Trips and Activities
Outing to Breedon Hill, 6th August, 2017
Our outing to Breedon Hill, led by Steve Woodward, was primarily to find plants but also offered those who had never visited, an excellent opportunity to explore the amazing church on the hillside that is so often just an eyecatching landmark from the A42. On arrival, we were struck by the potential the area around the car park had as a stop-off point for Autumn migrants with its high vantage point and larder full of elderberries. However, today was obviously a quieter day and little was stirring so we set off along the road down to the SSSI. Along the route, Steve pointed out interesting and unusual plants such as wild basil and we examined the difference between various hogweeds under eyeglasses. The plants, mainly being past flowering, needed careful examination but the list steadily grew. As we reached the SSSI, the scenery changed with grazed grassland and steep slopes becoming the order of the day. One of our party was lucky enough to see and photograph a spotted flycatcher and a white campion provoked a lot of debate as to whether it may have simply been a white version of the commoner red variety. Escaped stachys plants were a surprise and were obviously not on the menu of the small group of loaghtan sheep which originate from the Isle of Man.
After our walk, we were lucky enough to have within our group Andrew Swift, an expert on local churches, who gave a talk on the amazing history of the Church of St Mary and St Hardulph with its outstanding Anglo-Saxon carvings and incredible alabaster representation of mortality on the tomb of Sir George Shirley in the form of an extremely anatomically exact skeleton.
Thanks to Steve for his leadership and expertise on this trip and Andrew for the added bonus of the church tour!
Butterfly transect at Bosworth Country Park, 12th August 2017
On August 12th we conducted the last butterfly survey of 2017. The weather conditions were good and we had an excellent count recording 14 different species of butterfly. Peacock butterflies were the most numerous and, as usual, most were recorded at the Society’s wildflower meadow where Devil's-bit Scabious was in full flower giving an amazing display which is now extending into other areas of the County Park.
Outing to Brindley Heath, Cannock Chase, 29th July 2017
On a grey and slightly drizzly day a small but enthusiastic group of MB Nats members met at Brindley Heath, Cannock Chase for an outing. The group set off from the visitor centre to explore the heath and soon after setting off the weather improved to become a very pleasant day. The main target for the outing was to see the various members of the Bilberry family present on the heath; Bilberry, Cowberry and Cannock Chase Berry. Cannock Chase Berry being a hybrid of the other two and occurring only on Cannock Chase. We were in luck finding examples of all three.
During the walk we were also fortunate to see a good variety of birds including Whinchat, Whitethroat, Linnet, Raven, Buzzard, Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker. However, butterflies were in short supply as it never got sunny enough.
The walk finished with a pleasant lunch at the visitor centre café and a visit to the Brindley Heath WW1 exhibition.
Bioblitz, Spinney Hill, Market Bosworth, July 14th and 15th, 2017
This year's Bioblitz took place at Judie Buckell's garden in Market Bosworth. With its unique aspect onto an old woodland, it offered great opportunities to find something a little bit different, especially with the team of experts available. On the Friday night, two moth traps were set up along with trail cameras and several mammal traps. The moth were slow to arrive at first but soon the woodland yielded numerous carcina quercana a beautiful micro moth and a few of the more common species.
The following day, we all returned. Firstly, the moth traps were emptied revealing the following list:
- common rustic, scoparia species, dingy footman, udea prunalis, double-striped pug, uncertain, dark arches, copper underwing, light emerald, brown housemoth, small cnephasia species, silver y, blastodacna hellerella, blastobasis adustella, phoenix, large magpie, common footman, early thorn, rusic, yellowtail, scalloped oak, small dusty wave, large twin-spot carpet, crassa unitella, acrobasis advenella, peppered moth, psychoides filicivora (larval mines), barred fruit tree tortrix, carcina quercana, coleophora species, small fan-footed wave, bucculatrix ulmella (pupal case), agonopteryx heracliana, clay, willow beauty, common carpet, burnished brass, riband wave, dun-bar, chrysoteucha culmella, agapeta haman, Chinese character, straminella, crambus pascuella, bird cherry ermine, mother of pearl, buff footman, poplar hawkmoth, dark fruit tree tortrix and yellow shell.
The butterflies were slow to emerge but, as the temperature rose and the showers receded, the list increased:
- large white, small white, green-veined white, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, purple hairstreak in the treetops and holly blue.
Our fungus expert, Richard, recorded the following:
- Diplocarpon rosae Rose Black Spot garden rose on leaves of one plant
Erysiphe aquilegiae Powdery Mildew Caltha palustris plant in garden pond
Gymnosporangium sabinae Pear Rust garden pear tree rust spots on leaves
Melampsora euphorbiae Rust on Petty Spurge Euphorbia peplus rust spots on leaves
Trochila ilicina Holly Speckle fallen holly leaves
Uromyces geranii Geranium Rust Geranium phaeum on garden Geranium.
The bird list comprised of:
- house martin, jackdaw, woodpigeon, swallow, crow, magpie, goldcrest, robin, great spotted woodpecker, sparrowhawk, blackbird, swift, wren, chaffinch, goldfinch and greenfinch.
Insects and bugs:
- leiobunum rotundum (harvestman), stigmatogaster subterranea (centipede), cylindroiulus punctatus (millipede), claeon dipterum (mayfly), leptopterna dolobrata (meadow plantbug), deraeocoris flavilinea (bug), philaenus spumarius (froghopper), lassus lanio (leafhopper), eupteryx urticae (leafhopper).
The other lists are currently being compiled. Thanks to Judie for her hospitality and to all those people who gave up their time to find and identify as many animals, plant and fungi as possible.
Butterfly transect at Bosworth Country Park, 8th June, 2017.
The latest butterfly transect defied its reputation for having poor weather and few lepidoptera. Instead, there were, at times, too many to count. Overall, twelve species were recorded: Essex, small and large skipper; large and green-veined white; red admiral, comma, speckled wood, gatekeeper, meadow brown and ringlet. Other observations included: banded demoiselle, southern hawker, black-tailed skimmer, narrow-bordered five-spot burnet, ghost moth, vapourer moth larva, large yellow underwing and silver y moth. A very successful day - thank you to everyone who attended!
Yorkshire Weekend away, 23rd - 26th June, 2017.
This year, the weekend away was to Yorkshire. Based at the excellent Cober Hill Conference Centre near Scarborough which provided us with great meals, an easy walk to the sea, our own room for socialising in and, for the lucky ones, sea views, we spent an superb couple of days exploring the wildlife of this fascinating and varied region with our expert, local guides Richard Baines and Steve Race.
Our first visit, on the Friday evening, was to Harwood Forest to try to find nightjars. At first, it seemed that we were actually being taken there to feed the local wildlife, namely the midges and mosquitoes, but, soon, some more attractive insects appeared in the form of northern eggar (a huge spectacular relative of the oak eggar moth) and ghost moth. As these creatures and other nightjar bait rose from the heathland and darkness began to fall, we heard a quiet churring which grew in intensity and this was soon joined by others - NIGHTJARS! Eventually, we heard the distinctive flight call and were soon after treated to our first views as the birds flitted across the paths around us and over the heather. A magical experience, especially for those who had never met these enigmatic birds before. We even had a brief fly-past by one bird as we sat in the van waiting to return to the hotel.
It was a tired group of wildlife watchers who arose the next morning to a hearty breakfast but we were soon cheered by the hope of further adventures as we piled into our transport and headed to a raptor watchpoint looking across the Langdale Valley. Despite the multitude of optics trained on the sky, we saw only commoner species such as buzzard and kestrel, not the longed for goshawks and honey buzzard. In fact, the only early excitement came from a 'grayling' which actually turned out to be a speckled wood (er, sorry guys!) and a more dramatic horntail wood wasp which was strangely attracted to Pete's leg. For a man who has had previous issues with hornets, he showed admirable bravery as we took photos of this gigantic and imposing insect. Sadly, the hoped for raptors continued to play hard to get and we had to move on.
We arrived at Bickley Forest and walked down to the beautiful postage stamp of meadow at Deepdale searching for small pearl-bordered fritillaries. The meadow was packed with potential in the form of beautiful meadow flowers of a type long since lost to most areas through modern agriculture and construction. We very quickly thought that we had found our target species but photos proved that it was, in fact, the larger relative dark green fritillary. But, soon, we found the pearl-borders, too. A great reward after a long descent into the valley. Other plants included yellowort, square stemmed St John’s wort, fairyflax, common spotted orchid, bird’s foot trefoil, slender St John’s wort, rough hawksbit, fragnant orchid and common twayblade.
After dinner at the Dalby Forest Visitor Centre, we ventured on to the Ellerburn Bank limestone meadow. Along the paths, a variety of warblers such as garden warbler were singing as were tree pipits.The longed for adders and slow worms proved elusive but the fields made up for this disappointment with flowers such as fly orchid and twayblade, insects such as marbled white and hummingbird hawkmoth and a very photogenic common lizard. There were also distant views of goshawk and peregrine for some. Other plants included: hairy St John’s wort, enchanter’s nightshade, lily of the valley, columbine, field scabious, hoary plantain and woolly thistle.
After this, we travelled to Trout's Dale to try to find dipper. Although disappointed by the non-appearance of this species, we did have good views of grey wagtail, spotted flycatcher and, at last, a spectacular view of goshawk for everyone. We returned happy and tired to the centre.
After a slightly disappointing moth trapping at the hotel, we set off on our final morning to look at the kittiwakes and a lone but very obliging peregrine on the cliffs in Scarborough and the variety of auks in the bay. From there, we visited the amazing Bempton Cliffs SPB reserve with some of the group spotting a marsh harrier en route. The cliffs provided us with not only great views of gannet, razorbills, puffins and guillemots but an unexpected meeting with two members of the society who happened to be visiting on the same day! Small world!
Finally, we visited the meadows at the lighthouse at Flamborough Head. Burnet moths were everywhere, often fighting for position on the same flowers and we were treated to our third pipit species, rock pipit, plus a ruby tailed wasp.
Thanks to everyone who came along and particularly to Jan for arranging an excellent weekend. Also, a big thank you to our superb leaders, Richard and Steve, without whose expert local knowledge, the weekend could not have provided such great encounters with the Yorkshire flora and fauna.
Walk at Calke Abbey
Twenty members turned up for an amazing evening walk at Calke with warden, Bill Cove. This was a follow up to Bill's interesting talk at our last indoor meeting and we knew it was going to be a great evening when, during his introduction, a hobby streaked overhead amongst the foraging swallows. The ominous black cloud that had hung in the sky slid quietly on its way without a deluge and we set off. Bill truly knows every inch of the estate and introduced us to fetaures which, even those of us who visit Calke regularly were previously unaware of. Ably assisted by his tireless working collie our guide took us first past the house to the meadow areas, explaining how they were totally natural. A charm of goldfinches rose from the dandelions and settled in a red flowered hawthorn as we approached and watched as we picked out twayblade, cowslips, yellow rattle, pignut and many other species amongst grasses such as quaking grass and were entertained by the dog's relentless search for small mammals, squirrels and rabbits.
Next, we were given a privileged entry to the deer enclosure with both fallow and red deer running amongst the yellow meadow ant hills which punctuated the grassland and listened to the green woodpeckers calling. We were introduced to the 'mouse-scented' houndstongue and picked out several mandarin ducks around the small lake.
As we entered the woodland, we heard a cuckoo and buzzard and watched a great spotted woodpecker and treecreepers searching a tree guard and trunks respectively for food whilst Bill explained an ambiguous oak tree and showed us the mind-blowing survival strategy of the small-leaved lime which reproduces by plunging branches into the ground and throwing up new progeny.
An extra treat was watching a barn owl hunting as Bill explained the Old Man of Calke, an oak tree which pre-dated the Norman Conquest by at least 200 years. The owl would have been the highlight of the evening had it not been for the badger cubs! No sooner had we settled down on a bank to wait for them than they appeared, four of them, throwing each other boisterously around whilst whickering noisily! It was very hard to pull ourselves away but one last treat remained - bats! As the last light turned into a boiling, lava-like sunset through the trees we watched noctule, leisler's and pipistrelle bats hunting and listened to their clicking calls on bat detectors.
Thanks to Bill for a magical evening and to all who attended - I'm sure we'll all be a lot more attentive and knowledgeable when we visit again!!
Butterfly Transect 1, Bosworth Country Park, May 13th, 2017.
On a grey day, it seemed that no-one told the butterflies that they were due to be counted. Perhaps sensibly, they were huddled down somewhere dry and warm when we started in the drizzle of an English Summer and they continued to be elusive even though the sky softened to blue and white later in the walk. Birds offered the most respite from the lazy lepidoptera - blackcaps and bullfinch brightened the day as did a small common frog and a couple of surprising fungi finds including Agrocybe rivulosa. Flowers also offered some interest, cowslips and lady's smock being quite common as well as the first signs of the orchids the society care for. One moth did make an appearance, celypha lacunana. Hopefully, the butterflies will be more prevalent in our next visit later in the season.
Thornton Reservoir, April 29th, 2017
As we gathered beside the reservoir, we were greeted by the welcome sight of many sand martins, house martins and swallows skimming the insects from the water's surface, a suggestion that Summer was on the way; a chiffchaff singing in the car park confirmed our hopes but the chilly wind was less hopeful. A couple of herring gulls were loudly stating their presence, too.
As we started our walk, a willow warbler and several blackcaps soon joined the list as did waterfowl such as great crested grebes and tufted ducks. The group also got into a discussion about wych elm, with some beautiful eye-catching examples along the way and then, the probable Bird of the Day turned up, a common sandpiper. Along the opposite side of the reservoir, reed buntings and a yellowhammer added to the list plus a stunning little grebe. On a cold but bright day, insects were keeping a low profile but a diversion through the woodland brought an orange tip butterfly huddling on a leaf along with St Mark's flies and a solitary bee, yet to be identified.
Turning back towards the car park, the pace of our discoveries quickened - common whitethroat singing in the bushes and nuthatch and treecreeper near the feeding stations. From here, the group watched a pair of mistle thrushes before a kingfisher led us on a hide and seek chase around the pools - most people finally seeing it at least once.
The cold wind was now beginning to chill us and the pace quickened but the sheltered waste ground below the dam wall brought further discoveries such as lesser whitethroat, a green woodpecker and a pair of stunning grey wagtails.
For those who assembled at the Bricklayer's Arms, lunch was a warm and welcome extra! Thanks to all who attended.
Hicks Lodge, March 25th, 2017.
Hicks Lodge was a new discovery for many of the group of about 17 members who turned out on a beautiful March day for a walk led by Ben Devine who had recently given a talk about the development of the former coalfields around Moira and the project 'Black to Green'. The first chiffchaffs were singing as we started our walk and the group were soon distracted by skylarks and fungi. The diversity of habitats and the potential they offered for all types of wildlife soon had many of those who had never visited the site before making a mental note to visit again at a later date.
As we progressed to the lakeside, we were treated to a variety of wildfowl including goosander, oystercatchers, little and great crested grebes, snipe and redshank whilst reed buntings lurked in the margins. A late pair of fieldfares and a mistle thrush along with distant woodpeckers and a hare also made it onto the growing list. Ben explained about the work of those who were developing the site and pointed out where common lizards and rare moths might be seen at other times of the year before we turned back for a much needed snack at the busy cafe.
Thanks to all those who attended a really good outing and especially to Ben for leading us, offering us a great opportunity to see areas of the reserve which we might otherwise have missed.
Whitacre Heath Nature Reserve, February 25th, 2017.
Whitacre Heath is a varied reserve with a mixture of habitats including willow carr, open water, grassland and woodland. A day or two after Storm Doris blasted through, it was still a little windy and cold but, undeterred, we battled against the elements to discover its secrets. The first to appear were a group of hungry birds on the feeders by the car park - mostly the usual suspects but with a number of reed buntings swelling their throng.
After that, a large party of fieldfares and a few redwings added to the wintery feel along with a charm of about 25 goldfinches. The hides on the site have seen better days but provided a welcome vantage point to scan the fields. Although birds there were in short supply, a couple of very distant stonechats and stock doves caught the eye. As we progressed into the woodlands, great spotted woodpeckers, green woodpeckers, nuthatches and a host of common species were seen and heard and the hides overlooking pools reaped the reward of teal, shoveler, little grebe and gadwall but sadly no kingfishers or water rail.
One of the stars of the day was the stunning scarlet elf cup fungus which was everywhere and further excitement came in the form of a couple of groups of siskin and lesser redpoll.
Thanks to all who attended and to Mary and Dave for leading and organising the expedition.
Ulverscroft Nature Reserve, November 2016.
On a cold, crisp Autumn day, a hardy band of members arrived at Ulverscroft Nature Reserve near Stoneywell House in Leicestershire. The main focus of the day was the fungi with a multitude of species present - some more easily identified than others - including tripe fungus, grey coral, apricot club, butter cap, dwarf bell, sulphur tuft, wood blewitt, slime mould, dusky puffball, angel's and common bonnet, dewdrop mottlegill, bitter oysterling, liberty cap, hairy bracket and candlesnuff. Birds were in shorter supply but we were treated to good views of a grey wagtail next to a secluded pond and treecreepers, nuthatch and goldcrests in the woodland. Thanks to everyone who turned up and especially to Nick and Jan for their leadership and insights into this beautiful reserve.
Hicks Lodge National Cycling Centre 15th October 2016
A fine Saturday mroning in October saw ten members and friends of the Society meet at the Hicks Lodge National Cycling Centre for a fungi foray lead by Richard Iliffe. In total 20 species of fungi were identified during the trip.
Foxton Locks 13th August 2016
On Saturday 13th August MB Nats arranged an outing to Foxton Locks where fourteen members came along to enjoy a walk led by Steve Woodward and Helen Ikin. It was a sunny and hot afternoon, so the trip focused on waterside plants and insects. Sightings included Green-veined white and Gatekeeper butterflies, Red-eyed Damselflies and the fish in the pools included Common rudd. The venue also offered a good selection of ice-cream and tea stops, which were enjoyed by many of the group!
Butterfly Transect 12th August 2016
On Friday 12th (the glorious 12th?) a group of nine Society members met to conduct the August butterfly survey on Bosworth Park. It was the first survey of the year with ideal weather conditions and we were rewarded with nine species of butterfly including Large, Small and Green-veined white, Holly Blue, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma and Gatekeeper. A successful afternoon rounded off nicely with tea & cake kindly provided by Mary & David Penton.
Desford Charity Fields Visit - 23rd July, 2016.
The Society's latest visit was a joint venture with the Stoke Golding Heritage Group to whom our own Nick Crowley had given an interesting and informative talk about the history and wildlife of this little known local site.
The Desford Charity Fields, situated just outside the village which give them their name, offer a variety of wildlife habitats and a plethora of history, still showing evidence of the 'ridge and furrow' technique of agriculture. The management of the site has encouraged a huge number of invertebrates and plants to make it their home and we were treated to the sight, on a sunny day, of a multitude of butterflies, mainly grassland species like meadow brown, ringlet and skippers, feeding from wildflowers such as knapweed and lady's bedstraw.
The waterway which runs through the lower part of the reserve offered tantalising hopes of otter and kingfisher for the most optimistic but, sadly, these proved elusive during our visit, but we did see a variety of birds taking advantage of the bounty the insect life offered including encouraging flocks of house sparrows, swallows and swifts - all birds which have suffered in recent times.
After the walk, we were invited by Nick and Pru back to their house for some delicious refreshments.
The Society would like to thank Nick for leading this excellent visit and to both him and Pru for the refreshments afterwards.
Bioblitz - Stoke Golding 15th - 16th July, 2016
Every year the society holds its Bioblitz event in the garden of one of its members. This year’s hosts were David and Pauline Godsell – their garden is an amazing home for wildlife; although it is relatively small, they have fitted a lot of potential habitats into it, with a thriving wildlife-friendly pond and meadow area.
The event started on Friday night with 3 moth traps and a lit sheet being set up plus, for the mammals, several bat detectors and small animal traps. All of these proved very productive with a number of bats including noctules and the first of three field mice being found.
The emptying of the moth traps on the following morning revealed a large number of species including several elephant hawk moths, a buff arches and dozens of the commoner species. The micro moths, as ever, caused much discussion but, eventually, a decision was reached on all but the most difficult. It certainly worked up an appetite for the delicious bacon and sausage sandwiches and the smorgasbord of cakes on offer.
The arrival of Steve and Helen vastly increased the diversity of the finds with numerous hoverflies, snails, beetles and bugs being added to the list whilst Richard identified a number of fungi and closely related organisms. The final list is being compiled but, as ever, the real success lay in the camaraderie of all involved and the chance to learn something new from each other.
Thanks again to Pauline and David for their hospitality and to all those who did a ‘Mary Berry’ for us or offered their natural history expertise.
Butteryfly Transect 9th July 2016
The latest butterfly transect at Bosworth Country Park this year started as the others had with very little to see. However, suddenly a beam of sunlight peeped out from behind a cloud and the area of longer grass we were looking at came magically to life, with numerous ringlets and the occasional meadow brown supported by a single green-veined white.
The rest of the transect followed this pattern with ringlets abounding but other lepidoptera joining the party – large and small skipper, large white, large yellow underwings, yellow shell, celypha lacunana and grass moths to name a few.
Ray Morris was kept entertained putting various bugs and hoverflies into plastic tubes for analysis - who knows, perhaps a rarity or two?
Thanks to everyone who attended and David and Mary for tea and some tasty scones back at their house afterwards.
Moths & Brunch, Butterfly Transect and Orchid Count 18th June 2016
A day of counting! First off was the Moths and Brunch morning hosted by Angela and Melvyn Davis at their house in Carlton. This event was well attended with numerous garden moth traps being brought by those present. Despite this year being a poor one for insect trapping in general, the traps were quite full and we had a happy hour or two identifying and recording the contents of each box.
As a reward, we were treated to delicious bacon and sausage sandwiches made by Melvyn. Thanks to all those who attended and especially Angela and Melvyn for hosting us.
The second count of the day was at Bosworth Country Park where we set out to record the orchids in the meadow maintained by the group and to complete the second butterfly transect of the year. The latter were not very forthcoming with just a few specimens of the commoner species fluttering by occasionally - the orchids, however, were a different story altogether with a total estimate of well over 7,000!! The orchids in this area have increased year on year and the abundance of yellow rattle in these areas seems to have played a large part in this, other areas of grassland in the park being too thick for the orchids to thrive.
Thanks to everyone who turned up - if nothing elase, we kept the other users of the park entertained with out amusing antics involving colourful sticks and lots of peering at the grass.
Sherwood Forest 21st May 2016
A band of 15 Merry Men and Women enjoyed a pleasant stroll around Sherwood Forest on Saturday, 21st May.
Although the scarcer species this reserve can offer proved elusive with no sign of redstarts, crossbills, lesser spotted woodpecker etc, the 4 mile walk did throw up some interesting sightings with numerous nuthatches and treecreepers plus the songs of chiffchaff, blackcap, garden warbler and willow warbler and, was that a spotted flycatcher we had a brief glimpse of through the trees? There was also a fleeting view of marsh / willow tit for a couple of the team.
The real winners of the day though were the scenery (with the trees heavy with foliage and a multitude of bluebells and plants such as greater stitchwort) and the company - everyone enjoying a great walk, a tasty café stop and a retail opportunity back at the arts and craft centre.
Butterfly Survey Bosworth Park 14th May 2016
Although sunny, it wasn’t the most promising day for the society’s first butterfly count of the year at Market Bosworth Country Park; it was probably the very cold Northerly wind penetrating the outer layers of clothing that was the cause but the merry band of Lepidoptera counters struck out gamely, despite the fear that it would be a little cold for butterflies. In fact, it wasn’t a butterfly that caught our eye first, but a bird, as we were treated to a high-speed fly-past by a hobby.
After that early treat, we ventured on and, with a further distraction in the form of a confiding treecreeper discovered that butterflies were not in such short supply as we thought with numerous sightings of whites mainly green-veined white and orange-tip with the added bonus of occasional speckled woods. In all a total of 24 butterflies, of 5 species, were sighted. The star butterfly of the day, however, was probably the unexpected red admiral discovered near the birdfeeders (probably a dangerous place for a butterfly!).
Overall, it was a good afternoon’s work, topped off with an ice cream (the temperature having risen considerably). Thanks to all the participants – let’s hope for even better weather for the next transect on the 18th June.