Trips and Activities
Leicester City Centre, 24th March, 2019
Ok, so not your usual natural history trip but don't let appearances deceive you - cities have increasingly become a new home for wildlife and this trip did not disappoint with 30 species of birds plus a few mammals, insects and lots of plants and flowers. Our city safari started with a rummage around in Castle Gardens. Here, we found numerous of the commoner birds - blue tit, great tit, long-tailed tits, dunnocks, blackbirds. robins and wrens of course but also, more unexpectedly, some of the first Spring arrivals from Africa, chiffchaffs. The river added to our list with moorhen, mallards, Canada geese, mute swans galore, a variety of gulls and coots. Not so unexpectedly, the park and the riverside provided numerous views of brown rats and grey squirrels. More excitingly, a red kite gave us good views over nearby waste ground and the male peregrine was sat high on the side of the cathedral as a sparrowhawk soared overhead.
The plant list was also impressive, including: cleavers, shepherd's purse, dandelion, red dead nettle, ivy, groundsel, bramble, nipplewort, herb bennet, stinging nettle, daisy, pendulous sedge, stinking iris, broad-leave plantain, lesser celandine, foxglove, petty spurge, chickweed, purple toadflax, forget me not, green alkanet, comfrey, herb Robert, ragwort, snowdrop, bluebell, coltsfoot, ground elder, duckweed, ransoms, snake's head fritillary, hedge garlic, white dead nettle, sow thistle, yellow corydalis, buddleja, wood speedwell, yarrow, cow parsley, ribwort plantain, common wicklow grass, elder, burdock, butterbur, spear thistle, wood spurge, prickly ox-tongue and creeping buttercup.
This was an amazing adventure into the heart of the city and shows just how many species are pushing back against the tide of concrete we inflict upon the natural world - worth looking more closely the next time you are shopping!
Rutland Water, 16th February, 2019.
A group of 16 of our members attended, this, our first outdoor meeting of the year at the Egleton Visitor Centre. We hardly needed to leave the visitor centre as we recorded an extraordinary number of species from the upper observation area: pintail, green woodpecker, a very obliging stonechat, goosander, great white egrets, red kite and curlew to name but a few.
However, we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from this productive viewpoint and proceeded onwards spotting great-spotted woodpecker, goldeneyes and Egyptian geese on the way. But it was at lagoon 4 that we had our best sightings of the day in the form of ten smew, most of which were swimming close to the hide: the drakes (looking like floating Viennetta ice-cream) were as stunning as ever and a 'lifer' for some of our members but the little redhead females were equally delightful as they tirelessly dived for food.
Lagoon 3 offered close up views again of the great white egrets, which seem to be resident and proliferating on the reserve, circling with the little egrets and grey herons over the reedbed.
Having returned to the centre, we ate our lunches together and, then, those of us who were staying on continued to the other side of the reserve and were treated to distant views of a quartering barn owl. The 360 hide also gave us a great sighting of a beautiful flock of bullfinches.
A rewarding day was had by all and we clocked up an impressive 59 species (plus a muntjac deer).
Walk at North Farm, Shenton, 10th November, 2018.
Another favourite on the 'Nats' calendar: we were delighted to be invited once again for a walk around North Farm, Shenton, with Ros and Steve Smith who farm the land there. A wonderful refuge for wildlife of all types, we were especially pleased to have the opportunity to walk the new wetland area which was recently created. This incredibly rich creation has provided an unparalleled habitat for the area which has brought in new and varied species of birds with some good breeding success for some declining species. Although there were no real rarities on the day we visited, there were numerous good sightings of impressive species such as fieldfare, redwing, kestrel, yellowhammer, meadow pipit and skylark plus a few grey partridge for some. Brown hares were everywhere. Thanks again to Steve and Ros for letting us visit this amazing site.
Fungal Foray, Burbage Woods, 27th October, 2018.
An eternal favourite, this fungal foray, led by Richard Iliffe lived up to expectations. Having secreted our expert into a central position with a folding table and the cake supplies, we scattered in all directions to find hidden treasure in the woods. We weren't to be disappointed - the woodland was full of fungi of all descriptions. Soon, the table was (metaphorically, at least) groaning under the weight. Richard sorted the samples into groups, very helpful for us novices and, at the designated hour, we all returned to learn a little more about our finds. There were many of the commoner species amongst the 30 or so species discovered - one such distinctive species was rosy bonnet, well-named with its bright carmine-pink bloom. Smell is also useful in the foraying world - fragrant funnel offered us the chance to smell its beautiful aniseed aroma whilst its bigger cousin, the frosty funnel, offered a dramatic comparison with its smell of new-mown hay. Iodine bonnet, when dried in an enclosed box, we were told, has a smell only replicated by the smell of a doctor's surgery! Rancid greyling, as you would guess, was a less appealing fragrance.
A large branch brought to the table was covered with the dense yellow spikes of the small stagshorn to break up the more uniform greys (50 shades?) of most of our other finds. Other notable finds were the deer shield, leaf parachute and candlesnuff fungi. The full list follows: thanks again to Richard for his expertise!
small stagshorn, fragrant funnel, trooping funnel, frosty funnel, fairy inkcap, hare's foot inkcap, King Alfred's cakes, common tarcrust, russet toughshank, veiled poison pie, shaggy bracket, fiery milkcap, common puffball, leaf parachute, angel's bonnet, iodine bonnet, common bonnet, rosy bonnet, deer shield, dwarf shield, bay polypore, blueing bracket, red edge brittlestem, clustered brittlestem, psathyrella prona, butter cap, split porecrust, hairy curtain crust, rancid greyling, turkeytail, candlesnuff fungus.
Cossington Meadows, 22nd August, 2018.
You know it's Autumn when you see jays! You only hear their raucous squawking all year and then, suddenly, in Autumn they're everywhere. Cossington was no exception with these attractive crows everywhere - occasionally two or three at a time. We were taking this walk as a follow-up to Tuesday's excellent talk about this site by Chris Hill. The hedges were laden with berries including a buckthorn which set the botanists in our group scurrying for the i.d. books and a tall melilot plant which was new to all of us. Scentless mayweed was another welcome flower sighting. Birds also abounded with about thirty species seen in the day. Cossington is well-known for some of its rarer visitors, none of which showed their heads on this trip but waterfowl included: teal, shoveler (including in flight), gadwall, mallard and mute swan. Other water birds included lapwing, cormorant, little egret, grey heron and snipe whilst a kestrel and a buzzard hunted over the long grass. Great-spotted woodpecker, mistle thrush and bullfinch also made the list. There were few insects except for a large dragonfly (southern hawker?). The walk (and the post-walk snacks at Goscote Nurseries) were enjoyed by all. Thanks to Mary and David for leading it and to all those who attended.
Bosworth Country Park, Butterfly Transect, 11th August, 2018.
Despite a lack of sunshine, a good haul of butterflies - good numbers of whites (large, small and green-veined) with a single speckled wood. A couple of holly blues in the woodland were vastly outnumbered by their cousins, common blues, in the meadow area. Here, we also had a great time trying to distinguish between these and the brown argus also present. A single small copper was arguably the highlight of the day. Moths included pyrausta aurata, agriphila tristella, cameraria ohridella, silver y, straw dot and udea lutealis. Other species were: aulagromyza sp (leaf mine in snowberry), harlequin ladybirds, Southern hawker dragonflies, marmalade hoverflies, 7-spot ladybird and meadow grasshopper.
Moths & Brunch, 4th August, 2018.
This is another of our annual events, once a year we put moth traps out into members' gardens and then gather the following morning to identify the catch. This year nine members gathered on a bight but cool morning. Traps had been put out in four locations around Barlestone and Carlton and a good variety of moths caught. A good morning and thank you to Angela and Melvin for hosting the event and for some delicious bacon and sausage butties too!
Sutton Cheney, Bioblitz, July 13th - 14th.
Every year, a member of our group kindly opens up their garden to us to survey for the resident wildlife. This year we would like to thank Shelley for opening up her garden in Sutton Cheney.
The sun-hardened ground and dry conditions made it harder to find the local flora and fauna than usual but, fortified by tea and cake, we did our best. On the Friday evening, we started with a moth trapping session, returning on the Saturday morning to go through the traps. These were very successful with about 400 moths of 100 species, the best being dusky sallow.
We also had local experts on fungi, beetles and other small insects plus mammal trapping and bat recording. The hedgehog tunnel proved very successful with plenty of prints and some footage of these popular but struggling mammals. The results will soon be compiled and submitted. Thank you to everyone involved, especially Shelley for her hospitality and our guest experts whose knowledge was greatly appreciated.
Bosworth Country Park, Butterfly Transect, 7th July, 2018
One of our best butterfly transects yet - lots of whites (large, green-veined and small), commas, meadow browns, ringlets, skippers (large, small / Essex). Also plenty of moths with many silver Y, endothenia sp, chrysoteuchia culmella, crambus pascuella, burnets, timothy tortrix and Bactra lancealana. Birds were not so obvious with only a lone blackcap of note. Grasshoppers were everywhere with dozens bouncing away with almost every footfall. Horseflies were also sadly noticeable!
Gresley Woods, Glow Worm Walk, 22nd June, 2018.
We have many magical wildlife encounters during our outdoor meetings but none, perhaps, quite as magical as this one. We started our evening walking towards the Albert Village Lake listening to a garden warbler singing and watching a sizeable, and perhaps unseasonal starling murmuration as they settled into the reedbeds, disturbing a lone reed warbler with their rowdiness. One of our group even spotted a hobby flash across the water.
As it got dark enough, we moved across the road and were very soon treated to our first sighting of a glow worm. Glow worms are actually small beetles, the wingless females of which use bio-luminescence, a chemical reaction, to produce a bright green light which attracts a male as it flies over. As soon as they have mated, it's lights out! In all, we counted over 30 individuals.
Thanks to both Bill, our knowledgeable guide, and David and Karen for organising everything - a truly incredible wildlife experience.
Bosworth Country Park, Butterfly Transect, 16th June, 2018.
Windy and not that warm - not the best omen for a butterfly transect and there was not much to see as we set off. Moths were a little more obvious than their day-flying cousins - argyresthia trifasciata was our first observation along with a male swollen-thighed beetle followed quickly by a speckled wood butterfly. Small froglets, still with their tails, crossed the path where we had seen a huge number of tadpoles a month ago. Chiffchaffs and song thrushes were singing but there were no more butterfly sightings until we reached the wildflower meadows. There, we discovered a number of meadow brown butterflies and a few large skippers. A burnet moth and a few burnet companions soon made the list along with common blue damselflies. The flowers in the meadow continue to thrive with spotted orchids, yellow rattle and devil's bit scabious very abundant. A lone straw dot moth was also spotted.
Bosworth Country Park, Butterfly Transect, 12th May, 2018.
You can feel quite pessimistic about these transects when you start as we have had several visits that have yielded exactly zero butterflies. This one, however, started with a sense of more optimism as the weather was good and the temperature reasonably high. We soon spotted what was to be the first of many green-veined whites and an orange tip, followed by large whites. The darker butterflies were noticeable by their absence but we did add one or two speckled woods along the way and a nettle tap moth near the car park. Also near the car park was a four-spotted chaser dragonfly and an orange-tip egg on the flower of a lady's smock plant.
Birds were singing in earnest with blackcap and chiffchaff prominent and the first signs of plants such as orchid, yellow rattle and knapweed in the meadow.
Bagworth Heath Woods, 21st April, 2018.
A glorious morning saw seven members of the Society gather at Bagworth Heath for a walk around the reserve.
First stop was the lake where we spent some time watching the newly arrived Sand Martins busily exploring the specially created Sand Martin bank. Moving on we walked up though the woodland listening to, and looking for, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, all successfully seen by the end of the morning. At the highest point of the reserve we explored the heathland area, descending the far side of the hill to the second fishing pool where we could see many Common Carp in the water. Eventually we returned to the car park thorough the wood.
In addition to the 28 species of bird identified, we also saw 5 species of butterfly, Comma, Orange Tip, Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock. Yes, spring has definitely arrived! Thank you to Nick & Prue for organising the event and lunch afterwards at the Bricklayers Arms.
Sence Valley Park, 24th March, 2018.
The Sence Valley is a 60 ha country park belonging to Leicestershire County Council on a former colliery site near Heather. It was named by local schoolchildren and incorporates the River Sence, three lakes and large areas of trees including Corsican pine, larch and poplars which will provide an income when they are thinned after 20 years. There are also areas dedicated to broadleaf trees and a wildflower meadow which meant that there were a variety of habitats to explore on our visit.
The first noticeable thing about this trip was the bird song: song thrushes, great tits, blue tits, blackbirds, robins and many more were in full song whilst, on the lakes, great crested grebes, coots and a variety of other wildfowl were gearing up for the breeding season. From the bird hide and the path beyond, however, we had more notable sightings - willow tit, chiffchaff, goldcrest, buzzard, singing skylarks and, at the side of the lake opposite the bird hide, we had great views of male reed buntings and an unexpected flock of lesser redpoll.
Although insects are not yet fully on the wing, there were several sightings of bumble bees whilst celandines and coltsfoot punctuated the footpaths along with alder catkins and the first buds breaking on a variety of bushes - let's hope these early signs of Spring are not too premature with the forecast of more cold weather ahead!
Attenborough Nature Reserve, Notts, 24th February, 2018.
An amazing day! First of all, despite the cold weather, the sun shone all morning and the 16 people who attended were immediately treated to a fine selection of birds eagerly accepting hand-outs from visitors at the centre. Although this may constitute cheating in birding circles, it offered a selection of some more unusual wild / semi-wild species for those amongst us who were, perhaps, less familiar with them. Egyptian geese and red-crested pochard were the first to make the day's list amongst some commoner species. As we crossed the bridge near the centre, we watched gadwall and picked out other water birds when, suddenly, one of the group spotted a very relaxed and beautifully lit kingfisher sat on a branch below us, totally unconcerned by the dozens of visitors passing by. We watched it for several minutes, joined by other birdwatchers, including a very young boy who had just purchased his first pair of binoculars - not a bad first bird!!
As we moved on, it became quickly obvious that it was going to be hard to get all the way round as the birds came thick and fast with some stunning views - snipe, reed bunting, goosander, shoveller, wigeon, teal, grey heron, kestrel to name but a few. As we approached Tower Hide, a familiar call made us turn and we were just in time to see a raven sweep through.
The next hide slowed the pace a little with not much to be seen but a walk along the river in the Spring-like sunshine gave us great views of a great-crested grebe trying to swallow a fish the size of a shark, an endeavour it eventually gave up on! (Lucky fish!). As we watched it, we got a tip-off about the so-far elusive female scaup and, after a lot of searching, we found it, giving us a chance to compare it to the confusing female tufted ducks swimming with it. Two of us were even lucky enough to have the briefest view of a water rail scuttling past.
As we continued, we added small birds including goldcrest along with thrushes (song thrush, mistle thrush, fieldfare, redwing, blackbirds and some incredibly tame robins) plus an amazing couple of nuthatches, always impressive. The village offered us goldfinch and one brief view of a siskin.
By now, it was getting colder but still very bright and we were glad to get back to the centre for the usual post-walk refreshments. For those who sat outside, there was the additional bonus of the kingfisher darting past again and an oystercatcher. The total for the day was an incredible 57!!! A fantastic trip!!!
Draycote Reservoir, Warwickshire, 25th November, 2017.
The early morning snow which greeted us as we looked out of the window was not a good sign; nor was the freezing cold wind! But, by the time we arrived at this very accessible reservoir with a good path all the way around it, those of us who had braved the low temperatures enjoyed a good day's walking, chatting and birdwatching. It did not take us long to be distracted by wildlife - a female goosander shared the shoreline with a little egret (a bird which has spread its range so much now that, once uncommon - perhaps twitchable, it is now often disregarded because of the frequency with which it is seen). Other shoreline and water birds included oystercatcher, goldeneye. tufted duck, little grebe, great crested grebe, wigeon, teal and shoveler.
A beautiful kestrel perched on an exposed branch, giving us a great opportunity to enjoy its immaculate plumage and some blackbirds were joined by a redwing in a nearby field. The bird hide offered more of an opportunity for a coffee break than birdwatching but the tree lined path beyond produced a lot of small birds, the highlight of which was a stunning goldcrest.
The final stretch of dam on the far side produced more of the same as far as water birds went but three buzzards and a big flock of tree sparrows added to our day's list. By this time, the cold and the need for the facilities added speed to our journey and we piled into the excellent café for dinner.
For a couple of members, there was an added bonus. Having received a tip-off from the local bird recorder they had fortuitously bumped into in the foyer, they had managed to briefly locate the reported long tailed duck for which we had been hopefully searching as we wandered around. Sadly, by the time the rest of us joined them, it had vanished - all you need: a bird with a sense of humour!
Fungal Foray, The Outwoods, 28th October, 2017.
Everyone is interested in fungi but very few people have the confidence to identify them accurately. Our group, however, is particularly blessed in having the skills of Richard Iliffe to count on and it was he who was leading this foray into the Outwoods near Loughborough.
We were all relieved to leave the car park as a cutting wind was whipping across it but, as we descended into the woods, the trees screened us and we began to search for the fruiting bodies of various toadstools and mushrooms. it was not long before we found the first, soon identified as Clouded agaric by our leader. The clouded agaric is named after the colour of its cap which resembles the colour of a storm cloud and explains its Latin name of clytocibe nebularis. It was quickly followed onto the list by the abundant and distinctive sulphur tuft, and then the clustered bonnet and common earthball with its thick skin and black spores.
The finds continued to come in thick and fast as eager eyes scanned the ground and trees. Bracket fungi were particularly easy to find (the bracket group are a type of fungi which attach themselves to the trunks of trees, often forming a kind of shelf perpendicular to the bark) with the aptly named turkey tail featuring highly, its alternating light and dark bands looking just like the tail feathers of that particular bird.
Amongst the more dramatic finds were those fungi with more garish colouration - fly agaric (the archetypal red toadstool with white spots), the golden fingers of yellow stagshorn and the beautiful purple of amethyst deceiver. And, in the expert hands of Richard, some, otherwise less intriguing species revealed bizarre secrets - one branch on the ground was covered in a hard, ugly skin of fungus which, when scratched, began to 'bleed', red liquid seeping from it - this, Richard informed us, was bleeding broadleaf crust.
Most bizarre, perhaps, was the slime mould found on a fallen conifer branch. At first sight, it appears as an extremely unappealing jelly, our example being made up of bright orange spheres attached together like frogspawn. This strange organism defies categorisation, however, being neither truly animal or plant, beginning its life as a single celled micro-organism which can detect food sources but it then congregates with other others of its type and starts to move as a single organism hardening off to produce spores like a fungus. Incredible!
Thanks to Richard for his superb insights - everyone agreed that the day had been a great success and that they had a learned a huge amount. An excellent day!
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.