This was the Society’s first evening visit to the Reserve since 2018. It attracted over twenty members and three visitors, and we were particularly pleased that Honorary Life Member John Prince was not only able to join us but also to complete the one and half mile circuit of the Reserve – when asked if he could manage it the response was ‘Well, I have got my stick with me!’. I distributed a habitat and species checklist which I had prepared following two reconnaissance visits the second accompanied by Martin Kincaid.
The group walked clockwise round the Reserve from the Car Park. We started with a quick look at some more recently introduced Bluebells and Ramsons under the trees to the left of the road to the car park before moving on to the rough meadow area at the south end of the reserve. We stopped several times here to identify the plant life. The highlight was the Meadow Saxifrage in flower – one of only two locations where it can be found in Milton Keynes. The area is monitored and managed by the Parks Trust to encourage its spread and to control invasive species. Also of note in this area is Field Wood Rush.
We stopped on the path through the woodland to the west side of the Reserve to get a glimpse of the original Sand Martin nesting wall which is now used by a pair of Kingfishers but no sight of them tonight. At this same spot Julian Lamley spotted the exuvia (discarded laval skin) of a broad dragonfly probably one of the Chasers.
The next visit was to the bird hide which gave the opportunity to observe Common Tern (six pairs) noisily flying back and forth, Lapwing (two or three pairs) and a single Oystercatcher, all of which nest on the gravel-topped island in the largest of the lakes.
The walk along the bank of the River Ouse started through a plantation of Cricket-bat Willows which are grown commercially by the Parks Trust. The vegetation along the banks was dominated by a Comfrey species, Cow Parsley and White Dead Nettle in flower to be followed by Great Willow Herb, Meadow Sweet, Burdock, and Hogweed later in the summer.
By the time the group reached the small strip of replanted meadow species parallel to the A5 (D) viaduct drizzle had turned to heavy rain and this curtailed the visit for many but a few stalwarts were able to enjoy flowering Red Clover, Ragged Robin, Common Vetch, Birdsfoot Trefoil, and Cuckoo Flower with Yellow Rattle, Great Knapweed, and Meadow Cranesbill to follow. The walk back to the car park was taken at speed but one unusual plant was observed where the path crosses a ditch – Gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus).
It was not a good evening for observing insects but Mike LeRoy identified Common or Red-headed Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis) and many Mayflies were in evidence (sp.). Grey Heron was seen and Cuckoo heard as additions to the bird list.
The habitat and species list as updated following the visit can be found here. For those wanting further information about the Reserve including its history, click here or go to the MKNHS website, click on Wildlife Sites and scroll down to Stony Stratford Nature Reserve.
Joe Clinch, visit leader