2014   Regret some meetings are still to be written up

19 April - Stoke Common 

6 members set out in intermittent sunshine with a chilly wind, along paths lined with flowering gorse. After a while we came to a pile of logs where between three and six common lizards were basking. I saw another lizard by the path later, just before we noticed a slow worm. 

The birds sighted or heard included a blackbird, a buzzard, a carrion crow, a chaffinch, a chiffchaff, a dunnock, a goldcrest, great tits, long-tailed tits, magpies, mallards flying over, a pipit, a red kite, a robin, a song thrush, a stock dove, a willow warbler, woodpigeons and a wren. 

The plants and fungi noted were bittercress, bluebells, common eyelash fungus, creeping jenny, daisies, dandelions, early forget me not, field forget me not, foxgloves, garlic mustard, gorse, greater stitchwort, green alkanet, herb bennet, honey fungus, mouse-ear or chickweed, nettles, petty whin, primroses, pulmonaria, small fungi on wood, sphagnum moss, squinancywort, tiny willow, turkeytail bracket fungus, water crowfoot, white deadnettle and wild arum. 

The invertebrates seen were a 7-spot ladybird, a buff-tailed bumblebee, a cranefly, a grasshopper, a peacock butterfly, pond skaters and a spider. 

Thanks to Sue Brawn for leading the walk.


18 May - Chenies and Frogmore Meadow

Five members set off from Chenies, descended through the woods and enjoyed warm sunshine on the way along the Chess valley to Frogmore Meadow Wildlife Trust reserve. Early on we had a good view of a fox wandering in a meadow which contained attractive patches of germander speedwell.

Other plants noted were betony coming up, birds-foot trefoil, brooklime, bugle, remains of celandine, cleavers, codlins-and-cream, cow parsley, creeping and meadow buttercup, daisies, dandelions, white deadnettle, devils-bit scabious coming up, dog's mercury, dog rose, dove’s-foot cranesbill, figwort, garlic mustard, guelder rose, greater and lesser stitchwort, ground ivy, herb Robert, hornbeam in flower, lady's smock, lady fern, lungwort, mallow, mares-tail, marsh and creeping thistle, may blossom, meadowsweet, pendulous sedge, ragged robin, red and white campion, red clover, ribwort plantain, silverweed, sow thistle, square-stemmed St. John's-wort, teasels, tormentil, bush and common vetch, water crowfoot, wild strawberry, wood avens, woodruff, woody nightshade, woundwort, yellow archangel and yellow rattle coming up. There was also chicken of the woods and some unidentified fungi. 

The birds seen or heard were two buzzards, a blackbird, a blackcap or garden warbler, Canada geese, carrion crows, a chaffinch, a chiffchaff, a goldcrest, a green woodpecker, a house sparrow, a jackdaw, a jay, a kestrel, long-tailed tits, a magpie, mallards, moorhen, a pheasant, a red kite, a robin, an early swallow, a whitethroat, woodpigeons, a wren and a yellowhammer. 

The insects noted included a 7-spot ladybird, a banded demoiselle, blue and red damselflies, a brimstone (female), a broad-bodied chaser, drinker moth caterpillar, mayfly, orange tips (male and female), peacocks, a small tortoiseshell and several unidentified whites. On the way back to Chenies we paused to observe many caterpillars feeding on nettles.

Thanks to Alan Power for leading an excellent walk.


18th October - Lemsford Springs and Tewin Orchard (reported by Hannah Webley)

Six members travelled to Lemsford Springs on an afternoon which was initially drizzly, but the lower clouds cleared to reveal attractive cirrus and altocumulus. On arrival at the former watercress beds we saw a grey wagtail with only a little yellow on the underparts – presumably a young one. We headed for the hide, noticing a pink (possibly hybrid) campion and white deadnettle in flower. The hide gave a wide view of the ‘lagoons’ backed by willows and alders.

Soon we counted four green sandpipers among the numerous moorhens – three of the sandpipers had leg rings and we made a note of their colours on the whiteboard in the hide. We were so busy observing the sandpipers that we did not see a kingfisher land on the perch directly ahead of us! Fortunately Richard drew our attention in time to have a good look at her – binoculars revealed the orange-red lower mandible of a female. Another notable sighting was a water rail clearly visible at the far edge of the lagoon. We also enjoyed watching three little egrets and two green woodpeckers which turned out to be rival males chasing each other and fighting occasionally. A few redwings flew into the trees in the company of blackbirds and we saw what seemed to be hornets flying about, as well as a family of long-tailed tits. 

Back on the path we noticed molehills and flowering water forget-me-nots. A few fungi were fruiting, one of which might have been fairy inkcap. Other species seen at Lemsford were magpie, woodpigeon, blue tit, wren, ragwort, dunnock, mallard, carrion crow, blackheaded gull, starling and cormorant; we also heard a chiffchaff. 

We moved on to Tewin Orchard, on the other side of Welwyn Garden City, with time to walk around the reserve before sunset. I noticed two plants in flower – a pink one, possibly dwarf mallow, and a yellow crucifer which may have been wild radish. There were many mallards on the pond and we saw woodpigeon and carrion crow as well as hearing green woodpecker, pheasant and grey heron. 

We settled down for the evening in the mammal hide and found that food had already been placed in front of it. A rabbit was seen on the grassy area before darkness fell and a brown rat came to feed around the log pile. After some time a single badger was attracted to the food and what was probably the same individual made three further visits. We also made a brief sighting of a fox and spotted a devil’s coach horse beetle inside the hide. According to the log book, other visitors had seen up to ten badgers, owls and bats – our evening was not so exciting but still memorable and worthwhile, as was the trip to Lemsford Springs.

Thanks to Trevor Brawn for organising the day.


16 November - Hampden Common

Once again Tony Marshall kindly agreed to lead us on a fungus foray, this time at Hampden Common, which offered the chance of finding both meadow fungi and woodland species, although it was rather late in the season to find the best selection.

Tony has also kindly supplied the list of our findings, which is really impressive:

Hampden Common 16/11/14         *rare                             Total species 43

1. Grassland         Total 21 (incl. 7 waxcaps)

Clavulinopsis corniculata                        Meadow coral

C. helvola                                                Yellow club

C. luteoalba                                             Apricot club

C. umbrinella*                                           Beige coral [this was the greyish branched club on the cricket-pitch that I provisionally identified as this and took a sample away to confirm; it is a Red Data Book species, only the second site discovered in our area]

Conocybe tenera     [one of the small brownish toadstools I took home for a closer look]

Entoloma ortonii*     [another of the small brownish toadstools I took home for a closer look]

E. porphyrophaeum                                 Lilac pinkgill

Hygrocybe chlorophana                          Golden waxcap

H. coccinea                                              Scarlet waxcap [this was the tiny bright red undeveloped one found right at the start that I had to take home to identify]

H. conica                                                 Blackening waxcap

H. insipida                                               Spangle waxcap

H. nitrata                                                 Nitrous waxcap

H. pratensis                                             Meadow waxcap

H. virginea var. ochraceopallida              Snowy waxcap

Lycoperdon nigrescens                           Dusky puffball

Mycena leptocephala                              Nitrous bonnet

M. luteoalba                                             Ivory bonnet

Panaeolus acuminatus                            Dewdrop mottlegill

P. papilonaceus                                        Petticoat mottlegill

Rickenella fibula                                       Orange mosscap

R. swartzii                                                Collared mosscap


2. Woodland         Total 22

Amanita rubescens                                  The Blusher

A. strobiliformis*                                       Warted amanita [provisional designation; I shall revisit to see more developed specimens, as the ones we saw were only just emerging, the cap still closed up]

Ascocoryne sarcoides                                Purple jellydisc [seen on dead beech bough just inside wood; I checked further pictures and confirmed this was what I suspected; first record for that wood]

Auricularia auricula-judae                          Jelly-ear

Clitocybe nebularis                                    Clouded funnel

Collybia butyracea                                     Buttercap

Crepidotus cesatii/variabilis                       Variable oysterling

Ganoderma applanatum                            Artist's bracket

Hypholoma fasciculare                              Sulphur tuft

Lepista nuda                                              Wood blewit

Lycoperdon perlatum                                 Clustered  domecap/Chicken mushroom

Mycena crocata                                          Saffrondrop bonnet

M. speirea                                                  Dark bonnet

Neobulgaria pura                                       Beech jellydisc

Pholiota squarrosa                                     Shaggy scalycap

Russula cyanoxantha                                 Charcoal-burner

Russula ochroleuca                                    Ochre brittlegill

Stereum hirsutum                                       Hairy curtain-crust

Xerocomus [Boletus] chrysenteron

X. cisalpinus                                                Red-crack bolete

Xylaria hypoxylon                                        Candle-snuff