Bat Box Surveys at Moor Green Lakes
We checked 20 boxes and put up three new ones. The new ones are part of the Bat Appeal aim to extend the roosting sites for bats along the Blackwater Valley corridor.
The survey was late this year in November so we knew it was unlikely that there would be bats roosting in the boxes. However we like to clear out the boxes ready for them to use next year, and check what has been using them.
There were a few surprises this year. We often find bird nests here and we did find five nests and three other with bird droppings. The photo shows a bat box with the front removed. The birds have to fly in through the bat entrance at the bottom of the box and up behind to the nest.
We also found two mouse nests! They had obviously climbed the trees and made nice cosy nests in the boxes.
Then there were the hornets’ nests! Hornets seem to prefer the larger bat boxes. One nest completely filled the box and they had started building on the outside too. They had also used some of the wood from the baffles inside the bat boxes as nest building material and to clear their entrance way. Luckily they had departed by the time of our check – so maybe a late survey has some advantages.
Sue Cload – BVCT Trustee (November 2015)
Bat Box Surveys at Lakeside Park
BVCP Manager Steve Bailey, BVCT Trustees Bernard Baverstock and Sue Cload, and trainee ranger Jenny, carried out the Lakeside Park survey. This is the oldest bat box scheme in the valley which has been running for 22 years. There have been over 30 boxes for most of that time.
The survey was late this year so we did not expect to find many bats, and indeed we did not find any of the Pipistrelles that are usually on the site. 24 boxes were checked and cleared where feasible. Occupancy of the 24 boxes checked (measured by bat droppings) was over 60% for the first time. The droppings were several centimetres deep in some boxes!
We found Daubenton’s bats (water bats) in three boxes, seven in one box and four in another. The photo shows about 20 Daubenton’s bats in a Lakeside box from a previous survey. It is unusual to find Daubenton’s bats in bat boxes, but they use boxes in the Blackwater Valley because there is a lack of mature trees to provide natural roosting sites.
Honey bees had taken over one of the large boxes; it was not checked as the bees were still active! We also found six bird nests as well as the usual spiders and earwigs.
Two boxes were moved from a dead tree near the lake and put onto another tree deeper in the woodlands.
There is an interesting selection of box types at Lakeside including Long Slit boxes that we hope will attract Barbastelle bats. We plan to hang a few more boxes at Lakeside Park from those purchased or refurbished as part of the Bat Appeal.
Sue Cload – BVCT Trustee (November 2015)
Fungus Foray at Moor Green Lakes
20th October 2015
About a dozen keen fungus hunters accompanied Mike Waterman, an expert mycologist and fungi recorder for the Moor Green Lakes Group, and Trustee Bernard Baverstock, on a Fungus Foray around Moor Green Lakes. It was a crisp autumn day, with blue skies, and there was even some sunshine, adding to the enjoyment of the event.
Mike told us that there are 50,000 species of fungi in Britain alone, which rank from common to rare via frequent, occasional and uncommon. He explained about diagnostic features, such as location (most fungi have a preference for either broad leaf or conifer trees), colour, colour change, the way the cap meets the stem, smell, spore print etc. Mike was able to identify the vast majority of fungi found, but some are so similar that it isn’t possible to identify them in the field as a microscope is needed. Mike took away six samples for analysis and identification. All in all 37 different species were found.
Mike is both amazingly knowledgeable and passionate about his subject, knowing all the Latin names, whereas many of us amateurs find the common names easier to remember. Some sound romantic, some graphically descriptive, including Sulphur Tuft, Candlesnuff Fungus, Dog Stinkhorn, Lilac Bonnet, Brown Roll-rim, Amethyst Deceiver, Girdled Knight, which has a ring around the stem, Deer Shield and Porcelain Fungus, which usually grows on beech, but we found growing on oak.
Bernard told us how some fungi had got their names, such as the deceivers being so called because of their ability to change colour according to conditions (wet or dry). Mycena fungi (a genus rather than an individual fungus) take the name from the shape of the helmets worn by Mycenae warriors, and Candlesnuff is reminiscent of candles on a birthday cake.
We found both wood and field fungi, of many different shapes, sizes and colours. We saw bracket fungi, parasols, earthballs and puffballs (which look similar to the untrained eye, but are not even related) and the rather horrible worm-like Dog Stinkhorn. We saw a variety of colours, from the orange/red of Fly Agaric to white, beige, brown, pink, lilac and purple. Waxcaps, which we found in the grassy area near to the car park, come in a variety of colours – orange, red, yellow, green and blue.
Every now and then, Mike disappeared into the woods and returned with a handful of interesting specimens for us to look at. Bernard was also very good at spotting fascinating specimens, including a fungus not often seen, Hellvella crispa, a splendid example of the Ganoderma genus, and a fungus growing on dung, which was too immature to be identified.
We all enjoyed the walk so much that when the two hours was up, and Mike and Bernard volunteered to carry on hunting, no one wanted to go home, so we all had at least an extra hour of foraging. Another bonus for some of us was Bernard lifting up one of the corrugated iron sheets laid in the grass to provide shelter for slow-worms and small mammals, from which a shrew ran out, unfortunately too fast for a photo opportunity.
Thanks to Mike for leading the event and providing the comprehensive summary of what we found, and to Bernard for his excellent support and supplementary information.
Hilary Godber – BVCT Member
September 18th – Aldershot – BVCT Bat Walk – by Sue Cload
The walk was led by Bernard Baverstock. Ten members attended and were very lucky as it was a great night for seeing and hearing bats.
Bernard started off by showing us a Pipistrelle bat that he was nursing back to health, feeding it on mealworms. It was very lively and about to be released back in the wild (thanks to Hilary for the photos).
You can see from the photos that the bat is very small and mouse-like with a warm fur coat. The bat’s wings are membranes, attached at the shoulders and ankles, which they have to groom to keep them supple. Pipistrelles can live for about 20 years and produce one offspring a year.
We then left the car park and walked towards a clearing in the woods, where we immediately saw some Soprano Pipistrelles criss-crossing the clearing chasing insects. Using the bat detectors we could hear them at 55kHz. We then tried 20kHz and heard the ‘chip chop’ sound of Noctule bats hunting. Noctules are larger bats; we did not actually see them as they tend to fly at tree top level.
We then moved on to a clearing with a view of the lakes and heard and saw Soprano Pipistrelles, Noctules and Daubenton’s bats. People had their detectors on various frequencies so it was quite a cacophony of sound! We watched the Daubenton’s bats flying low over the lake picking up insects from the water’s surface.
Our final treat was to hear crickets with the bat detectors – they have the same frequency as Noctule bats. It was a great evening for a bat encounter.
July 15th – Swallowfield – BVCT Butterfly Walk – by Sue Cload
We walked down the Devil’s Highway to The Marshes nature reserve, where Angela King, a former parish councillor, gave a talk about how a local group set up a project in 2001 to transform The Marshes to a wetland habitat from its former use as a paddock. The project was completed in 2004, including 30 people planting 1300 trees over a weekend one November!
Miraculously, as we entered The Marshes the temperature rose, the sun shone and there was a buzz of wildlife in the meadow, where there was a great selection of habitats for different species of wildlife: grasses, nettles, brambles, thistles, vetch, knapweed, holly, ivy and lots of trees.
We found ELEVEN species of butterflies and evidence of a twelfth in the form of predated chrysalis and a spider-eaten caterpillar of the peacock butterfly. The butterfly species we found were: small skipper, Essex skipper, gatekeeper, ringlet, meadow brown, and whites: green veined, large, small and marbled,and comma and holly blue.
(all photos by Don Cload)
Adults and children alike enjoyed using the butterfly nets to catch species for a closer look, and a picture quiz had people looking more closely at identifying features of the butterflies eg holly blue has pale blue underwings and common blue is beautifully patterned underneath. We also found an orange underwing day-flying moth, seven spot ladybirds, crickets, ginger tree bumble bees, and common blue damselflies. There were lots more we didn’t find but so little time….
Back at the village hall and after our picnic on the village green, we were delighted to see a hummingbird hawk moth on the buddleia against the hall wall.
If you are looking for ways to help wildlife on a sunny afternoon, why not get involved and log counts for your local areas? Spend 15 minutes recording butterfly species for The Big Butterfly count that takes place from 17th July to 9th August. www.bigbutterflycount.org has ID charts and details. You could also record insect species visiting flowers for a pollinators count – for details see www.wildlifetrusts.org/bees-needs.
Sue Cload, BVCT Trustee
Sue also led a couple of butterfly walks at Sandhurst Town Park. The walks were organised by Colleen Pidgeon for the Walking for Health group that meets at Sandhurst Monday to Friday at 9:30am for a walk through the park and by the river. The Trust provided the equipment.
12 species of butterfly were found over the two walks – ringlets, meadow brown, comma, holly blue, small and large skippers, red admiral, gatekeeper, speckled wood, and large, small and green veined whites.
Sue had great feedback and has already been asked to do the same next year!
28th June – Lakeside Park, Ash – BVCT Dragonfly Walk – by Sue Cload
We had a good turnout for the Dragonfly Walk; 23 people in all, mostly BVCT members.
The event was held at Lakeside Park near Ash and explored meadows, lakes, ditches, the Blackwater River and the Basingstoke Canal. Unfortunately in a period of sunny, sultry weather, when we were there the weather was a bit overcast so the dragonflies we saw were flying too fast or too high to identify. Most were hanging up out of sight waiting for the sun.
However, that gave us chance to concentrate on the beautiful, elegant damselflies. In the meadows we saw Banded Demoiselles and lots of damselflies – the Common Blue (seen below laying eggs in my pond!), the Blue tailed (photo right), including the Rose Pink form and the rarer White Legged.
Des Sussex from Natural England was our expert for the walk. He came complete with net, pots, magnifiers, binoculars and books. He caught a few damselflies for us to see more closely. The White Legged Damselfly was particularly interesting when he suggested we looked at the bristles on its legs, which looked like eyelashes with mascara!
The meadows also revealed other things of interest – several butterflies including Skippers, Meadow Browns, Ringlets and a Painted Lady, and lots of wild flowers including wild orchids. Thanks to Steve Bailey for his help and knowledge of the site, where to find the orchids and also the royal ferns that have been introduced to the site.
We looked for the dragonfly larva cases (exuvia) and Des found one near the canal edge. To give an idea of what they look like the photo below shows a Southern Hawker exuvia (a large dragonfly) from my pond (20 had emerged in the previous few days before the walk!)
We made our way back to the car park when it started raining and were treated to the sight of a Common Tern diving for fish in the lake.
I hope we have inspired members to return to the site on a sunny day and spot even more wildlife!
Thanks for the positive feedback from members – we’re glad you enjoyed the walk.
Thanks to Don Cload for photos, spotting and keeping an eye on the time.
20th June – Minley Walk – by Clive Andrews
Our walk started at the corner of Minley Road and Trunk Road in north west Farnborough and after a short stretch through a modern housing estate continued along the old Bramshot Road which in parts is now a public footpath. Although close to the motorway, this part of the route does contain some pleasant wooded countryside and we were saddened to see that part of this track and the adjacent field had been despoiled by the dumping of a large quantity of builders’ and similar waste.
We then continued past the historic Great Bramshot Farmhouse, which is a timber-framed Grade 2 listed building dating back to the 17th century. At this point we branched off Bramshot Lane, taking a southerly footpath across the open grassland between the M3 and Fleet Road. This area contains a number of sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), such as Foxlease and Ansells Meadows, which are important local areas of damp acid grassland habitat. This locality in parts is managed by light grazing, although disappointingly, along the route we took, the highland cattle we had seen in previous years were absent. However, as the picture clearly shows, the adjacent Ansells Meadow is still grazed. Our route continued north west, skirting the Ansells Farm area of Fleet whose offices and commercial buildings were distantly visible through the trees, and then after taking a footbridge across the M3, we walked along a tree-lined route to the structure that is known colloquially as the Bridge to Nowhere. This iron structured bridge (entitled Chimaera Bridge) was built by the Royal Engineers as an exercise in 1995 – it and the surrounding clear area is in stark contrast to the natural look of the nearby coniferous woodland. We then proceeded in a northerly direction, reaching the nearby open grassland just below the hill on which Minley Manor stands.
The Minley Manor estate has had several well-known local owners in the past including the Tylney family of Rotherwick (17th C) and the Wyndham family of nearby Hall Place, Yateley (19th C) but was later purchased in 1846 by Raikes Currie, a partner in the London based Glyn Mills Bank. Up until the mid-19th C the surrounds consisted of a mixture of arable, pasture, coniferous woodland, and heathland. As the original manor was in poor condition Currie employed the architect Henry Clutton to design a new house which was built between 1858 and 1860 in the French chateau style. Various additions to the manor and landscaping of the surrounding estate, which included the building of Hawley Lake, were made by the Currie family until in 1934 Francis Currie sold the estate, amounting to some 2,500 acres, to the War Department (now the Ministry of Defence). Initially the army used the manor as the Senior Wing of the nearby Staff College Camberley and then from 1971 as the officers’ mess for the Royal Engineers who are stationed at Gibraltar Barracks just across the nearby Minley Road. This class 2 listed building was the setting for some of the scenes from the film Mosquito Squadron (1969).
Taking a path close to the outer boundary of the manor affords an excellent view south towards Beacon Hill. Our trail then passed the derelict Home Farm: it seemed sad to think that these fine brick buildings and outhouses have been allowed to fall into their present sorry derelict state where their likely future is demolition.
Our path next led across the Minley Road and into the woodland beside Hawley Lake. This area, which was also part of the Minley Estate, was laid out in 1893 by the Victorian Veitch company of landscape gardeners as pleasure gardens, including the construction of the lake which is some 37 acres in extent. Unfortunately the garden design included the dense planting of rhododendrons adjacent to the lake. Although at this time of the year the flowering blossoms may look attractive, one can’t help remembering that this is an invasive and difficult to eradicate species that we could do without, especially as it produces chemical inhibitors in the soil to limit the growth of other plants. The lake, as part of the original estate, also belongs to the Ministry of Defence and is now used for training and for use by the Army Yacht club.
Our final stretch of the walk took us back through the coniferous Hawley Woods and past the old Sun Microsystems headquarters that are now being demolished and the site re-developed as a housing estate of 470 dwellings in total. Previously, before Sun located here, this was the site of the Guillemont Barracks of the Royal Engineers. En route we made a slight detour to visit the site of Thomson’s Track, which is now overgrown and surrounded by woodland. This was a cinder running track used by recruits from the Guillemont Barracks during the 1950s. The track was built between 1947 and 1949 and is named after their then commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel G. Thomson.
The walk took us through some fine countryside of varying habitats that forms part of the natural gap between Fleet and Farnborough. I have always believed that such strategic gaps are important in maintaining the separate identities of our two local towns as well as providing us with some delightful countryside to explore right on our doorsteps. One hopes the area will remain as countryside but with the sale of Minley Manor, and with so much local pressure to find land for housing development, one cannot help being a little apprehensive about the locality’s future.
May 25th – Sandhurst Donkey Derby – by Chris Smith
The running of the 49th Sandhurst Donkey Derby saw near record crowds enjoying the fine weather and community atmosphere. The Trust once again centred its display around the world of owls, with enthusiastic uptake from youngsters to dissect owl pellets and learn about these marvellous creatures, under the tuition of Trustee Bernard Baverstock and Countryside Ranger Stuart Croft.
There was a great deal of interest in our tent and the work that the Trust undertakes. A visit from the new Mayor of Sandhurst Councillor Philip Wallington was typical of the support that we received on the day. Thanks to those who gave up their time – Sue, Bernard, Chris and Stuart.
May 2nd – Surrey Heath Show – by Mike Swaddling
Instead of our usual pond-dipping to attract the children and allow us to recruit the parents, we enticed visitors into our stand with a couple of stuffed owls and the chance to dissect owl pellets. Trustee Bernard Baverstock provided the taxidermy and showed the youngsters how to analyse the contents of the regurgitated pellets, with assistance from Steve Bailey. There was a steady flow of willing triers!
Our pitch (right next to the barbecue!) allowed us to have an open long side as well as the open front. This allowed plenty of access and helped us make the best use of the layout. Despite the forecast the weather held and there was the usual good attendance. People seemed reluctant to join up on the spot but there was plenty of interest and we handed out lots of forms.
Thanks as always to those who gave up their day for ‘the cause’ – Steve, George, Bernard, Clive, Ken and Alan.
April 26th – Walk the Path 2015 – by Ken Bigrave
They came from far afield – the young, the retired, the bankers, the teachers. All with one goal – to Walk the Path. 238 took part – some seasoned walkers, some new, some in push chairs. Was it 10 or 11 miles? Who cared, as long as they finished under The Crown at Swallowfield.
The Mayor of Sandhurst cut the tape, Sir Gerald Howarth looked on, cameras flashed, applause was heard. All eyes were on the clock, the first group lined up ready to go.
Eyes to the sky – would it rain? But Mother Nature was kind, no rain and cool – good for walking, good for the soul. Marshals watched with safety in mind, dressed in bright colours to catch the eye. The first group left not long after 9 and before long the last one was preparing to move forward – but already the pathfinders were at Horseshoe Lake, munching on biscuits and drinking soft drinks.
Soon all had left, Sandhurst was quiet – ‘Move on!’ was the cry. Get up front of the walkers, provide the food, provide the care. Move on! Past the signs telling them what to see, past the lakes and beautiful trees. Then Eversley was in sight – a rest before the final lap. Hot drinks, cold drinks, and what’s this? Rice biscuits – what a surprise. Rested and dined they moved on – 5 miles to go, or was it 6? Now the path was stretched with walkers, some striding to be the first, others strolling to get there as and when.
Past the church at Swallowfield, knowing that the end was near, and then the sign up in the sky – a crown held on a pole. The first was seen striding in, others followed at a steadier pace, tired legs, tired bodies all with smiles. “I’ve done it! I’ve walked 11 miles, I’ve walked the path”. Cheering people, rest your legs, take some ale and home with a smile.
But then panic. Where were the children in the prams? Calls were made, shouts were heard and then they were seen, parents in hand, led by Paul bringing up the rear.
Oh what a day – smiles galore, handshakes abounding, and already a whisper going round “Can we sign up for WtP16!”
A most successful event with record numbers taking place, including our youngest walker.
Thanks to all who made it possible.
Here are just a few of the comments we received at the end (‘brilliant’ seems to feature quite a lot!):
- I think it is very well organised and the marshals very friendly and helpful.
- The organisation was brilliant. I walked ahead by myself and was delighted. What a lot of work! Refreshment stops, super surprise.
- Brilliant as always. Loved the wildlife and distance signs.
- Been on all the Walk the Paths. Still enjoy each time.
- Pub at the end – brilliant!
- It was well organised and enjoyable
- Thank you very much for your hard work
- No – an extremely well-organised and enjoyable event. Most impressed. Thank you.
- I enjoyed the wildlife posters
- No improvement needed – it was excellent. Thank you
- It’s brilliant!
March 21st – Swinley Forest Circular Walk – by Clive Andrews
This was our first walk of 2015 and although the weather was somewhat overcast it remained dry and 19 of us participated. A few previous days of dry weather had allowed the paths to dry out and the going was fairly easy.
Our route started at the Old Dean Estate and followed an approximately northerly course, past Lower Star Post to the Look-Out Discovery centre off Nine Mile Ride, where we stopped at the café. On the return journey we deviated a small distance to the east so as to view Mill Pond; the total distance walked was about 7.2miles (11.59 km).
The area to the north east of the forest, adjacent to the Mill Pond, is quite wet with many small streams draining into the Pond. It has that dark and still appearance so typical of woodland pools, and is located in a tranquil and peaceful wooded setting – I am sure this will be an excellent place to observe dragonflies and other such insects later in the season.
The locality, although now wooded with coniferous trees, was traditionally open heathland with a sandy subsoil and a shallow topsoil of loose stones mixed with peaty rotted organic matter. Up until the 13thC, the area was probably common land for the grazing of pigs (Swinley Forest – swine forest). In more recent times it has become extensively wooded and for many centuries was a royal hunting park and part of the Great Windsor Park. The pine forested regions were significantly extended during the First World War when there was a great demand for timber to support the war effort.
Parts of the region are classified as components of the Thames Basin Heath’s Special Protection Area protected under the European Community Wild Birds and Habitat directive. In the post-war period there has been significant reduction in the extent of lowland heathland, due to urban development and intensive agriculture, meaning that such areas are now quite rare. Such habitats are important for the survival of various ground nesting birds (Dartford Warbler, Nightjar and Woodlark) and reptile species (Smooth Snake and Sand Lizard) – hence the need for the heathland’s preservation and its importance for biodiversity. In places the scrub has been cleared, the area prepared for grazing, and the look of the former heathland restored – the purple of the heather (ling) contrasting well with the dark green gorse with its yellow flowers and the brown of the dead bracken.
May 2011 saw a devastating fire in the forest which took 200 firemen up to a week to extinguish and had a disturbing effect on the environment there including the stands of timber and wildlife. The fire, which affected some 300 hectares (741 acres*) of the forest, was attributed to the work of teenage arsonists. The previously dry April, combined with the peaty topsoil which retains heat and continues smouldering for some time afterwards, added to the ferocity and duration of the fire.
During the 18thC, before the coming of the Royal Military College and the expansion of Camberley, the area was open and wild with a reputation for highwaymen including William Davies (The Golden Farmer), and Claude Duval (The Gallant Highwayman). The association with the military started at the end of the 18thC, when a number of redoubts were constructed during the time of the Napoleonic Wars for the training of the army. The local presence of the army increased when the Royal Military College moved to Sandhurst in 1812 and in 1813 when much of the forest was transferred to the Crown Estate.
Of course the area has a much earlier history with an Iron Age fort (Caesar’s Camp) in the north west corner and a Roman road (The Devil’s Highway) from London to Silchester which traverses the forest in an east to west direction. A little to the north west of our route was the site of a small Roman town at a place called Wickham Bushes. Nine Mile Ride dates back to the 18thC when, during the reign of Queen Anne and King George I, to improve access through the forest some extra routes were laid out. A number of nearby highways, which are also called rides, such as Dukes Ride at Crowthorne and Heath Ride at Finchampstead, have a similar origin.
The Old Dean Estate, built on Old Dean Common, was developed in the 1950s to house people from heavily bombed areas of Greater London and later as part of the London overspill plan. However during the war the common was used as a training site for the Free French Army and also as a prisoner of war camp. The Free French Army was made up of French soldiers who escaped to Britain after the defeat of France in 1940 and was commanded by General Charles de Gaulle.
This was the first BVCT walk in Swinley Forest but the event went well and we shall repeat it next year, perhaps with a slightly different course taking in the areas we missed.
January 21st – Winter Bird Watching Day
On 21st January Trustee Colin Wilson, ably assisted by other Trustees, led our first Winter Bird Watching Day. The BVCT team and helpers took 15 members in a bus along the valley to four sites of ornithological interest, with a halfway stop for a soup and cake lunch at Pistachios, in Frimley Lodge Park. The weather was gloomy but mercifully mainly dry, not helpful for photography, but we still managed some worthwhile shots. In all the members and guides clocked up 68 species including Kingfisher, Little Egret, Yellowhammers, Linnets, Smew and Goosander. It was a very successful and well appreciated day, and we are considering doing it again at another time of the year.