Field Meetings 2012
17 March - Weedon Hill Woods
The first field trip of 2012 took place on Saturday 17th March, when four members braved the weather to meet for a walk around Weedon Hill Woods in Amersham. The morning had been very wet, but fortunately the rain stopped in the afternoon and, although muddy under foot, we saw more than we had expected, and it was a very pleasant introduction to the new year.
Despite few trees having leaves, it was often very difficult to spot birds, and several species were heard rather than seen. The list included a blackbird, a buzzard, chaffinches, crows, a goldfinch, a great-spotted woodpecker, a large flock of jackdaws, jays, magpies, a nuthatch, a pheasant, red kites, robins, tits (blue, coal, great and long-tailed), woodpigeons, and wrens. One bird perched at the top of a tall larch could possibly have been a hawfinch, but was difficult to see clearly enough - it certainly had a red breast (but was definitely not a robin!).
Plant life was beginning to stir, and although some had not progressed far, we could identify the following: bluebells (masses of leaves, but two or three already in flower on the edge of the wood), bracket fungi, catkins (birch and hazel), cleavers, daffodils, dogs mercury (some already in flower), an enormous gall on a silver birch, ground ivy, honeysuckle, prunus (white), a large pussy willow tree in full flower, wild arum and wood spurge.
Mammals we few, mainly grey squirrels, but we also caught a glimpse of a muntjac deer. Altogether a very enjoyable walk, thanks to Trevor Brawn for leading us.
Heartwood Forest is a new project of the Woodland Trust, their website says: At Heartwood Forest near Sandridge, St Albans, the creation of England’s largest new native forest is well underway. We have ambitious plans to create an 858 acre woodland with a total of 600,000 newly planted trees, all planted by volunteers. There will also be a community orchard, new wildflower meadows, open spaces and miles of footpaths and bridleways created over a 10 year period. The project is involving the local community through a range of engagement projects. Last winter over 8,000 people came along to Heartwood to help us achieve our ambitious plans, will you join us too? The site, in the heart of London’s Green Belt, already boasts four remnants (covering 45 acres) of precious ancient woodland, and is home to species such as rare butterflies and English bluebells, yet is just 25 miles from Marble Arch. Visitors can currently explore hundreds of acres of newly accessible land, including the four pockets of ancient woodland. The remaining areas are still being farmed, but as new areas are taken under the care of the Trust, they will be opened up to visitors to explore. Check out the Heartwood Forest blog at heartwoodforest.wordpress.com for up to date news on the forest and how it’s progressing.
In time this will doubtless be a very beautiful site, and it is interesting to visit it near the start, and then to see how it develops over time. The trees, shrubs and flowers that we saw in the early spring at both sites were numerous, including ash (not out yet), bittercress, blackthorn, bluebells, bryony (white), celandines, chickweed, coltsfoot, cow parsley, dandelions, deadnettle (red and white), dog violets, dog’s mercury, elder, with flower buds almost out, ferns (male?), field speedwell, gorse, greater stitchwort, ground ivy, hawthorn, with flower buds well developed, hornbeams, also with catkins, narcissi, oak, rowan, with flower buds almost out, silverleaf, wild arum coming up, wild strawberries, wood anemones and yellow archangel, plus some sulphur tuft fungus.
There were also a lot of birds calling, pairing up in the spring sunshine, no doubt! We saw or heard a blackbird, one blackcap seen, although more than one was heard, carrion crows, a chaffinch, lots of chiffchaffs, a dunnock, a green woodpecker (heard), jackdaws, a jay, a kestrel, magpies, a pheasant, a flock of feral pigeons, with one or two woodpigeons mixed in, a red kite, robins, more skylarks than I have heard in a very long time, a couple of swallows, tits (blue and great) and a wren.
As well as these we saw a lot of bees, including a red-tailed and a buff-tailed bumblebee, a carder bee, a seven-spot ladybird, hoverflies, ants, a spider and a woodlouse. Mammals were not evident, apart from the inevitable grey squirrel, but we did come across some deer droppings. Altogether it was a most enjoyable day out, thanks once more to Trevor.
19 May - Old Park Wood and Ruislip Lido and Common
Ten members assembled on Saturday 19th May for a walk led by Trevor Brawn around Old Park Wood (a Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust Reserve) and the Ruislip Lido area. The woodland in both was similar, but the large number of dog walkers around the Lido meant that sightings were better in Old Park Wood, especially for birds and plants - the latter tending to get trampled! There was an area beyond the main Lido complex, however, which offered more variety, as it was heathland with gorse.
Flowers were numerous: bluebells, bugle, bulbous buttercups , celandine, cleavers, common vetch, coralroot, cow parsley, cranesbill (bloody and cut-leaved), daisies, dandelions, dog’s mercury, dwarf gorse, fairy flax, field forget-me-nots, foxglove, garlic mustard, greater stitchwort, green alkanet, hawthorn, herb Robert, lady’s smock, rape, raspberries in flower, red campion, sorrel, speedwell (germander and wood), tormentil, violet, white deadnettle, wild arum coming up, wild strawberries, wood avens, wood sorrel and yellow pimpernel.
Birds were also much in evidence, although as usual we heard rather than saw many of them. The best views we had were probably of the water birds on the Lido while we were eating our picnic lunch. Our tally included blackbird, blackcap, bullfinch, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, collard dove, common sandpiper, common terns, dunnock, great crested grebes, green woodpecker, a grey heron, a hobby, jackdaw, jay, lesser black-backed gull, magpie, mallards, moorhen, pied wagtail, ring-necked parakeets, robin, song thrush, starling, stock dove, swifts, tits (blue and great), tufted ducks, warblers (garden and willow), whitethroat and a wren.
As it was quite a warm day butterflies were out for once, although only in the Lido area, a holly blue and both male and female orange tips. Other insects included masses of St. Martin’s flies, 7-spot ladybirds and a very small black and red one, a shield bug, a red-tailed bumblebee, a damselfly, pond skaters and a cardinal beetle. Animals seen were a grey squirrel, a frog, also tadpoles, a water snail and some longhorn cattle.
Altogether it was an interesting and varied day out, thanks once again to Trevor.
17 June - Totternhoe
Only six members gathered for the field trip on Sunday 17th June, which was a pity as it proved to be a very good day, thanks once more to Trevor, who again was leading the party. This included Richard Tomlin, so we had excellent identification of birds, even when they were only heard. These included a blackbird, blackcaps, buzzards, a chaffinch, chiffchaffs, collared doves, corn buntings, a dunnock, a green woodpecker, a kestrel, a linnet, long-tailed tits, magpies, a raven, a red kite, a robin, skylarks, a stock dove, swifts, whitethroats and a lesser whitethroat, a willow warbler, woodpigeons and a wren.
Apart from the corn bunting, conveniently perched on top of a tree behind the car park on our arrival, the first major sighting was a very obliging small blue (female) butterfly, which stayed on the open track for some time. We also saw several more during the day including males, plus brimstones, a green hairstreak, a meadow brown, red admirals, a small heath and speckled woods. Other insects included a 7-spot ladybird, a buff-tailed bumblebee, a cinnabar moth, several other day-flying white and beige moths, a lacewing, a millipede and a tiny emerald-green beetle in a mouse-ear hawkweed flower. We also came across snails of various sizes and rabbits and a mushroom.
Flowers were, however, the main glory of the day: agrimony, birdsfoot trefoil, black bryony, black medick, buttercup (bulbous,creeping and meadow), campion (bladder and white), cleavers, clover (red and white), common mouse-ear, cow parsley, cowslips in seed, creeping cinquefoil, cut-leaved cranesbill, dog roses interspersed with field roses and red hawthorn, making a beautiful hedge along the paths, dogwood, elderflower, eyebright, fairy flax, field forget-me-not, garlic mustard (no caterpillars!), germander speedwell, goatsbeard, greater knapweed, greater stitchwort, hawkweed (unspecified, no expert being present!), herb Bennet, herb Robert, hogweed, meadow vetchling, mignonette, milkwort, nettles, poppies, privet, ribwort plantain, sainfoin, scarlet pimpernel, scentless mayweed, self-heal, silverweed, squinancywort, teasel, vetch (common and kidney), welted thistle, white bryony, yarrow, yellow rattle, yellow-wort and Yorkshire fog.
However the greatest treat of the day was the orchids. There were common spotteds, pyramidals, and masses of twayblades in the area near the old castle, but the most surprising of all was to find several man orchids, a rarity we would probably not have found, had we not been told about it by a lady we met.
Once again Trevor found a most interesting and contrasting area to visit - first the field and quarry area, then the Knolls themselves.
14 July - Ashridge Park
Our indoor meeting on 9th July was a fascinating talk by Brian Barton on the history of Ashridge Park and its deer - not only did Brian have a wide range of excellent photos, but he had video and audio too! Then on Saturday 14th July he very kindly led 11 of us (10 members and a visitor) around part of the Park itself, to illustrate a lot of the things he had told us about. Since the Park owned by the National Trust now covers some 5,000 acres, we could only sample a small proportion of it. We managed to see a herd of fallow deer in the distance soon after we left Monument Drive, at the end of the Prince’s Ridings, but unfortunately the weather was not good, and many of the paths were extremely muddy!
As we were in woodland much of the way, our sightings were more limited than usual - the trees, mainly beech and oak, with a good number of sweet chestnut, are lovely specimens, but there is a great problem over regeneration. The browse line caused by the deer was very noticeable, as was the bark stripping done by grey squirrels. This means that unless some areas can be fenced off, no saplings have a chance to grow, but walkers are reluctant to agree, while efforts to cull grey squirrels, such as cage traps, have been vandalised. If trees or branches fall, they are generally left where they are (unless presenting a hazard) to give homes to various forms of wildlife, and the Park is now high in the European league table for dead wood.
In the more open areas, such as down the Prince’s Ridings, there were some flowers, including birdsfoot trefoil, black medick, clover (red and white, the latter quite predominant), creeping buttercup, foxgloves, hawkweed, lesser stitchwort, ribwort plantain, selfheal, silverweed, soft rush and tormentil. Birds tended to be heard rather than seen - especially among the trees - a carrion crow, a green woodpecker, long-tailed tits, magpies, a nuthatch, rooks, swallows and a wren.
We also saw some of the afore-mentioned grey squirrels, but otherwise only a dead emerald moth, upside-down in a puddle, and a very waterlogged meadow brown butterfly tangled in long grass. Nevertheless it was a most interesting walk, giving life to an excellent talk and seeing buildings in their original context, for which we owe a debt of gratitude to Brian.
After a serious lack of butterflies in the cold, damp weather that characterised much of the summer, there were quite a few on the wing here: brimstone (male and female), common blue (male and female), meadow brown, red admiral, silver-y moth, speckled wood and whites (green-veined, small and a probable large). Other insects included harvestmen, hoverflies, ladybirds (7-spot and harlequin) and a red-tailed bumblebee.
As is often the case with birds, some were heard rather than seen: a blue tit, a carrion crow, a green woodpecker, a jackdaw, magpies, several ravens overhead, red kites, and woodpigeons. Other things of note were the bleached jawbone of an animal, probably a fox, at the very start of the walk, a rabbit, and several Roman snails, which had fortunately not been collected for a restaurant!
Altogether it was a very pleasant start to the autumn/winter season, and one blessed with warm sunshine.
For more details see the complete list:
SPECIES ENGLISH NAME(S) SUBSTRATE
Armillaria gallica Bulbous Honey Fungus around base of tree
Auricularia auricula-judae Jelly Ear living branch
Auricularia mesenterica Tripe Fungus fallen trunk
Botryobasidium aureum soggy bare wood
Chlorophyllum olivieri soil, litter
Chlorophyllum rhacodes Shaggy Parasol (*) soil, litter
Clavulina rugosa Wrinkled Club soil, litter
Clavulinopsis helvola Yellow Club grassy area
Clitocybe nebularis Clouded Funnel soil, litter
Collybia confluens Clustered Toughshank sand dune
Coprinellus micaceus Glistening Inkcap (*) on wood
Coprinopsis lagopus Hare'sfoot Inkcap (*) soil, litter
Crepidotus cesatii twigs
Crepidotus epibryus dead stem
Cystoderma amianthinum Earthy Powdercap grassy area
Entoloma hebes Pimple Pinkgill soil, litter
Ganoderma australe Southern Bracket stumps
Handkea excipuliformis Pestle Puffball grassy area
Hebeloma mesophaeum Veiled Poisonpie soil, litter
Hygrocybe insipida Spangle Waxcap grassy area
Hygrocybe irrigata Slimy Waxcap grassy area
Hypholoma fasciculare Sulphur Tuft on wood
Inocybe geophylla White Fibrecap soil, litter
Laccaria amethystina Amethyst Deceiver soil, litter
Laccaria laccata Deceiver soil, litter
Laetiporus sulphureus Chicken of the Woods / on living trunk
Lepista nuda Wood Blewit soil, litter
Lycoperdon perlatum Common Puffball soil, litter
Lycoperdon pyriforme Stump Puffball stump
Macrotyphula juncea Slender Club rotting leaf stems
Marasmius rotula Collared Parachute soil, litter
Marasmius setosus rotting debris
Melanoleuca grammopodia soil, litter
Mycena arcangeliana Angel's Bonneton wood
Mycena crocata Saffrondrop Bonnet fallen branch
Mycena filopes Iodine Bonnet soil, litter
Mycena flavoalba Ivory Bonnet grassy area
Mycena galericulata Common Bonnet / fallen branches
Mycena haematopus Burgundydrop Bonnet on wood
Mycena hiemalis mossy fallen branch
Mycena leptocephala Nitrous Bonnet soil, litter
Mycena polygramma Grooved Bonnet fallen branch
Mycena rosea Rosy Bonnet soil, litter
Mycena speirea Bark Bonnet stick
Mycena vitilis Snapping Bonnet soil, litter
Panellus stipticus Bitter Oysterling log pile
Pholiota squarrosa Shaggy Scalycap base of trunk
Pluteus cervinus Deer Shield fallen branch
Polyporus squamosus Dryad's Saddle on living trunk
Psathyrella prona soil, litter
Psathyrella pseudogracilis soil, litter
Russula ionochlora Oilslick Brittlegill soil, litter
Russula ochroleuca Ochre Brittlegill / soil, litter
Skeletocutis nivea Hazel Bracket stick
Stereum hirsutum Hairy Curtain Crust fallen branch
Stereum subtomentosum Yellowing Curtain Crust fallen branch
Trametes versicolor Turkeytail fallen branch
Xerula radicata Rooting Shank soil, litter
Daldinia concentrica King Alfred's Cakes / fallen branch
Nectria cinnabarina Coral Spot sticks
Neobulgaria pura Beech Jellydisc fallen branch
Rhytisma acerinum Sycamore Tarspot fallen leaves
Trochila ilicina Holly Speckle fallen leaves
Xylaria hypoxylon Candlesnuff Fungus stumps
Xylaria longipes Dead Moll's Fingers fallen branch
Trichia varia soggy bare wood
Record count for site:66
18 November - Rye Meads and Amwell Nature Reserve
Five members enjoyed clear, still weather for a visit to these neighbouring reserves in East Hertfordshire.
At Rye Meads (RSPB) we passed a field grazed by water buffalo and ponies on our way to the first hide. This gave us a view of a pool occupied by a good number of teal and a snipe, as well as mallard, coot, moorhen and mute swan.
We saw a goldcrest and a good specimen of shaggy ink cap on our way to the next hide, where we observed gadwall, shoveler, Canada goose, black-headed gulls and grey herons. A few members spotted a kingfisher in the distance; other visitors had seen them near their nesting site.
Considering the time of year, I was surprised to see pondskaters in a raised pond. On the largest pool we watched green sandpiper, little grebe, cormorant, lapwing, water rail, shelduck and tufted duck. A spindle tree by the path had a spectacular display of pink and orange fruits and we noticed the remains of giant puffballs. One of us (Sue) was lucky enough to spot a water vole in a narrow channel – the rest of us only saw the ripples!
Other bird sightings included jay, song thrush, distant buzzards, magpie, blackbird, chaffinch, long-tailed tit, blue tit, herring gull, woodpigeon, great tit, carrion crow, starling and jackdaw, but no definite redwing or fieldfare.
While eating lunch we saw a butterfly, probably a red admiral.
At Amwell (Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust) we saw many of the same bird species, but the lake had a notable number of lesser black-backed gull and common gull, as well as great crested grebe, some wigeon and a goldeneye drake. A pair of pheasants was feeding in the reed bed alongside a few well-camouflaged reed buntings. We also saw stock dove, wren and a kestrel sitting on a pollarded tree, but the only visitors to the bird feeders were two brown rats!
Thanks to Sue Brawn for leading the walk, and to Hannah Webley for supplying details of the sightings in the absence of the usual reporter.