Field Meetings 2016

18 June, Cowcroft and Crabtree Plantation

In the absence of the regular rapporteur, this report has kindly been written by Hannah Webley:

Seven members met in Ley Hill on an overcast morning and visited the small reserve at Cowcroft. It did not take us long to notice flowering common spotted orchids – Trevor counted 45. There were also some common twayblades which took a bit longer to find. We found several small frogs in the vegetation and heard chaffinch, greenfinch, goldcrest, song thrush and wren. I found a female scorpion fly and a red-headed cardinal beetle. The plants in flower, other than orchids, were ground elder, germander speedwell, oxeye daisy, red clover, common and bush vetch, field forget-me-not, meadow and creeping buttercups, hairy tare and wood avens; there were also a few horsetails. 

We moved on to Crabtree Plantation, an area planted with a wide variety of deciduous tree species in 2003. There we saw tadpoles in the pond, a chiffchaff, a swallow, and two red kites and a buzzard circling together. We also heard green woodpecker and blackbird. I found a green beetle with distinctive swollen upper hind legs, which I identified as Oedemera nobilis, and several species of bee were feeding on flowers. The flowering plants included white waterlily, yellow flag and a purple iris, lesser spearwort, bird’s foot trefoil, yellow rattle, cut-leaved cranesbill, red campion, goosegrass, bramble, prickly sow-thistle and elder. It was interesting to see spindle trees starting to develop their distinctive berries, and we were able to contrast sessile and pedunculate oaks. 

 

17 July, Dancersend Extension

Mick Jones MBE, Dancersend’s long-standing volunteer warden, guided seven members around the new extension to the reserve added last year. This is an area known as Pavis Wood, on the boundary of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, which includes the highest point in the latter county. We began our tour by the waterworks, in an area dominated by elm, ash and whitebeam. This is a damp area inhabited by water figwort, distinguished from the common species by its rounded leaves and winged stems. Other flowers in this area included hedge woundwort, St John’s wort, enchanter’s nightshade, American willowherb, wood avens, selfheal, herb Robert, common spotted orchid, dog’s mercury, wall lettuce and wood melick grass. Mick showed us a tree where a rare lichen had been found, and we noticed a prominent hoof fungus growing on a trunk above a burrow. There was some wild garlic, which is rare in the Chilterns, as well as wild gooseberry and raspberry. The grasses included wood barley, a Chiltern speciality. 

Further up the hill we saw the remains of bird’s nest orchids, yellow pimpernel and woodruff. The area has evidence of human activity in the form of holloways, sawpits and marl pits, as well as damage and replanting from the time of the 1987 storm. In the upper reaches of the extension is an area of acid soil with oaks and bracken as well as pendulous sedge and primroses which Mick hopes will be a food plant for Duke of Burgundy caterpillars. We saw speckled wood butterflies in this area. Other plants included honeysuckle, wood sorrel and bluebells. Just over the boundary of the extension is a pond which needs restoration but is home to frogs and bordered by moschatel.  The Ridgeway runs along the top of the wood, lined by hornbeams. 

We are grateful to Mick for showing us around the extension and wish him well for managing and improving the area for wildlife. 

Once again Hannah Webley wrote this report, and in future will report on any field meeting she participates in.

 

17 September, Tring Park

Seven members met at the Recreation Ground car park at Wiggington to start our walk along to Tring Park. Although overcast and breezy, we were pleased that it was dry and remained so for the whole walk. Even before setting off David Corfield spotted a Great spotted woodpecker disturbed by our arrival.

Tring Park is owned by the Woodland Trust and covers an area over 100 hectares. It is a very pleasant mix of mainly broadleaved woodland and unimproved chalk grassland, currently being grazed by a herd of cattle as part of the traditional management. The area was effectively the back garden of the Rothschilds who had such an impact on local wildlife. Walter Rothschild is reported as having been responsible for releasing 6 edible dormouse in the park in 1902; an act which we know today to have had very significant consequences.

Without Richard Tomlin to identify various birds heard but not seen we were slow to get off the mark with our wildlife recording. However to compensate we walked through a lovely avenue of lime trees and stopped at various locations to enjoy the views along the Ridgeway Path over towards Ivinghoe Beacon. We saw a yew tree with an impressive crop of berries and a good number of fungi were also seen along the ride, including some superb bracket fungi and a very unusual snail species.

Once we descended into the open grassland area of the Park we began to see more birds including Red kite, Wood pigeons, Collared dove, Robin, Magpie, Crow and Chiffchaffs flitting about in some small bushes. We also saw several other fungi species including jelly fungus and coral spot.

The Park has some excellent areas of wildflowers and we were able, even late into the season, to see many very nice species including Scabious, Harebell, Yarrow, Knapweed, Ragwort, Red and White clover and Selfheal.     

As we re-entered the wooded area we passed some box trees on our way up to the obelisk and summer house which are reputed to have historical connections to Charles II and Nell Gwynn. 

We were nearing the end of our walk when were lucky to see a hornet flying round some flowering ivy with hoverflies and a wasp. Then in an open grazing field we had a very good view of what appeared to be a young Green woodpecker only 30 metres away to round off a very pleasant afternoon walk. 

Trevor Brawn 

 

 

19 November 2016, Weston Turville Reservoir

Ten members and two visitors (one very young indeed!) attended this field meeting on a cold and mostly cloudy morning. At this BBOWT reserve we met Richard Tomlin, who had arrived at 8.30 to get some early sightings before leading us around the reservoir. From the path raised well above the water level, we had a good view of a female or juvenile male kestrel perched on a wire. David spotted a kingfisher, which made the rest of us very jealous until we saw an electric blue spot fly from the waterside and cross a field! We saw it (or another one) in the reed bed at the end of the visit. 

There was little diversity of birds on the reservoir itself but we noted a flock of Canada geese, mallard, a juvenile mute swan, great crested grebes, tufted duck, cormorant and three gull species: herring, black-headed and lesser black-backed. We watched an aerial squabble between two grey herons as well as seeing them perched on a buoy and a tern nesting raft. 

In the wooded part of the reserve, we found an impressive fungus with caps of up to saucer size, which Tony Marshall has identified as shaggy scalycap. Some of the group watched three goldcrests in this area. Later we found a spindle tree laden with a spectacular number of bright pink and orange berries. We were surprised to find three species of plant in flower: red clover, a forget-me-not and a Geranium which had probably escaped from a garden. 

On returning to our starting point, we watched a group of linnets perched on the wire where the kestrel sat earlier, while a buzzard flew over near two red kites. 

Other species seen were: blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, goldfinch, great tit, jackdaw, jay, jelly ear fungus, magpie, pied wagtail and woodpigeon. Thanks to Richard for leading the walk. 

 

11 December 2016, Chesham riverside walk 

Five members and one visitor met at the Moor car park and set out along the Chess. There was warm sunshine, which brought out a bumblebee, but the breeze was cold. We paused to watch a pair of mute swans with an adult-sized cygnet behind the Pheasant pub, and were delighted to see a kingfisher fly up the river. The cob (male swan) followed us with his wings raised aggressively as we entered the woodland around the braided river, where we had a close view of a robin. At the fishing lakes we watched Canada geese, tufted ducks, pochard and coots on the water; in the trees we saw a group of dunnocks and a female blackcap. Continuing beyond Canon’s Mill, Sue and I saw a ring-necked parakeet, the first I had seen in Chesham. Then the whole group had a good view of two goldcrests as they moved incessantly around the vegetation. Heading back towards the Moor, we watched a little egret in the river until we frightened it into a tree. Trevor remarked on the absence of red kites but we finally saw two of them on our return to the car park. 

Other species seen were: blackbird, black-headed gull, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, great tit, grey squirrel, house sparrow, jackdaw, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, pied wagtail, starling, woodpigeon and wren. Thanks to Trevor for leading the walk, after which we and other society members enjoyed an excellent Christmas lunch at The Bell in Chartridge.