2022 Events

Please send any pictures and stories you have to share to ascot.wildlife@gmail.com

Saturday 10th December

This month at Allens Field we planted 250 crocus bulbs at Allens Field and 100 or so native bluebells in the woodland with some groups of snowdrops at the base of a few trees - let's hope they thrive and spread. Thank you to the dedicated volunteers who came out on this beautiful, if cold, morning and to the passing fathers with children who helped to plant the croci. Great work also carried out on clearing a fallen tree and improving the steps from the lane. Thanks to the RBWM Rangers from Braywick #NatureCentre for bringing the bulbs and tools and helping us as usual.

Thursday 8th December

A large group from across RBWM enjoyed a beautiful sunny walk around the Dead Wood Trail at High Standing Hill in Windsor Forest (near Legoland) - led by The Crown Estate's Conservation and Biodiversity Manager. IT was a bright cold day with touches of frost adding glitter to the forest. The Crown Estate has developed a trail to walk round with forest and estate managers and other interested groups which has various habitat improvement ideas for discussion and investigation as to their benefits to supporting beetles and flies dependent upon dead wood whether buried or above ground. Various universities are involved in developing non-destructive techniques to identify larvae such a pheromone detection.

Wednesday 30th November

Working party to support Ascot Heath Primary school wildlife garden.

Saturday 12th November

This month at Allens Field we were building bird nesting boxes and bat roost boxes from kits. We did not have enough volunteers to be able to get them fixed up but one volunteer was able to work on improving the steps up into the field from the lane. It was a lovely sunny, warm morning and a sparrowhawk entertained us by its enjoyment of the day flying around above us. We made 8 tit boxes, 3 for robins and 5 for bats.

Wednesday 26th October

Working party to support Ascot Heath Primary school wildlife garden.

Tuesday 18th and 25th October

The last two sunset bat survey walks in the local area. One from Woodside along Hodges Lane and the other in South Ascot along Woodlands Drive. Pipistrelle bats were detected on both surveys. More in South Ascot but it was a warmer night with no wind. We were able to watch them flying around silhouetted against the sky as dusk fell. Sunset is before 6 pm until the hour changes then gets even earlier!

Monday 24th October

Our last tree recording walk of the year took place on a lovely sunny afternoon behind the new Heatherwood hospital. There is plenty of woodland still here and we only surveyed a part of it. We found a wide variety of trees including Sweet Chestnut, Beech, Scot Pine, Red Oak and Holly, many mature and with tags. We also enjoyed some interesting fungi: Porcelain Fungus, Coral and White Saddle. Strangely we did not see a squirrel!



White Saddle

Saturday 7th October

Conservation volunteers enjoyed the lovely sunny weather and autumn colours coming along at Allens Field. We admired a wide range of fungi as well as creating 3 stag beetle loggeries in the woods. Deep holes were dug and deciduous wood already lying on the ground (which was not sprouting fruiting fungi!) was cut to suitable lengths before balancing the collection in the hole and back filling with soil. These will now be left to rot and provide beetle habitat.

Friday 30th September / Saturday 1st October

Small mammal survey in South Ascot. Sadly no small mammals were found in the 18 traps set out overnight.

Wednesday 28th September

Our working party to support Ascot Heath Primary school wildlife garden had wonderful weather to make progress in the wildlife garden. We turned the compost bins, tidied the vegetable plots, removed excess brambles and sowed more wild flower seeds for next year.

Tuesday 27th September

We carried out a sunset survey bat walk along the footpath parallel to New Mile Road. Nights are drawing in now and we had to meet at 6:45 pm it was also pretty cold and we only had 2 detections / sightings of what we think were pipistrelle bats.

Saturday 10th September

This month the working group at Allens Field carried out some work to make it easier for people to get around this space. We tidied up 2 flights of steps into the woodland and cut back some over hanging branches so that people do not need to duck as they come out onto the field! We also cut some branches which had fallen over the paths and continued to tackle the rhododendron invasion. Finally we litter picked the car park which people seem to prefer to use rather than the adjacent bins!

Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd September

We set 20 longworth traps on the Friday evening in the woodland at Allens Field and returned the following morning to see what small mammals had spent the night in our luxury accommodation of hay with plenty of food including apple for moisture and do food in case a shrew came to stay. We only had one visitor, a young bank vole, caught in a trap set by our expert Dr Pat Morris so perhaps we have more to learn about the best location and orientation for placing the traps.

Wednesday 10th August, Thursday 25th August and Thursday 1st September

3 more sunset bat surveys were carried out down Kings Ride, from St Michael's church and at Mill Ride Golf Club. Only one had to be cancelled due to rain forecast. We found pipistrelle on all the surveys but less than in other places maybe due to the long period of dry weather. We also saw and detected serotine at the golf club and having found few bats along the edge of the woodland we detected many flying over a couple of ponds so perhaps that's where they head to feed in this dry weather.

Saturday 13th August

A hot morning but we were well shaded in the Allens Field woodland where we took advantage of the dry weather and dug the pond we created last year to make it deeper so that it will contain water most of most years. We also completed adding and spreading a fresh layer of wood chippings to the dog agility area.

The photo with water was taken a couple of weeks later after it had rained again.

Tuesday 26th July

We had a stand at Silwood's Bugs, Birds and Beasts day. This was a busy day with families enjoying the venue and the wildlife activities which included pond dipping, bug hunting, insights into what the students are studying and a bird of prey display. We had plenty of children coming to try our card game and colour in wildlife pictures and enjoyed chatting about local wildlife.

Tuesday 12th, 19th and 26th July

Three successful sunset bat surveys were carried out in the areas of: Tom Greens Field and Combe Lane; Sunninghill Park and Great Pond and Broomhall recreation ground. Pipistrelle were found at all three locations, Serotine at two and we think we detected Daubenton over Great Pond. 10 people were involved in the surveys several helping with more than one of them. The results of our surveys are recorded on irecord.

Saturday 9th July

Conservation work at Allens Field this month was on a very hot morning and the hard working volunteers removed debris and spread the wood chippings in the dog exercise area as well as carrying out a litter pick. It was noticed that the pond we dug last year is empty so next month might be an opportunity to dig it deeper as we intended last year but the rains came.

pile of wood chippings

hard at work in the shade

a happy dog

6th July

We have continued to visit the wildflower corner of the Racecourse every two weeks. It is delightful to see the changing colours as different flowers peak and others go to seed. The main colour was yellow this time from the Agrimony and St John's Wort. This week we saw many insects. Lots of bumblebees as usual, plenty of grass hoppers, meadow brown butterflies and soldier beetles but not very many hoverflies. There were a good number of 6-spot burnett moths about. It's always a treat to spend an hour here.

a few pyramid orchids

a new find: sneezewort

common centuary in flower

a white crab spider on a pyramid orchid

6-spot burnett moth on a thistle


25th June and 1st July

We had 2 walks to hear nightjars this year. The first on Bagshot heath and the second on Chobham Common. Both were lucky with excellent weather and both not only heard the strange churring of the nightjar but also saw them in flight and the Chobham Common walk was able to stand and watch the male bird churring from a branch in a tree. Both walks also met roe deer who almost appear affronted that humans should be out in their area so late at night!

24th June

We are very grateful to Claire Taylor from Wild Eton Wick for coming over to visit us and share her bat expertise on a walk around Englemere Pond. Although the weather was warm there were a couple of showers and we noticed that the bats took shelter when we did! However they were back out to feed immediately after the rain stopped. The bats were flying quite low over the heath, an indication of the low levels of insects after the showers. We also met a bold roe deer on the heath. We detected plenty of pipistrelle flying over the pond especially busy at the London Road opening. Serotine and Noctule bats were also detected in the heath area.

detecting and seeing bats flying over the heath

7th, 13th and 21st June

June's bat walk survey dates were well picked as the weather was good for all of them and none were cancelled. We found bats in all 3 areas: around Rise Road, Englemere Wood and Whitmore Lane. We also had 2 impressive male stag beetles flying over us in Sunninghill which was a bonus. We mostly detect pipistrelle bats: both common and soprano but we have been able to listen and watch a serotine bat for long enough to positively identify it. We are still learning :)

Friday 17th June

Conservation work in Ascot Heath Infant Wildlife Garden - progress was made on restoring the pond this month - pulling out grass and getting it ready for some new plants. Work continued on rotating the compost in the bins and removing wayward brambles.

Saturday 11th June

This month we carried out a bird survey in the woodland around Allens Field, learnt how to carry out FIT count surveys and finished off with a litter pick around the car park and play area. The Flower Insect Timed Survey is a nationwide citizen science method for surveying insects to build up a nationwide picture of changes in their population. Obviously a lot of data is needed as the numbers of insects you see depends on so many factors and varies considerably. This survey takes about 15 minutes and does not require detailed knowledge. One does record the insect group and we found deciding if it was a solitary bee or not quite tricky but you can always record unknowns as other insects. We completed two surveys - one on white clover and one on buttercup and enjoyed seeing the thick-legged flower beetle.

Thursday 2nd June

We celebrated our 10 years of supporting wildlife and the Queen's 70 years Jubilee at Sunninghill and Ascot Parish Platinum Jubilee Party in the Park at Victory Field. We had many people pass by our stand for a chat about local wildlife and children enjoyed some quiet time colouring in wildlife pictures.

Our stand, ready for visitors below with children already busy colouring in!

Saturday 21st May

Wildlife in Ascot had a stand at Ascot Heath Primary School Summer Fair. We had leaflets on wildlife gardening and other topics, a "whose my mummy" bug matching card games and colouring in sheets for children. The banner in the background of the photo says "CELEBRATING 10 YEARS" as we were founded in June 2012 by Anne Ayres, Anne Yarwood and Helen Hipperson.

Monday 9th, Wednesday 11th & Monday 16th May

All three of these evenings were suitably warm and dry for us to go on bat detecting walks in the local area. Armed with Magenta Bat4 ultrasonic detectors we were able to hear the bats' echolocation and communication calls. The specific frequency, along with any sightings of the bats and much experience (which we do not yet have) helps in identifying the species. We definitely detected both soprano and common pipistrelles and also heard and saw others which seemed different and may have been noctules and serotines. We walked in three different areas; 2 in South Ascot and 1 in North Ascot and found bats on every walk, mostly in small quantities and all in wooded areas including tree lined residential streets. We plan more walks in June and July so please get in touch if you'd like to come and let us know if you have any suggestions of where to go bat detecting.

Saturday 14th May

The working group was fairly small today and it was hot working in the sun at Allens Field removing graffiti from the caterpillar, seed pod and other wooden sculptures there. We also improved our plant identification skills guided by Catalina who knows her grasses. We found sweet vernal-grass, red fescue, cock's foot, field wood-rush and the evocatively named and very lovely yorkshire fog. The following wildflower plants were noted, all in quite a small area: common mouse-ear, creeping cinquefoil, red clover, birds foot trefoil, common vetch, hedge bedstraw, meadow buttercup, dandelion, ribwort plantain. We plan to carry out a more systematic survey next month when there will be more in flower making them easier to identify. We also all heard a cuckoo calling from Swinley Forest and saw a fine red fox walking across the field at midday!

Monday 9th and Wednesday 11th May

After joining our local bat expert from Eton Wick for surveys around Eton and Windsor we tried our first local bat detection walks on our own. Armed with Magenta Bat4 detectors we walked around South Ascot, through Allens Field, the woodland off Elizabeth Gardens and up St George's Lane. We detected pipistrelle regularly where there were trees. These were mostly thought to be soprano with fewer common pipstrelle. Up on the edge of Allens Field we definitely found a different type of bat. We think it was a noctule.

Sunday 8th May

A group of 10 early risers enjoyed a beautiful and fascinating dawn chorus walk at Mill Ride Golf club led by David Calcutt who identified the bird song giving us useful tips to improve our skills. We heard the lovely songs of song thrush, blackbird, dunnock, robin, wren, blackcap and many others. We spotted some of these birds but most were well hidden in the new leaf on the trees. We also saw several roe deer, a fox and a greylag family with cute goslings.

We were very pleased that the bar had opened for breakfast on our return to the club house and thank the golf club very much for their friendliness and hospitality.

Friday 29th April

We had a very enjoyable and informative nature walk from Buttersteep into Swinley Forest led by Des Sussex, Conservation and Biodiversity Manager for the Crown Estate. Des explained some of the work that has been carried out and is planned to support nature and outlined some of the other factors involved such as operating a commercial forest. Some areas are set aside for conservation and others provide a range of habitats depending on the age of the crop of fir trees. The recently cleared areas provide suitable habitat for ground nesting birds including woodlarks, nightjars and dartford warblers. Some new ponds have been created for wildlife as well as for drainage for the plantations. It is hoped that these will develop verdant margins but this can be difficult to establish if too many dogs use the pond. Dogs can also disturb the ground nesting birds if they are not properly controlled. This is why some areas have been fenced off in order to protect wildlife from disturbance. It was a dull, cold afternoon with no butterflies and little wildlife to see. We heard quite a few chiffchaff; disturbed a couple of woodlarks foraging on the path, found some willow damselfly eggs in the bark of a willow sapling and heard and saw a crossbill back at the car park!

One of the group reported that she had heard her first cuckoo of the year that morning nearby.

Friday 29th April

Conservation work in Ascot Heath Infant Wildlife Garden to improve this garden for the children. This month the pond was tackled with grass being removed and native pond plants planted. The compost heaps were turned and re-organised. The grass was cut before no-mow May. Some low hanging branches pruned and some straying brambles that might snag children removed.

Tuesday 26th April

Really exciting afternoon today as 4 nest cups were installed on the east side of Ascot Racecourse Pavilion building as a result of our request and co-ordination between Ascot Racecourse and the recently formed House Martin Conservation Trust. We are very grateful to Ascot Racecourse for supporting their house martin colony in this way and to the House Martin Conservation Trust for responding so quickly and for bringing the nest cups and advising on their installation.

There had been one nest cup in use on this side of the building last year but in the autumn it was removed during painting works. The soil round here is very sandy and it would have been difficult for the house martins to build a whole nest cup and breed this season. Repairing an existing nest or improving an artificial nest cup is much easier! It is especially important this year as it's been so dry and there is little mud to be found. The first house martins of the year were seen flying around the racecourse buildings just as the nest cups were being put up there!

We understand that the main part of this colony nest on the west side of the building.

In December 2021 house martins were added to the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern in the UK due to their decline in numbers. One of the best ways to help is to put up artificial nest cups to give them a permanent home. For more information visit www.housemartinconservation.com.

Pavilion building before nest cups were installed

showing 3 of the 4 nest cups installed

Saturday 9th April

We were very pleased to have our new volunteer co-coordinators, Rosie and Tom from RBWM, both join us for this first session. They brought all the tools we needed and tea making equipment with biscuits which were very much appreciated by everyone, as was the lovely spring weather. We worked in the woodland removing an extensive rhododendron network of plants and roots that extended across and into the bog. We were serenaded by bird song including blackcap and goldcrest recognised by our expert volunteer. We disturbed a tiny baby slow-worm (as it was black underneath we initially thought it was a centipede coming out from the roots). We carefully relocated it away from our trampling feet!

Wednesday 23rd March

It was a very hot afternoon and we were surprised to find trees planted in our wildflower patch at Victory Field. We carried out the annual maintenance; removing dead stalks and fresh grass then sowed some more seeds in the bare patches. Afterwards we contacted the Parish Council and they had not organised the tree planting - so this is a mystery. We would love to make contact with these supporters of nature in our area.

Tuesday 15th March

A group of four people carried out the annual work on the South Ascot wildflower patch at the South Ascot Recreation Area and were able to extend it a little as we had the people and it was a lovely afternoon! Grass was removed and fresh seed sown

Saturday 12th March

Our main task today carrying out conservation work at Allens Field was to remove the invasive non-native rhododendron. We tackled a couple of very large ones. One of which was in very boggy ground so we all got a bit messy!

Tuesday 1st March

We all enjoyed our online talk about Bats from our small mammal expert Dr Pat Morris and we learned a lot about these fast and elusive furry creatures. Pat told us about the huge range of types of bat in the world. Ours eat insects but elsewhere there are bats that eat nectar, rodents and even fish! This year we plan to start surveying for bats locally so this talk was especially relevant.

Saturday 12th February

The Allens Field volunteers tackled the non-native rhododendron and laurel in the woodland this month. We piled the cuttings on top of existing piles so that they would not take root and grow more unwanted bushes!

Thursday 3rd February

We appreciated Des Sussex, Crown Estate Conservation Manager taking the time to give us an online talk on what they are doing to support Nature in Swinley and Windsor Forests. Des has been in this new role since last Autumn as the Crown Estate take steps to achieve their goal of being the best run estate for nature and sustainability. Des explained how the balance between the commercial business of forestry and wildlife habitats can be maintained and support each other. Having more ponds helps fight forest fires and reduce the damage they cause as well as supporting more insects and hence birds and others. More spaces such as heathland habitat for dartford warblers and nightjars and deciduous trees also help stop the spread of fires.

The talk was recorded for those unable to attend and is available for a couple of months by clicking here.

Friday 28th January

We were pleased to have a group of 6 hard working volunteers to carry out winter maintenance tasks in the

Ascot Heath Primary School infant's wildlife garden. It was disappointing that none of the parents of children in the school came to help. Some alder buckthorn, hawthorn and clematis were planted near the fence to provide more interest. Grass was removed from the wild flower areas and yellow rattle and wildflower seeds were sown. Brambles were cut back and the raised beds were prepared so the children can spend productive time here and learn to appreciate wildlife. We enjoyed a sunny afternoon and our young DofE volunteer worked particularly well planting all the new bushes. We found a beautiful common frog warming in the spring sunshine in the leaves.

Wednesday 19th January

We enjoyed our online talk about rewilding and how it differs from traditional conservation from Jan Stannard co-founder of Heal, a rewilding charity based in Maidenhead which is fundraising to buy suitable land in England and rewild it. You can sponsor a specific 3m square of land for £20 and will get the what3words code when the land has been purchased.

Jan explained that traditional conservation works to improve habitat and often focuses on specific target species. Whereas rewilding takes an area of land which is currently not considered particularly good habitat. Rewilding aims to give nature the breathing space it needs to heal. It means the natural regeneration of trees, plants and wildflowers. It means creating space where animals can live freely and vulnerable species can recover. This does not mean just leaving the land for nature to takeover. Restoring ecosystem function requires some degree of intervention to ensure that the correct elements are in place including herbivores. Carnivores cannot be reintroduced here so some human control will be required to maintain a balance.

Heal are looking for ~4 to 500 acres land in England's lowlands which has buildings to be used as an education centre. They will then work to creates the conditions for nature to create good habitats for whatever decides to live and grow there.

The Knepp estate is a role model for rewilding in this way. You can find out more here.

Jan recommended two books: Rewilding by Isabella Tree (about the Knepp Estate process) and Feral by George Monbiot.

Saturday 15th January

The first Allens Field monthly conservation working party of the year had a good turnout including some newcomers to this location. We sowed more yellow rattle seeds in the grassland in areas where there are less wildflowers so that the yellow rattle will do its parasitic work weakening the grass and the wildflowers get more opportunity to thrive. We also planted another 50 hawthorn bushes to create more margin habitat between the woodland and the field area. Finally we carried out an extensive litter pick around the car park, play area and woodland. We were please to find very little litter along the woodland paths but sadly plenty near the car park.