Mike Waterman led the Fungus Foray at Moor Green Lakes, ably assisted by Bernard Baverstock. About 21 people came for the very interesting and practical session that lasted about two hours. It was the first autumn Fungus Foray at Moor Green Lakes so Mike wasn’t sure what we’d find. In the end we found, and Mike identified, 32 different species.
Our numbers on the day were swelled by the Nature group from Wokingham U3A and thanks go to two of their members – Ruth Beattie and Bryan Williams- for the photos in this article (all these were found on the day).
Mike explained that fungus fall into various categories, how to go about identification, and to note where and on what it was found.
Does it have a cap and a stem? (left & right)
More details to aid identification: noting where fungus was found (eg. host tree, dead wood or grass area), cutting the stem to see how the gills are attached, and taking a spore print.
Does it look like a shelf or fan? (left) It could be a “Turkeytail”
Is it Club-shaped with a stem but no cap? (right)
It could be a “Slender Pipe”
Is it round like a ball? (right)
It could be a “Common Puffball”
Is it a blob on a leaf or piece of wood? Yes that’s a fungus too! On a sycamore leaf it could be “Sycamore tarspot”
It was a great day out, we learnt a lot, and also realised how hard it is to positively identify a fungus just by eye. Thanks to Mike’s experience, he did the follow-up analysis that was needed to confirm our 32 species.
Recently I had tremendous fun at the Fungi Foray at Moor Green Lakes. I had taken a day’s leave from my job as I had always had a fascination for mushrooms (particularly their edibility!)
We had an expert (Mike Waterman) to hand, who carried a big reference book and a magnifying glass, and we were soon off, walking through the woods. All kinds of fungi were pointed out, and each one was carefully lifted out by the root, cut in half and thoroughly examined.
Unfortunately, although only 1- 2% of mushrooms can kill you, some can leave you very ill indeed, and if not really edible can give you a bad stomach upset. Even more unfortunately, the bad ones can be fairly similar to the edible ones, and I was struck by the need to examine carefully each and every one. By the end of the walk we began to notice more and more fungi at the bottom of trees or buried away under other plants. It felt like once your eyes were trained you could see more and more.
I really enjoyed the walk and would love to go again. A few days later I went out again with my family and was pleased with the number of fungi that I could name. I had learned a lot in a short time.
This year’s championships were organised by BVCT and held as part of the Snaky Lane Open Day. Holly Lodge Primary school kindly hosted the worm charming.
Everything ready for the off – plots marked out, bunting flying and BVCT forks ready for competitors to use. BVCT Trustees were also on hand to give expert advice on techniques!
Competition is in full flow.
At this stage BVCT Trustees Steve and John could no longer resist joining in!
They started on their own in their plots and spectators soon joined in to help!
Everyone had great fun and found some worms.
Numbers were a little down on last year. It was unfortunate that several big events were happening on the same day – The Great North Run was on television and Mark Cavendish was winning the final stage of the Tour of Britain cycling just down the road in Guildford!
Results Trustee Bernard Baverstock (also in a mad hat!) presenting the “Worm” Trophy to the winners.
Winners: The Mad Hatters (Carole Hickman and Sue Higgins)
– 78 worms in 30 mins
2nd: Charming Chaps
– 61 worms in 30 mins
Their lovely sheep dog offered advice from the sidelines
3rd – BVCT Trustee John
– 56 worms in 30 mins
Best Child prize was awarded to The Worm Masters –
wonder if they have started their wormery yet!!
Have you seen two men with a ladder, hard hats, and thin but strong gloves, walking purposefully round a nature area in the Blackwater Valley? If so, then you may have seen the bat box checkers!
I helped on one of their checks at Lakeside Park near Ash, and we found two types of bat: Water Bats and Soprano Pipistrelles.
One box contained this colony of about 20 Water Bats. They have lovely glossy, chestnut coloured deep fur to keep them warm. Huddled at the top of the box, it was difficult to count them. They also have very sharp, tiny teeth – hence the gloves.
Water Bats (also known as Daubenton’s Bats) are frequently seen flying low over lakes, ponds and canals just after dusk has fallen.
“Gosh aren’t they small” I said. The checkers laughed, and explained they are medium-sized bats with a wingspan of about 25 cm and weighing around 8-10gms. “Wait till you see a Pipistrelle. Now they are small, maybe no more than 5gms each.”
A few empty boxes later we did find a small group of Pipistrelles. A mating roost I was told – a male with females he had attracted.
You never know what you will find when you open a bat box – you hope it will be bats, but we also found lots of earwigs and spiders, old bird nests, one with nesting material that completely filled the box, and (the fastest retreat down the ladder!) a wasp nest!!
About half of the lakeside boxes had bats, or bat droppings, so were obviously appreciated by the bats. The checkers explained that the Blackwater Valley, with its tree-lined river and many lakes, has an excellent feeding habitat for bats, but with very few old trees there is a shortage of cracks and crevices that are natural bat roosts. The boxes have become increasingly used as the bats get used to them and now are a useful part of the Blackwater Valley habitat. They need annual checking, not just to see if the bats are still thriving, but to clean out the birds’ nests and mend or replace the boxes as they age.
A dozen people (and a dog) met in the car park at Farnborough Gate, and looked up at the sky: some clouds, but not very grey, and mild enough not to want to wear waterproof layers if we could avoid it. Good call – the weather stayed fine.
It was not a long walk, a little under five miles, but enough to enjoy the fresh air and conversation with acquaintance old and new. We walked below Farnborough Hill, through the shrubberies of Queen Elizabeth Park, and along Squirrel Lane – where we passed the back gate of one of our company – and Cove Brook. At one point the brook forms a pool where the Trust has gone pond-dipping and community seating is provided; the community was not using it so we had a few minutes rest. A short stretch of road walking brought us to the key link across the railway line, lined with brambles but kept under control and passable thanks to local rangers and volunteers. In this cool and sunless season there were few blackberries to tickle our taste buds and stain our fingers. After that it was just a hop over the River Blackwater and back along the Path to the car park, where we dispersed to look for lunch.
Our continued wet summer failed to dampen spirits or stop the Fete taking place at Finchampstead on Saturday 14th July as the organisers managed to accommodate most stallholders indoors.
The Trust did not have a very good position as we were tucked away behind the main hall, but in the circumstances we were pleased to be able to get the opportunity to spread the word about what we do in the local community.
In spite of the weather we did manage to secure our 200th member and made a few Bee Homes that will hopefully get residents next year.
Our last outside event of the year will be the Worm Charming at Snaky Lane on Sunday 16th September, so if you have never seen or tried this ‘sport’ please book a date in your diary, and a plot, and come along and have some fun. It only costs £5 and has to be seen to be believed.
A walk through meadows near Sandhurst Memorial Park
Last year a number of butterfly surveys were carried out in the Blackwater Valley and one was at the Sandhurst Memorial Park, which has a great variety of habitats to attract wildlife. The butterflies love the grassy meadows, the nettles, brambles, the warm woodland edges, and access to water in the ditches and the river.
This time last year 145 butterflies were recorded in one hour; this year we recorded 33. The amazingly wet weather this year has obviously taken its toll.
However, we were very lucky – despite a few early showers, the temperature rose and the butterflies came out. The most spectacular were the newly hatched Red Admirals who were pumping up their wings in the warm sunshine. We saw six on the site which is a new record.
Our group comprised of 10 adults and two toddlers. And our spotting started in the large meadow. where we saw our first butterflies – Meadow Browns and Ringlets flying low at the top of the grasses.
Three Commas, a Speckled Wood and a Large Skipper completed our count. There is also evidence of Peacock butterflies as two broods of their caterpillars were found in their favourite nettles.
The meadows are a great place for butterflies so, when it is next warm and sunny, go and see how many you can spot. You can also help butterfly conservation by joining the Big Butterfly Count www.bigbutterflycount.org. See their website for a butterfly identification chart.
As always at this time of year there is lots of other wildlife to see, and we saw lots of these lovely banded demoiselles, tadpoles and baby moorhens.
Sue Cload – Walk Leader and BVCT Trustee
The weather has not been kind to us for this year’s events, and the time for our wildflower walk coincided with the clouds gathering for a showery afternoon. We managed to attract a total of 18 on the walk, including Irene Draper and Katrina Slocombe who kindly volunteered to help with the identification of flowers in the meadows.
Flower watching started from the car park, where planted roses and hedgerow shrubs were in bloom, and led through mown grass with many small flowers and taller flowering grasses along the edge of the path and stream. A tall stand of Red Campion was compared with a close relative, the Ragged Robin, and the streamside Hemlock Water Dropwort provided nectar for many flies and beetles.
Because the rain had soaked and flattened the longer grass in the meadows the group kept to the main pathways, but we were still able to find many of the special plants. Devils-bit had a few open flowers, there was a Common Spotted Orchid nearby, and the few flowers of Meadow Thistles, along with the many Knapweed flowers, would have had many feeding insects if the sun had been shining.
We did see a Painted Lady passing through but like us it did not linger as the clouds came over again.
Thanks to Irene and Katrina for showing us the flowers that make these meadows such an important wildlife site.
After a stormy night and early morning with heavy April showers, the walk leader, Adrian, decided to cancel the walk. However, a hardy three of us were already at Horseshoe Lake and decided that we would have a walk to the bluebell wood and then decide if it was worth continuing.The weather changed to lighter showers and we had a pleasant walk by the lake, where we spotted some clumps of cowslips, and a bank of daisies. Then we crossed the fields to the wood, seeing a few rabbits in the distance. The bluebell flowers were lovely as the photo shows.
The wonderful bluebell perfume was missing because of the rain but the air was beautifully clear and the freshly washed new leaf growth on the trees more than made up for it. We noticed that the ramsons had started getting a hold in the woods and wondered if it would eventually oust the bluebells.
We then skirted round Finchampstead Ridges and back to Moor Green Lakes. It is a super time of year for views that are normally screened by tree leaves, and to appreciate the differences in the bark on trees. The rain enhanced the bark colours as the wet sides were deep browns and the dry sides more grey – you could certainly tell the direction of the rain! Luckily the many puddles were firm underfoot because of the recent dry weather.
They say ducks like water and Moor Green Lakes were full of birds and midges! We saw mallards, Canadian geese, swans, coots, greater crested grebes, Egyptian geese and, much to our surprise, swallows. We could have done with our own personal swallow particularly near the viewing screens.
We also heard chiff-chaffs, great tits and blue tits.
The Blackwater River was very lively & full of water. It was interesting to watch the water swirling round the meanders and forcing its way past fallen trees.
The sun came out for us when we reached the car park so we had some good views of the lake to finish our walk.
On Saturday 18th February, in the middle of National Nest Box Week, three BVCT Trustees gathered at the Ash Centre for our third annual bird box building event. The week of St Valentine’s day seems a perfect time to be putting up bird boxes, as the small birds are prospecting for nesting sites.
With a number of people pre-booked and some additional visitors on the morning, the Trustees were kept busy guiding and supervising the adults and children, as they assembled their boxes from the prepared kits. While assisting the novice builders Trustees could chat about the wildlife in their gardens and the surrounding countryside, tell them some of the things that the Trust is involved in and even just introduce them to the simple skills of bird box construction. It took most of the three hours to help with the building of 17 boxes which were taken away by their proud builders, and then the team built as many more as they could before lunch drew them away. The extra boxes will be put up in the valley to boost the nesting opportunities for our small birds.
The whole day was made more enjoyable by the hospitality of staff at the centre. The room was provided for free and Trustees were spoiled by being provided with cups of coffee as well. So a special thank you to Keith and Maggie at the Ash Centre.
The following Monday a neighbour, who was unable to attend on the day, came to build a box at trustee Bernard Baverstock’s house. This was interesting, as she had never done anything like this before. She had never even held a screwdriver! Subsequently, Bernard put the box up in her large apple tree and within ten minutes she phoned to tell him that a pair of Blue Tits had already investigated the box and a Great Tit was also prospecting there!
We hope to repeat this event elsewhere in the valley next year, so look out for National Nest Box Week and give your garden birds a special treat with a new home.
Special thanks go to Bernard Baverstock for managing the event and finishing off all the boxes with their smart rooftops! Also thanks go to Dave Pilkington our Chairman who helped Bernard make the kits and finally to Ken Bigrave and Colin Wilson who assisted on the morning.