PRESIDENT :GEOFF CORNEY Editor: Joanne Colthup, NEWLETTER No 70 AUTUMN 2013 CHAIRMAN'S REPORT
I hope that you are all enjoying this lovely weather, as I am, plus the fact that I can catch up with the gardening jobs at home, and in the allotments. Indeed I do not need to go far from my house to enjoy the wild life as it has decided to pay me a visit, including some new friends arriving last week, like a dragon fly and a Tortoiseshell butterfly, along with the usual ones. I have just come in from the garden having counted 5 Peacock butterflies on one Buddleia plant alone. My tadpoles have metamorphosed and the baby frogs are dispersing nicely, (having avoided my cats).
We enjoyed the field trip to West Sussex in May, and the hotel gave us comfortable accommodation and excellent food, though the wildlife was not much in evidence due to the poor weather. The moth evening was a disaster, just one moth. We did get to see the Peregrine Falcons in Chichester and still had a great time. Joanne adds that the flora was good and we saw a number of unusual plants new to many of us.
I was asked at the programme meeting if I intended to organize a field trip in 2014 but have not decided if I want to do it as the last trip gave me a lot of problems. Did you know that John, Margaret and I have to plan out the hotel, going down to stay to make sure it will be suitable for our stay, visiting the various reserves in the area, and finding out where we can find the necessary facilities. This makes a nice break for us but costs in time and money. I then have to pay a 'holding deposit' to the chosen hotel to make sure that we will have enough suitable rooms when we arrive and then, a week or sometimes a month before the start, pay the full amount which I can only do by withdrawing from my savings. It costs thousands of pounds and is a worry. In addition, I have to keep in contact with the hotel during the year updating any changes. For instance last year I had a lot of sorting out when not everyone wanted to stay the full four nights, and there was uncertainty about who would be able to come due to ill health and hospital visits. There are many of us who do not want to drive any distance from the home territory which gives me another problem when drivers who have taken passengers down need to return early.
These are problems I can usually sort out. Margaret and her computer are a great help getting the itinerary printed out and sent by email, I just wouldn't be able to manage without it.
If I do agree to organize a field trip next year, I want to be sure that I get all the money owing to the hotel at least a month before we set off, otherwise I cannot guarantee that late payers will have a room allocated to them.
PERIVALE WOOD NATURE RESERVE. THURSDAY 28TH MARCH. LEADER: JOHN WELLS
It was cold, when still waiting for Spring to arrive, we met John Wells, the Warden to lead us around the reserve. We met in the 'hut' where John explained that the reserve was the second oldest in the country, founded in 1902. The aim was to preserve the flora & fauna rather than for the enjoyment of visitors.
The reserve was entered by an elaborate wrought iron gate recently erected in memory of a former member, and is kept locked except for members of the Selbourne Society and escorted groups. There are regular open days.
The wood is noted for the splendid display of Bluebells. However, due to the late spring, we didn't expect them to be out but we didn't even see any sign of buds forming. Snowdrops were still flowering and there were plenty of Wood Anemones. Cuckoo Pint or Wild Arum was abundant but not in flower. In the 1920s and 30s primroses were plentiful on the reserve, so John informed us, but were dug up to be sold in London, and are now being replaced by genuine Middlesex stock. The wood should have been yellow with Lesser Celandine as the leaves were present but due to the cold weather they were reluctant to flower. John is obviously a 'moss man', and was pleased to point out the different species growing on old decaying logs. Brachythecium rutabulum -Rough stalked Feather moss. Plagiomnium undulatum - Palm tree moss. Mnium hornum -Swan's neck Thyme moss. Amblystegium serpens - Creeping feather moss.
The fungi seen were: Witches' Butter, Elves Cup, Jelly Ear and King Alfred's Cakes.
Birds heard and seen: Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Crow. The highlight of our visit was a Woodcock glimpsed scurrying away through the undergrowth. We finished with refreshments in the hut. Thank you John for a very enjoyable and informative visit.
Walk for birds on Bentley Priory on Thursday April 18th. Leader: Elizabeth Stainthorpe.
A party of nine members met at the top of Old Lodge Way at 9.30. The weather was cloudy but it was not raining as we walked up the main path towards the wood. There were Crows and Magpies around and a Blackbird singing in the wood. As we entered the wood, there were Blue and Great tits calling and a Wren was singing in the bushes.
We crossed the stream and entered the Greensward. A Blackcap was singing on the edge of the wood and a Goldcrest was heard in a pine tree. Blackbirds were also singing and a Green Woodpecker was heard calling. As we approached the lake we heard our first Chiffchaff and several Wrens and a Chaffinch were singing.
There was not much on the water - a Heron flew off and there were Coot, Moorhen, Mallard and a pair of Gadwall but no evidence of nesting maybe due to the cold late spring. I had only heard my first Chiffchaff on 14th April which was a month later than usual. We were pleased to see several Swallows flying over the water so they had returned safely from South Africa and will be going to breed in the stables at Lower Priory Farm.
As we walked round the lake (clockwise) we heard another Chiffchaff and Blackcaps and also Great and Blue Tits, a Nuthatch was calling and also a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A family of Long-tailed Tits was seen but the star of the morning was a Willow Warbler which was singing in the bushes at the bottom of Spring Field but unfortunately it didn't stay to breed.
I must also mention the wild flowers. There were several large patches of Wood Anemones and also Lesser Celandines, some Bluebells were about to flower and there was a good clump of Marsh Marigolds in the marsh at the top of the lake. On the east side of the lake there was a large patch of primroses -they were probably wild but there was a pink flower among them.
On reaching the east side of the lake we made our way up the slope to the Greensward and crossed over to the Deer Path as some members had brought carrots for the deer which were greatly appreciated. There were a good number of Jackdaws in the deer park as well as Crows. Chaffinches were singings as well as Blackbirds, Robins and a Dunnock. We continued down the Deer Path and back to Old Lodge Way reaching there at 12.45.
Thursday 25th April. Old Park Wood, Harefield. Herts & Middx Reserve. Leader Joanne Colthup
We met on a very pleasantly warm morning, a relief after such a long cold winter. The wood situated behind Harefield Hospital is very ancient known from Saxon times. It has a wide variety of wild flowers due to the different soil types found in the wood and the many underground springs. Immediately approaching the wood, Elizabeth recognized a Whitethroat singing which was a good sign. The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is listed as one of the birds to be found in the wood but we did not see or hear it. We did hear the Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
The Bluebells were expected to be out but were only just showing blue, the latest to flower I have ever known. One of the specialities of the reserve is the Coral Root Bitter Cress - Cardamine pratensis, the bottom part of the wood should have been blue/pink with it in flower. However, disappointingly, it was still in bud. The plant is very selective where it grows as a native, only in the Weald of Kent and damp woodland in certain parts of the Chilterns. It likes Old Park Wood and Whippendell Wood. Opposite Leaved Golden Saxifrage - Chrysospermum oppositifolium- has long been known on the muddy banks of the wet spring at the bottom of the wood, and after some searching we found it. Not as plentiful as it used to be. There were two patches of Wood Sorrel - Oxalis acetosella, the leaves of which give a good acid taste to salads, and plentiful Wood Anemone -Anemone nemorosa. The last plant seen was to me the most memorable because it is not often seen: Adoxa moschatellina -Moschatel or Town Hall Clock, known for its greenish five-sided heads at right angles to each other.
Walking around, we heard a Chiffchaff, Blackcaps, a Wren and a Song Thrush. We saw several Swallows and a few early butterflies Orange tip, Red Admiral, Peacock, Large White and male & female Brimstones.
Stanmore Country Park for Butterflies and Bluebells. Saturday 27th April. Leader: John Hollingdale
About eight people assembled in the Country Park's car park hoping to see some Spring butterflies.
However the weather was cloudier than last year so no Lepidoptera were seen at all. We concentrated on the flora with Bluebells being the most prominent. We also saw (well some of us) two Muntjac Deer as well as their grazing on Bluebell leaves.
Moth Evening at W. S. Gilbert's Orchard, Saturday May 4th 9.00pm. Leader: John Hollingdale
Nine people turned up for this moth evening at the old orchard near Grimsdyke Hotel including Helenka the head gardener an.d Dick Middleton of the Ruislip and District NHS. Moths came regularly and by the end of the evening we had recorded 19 species; 3 micros and 16 macros. The pick of the macros were Early Thorn, Least Black Arches and Dotted Chestnut; I can supply a full list if required. None of the 19 moth species were seen on the cold night last year.
Tewin Orchard and Tewinbury Monday May 1 3th. Leader: Margaret Huitson
Tewin Orchard is a small Hertfordshire & Middlesex Wildlife Trust reserve near Welwyn Garden City and we caught it at its best: the fruit trees laden with blossom. The majority of the trees were different types of apple but also pear and almond.
The weather was chilly with sunny spells so not many insects were apparent but we did see Green Veined White and Speckled Brown butterflies. All indications were of a good harvest to come.
Wild flowers were abundant -masses of lush Ground Ivy -Glechoma hederacea, and the first noted of the year, Red Campion - Silene dioica. Flowers this year have been about a month late in flowering, so early flowers were still blooming along with those just opening.
We were amazed to see Wood Forget-me-not -Myosotis sylvatica- in quantity white as well as the usual blue, the white variety perhaps more prominent. No explanation!
Out of the orchard and into Hopkyns Wood we were lured by the smell of garlic, and found Ransoms - Allium ursinum- dominating the wood. We heard and saw a number of birds: Blackcap, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Whitethroat, & Pheasant.
A short drive away was another small reserve but quite different Tewinbury. The river Mimram was diverted in 1800 to power threshing machines and a small lake was formed. The lake is of great importance as it is one of the best places in Hertfordshire to see water voles. There was a fine hide on two levels we sat patiently upstairs and then moved down but no sign of a water vole and few birds.
There were excellent water meadows nearby with a wonderful display of Opposite leaved Golden Saxifrage -Chrysosplenium oppositifolium. In Old Park Wood the few plants were able to be seen but inaccessible. These were underfoot. However the dominant plant was Lesser Pond Sedge - Carex acutiformis. According to the information board we should have seen Marsh Orchid - Dactylorhiza praetermissa - but there was no sign of even leaves appearing.
Visit to Hillfield Park Reservoir Thursday 30th June Leader: Margaret Huitson.
A small group of us gathered on a dry afternoon at the site. We were immediately rewarded by excellent views of a Peregrine Falcon that landed in view on a nearby pylon.
Joanne showed us a, new to many, Forget-me-not: Changing Forget-me-not-Myosotis discolor- with a slightly drooping look and attractive combination of blue and tiny yellow flowers. Most of us then walked along the dam and round part of the reservoir. The Great Crested Grebes were displaying and a Red Kite was seen overhead. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard and landed in a nearby tree also a somewhat "dirty looking" Green Woodpecker was observed.
Further on it was interesting to see the Black-headed Gulls with chicks and a Lesser Black Backed Gull also on a nest. Gadwall swam by and other birds including Dunnocks, Blackcap, Reed Warbler Chiffchaff and Wrens were heard. We were also pleased to see the Black-necked Grebes.
In all, an interesting visit to another Hertfordshires and Middlesex Widlife Trust reserve.
Flower walk for the Friends of Bentley Priory. Friday 21st June Leader: Joanne Colthup.
This is an annual walk for the Friends of Bentley Priory but as usual the greater majority of people attending were members of HNHS. We did have one Friend who was enthusiastic.
We decided to follow the new nature trail as the leaflets had been freshly placed in the box at the Old Lodge Way entrance. We set off at 2.00 hoping that the heavens would not open as rain looked very imminent.
At the first stop we found Lesser Celandine -Ranunculus ficaria- still out, it should have been well over, and walking up towards the deer enclosure saw much Drooping or Pendulous Sedge -Carex pendula, it is a feature of the area in damp places. Marsh Marigold -Caltha palustris -was spectacular with its large yellow flowers also in the wet areas. Near the Deer enclosure Sanicle - Sanicula europaea- was found in its usual place near the path on both sides.
Following the illustrations in the leaflet we discovered a lone Sessile Oak - Quercus petrea- which was planted and alien. We studied the leaves which are very similar to our native Oak - Quercus robur - so that we could differentiate the two.
Reaching the top of the reserve, we turned left onto acid grassland and, through the fence, caught glimpses of the newly converted expensive flats and soon to be opened museum.
We found Lesser Stitchwort -Stellaria graminea; Red Campion - Silene dioica; Wild Mignonette - Reseda lutea; Dog Rose - Rosa arvensis; Tormentil -Potentilla erecta and Heath Bedstraw -Galium saxatile.
At this point, half way round the trail, the threatened rain came as a very heavy downpour. We quickly hurried back to the cars on the firm path that we had already taken. It seemed more sensible than to continue through thick grass getting even wetter. The poor cows and a bull had taken shelter from their open field and were huddled under trees at the side of the path. It was unfortunate that we had to miss out the SSSI Summerfield but that must wait for another time.
Stanmore Country Park (LNR) Saturday 29th June. Leader John Hollingdale.
This field trip was attended by members from the branch, Harrow Nature Conservation Forum and Harrow Natural History Society. It was timed to see if Marbled Whites and Ringlets were on the wing. However what we saw in numbers were Large Skippers and Speckled Woods but no Ringlets or Marbled Whites. The late Spring and Summer had delayed their emergence. Also noted were several Commas, a Red Admiral and various whites. A mystery butterfly was glimpsed but there was a difference of opinion regarding whether it was a White or Red Admiral. Near the end two or three Meadow Browns had emerged.
Two weeks later Margaret and I saw both Ringlets and Marbled Whites in several of the open areas and the Ragwort was almost smothered in Cinnabar moth caterpillars. One cannot win when scheduling the programme. I mentioned at the time that we were hoping to get cattle to graze in the large fenced field avoiding the annual mow. We were let down by Harrow School so no Longhorns but Denis Vickers, Harrow's BAP officer, has arranged to have a permanent herd of Dexters there instead. We will be monitoring the effect on the vegetation and butterflies in the coming years.
Chorleywood Common for botany and othere wildlife. Saturday J uly 13th Leader: Joanne Colthu p
It was one of the hottest days and I unfortunately chose a day when Chorleywood had a Village Day so stalls and tents were being erected around us. It was a good job that we met at 10.30, and the Fete was due to start at 12.00.
We tried to keep in the shade as we walked to the upper pond, passing on the way a large patch of Water Pepper- Polygonum hydropiper. Tasting the leaves made our mouths burn, the plants are said to deter cattle, and grow in damp woodland rides. The pond used to be clear of vegetation except on the borders We found it to be choked with mainly Bog Bean -Menyanthes trifoliata and a variegated Reed obviously an introduced garden variety. Greater Spearwort -Ranunculus lingua- was blooming at the edge of the pond, it is becoming a rare plant and looks like a large Buttercup. Mentioning only the more unusual plants we saw Heath Groundsel -Senecio sylvaticus- and several interesting sedges just inaccessible to be correctly identified.
Along a shady track walking to the pond near to Christchurch we found a stand of Meadow Cranesbill -Geranium pratense. The plant is lime-loving so common along roadsides in the Chilterns and indicative of the soil mixture on the common.
The second pond was clearer but unpleasant looking. However at the muddy edge we found Red-shank - Polyganum persicaria -and Lesser Swinecress - Coronopus didymus.
Walking onto the open heathy grassland and into the bright sunshine we found colourful clumps of Harebell - Campanula rotundifolia- and the yellow Lady's Bedstraw - Galium verum.
We were too hot to explore any more of the common so gratefully escaped into Christchurch Hall for cool drinks. It was also the week-end of the Flower festival which was an added diversion for some of the group.
Fern walk at Old Redding & Grimsdyke. Saturday July 20th Leader Howard Matthews.
Another very hot day but the walk was mainly in the shade so was manageable. Most of us find ferns difficult to identify so Howard patiently goes over the same points with us every year. Howard started out by pointing out Britain's most common fern Bracken -Pteridium aquilinum. As we walked through the grounds of Grimsdyke he then showed us our third most common fern Broad Buckler -Dryopteris dilitata.
Passing a Strawberry Tree -Arbutus unedo - we had a discussion on the name and reading about it later discovered that the red fruits are strawberry like. We search for the Royal Fern - Osmunda regalis- by the lake but found it to have disappeared, the site choked by ivy. We did find another specimen, also by the lake, it is our tallest and most splendid fern so needs protection. Maidenhair Spleenwort Asplenium trichomanes- was typically growing in a crack in the wall surrounding the cultivated garden near the house with Hartstongue -Phylitis scolopendrium -nearby.
Planted in the gardens were Ostrich Fern -Matteuccia struthiopteris, and a cut leaved Soft Shield Fern which Matthew found grotesque.
Leaving the garden Lady Fern - Athyrium filix-femina was in its usual place near the bridge over the stream and then another very common fern the Male Fern -Dryopteris filix-mas and Soft Shield Fern Polystichum setiferum.
The Sensitive Fern - Onoclea sensibilis -was discovered in 1995 in the damp woodland obviously introduced as it comes from South America, it has made itself very much at home and is spreading. Yet another introduction (not a fern, but a garden throw-out) was the Mousetail plant -Arisarum proboscoideum- related to the Wild Arum or Lord's & Ladies. It has a dark spathe looking like the tail of a mouse. It had gone over but we could see that it is spreading.
Moving onto the nature trail John pointed out an Orange Footman moth and Matthew a well established stand of Great Wood Rush - Luzula sylvatica. Looking across into an inaccessible field was the long-known Wood Horsetail -Equisetum sylvaticum -probably the only site in Harrow.
Howard said that it is now classified as a fern. The last fern which we really had to search for in a ditch was Hard Fern -Blechnum spicant -which has been known on Wealdstone Common since 1866.
Thank you Howard for an excellent and very varied walk. How many ferns will we remember next year!
Stanmore Country Park -August 9th (National Moth Night)
At last, for a moth evening, we had a nice warm night with cloud cover. Ten of us gathered around the ultra violet bulb, suspended over a large white sheet. This was sited next to the woodland edge opposite the car park. Most of the faces were familiar but it was encouraging to see some that weren't.
The moths came regularly and at the end of the two hour session we had attracted over 50 species; 33 macros and the rest micros. Some of these (mostly micros) I took home to identify the next day and a few have been sent to Colin Plant, our long suffering county recorder, for the same reason. New to the reserve were the following: a Yellow- tailed Moth, Tree-lichen Beauty (7 or more) and the micro-Phlyctaenia coronata. Tiger Moths were the target for this year's National Moth Night so I was delighted when a Ruby Tiger appeared. Other moths of interest were the Antler Moth, two Lesser spotted Pinions and two Sallow Kittens.
As several of the participants were good at identifying moths all I had to do was to sit and record so I'd like to thank everyone for their valuable contributions. Please come again.
Bricket Wood Thursday 15th August.
Eight members attended this morning meeting hoping to see some of the unusual butterflies that inhabit this wood. We parked in the newish lay-bays in School Lane near the Munden House drive.
Unfortunately we couldn't guarantee the weather. So the previously Sunday's bright sunshine had been replaced by cloud with the sun shining but briefly. A few butterflies were seen; Large and Small Whites that didn't stop, Meadow Brown and Gatekeepers and one or two Comon Blues. Several Silver-y moths were also seen together with a few grass moths (Crambrids). The central Open space had impressive area of heather and Marion and Margaret recognised a large bush of Goats Rue beside the track that ran across it.
We then made our way to Moor Mill, an 18c building on a much earlier mill site on the river Gade that has now become a hostelry. Refreshments were taken but the feature of this place is the large trout (probably Rainbow Trout) that inhabit the mill stream. We bought food from the dispenser provided and spent some time feeding them and the resident wildfowl too. There is also a notice warning one of the local crocodile but I think (and hope) that was a joke.