Category Archives: Trip Reports

Articles reporting the outcome of events & trips that have been organised by the Netherfield Wildlife Group, Nottingham for it’s members.

Cricket and Grasshopper Walk – Sunday 19th August

Five intrepid orthopterists met by the footbridge at the alloted hour to see what orthopteran delights the site held in store for them. The weather was warm and sunny, just right, and a great improvment on the rain that cancelled the Wednesday walk.

As usual the first insects were searched for by the bench, at the top of the steps. Here we very soon found Meadow Grasshopper, Field Grasshopper and Long-winged Conehead. Attention was drawn to the pronotum on the two grasshoppers so that the differences in the two species could be seen. I managed to persuade a Long-winged Conehead to sit on my finger so that everybody got a good view of one.

Long-winged Conehead – female – August 23rd 2012

The other main target was the Roesel’s Bush Cricket, which prefers the banks around the Deep Pit, so we set off along the south side of the Slurry Lagoon. As we progressed, opposite the railway embankment, the path was beside a wide grassy area where more Meadow and Field Grasshoppers were seen. In the brambles at the top of the bank a Spiked Shieldbug Picromerus bidens was found and several hoverflies, including Helophilus trivittatus and Sphaerophoria scripta. Further on, as we passed the Deep Pit there were Common Blue and Small Copper butterflies to see.

We were fortunate to have one member of the party who could actually hear the crickets stridulating (We have tried ‘bat boxes’ but they are non directional and frustratingly tell you there are crickets about but not where they are.), its normally a good idea to have some kids in tow to do this for you. Soon there were Roesel’s Bush Crickets being found by the bucket load. They were mainly at the top of the grassy bank as we looked towards the gravel pits and we were soon getting excellent views of them.

With the excitement of seeing so many crickets, the walk leader forgot to search for Slender Ground Hoppers, which are fairly common on the site and often found on the edge of the Small Gravel Pit. Other than that the group had an enjoyable walk and were well pleased with the insects that they had seen.

Pond Dipping – 8th and 12th August

 Once again the Small Gravel Pit was used for this event. On 8th there were five people present, but none were children whilst on 12th there were eight people, including two small children. We went through the ‘OPAL’ water quality routine again and the water was judged to be of very high quality and almost neutral pH.

Water slaters, damselfly larvae and water bugs were plentiful and each dip included at least a few of all of these. The best finds on 8th were two three-spined loach and a newt tadpole. Also found were a caddis fly larva, common shrimp, ramshorn and common pond snails and some water beetles.

Step in the kids, Katie and Alex, on 12th. Alex proved to be a master fisherman and on almost every dip he caught one or two, and once even three, newt tadpoles. His final tally was at least twelve. The two between them caught about five three-spined loach and two ten-spined sticklebacks. There were also plenty of damselfly larvae, water slaters, caddis fly larvae, water beetles, leeches, shrimps, water boatmen and a water scorpion. Frog and toad were also recorded and brown hawkers and common blue damselflies were seen egg laying. At one point a black-tailed skimmer rocketed out of the poolside vegetation. We assumed that it had just emerged from the pool but could not find the exuvia when we searched for it.

All in all these were two successful events and good fun to participate in.

Butterfly and Dragonfly Walk – 25th July

Seven of us met at the footbridge at 14.30 as arranged and the weather was for once on our side. A couple had come from Leicester, having seen our website and decided to give the lagoons a visit. There was a Brown Hawker flying around us as we met, and a Holly Blue flew along the bushes behind the seat at the top of the steps.

We walked from the steps towards the Wader Scrape, along the north side of the Slurry Lagoon, noting the insects as we went. The Gatekeeper was the most abundant insect that we saw, with at least 45 being seen during the course of the walk. There were also a few Meadow Browns and even seven Ringlet were seen, although they’d been flying since late June. The Meadow Brown numbers were low however and only twelve were recorded. Small Skippers were also flying and ten were seen but the Essex Skipper was more elusive, although we checked the antennae of most of them to see if we could identify one. Common Blue Damselflies lived up to their name as we walked along the path and we saw so many that we gave up counting them. Amongst them all we did manage to find two Blue-tailed damselflies. On the bank overlooking the new substation we saw our first Six-spot Burnet of the day as it performed gymnastics on a flower-head. It was holding its wings in a strange way so that the crimson under wing was showing and it really looked a very smart insect. As we watched it perform a Red Admiral flew past us.

We walked along the Causeway and sat on the bench, overlooking the Slurry Lagoon as I had seen some Black-tailed Skimmers here previously and hoped they would still be about. I spotted one sunning itself on a small patch of mud and pointed it out, whereupon it took flight and disappeared. Soon its place was taken by a superb male Emperor which patrolled the water in front of the bench very diligently. Soon the Black-tailed Skimmer was back, and then another one. As we watched a total of seven Black-tailed Skimmers appeared and then another Emperor and they all darted this way and that in skirmishes over the water, where dozens of Common Blue Damselflies were egg laying.

We continued around the Deep Pit in an anti-clockwise direction, noting more Gatekeepers and some more Six-spot Burnets. As we proceeded ,Black-tailed Skimmers took off from the path in front of us and we found a Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle, Agapanthea villosoviridescens, clinging to a Wild Carrot stem.

On the bank overlooking the river, everybody was pleased to get views of a hunting Weasel as it crossed and recrossed the path and here we found the only Banded Demoiselle of the day. There were some whites about and we managed to identify three as Large Whites and three as Green-veined Whites and there were still one or two Black-tailed Skimmers taking off in front of us. We went down to the Small Gravel Pit to see what was about but were disappointed to find no dragonflies at all. As we were about to leave a male Emperor appeared, and then posed for us on a reed beside the pool, giving us very good views.

At the Wader Scrape there was lots of dragonfly activity, and more Black-tailed Skimmers were seen, bringing the total to 17, seen on the day. There were also some young Kestrels practising manoeuvres along the shorelines but I don’t think the dragonflies had anything to worry about.

We now returned to the steps to complete the walk and managed to find an Essex Skipper. Near the bench we also found Meadow and Field Grasshoppers and some Long-winged Coneheads. These were all still growing and in the nymph stage of their life cycles. This rounded off nicely a very enjoyable afternoon.

Warbler Walk – 9th May

 After a bright sunny morning the weather clouded over and the first raindrops were felt just as three intrepid birders arrived to start the walk. By the footbridge there were Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and a Lesser Whitethroat, so at least the warblers were not put off by the weather.

The rain came and went in short, light showers, so the weather was not too uncomfortable, as we made our way around the south western side of the Slurry Lagoon. There were lots of birds singing, making it sometimes difficult to point out a particular species, with Dunnocks, Wrens, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Robins joining the singing throng. A Willow Warbler perched up nicely so that everyone could see it as it sang its sweet cadence of descending notes. More Blackcaps were singing but they were much harder to see, and another Lesser Whitethroat was rattling out its song from deep in the hawthorns. Whitethroats were heard but they were giving their ‘churring’ contact notes and the only singing bird was rather distant, so we moved on towards the Causeway, where I hoped to find Reed and Sedge Warbler.

When we arrived by the reed bed there was such a hubbub of song that again individuals were hard to pick out. Then a Sedge Warbler started to perform and its staccato notes gave us no doubt of the performer’s identity. The Reed Warblers sang much more rhythmically with a more even range of notes. None of the birds were showing as they remained deep in the dried stems of last years reeds. A Whitethroat sang briefly from the Deep Pit but gave very poor views, and the Cetti’s Warbler song exploded from the bushes at the foot of the bank several times as it made its patrol.

All of this was soon forgotten as rain brought Swifts and House Martins low and their close passes above our heads completely stole the show. They seemed to go through in waves as first there were Swifts rocketing over the Causeway at head height, and then the House Martins could be heard giving their conversational ‘prrit’ calls as thirty or so were feeding higher up. Next some Swallows came though and then it was House Martins again. During this time the Swifts kept coming though, sometimes passing between peoples’ heads and Common Terns flew between the Deep Pit and Slurry Lagoon several times, calling excitedly as they pursued one that was carrying a fish. The Swifts were so impressive that it took us a long time before we could drag ourselves away.

We walked around the Deep Pit and back along its eastern side towards the river. On the bank by the river there were two Sedge Warblers singing loudly and a good view was grabbed of a male Whitethroat. On the fence we noticed some Swallows having a rest, so we paused until they decided to continue their journey, which was not very long. We tried to identify the males from the females. Some Sand Martins were feeding in the Deep Pit and we heard their rasping ‘trrrsh’ calls as some flew over towards the river. We carried on back towards the Causeway, hearing Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing along the railway embankment. Back on the Causeway we struck lucky as a Garden Warbler bubbled through its repertoire as it sat on an exposed perch and everybody got good views of it. The Swifts were still performing well, so we dawdled along the Causeway, hearing the Cetti’s Warbler again. It now began to rain more seriously and so we made our way off the site. We had missed one of the warblers, so we only scored nine. The Grasshopper Warbler has only been heard once or twice, very briefly, and is possibly not even on site this year.

Pond Dipping – 7th and 10th August

The 7th August was warm but overcast and five people met at the Dipping Platform to see what we could find. We had with us a pond dipping pack from OPAL, who are organising a nation wide pond dipping survey. First we had to test the clarity of the water on a scale that OPAL had devised and then check the pH. The water was absolutely clear and the pH was neutral, so that was a good start.

We now had to dip for insects and were accorded scores against each type we found in the pond. A score of over 31 would mean the pond was very healthy. The eventual score was 68, well above the threshhold we hoped to beat. Although we didn’t manage to find a dragonfly larva we did find lots of damselfly, caddisfly,mayfly and alderfly larva. There were also water stick-insects, pond skaters, back swimmers, water boatmen, water slaters, shrimps, two types of water snail, water mites, whirligig beetles and water beetles. The star catch was a small Three-spined Loach.

Having plumbed the depths of the Small Gravel Pit we decided to give the Deep Pit a go as we expected a different fauna would be found. We were not dissapointed. First we did the water purity tests and again the water was clear and neutral. This pit lives up to its name and a foot or so from the bank you couldn’t touch the bottom. The first creatures caught were shrimps, in good numbers and most of them were mating. There were few insects on the water surface and not such a variety as in the Small Gravel Pit. As we could not trawl the bottom we did not catch many of the bottom dwelling insects, but we did manage a few water boatmen. We eventually managed a score of 38, so the pond was very healthy and we would probably have got a higher score if we could have reached the bottom as I know that damselflies breed in this pit. This pit’s highlight was a Ten-spined Stickleback, which we did not know was on the site.

On the Wednesday the weather was not so kind, in fact it was awful, pouring with rain at one point yet there were still seven people ready to brave the elements, including two little girls as we tried our luck on the Slurry Lagoon. We tested for clarity and pH again to start off. As there was a strong wind there were waves lapping at the shore and a lot of sediment was stirred up. This gave us a zero score for water clarity but I am sure on a calm day the water would be almost clear. The pH was again neutral. We did not manage to catch as many animals as in the Small Gravel Pit again but we did reach a score of 38 again, with two types of water boatmen and some tiny mussel shells. This time the highlight was a Smooth Newt tadpole, and we also caught several Three-spined Sticklebacks.

The Large Gravel Pit will have to be done another day, but we expect rich pickings will be found when we do.

Butterfly and Dragonfly Walks – 27th and 31st July

Unfortunately the weather was not very kind to us on the Wednesday walk and it remained resolutely overcast for the afternoon. However eleven people turned up and some insects were about. Gatekeepers were fairly numerous and it was possible to see males and females together, so that the males could be distinguished by their broad, dark sex brands across their forewings. A late Ringlet was found on the Lower Path along with five Peacocks and two Red Admirals. Green-veined and Small Whites were also found, but no Large Whites. Four Brown Hawkers were seen along the Lower Path and, near the river end, a male Common Blue butterfly was also seen. Several Speckled Woods were encountered along the way as well as some Common Blue damselflies. On the Causeway some Six-spot Burnets and their pupal cases were pointed out and a Shaded Broad Bar was found, Before the walk ended at the footbridge steps the chance was taken to find some Long-winged Coneheads.

The Sunday walk was a much sunnier affair, but only five people turned up. We walked along the Willow Walk and then the Lower Path to the river seeing much the same insects as before, but with the addition of a Small Tortoiseshell, two Commas and this time eight Peacocks. The highlight of the walk was finding two small colonies of Brown Argus amongst the Common Blues in the long grass of the Deep Pit banks, near the river and near the Small Gravel Pit. The salient features for distinguishing the Browns from the Blues were pointed out so that in the end we all could sort them out for ourselves. We also found a Small Skipper and Small Copper. On the Small Gravel Pit an Emperor was patrolling and several Common Blue damselflies were egg laying and three Banded Demoiselles were seen. On the way back a Latticed Heath was found and again a stop off near the top of the footbridge steps produced two Long-winged Coneheads.

Orchid Walk – 11th June

A group of us enjoyed a walk at Netherfield Lagoons looking at the orchids this Saturday morning. Despite the odd, dodgy looking cloud, the weather stayed fine as we ambled around the site. The scrub clearance along the northern bank of the Slurry Lagoon has been successful. We saw some lovely displays of Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii). One or two of them were pure white whilst others were hybrids with the Southern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa), their flowers being a slightly darker pink and their leaves showing variation in the extent of spotting. There was a fine specimen of Southern Marsh Orchid, with no spots on the leaves and two large spikes of quite deep pink flowers. However, they still weren’t really dark pink/magenta enough to be totally ‘pure’ Southern Marsh Orchid, but who cares, they were magnificent!

We next walked along the Causeway to see the Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis), which was beginning to bloom with two beautifully pink spikes. It was then on to the end of the Causeway to look for Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera). We checked the usual area on the outer bank of the Deep Pit and found a few specimens in flower, once we’d got our ‘eyes in’ so to speak. They are hard to spot, but once you’ve seen one you can usually find a few more nearby. We continued to look for them as we wandered around the Deep Pit and found a few small colonies scattered along the banks, but you have to look hard to find them.

Also along this bank are the Northern Marsh Orchids (Dactylorhiza purpurella), which Dave Wood found last year. We had a good look at these smaller marsh orchids, with deep magenta flowers, through our binoculars to save us all climbing the fence but none of us could be 100% sure of their identification, despite having a variety of botanical books to consult!

It was then on to the Small Gravel Pit to admire the new information board and dipping platform, before heading home. It was an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday morning.

Warbler Walks – 27th April and 1st May

Eleven people met by the footbridge for the first led walk of the year. The sun was shining brightly but the wind was quite strong, making it difficult to catch the strains of warbler song.

We started with the easy ones and soon Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were identified by song. Seeing them was another matter. A Willow Warbler did sit up nicely, but it was against a very bright sky and nearly a silhouette. Whitethroat was soon scratching out its song but, again, was difficult to see. We heard a lot of sub-song from Whitethroats and Blackcaps which were reminiscent of Garden Warbler and a useful lesson in the pitfalls of being too eager to identify a bird by song alone. The fluty notes of the Blackcap were, however, quite distinctive and so four warblers were identified between the steps and the causeway.

The causeway was buzzing with Reed and Sedge Warblers and I thought it would be an easy matter to point out the differences. The birds had other ideas and, before the group had assembled to listen, fell silent. After a while the Reed Warblers began to sing but they were deep in the reeds and impossible to see. I pointed out the rhythmic quality of their vocalisations and hoped that a Sedge Warbler would start to sing. Eventually one did but it was a rather half hearted singer and hidden in a bush. As we listened a Lesser Whitethroat sang its staccato ‘jug,jug,jug,jug’ and some managed to hear the quieter pre-emptive part of its song too. More Blackcaps were singing and then the quieter, dryer song of a Garden warbler was picked up. Unfortunately this was not heard to everyone’s’ satisfaction and we only counted it as a half warbler.

Whilst on the causeway most of the group managed to get a distant view of the splendid male Garganey that is currently staying with us. They were also introduced to the male Mute Swan that likes to ‘hang’ with us by the bench. He made quite an impression on one or two of the group. Unexpectedly the Cetti’s Warbler then rattled out its short but loud song and after a couple more performances most of the group had heard it enough to remember it, if and when they hear it again. At this end of the causeway the Sedge Warblers were singing more confidently and their distinctive ‘buzzy’ beginnings were easy to pick out. I then pointed out their mimicry and we noticed Yellow Wagtail notes in the song.

We walked to the railway bridge to see the Swallows and Sand Martins at their nests and then along the Deep Pit bank in the hope of hearing a Grasshopper Warbler, as two of the group had heard one there on their way to meet us. Unfortunately this was not to be but we did hear lots more Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Willow Warblers.

So we ended on a tally of eight and a half warblers and, as the group made their way off the site, I went for a last walk round. Unbelievably there were Lesser Whitethroats singing everywhere now and a Garden Warbler sang from the top of and ash sapling, giving me brilliant views. All ten warblers were heard, but sadly not by the entire group.

The second walk, on the Sunday, was not so well attended with only five people joining in. We did, however, manage nine warblers this time, but the Grasshopper Warblers kept schtum. The first warbler encounter was by the footbridge where the uneasy ‘teck – teck’ calls of a Blackcap and the ‘hweet – hweet’ contact calls of a Chiffchaff were pointed out.

We walked along Willow Walk and then turned along the Lower Path, towards the river. This path is sheltered by high banks on both sides but catches the sun all morning. This makes it very popular with insects, especially butterflies and we found a very early Small Copper sunning itself beside the path. There is lots of dense scrub and some tall trees and so it is ideal for a range of warblers. Soon the song of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Blackcap could be heard and some of the songsters were seen well. In the distance a Lesser Whitethroat was heard but several of the group had difficulty hearing this. Since Wednesday several more Garden Warblers had arrived and they were singing well further along the path. Two were singing quite close together and a Blackcap was singing close by. This gave us a chance to compare these two species and most people felt confident about identifying the two after a few minutes.

At the railway bridge there was not quite so much activity as on the previous visit so we walked along the River Path to see what was about. Soon there were two Sedge Warblers singing against each other and Whitethroats doing little song flights. As we walked along the path there were more Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers, with another Garden Warbler and a Blackcap. Suddenly the ‘zii – ti’ call of a Kingfisher was heard and a bird shot over our heads and towards the gravel pits. Unfortunately only one person was quick enough to see it.

As we walked along the outside of the boundary hedge more Sedge Warblers were heard on the other side and Garden Warbler and Blackcap were picked up again. We re-entered the site on the north east corner and walked towards the Large Gravel Pit.  Here we soon heard the rhythmically calm song of the Reed Warbler with the excited Sedge Warbler song for comparison. The hoped for Grasshopper Warblers were still keeping quiet so we made our way up the bank to the Deep Pit.

We walked south along the east bank, listening for more warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat was heard again but the strong wind made it difficult to hear. Soon the Cetti’s Warbler belted out its short song from the Deep Pit as we walked towards the Causeway. We walked along the Causeway, hearing more Reed, Sedge, Garden and Willow Warblers with Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Chiffchaff and another Lesser Whitethroat and then looked for the Garganey on the Slurry Lagoon, finishing the walk by the bench. The final tally was nine warblers as the Grasshopper Warblers had stayed obstinately quiet.

Wildlife Seeker – August 2010

As August was a wildlife seeker trip I searched the internet to see what was around. As there was nothing really exciting it was decided that we went to Norfolk.

Five of us left in one car and we reached Cley at about 10.30 am. We made our way to Salthouse beach car park and spent the next three-quarters of an hour sitting below the dunes – out of the wind – doing a bit of sea watching. Gannets were going south in variable numbers. There were the usual gulls and a few waders passing by. A small flock of Common Scoter were seen off shore. It was hoped that there might be Shearwaters and Skuas moving through. The only skua species we saw was so far out we couldn’t identify it.

We decided we would head for Titchwell; at least we could sit in a hide out of the wind.

Alas – it was not to be. We were almost in Stiffkey when the car we were in broke down.

While we were waiting for the breakdown truck Marsh Harrier was seen.

We arrived back in Nottingham at about 3.00pm so a few of us decided to call at the Lagoons for a couple of hours. While there we added Red Admiral and Speckled Wood to our trip tally.

Total trip records (2009 in brackets)

Birds 168 (148) Mammals 12 (6) Butterflies 23 (15) Dragonflies 7 (3) Others 7 (1)

Birds and Butterflies

Otmoor and Bernwood 2010

After picking up Brian, Norman and Steve we set off on the first of our two Wildlife Seeker trips. As there was nothing exceptional around, I set off down the motorway to Oxfordshire and to the first of two new sites for the NWG trips.

The first site was RSPB Otmoor. We arrived with the sun shinning and within minutes Steve heard a Turtle Dove. As we walked up the track towards the feeding station we noticed that the path verges were full of butterflies – Common Blue, Small and Green-veined Whites, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper. The bird list was growing slowly with the commoner birds.

There were dragonflies all round but unfortunately we were unable to identify them except for Ruddy Darter. We continue along the nature trail calling into the new hide then up to the viewing screens. Along the way two Kestrel were seen sitting on the fence posts. After about five minutes at the viewing screen we added Green and Wood Sandpiper to the growing bird list. Two eclipsed Garganey were also seen.

Between the two viewing screens we were amazed at the numbers of Common Blue butterflies on the Thistles. There were in excess of 1500 – every flower head had a butterfly on it. I had never seen anything like it. It was a photographer’s dream – if they would sit still.

On the way back towards the car park Brian commented that I had promised him Hobby. At the screen one and possibly two were seen but very distantly. A little later Turtle Dove was heard again and we all had good views thanks to Steve who found it sitting in a dead tree. We also had one on the path in front of us on the way back to the car. Red Kite was numerous with eight seen on the site but the best but most unexpected bird of the day was yet to come. As we approached the feeding station a small flock of birds rose into the air calling. Steve and Norman identified them immediately as Common Crossbill – 27 of them. There had been an irruption of them nationally in the past week with sightings from Northern Scotland to Kent but nobody had expected to see them in Oxfordshire.

As we had lunch in the car park we had a Hobby fly over the cars to every ones delight.

With the daily bird tally standing at 53 and the butterflies at 9, we set off to the second site of the day – Bernwood Forest and Meadow – another new site for us.

Having told the others that this was a good butterfly site, I was a little apprehensive as the sun had gone in although it was still quite warm. It was then that Marsh Tit was heard, being the only bird at this site that was added to the daily list.

As the sun broke through and the others were watching a Silver-washed Fritillary I saw a Weasel run across the path. We turning out of the wood and into the meadow and were greeted to three of four Marbled White butterflies. A little further on we saw a small group of Small Skippers but try as we did we couldn’t turn them into Essex Skippers!

We left the meadow returning to the wood. The sun was shinning through onto a path of bramble were we did manage to see one Essex Skipper – the black tips of the antennae showing very clearly. We meet a couple who told us were we could see Purple Emperor and White Admiral so we set of in search of them. Stopping at a crossroads, Brian spotted two Fallow Deer on the path in front of us about 200 yards away. Crossing the path was an army of Wood Ants making their way from their huge mound of a nest to their feeding areas. Brian pointed out how lucky we were as, if this had been Africa or South America we would have to have waited for them to pass as you would not have dared to have tried to pass them. As we continued we were seeing Silver-washed Fritillary, Specked Wood and the common butterflies but not the ones we wanted. We were almost at the point of giving up when a Red Admiral was spotted, the only one of the day. Soon after a White Admiral was seen but there was no sign of Purple Emperor. Ringlets were seen taking the daily butterfly tally to 17 of which 13 were new to the yearly list.

As we sat in the car park having a cuppa, a Silver-washed Fritillary gave Brian a good opportunity to get a photo.

The daily bird tally was 54.

The yearly trip totals are (with 2009 in brackets): Birds – 166 (141): Butterflies – 22 (14):

Mammals – 11 (5): Dragonflies – 6 (1): Others – 7 (0).