Meet at the Nadder Centre car park on Sat 3rd June at 10.30am or approximately 1 hour 15 minutes later at the Westhay Moor Reserve BA6 9TX. The car park is at OS ST 456 437, just north of the junction between Westhay Moor Drove and Dagg’s Lane Drove, between the villages of Westhay and Godney.
Distance, Difficulty and Footwear: Approximately 5 km/3 miles on flat gravel paths which may be a bit muddy if there has been recent rain. Good stout shoes should suffice rather than wellingtons. Bring a packed lunch and refreshments.
This Field Trip has limited numbers. There may still be places if you've not yet signed up and want to come. Equally please let us know if you're on the list, but can no longer make the date. We are now using the email address email@example.com for organising lists for events, so please contact us there.
Field Trips programme details
Head over to the Field Trips page to download a document we've prepared about meeting places, distance, difficulty and footwear for all the main Field Trips this year. There's a wonderful line up of outings, both day and night, to experience the wildlife world of nightjars, otters, beavers, migratory birds, ancient trees...and the list goes on! The first one will be on Mon 1 May 2023 for a guided bird walk at Wallmead Farm with ecologist Nick Adams, starting at 5.30pm.
Please note that the Young Nature Watch Activities are listed on the main Calendar and details about them will be communicated on the YNW Blog and via email.
Talk notes: Managing the NT hillforts and chalk grasslands for both archaeology and nature conservation
Clive Whitbourn, National Trust Ranger, started his talk with a focus on Hambledon Hill, the 47 hectare hillfort which came to the National Trust in 2014. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a photo from 1940 showed how bare the hillfort was 80 years ago. Now the hillfort is managed lightly, with scrub kept low and any erosion kept at bay with terrace reshaping to preserve the profile of the ramparts.
Clive showed us the methods they use with wooden frameworks buried deep to support hessian bags full of chalk, which bulk out any damaged areas, with turf from the ditch placed on top. The chalkland grasses grow through and thrive. He mentioned that the south and south-west ramparts of Hambledon Hill are best for butterflies.
Cattle scraping for minerals – they can go on binges to self-medicate - and visitors wearing down paths, all play their part in erosion. Roboflail, a mechanical AI cutter, is being used on some of the NT sites to great effect to keep the scrub low and save the man hours for other tasks. The NT relies on volunteer help on many of their conservation projects.
Hod Hill is Dorset’s largest Iron Age hillfort and is unusual because it has a Roman fort nestled within, built at a time when the invaders needed to defend their capture of this Durotriges stronghold. Clive showed us how the framework and hessian bag method was also used to repair a bridleway here.
In terms of nature conservation, Texel sheep are good grazers and White Park cattle are brilliant for rough pastures. Yellow Rattle, which suppresses coarse grass growth, is doing well at Winn Green and there are plans this year to brush-harvest the seed from there and broadcast it to the newly purchased Clubmen’s Down, a 30 acre piece of arable.
Across Clive’s patch and the various Downs and hillforts, uncommon species are being noted: Bee and the Great Butterfly orchids, and the unusual Autumn Lady’s Tresses; Waxcap fungi; Marsh, Silver-spotted and Danville Fritillaries, Grizzled Skippers, Small Blue and Adonis Blue butterflies; Great Green Bush-crickets and Glow worms.
Clive’s talk gave us plenty of inspiration for visiting these places, particularly in the spring and summer!
Talk notes: Gardening for wild pollinators
Rebecca Twigg started her talk last week by stressing the relative unimportance of honey bees compared with wild pollinators such as solitary bees, bumblebees, moths, butterflies, hoverflies and beetles. She gave several examples of solitary bee species that are commonly found in gardens such as the Ashy and Tawny mining bees, as well as the recently arrived Ivy bees, and explained interesting details about their lifecycles and habitat requirements. Later, she gave us examples of the best garden flowers for pollinators, natives as well as exotics.
She stressed the importance of having flowers blooming all year round, with Heathers from late winter, Lungwort in early spring and continuing right through to early winter with Mahonia, for example. Rebecca explained how she restocks her garden by swapping plants, growing from cuttings and collecting seeds rather than buying from
Rebecca pointed out how planting in drifts is so important, so the bees don’t have to waste energy flying between individual flowers, making sure there’s a variety of flower types, e.g., Foxgloves for long-tongued bumblebees and daisies for short-tongued hover-flies.
Rebecca then spoke about creating different habitats in gardens, to provide for the diverse requirements of different pollinators. Drilling holes between 5 and 8mm and pencil length into wooden panels, logs or posts placed in warm, sunny situations can provide valuable nesting sites for solitary bees. The importance of having areas of short and longer (flower rich) grass in a lawn to cater for mining bees, which need warm soil to complete their lifecycle, was emphasised.
We recommend walking the Salisbury Bee Trail which Rebecca is responsible for laying out and for which she won an award.
by Peter Shallcross
This month we welcome Rebecca Twigg, founder of Salisbury's Secret Garden.
Rebecca is an organic gardener with a passion for the natural world who received a DEFRA award for the Salisbury Bee Trail project. She has now started a new community garden at the Five Rivers Health and Well-being Centre and an additional ‘green space kick start’ scheme for those wanting to take on a patch of ground themselves.
“Exploration outside is absolutely in my heart, there is something magical about immersing yourself in nature …these interactions shape our values and abilities to manage in an ever-changing world too.”
As last month, the Victoria Hall bar will be open from 7:00PM to serve wine, beer and soft drinks before the meeting.
We plan, as usual now, to live-stream Rebecca’s presentation over Zoom for anyone not able to attend in person; I’ll send out the Zoom link to members a few days before.
Attending our meetings is free for members and anyone under 21; adult visitors are asked for a £2 contribution. If you are not a member but would like to come along, please get in touch via the contact form. The Victoria Hall is on the High St, Tisbury, opposite the garage.
Field trip to Durlston Head
16 members gathered on a predictably hot day at The Learning Centre at Durlston Country Park near Swanage. Dorset Council ranger Paul Jones gave us an introductory talk about the different habitats and the wildlife that we were likely to see. Had we visited earlier (say early June), we could have seen, heard and smelt the colony of guillemots nesting on the cliffs and seen the numerous different species of orchids flowering in the meadows that Durlston is well known for.
However, there was still plenty to see. Paul led us to an old quarry where, on hands and knees, he showed us the rare bastard toadflax (stars-in-grass is his more preferable name for it). He led us to meadows where we quickly saw brown argus, common and holly blues, meadow browns and a single grayling butterfly and, later on, a clouded yellow.
From the cliffs we spied a flight of cormorants and a few lucky members saw peregrine falcons and a white-tailed eagle (They have been re-introduced on the Isle of Wight).
After a fascinating 1.5 hour guided walk we bade farewell to Paul and most of us made our way to the cafe in the castle where, to top things off, we were treated to fly-by from a Lancaster bomber off Old Harry’s rocks as part of the Swanage Festival.
by Peter Shallcross
Field trip to Tyneham
Breath-taking views were our reward at the top of a climb from the history barn at Tyneham last weekend, as Andrew Graham pointed out the geology and wildlife of this beautiful stretch of coast, towards Kimmeridge to the east and Lulworth to the west.
We had a pair of ravens circling above us for a while and admired Marbled White, Wall Brown and Grayling butterflies near the paths. Several in the group helped with pointing out flowers like wild marjoram, yellow wort and rest harrow which is so named because its leaf and stalk bundle is so strong it can cause hold back a harrow. One of the favourites of the day was the Duke of Argyll's tea tree, which has honeysuckle like tendrils with purple and yellow flowers.
A picnic near the beach, watching the kayakers and hardy swimmers finished off our morning before a stroll back and an exploration amongst the Tyneham ruins for some.
Field trip to Grovely Wood
18 members visited the western end of Grovely Wood on Saturday 9th July. This ancient woodland is of considerable size and our walk only took us through a small part of it. Although on arrival at the wood it had clouded up, as the morning progressed the sun broke through and soon good numbers of butterflies were active along the sunlit rides. Banks of blooming brambles proved an attraction at which they could nectar, and soon there were some splendid Silver Washed Fritillaries chasing around as well as numerous Skippers. We were fortunate to get good views of a White Admiral and to get in the right position to make a positive identification of an Essex Skipper.
It was really heating up by the time we got to the "downland" of Middle Hills and this may have been the reason we saw so few Dark Green Fritillaries which are normally quite numerous here. Although three had been seen in the wood that day, we failed to spot a Purple Emperor but an early Chalkhill Blue - possibly a vagrant from more suitable habitat outside the wood - was identified as was a Brown Argus.
Although, surprisingly, we did not see either a Small Tortoiseshell or a Speckled Wood, between us we identified 19 different species during our 3 hour walk:
Dark Green Fritillary
Silver Washed Fritillary
as well as a number of Scarlet Tiger Moths and a Hummingbird Hawk Moth.
We were lucky with the weather and agreed we were lucky to have such a diverse butterfly fauna on our doorstep.
by Andrew Graham
For anyone who doesn’t know it already, Grovely Wood is one of the largest woodlands in south Wiltshire, stretching along the chalk ridge south of the Wylye valley; an ideal place to see butterflies. Andrew Graham and Peter Shallcross will be leading a butterfly walk into and through the wood.
Although the walk will focus on the wood’s rich butterfly fauna, there will be plenty of time to look for other wildlife and flowers along the way. The route will mainly follow paths and tracks, though there will be some slopes to climb. Unless the weather has been wet, it will mostly be easy walking. But stout shoes should be worn and, to protect against possible bites from ticks bearing Limes disease, and when walking through long grass with thistles, long trousers rather than shorts.
The walk should last around 3 hours from mid-morning till early afternoon; do bring with you sufficient refreshments and a snack.
We will aim to be walking into the wood from its western edge at 10:30AM, starting from a stretch marked on the OS map as Dinton Beeches, where there is room to park to the right of the Dinton to Wylye road on a former ox-drove, now a long-distance footpath known as the Monarch’s Way (GR SU007347, What3words – snuggled.melon.wings).
To share cars (and minimise petrol) please meet at 10:00AM in the car park of the Nadder Centre on Weaveland Road (n.b. not the one off Nadder Close).
There is no limit on numbers. Members will have received instructions via email for this field trip. Non-members (Guests) can join us for £2 per adult. Any Guests wishing to join this field trip must please contact us in advance.
July is the best time of year to see butterflies in the UK as, given warm, sunny conditions, so many species may be on the wing. One great spot in the village is the Community Field behind the Nadder Centre. The herb-rich, unimproved grassland is ideal for the family of butterflies known as browns. Rather confusingly, this includes the Marbled White, as well as the Meadow Brown, Ringlet, all of which can be found here in profusion. Another two browns, the Speckled Wood and Small Heath, may also be seen. The varied flowers supply ample sources of nectar and there is no shortage of the grasses, on which the brown butterflies lay their eggs and their caterpillars feed. The Meadow Browns and Ringlets flutter around in and amongst the grass and flower stems, and can be tricky to separate until they rest and you can get a good look at them. In contrast, stronger flyers, such as Red Admirals, Peacocks and Painted Ladies shoot around above the plants dipping down when they need to nectar or think they see a mate.
In the right conditions, you don’t have to go far to see butterflies. If you have a garden with butterfly-friendly flowers, it’s possible you might see as many as a dozen of the commoner species. If you are unsure how to identify them, then there is a helpful chart available from Butterfly Conservation, the wildlife charity that does what it says on the tin. The chart shows 17 of the commoner butterflies and 3 common or striking day-flying moths which might be mistaken for butterflies.
It is provided as part of the Big Butterfly Count (www.bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org), which takes place for a fortnight from 15th July and is open to anyone with an interest in wildlife. All it involves is picking a spot and spending 15 minutes counting the butterflies and moths you can see. Most people do this in their garden, but you can select another sunny location if you wish. You can do as many counts as you like and even if you don’t see any butterflies, you need to report it as this too is important data. There is also a free app that you can download on which to submit your results and it has more help with identification and distribution maps.
The data you collect is used by butterfly specialists to learn more about butterfly populations and habits and to assess where conservation efforts are most important. Last year, more than 150,000 records were submitted, making it the world’s biggest butterfly survey. Why not join this growing band of “citizen scientists” to help the conservation of these wonderful insects?
by Andrew Graham
Photo: Avocets (Izzy Fry)
The headers display photos taken by our members. Do get in touch via the Contact Form if you'd like to submit a photo for selection.