The calendar for field trips is now listed on the Field Trips page if you want to pencil them in your diaries. The Committee is just finalising the detailed programme document with all the meet up postcodes, what to wear and bring, plus a short description of each trip.
This programme document will be uploaded to the website next month, when we'll let you know about how to book your places.
15 members and friends gathered on the car park at Lodmoor on a bright, sunny but slightly chilly morning. Andrew started out by describing how the marshland of Lodmoor had been designated an SSSI in 1952 but had still suffered from being used as the municipal rubbish dump until the 1970’s. Mercifully, only about a quarter was infilled but this is still evidenced by the vents allowing gases from the landfill to escape – into the car park. Nice.
Lodmoor lies on the east side of Weymouth the earlier parts of which lie on slightly higher ground which separates Lodmoor from Radipole Lake to the west. As the area drains south eastward toward the sea, the freshwater marshes become progressively more brakish until, close to the sea wall and the sluices which control the flow of water between the moor and the sea, it becomes saltmarsh.
The flat nature of the area means that reeds, rushes, and other vegetation can obstruct clear views, but we walked along the perimeter paths which gave good visibility out over some of the pools. There were plenty of birds to see including numerous Canada Geese, Lapwings, Teal, Mallard, Shoveller and Gadwall as well as a variety of gull species. The highlight was a flock of around 40 Golden Plover which occasionally got up and flew around together in the sunshine, alternately showing their white undersides and speckled golden upper parts as the swooped around in the blue sky. There were also plenty of Grey Herons as well as several Little Egrets and at least three Great White Egrets. Unfortunately, the Spoonbills which often show up at Lodmoor were not present. These, as well as Egrets, were very unusual birds on Lodmoor 30 years ago but are now relatively commonplace as they colonise the south of the country.
There were relatively few wader species to be seen. In addition to about a score of Black Tailed Godwits there were a handful each of Dunlin and Snipe.
After being a bit irritating by only showing briefly above the reeds a Marsh Harrier eventually made a decent, very visible flight across the moor. This is another bird, once vanishingly rare in Weymouth which is now resident and breeding and which can usually be seen at Lodmoor and Radipole.
After lunch we went over to Radipole Lake which, like Lodmoor, is now managed by the RSPB as a nature reserve. Very different to Lodmoor, visibility is much more restricted by the dense reed beds which make up so much of the reserve. In summer these are full of Reed and Sedge Warblers but throughout the year you can hear the distinctive, and very loud, call of the Cetti’s Warbler. We had our ears peeled for the distinctive call of the Bearded Tit or Bearded Reedling as it is now known (because technically it isn’t a Tit) because this beautiful but elusive bird is more often heard than seen. Unfortunately, we were unlucky although we did hear the unmistakable squealing call of the Water Rail, another rarely seen resident of the reed beds.
At the top end of the loop path known as Buddleia Walk, we had views out over the open water where we added Pochard and Tufted to our list of ducks. By the time we dispersed from the car park at Radipole we had seen or heard 40 species of birds, which included Swallow, several of which were flying over on their way south throughout the day.
Andrew Graham has organised our last trip of the season to these two RSPB reserves in Weymouth. The focus will be on resident and migrant birds. Bring binoculars if you have them. No dogs.
Meet at the Nadder Centre car park at 09:00am or at the Beach car park at Lodmoor DT4 7SX, just to the west of the entrance to the Lodmoor reserve, at approximately 10:30am.
Distance, Difficulty and Footwear : The combined distance at these two separate locations will amount to approximately 5 km/3 miles on flat gravel paths which may be a bit muddy after rain. Good stout shoes should suffice rather than wellingtons.
Bring a packed lunch and refreshments. There is no limit to numbers on this visit, but it will help if we know how many people to expect. Either use the Contact form here or send us an email to the address mentioned in the members' newsletter.
The day was sunny with that slight September chill in the air and we marvelled at the greenness of the trees in Savernake Forest for this time of year. After a wet May and then regular bouts of rain, the trees were showing fewer signs of stress and had kept their leaves longer. Keith Lea had prepared a fascinating day of study and exploration for us as we went off the main paths and visited different sections of the forest.
One of the first tips he shared was the way to differentiate pedunculate from sessile oaks by inspecting the way the leaves and acorns attached to the twigs. Our alliterative aide memoire of sessile-stalk will hopefully stick with us, where the sessile oak has long stalks to its leaves, whereas the pedunculate oak has the leaves forming from barely visible short stalks.
We had lively discussions about fungi, having spotted Shaggy parasol, Chicken in the woods, Beefsteak, Earthball and these tiny translucent white parasols perched up high on branches whose name we didn’t know. There were majestic ancient trees to marvel at and glades where trees formed circles round beaten down leaves and mast, or around grassy pastureland in the more open sections. Shifts in the scents of the forest and temperature surges were noticeable as we moved through the different sections.
We had a truly immersive day in the life of the forest and Keith was an excellent leader, sharing his knowledge of the trees and wildlife.
There are spaces available for our September Field Trip, organised by Julia Willcock, your editor. Guests are very welcome for £2 per ticket. Members and under 21s are free. If you'd like to join us, please use the Contact form or the new email address which Andrew (controller of the lists) and other members of the committee can access, as requested in the monthly TDNHS newsletters. Unfortunately we can no longer publish that email address in our blogs because we're attracting Spam!
Keith Lea is guiding us around a section of Savernake Forest and we shall be learning about the veteran trees and biodiversity of this Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) which boasts more than a thousand years of history as a forest.
Keith has over 30 years' consultancy experience in woodland management, with the overall aim of his work being to improve woodland biodiversity. He is the Vice-Chairman of The Salisbury and District Natural History Society and says "I have been a birdwatcher for over 40 years and have a keen interest in butterflies and native flora. I enjoy leading natural history walks and sharing my knowledge with others."
Special instructions: No dogs. Please note that the forest is grazed by cattle which may be near us at times on our outing. Bring binoculars if you have them.
Meet at the Nadder Centre car park at 9:00am on Sat 30 Sept or roughly one hour later at the Burbage petrol station, SN8 3AR at the junction of the A338/A346/B3087. There are parking bays at the garage or by the side of the B3087. We shall gather there and Keith will lead us in convoy to the parking area on the Grand Avenue, within the forest.
Distance, Difficulty and Footwear - Under 3 miles with plenty of stops before lunch and there will be a short (5 minutes) drive after lunch for the optional afternoon walk of under 2 miles. The terrain is generally flat with gravel or hard tracks. Some minor pathways can be muddy and slippery underfoot. There are a few inclines, but they are relatively short. Hiking boots should be fine, rather than wellies, although it always worth packing them. Bring a packed lunch and refreshments.
This is a reminder for those already signed up for Debbie Carter's Field Trip on Wednesday 16th August to visit the beavers' habitat on the River Frome. This trip is fully booked and we are operating a waiting list for a space, so if you can no longer make it, please get in touch via the Contact form.
We will be met by local wildlife expert Eve Tigwell who will guide us to the nearby nature reserve to see the impact beavers are having and in the hope of seeing beavers. No dogs.
Meet at the Nadder Centre car park at 7:30pm or at the Asda Shopping Centre car park on Castle Road BA11 5LA just off the A362, roughly an hour later.
Distance, Difficulty and Footwear - We have no knowledge of the distance we shall cover, nor the state of the paths, so stout footwear or boots are recommended.
We shall start the walk at dusk and continue into darkness, so a good torch is advised.
At the start of our visit at Ryewater Nursery in June we were allowed into the tropical butterflies breeding room, door closed to prevent any escapees, where Ed Whittingham explained the breeding life cycles of these beautiful exotic butterflies as they whirled around us amongst their favourite food plants. These butterflies are specially bred for butterfly world garden centres around the country and so it was fascinating to see them at this early stage. Uniquely the population of butterflies in the greenhouse are self-sustaining.
Under construction is a lake which will become a reedbed for warblers. It has a raised plank path 'sweetway' leading to and from a reed-roofed building housing a 6,000 year old bog oak sculpture.
Ryewater is a stunning haven for wildlife, not open to the public, unless for small groups by pre-arrangement and their full time ecologist Wren Franklin showed us round. Areas for ecological nurturing such as a pond with protective hedgerows for great crested newts and a rounded, ancient looking cool house to encourage nesting bats were complemented by large sculptures and artfully designed structures embedded into the landscape. Here was a land that was bursting at the seams with wildflowers and habitats for wildlife, to protect their way of life with a creative passion that was so unusual to see. We felt very fortunate to have spent half a day there.
We were very fortunate with our visit to Martin Down and Vernditch Chase. Sunshine and dry weather with only a light breeze were ideal condition for seeking out butterflies and not only did we see a long list of species, we saw many of them in good numbers.
Once we had achieved a safe crossing of the A354, we were soon amongst the butterflies, especially Gatekeepers, which were nectaring on the brambles in the sheltered track heading north towards the old Roman Road. The latter was covered with flowers which were attracting Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites.
Following the track through the banks of scrub we found further areas with rich herb floras and plenty more butterflies. As well as the brambles, thistles, scabious and ragwort were favoured by the butterflies but some of the more exciting species, such as Dark Green Fritillaries and White Admirals were much more mobile but still relatively easily viewed.
After a lunch break on a very pleasant sunny bank overlooking a swathe of flowers, we pressed on into the woodlands proper of Vernditch Chase in search of the last few target species. We eventually were lucky enough to find one large, sheltered bramble clump in full sun and here had good views of the handsome Silver Washed Fritillary as well as Large Skippers which had until then eluded us.
Our final butterfly species list for the outing was:
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.