Westbury & District

Natural History

Leader: Bill Yeadon

Now meets on the second Thursday with the location and time being dependent on the event.

In May 2019 we had planned a visit to Cotley Hill in search of butterflies and flowers but the day was cold and damp so five of us went to Langford Lakes instead. Cetti's and Garden Warblers were singing and a Kingfisher dashed over the Long Pond. From the Great Meadow hide we spotted a Dunlin and a Little Ringed Plover.

Despite being almost mid-summer, another cold and wet day greeted the nine intrepid members at our June meeting on Great Cheverell Down. But we pressed on regardless and soon found plenty of interesting flowers. A Greater Butterfly Orchid was spotted and Pyramidal Orchids were beginning to flower. After a short search in a small copse we found White Helleborines. The wind was blowing quite strongly when we arrived at the spur of the hill where the richest variety of flowers are found and it didn't take us long to find Burnt Tip Orchids, our main target species. Retreating to the shelter of woodland and returning to our cars, we resolved to come back on a fine day to enjoy this beautiful area at it's best.

In contrast to the previous two meetings, our July visit to Martin Down was on a hot and sunny day. Conditions were perfect for spotting butterflies and six of us managed to find fourteen species. Skippers were numerous as were the impressive Dark Green Fritillaries which seemed to favour Knapweed to feed on. A couple of Small Coppers and an early Gatekeeper were also seen in sheltered spots. The profusion of chalkland flora was a spectacular sight with Pyramidal Orchids still making a bright splash of pink amongst the palette of other colours. Birds were not so plentiful but some heard the calls of Turtle Dove.

Just three of us made the August trip to Alner's Gorse, the Butterfly Conservation reserve near Sturminster Newton. The weather was warm and dry but rather cloudy and there weren't many butterflies on the wing. But the flowers were at their best and the Fleabane, in particular, attracted some butterflies including several Painted Lady. We searched the brambles for hairstreaks but it wasn't until we were on our way back to the car park that a Brown Hairstreak was spotted. It posed well for photographs and brought our total species seen to thirteen.

Our October meeting was a wander around nearby Clanger and Picket Woods where the work done to improve the paths earlier in the year was appreciated by our group of six. A Nuthatch was calling as we set off and we soon found interesting fungi. The challenge was to identify different species so we took photographs for reference later. Chris was able to name Sulphur Tuft and Turkey Tail and we later identified Yellow Stagshorn, Common Puffball, Hairy Curtain Crust and Witches Butter amongst others. What colourful names! We had a few glimpses of roving flocks of tits and Mike spotted a Marsh Tit.

We started 2020 with a visit to Blashford Lakes. Seven of us met in the Tern Hide on a brighter morning than expected. There were large numbers of Pintail on Ibsley Water and, through the glass of the new hide, we found a Long Tailed Duck. Searches of the more distant corners added Yellow Legged Gull and Black Necked Grebe. The Woodland Hide gave views of the commoner woodland species and, in the Ivy Lake Hide, we paused for lunch and glimpsed a Kingfisher. As we were heading back to our cars and the northern hides, heavy rain set in and we took cover in the Tern Hide again. A Common Sandpiper on the shore gave close views. Heading home via the meadows at Harbridge, we found a Bewick's Swan feeding in the flood water.

In February we went for a morning walk around Erlestoke Woods. Undaunted by rain showers, twelve of us set off into the wood and soon found carpets of Snowdrops. On the stream running down the valley, a Grey Wagtail was looking for a meal and we came across a Primrose in flower. At the edge of the wood a Tawny Owl called and Ali noticed a Great Spotted Woodpecker ascending a Larch. The sky was now clearing and, as we dried out, a Song Thrush began singing. We had seen and heard early signs of Spring and agreed that we must return to enjoy the wood again later in the year.

New members are welcome to join us. To get more details, contact John Osborne on 07890 047431 while Bill is out of action.

Dates for your Diary
Thu Mar 12th 10.00 am - Castle Combe. Early flowers and birds.
More Group Pages
Art - Painting Art Appreciation Bird Watching Book Club
Canasta Classical Music Computing Creative Textiles
Creative Writing Exercise Group French Conversation Gardening
History & Archaeology Mahjong Natural History Patchwork
Photography Rummikub Silver Screen Table Tennis
More Group Pages
Art - Painting Art Appreciation
Bird Watching Book Club
Canasta Classical Music
Computing Creative Textiles
Creative Writing Exercise Group
French Conversation Gardening
History & Archaeology Mahjong
Natural History Patchwork
Photography Rummikub
Silver Screen Table Tennis