2016 Latest Wildlife News
Even now, although wildlife habitats are seemingly lifeless, insects such as solitary bee larva are inside dry, sometimes frosted, hollow stems; or caterpillars and insects are beneath clump forming, dew-laden grasses, overwintering alongside small mammals such as field voles and shrews, awaiting the warmth of spring. It is one of the many reasons that I urge you to keep to well worn pathways on wildlife sites and farmland. Not least for wrens who huddle beneath the tangled weave of vegetation for warmth on a frosty or damp morning.
Autumn has arrived and has begun to gently weave her tapestry of colour around the lakes wetlands once more. I love to walk around Nyatt's Field to admire the multitude of wildflowers which offer vital nectar and pollen to our bees, butterflies and other pollinators at the end of August/early September when most local meadows have been cut. Notably, there was an abundance of the soft pink, small clustered flowers of Hemp Agrimony visited by bumblebees and hoverflies; the attractive golden yellow Common Fleabane which is fond of wetland meadows and which was visited by hoverflies, leafcutter bees and butterflies and would grace any garden; Michaelmas Daisy another pollinator favourite; Marsh Woundwort, some Meadow Sweet with its sweet scent perfuming the air and some Red Bartsia still in flower. This field's organic rich nectar source is far more important than gravel extraction for Oxfordshire, because without pollinators next year there will be no food on our tables.
During a walk in light rain, I was delighted by the sight of a two little egrets perched and preening on trees on a recent walk. It is heart-gladdening that this important wetland refuge is still there for the many wildlife that inhabit or feed on her waters or shores throughout the year, such as bats and swifts in the warmer months and wildfowl that arrive to feast there overwinter. Whether dabbling or diving duck, there is food for both. Otters with cubs will also seek out lakes when the Thames is spate. Otter cubs can be born at any time of year and are not able to swim. So like human children they have to learn to swim and could easily drown when the Thames flow becomes too fast for them to cope. I am hoping that this year will be a lucky year for a sighting of one in Thrupp or Orchard Lake. They are very elusive!
It is great to see trees laden with hawthorn berries ready to welcome winter migrants such as redwings and fieldfare. I am looking forward to seeing my first of 2016. If it snows this year, we may even get a sighting of colourful waxwings descending on berries in our gardens. They are particularly fond of rowan and hawthorn, but also cotoneaster and rose. If you provide these berries by planting some shrubs, they may well visit! They are slightly smaller than a starling and are birds with attitude! With their beautiful colours and crest, I am sure they know they look stunning!
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Summer is upon us! Here are some orchids tha thave been seen recently at the Lakes.
Spring is in the air and I have already seen Long-tailed tits collecting moss to make their impressive 'bottle nests' which have a roof and an entrance hole near the top. These complicated nests are made of moss woven together with spiders webs and camouflaged with lichen. Due to the use of spiders webs, the nest expands as the young grow inside it. They tend to nest at head height in shrubs like hawthorn or bramble. Such brilliant engineering by these amazing little birds which you won't be able to see once bramble and hedgerows are in leaf around the lakes! Just in case you are wondering what the nest looks like here is some footage of one being constructed https://youtu.be/Tx8rJJfZ5Ak?t=27s
Recently, an elegant Little Egret flew from the stream in Audlett Drive which reminded me that I have seen up to three roosting at last light on one of Thrupp Lake's islands at dusk. If you should be walking around the lake during the evening, you may just see them! I have also had my first fleeting glimpses of water voles in the Abbey Fishponds, but fluctuating water-levels due to heavy rainfall has slowed their burrow preparation for the breeding season and I am hoping that none drowned when their burrows were flooded.
It has been a delight to see Queen Buff-tailed and