Our first WildCookham outing for a long time saw a small group gather in Strand Lane for a circular walk around the Greenway and the paddocks on a fine warm and sunny morning. We first studied some moths caught the evening before to see the huge range in size and patternings before we let them all out (except the sample of a Box Moth, which is a notifiable pest but now extremely numerous in the Cookhams).
Before even entering the Greenway we had chanced upon some Ivy Bees, a relative new comer to UK and Cookham was the first place they were discovered in the Thames Valley. Emerging just in time for the best of the Ivy pollen, these very small bees were busy collecting it and taking it to their unseen colony of ground nest holes where it would be packed down to feed the larvae next summer when they hatch. A small, ginger-headed insect, they stood out well from the numerous bees and hoverflies also present.
We passed the fishing pool, noting a distant Brown Hawker dragonfly, and listened to a Chiffchaff, still in a mood for song, whilst a huge Heron flew right past us. A distant Buzzard remained heard but unseen whilst we observed one of the Barn Owl boxes erected in the area. Over the footbridge we espied some flashy Mullein plants, the sole foodplant of the Striped Lychnis moth caterpillar, itself a flashy creature.
We were soon walking across the crop fields which turned out to be occupied by a flighty group of Meadow Pipits. The ‘Mipits’ were quite skittish, frequently rising from the brassicas to perform their ‘seep seep’ flight call before quickly descending again, only to repeat the whole performance time and time again. An eagle-eyed observer also noticed a lone Skylark among them; slightly larger and more direct in its short bursts of flight.
Whilst studying the various plants still in flower alongside the White Brook, we noticed someone on the far side of the field looking intently into vegetation with binoculars. We may have seen what he could not quite make out: a delightful young Fox cub with huge ears, timidly peeking out from among the foliage.
Crossing the paddocks we soon spotted evidence of regular Badger activity, including a few latrines. There was much discussion about our local colonies of Badgers which are reasonably numerous. Such a pity of course that most of their activity is at night!
Several more bird species were still in the mood for singing or calling and Robins, Great Tits, Wrens, Dunnocks and Woodpigeons were all in entertaining moods, and a Kingfisher repeated it flight call from along the stream. Just before we left the paddocks we were fortunate to see both Brown Argus and Small Copper butterflies, in and among the bright yellow Toadflax flowers. Both these butterflies are quite tiny and among the last species to be on the wing as we approach the end of the season for many of the family of these delightful creatures.
Everyone seemed happy with the morning’s experience so hopefully there will be more ‘What’s About’ outings to follow soon.