Sunday, November 28, 2010

Valley of the River Thame near Starveall Farm - Buckinghamshire

I enjoyed a short walk before lunch down into the valley of the River Thame near Starveall Farm ( The temperature at the start was -5°C rising to about 0°C by the time I returned to the car. However, the cloud was thin and the sun was out! It seemed to be much colder in the bottom of the valley.

The following were of note.


24 species were seen and/or heard and recorded in BirdTrack ( Of main interest were the large numbers of Thrushes; particularly the abundant Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) and, to a much lesser extent, Blackbird (Turdus merula). Added to those were small numbers of Redwing (Turdus iliacus), Song thrush (Turdus philomelos) and Mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus). All these birds were primarily foraging under the hedges and tree lines.

Also notable were Snipe (Gallinago gallinago). One was disturbed, typically, from the river; however, 6 more were found feeding in one of the riverside meadows. This is the largest number of Snipe seen by me at this site.

Finally, a couple of Woodpigeon kills were found; only feathers seen with no carcass evident. See the following photograph.


Some Fresh Mole (Talpa europaea) activity noted, plus 2 Grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and a sickly Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Murcott Meadows SSSI

Today I had a short break from work for an afternoon walk over Murcott Meadows SSSI ( The temperature was about 2°C; however, the cloud was thin and the sun was out! All ground was still frozen in the areas of shade.

The following were of note.


Nothing of great interest; however, I did take the following photographs of lichen encrusted Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). This was a very common sight on the north side of the spinney.


17 species were seen and/or heard and recorded in BirdTrack ( Of main interest were good views of Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) and Redwings (Turdus iliacus), plus small groups of Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) heading towards the Otmoor roost (


Fresh Mole (Talpa europaea) activity in evidence around the meadow boundaries, plus one Grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) seen.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Aston Rowant NNR (South)

Up in the hills today! A late Autumn (early Winter) walk over Aston Rowant NNR (South). The temperature varied between 6°C and 7°C; it was damp underfoot with mist patches.

The following were of note.


I noted that at least 2 spikes of Yellow-wort (Blackstonia perfoliata) were in bud and suspect the flowers would open should the sun ever come out. The stands of Juniper (Juniperus communis) were impressive with some re-generation noted. Finally, the Hazel (Corylus avellana) catkins made a great show and gave a hint that Spring will come after we have lived through the depths of Winter!

Juniper (Juniperus communis)


17 species were seen and/or heard and recorded in BirdTrack ( Not that great but my sightings did include some choice views of three Winter visitors.

• Finch flocks were much in evidence but the best sight was 10+ Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) feeding around the top of an Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and a Common Whitebeam (Sorbus aria). Not a particularly rare species but one not often observed by me.

• Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) heard plus good views of Redwing (Turdus iliacus) obtained.


5+ Fallow deer (Dama dama) noted and 2 Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) seen.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thame Valley Shabbington - Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire border

A lunchtime walk along the River Thame on the Buckinghamshire bank downstream of Shabbington. I started the walk at 11:45 and finished around 14:00. 15°C and 90% cloud at the start but rapidly changing to 100% sun and 19°C.

The following were of note.


Butterflies – one large unidentified insect flying at a distance and one White seen; the latter possibly a Small or Green-veined White (Pieris rapae or Pieris napi). However, I did get firm ids on two other butterflies – 1 ♂ Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) and 1 Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta).

Dragonflies – I think I had a Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) though too distant to id with certainty and could not obtain a record shot. However, I did see some Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) with at least one pair in tandem and ovipositing.

♂ Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

The following were in flower:

Water Forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides)

Not sure about this one! I am checking with the community on iSpot.
Input from the iSpot community suggests:
Great Yellow-cress (Rorippa amphibia)

Comment from allrounder: This looks from the picture like Great Yellow-cress and as the scientific name suggests is found in and by fresh water. Your picture shows a plant with a stout stem, lanceolate, toothed leaves and the fruits are oval with a style. All indicators of Great Yellow-cress. This plant is described as only locally common so a good find.


Good views of the following were obtained:

• Mute swan (Cygnus olor) – the winter flock had 4 individuals in it.

• Redshank (Tringa tetanus) – 1 disturbed from the river; white pointed rump and broad edge to trailing wing edges very diagnostic. This is a first for me at any of my River Thame sites!

• Buzzard (Buteo buteo) – 2;

• Red kite (Milvus milvus) – 5+;

• Grey heron (Ardea cinerea) – 1;

• Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) – flock of 25 to 30 flying over.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Lea Park, Thame, Oxfordshire

A first for my garden in Thame! 2 Raven (Corvus corax) flying over and heading south.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Emmington - Oxfordshire

Today was not the best of days for a wildlife walk; however, as I had not been on one since August it was a must to get out into the field! I spent about 2 hours from 10:50 walking the footpaths around Emmington. The weather was pleasant to begin with at 15°C with light rain; however, the rain became heavier and the wind stronger by the time I got back to the car.

The following were of note.


Hornet (Vespa crabro) – At least three where flying close to Great Covert, with one amongst the sunflowers in a strip planted as game cover.


Three interesting species of fungi were seen during the walk; 2 in Down Covert on tree trunks and one on Ash (Fraxinus excelsior). I am no expert at identifying fungi so I have loaded the following photographs to iSpot ( to seek id support from the community. I will update the blog if ids provided.

The iSpot community did not let me down. Two ids provided plus a possible id.  See the captions under the relevant photographs for the species identifications. 

Pleurotus sp. poss. either P. ostreatus or P. cornucopiae. Need to revisit site to get improved images and images of the stipe. In P. cornucopiae the lamellae run down the stipe and criss-cross over each other to form a distinctive diamond pattern.

Pleurotus sp. poss. either P. ostreatus or P. cornucopiae. Need to revisit site to get improved images and images of the stipe. In P. cornucopiae the lamellae run down the stipe and criss-cross over each other to form a distinctive diamond pattern.
Pholiota adiposa

Pholiota adiposa
Silverleaf Fungus (Chondrostereum purpureum) on Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)


The following were in flower:

• White Dead-nettle (Lamium album);

• Red Clover (Trifolium pretense);

• Common Field Speedwell (Veronica persica);

• 2 species of Umbelliferae.


• House martin (Delichon urbica) – small flocks;

• Swallow (Hirundo rustica) - small flocks;

• Buzzard (Buteo buteo) – at least 3 with one harassed by corvids;

• Red kite (Milvus milvus) – 6+;

• Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) – 2;

• Skylark (Alauda arvensis) – calling from recently drilled fields;

• Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) – 2 calling;

• Stock dove (Columba oenas) – possible the largest flock I have ever seen; 30+ individuals.


• 1 Brown hare (Lepus europaeus);

• Grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) – evidence that they are feeding on maze hobs picked from the strips sown as game cover. Feeding stations found in Down Covert.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Aston Rowant NNR (South)

A warm August Sunday encouraged Peter and me to take a walk in the Chilterns at Aston Rowant NNR (South). I was hoping to see some choice late summer butterflies while Peter wanted to experiment with his new zoom lens. Specifically, he wanted to get some flight shots of Red Kite (Milvus milvus). The butterflies did not disappoint; however, the Red Kite did. In fact, I think we saw more around home in Thame!

This was the last walk Peter and I will take for a while. He goes to Leiden tomorrow to study for his Masters Degree; so the walk was a great way to spend time together before he leaves. Also, I have not been in the field for some weeks so it was good to get ‘out there’ again!

The following were of note.


• Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina);

• Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) -;

• Large White (Pieris brassicae);

• Small White (Pieris rapae);

• Green-veined White (Pieris napi);

• Brown Argus (Plebeius agestis);

• Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus);

• Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) -;

• Silver-spotted Skipper (Hesperia comma) -;

• Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni);

• Chalkhill Blue (Polyommatus coridon) - &;

• Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) – possible sighting only. Large Fritillary seen flying in a glade in the small copse at the foot of Bald Hill. I have almost zero experience with this species but just did not think the insect I saw was a Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja)!

Other Insects:

• Roesel’s Bush-Cricket (Metrioptera roeselii) – most parts of the reserve; particularly, the areas of longer grass and brambles, resounded to the sound of this cricket. And both Peter and I managed one view of an adult which showed the broad cream-coloured margin on its pronotum very well.


• Chiltern Gentian (Gentianella germanica) – flower spikes very common on Bald Hill with a few inflorescences open.

Chiltern Gentian (Gentianella germanica)

Chiltern Gentian (Gentianella germanica)

Not sure why but I was surprised to see some Hirundinidae during the walk: House martin (Delichon urbica) and Swallow (Hirundo rustica). I should know that though they are ‘on the move’ I should expect to migrating parties of these birds for some weeks yet.


Two species of deer were seen on the Reserve today:

• Fallow Deer (Dama dama) – a group of 4 ♀ and 1 young ♂. I do not see this species on the reserve that frequently.

• Roe deer – (Capreolus capreolus) – 1 ♀ plus one juvenile. This gave Peter and me, and this is rather unfair, our Kate Humble moment! The ♀ was one side of a fence while the youngster was on the other side and could not jump the fence. Not nice to see the poor little guy bashing himself against that fence! However, we decided leave as our presence was causing stress and we knew that the ♀ would easily jump the fence to take charge of her offspring again - .

Monday, June 28, 2010

Emmington - Oxfordshire

Two surveys down for June and one to go! Over lunchtime today I completed a Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey on my BTO BBS 1km square SP7402 at Emmington in Oxfordshire. During the survey the following butterflies were seen and recorded on the WCBS website -

• Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina); 83

• Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta); 1

• Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae); 28

• Peacock (Inachis io); 1

• Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus); 32

• Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria); 2

• Marbled White (Melanargia galathea); 1

• Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus); 13

Only one additional adult butterfly was observed outside of the survey:

• Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus); 1

However, I did find some caterpillars of the Peacock (Inachis io) butterfly in one of the many Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) patches on the survey route.

And, finally for today, a good confirmed breeding record for Whitethroat (Sylvia communis); one bird carrying food (insect) in its beak.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rushbeds Wood and Lapland Farm - Buckinghamshire

Sunday 27th and I completed my last summer TTV survey on Tetrad SP61S for the BTO Bird Atlas 2007-11. Not sure it was the best day to carry out the survey given that the temperature ranged from 20° to 27°C with 100% sun. However, I had no choice.

During the timed survey I counted 23 bird species and the numbers of each species have now been loaded to the BTO website. I was pleased to be able to obtain confirmed breeding records for Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) and Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus).

On the botanical side it was great to see the fields of Lapland Farm looking so good and floristically rich.

Lapland Farm

Lapland Farm

Of note for me were the numbers of Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsia) in flower. Significant numbers seen over Lapland Farm with smaller numbers scattered throughout the Wood.

Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsia)

Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsia)

Given the conditions the butterflies put on a good show with the following species on the wing:

• Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina); 10+

• Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus); 1

• Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae); 1

• Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus); 1

• Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus); 10+

• Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria); 10+

• Marbled White (Melanargia galathea); 20+ all at Lapland Farm

• Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus); 20+

• Green-veined White (Pieris napi); 1

Shirburn Hill - Oxfordshire

Yesterday was a day for father and son bonding (June 26th 2010) with Peter and I going for a walk over Shirburn Hill. The weather was hot at 26°C in the shade and with 70% sun during the trek.

On this trip Peter was the photographer and some of his shots are included below.

Craneflies mating (Tipulidae) - id not known
SteveT from iSpot suggests these are Spotted Crane-fly (Nephrotoma appendiculata)

The Box 'Wood' (Buxus sempervirens) 'flowing' down the hill

Biting Stonecrop (Sedum acre)

Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrichus) and Common Rock-rose (Helianthemum nummularium)

Wild Candytuft (Iberis amara)

Given the conditions the butterflies put on a good show with the following species on the wing:

• Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina); 20+

• Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus); 20+

• Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae); 3

• Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus); 2

• Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus); 2

• Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris); 1

• Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria); 3

• Marbled White (Melanargia galathea); 6

• Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus); 2

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lea Park, Thame, Oxfordshire

A sweltering week in the garden; however, the juvenile Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) seem to be enjoying life in the pond and a further 3 Small Tortoiseshell butterflies (Aglais urticae) were seen. It was also great to watch the activity around the bee nesting tubes. I think all the bees seen were Leaf-Cutter Bees (probably a species of Megachile) with at least 2 seen flying with cut leaf fragments. Attempted to take some photographs but failed! The only half decent shot is included below. I like the little face peering out of one of the tubes. Hopefully an illusion!!!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lea Park, Thame, Oxfordshire

I have been a bit lax with patch watching over the last couple of weeks and need to get back on track from this week onwards. If nothing else, I have to do my last BTO BBS survey ( and my last BTO BA TTV survey (, last surveys for this year, by the end of June. I also want to fit in one UKBMS WCBS survey ( by the end of the month as well!

As of today all I have to note is a few items from the garden. Another confirmed breeding record for the TTV with a Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) seen feeding a recently fledged youngster. The Common Frog (Rana temporaria) tadpoles in the pond are no more. They have changed into miniature versions of their adult future! Some still in the pond while others have started exploring the wider world. Finally, I spotted a fresh Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) taking nectar from a garden flower. Nothing show stopping but all great to see.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

River Thame valley Chearsley - Buckinghamshire

Between 13:00 and 15:00 today I had another walk in the valley of the River Thame at Chearsley. The main purpose was to see if I could be more certain about the possible True Fox Sedge (Carex vulpina) found on June 1st at SP729099. Using the Carex Plant Crib from the BSBI (, I think it is clear that these plants are Carex otrubae – the common False Fox Sedge. A photograph of the acute ligule is included with this post, as I think it makes the new identification definitive.

I think what is confusing me is the fact that some plants are very robust while others are not and that they all appear to have the same characteristics. The ligule picture is from a robust type. A photograph of a ‘weaker’ plant clump is included as are shots of the stems of both the robust and non-robust types. I will also post all this to iSpot ( to see what the experts think!

Update from miked on iSpot - 'Tricky one, had you considered C. spicata and the hybrids with C. otrubae too? Some of the Carex can be very tricky and need close examinations of fine details, good though you photos are I suspect they are not quite good enough to say. Its clear that it is from the group containing C. otrubae but can't be sure its that exact species.'

However, my walk was not all about sedges as the following were also of interest.


• Small White (Pieris rapae); 2

• Green-veined White (Pieris napi);2

• Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines); 1

• Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus); 6

• Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus); 4

Other Insects:

• Damselfly, the Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens); many ♂ plus slightly lower numbers of ♀. Photographs of a mating pair included with this post.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens); mating pair

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens); mating pair

• The small ‘livestock drinking pond’ along the Dad Brook was ‘full’ of fry. I will assume they were Minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus) though I am far from sure!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Lea Park, Thame, Oxfordshire

A busy day photographing pond life! Peter got some good shots of a mating pair of Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) while his Mum was intrigued to see how quickly the fast developing Common Frog (Rana temporaria) tadpoles were attracted to the new lily!

Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)

Common Frog (Rana temporaria) tadpoles

Friday, June 04, 2010

Emmington - Oxfordshire

The weather was so good today that I took an hour or so out over lunch to complete my first Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey ( of the year. I am conducting the survey on the same 1km Grid Square (SP7402 - Emmington in Oxfordshire) I survey for the BTO Breeding Bird Survey and will attempt to do 6 WCBS visits between now and the end of August.

Butterflies seen and then recorded on the WCBS website:

• Large White (Pieris brassicae); 4

• Small White (Pieris rapae); 6

• Green-veined White (Pieris napi);5

• Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines); 5

• Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas); 4

• Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus); a mating pair

• Peacock (Inachis io); 1

• Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria); 3

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

River Thame valley around Chearsley and Cuddington - Buckinghamshire

During the afternoon of Tuesday June 1st I enjoyed another walk in the shallow valley of the River Thame; but, this time, the area between Chearsley & Cuddington. There was a light breeze with temperatures between 14°C & 15°C, plus light rain for some of the time and zero sun.

Given the conditions I expected a birding day and so it proved in part. Of the birds, 30 species were seen or heard and subsequently recorded in Bird Track ( Yet again I was able to get a good confirmed breeding record for the Bird Atlas (

• Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major); 1 recently fledged individual.

Other interesting observations included:


• Damselfly, the Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens); 3 ♂ plus what I believe were 2 ♀. Two photographs of one female are included with this post; however, I have also sent them to iSpot ( for verification!

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens); possible

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens); possible

ID of the above confirmed by David at iSpot with the following comment - '..the white false pterostigma near the wingtips confirm that it is a Demoiselle'.

Flora (this could be the star observation of the day or month or year!!):

• Observed some prominent clumps of sedge in one relatively botanically rich, for the area, damp meadow that appears not to have been grazed by cattle since at least the winter. Photographs of the inflorescence are included with this post. The closest I can get to in terms of identification is True Fox Sedge (Carex vulpina). This sedge is not common and one that appears (see map in NBN - ) restricted to the environs of the River Ray locally, with no record for this site’s 10K Grid Square. Another one for iSpot I think!

True Fox Sedge (Carex vulpina); possible

True Fox Sedge (Carex vulpina); possible

Sunday, May 30, 2010

River Thame & its valley @ Starveall Farm, Buckinghamshire

During the late afternoon of Friday May 28th my walk took me around Starveall Farm and down into the shallow valley of the River Thame. About 75% sun during the walk but the breeze limited the temperature to 19°C at the start reducing to 17°C at the end. Nothing in particular targeted but enjoyed views of a range of birds, insects and plants. Of note were the following:

Green-veined White (Pieris napi)

Butterflies seen:

• Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines); 7

• Green-veined White (Pieris napi); 2

• Whites (Pieris sp.); 3

• Peacock (Inachis io); 1

Mayfly - possibily Ephemera danica

Other insects:

• Damselfly, the Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens); 3

• Mayfly, sparse swarming by the river and a short distance from it. I think they were all Ephemera danica given the large size and brown wing markings.

Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)


• The notable plant in flower was Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi). Seen in the ‘Rushy Meadow’ on the valley side.

A good range of both resident and migrant species seen or heard during the walk as is normal for this site. Two good breeding records obtained for the Tetrad:

• Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus); ♀ seen obviously feeding young down by the River Thame;

• Starling (Sturnus vulgaris); rowdy group of adults and fledged young feeding around the River. I suspect they were attracted by the swarming Mayflies.

Other birds of note were:

• Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo); 1

• Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea); 2