Wildlife around Milton Keynes May to October 2022 – Tony Wood

PHoto: Clouded Yellow butterfly at Magna Park, July 2022 (© Graham Lynham)

It was certainly a summer to remember with this area of the country suffering with the temperatures achieving 40C, the driest on record, and the driest July since 1911.

So how did it affect the wildlife locally?

It would appear from the records submitted to our website that it did not deter members of our Society from venturing forth around Milton Keyes and enjoying the wildlife.

Mammals – In May a fox suffering with mange was regularly seen in the streets of New Bradwell and a month later accompanied by 3 cubs. A further sighting of this fox was with a dead magpie in its jaws. Otters this summer were recorded in Willen Lake, Linford Lakes Reserve and Caldecotte Lake. An unusual record was one seen in a Bletchley Garden. Surveys continued for dormice in Little Linford Wood and Linford Lakes Reserve both by using boxes and footprint tunnels to identify footprints. Both recorded only woodmice using the tunnels, However, during the October Box survey in Little Linford Wood a single Brown Long-eared Bat was discovered. In July a Chinese water deer and a brown hare were seen in Magna Park.

Reptiles – The Parks Trust have been carrying out two reptile surveys using mats or corrugated iron placed on the ground. The Railway Triangle at Blue Bridge has been checked for several years and always been successful, and has continued to be so this year. In June as many as 9 slow worms were recorded during a single visit. The new site is at `Joan`s Piece` beside the canal at New Bradwell and has been quiet this year with only one toad observed in June.

Plants – The vegetation has probably been affected by the long hot and dry conditions this summer. However, members of our Society have been recording different orchid species. Early purple orchids have been noted during May in Linford Wood, Shenley Wood, and Little Linford Wood, common spotted orchid in Little Linford Wood. In June bee orchids were recorded in Emerson Valley, beside Teardrop Lake, and on the embankment beside the V6 Grafton Street. Just outside the MK area a southern marsh orchid was observed near Great Brickhill in July

Insects – Butterflies were well recorded this year, particularly the painted lady.  Other unusual species included the white admiral, black hairstreak, and dingy skipper in June, and silver-washed fritillary, purple emperor, purple hairstreak and the clouded yellow in July.

Dragonflies and damselflies were well recorded with white-legged dragonflies seen in May, emperor dragonfly in June, and willow emerald damselfly in July.

Moths – October ended with several unusual moths. Top of the list was a Crimson Speckled moth from southern Europe or Africa that appeared in a member`s garden in Wolverton and appears to be a first sighting in Bucks. This is a rare migrant to the UK with most annual records coming from the south coast.

Autumn 2022 has been relatively good for moths {especially migrants} with the unseasonal warm weather in late September and October a major factor. The Hummingbird Hawk Moth is reasoned to have had its best ever year in the UK according to Butterfly Conservation. Martin Kincaid has seen more in his home garden in Oldbrook this year and several were still visiting valerian flowers in mid-October. The spectacular Cliften Nonpareil continues to increase locally. Ayla Webb caught one at home in Newport Pagnell in September and two were recorded at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve. Martin also recorded his first ever Cypress Pug at home on 22nd August and his second on 15th September. The beautiful Merveille du Jour is one of the joys of autumn mothing and Andy Harding and Martin both caught this species at locations including Old Stratford, Little Linford Wood and Linford Lakes. However, I have had a box tree moth in my moth trap regularly from July to October, a new moth for my records. It is worrying to learn it was introduced from South-east Asia and the larvae are considered a pest, feeding on various species of box tree.

Birds – During May at the Floodplain Forest reserve two avocet were recorded together with a shelduck. At Willen Lakes the first swift was observed, a cuckoo heard, and a ring-necked parrakeet flew past. At Linford Lakes Reserve common tern and a wood sandpiper were recorded. In June sand martins were observed entering Linford Lakes Reserve`s `sand castle` built by the volunteers; also two Egyptian geese were noted at the same site. During the same month, ruddy shelduck and redstart were recorded at the Floodplain Forest together with a special red-backed shrike. At Willen Lake a Caspian gull was recorded in July, and another ring-necked parrakeet reported in a garden in Stony Stratford. During August at the Floodplain Forest Reserve a marsh harrier and a redstart were recorded and at Willen Lakes a black-tailed godwit was seen. Two peregrines were noted in September at the Floodplain Forest, and garganey and a rock pipit at Willen Lake. Also, a mandarin duck was observed at Furzton Lake during the same month. October attracted mash tit and raven at Little Linford Wood; stonechat at Willen Lakes; brambling, fieldfare, redwing, and hawfinch at at Tattenhoe; and red=crested pochard at Linford Lakes Reserve.

Winter will soon be with us but don`t let that deter you from wrapping up and reporting your sightings through the Society`s website. As usual I ask you to watch and record – but most of all, enjoy!

Tony Wood
November 2022