Nine of us met up to walk the grounds of Odney Estate on a thankfully dry morning, uncertain of what we would find but it wasn’t long before one spotted a Kingfisher, but regrettably it didn’t show up again. But we soon came across an impressive array of mushrooms which had flowered on a large area of bark mulch, hopefully a sign that it will be a good autumn for our forthcoming mushroom hunts.
A small Alder tree was notable for having every leaf turned to lacework, with all the material between the veins of each leaf completely missing. We debated between sawfly caterpillars or perhaps a type of beetle, and once we got to the pond, where even more damage could be found, at last the culprit revealed itself. We did indeed find one or two sawfly caterpillars, rearing up in typical fashion as soon as they were approached, but in far greater numbers were Alder Leaf Beetles resembling tiny blue gems as they munched their way across the slowly disappearing leaves!
Under the watchful eye of the resident Heron, we next found one of the rarest creatures in the region; Willow Emerald Damselfly (see Roger’s photo in an earlier posting). First registered in UK only as recently as 2007, they reached East Berks only last year. Unusual in that they lay their eggs high in branches overhanging water, they are also one of the latest damselflies that can be found, as most species ended their season at least a month ago.
However, some dragonflies can also be seen in October and a Common Darter sought us out and took it in turns to bask on the clothing of several of our party, facilitating some close photos. We wondered if we might be able to pick out the remnants of the few scarce Loddon Lilies that grow on the estate, but unfortunately they had already died back.
Numerous birds kept us entertained throughout, the most notable being a Raven, first heard and then seen flying towards a flock of Rooks. A pair of Kestrels were hunting and a Jay or two were active, probably hunting out the last acorns of the season to bury.
As we returned along the waters edge we hoped we might be fortunate to meet up with Odney’s latest addition – the Water Vole. In celebration of Ratty in our very own Kenneth Grahame’s renowned account of Wind in the Willows, this most popular of little mammals has been reintroduced into our local waters this autumn, but they were somewhat shy on the occasion of our visit. We all look forward to returning on another occasion.