Category Archives: Event Reports

Summaries of Field Trips that have taken place.

Orchids and Chalk Flora: 13th June 2015

Fortunately, the rain didn’t stop us finding plenty of orchids and other chalk flora on Knockinghoe NNR and Pegsdon Hills NR.

In the morning 8 of us went to Knockinghoe NNR and saw common spotted orchid, twayblade, pyramid, fragrant and burnt orchids. We also saw the rare Spotted Catsear and Field Fleawort…both plants that live on chalk grassland.

After a sandwich lunch 4 of us went to Pegsdon hills where we saw more orchids, including White Helleborine and Fly Orchids. We also saw Great Pignut.

We saw the sheep at close quarters that were grazing the chalk grassland.

Butterfly Walk: 17th May 2015

It was a bright but breezy day for our walk around Whipsnade Downs looking for butterflies, in particular Duke of Burgundy, Green Hairstreak, Grizzled and Dingy Skippers. There were 16 of us in total but unfortunately no YounGnats.

We saw 16 species of butterflies mostly in the more sheltered locations, and saw each of our target species. In fact there were 50 Duke of Burgundy spread over a good range of the walk. The other species included Brown Argus, Common Blue, Brimstone, Green Veined White, Large White, Orange Tip, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and a Cinnabar Moth!

Thanks to Greg Herbert and Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Butterfly Conservation for organising the walk.

Wildlife @ Rushmere: 9th May 2015

It was a lovely day for our visit to Rushmere Country Park to take a closer look at the wildlife to be found around the park. We had plenty of YounGnats come to look at our Nature Table in the Rushmere Visitor Centre which this time included some live beetles and moths caught in a moth trap overnight. As usual the Mink was of great interest.

Some of the young herons had already fledged but there was still plenty of activity in the heronry to be spied upon using the spotting scopes. One young heron was even seen to make its maiden flight although we weren’t sure if it had been planned or not!

After a slow start, the bug hunters arrived at our marquee in the bottom meadow. They quickly set to work and found an impressive amount of wildlife.

  • Ground Beetles of various sorts: Carabus problematicus  (Violet ground beetle), Abax parallelepipedus,  Nebria brevicollis, Pterosticus madidius (Black clock ground beetle) and Bembidion Sp.,
  • Rove beetles: Philonthus plus larvae and Xantholinus
  • Ladybirds: 14 spot, 16 spot and 24 spot
  • Cuckoo bee and Red tailed bumble bee
  • Wolf Spider
  • Springtails
  • Common Ground hopper
  • Speckled bush cricket and Dark bush cricket
  • Various Butterflies: Orange tip, Green veined white, Large White, Brimstone and Peacock caterpillars
  • Longhorn Moth
  • Lots of bugs: Leaf Hopper, Green shield Bug and Sloe/hairy Shield bug, Phyllobius (Weevil), Corizus hyoscyami, Stenodema laevegeta (Grass bug), Birch Bug, Nettle Bug and Nabids

Thanks to Julia and Erika for arranging a fabulous day for us, and to John Pitts our roving photographer. Why not come along to our next one and see what you can find?



Pond Dipping: 18th April 2015

Were you one of the 5 YounGnats that joined us at Harrold-Odell Country Park to find what lurks beneath the water? The YounGnats (and adults) were very enthusiastic and found lots of interesting creepy crawlies in their nets.  The catches were transferred to white trays with water so everything could be seen, identified and watched.

A Spined Loach was one of the star finds as well as the Water Scorpion and Water Stick Insect.  A very large dragonfly nymph was identified as an Emperor Dragonfly and the Caddis fly larvae were varied and fascinating.

Several knowledgeable adults were there to help with identification and below is a list of the animal groups we found.

Mayfly nymphs         several species
Damselfly nymphs   several species
Dragonfly nymph     1, an Emperor Dragonfly
Mosquito larvae
Water fleas
Leech                      1
Snails                       several species
Caddis fly larvae      several species
Water hog louse
Water bugs               several species including Saucer Bugs, Water Scorpion & Water Stick Insect
Water Beetle            1
Fish                           several species including Spined Loach

Thanks to  Sheila Brooke for providing such a lovely day, and to Betty Cooke, our roving photographer, for showing us some of the finds.

We all enjoyed the afternoon, the sun was shining and we look forward to seeing you there next time!

Small Mammal Trapping: 14th March 2015

It was a bright and sunny 8:30 start for our group of a dozen or so people including 3 YounGnats. It had been a cold night and the wind got up making it feel colder by the time we finished at 10am.

20 longworth traps had been set around Duck End Nature Reserve the previous evening in a selection of sites including wood piles, around the meadow and adjacent to the ponds, 5 of the traps had bank voles and 1 had a woodmouse.

The National flea recorder had come along to check any small mammals we found for fleas. He brushed their fur over a bag with a toothbrush and got one flea from one. He also took away the bedding of those traps with small mammals to investigate later!

Richard Lawrence explained the differences between various voles and mice, what was in the traps & why – hay, bird seed & casters (blowfly larvae) for the shrews, and finally all the YounGnats got the opportunity to try reassembling trap.

Dragonflies under the microscope: 21st February 2015

Larva ClassroomAn interested group of about 20 gathered at Jordans Mill to listen to Steve Cham gives us an introduction to dragonfly and damselfly larvae, including a few pointers to help to identify them. As well as a slide presentation, Steve came armed with his collection of exuviae for each of us to hold and to take a closer look at under microscopes.

Larva Classroom 2Dragonflies eggs hatch into larvae which live underwater for up to 5 years and are fierce predators, even taking small fish like sticklebacks. Steve explained that an exuvia [plural: exuviae] is the skin left behind after an adult dragonfly has emerged and flown, so they look just like the larva in its last stage of development.

A Closer LookSteve’s talk generated a lively discussion after which we had the opportunity to examine a few exuviae under the microscopes provided.

Woburn Walk: Boxing Day 26th December 2014

Well, Christmas Day was lovely and sunny but the light went rather flat our dull for our traditional Boxing Day walk around Woburn. The turn-out was good though with 22 naturalists braving the cold to join Mary Sheridan on her annual walk through Woburn Park. Unfortunately, most of the wildlife was hiding, but there were some Sika Deer displaying a certain symmetrical style.

Thanks again to Mary for organising us, although next year we would like some brighter and warmer weather.


Fungus Foray: 2nd Nov 2014

Despite a very wet start, the foray at RSPB Sandy was as always very well attended, and very successful with a lot of enthusiastic adults and around a dozen young naturalists who kept leader Alan Outen very busy identifying what they had found. Somehow Alan managed to find time to provide some related facts about the species and even some anecdotes.

The list for this year’s foray currently stands at 142 species but Alan expects this could increase to 180 species once he has consolidated lists from other experts on the foray. Last year the total found was 132 species, so this year has beaten that number and could possibly beat the previous totals of 183 on 4 Nov 2007 and 178 on 08 Nov 2009.

There were some good finds but inevitably the more unusual things are the least likely to have English names. There were a lot of Bonnet caps (Mycena spp.) and Inkcaps (Coprinus sensu lato) which are opportunistic and among the first things to start appearing after rain. There were however also several bright Waxcap species as well as Fairy clubs and Earth-tongues which are good indicators of relatively unimproved grassland. There were also more Brittle-gills (Russula spp), Milkcaps (Lactarius spp) and Boletes than on any of the other forays in the area this year. These are normally among the first things to start appearing in the Autumn but this year have been very scarce. The classic Fly Agaric (Red with white spots) was also common.

Alan didn’t take any photos on the day, he’d decided to leave his camera at home to keep it dry, so here are some from his archives.


BNHS @ Give Nature a Home Discover Day: 26th October 2014

The RSPB Give Nature a Home Discovery Day at the RSPB reserve at Sandy was a great success with lots of people coming along on a dull and windy day to see our Nature Table. Unfortunately most of the small mammals had decided to stay at home so we didn’t get find many in the traps we had set up around The Lodge.

  • In the car parks we found 1 Male and 1 Female Bank Vole weighing 18g, and 1 Male weighing 14g.
  • In the garden under bushes and piles of brash wood we found 1 juvenile Water Shrew weighing 12g and 1 juvenile female Bank Vole weighing 13g.
  • Under the bird feeders we found 1 female Bank Vole weighing 16.5g which had at least 5 ticks on it. The mammal showed signs of weakness and ill health, and it was also not as lively as the other Bank Voles so clearly the ticks were having an impact on the vole’s health.