Stonepit Field Site Visit, Tuesday 6th June 2023

Above: Birdsfoot trefoil at Stonepit Field (Photo © Joe Clinch)

The evening of the visit was decidedly cool and dull with a fresh breeze – not ideal conditions for flowering plants and invertebrates which were the main focus of the planned evening. There was a surprisingly good turnout given the conditions with over 20 members and visitors, and once again we were able to enjoy the remarkable biodiversity of this site. In a brief introduction, Joe reminded the group of its history.  The tree-lined south-eastern border had been planted by the Milton Keynes Development Corporation in c. 1970. The main meadow areas including the limestone scrape were developed from 1993 onwards by the Parks Trust on previous farmland thus providing a habitat for calcareous loving meadow flowers, grasses, trees and shrubs: an exemplar of how an uncommon biodiverse habitat can be created. The balancing ponds were added in 2007, associated with Oakridge Park housing development.

Based on three separate recce visits to the site (thank you Mike LeRoy and Jenny Mercer for accompanying me) and listings from previous visits, a Checklist of species that might be observed that evening was distributed to members. The aim was to identify as many as possible of the species listed and to add to it any new sightings for the draft cumulative list for the site which Mike had initiated in 2019. To manage the number of participants in this underfoot plant sensitive area, the group was split into two with one led by Linda Murphy and the other by Joe. The species list from the evening can found through the link below, and highlights are summarised in this short report.

Stonepit Field MKNHS Species list 06.06.2023

Meadow areas

These cover much of the site interspersed with paths, ‘hedges’, and clumps of trees and shrubs. There is a rich mix of grasses and flowering plants which included the semi-parasitic Yellow Rattle; Salad Burnet; Common Vetch; Meadow Buttercup; Bulbous Buttercup; Ox-eye Daisy; Beaked Hawksbeard; Goats beard; Meadow Cranesbill; and Red Clover. Common Broomrape, a parasitic species which was abundant and widely distributed in 2022, had virtually disappeared with only a few specimens found in just one area.  Pyramidal Orchid was a welcome addition to the meadow species list. Charles Kessler was able to identify eight species of grass on the checklist for us including the delicate Quaking Grass.

Pyramidal Orchid and Quaking Grass (Photo © Joe Clinch)

Limestone scrape area and its edges

The species of the scrape area proper had clearly suffered from the dry weather of last summer and the cool spring particularly the Bee Orchids which were few in number and stunted with yellow- brown deformed leaves. Scrape edges have fared better and here the Bee Orchids were healthy although fewer in number. Birds-foot Trefoil (see main photo, taken several days after the visit), Horseshoe Vetch, Kidney Vetch, and Common Rockrose were also doing well here.  Amongst species new to the area this year are Selfheal; a Thyme species; and Common Blue Daisy (globularia vulgaris) commonly called Globularia (see photo below). The latter is not a native British wildflower. It is found in continental Europe in rocky calcareous habitats. How it arrived is a mystery.

Common Blue Daisy Globularia vulgaris (Photo © Julian Lambley)

Tree/shrub margins, rough ground and pond areas

Six spring white-flowered trees above the scrape were seen in close proximity, albeit for the first two named the flowering season was already over: Whitebeam; Wayfaring Tree; Guelder Rose; Dogwood; Hawthorn; and Common Elder. Flowers at the edge of the tree/shrub areas included Hedge Bedstraw; Red Campion; Marjoram; and new to the list Wild Liquorice (see photo below, taken several days after the visit); Bush Vetch; and Bladder Campion. The Yellow Irises in full flower made a splendid display at the pond edges. Much of the Gorse on the banks above the pond has died back; the reasons for this are unknown but may again be the drought of last summer.

Wild Liquorice Astragalus glycphyllos (Photo © Joe Clinch)

Birds, Mammals, Amphibians and Reptiles

Harry Appleyard again undertook the task of bird identification at the site. As he puts it, it was ‘a fairly drab and dreary evening for June, so unsurprisingly there weren’t as many birds as on previous visits but there were still several species keen to have their voices heard, the loudest of the bunch being a Song Thrush which seemed to be mimicking an Oyster Catcher…….Singles of Blackcap and Chiffchaff were heard singing, while overhead trios of House Martins, Swifts and Little Egrets were seen, the latter flying over the ponds throughout the evening.’  A Red Kite flying over is new to the list for the site which now stands at 40 species

A Muntjac (see photo) showed itself to Harry before disappearing into the woodland area. A Hedgehog carcass on the scrape was examined by Martin Kincaid – probably a Badger kill. Common Frog and a dead Grass Snake found by Julian Lambley completed our vertebrate sightings.

Muntjac (Photo © Harry Appleyard)


The cool dull conditions were not good for finding invertebrates, with no Butterflies, Damselflies, or Dragonflies seen. But two new moth species were identified: Drab Looper; and Shark Moth. There were also three insects at various stages of development new to the list: a Longhorn Beetle; Common Pill Woodlouse; and Field Grasshopper plus one spider – the Flower Crab Spider. These sightings were the result of active collection by Simon Bunker, Paul Lund and Martin Kincaid.


This is an important site for observing calcareous loving plants and the invertebrate species that depend on them. Our evening visits are a snapshot in time of its biodiversity and it is encouraging that we continue to add to our knowledge of how diverse it is.  Members will find yet more species to enjoy later into the summer.

My thanks to: Society members for turning out on such an inclement evening and for their active involvement in the evening’s activities; to all those who helped with identification already named plus Jenny Mercer and Linda Murphy for plant identification; and to Mike LeRoy for checking the nomenclature of the Species Listed annex and sharing his knowledge of the site with me.


Joe Clinch, Visit leader
June 2023