Field Meetings 2012

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.

 

 

14 April - Heartwood Forest and Nomansland Common
 
Trevor was the leader again on Saturday 14th April, when he lead the walk around Heartwood Forest in the morning and Nomansland Common in the afternoon, near the village of Sandridge, Herfordshire.  Six members were present in the morning and five in the afternoon.

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.

 
15 September - Pulpit Hill
 
After the summer break, the walks resumed on 15th September, when, in a change to the advertised programme, Andrea Polden led eight other members to Pulpit Hill.  Despite the peculiar weather we suffered this summer, there was still a lot to see, particulalrly flowers, including agrimony, autumn hawkbit (plus numerous unidentified hawkweeds), birdsfoot trefoil, bristly ox-tongue, buttercup, centaury, clustered bellflower, common-spotted orchid, crab apples, eyebright, field forget-me-not, field pansy, gentians (probably autumn rather than Chiltern), wild parsnip, goatsbeard, guelder rose (berries), harebell, hartstongue fern, hedge parsley, hedge woundwort, herb Robert, knapweed (common, greater and a possible hybrid), lady’s bedstraw, marjoram, mignonette, milkwort, mullein, nightshade (enchanter’s and woody), nipplewort, ploughman’s spikenard, ragwort (common and Oxford), red clover, ribbed plantain, rockrose, rough chervil, scabious  (common and devilsbit), scarlet pimpernel, self-heal, silverweed, speedwell, squinancywort, St. John’s wort, teasel, thistle (carline, creeping, spear and stem), thyme, toadflax, white deadnettle, wild basil, wild carrot, yarrow and yellow-wort.

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.

 

14 October - Joint Foray of the Buckinghamshire Fungus Group & CDNHS at Chesham Bois Common -  Report by Penny Cullington
 
A good sized group of about twenty (half and half from the two groups involved) met up to foray this Common, a new site for BFG. Despite the continuing poor foraying conditions in this area we managed the longest list of species so far on a foray this season, this reflecting the difference it makes having more pairs of eyes searching. It is becoming apparent that this autumn is a disastrous year for mycorrhizal species (those which grow in symbiosis with trees), and this was backed up today by their virtual absence - no Amanitas, Boletes, Lactarius (Milkcaps) or Cortinarius (Webcaps), and just a couple of Russulas (Brittlegills), one Inocybe (Fibrecap) and one Hebeloma (Poisonpie). Much of the list, therefore, comprises species which grow on litter or decaying wood, with many specimens of Mycena (Bonnets) and Psathyrella (Brittlestems) collected. It was nice to see a couple of waxcap species coming up in the grassy area around the perimeter of the Common, but perhaps the most interesting sight was the amazing number of Macrotyphula juncea (Slender Club) carpeting the ground in hundreds under the trees in the area just across the road and nearer to the village and growing on the stems of fallen rotting leaves – a species easy to miss as it appears to the less experienced eye be more akin to some form of plant rather than fungus. 

For more details see the complete list:

SPECIES                                             ENGLISH NAME(S)                 SUBSTRATE

Basidiomycota

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

                                                              Sulphur Polypore

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

                                                              Bonnet Mycena

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

                                                              CommonYellow Russula

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

Ascomycota

Daldinia concentrica                          King Alfred's Cakes /                 fallen branch

                                                              Cramp Balls

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

Myxomycota

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.