5 amazing creatures to spot in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire
PUBLISHED: 12:29 22 August 2017
Some are now becoming endangered species in their native habitats, others flourish in our counties, while one is a rare visitors
The Adonis Blue
We’re about as north as this lover of chalk downland and grassland reaches – it’s found across the southern coastal counties, but not central England and beyond. Fortunately Berkshire and Buckinghamshire in particular have some ideal landscapes including reserves.
The male of the species has the bright blue wings that catch the eye, while the females are not exactly dowdy with their chocolate brown colouring. BBOWT sites where you might see them include Aston Rowant Nature Reserve and Yoesden Bank in Bucks, while they’ve also been spotted in the Streatley area of Berkshire. Keeping a look out for this and other species are members of the Butterfly Conservation Upper Thames Branch, see upperthames-butterflies.org.uk. They have their own reserve, courtesy of Beaconsfield Town Council at Holtspur Bottom.
The Alder Fly
Flying things seem to abound at this time of year and many will be the occasion when someone says “What on earth is that?” as one lands on a nearby plant or wall. Well, you might have spotted many an Alder Fly earlier in summer but they’re gone now as the adults only live for a couple of weeks at most. They are pretty sluggish, much like their chosen habitat of chalky or neat stagnant water, and often end up used as fishing bait.
The females lay eggs on plants overhanging ponds and slow-flowing rivers in our counties, and the hatching larvae fall into the water where they spend a year or two developing.
Adders are now a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and have been protected in the UK since 1981 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, but still get a bad press as Britain’s only native venomous snake. There’s been a noticeable decline in this region and fears that it might be close to extinction in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, mainly due to loss of their habitat coupled with persecution by those who fear an unlikely bite. Some blame the spread of buzzards, which will feed on them. In turn, the adders live on lizards, small mammals and some ground-nesting birds. The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trusts reserves include heathland and grassland where adders can thrive, as part of the West Berkshire Living Landscape project. You might see an adder at Bowdown Woods, Warburg Nature Reserve, Wildmoor Heath, Decoy Heath and Shepperlands Farm.
In 2013 contractors working in Swinley Forest near Crowthorne at the South East Water reservoir site found a nest of adders in a cable box. The snakes were moved to a more suitable site for the mating season – they normally only breed every two to three years during a lifespan of eight to ten years.
The Angle Shades
Now most of us have seen one these moths in the garden, particularly on a wall, some know the correct name. The Angle Shades get about a bit, as two broods mean they are on the wing from late spring though to October. It all starts with the caterpillars, a familiar sight with their fairly plump usually green bodies with light stripes. Like many butterflies and moths they like to live on dock, nettles and similar plants we are encouraged to give a little space to these days.
Those born in the autumn over-winter in the soil to produce the first lot of moths to take flight. You’ll find them widespread in our counties, in gardens, parks and hedgerows, as well as reserves such as the one at Holtspur Bottom, see upperthames-butterflies.org.uk.
We finish with a rare visitor, guaranteed to delight birdwatchers when it pops in. The avocet is now a fairly scarce wader, walking through shallow water to find its preferred diet of aquatic insects and worms. It’s most often seen in estuaries and mudflats at the coast, where the choice is extended to crustaceans.
Some are beginning to breed at inland saline lagoons, for instance in Worcestershire, but their tours have also taken them to our waters and they’ve been spotted in rcent years in Bucks at College Lake Dorney Lake, Pitstone Quarry and Little Marlow gravel pit, and in Berkshire at Datchet’s Queen Mother Reservoir, Theale main gravel pit, Englefield and Moor Green Lakes. It’s classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.
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