture) views open up to the Greensand Ridge.  We stopped and Peter was explaining the history of the manor, medieval fishponds and moat and later manor house with landscaped gardens, when the cattle, which had been grazing peacefully on the other side of the field, started galloping in our direction.  Any disquiet was momentary as Mike LeRoy stepped forward, engaged with them and instantly calmed the ‘bored and unruly class of teenagers’.

We next proceeded to the sluice to look down over the field and river from the higher ground.  Peter related the number of bird species to be seen on the lake, including Great Northern Diver, Goosander and Mandarin Duck, and the week-long visit of a pair of Cattle Egret in Simpson Manor Field in May 2020.  No Cattle Egret were seen, but views of a Little Egret fishing along the river were enjoyed by all.  It is not known how well eels are doing in this section of river, but nationally eel numbers have declined by around 95% in the last 25 years.

To avoid our ‘herd’ unsettling the cattle again, we skipped the planned route through to Lissel Road, an area where the Parish Council’s new working arrangement with SERCO (MKC land) has enabled residents to enhance habitats.  This has included, creating leaf and log piles with hedgehog nesting spaces, putting up 10 bird boxes (one hoping to encourage the frequently heard Tawny Owls), building a bug hotel and managing areas as meadow.  Projects have also started to improve the ground flora of the copse and support pollinators early in the year.


Cormorants – Harry Appleyard

We stopped briefly at Lickorish bridge to hear about the history of the area and to look down over the canal. The woodland was the first to be planted by the Development Corporation, it is now reaching early maturity and has just had its first major thinning.

We then proceeded down to the area adjacent to the ‘Cattle Creep’, a tunnel under the Grand Union Canal built to enable farmers to move their cattle across the canal.  The tunnel is now used as a bat roost.  The canal and its embankments provide a connected habitat over a hundred miles. Within the parish, its banks are particularly associated with crab apple trees.

Our final stop was at Bowler’s Bridge where Peter described how bats have been finding roosting and nesting spaces within the houses on Hanmer Road, built in 1973, including his own where, at the end of May, he counted as many as 400 Soprano Pipistrelles exiting at dusk.

Rebecca Hiorns
July 2021

Birds – 17 Species
Grey Heron
Mute Swan
2 Blackcap
Swift
Little Egret
2 Greylag Goose
Long-tailed Tit
4 Cormorants
Stock Dove
Feral Pigeon
Jackdaw
Song Thrush
Common Tern
Greenfinch
Wren
20 Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull

Invertebrates
Emperor Dragonfly (Male)
5 Banded Demoiselle
Common Blue Damselfly (Churchyard)
Southern Hawker
Scarlet Tiger Moth (Churchyard)
Purple Hairstreak (Churchyard)

Flora
Greater Dodder
Pyramidal Orchid
Bee Orchids
Hedge bedstraw

Fungi
Waxcap – Hygrocybe conica

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks

Our thanks to Harry Appleyard for his photographs and species list.

 

 

 

Visit to Shenley Wood – Tuesday 29th June 2021

Several of the 24 members who came on our visit to Shenley Wood had never been there before. Before the walk started, we held a minute’s silence in memory of Gordon Redford who knew this wood and brought so much knowledge about moths and enjoyment of wildlife to the Society, as well as his warmth and friendship.

This was not a typical time of year for a woodland visit because the glorious spring flowers had finished flowering. Mike LeRoy used the opportunity to give an introduction about the wood itself: its tree and shrub species, its history, its characteristics as Ancient Woodland, and how it had been managed or mis-managed down the centuries.

It was almost certainly part of the ‘well-wooded’ Shenley area described in the Domesday Book of 1086. The first written record of it was in 1599 as ‘Shenley Park’. After centuries of woodland management to produce underwood and timber, by the 1900s the Wood was in a poor state. In 1958 attempts were made to ‘coniferise’ it, but few of the new trees survived. The MK Development Corporation purchased the wood in in 1985 and began the long and effective process of restoring coppicing and thinning cycles, which were developed further after its transfer to The Parks Trust in 1992. This opened up the wood for public access and enjoyment while protecting its characteristic flora and other wildlife.

[Mike LeRoy’s very informative handout for the walk can be found here.]

By the time of our walk the Ancient Woodland Indicator flowers had finished flowering: the Violets, Primrose, Lesser Celandine, Greater Stitchwort, Bluebell, Wood Anemone and Early-purple Orchid; with only the tall seed-heads of Bluebell still showing. But by late June, Common-spotted Orchid were scattered alongside the paths in their hundreds. Greater Butterfly Orchid had been seen a couple of weeks earlier but remained hidden. Common Figwort and Ragged Robin were found in a few locations as well as newly-merged Enchanter’s-nightshade more widely.

We followed the western woodland path to the foot of the wood, then circled the northern end through mature woodland next to the Swan’s Way long-distance Bridleway until we reached the lower of the four ‘mini-teardrop’ ponds (flood management drainage). The water in these was clean and had plenty of floating Pond-weed. Around the ponds the flower-rich grassland was striking and included plenty of Bird’s-foot Trefoil and some Lady’s Bedstraw with bees making good use of them.

From the ponds we re-entered the woodland as far as the central glade, before winding our way back up the east side to the high point and the entrance gate.

Three butterfly species were seen: Essex Skipper, Meadow Brown and Ringlet.

Bird species and counts were (with thanks to Harry Appleyard): Goldfinch (2), Carrion Crow (2), Song Thrush (singing), Green Woodpecker, Greenfinch (5), Blackbird (singing), Blackcap (2 singing), Swift (6), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren (2), Jay, Bullfinch, Rook, Red Kite, Magpie, Wood Pigeon and Dunnock.

Mike LeRoy
July 2021

Gordon Redford and George Higgs memorial moth night – Saturday 17th July 2021

Gordon had organised this event annually in memory of his moth mentor, George, on the Saturday closest to George’s birthday, and was expected to do so again. Sadly that was not to be. After some deliberation, it was decided to go ahead and to remember both of these pillars of the local mothing community.

The result was so fitting. The largest number of traps ever…13;  the largest number of attendees….over 30; and almost certainly the largest number of moth species.
The most important attendees were, of course, Frances Higgs, who had travelled up from Somerset, and Rachel and Stewart Redford, Gordon’s daughter and son. The southern contingent was impressive with 5 trappers marshalled by Martin Albertini and Dave Wilton, with Peter Hall travelling from Herefordshire. So well thought of were both Gordon and George.

It was a hugely enjoyable if poignant night, but it almost didn’t happen. Car access is essential to bring traps and generators any distance into the wood. The padlock on the entry gate had been successfully opened by the key provided by the Woodland Trust a week earlier for a recce, but in addition to that padlock another combination padlock was now securing it … and we didn’t have the combination. The local farmer was contacted and he phoned his wife to obtain it! He warned us it was temperamental, but after my failure to open it, Linda Murphy’s magic hands did the trick. Phew!

The next issue was the grassy turning circle, where we have previously set up a mercury vapour lamp above a sheet, was now rocklike hardcore. So we settled for a Robinson trap around which people could gather as the moths arrived. It was a little painful on the knees, but a most effective way of catching, potting and passing round moths for all to see.  This trap and another one 50 metres away are powered by a generator which Gordon always operated. Thanks to the combined efforts of David Webb, Martin Kincaid and Martin Albertini, after a period of intermittent performance, all worked perfectly.

And so to the moths. There were clouds of them and even more small flies, which got into the throat of everyone who inspected the other traps. Among the most numerous moths were Clouded Border and, surprisingly, Coronet, an always beautiful, but also very variable species. The one here is so unusual that we considered several other possibilities before becoming satisfied with its identity.

Coronet

The superb Peach Blossom is not rare, but has a known disdain for light traps, so several in perfect condition were a delight. Black Arches is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser at this time of year, as is July Highflyer. Elephant Hawk-moths are having a wonderful year, so a few of those were guaranteed, but Pine Hawk-moth is much less reliable, so one in the central trap was a bonus.
Peach Blossom
Black Arches
Pine Hawk-moth

The list of species is going to be a very long one, and the majority will be micro-moths, some of which are very beautiful such as this Batia lunaris.
Batia lunaris

There will be much poring over many photos of micros and a few dissections before the final list can be validated. That may be a few weeks, so that is not attached here. I will make it available when it is complete, and, of course, a copy will also go to the Woodland Trust, who have always kindly given us access to the wood for this event, which this year, by a combination of excellent weather and many motivated individuals, was something of a very fitting triumph. And, of course, somebody must have sent that huge quantity of moths.

Postscript
It is also so nice to see these beautiful insects in daylight, so very early the next morning Ayla Webb and I opened up the central trap and a small actinic with just 6 egg boxes inside. Given the number of moths and their activity levels, all hope of accurate counting soon vanished and we simply concentrated on new species to add to the event total. Among these was an Oak Nycteoline. This species is probably the most variable on the British list and since Ayla and I had only seen 3 between us previously it was no surprise that we hadn’t seen one resembling this one: its unusual shape gave it away. Not the most exciting moth for the non-afficionado!
Oak Nycteoline

Having packed away the last of the equipment we were just about to get into the car when a Purple Emperor decided to inspect us, flashing purple in the sunlight as it did so. A first for Ayla. Not a moth, but what could be a more stunning present from her moth mentor, Gordon.

Andy Harding
22nd July 2021

All photos © Andy Harding

Milton Keynes Festival of Nature

Photo: Newton Blossomville Church looking beautiful with our walk participants enjoying the bats and the wildflower meadow (in the dark)

Milton Keynes Festival of Nature week took place last week and for the fourth year running it was a great success. It is run mainly by the Parks Trust and the Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) but MKNHS is the third partner in the mix and we have always contributed to the events during the week and in particular to Nature Day which is a big family wildlife day based at Howe Park Wood.

We were there again this year with our MKNHS display boards and a feather display. We were sharing our stall with Ayla Webb and Andy Harding who had both brought their previous nights moth catch with them. This was a great success as they had caught lots of beautiful moths including some hawk moths (small elephant, poplar, privet and eyed) which are always a big hit with the crowd. The pleasure on little children’s faces when they get to hold one of these amazing creatures is wonderful! Kenny Cramer was also there with his bird ringing and I think they caught quite a good selection of birds including blackcaps, treecreepers, a robin and a bevy of blue tits.

Thank you to Sue and Andy Hetherington and Linda for helping on the day.

We also ran a public bat/glow worm walk in Newton Blossomville as part of our MKNHS summer walks programme and we had 15 members of the public attending, quite a few villagers as well as society members (although I suspect some stayed at home to watch the footie!). The weather was a bit cold and windy and this meant there weren’t that many bats flying but we were treated to a couple of pipistrelles flying around inside the church and the porch which was magical.  (Perhaps they were reluctant to leave their cosy roost and go out into the cold.)  Diana Spencer from Bats in Churches very kindly came along with her little dog Millie and talked to us all about the work they are involved with, helping church congregations cope with sharing their church with these lovely but sometimes maligned and rather mucky creatures.

We then wandered up the lane and were lucky enough to spot four glow worms much to the delight of all present.

So it was a good evening and thank you again to Sue and Andy Hetherington for helping me to run the evening.

Julie Lane

(Photo © Julie Lane)

MKNHS Publicity: Facebook and Instagram

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

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

MKNHS Publicity – Facebook and Instagram

Sue Hetherington, MKNHS Publicity Coordinator
July 2021

Gordon Redford – tributes from members

For those of you who haven’t heard we are very very sad to break the news of the death of Gordon Redford, following a heart attack.

He was a friend to so many of us in the Society and whether you knew him well or had met him just briefly, talking to him was like being given a big hug. He was a kind gentle man with a lovely sense of humour, always caring and always keen to pass on his considerable knowledge to others.

He did so much for the Society along the way. He was on our committee and organised our summer programme for many years, he set up our health and safety and risk assessment policy and he ran his moth trap for us at every opportunity.

His passion for moths was legendary and his knowledge was immense and he shared this knowledge so generously with us all over the years but especially with youngsters at Nature Day and school’s events etc.

We send our very best wishes and love to his family who are going through such a difficult time at the moment.

I invite any of you who knew Gordon to send in your memories of him to share with us all on this website. Photos also welcome.

If you want to send cards etc to the family and don’t have the address then please get in touch with me (Julie Lane) at silverteasel@icloud.com

We are talking to his family and thinking about ways in which we can honour his memory in some way in the future but it may take a while to decide on exactly how we want to remember this lovely remarkable man.

Gordon running his moth trap for us after our annual Society BBQ at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve. It was a chilly evening!

(Lead photo collage courtesy of Kenny Cramer; photo above courtesy of Julie Lane)

Memories of Gordon

From Mary and Phil Sarre:

We were truly shocked to hear about Gordon….
Phil and I will remember him particularly in relation to the organisation of the summer programme: he generously spent some time explaining and handing over his well-thought-out system. From the lead-in and Society meeting in February with contributions to the ‘Dates to fill sheet’, his 10-year record of sites visited, and the subsequent collection of visit details from Leaders are all very clear.  We found his communications invariably warm and friendly.

Also of course he has always come forward with at least two mothing sessions, notably the Higgs Memorial evening at College Wood, and latterly at Linford Lakes.

We didn’t know Kate and the family well, but wish them well at this traumatic and difficult time,

From Joe Clinch:

I have many fond and appreciative memories of Gordon and his legacy to the Society. He was above all a most generous, kind, good humoured, and knowledgeable naturalist and colleague. His mothing expertise and his willingness to share this through reports, mothing evenings and talks was legendary (including at a personal level my many requests for help with identification). He was also a most effective organiser of the Summer Walks Programme (my first attendance at a Tuesday evening planning meeting led by Gordon was a revelation: a highly participative meeting of about 30 members with the majority of the slots filled in little over an hour and what’s more he codified this approach for his successors!). And as a member of the Committee before my time he put together model Risk Assessments of all the Society’s main activities, drawing on his experience at the Parks Trust (and again codified and updated for future generations in the Guidance Handbook). I know that I will be one of many members who miss his friendly smile, knowledge, enthusiasm, and contribution.

From Linda Murphy:

Gordon’s sudden passing is a tragic loss for everyone who knew him. I remember him as a warm, kind and gentle man with a keen sense of humour and a great passion for moths. His knowledge was extensive, but usually understated. We exchanged news about our respective catches when we met and he occasionally posted special news on the Upper Thames Moth Blog. I was always keen to hear what he’d seen as I found that whatever turned up in Gordon’s traps, a week or so later the same might appear in mine.  The first time I trapped the fabulous Clifden Nonpareil , or Blue Underwing, was one such example. Here’s Gordon’s post which alerted me and illustrates his style…..

“My son had bought me a tour of Stamford Bridge for my 70th birthday and was coming to pick me up at 0900hrs this morning.  I decided not to set traps at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve on Saturday night as is my usual practice but would at home in the garden in Newport Pagnell.  I stepped out this morning and confess to thinking it would be the usual LYU, Set Herb Char, Vines R dominated catch when there on my shed was this little beauty.  I rushed back for my Johnsons Cotton Buds container and when I returned it was gone.  However, it had fallen to the ground and was captured. We were a little late for Stamford Bridge but blue certainly is the colour for me.”


Clifton non-pareil (Photo © Linda Murphy)

 Sadly, due to Covid, and the fact that I’m based in Oxfordshire, we had not met in person since last August, when I went over to Linford Lakes one morning.  Gordon had agreed to be videoed emptying the moth traps and recording the night’s catch, assisted as usual by Ayla Webb. The aim was to bring a bit of mothing to the Society as our outdoor meetings had been cancelled. Gordon explained the process and he and Ayla showed off the moths at a couple of traps including a large purpose built one…definitely a source of ‘moth envy’ for me! Gordon had been trapping and recording moths at Linford lakes for 10 years by then so certainly deserved it! However, he told me his ambition was actually a ‘moth shed’ as used by noted Victorian ‘moth-ers’, where the light and funnel would be on the roof and you could walk in and check out the walls covered in moths. I’m sad that he couldn’t realise this ambition, but if there’s a ‘moth heaven’, I’m sure that will be it, and Gordon will be in his element! Meanwhile, I’ll be remembering Gordon whenever I empty my trap…..

From Mervyn Dobbin:

I miss you Gordon.  I know almost nothing about moths, but I recognise their importance to our ecosystem and I am amazed by the beauty in the variety of their colours and patterns.

When I came across an attractive specimen, especially one that arrived inside my house and that seemed to be content to be still, with wings flat to a wall, I thought of Gordon. Sometimes I took a photo and showed it to Gordon when we were in the Cruck Barn in Bradwell Abbey. Gordon had such enthusiasm for these creatures that a question and a photo from me in my ignorance, were responded to with such positivity. Gordon connected intimately with the moth-world.  His ability to connect to these small creatures was mirrored in the feeling of kinship that he was able to engender with others, when they encountered him. Thank you Gordon.

‘If you stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable.’ Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

From Andy Harding:

A couple of weeks ago I lost my great mothing pal, Gordon, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.

I first met Gordon many moons ago, but it is only in the last decade that we started mothing together: regularly at Linford Lakes and more recently in Little Linford Wood.  There was also a smattering of public events each year, where Gordon could share his great expertise and, perhaps more importantly, his infectious enthusiasm. Nothing was too much trouble for Gordon if he thought he could help enthuse anyone, young or old, about moths. He encouraged beginners to send him photos if they needed help with moth identification; he lent books and equipment to help people to get started on the road which had given him so much pleasure.

We never had a mothing session without loads of laughs. Gordon had lots of silly wordplays with the names of moths, some of which he actually used in his notebook.  So Single Dotted Wave became ‘Single Wotted Dave’. So a very small or apparently humdrum catch was never really a disappointment: it was always worthwhile: both because simply meeting up was fun and also because we loved all the moths – marvelling at their beauty and almost infinite variety.  Gordon always likened it to opening Christmas presents – ‘You never know what you are going to get’.  So occasionally we would find something really special.  A couple of years ago I was a bit late getting to Linford Lakes and when I got there I was surprised that Gordon invited me to unlock the trap.  Immediately inside in a large container was a Clifden Nonpareil, the first Ayla Webb had ever seen, which they had captured before I arrived.  Gordon had set me up beautifully!  This and other excitements like the virtually wingless female Dotted Border in Little Linford Wood (again spotted by Ayla!) were often harkened back to during our time together, as was the poor quality of our eyesight compared to hers!  


Gordon and Ayla at the Magic Tree, Little Linford Wood

In and around the moth traps we saw many other invertebrate creatures, which we also wondered at, but often had little clue to their identity.  Gordon used to say ‘We’ll need five lifetimes to get to grips with this lot properly’.  Sadly that is not what we are allowed.

A very strange thing happened a few days after Gordon’s death.  On the Thursday, I spoke to Rachel, his daughter, and also happened to speak to my own daughter-in-law.  Both, in different ways, said Gordon would send me something special in my trap.  Next morning there was a Peacock Moth in my trap.  The first of this species I had ever seen. Thank you Gordon: it was simply superb.

I’ll miss you, Gordon, especially at the Lakes and in the Wood.


Peacock Moth at Old Stratford, 18th June 2021


From Mike LeRoy:

Gordon enjoyed sharing his enjoyment of wildlife with others. He was an all-round naturalist from a lifetime of working as a ranger and warden at country parks and wildlife sites across England, and many years of running moth-trapping as education events for all ages. He came to Milton Keynes in 1994 to lead the team of rangers at The Parks Trust, where his team had the dual task of caring for the parkland and communicating about its wildlife.

He carried his knowledge lightly so was encouraging to those who wanted to find out more about wildlife. He shared his knowledge readily, never showing off but keen for others to find out what he enjoyed knowing. It was moths that lit his flame.

The last time I chatted with Gordon was at one of his early morning moth sessions a few weeks before his final heart attack. As ever, he shared the task and trusted me to gently lift out each egg-box one-by-one from the moth trap to see what had been attracted overnight. He stood by with his notebook and pencil, ready to write down the name of each moth species from memory then pencil a neat row of lines and five-bar gates to count them. If there was a species he was not sure of he would photograph it to check it later in the books he had accumulated for that purpose. On his face was the joy and glee and rapid recognition of almost every moth. His identification of them was a joy he shared as he pointed out their distinctive features, but also their beauty, such as a ruff behind the head or hidden colours of underwings. One time he told me that opening his moth-trap each morning was like opening a Christmas present every day.

He developed his moth identification skills over many years. After moving to Milton Keynes he was able to hone these skills with the advice of George Higgs to whom he would turn when he was not sure of a particular species. After George’s death at the end of 2012 Gordon was determined that his mentor’s memory should be celebrated through a mothing night so we went to College Wood to talk through how to run one there every year.

Gordon later remembered how valuable George’s mentoring had been to him. Ayla Webb, then a relatively new member of the Society, wanted to learn more about moths so Gordon readily invited her to his mothing sessions to share his knowledge with her. Later this led to three of them meeting to do moth-trapping together: Gordon, Ayla and Andy Harding.

Gordon and I were both fortunate to finish our working careers only a few weeks apart, in 2012. We decided to explore many of the wildlife sites in Milton Keynes and the wider area together. Some of these sites we later turned into summer programme visits for the Society. Others, such as Oakhill Wood or a meadow at Tattenhoe became new sites for his moth-trapping. In the Ouzel Valley we tried out pupa digging, a Victorian method for finding moths, and Gordon kept these until their emergence so he could identify them before releasing them to their habitat.

Gordon realised that he could become more proficient at mothing, so tried different places and moth-traps and set about learning about more moth species. He Joined the British Entomological & Natural History Society (BENHS) and enjoyed field meetings with Paul Waring, the co-author of the leading book on moth ID (‘Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain & Ireland’) and writer of a regular column on moths in ‘British Wildlife’ magazine. There were BENHS field meetings with Paul at Sydlings Copse and Finemere Wood. He learned from Paul’s systematic methods of recording by watching his methods carefully. There were other BENHS visits such as one led by Ian Sims to Wytham Wood in Oxfordshire.

Gordon’s original Skinner-type moth-trap was eventually joined by another, and later by a Robinson trap. Gradually he worked out the benefits of different traps, bulbs, batteries and mothing locations.

One site we visited was Pitsford Reservoir wildlife area where the team from the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire has a permanent moth-trap set in a large box on legs and connected to mains electricity with a timer switch. He was so delighted by this that he was determined to persuade The Parks Trust to install one at Linford Lakes, which was achieved some years later, thanks to his careful photos and detailed measurements of the installation.

One method that Gordon pursued was to use pheromones to attract specific moth species not found readily by other methods. On one occasion he tried this at Stonepit Field to see if a particular clearwing moth was in the area. He tied a small mesh bag to a plant and within a few minutes one appeared, to his quiet delight.

A significant step forward came after the ‘Field Guide to the Micro moths of Great Britain and Ireland’ by Phil Sterling & Mark Parsons was published. Gordon decided to have a go at identifying these smaller and more complicated micro-moths, some of which require use of a microscope.

He also built up his collection of entomology books, with the larger and more expensive ones paid for by sorting the Christmas post at a Royal Mail depot. One year he was delighted to find that he was working alongside Lewis Dickinson who he encouraged to join the Society.

Towards year end Gordon’s aim was to gather the year’s moth records into good shape on MapMate and send them to the Bucks Recorder for Moths so these could be checked and become Records for Butterfly Conservation nationally and the Bucks & MK Environmental Records Centre (BMERC). His moth trapping was not just weekly but night after night at more than one location whenever moths were about. In recent years he wrote up interesting summaries of his moth finds in well-illustrated articles for ‘Magpie’ and the MKNHS website.

Gordon was also a member of Bucks Invertebrate Group and joined a number of their field meetings, such as one on leaf-miners at Burnham Beeches. As well as attending their indoor meetings twice a year until recent years, he led their field meetings at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve.

A joy he looked forward to was his visits to annual meetings of Butterfly Conservation and he also attended several day conferences on neglected insects, run by Bedfordshire Natural History Society, as well as the annual BMERC Recorders Seminars. A particular pleasure was visits to the Amateur Entomologist Society’s annual exhibition and trade fair at Kempton Park, where Gordon could replenish his entomology equipment and meet old friends from around the country. Similarly, Gordon sometimes travelled with me to the annual Bird Fair at Rutland Water and met old friends such as one from his years in Northumberland.

Gordon served the Natural History Society in many ways: not only coordinating and planning outdoor meetings and moth nights over many years, but on the committee and in many practical and unseen activities. More than that he was one of those people who simply got on with those around him and shared his enthusiasm for wildlife with anyone who was interested.

 

Trip Report North Loughton Valley Park and area, 1st June 2021 – Joe Clinch

Above: Bee Orchid (All photos © Peter Barnes)

Welcome back!

The Society’s last outdoor event was on Sunday afternoon 2nd February 2020 at the Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve some 16 months earlier, so the summer walk on Tuesday evening 1st June 2021 had a particular importance in our calendar. On a glorious summer evening 28 members and 1 visitor (just within the Covid rules maximum allowed) met at Bancroft Park Parks Trust car park to enjoy the wildlife of Milton Keynes, to view some historic landmarks, and to renew face-to-face contact with fellow members.  Paul Lund was on hand to act as co-leader should it have proved necessary to divide participants into two groups but that was not necessary. Covid and other risks were rehearsed before the start of the walk.

Introduction

North Loughton Valley Park is managed by the Parks Trust and forms one of many parks along the green corridor that stretches from Tattenhoe in the south west to New Bradwell in the north where the Loughton Brook joins the Great Ouse. This section of the valley consists of five main habitats all heavily influenced by the development of Milton Keynes: the Brook itself and its surrounding wetlands; thickets of Blackthorn, Wild Plum, Hawthorn, and Elder; mown grass and managed meadows lined by trees and bushes; and an area of rough grass, damp land with scrub above, which makes up the wet/dry balancing lakes which control the run-off to manage the risk of flooding in New Bradwell. The fifth habitat was outside the Park on the east bank of Grafton Street where it cuts through the Boulder Clay and Jurassic Cornbrash (limestone) sub strata and is an important habitat for wildlife in its own right. There is no evidence of habitats that predate the development of Milton Keynes other than Loughton Brook itself.

We walked through each of these areas, stopping occasionally. The focus of the walk was the observation, identification, and recording of flowering plants, birds, and invertebrate species.

The Habitats

The route started from the Bancroft Park car park. Our first stop was to note Marsh Marigold still in flower in a boggy area near the edge of the Brook and to hear Chiffchaff, Blackcap, and Song Thrush in full song in the surrounding thicket and trees. Crossing the Brook took us to the mown and managed meadow grass of the eastern slope of the valley with its backing of trees and bushes. The managed meadows of grasses, Meadow Buttercup, Red Clover, and the semi- parasitic Yellow Rattle were in flower – a wonderful display of colour and flowing contours. There appear to be no pre-Milton Keynes tree species in the Park: those planted are mainly of willows, alder, and ash.

The wet/dry balancing lakes are divided by a substantial broad earth dam. The middle of this was a good stopping place to look across the enclosed area. Some of us had a glimpse of Common Whitethroat in the scrub area below the dam, and Crows, Magpies and Wood Pigeon were flying back and forth. Goatsbeard and Birdsfoot Trefoil were just coming into flower on the slopes of the dam.

A Redway bridge took us over Grafton Street with good views of the Grand Union Canal aqueduct to one side and looking down on the cutting bank that we were to visit on the other. A brief detour gave us views of the magnificent Bradwell Windmill which opened in 1803, closed in 1876, and is now restored and run by volunteers.


Bradwell Windmill
The bank of the cutting next to the Redway was our longest stop. It looks roughly west and was still in partial sun for our visit. A stretch of about 100 metres has been planted as a flower-rich habitat to attract pollinators and includes Birdsfoot Trefoil, Common Vetch, Grass Vetchling, Germander Speedwell, Ribwort Plantain, Cut-leaved Cranesbill and Bee Orchid. Flowering was 2 to 3 weeks later than in 2020 when I prepared a virtual walk of this route during lockdown. Only five Bee Orchids were found in flower for our visit and the impression is that overall numbers will be down greatly from even last year. The mown rough grass area on the other side of the Redway added one further Bee Orchid about to flower and the leaf rosettes of a few more. Several Burnet Companion moths were flying, and Two- and Seven-spot Ladybird, Red-tailed Bumblebee, and Solitary Wasp were identified.


Burnet’s Companion moth

Our return route followed that of the outward one. It concluded with a short stop at the stone outline of the Bancroft Roman Villa. This was built in the late Third Century AD replacing an earlier Iron Age farm settlement and demolished in the Fifth Century. Interpretation Boards explain the history of the site. A passing Kestrel which paused briefly to hover ahead of us over the site was a fitting finale to the walk.


Evening sky over Bancroft Roman Villa

Thanks

My thanks to Mary Sarre and Linda Murphy for putting together the plant list; to Paul Lund for providing back up for me as leader and participating in two reconnaissance visits; to Simon Bunker for contributing the invertebrate species list; to Matt Andrews for his additions to the bird list; and to Peter Barnes for his photographs.

Joe Clinch, Walk Leader 

Annex to Trip Report North Loughton Valley Park 1st June 2021

Species List

Flowering Plants (not all yet in flower)
Common Sorrel Nettle
Bulbous Buttercup Marsh Marigold
Creeping Buttercup Meadow ButterCup
Cuckoo Flower Garlic Mustard
Silverweed Shepherd’s Purse
Herb Bennet Meadowsweet
Common Vetch Hawthorn
Birdsfoot Trefoil Hairy Tare
Red Clover Grass Vetchling
White Clover Zigzag Clover
Herb Robert Black Meddick
Cut-Leaved Cranesbill Dovesfoot Cranesbill
Cow Parsley Dogwood
Common Cleavers Great Willowherb
Common Field Speedwell Wall Speedwell
Woodruff Germander Speedwell
Field forget me not Hedge Bedstraw
White Dead Nettle Ground Ivy
Yellow Rattle Common Figwort
Guelder Rose Ribwort Plantain
Ox-eye Daisy Daisy
Groundsel Ragwort
Goatsbeard Yarrow
Beaked Hawksbeard Orange Hawkweed
Bee Orchid Bristly Ox Tongue
Birds (seen or heard)
Lesser Black Backed Gull Little Egret
Kestrel Mallard
Magpie Crow
Green Woodpecker Wood Pigeon
Song Thrush Blackbird
Dunnock Robin
Swift Starling
Chaffinch Wren
Blackcap Greenfinch
Chiffchaff Common Whitethroat
Insects
Common Blue (butterfly) Earwig
Burnet Companion (moth) Rousel’s Bush Cricket (first nymph stage)
Two Spot Ladybird Grasshopper (sp.) (first nymph stage)
Seven Spot Ladybird Common Blue (?) Damselfly
Solitary Wasp Red Tailed Bumblebee
Other invertebrates
Common Rough Woodlouse Pill Woodlouse

 

 

Churches Count on Nature 5-13th June 2021

St Lawrence’s, Church Stretton, Shropshire (Photo: CfGA)

Jenny Mercer has drawn our attention to the following event which will take place from Saturday 5th to Sunday 13th June.

 

This is a citizen-science event covering churchyards across the England and Wales. The project will see communities and visitors making a note of the animals, birds, insects, or fungi in their local churchyard. Their data will then be collated on the National Biodiversity Network.

Do you have a local churchyard that you could survey as part of this event?

We are hoping that Jenny will be able to lead a Society walk on 20th July to record the diversity of Holy Trinity Churchyard in Old Wolverton as a follow up to this week (a bit late but this shouldn’t be a problem). Our President Roy Maycock surveyed the flora of the best 10% of all the churchyards in Buckinghamshire quite a few years ago now (see recent article on our website: Roy’s Reminiscences). We have also held walks in Olney churchyard to look at lichens and had a recent talk on bats in churches by Sue Hetherington so our Society has a history of involvement in our county’s church flora and fauna.

Otmoor in Spring: a virtual tour – A talk by Linda Murphy (Zoom recording)

Linda Murphy’s talk to members – Otmoor in Spring: a virtual tour – is now available to view by clicking on the link below (No passcode is required.)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-KxK5hMBYSj-G8_hWJd698LiUor3Vp1X/view?usp=sharing

During the talk, the Otmoor Birding Blog was mentioned as a source of information about what has been seen.

You can access the blog at http://otmoorbirding.blogspot.com/

 

Wildlife from Home – A talk by Sue Hetherington on Tuesday 11th May (Zoom recording)

Sue Hetherington’s talk to members – Wildlife from Home (urban birding and more….) – is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from May 11th.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/HdMFWs62gVvVH8Wlf9ssokK_1_48h2MBgrVGKwYMDErKiYTZauVM-e1ALGA6c4-w.aE1k8VFcx-3JFloL

#Passcode: 7.BEJ+z=

Seldom-seen Little Linford Wood – a talk by Phil Sarre on Tuesday 4th May (Zoom Recording)

Phil Sarre’s talk to members – Seldom-seen Little Linford Wood – is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from May 4th.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/JlAA5SGgWVDikW-xNUspSUyXU8L2SSuLZ4p2GG96IJSU9DErk9c4_0uG18Dr3_3_.pwooquf4UVwGHlPe

Passcode: fY?gB9j=

The Willow Tit: Britain’s fastest declining bird – A talk by Paul Bellamy on Tuesday 13th April (Zoom recording)

Paul Bellamy’s talk to members – The Willow Tit: Britain’s fastest declining bird – is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from April 13th.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/sYYLuJ_y8m13jq7dUKqWp7__isLxxawr4wSyVZiB2I02dQFkF345T5CxMltbr175.T-in_GPCFWuS8VLb

Passcode: K8Acw=Az

Books recommended during the Members’ Book Evening on March 16th 2021

Another bumper crop for your ‘birthday’ lists from our latest book evening. Happy reading!

Flight Identification of European Passerines and Selected Landbirds by Tomasz Cofta (Wildguides), Princeton University Press (2021)

A Bird a Day by Dominic Couzens , Batsford Press (2020)

Urban Peregrines by Ed Drewitt,  Pelagic Publishing  (2014)

The Parakeeting of London by Nick Hunt and Tim Mitchell, Paradise Road (2019)

The Otters Tale by Simon Cooper, William Collins (2017)

The Accidental Countryside: hidden havens for Britain’s Wildlife by Stephen Moss, Guardian Faber (2020, paperback due April 2021).

An Ocean of Air:  A natural history of the atmosphere by Gabrielle Walker,  Bloomsbury (2007, paperback 2008)

Meadows by George Peterken, Bloomsbury Wildlife (re-issued 2018)

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald, Random House (2020, paperback due July 2021)

52 Wildlife Weekends by James Lowen, Bradt Travel Guides (2018)

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake, Random House (2020)

Sharks in British Waters – A talk by Paul Cox on Tuesday 9th March (Zoom recording)

Paul Cox’s talk to members – Sharks in British Waters –  is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from March 9th.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/ULqDG6AnwvgQKPfgwOIM0VEHG5QWjxTWhQzVqtBnu23g-SP9wjs-Pwmp3HlahpLl.cHppNpt8_cp9Lmzr

Passcode: z7Mh$Ym3

If you would like more information about the work of the Shark Trust, go to www.sharktrust.org

 

A Brief Introduction to British Woodlice – a talk by Graham Bellamy on Tuesday 16th February (Zoom Recording)

Graham Bellamy’s talk to members – A Brief Introduction to British Woodlice–  is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from February 16th

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/WAInEQh1RL-UIHNSNWk-XrUdOmoPrJpk91pjOJiKQlctw0qrfw44ybIwzkacRpbM.29gKIt-VRs2DWmQx

Passcode: 4zRtR@Ka

The Gordon Osborn Fund – financial assistance for MKNHS naturalists

Friends,

The past twelve months have seen us living alongside a dreadful illness so severe and restrictive to our normal way of life, no other living person has seen the like in this country for well over a century!

One of the many consequences of this has been a reduction in the number of local wildlife-related projects carried out by skilled and enthusiastic people throughout the United Kingdom. You will not be surprised to learn our own MKNHS has no shortage of such talented individuals but finding the funds for these projects can be challenging.

A former member of our society, Gordon Osborn, generously bequeathed funds to us specifically for use by members of the MKNHS who need support for new or ongoing projects such as recording local wildlife, survey work in local areas, educational programmes, research and so on, in any field of natural history deemed as representative of our society’s aims and objectives.

The enhancement of knowledge of our local flora and fauna in such difficult times could be a daunting prospect; perhaps a little help from this unique fund can be the boost which is needed to transform a worthy project into a truly important and valuable contribution to our understanding of a particular patch’s importance or aspect of natural history or spreading ‘the word’ to others such that the future of our wild countryside and its inhabitants might be better assured.

Last year, understandably, no applications were received for help from this fund and so I am asking those of you who are interested in carrying out this vital work in your own time or as an extension to your normal working lives and who feel such financial assistance would benefit your particular project, to apply for some funding outlining the details of your work and what you would be using any grant for.

Generally, this would be in the region of a few hundred pounds but this is enough to purchase trail cameras, recording equipment, specialist books, computer programs, etc., which might otherwise be proving too much to fund from your own pockets.

So, please do apply for help from the Gordon Osborn Fund. That is what it is there for.

Further information can also be found in the MKNHS Guidance Handbook (page 11) found as a link in the Home section of this website or contact myself or Linda Murphy who are administrators of the fund.

Thank you and good luck.

Matt Andrews

Hazel Dormice in Northamptonshire – A talk by Dr Gwen Hitchcock on Tuesday 12th January (Zoom Recording)

Gwen Hitchcock’s talk to members  on ‘Hazel Dormice in Northamptonshire’  is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from January 12th.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/MW8SbIwG_M1lnOt2cTUC66ntKX9XdHxzRwvpvZvFiTL5u0D5RwvYIMmBxHpoTY0M.1Qt56AN5aLq8veCw

Passcode: s9Rg#!5Y

 If you would like to contact Gwen about volunteering to help with Dormouse checking or habitat management in Northants or in Bucks, you can contact her at Gwen.Hitchcock@wildlifebcn.org.  She will forward messages to the relevant people in either Northants or Bucks.

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MKNHS Annual Photographic Competition 2021

Due to the fact that we are unable to meet in person at the moment and the date for a return to the Cruck Barn is not yet certain, we have decided to run the competition via the Society’s website with voting by email. The process and timetable are explained below.

The competition is for the Ron Arnold Shield. Ron Arnold was an early member of the Society and a keen photographer. The competition was set up in his memory.

The competition is open to all members of the Society. Any non-members who would like to participate are welcome to join in order to take part (https://mknhs.org.uk/membership-2/ )

There are four categories:

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

The following rules apply:

  • This year, as foreign travel has been so restricted, images for all categories should have been taken in the UK between January 2020 and January 2021
  • Domestic animals and cultivated plants are not eligible.
  • People must not be a major subject of any photograph.

Format guidelines:

  • Digital images only can be entered, by email to Photos2021@mknhs.org.uk
  • Please use jpg files. Maximum file size 4MB
  • They can be horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait).
  • Each member may enter a maximum of 2 images per category. (That’s 8 images in total). If you are submitting more than 4 images, please split between 2 emails, or use WeTransfer.
  • Please state the category of entry for each image and provide a brief caption for each photo stating when and where taken and species if known/relevant. If you submit more than one photo, make sure it is clear which caption goes with each photo!

May the best photograph win! It could be yours!

Paul Lund

 

How the 2021 Photo competition will be run, and key dates:

  1. Send your entries to the mailbox (Photos2021@mknhs.org.uk) by 11pm on 26 January 2021
  2. Members’ photos will be posted in the four categories on the web site photo competition page (Photo Competition 2021) one week after the deadline (i.e. on 02 February 2021)
  3. Members have a week to decide their choice of top two per category for Round 1. Members send in their choices by email to the same mailbox. (Votes to be received by 09 February 2021)
  4. The votes are counted and the top 8 photos selected. The top eight photos are posted on the website one week after the deadline for voting in round 1. (i.e. by 16 February 2021)
  5. Members have one week to send in their votes for the top three photos. (Votes to be received by 23 February 2021)
  6. Votes are counted and the top 3 selected.
  7. Winners are announced at the MKNHS Zoom meeting on 02 March 2021 one week after the deadline for voting for round 2.
    Winning photos will be shown at this meeting and winners will be asked to say something about their photos.
  8. The final 8 will be put on the website gallery page for the photo competition winners 2021.
  9. The winner will be presented with the Ron Arnold Shield* to hold for the year (when conditions allow). Their name will be engraved on the shield and they will receive a miniature shield to keep.

Please Note! Photos MUST be sent in by 11pm on 26 January 2021 at the latest!

Entries will NOT be accepted after 26 January 2021.

Votes cast after the deadlines for Round 1 and Round 2 will not be counted….

Please note that by submitting photos you are agreeing to your images being displayed on the Society website. Images displayed in the Society gallery after the competition will show attributed copyright.

Winter Tree Identification – Talk by Dr Alan Birkett on 5th January 2021 (Zoom recording)

Alan Birkett’s talk to members  on ‘Winter Tree Identification’  is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from January 5th.

Link: Alan Birkett’s Zoom recording

Passcode: SyepT8&&

The website which Alan referred to is www.treeguideuk.co.uk

The email address to contact him with photos and requests for help with Tree ID is alan@treeguideuk.co.uk

A message from our Chairman

As we have reached the end of our autumn programme it seems a good moment to thank everyone who has participated in our Zoom sessions and helped to make them a success. Your contributions to members’ evenings and engagement with speakers has been brilliant.  I can vouch for the fact that whilst giving a presentation over the medium of Zoom works, it is very difficult to gauge an audience’s response, even one I know so well so I was grateful for your comments and appreciation after my own effort.  In the same way, it has been wonderful to see so many contributions to the news and sightings pages on the website which has doubled its number of ‘page views’ or visitors to the site over this time last year. It looks as if there may be some light at the end of the COVID tunnel now and the fact that one or two Society members have already had their first vaccination is a great Christmas present.  We will nevertheless have to continue to be careful for some time yet, and as you’ll have seen, our spring programme will resume on Zoom from January 5th with another varied and interesting programme which hopefully has something for everybody.

May I wish each and every one of us a warm, peaceful and happy Christmas and a 2021 with a different and better outcome to the past twelve months.

I look forward to seeing you in what we all hope will be a better New Year, filled with amazing wildlife.

Matt

(Photo by zhan zhang on Unsplash)

Wildlife locations – notes from Members Evening, 8.12.20

Linford Wood (Photo © The Parks Trust)

Dreaming of a holiday next year or perhaps just a nice day out? A selection of wildlife venues recommended by our members at the members evening on Tuesday 8th December is available to download through the following link:

Wildlife Venues MKNHS 8 Dec 2020

They include:

  • Our favorite wildlife sites in Buckinghamshire – Mary and Phil Sarre
  • Lochgarten and the surrounding area – Linda Murphy
  • Linford Wood – Joe Clinch
  • Ashland Lakes – Peter Barnes
  • Tattenhoe – Harry Appleyard
  • Aigas Field Centre – Julie Lane
  • Near and far – Sue Hetherington (including the Farne Isles and Bempton Cliffs, among many other suggestions)

 

Quiz Night – Winners!

Our annual Quiz Night was held on Tuesday 1st December. This year things were a bit different due to meeting on Zoom, so instead of deciding who to sit with and sharing our refreshments, teams were put together randomly using Zoom Breakout Rooms and we had to provide our own refreshments.

As usual Ann and Mark put together a very varied and challenging selection of questions that not only tested natural history knowledge but also our memory of recent stories from the news and managed to sneak in a bit of Greek at the last minute, just when we thought we’d got away with it this year! The winning team of Julie, Martin, Helen, Kenny and Mike romped home ahead of the field. Well done to them and to everyone who took part, and thanks again to our quiz hosts, Ann and Mark.

We look forward to next year’s quiz and hope that we’ll be back in the Cruck Barn as usual by then!

MKNHS Calendar 2021 – Now available

Dear members.

For the very first time, MKNHS has produced its own A4 calendar for 2021. The calendar features twelve beautiful images of wildlife taken in and around Milton Keynes, by twelve different Society members. Harry Appleyard and myself  have selected images and designed the calendar. We are fortunate to have many talented wildlife photographers in our ranks so this is a fitting way to celebrate that. Many of the shots were taken during the first lockdown in Spring/Summer 2020. An image of the front cover can be seen above.

We are selling the calendars at the very reasonable price of £10.00 each – excellent value for money. To order calendars, simply email Martin Kincaid: mkincaid1971@outlook.com stating how many calendars you would like, and your postal address. The calendars – with envelopes –  will be hand delivered in December. We would prefer payment by cheque, payable to MKNHS, otherwise by cash.

If there is enough interest this year, we hope to repeat this next year…and include pictures taken by other members.

Marin Kincaid

Treezilla – Talk by Dr Phil Wheeler on 24th November (Zoom recording)

Phil Wheeler’s talk to members  “Treezilla – the monster map of trees”  is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from November 24th.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/Gu9E6WSIkdqJABvUArGzovkF72Mqn5VwPTwjst59hzxytExeKkRMg0vhjalaekLz.LLdYLvhybkochbik

Passcode: &N=v3I+%

Gardening for Wildlife: Notes from Members Evening, 17.11.20 – Julie Lane

Above: Bugingham Palace – Sue Hetherington’s Bug Hotel (Photo © Sue Hetherington)

Following Tuesday’s members evening exploring how to make our gardens even better for wildlife I have put together a summary of our discussion, some ideas of my own and a few useful links and recommendations of books. Thank you to all the people who contributed and sent me information and thoughts afterwards. Please feel free to write in (via the Contact us link) and tell us about your own personal gardens and what you are doing to make them more wildlife friendly and include some photos. It will be a way of bringing a taste of spring and summer into our lockdown lives.

One of our members suggested that we could put together a list of ‘Star’ plants for wildlife so I would be very interested to hear about your favourite plant. Ann suggested ivy and comfrey and mine would be pulmonaria officinalis (common lungwort).

Jenny sent me the following link which talks about allotments and their mental health benefits.
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/nov/08/its-official-allotments-are-good-for-you-and-for-your-mental-health

Martin K told me about a course run by the Field Studies Council on ‘Garden wildlife health, and what citizen science can tell us about the importance of gardens for biodiversity’. Here is the webpage: https://www.field-studies-council.org/biolinks-courses/

Sue sent me the following book recommendations:

  1. The Royal Horticultural Society Companion to Wildlife Gardening by Chris Baines which is a revised edition of How to Make a Wildlife Garden.  Published 2016, Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd. (Currently out of print.)
  2. Wild your Garden by “The Butterfly Brothers” (Jim and Joel Ashton). Published 2020, Dorling Kindersley.

Members Garden visits

It was mentioned that Joe Clinch has a lovely meadow in his garden in Stony Stratford and as I also know that there are others living in Stony with lovely gardens I wondered if it might be possible for us to have a day next summer when we can organise a visit to a few of these gardens. Joe has kindly offered for us to come and have a wander around his garden.

A summary of our thoughts during Tuesday’s discussion

Thanks to Mervyn and Martin F for taking notes.

Hedgehogs

It is especially important to set up hedgehog highways – small holes under fence. They don’t need to be big – 13cm x 13cm is recommended.

Hedgehogs love fallen fruit from fruit trees

Purpose-built homes for wildlife

Mixed success with swift boxes and artificial house martin nests. Swift boxes are often not occupied but they might take a few years to move in. They are often used by other birds such as starlings and sparrows. It was suggested that one could block the access until later on in the year when the swifts arrive. Artificial martin nests can be useful to attract martins into the eaves even if they don’t actually use the nests but build a nest alongside – they are communal nesters so are attracted to eaves with nests already present.

We also talked about bat boxes and it seemed that these too have limited use by bats.

Meadows

It was suggested that you can simply add seed to existing grass sward (this is not always particularly successful as the ranker grasses can out compete the resulting small seedlings)

Can provide useful cover for frogs, newts and grass snakes.

Ponds

Best times to clear out a pond is the autumn.
One member had obtained a good pond kit from the RSPB

Plants to grow

  • Ivy for pollen and berries and cover.
  • Holly for berries
  • Comfrey for nectar – it is also the food plant for the scarlet tiger moth
  • Pyracantha,
  • Cotoneaster,
  • Crab apple variety golden hornet
  • Fruit trees
  • Rowan for flowers and berries

General tips

  • Climbers are good for birds’ nests.
  • You can work with your neighbours in providing a range of habitats and sharing your interests
  • Sheds without windows can provide very good nest sites.
  • Can leave out chicken bones etc for foxes (this might cause a problem with rats!)
  • Wood mice love runner beans.
  • When tidying up for winter don’t overdo it: especially in green houses and sheds, there may be nooks and crannies which are hibernating places so be careful not to disturb.
  • Avoiding everything harmful to wildlife: one member stressed the need to avoid the use of chemicals in gardens. Also take care with netting.
  • Seeing wildlife: One member has recently used a wildlife camera to identify which animals are using his garden and was disappointed with the result – Identifying a rat, a cat and a wood pigeon J  Although one member regularly saw foxes and badgers in his garden.
  • Birds such as robins and blackbirds can become very tame if fed – they love mealworms.
  • Rotted wood chip provides a good home for newts and frogs.
  • Nest boxes – pros and cons of different heights. Safety from cats and other ground predators.

Challenges

  • Corvids taking bird food and predating on birds’ nests
  • Several people are finding that they have fewer or no frogs in their gardens but more newts.
  • The right location for bug hotels is important – sunny is best?

Below are a selection of notes that I prepared for Tuesday. I thought they might be useful for others to read:

Introduction

So can we really make a difference to the fortunes of wildlife in our gardens?

Dr Jennifer Owen systematically recorded every living thing in her suburban Leicester garden from 1972 over a thirty year period and found 2,673 species including 7 insects new to the UK, 4 of which were new to science.

The presence of this huge diversity has been backed up by an increasing body of work and as the nation’s gardens cover about 4300square kilometres we can actually provide homes for a whole host of wildlife if we so choose.

This past year has demonstrated to many of us how much we need our outside spaces and how much healing and joy they provide in a restricted world.
There does not need to be a conflict between our personal requirements in a garden and those of wildlife – a well-designed and planned garden can cater for both. Diversity is important in terms of different habitats, having flowers and berries available for as long a season as possible and providing nooks and crannies for a wide variety of creatures to inhabit.
If you don’t have a garden then allotments are another option offering you the chance to manage a bit of space for your own personal produce but also for wildlife.

Gardens can be complex habitats and as we have designed them to provide shelter from the elements for ourselves so they provide shelter to many creatures. Many bird species now find refuge in gardens as the wider countryside is no longer so hospitable for them. Amphibians such as frogs, newts and grass snakes also often use garden ponds as these habitats are rapidly disappearing in the countryside.

Diversity and Design

  1. Different features we could have for wildlife in a garden.
    Ponds, bog gardens, water and drinking baths, spring and summer meadows, flowery lawns, beds for arable weeds, hedges, trees, shrubs, fences and walls covered in climbers, piles of stones or stone walls etc., log piles, compost heaps, leaf bins, homes for wildlife (hedgehog houses, bee and bug hotels, bird and bat boxes ) bird feeders, vegetable plots or allotments
  2. If you were starting from scratch how could you create a strong design with wildlife in mind (what to put where, different garden shapes and sizes)?
    Try to create a strong design on paper first so that the garden is pleasing on the eye and covers all the requirements you have for a garden as well as the wildlife (make a list first). Think about shapes, sightlines and divide the garden into rooms if you have the space. Try to have the wilder areas away from the house and at the edges of the garden but try to link up these habitats so that there are corridors between them. Think about the animals you are trying to attract and consider what they need for food, drink, shelter from weather and predators, safe places to have their young etc.

Meadows and flowery lawns

  1. What are the different ways in which meadows and flowery lawns are important for wildlife? Pollen and nectar for insects, food for insect larvae etc, cover and food for small mammals, amphibians, they improve the soil therefore good for soil invertebrates
  2. Types of meadow – spring (containing spring flowers and bulbs), summer (late summer flowering plants) and flowery lawns.
  3. Establishment (soil fertility, seeding versus plugs plants or leaving to colonise naturally). Meadows establish better on poorer soils but if you have a fertile soil you can still have a meadow but you need to establish strong growing plants and introduce yellow rattle. Plug plants work best on rich soils but seed works on poor soils. Flowery lawns tend to be colonised naturally by flowering plants.
  4. Management (when to cut, how much and what to cut with) Spring cut in June, summer cut in September. And remove all cuttings to reduce fertility – into a heap for grass snakes. Leave some areas long each year for butterfly larvae and cover. Use shears, a hand scythe or a reciprocating mower depending on area to be cut.
  5. Plants to include for spring and summer – primroses, snakes-head fritillaries, cowslips, bugle, for spring.  scabious, oxeye daisies, knapweed, meadow cranesbill for summer

Providing for wildlife all year round

  1. Food – Bird seed especially important in winter and spring, hedgehog food especially important in spring, in dry spells and in autumn, plants for nectar and pollen for as long as possible throughout the year, berries for hungry winter birds. Lawns are good for worms and cranefly grubs etc. Do not use herbicides or pesticides as the balance will be upset and pests will become a problem.
  2. Homes – trees, climbers and shrubs for nests, ponds, log piles, messy quiet corners, bird boxes,
  3. Plants to grow for nectar pollen and berries – ivy is one of the best but it has to be left to fruit, wild flowers generally better for nectar and pollen but single flowers better than compound (some ornamental varieties don’t have any nectar or pollen).

Ponds and other water features

  1. What are the different uses that wildlife has for water? Why is water so important. To drink, to live in either permanently or for some of the time, to bathe in, for catching prey.
  2. List of possible ways to bring water into a garden. Ponds, bog gardens, water baths, moving water. The greater the number and variety the better.
  3. Management of ponds (algae, invasive or alien plants). Only fill up and top up with rain water or algae becomes a problem, floating plants cut out the light to algae and oxygenating plants in the water reduce the nutrients. Lists of invasive plants online.
  4. How to make the best wildlife ponds (location, profile of pond, plants). Best in the sun and away from shade and leaves falling in, but near cover, profile best with a big shallow end and a smaller deep end. Plants depend on size of pond – list online.

Finally, here’s a photo of Jenny’s allotment, for inspiration!


(Photo © Jenny Mercer)

Julie Lane
November 2020

Matt Andrews – the new Chairman of MKNHS tells all

What a privilege to have been selected as Chairman of the MKNHS for the forthcoming year. It is with great delight that I accept this honour and I think it is only right that you should know a little about me; with this in mind, I have put a brief resumé together in order that you may be better informed about me, my views and aspirations, warts an’ all…

I have had an abiding passion for all things natural since my earliest memories were formed.  As a little boy, I can recall my father taking me out in a rowing boat on the river Axe in Devon and being fascinated with the Herons and Cormorants lining the banks there as we were towed back by a passing motorboat, having lost both our oars overboard!  When I was eight, a distant relative left me a huge collection of birds’ eggs which he had put together prior to the second world war, some of which were from the mid eighteen-hundreds, every species which bred in this country was represented and I still have this collection housed in my study.

One would think that such a thing which is rightly so abhorred today, would have lead to me becoming a destroyer of birds but no, I was so fascinated by the myriad different patterns, colours and forms of egg that I was determined to see the birds themselves and this set me off on a lifelong journey of exhilarating exploration and wonder at the natural splendours we are surrounded by.

For my ninth birthday, a pair of 8×30 binoculars or a Flying Scotsman A3 4-6-2 locomotive for my railway set were the main gift options – binoculars won and from there on, I was hooked.  Every holiday was spent bird-watching and living in a small Hertfordshire village meant I was out every spare moment, wandering the fields and woods surrounding my home.  I can vividly remember the absolute joy of discovering my first ever Birds-nest Orchids and recording the fact in my diary (they later turned out to be Toothwort, an even rarer plant locally – they’re still there, fifty years later).

I spent my school years in Hemel Hempstead (well, someone had to…) and was fortunate enough to be at a school with a wood attached to the grounds.  Many different extra-curricular activities took place in this wood but my interests were purely ornithological and I was able to record the nesting activities of a pair of Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers who were obliging enough to make their little nest hole at about head-height in an old stump there….this was part of my biology ‘O’ Level project, how lucky I was!

I left school and went into a precision engineering company, specifically manufacturing ships’ chronometers and eventually started to work towards my chartered engineer status until redundancy forced me to rethink my career options and I became a London Policeman.  My time away from work was spent bird watching and yes, I was an avid Twitcher too but like many Twitchers, my interests broadened naturally and I veered away from purely chasing rarities to enjoying a far wider spectrum of the natural world.

I eventually specialised in Public Order policing and was able to take many tours of duty abroad where I became aware of the wider world around us and experience the sheer size of this beautiful planet and the enormous variety of fabulous flora and fauna it still contains.  In particular, South America became a favourite location and I can recall my first impressions of this amazing continent, it’s inhabitants and of course, it’s incredible diversity of wildlife.  This land, remote and magical always seemed so unattainable and yet some ten or twelve trips there later, one realises that such places as Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina are now fairly easily visited and with some forward planning, much less daunting to get to than you would imagine.  I suppose my carbon footprint is not too impressive considering all the air travel, car hires, etc., I have used so that should be a personal goal for me to reduce.

I have a real and deep concern for the wellbeing of our worlds’ wild places now with rapidly burgeoning human populations, ever increasing requirements for land development for housing, industry and food production and a blasé attitude towards destruction of the decreasing number of wild places left, there really does not seem to be a willingness for nature and humans to live in any form of symbiosis.

One only has to look at The Pantanal in Brazil during the present Covid crisis to see that once the world is distracted from conservation, precious wilderness is being taken with tacit government approval…it is estimated that nearly a fifth of this vast and unique swamp has been ruined by drainage, burning and enclosure, principally for beef production, since February this year…nine short months!  Places I visited and watched Hyacinth Macaws, Tapir, Jaguar and Giant Otter in 2017 are no longer there, it really is as stark as that!  The island of Borneo has lost over half of it’s forest in forty years to oil palm plantations;  I have seen these for myself in Sabbah, a tiny ribbon of primary jungle lining the rivers and then mile after stark mile of oil palm beyond.  I suppose the reality is that The Pantanal and Borneo will still be victims of land-grabbing for commerce despite our distant opposition.

What on earth can we really do to stop this wanton degradation of the world we all love and wish to remain healthy and vibrant?  My daughter lives in Fordingbridge in The New Forest and you’d be forgiven for thinking there were no problems with habitat loss and land abuse if you lived down there, it is such a wonderfully rural place.

But it is happening here too!  The northern outskirts of Dunstable where I live are being transformed from a farmland-based, riverine valley into a huge housing and industrial estate.  Parts of Milton Keynes are expanding so fast eastwards, I find it hard to remember it as it was a few years ago, other priceless areas such as Tattenhoe Park are earmarked for yet more housing, it is endless but I am optimistic that we do have the ability to make a difference locally.

My personal strategy for chairmanship of the society is to ‘enhance our clout’ through actively encouraging a younger society demographic, to have influence with MK’s projected expansion planning and to ensure that what wilder places we have locally should remain as they are, all things which the society is already striving to achieve through the diverse expertise and enthusiasm of our membership, so evident when we all come together.

I am looking forward to seeing you all once again – some for the first time, in the flesh in the not too distant future, let’s all hope and pray that our current situation enhances our country’s awareness and need for stunning green breathing spaces and that such tragedies as in central Brazil and Sabbah may be averted here.

Matt Andrews
November 2020

 

Our President is awarded Emeritus Recorder status by BSBI

During a recent phone call to Roy Maycock he told me that he and Andy McVeigh (another member of the Society) had recently taken the decision to step down as joint Vice County Recorders for Buckinghamshire. He also mentioned that the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) had awarded Roy the position of Emeritus Recorder for his long years of service to Botany.

I contacted the BSBI for more information and Dr Peter Stroh kindly sent me the following text:

Roy stepped down as the BSBI Vice-county Recorder for Buckinghamshire in August after an amazing 34 years in the post. During that time, he co-authored ‘A Checklist of the Plants of Buckinghamshire’ with Aaron Woods, the first modern checklist of the Buckinghamshire flora, and the first flora of any kind for the county since George Clarence Druce’s out-of-print and much sought-after work of 1926. Roy submitted tens of thousands of plant records for not one but two national plant Atlases as a VCR, and also contributed to the first plant Atlas. So he’s had a hand in all three atlases over a period of 70 years! In recognition of Roy’s dedication and contribution to plant recording and conservation, the BSBI awarded him Emeritus Status this year. 

Peter also stated that the above text “can’t hope to reflect all that Roy has done!” so I think we should be very proud of our President.

Julie Lane

Wildlife of Pitsford Reservoir – Talk by Neil McMahon 10 November (Zoom recording)

Neil McMahon’s talk to members on the Wildlife of Pitsford Reservoir is available to view via Zoom by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from November 10th.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/iYjBqV4zfCq7h-jK4NRQN7ifx6b6YaQXA1txPSbpXZCOt4w8qOdNmTQZ7H2oipBs.3jJpWfqbSeM82oHa Passcode:   r+W5u^^^

 

Linda Murphy

 

The Etches Collection by Di Parsons: Zoom recording Tuesday November 3rd

Di’s talk on The Etches Collection of fossils is available to view by clicking on the link below and entering the passcode when asked to do so. The recording (on Zoom) will be available for 30 days from November 3rd.

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/S4riw1xbaNKaIoPLnSE2fAJ69h_BGik6pQsL921CYAStPIJgsSRlQeu3e0kUSQTt.cJtRjnLfoQfxKZId

Passcode: 2Vjt*0Y?

Di has also provided this information about other videos and websites and printed materials on the Etches Collection, fossils and the Jurassic period.

Website links about The Etches Collection

The Etches Collection is very well represented elsewhere on the web with interesting videos and websites.

If you type ‘the Etches Collection’ into the search bar of YouTube you will get connections to several official videos or video collections. Steve himself narrates about 20 videos, some of which are about the collection of fossils, but the majority are tales about the specimens themselves.

YouTube also gives links to many videos, by other people, some on the Etches collection, some on other collections and specimens, and some on fossil hunting and the Jurassic coast.

You can access the official website here, www.theetchescollection.org, or using the search bar on your web browser. It is one of the best Museum webpages around.

The museum aims to be both for the collection and conservation of specimens, for the public to visit, and for education and research. Its pièce de resistance is a photographic documentation of all the collection.

As you would expect, it has lots of information on how to visit, special events, and news etc. There are pages about Steve Etches’ history in fossil collection including his awards and the specimens named after him. There are pages about the team, the supporters and the patrons including how to contribute yourself. There are also interesting side-shoots include information about guest artists associated with the museum and painting various interpretations of the animals and the surrounding countryside.

If you are interested in a new T- shirt or postcards or the books for the collection you can find them in the shop, including a fossil collectors set of tools if you wish.

Do also type ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ into YouTube. This will give you links into the many videos of animated dinosaur re-enactments prepared by the BBC.  Hope you will find particularly interesting the ‘Sea Monsters trilogy’, ‘Sea Reptile birth’ and ‘ The Scientific Accuracy of Walking with Dinosaurs. Episode 3’.

There are also a couple of interesting websites showing comparisons of the size of marine animals, both ancient and modern.

The Scotese Paleomap site, www.scotese.com, shows maps and video animations of the paleogeography, both the movement of land mass and climate.

Books

Stories from Deep Time, about Etches collection, from the official online shop. www.theetchescollection.org

Dinosaurs and Other Animals of the Jurassic by Sunil Tanna,  Currently available through Amazon: only £2.32 Kindle, compared with £40 for the print edition.

 

Members’ Book Evening booklist 13 October 2020

At the Members’ Book Evening on 13 October, a wide range of books were presented and recommended by members and are listed below. They include recent publications and old favourites that people return to year after year. Some examine current environmental issues, some provide useful advice and guidance, others were chosen for their writing style, or artwork. There’s something for everyone! A big “Thank You” to all the contributors. Enjoy!

For books currently out of print, companies such as ABE Books (https://www.abebooks.co.uk/ )  were recommended for second hand copies; NHBS ( https://www.nhbs.com/ ) supplies a huge range of books on Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation as well as the ubiquitous Amazon…

The Orchid Hunter by Lief Bersweden (2018: Short Books Ltd)

A Natural History of the Hedgerow and ditches, dykes, and dry stone walls by John Wright, (2016: Profile Books Ltd)

Woodland Plants by Heather and Robin Tanner (1987: Impact Books)

Four Hedges: A Gardener’s Chronicle by Clare Leighton (2010: Little Toller Books)

Rebirding by Benedict Macdonald (2019: Pelagic Publishing)

The Wildlife Pond Book by Jules Howard (2019: Bloomsbury Publishing)

Wilding – the return of nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree (2018: Picador)

There is No Planet B: A handbook for the make or break years by Mike Berners-Lee (2019: Cambridge University Press)

How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything by Mike Berners-Lee (Profile Books: 2010/ revised updated & expanded edition 2020)

The Burning Question: We Can’t Burn Half the World’s Oil, Coal and Gas. So How Do We Quit? by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark (2013: Profile Books )

Wonderland, a year of Britain’s wildlife by Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss (2017: John Murray Press)

The Invention of Nature – The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt: The Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf (2015: John Murray press)

Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell (illustrated by Jessica Holm) (2018: HarperCollins) Reviewed by Jenny Mercer in the April 2020 edition of the Magpie

The Wood For The Trees: The long view of nature from a small wood  by Richard Fortey (2016: William Collins)

The Secret Life of Birds by Colin Tudge (2009: Penguin)

The New Where to Photograph Wildlife in Britain by Mike Lane (2005: Mike Lane, FRPS )

Great White Shark by Richard Ellis and John E. McCosker  (1991: Stanford University Press and HarperCollins)

The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks (2015: Penguin)

Deep Country:  Five Years in the Welsh Hills  by Neil Ansell  (2012:  Penguin)

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty (2020: Little Toller Press

 

Linda Murphy

MKNHS Members evening 22 September – The State of Nature 2019: notes of follow-up discussion

Eleven members attended this evening. First of all, we reviewed the list of suggestions for action put forward at the meeting on March 10th 2020, before considering a few of these in small groups and then pooling our thoughts.

The March meeting had been a discussion based around a presentation about the findings of the National Biodiversity Network’s 2019 report on the State of Nature (https://nbn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/State-of-Nature-2019-UK-full-report.pdf)

Two groups spent most of the time on the Theme ‘Communicating our Message’. They agreed that Facebook was a key way of communicating information about the Society particularly to younger people to increase their interest in, and knowledge of, nature. It was felt to be  important to widen our range of methods of communication to reach different audiences, rather than attracting ‘more people like us’.  One member indicated willingness to help set up a Society Facebook presence. The local press has been a useful avenue for publicising the Society in the past but it was note noted that the Citizen carried less news than hitherto and distribution within Milton Keynes was patchy.

The theme ‘Conservation Organisations/Projects’ was explored. This could also form another line of communication and opportunity to engage a wider audience by publicising opportunities to get involved in a variety of organisations and projects locally, related to the protection and enhancement of wildlife and wider conservation issues. For example, the ‘Bats in Churches’ project, highlighted at a previous members’ evening, needs volunteers to survey churches in Milton Keynes in 2021; and the Global Bird Weekend on 17/18 October 2020 is looking to sign up as many people as possible to record bird species seen on those days in aid of Birdlife International’s Campaign to ‘STOP ILLEGAL BIRD TRADE’.

We can also publicise relevant reports and campaigns on our website such as:
– the WWF living planet report (see Living Planet Report 2020).
– the Wildlife Trusts’ initial response to the Government’s White Paper on Planning, which proposes fundamental changes to planning and would limit opportunities for public responses (see Preliminary Analysis of the Planning White Paper).
– the Wildlife Trust’s proposals for ‘Wild-belts’ to ‘Rewild the planning system’ (see Rewild the Planning System). This was covered in The Guardian 17 September 2020: see Wild Belts.
– the new RSPB report: ‘A Lost Decade for Nature: How the UK has missed its targets for nature.  Why we must act now to revive our world’ (see A Lost Decade for Nature).

The theme of ‘Plans and planning’ was picked up in the third group which examined the theme of ‘Recording’. All participants in that group regularly record and discussed how records can be ‘made to count’. Many recording schemes are run by organisations devoted to specific groups of species, and they take records via specific apps or iRecord and are fed into County Records Offices such as BMERC. For example, birders are urged to submit records to Bucks Bird Club as these are regularly passed to BMERC. Those who live outside Bucks can check out their local Bird Clubs or use BTO Birdtrack. The latter can be used for records made on holiday in the UK and in Europe. The recording advice available on the Society website was noted. It was agreed that ‘common’ species such as moles or hedgehogs or house sparrows often don’t get recorded and we should make an effort to include them. The case for the importance of local recording is the fact that local records have to be consulted for planning applications, hence the relationship between these two themes.

Further general discussion touched on how to discourage littering and reduce use of single use/’disposable’ plastics, and palm oil.

We concluded by following Ann Lambley’s suggestion to cheer ourselves up by focussing on a beautiful wildlife image such as a wood in autumn!

Notes by Linda Murphy

Identification Guides: We need your help!

I hope you have been enjoying our website during these strange times – I think it has helped to hold our Society together and has provided a means of communicating that has been very useful and enjoyable. We have had some wonderful articles sent in by members and very much hope that this flow of interesting articles will continue, especially if our lives are restricted yet again by one of the tiniest organisms in the world!

There is one section on the website that we now feel needs updating and we can do this most easily and efficiently by tapping into the knowledge of our members.   It is the section called Identification guides under Reference (https://mknhs.org.uk/identification-guides/) where the best guides for the various groups in the animal and plant kingdom are recommended, with the aim of helping those interested in a particular specialisation to access the best sources of information, be that by book, app or website. We feel that in the five or so years since this was set up it may well have become out of date and we would be very grateful for input from you all.

We would therefore like you to look at the sources recommended in your specialism or interest area and let us know if there are any new books or apps or websites that are now useful and if there are any sources that have been superseded and need to be removed (it would also be helpful if you could let us know if you think that nothing needs changing). In fact, we would be interested to hear from anyone who has found a reference source useful as it is often relative novices in a subject that are the best judge of well laid out reference material. Obviously, this process is all rather subjective but we can only do our best and we feel that it is wrong to offer information without updating it occasionally.

For books, we need to know Title, Author and Publisher plus whether in your opinion it is useful for beginners or those more advanced in their knowledge.

For websites, please let us have the full url reference, and for apps, please give as much detail as is needed to help others find it.

Thank you very much for your help.

Julie Lane

Committee member vacancies

The Society AGM meeting on 6th October will be appointing members of the Committee. There will be a number of vacancies to fill and this announcement invites expressions of interest from members or suggestions of others that might be interested (but check with them first!).

The Committee is responsible for the running of the Society. It normally meets 4 times a year in the evenings (but under recent conditions more frequently via Zoom). The work of the Committee is interesting and varied – from administering the finances of the society through to the planning of future activities. Members participate in meeting discussions and decisions, and usually take on wider roles within the Society.

If you are interested or have other suggestions please contact the Acting Chair, Joe Clinch (joeclinch@btinternet.com  or telephone 01908 562475 or write to 39 Tudor Gardens, Stony Stratford, MK11 1HX).

MKNHS Chair Vacancy

The much delayed 51st AGM is now scheduled for 7.30 pm on Tuesday 6th October via Zoom. The Agenda and papers for it will be circulated by the Secretary in due course.

This is to give advance notice about one important item of business for that meeting – the appointment of the Chair of the Society.

The Committee has agreed that the process for appointing the Chair should be coordinated by the Officers of the Society led by Martin Kincaid so that a nomination can then be put to the AGM.  This email seeks expressions of interest from members in filling this role or in suggesting someone else that you think might be interested. If you are interested or if you are able suggest someone please communicate your thoughts to me in confidence either by telephone (01908 562475), email (joeclinch@btinternet.com) or by post to my home address: 39 Tudor Gardens, Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes MK11 1HX. I will share responses with fellow Officers but not beyond.

Information about the role of the Chair can be found in the MKNHS Guidance Handbook(https://mknhs.org.uk/mknhs-guidance-handbook).  In brief it is to lead the work of the Committee. Two of the current Officers and previous holders of the position, Linda Murphy (lindamurphy49@btinternet.com) and Martin Kincaid (mkincaid1971@outlook.com) have indicated their willingness to discuss the role informally on the telephone if you would find that helpful – again in confidence. Please email them to fix a time for doing this.

Thank you

Joe Clinch, Acting Chair

Magpie

Magpie ready for Digesting

Our first edition of the new ‘Magpie Digest‘ is now available on the website. To minimise costs, it is only being printed and posted to members without online access.  When our new team took over the running of the website it was decided a rethink was needed on the overlap of material that existed between the Website and Magpie newsletter.  We are keen to continue to provide access to interesting publications/articles for all members so this publication is composed of a selection of the articles sent in by our members to the Society’s website over the past 4 months.

Partly thanks to Covid and also the enthusiasm and encouragement of our new team we have had a wonderful number and variety of contributions which we hope will continue to flow in our post Covid world. As editor of this Digest, I have not been able to use all the articles published on the website as the cost of printing them all would be too high but I have tried to select shortish articles which I feel translate best to the printed page and cater for a broad range of interests from plants to insects to birds etc. I have not included all photos submitted with the original articles and have very occasionally edited out some text, but I hope you feel that I have got the balance about right and apologise to anyone who is disappointed that I have not included their article. I am open to thoughts and comments about this publication. (Please send these to  webeditor@mknhs.org.uk.) Enjoy!

Julie Lane

Plans for the autumn programme, via Zoom

Reluctantly, the Committee has concluded that for the rest of this year the Society’s activities will have to be delivered virtually using Zoom technology or via the Society’s website. This decision has been taken in the light of the continuing government limitations imposed as a result of coronavirus on individuals and organisations, and advice from the City Discovery Centre that the Cruck Barn is unlikely to be available for hire earlier than the New Year. Should CDC be able to open safely earlier than this, they will let us know. You may already be aware of other local organisations which are having to make similar decisions and you may already have been using Zoom yourself with friends, family or work colleagues during the lockdown.

Zoom is a digital platform that allows multiple participants to meet together in real time with the option to be heard and seen, and to hear and see others. To access meetings you need either a PC (with camera), a laptop, a tablet, or an iPad. A smart phone can also be used, but the size of screen limits what can be seen. Before a Society meeting, members will be sent an invitation including a link to join the meeting (all these meetings are member-only events: visitors by prior arrangement may be possible for later events). If you are using a PC or laptop, simply click on this link and follow the instructions in order to join. If you are using a tablet, iPad or smart phone, you will need to download the app form the relevant app store.

More information about how to access and use Zoom features is available on the website’s new Zoom Support page.

Access to Zoom sound by telephone is still under investigation.

There will be several opportunities to try it out and get familiar with using Zoom during August.

Tuesday 11th August: Social members meeting via Zoom for familiarisation

Tuesday 18th August: A virtual tour of College Lake hosted and presented on Zoom by MKNHS member Sue Hetherington

Monday 24th August: Social members meeting via Zoom for familiarisation

Tuesday 1st September: First meeting of the autumn progamme – Welcome Back Members Evening with a focus on summer highlights.

Further details of all events are on the programme page.

 

Jean Kent

In May we posted news of the death of Peter Kent, a former Chairman and active member of the Society over many years. For those MKNHS members who remember the Kents, we now pass on the news that his wife, Jean, also an active member, died just a few weeks after Peter.

Hedgehog ©Julie Lane, Olney 19 June 2019

Record your garden hedgehog sightings! Martin Kincaid

The enforced confinement most of us have been living under in the wake of Coronavirus has at least meant that we have all spent more time in our gardens or local patch. Fortunately, we have been blessed with consistently warm sunny weather for most of the spring and so I am sure many of us have been delighted to find new species of plant and animal – or perhaps familiar species in greater abundance – than in previous years. And of course, the much reduced human footprint in March and April has seen wildlife thrive across the UK.

Of particular note has been an increase in reports of hedgehogs. I have tried keeping in touch with many society members and other friends with an interest in wildlife and nearly everyone I have spoken to has seen a hedgehog in their garden or very nearby. I have heard a few comments such as “first time I have seen a hedgehog in the garden for at least five years” or “we normally just see one, but there were four feeding together last night”. You know who you are! So why should this be?

A high proportion of my hog sightings every year come in the form of road casualties. In April 2019, a work colleague and myself decided to count all of the roadkill hogs we could find around MK in one month. We counted 24. I repeated this in April 2020 (admittedly alone) and found just two. We were put into lockdown on 23rd March and although some of us were still driving for work, there were very few cars on the road for the remainder of March and much of April and crucially, almost no cars late at night when hedgehogs are most active. This is a very basic hypothesis but my feeling is that far more hedgehogs survived that vital post hibernation period, when they have to fatten up into breeding condition, than is the case in a typical year. In our Oldbrook garden, the hogs have been feeding very well and we are finding more and more droppings every week!

I would be very interested to hear from all and any of you about hedgehogs you see, specifically in your back or front gardens. I have a database which I can update with your sightings – just one record per garden is fine. What I need to know is:

  • Who – your name
  • When – date and time of sighting
  • Where – your postcode or 6 figure grid reference if you know it

You can either email me on mkincaid1971@outlook.com or phone me on 07765 010655. At the end of the year I will send all the collated sightings to BMKERC.

Finally, whilst we have all enjoyed the sunshine this year, as you may be aware hedgehogs are struggling to find enough to eat and especially to drink. If you think you have hedgehogs in your area, please leave out a shallow dish of water as often as you can, as well as any food you might put out. Tiggywinkles and other wildlife rescue centres report a huge increase in hogs with dehydration recently and this is something we could easily help to avoid. Remember also that we are now at the peak breeding season for these charming animals, so you may heard their noisy mating or, if you’re really lucky, find some hoglets in your own gardens.

Martin Kincaid
June 2020

(Photo: Julie Lane)

 

MKNHS member Harry Appleyard wins BMERC photo competition

Early this year BMERC held the first Wildlife Photography Competition 2020, with two categories ‘Wildlife’ and ‘Landscape’. The judges independently voted for two winning photos belonging to the same author – MKNHS member, Harry Appleyard, to whom go our congratulations.  More details can be found in the BMERC newsletter, linked below, which includes both photos: ‘Shepherd’s Delight’ and ‘Waxwing in Tattenhoe, December 2010’.

BMERC Newsletter 1 14-05-2020

The judges commented that some that some of the entrants ‘showed amazing level of passion and skills. The variety and beauty of some shots revealed incredible expertise and patience.’ The report notes that the judges had a tough job, before choosing the work of ‘an extremely talented young photographer’.

Marston Vale Forest

Peter Meadows reminds us that there is plenty of wildlife interest in Marston Vale Forest. The Forest Centre remains closed, but the park itself and the car park is now open from 9am-5pm.  You can see what’s about by following this link to the weekly blog on Nature news (https://www.marstonvale.org/blog/nature-news-11th-may) from the Forest, with updates on plants coming into flower, bird activity video recordings and insect sightings.

Peter Kent

We received news recently that Peter Kent, a former member of the Society, former Chairman and long-serving committee member, died on Easter Sunday. There may not be many members now who remember Peter and his wife Jean, who were very active in the Society during the 1980s and 90s. Apart from being Chairman for 4 years from 1989-1993, Peter will be particularly remembered for planning and organising a number of successful trips for Society members, which saw groups travelling to Crete, Turkey, Israel, Texas and South Africa. He also arranged trips in the UK, both long weekends, such as to Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire, and day trips to places like Westonbirt Arboretum. Due to the lockdown restrictions, a small funeral has been held, but a memorial service will be held later. His wife Jean, now 90, continues to live in Stoke Hammond, where they moved from Bletchley a couple of years ago.

 

The Magpie has flown! Not quite! 

The latest issue of our society newsletter ‘The Magpie’ can be viewed in the Publications section of the website or by clicking here.

Over the past few years it has become apparent to those of us involved with the website and our newsletter the Magpie that there is quite a bit of overlap and also some muddying of the waters as to what content should be sent to which of the two forms of communication. Combine this with the work involved in collecting and collating the articles for both and it has been decided that we need to look at integrating the two forms of communication to maximise the quality of our output.

To meet this end the Spring edition of the Magpie that has just been circulated will be the last in its current form. In future we (the communications/editorial team) will concentrate on encouraging people to submit content for the website eg. interesting articles, local wildlife news and recent sightings of local wildlife. Then this will be posted on the website as before on a regular basis.

However we are also aware that there are quite a few of our members who do not have easy access to the internet and we of course must continue to cater for them. To this end we will also produce a twice-yearly set of printed articles or ‘digest’ of interesting content taken from the website that will continue to be called the Magpie (quite apt as Magpies do love a good collection of interesting objects!) This will be sent out to the members who are on our mailing list for printed communications.

This change will allow the editor of the Magpie (Julie Lane at present) to spend more time providing support/back up to the website editors when and where it is required.

We hope you agree that these changes are the right way to go forwards ensuring that the Society remains up-to-date in its methods of communication and continues to inspire its members to value and celebrate local wildlife.

PS Please note a mistake was made in the emailed Spring edition of the Magpie newsletter saying that there would be one more edition of the Magpie. Apologies for the confusion but this is not the case – this Spring edition is the last in its current form!

A NEW APPROACH TO NEWS!

Two events have prompted a re-think about the way the Society website is used and the focus of its content.

The first of these is the resignation of Peter Hassett from the role of webmaster resulting in the establishment of a new, but less experienced, editorial team. [See ‘Changes afoot on our website’]

The second is the recent survey completed by a substantial number of members of the Society. This survey indicated that certain parts of the website were highly valued and very well-used, but some pages were visited much less frequently. With regard to news items, the pages presenting Society News were visited far more frequently than ‘Other News’.  We know (and very are grateful) that Peter spent a considerable amount of time and energy researching the amazing variety of natural history related stories that appeared in the Other News section every week.  Unfortunately, we are not able to sustain that degree of effort, and plan to give this lower priority, particularly now we know that the pages are not viewed as often as this effort deserves!  We also feel that the website should focus on news about wildlife and environmental issues in the Milton Keynes area in keeping with the aims of our constitution:

  1. To promote and improve the knowledge and status of Natural History in Milton Keynes and the surrounding district.
  2. To co-operate with other organisations, and to do such other things as are conducive to further the above objects as the occasion may arise.

As a result, the website team and Society Committee have agreed that from now on, we will concentrate on Society and Local News. Of course there will be national or international developments and reports that impact on us all in Milton Keynes, such as the recent ‘The State of Nature’ Report. We will retain the ‘Other News’ page for such items.

This change means that the website will very much rely on YOU, the Society members, to send in news items/experiences/thoughts/sightings/photos and observations you’d like to share with others.

So what are you waiting for?  Send your news items to webmaster@mknhs.org.uk  or your sightings to sightings@mknhs.org.uk.  We look forward to full mail boxes!

Rebecca, Martin, Julie, Linda – The Website Team

 

PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE WEBSITE SIGHTINGS PAGE

The Sightings page is one of the most popular pages on the Society’s website. We think we can add to its interest, but it is changing and we need your help to do this.

The Sightings page is not only for experts to add their amazing sightings but for any MKNHS member, whether experienced naturalist or new member of the Society to submit their ordinary sightings.

Please look at the Sightings page every week to see what’s about. From time to time we will be adding new information about what to look for.

What we want to see on the sightings page

Up to now our website editor has laboriously transferred many individual bird records every day to the MKNHS Sightings page from the Bucks Bird Club website. To these he added any other sightings submitted direct to the MKNHS website, but there have been fewer of those. This has meant that those of you more interested in flowers, mammals or insects have seen less of interest on the Sightings page.

Bird sightings remain important and we would like you to submit those for the Milton Keynes area direct to the MKNHS website, as we will transfer very few from the Bucks Bird Club website ourselves. We explain later how you can find those elsewhere.

What to look for

Some of you may feel that what you see is hardly special enough to send in as an MKNHS website Sighting. But we want to widen what we all see on our Sightings page, so here are the kinds of sightings we will welcome:

  • Your local wildlife around where you live
  • Birds and insects in your garden
  • The first of the season (first bluebell seen, first swallow to arrive, first butterflies of the year, which tree leaves are opening first)
  • Birds, insects, flowers & fungi (wherever you see them in MK area)
  • Indoor sightings (which house spiders? Oak bush-crickets in late summer)
  • Plants or animals in unexpected places
  • Animals not often seen (such as an Otter or a Weasel, or simply a Hedgehog in your garden)
  • Road kill (such as badger, fox, hedgehog, owl)
  • Animals or plants that especially interest you (but local sightings please)
  • Interesting photos.

Photos

Sightings are enhanced when they come with a photo. It doesn’t need to be competition standard, just clear and in focus. So send these in, but sightings without a photo are equally welcome.

How to be sure of the identification of what you have seen

We don’t offer an online species identification service, but there are other ways you can check. When MKNHS meetings are running it is worth asking other members to find out who can help. If you have a few natural history field guides you may be able to work out possible options. Why not submit your sighting with what you think the species is but saying you aren’t sure or with two alternatives? But there is an online way of finding out through citizen science. Register for free with iSpot:

https://www.ispotnature.org/. You can then put a photo on the iSpot website and there’s a good chance other people will respond with the right identification. You can then submit your sighting to our website.

What information is needed for a sighting?

The basic information we need is: what, where, when, by whom. To which you can add a photo and a brief observation about what you have seen:

  • What species?
  • Where did you see it? Name of location, preferably with a grid reference.
  • When did you see it? Simply the date.
  • By whom? Your name
  • A photo (format?)
  • A brief observation. Such as how many you saw or what it was doing.

How to submit a sighting

All you need to do is e-mail this information to: sightings@mknhs.org.uk

Bird sightings and the Bucks Bird Club

It is easy for you to view any bird sightings for Buckinghamshire simply by searching on Bucks Bird Club website. The quick route to the day’s sightings is: https://bucksbirdclub.co.uk/ then click on the drop-down in the top bar for Latest Sightings which is headed Buckinghamshire Bird News. Some of our MKNHS members are also signed up members of Bucks Bird Club and have registered to submit sightings to it. For example, on 1st April 2020 Harry Appleyard submitted 37 different sightings. Several other MKNHS members add their bird sightings to the Bucks Bird Club website. Joining fee for Bucks Bird Club is excellent value, as little as £15 a year.

 

 

 

 

CHANGES AFOOT ON OUR WEBSITE

After six years setting up and running our website from scratch Peter Hassett our webmaster finally stood down in March. We would like to thank him for the enormous amount of skill and effort he has put in to running such a great website and for his support during this changeover period.

To try and find a new team to carry this forward has been quite a challenge, but we are delighted to say that we now have two brave new volunteers who are prepared to give it a go. Both have little expertise in the running of websites so they will need a period of grace and understanding from Society members whilst they work their way into their new roles.

Firstly we have a new Administrator Rebecca Hiorns. Rebecca is a landscape architect, a profession she chose because of her love of the natural environment. She has recently joined the Society as she is keen to spend more time exploring and learning about our local wildlife. Rebecca will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the site making sure that it functions smoothly. She will also be responsible for implementing any structural changes that we have agreed are required to simplify the running and improve the layout of the site. We are hoping that these changes will enable our new team to run the site without having to be on-the-case every single day.

Then we have a team of three editors at present. However we are still keen to recruit one member more to join the editorial team.

Firstly a new editor Martin Ferns. Martin retired in 2018 from his post at the Open University where his roles included that of editor back in the 1980s – although not of websites. He has been resident in MK for much of the past 40 years interspersed with periods living and working in Malawi, Zambia (which he says is a wonderful country for wildlife/nature in general) and Cambodia. His interest in wildlife is general across the board.

Martin has agreed to take on the general editing of the site which will include postings of society announcements, society news, updating the Summer and Winter programme where/when necessary etc. The Recent Sightings page of the website is being re-focused with the help of Mike LeRoy to make it more relevant to MKNHS members by encouraging the reporting of more local sightings of a greater diversity of wildlife.

Linda Murphy our Treasurer has offered to lead on commissioning of articles and other contributions to the website in the short-term (until another editor has been recruited) and Jenny Mercer has offered to support her in this role.

Julie Lane who is at present editing the Magpie, our twice-yearly newsletter, is looking at ways to integrate the newsletter more effectively with the website. More about this later and in the Magpie itself due out at the end of the month.

As mentioned above the changes involved with getting our new team up and running as well as the changes in the actual website will take some time, so we ask for your patience and understanding at this time. We will be in touch in various ways letting you know more about our plans but obviously the first go-to place for information will be the website itself.

CORONAVIRUS – ALL MEETINGS CANCELLED

Following the closure of the Cruck Barn until further notice, all planned indoor meetings were cancelled, including the AGM, which was scheduled for  17 March 2020.  Since then, the Committee has taken the inevitable decision to suspend all outdoor meetings planned as part of the Summer Programme. As and when the lockdown is lifted and it is again possible to get together,  the Summer Programme will be resumed.

New way to support MKNHS

Milton Keynes Natural History Society has registered with #easyfundraising, a website which supports fundraising for hundreds of charities and good causes.

The Society Committee decided to take this step as it offers a way for members to make small donations to MKNHS when they shop online without actually having to pay anything more than the price of their purchase, because the donation is made by the retailers who have signed up to the scheme.

The donations received will help the Society to build up the fund set up in 2018 to replace, or upgrade, as necessary the essential equipment and promotional display items purchased in previous years.

Currently there are over 4,000 participating shops and sites which will donate to us when you use #easyfundraising to shop with them. These include well-known names such as eBay, Argos, Amazon, John Lewis, ASOS, Booking.com, Tesco, Sainsbury, M&S and Expedia, covering most retail sectors, from grocery shopping to holiday and travel bookings.

So if you buy anything online, do consider signing up to easyfundraising to support MKNHS. Donations may be small, but mount up over time, the more people participate.

Click here to see how it works.

If you don’t shop on line but would like to make a small donation you can do this via the Voluntary Donations scheme, launched last year, which gives members the option of adding a voluntary donation to the annual subscription (currently £25 payable from 1st April). Amounts suggested were £5, £10 or £20 but any amount however small (or large!) is welcome It is your decision to make a donation and you can cancel it at any time. Speak to the Treasurer if you want more information.

Of course there are other ways to support the Society, not just financial. If you would like to take on a more active, practical role in running weekly meetings, or in running the Society, the committee would love the hear from you!

Exciting new vacancy!

Peter our webmaster is standing down in March and we are keen to retain and further develop our wonderful website which is proving such an asset to the Society.

If you have some technical or editorial skills already or are interested in acquiring these skills then we are looking to set up a small team of people to be involved in taking this forward.

Ideally we are looking for a couple of people to run the technical side of the website as Administrators and 2-3 to act as Editors providing content.

We very much hope that members of the Society will want to become involved but if you know of anyone outside of the society who might enjoy the challenge please let us know. We can be contacted either at a meeting by talking to Linda Murphy, Mike LeRoy, or Julie Lane or by emailing Julie Lane at silverteasel@hotmail.com