local wildlife stories 2019

We set up for bird and bat box building at Allens Field with the help of Dhush from Groundwork and volunteers Roger and Neil who helped local children build boxes from kits. We had robin and tit nest boxes and bat roosting boxes to choose from.

3rd December

One of our Insect SOS volunteers organised for Dr Erica McAlister, Senior Curator, Diptera and Siphonaptera at the Natural History Museum and Author of 'The Secret Life of Flies' to come to Silwood and give us her '2019 Year of the Fly' talk. A large audience were thoroughly entertained and stimulated to hear about these amazingly diverse and interesting creatures and learn how modern techniques are facilitating studies into how they can inform and help in our lives. The NHM has a huge collection of specimens dating back to the 18th century and modern scanners are able to identify what is in their stomachs! Flies are the main polinators due to their sheer numbers in the world but very little research has been carried out on the health of their populations (unlike their prettier colleagues: butterflies or more valuable ones: honey bees). Erica also gave examples of where flies have been studied to improve medical devices and how they are farmed to create animal (and human) food stuffs. She also told us about the frankly bizarre lifestyles of some flies. Thank you to Mike for arranging the talk and Erica for a fascinating evening. If you want to watch Erica giving a similar talk there is one on YouTube here.

24th November

New skills were developed and boxes taken home to be put up in gardens to support local wildlife.

The weather was lovely apart from a short shower in the middle which was conveniently just as the first boxes had been completed and before anymore were started.

Volunteers met in Blythewood Lane to remove hazards for wildlife and create more hibernation sites. We were glad of a dry day and that the lane drains well so yesterday's rain had not made it muddy underfoot. We were pleased to find less litter than previous years, few cans and wrappers but there is obviously a dog walker who thinks it's okay to throw white plastic dog poo bags into the edges of the lane. If you see them please advise them not to.We also found the remains of an old fence (wood and rotting so good for invertebrates perhaps) and holly and laurel prunings. We replaced the 'please leave these nettles' sign and used laurel prunings to make some piles for hedgehogs.

We were interested to find an attractive fungus gowing on rotting wood which we identified as some type of coral fungus.

6th November

Donna Cox, Bracknell Forest’s Waste & Recycling Manager, gave a fact-filled presentation on the Borough’s recycling scheme, including what can and cannot be recycled and the process itself, including the sorting at the shared Re3 facility in Reading. The council runs a recycling incentive scheme, for local clubs and charities, from which Wildlife in Ascot benefited in 2018. Lorna and Craig Barter, local residents, gave a presentation on what can be recycled outside of the Council’s scheme. Both presentations led to questions and discussions from the engaged audience.

These are the websites that Donna recommended




A company called Terracycle is sponsored by big companies who support their work in recycling some

of our plastic packaging. The plastic waste is then used to make bollards and park benches. In

order to find a public drop off point near to you go to www.terracycle.co.uk , click on ‘Recycle your

waste’, then click on ‘Free Recycling programmes’ - please check the teracycle website for accepted items.

5th October

A conservation event at Blackmoor Pond. Check it out at the Kingfisher Flyway section.

22nd & 23rd September

We had lovely weather for laying small mammal traps on Saturday afternoon and were lucky to have a beautiful morning on Sunday for inspecting them before rain came later. 26 Longworth traps were set with wonderful overnight accommodation of a nest of hay, grain and a meaty mix incase a shrew visited. We all learned how the traps operate and had the opportunity to set and place traps.

At 9 am on Sunday we set off to see who had stayed overnight. We had trapped a range of 8 wood mice; from young juveniles to a feisty large male. We also found a couple of beetles including a lovely black ground beetle, saw deer, rabbits and a devil's coach horse beetle. We all enjoyed our turn to release the mice back, well fed, into their habitat.

Pat had trapped a bank vole in his garden overnight which he brought along to show us.

Everyone appreciated this opportunity to hear from an expert and to meet the small mammals that live around us. Thank you Pat and Silwood College.

22nd July

We were very pleased to have a visit and talk from Beth Smith who worked with Wildlife in Ascot when at Silwood and is now working for The Mammal Society. She gave us a talk about the work of the mammal society and showed us, with the help of various real examples, how to tell identify the small mammals we may see locally. Beth pointed out how citizen science surveys such as the Big Garden Bird Watch have helped to provide data on birds and butterflies in the UK and how mammals are not suitable for this type of survey. She then showed us a new app the The Mammal Society have developed called Mammal Mapper which people can use to report sightings when on a walk. You just turn it on when you go for a walk and if you spot a wild mammal you can make a record. As she explained no sightings is also useful information. Finally, we had a wander in the lovely evening light in Silwood grounds as she demonstrated how easy the app is to use. Please downlaod it to your smart phone and have a go.

13th July

A lovely walk finding lots to see in Swinley Forest today including many ringlets. Warm and lightly overcast with the sun breaking through. Full list below. Here are some photos.

List of fauna spotted :-

Meadow brown 20

Ringlet 35

Small skipper 9

Silver washed fritillary 7

Ruddy darter 6

Four spotted chaser 7

Common darter 3

Emperor 1

Buzzard 1

Little grebe 4 (2 adults, 2 juv)

Chiffchaff 2

Southern hawker 1

Gatekeeper 2

Jay 1

Lacewing 1

Honey bee 1

Emerald damselfly 1

Blackbird 2

Wren 1

Great tit 4

Bee fly 1

Damselflies, blue unknown 3

Damselflies, red unknown 2

Azure damselfly 1

Marbled white 3

Funnel spider webs ~12

Harvestman 1

Musk beetle, Aromia moschata 1

11th July

A large audience gathered at Silwood to learn about Red Kites and their return to England & Scotland through a conservation project where young birds were released at 5 sites across the UK. The population in Wales was all we had left and it was dwindling. Thanks to legislation and conservation efforts we now see Red Kites in many areas of the UK. The young travel widely but return to nest and breed in their 3rd year a mile or so from their original nesting site. They look for a suitable nest in a quiet location which they make their own with sheep's wool and often stolen small items taken from washing lines and gardens. Red Kites are excellent in the air and can steal food from Buzzards and Crows etc. They spend their time flying around searching for carrion which is why we see them so frequently. Buzzards, on the other hand, tend to fly to a vantage point where they perch to spot potential prey. We are very grateful to Keith Betton, Vice President of the BTO, for his very interesting talk and for answering all our questions so well. We were also very pleased to hear that he has just ringed the first chick from the nest box which was put up for the Peregrines displaced from the 3M building in Bracknell a couple of year's ago.

25th June

A combined group from WiA and the Heathland Conservation Group walked out from College Ride in Bagshot onto the heathland. We walked through a lovely beech woodland and as we came onto the heath a thrush sang a beautiful evening song for us. David showed us the result of all the work restoring the heathland by removing scots pine saplings and bracken to provide habitat for ground nesting birds including the healthy dartford warbler population. As it grew darker we started to hear some churring in the distance from several directions. We walked up to the highest point where we could see the faint skyline of canary wharf and not quite see the Urals beyond! Then we were treated to a wonderful display from a nightjar who knew what we were hoping to see. About 30m from us, it flew around showing off its lovely long tail, elegant wings and acrobatic moves for long enough for everyone to have a good view. We also saw quite a few small bats and heard several calls from little owls.

A special thanks to Pat Morris who brought a 190 year old nightjar for us all to see close up before we set out and many many thanks to David Norminton who planned and led the walk.

15th June

Some curious people gathered to discover how to charm worms in Victory Field. It had rained for a few days and we were lucky having a break in the weather to try our hand at getting the worms to come up. We are very grateful to Dan Carpenter from TVERC for giving us his time and knowledge as he told us about worms and how we might charm them. We have 27 species of earthworm in the UK, some live in leaf litter and some in the ground. They need moisture on their skin to breath which is why they come up when it rains - it gives them an opportunity to move distances on the surface. Our worm charming was trying to convince the worms that it was raining so they would come up. Six were convinced (3 different species) and some people had the knack whilst others did not! Dan showed us how to tell adults from juveniles and explained how they mate then lay tiny lemon-like eggs which hatch into miniscule worms. Afterwards we washed our hands and enjoyed tea, squash and biscuits in the refurbished parish pavillion. Thanks to the Parish Council for letting us use this facility.

As an aside, the wildflower bed we have sown and tended over the past few years is looking amazing!

29th May

Pond dipping session today at Blackmoor Pond.

23rd May

Michelle Margettes and Anne Ayres gave an interactive talk at Silwood this evening on soil and making compost.

Why? Because everything starts with the soil, within which lives a multitude of flora and fauna. These break down the organic matter that gets into the soil and makes the chemicals necessary for healthy plant growth available to the plants we can see above the ground.

Michelle explained how soil is made up and what constitutes a healthy soil

The amazing things worms do for us in helping keep our soils healthy were talked about and we all need to learn to love and care for our earthworms! Apart from aerating the soil, they digest organic matter from the surface of the soil and excrete it as a worm cast. This is the most concentrated form of plant food known to man and can be used to feed plants.

Also, the 'wood wide web' was brought to our attention. This is a subject new to science and one which is amazing to those finding out about it. It appears that there is a network between plants made up of fungi called mycorrhizae, which not only helps the plants with their absorption of chemicals that they need from the soil, but is also enabling plants to communicate with each other about the threats they face, so helping them find ways to protect themselves. Quite a science fiction idea, but very real and one we are just discovering.

The fact that organic matter is necessary for the survival of the microbes, fungi and tiny creatures that live in the dark places underground means that organic matter needs to get into the soil and we can help with this by making and using our own compost. Various compost bin models were looked at and the recipe needed to make good compost was discussed. Not only is making compost good for your garden, but it is also a way of reducing landfill, so it is a win win thing to do!

11th May

Today we had the guided walk around Englemere Pond, led by the Ranger, Rob Solomon, who has been managing the site over the past few years. He explained that it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has been given that designation by Natural England, both for the water and the surrounding area. He showed us a patch of 'winter evergreen' a rare plant which can be found on this site.

He showed us where tree clearance has been taking place and heathland restoration is going on. This takes a long time as the heather is slow growing and there are three different varieties, which flower at different times. He explained how controlled burning of heather is a good thing to do at the right time of year, but accidental fires during the summer are unhelpful - as has happened on the site in the past.

28th March

A group of Wildlife in Ascot supporters and Silwood Masters students enjoyed a interesting talk from Simon Leather, Professor of Entomology about work he carried out when at Silwood on the biodiversity of Bracknell's roundabouts. There was academic debate in the 1980s regarding SLOSS (is a Single Large or Several Small nature reserves more effective?). Simon recognised roundabouts as small urban nature reserves and carried out research with students to identify species and abundance. They proved that these are valuable spaces for invertebrates and hence fauna in general. As expected, the larger and more types on habitat on the roundabout the better. An interesting result was the correlation with frequency of grass cutting. Cutting weekly or fortnightly reduced species and numbers significantly but monthly cutting was almost as good as an annual cut. Measurements of the affects of traffic pollution have shown that invertebrates are not significantly affected if over 1m from the road though humans are adversely affected up to about 25m.

The roundabouts, being relatively free from human interference, are island reserves which can play an important role in maintaining species in an area by providing habitat and protection from the transmission of disease through a species. Although sampling was only carried out on one day for grasslands and one day for trees, for each of the 18 sites, a combined total of 134 species were found, consisting of 55 Heteroptera, 67 Auchenorrhyncha and 16 Psylloidea species. This represents approximately 17% of the national UK species total for these three groups combined. Some of the species found, although not uncommon, were not species that one might expect to find in the middle of a town, for example Nebria salina, which is more often associated with moorland!

Their studies also indicated that reducing mowing frequency and planting of trees with rich insect faunal associations on roundabouts would be valuable in promoting biodiversity.

20th February

Victory Field Wildflower bed maintenance

A couple of volunteers spent a sunny half hour removing dead stalks, reducing grass and sowing some more seeds in this established patch on the roadside edge of Victory field. Let's hope it looks good for our "worm charming" event in June.

30th March

All Saints Church very kindly held a Lent lunch in aid of Wildlife in Ascot in King Edward's Hall, North Ascot. Several WiA trustees went along to chat with people and raise awareness of what we do.

The picture to the right shows the area after the work.

The annual maintenance of the wildflower bed at South Ascot Recreation area was carried out. Grass was removed and some new seed sown.

26th / 27th April

Freshwater Habitats waterblitz

Friday - Catharine, Jim and Christine used the kit provided to check Blackmoor Pond (with the pollution incident clearup in progress) and the stream on our green corridor at Heronsbrook in Cheapside.

Blackmoor Pond <1-2 Nitrate, 0.1-0.2 Phosphate

Cheapside Heronsbrook Pond <0.2 Nitrate, 0.05-0.1 Phosphate

Saturday - Catharine and Anne today set out to check the water quality of Englemere Pond and the stream that runs through Granny Kettle's Wood as part of the water blitz, run by the Freshwater Habitats Trust. As in previous years, it was found that the levels of nitrates and phosphates in the water was very low. Good news!

Englemere Pond <0.2 Nitrate, 0.02-0.05 Phosphate

Granny Kettle <0.2Nitrate, <0.02 Phosphate

8th April

A large group of lucky people enjoyed a fascinating talk from Martin Woolner about what is living in the wood. Martin told us about the very many types of microscopic creature that live in their niche in the many tiny habitats available from the leaf litter to the tree tops and pockets in between. We were then treated and entertained by seeing some of these creatures in action. He had collections from the woodland floor placed under his microscope and linked up so that we could all see them projected on the screen. In addition to recognisable woodlice and centipede, we saw Collembola (springtails), tiny mites and harvesters which many of us had never seen before. Martin also treated us to a video he made of a beautiful Pseudoscorpion which he often finds.

8th April

First tree recording outing of the year - the leaves are only just beginning to show - we walked along the green corridor in Broomhall recreation area and found some lovely old oak trees of over 4m girth. As usual many of the trees nearest the stream are tall and thin in the wet ground. We saw quite a lot of skunk cabbage by the stream and evidence of removal of laurel from the woodland which is encouraging.

2nd April

Our first, trail pond dipping session of the year. Really for a small group of us to get our confidence back after a winter of inactivity! Nothing much found today, but that was as expected.

31st March

A group of early risers had a lovely walk through Silwood Park at crack of dawn led by Alessandro Pirzio Biroli from Imperial College. The birds were in good voice and we enjoyed the peaceful morning trying to hear the different species identified by our guide.

28th April

While looking in the heathland, we were pleased to find some adder skins and a grass snake. Rob also saw an adder, but it slithered away so fast that not everyone had the chance to see or photograph it. We also heard and saw a Cuckoo, which was really exciting.We walked to the waters edge and saw the birds that enjoy being on the shallow acid pond. We sadly did not see a kingfisher, but there was a heron and others such a moorhens and geese. Occasionally, you can see or hear a water rail there too, apparently, although we were out of luck today.

Rob explained that when the dragonflies are out, hobbies get attracted and can be seen chasing and catching them. He also told us that there are great crested newts that use the pond and although they spend most of their year out of the water, they need to have access to it for breeding. So, Rob and his volunteers have to consider ways they can keep the environment suitable for them.

We walked around to the reed beds and Rob explained how the willow warblers, reed warblers and various other migrating birds use the reeds for breeding in, but as they need reeds of different ages, there is a planned programme of cutting the reeds back. This also helps keep the pond from becoming silted up as the willows and reeds can reclaim the pond over time and the water could be lost.

Whilst walking the site, we found a blue tit's nest and Rob pointed out a nuthatch nest as well, confirming that spring has well and truly sprung!

A fantastic 2 hours spent learning so much. It was said afterwards by one participant that she will look at all aspects of Englemere Pond in a new light in future. I couldn't agree more!

28th January

Social Wildlife Quiz

Six enthusiastic teams of 5 or 6 people tackled a wide range of wildlife related (some quite tenuously!) questions. Do you know what wood Morgan use for their cars? or which British mammal is the smallest? or which football team has a thrush on a hawthorn branch on its badge?

winning "Tree Huggers" team below

The good food and beer from The Stag in Ascot High Street was appreciated and everyone enjoyed the evening. There was a unanimous vote for another quiz next year.

The team of Bracknell Conservation Volunteers obviously did - and they won, beating teams of BF Rangers, BFNHS, 2 teams of local enthusiasts and our WiA team (who wasn't quite last!)

Many thanks go to our Quiz Master Malcolm and his lovely assistant Lesley for running such a good quiz. No pressure for next year!!


1st Tree Huggers (BCV) with 68 points

2nd Log Droppers (BF Rangers) with 60

3rd Stag Beetles (BFNHS) with 57

4th Wild at Heart with 53

5th Wildlife in Ascot with 51

6th David Attenborough Associates with 39