Memorable wildlife moments from the Bucks, Berks & Oxon Wildlife Trust

PUBLISHED: 11:29 13 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:31 20 February 2013

Memorable wildlife moments from the Bucks, Berks & Oxon Wildlife Trust

Memorable wildlife moments from the Bucks, Berks & Oxon Wildlife Trust

Web exclusive - The summer is here and there's no better time to get outside and enjoy the wonders of the natural world around us.

Web exclusive

Memorable wildlife moments from the Bucks, Berks & Oxon Wildlife Trust

The summer is here and theres no better time to get outside and enjoy the wonders of the natural world around us. From melodious birdsong to the dazzling colours of dragonflies, were surrounded by opportunities to watch wildlife. Here, the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) provides some memorable summer moments for you to recreate for yourself

The world below our feet

Cathie Hasler, Buckinghamshire Community Wildlife Officer, BBOWT

Growing up in Wales, my appreciation of all things natural has always been influenced by landscape-scale distractions: the huge sea views and bleak mountains of isolated places where your eyes feast on the sheer scale of Welsh wilderness. So when I moved to this area a couple of years ago to work for BBOWT, I was curious as to what my eyes would make of this brand new horizon of gently rolling hills and chalky escarpments.

As an office-based member of staff, I was keen to see some of the reserves I had heard about from colleagues, and so, one summer, I took myself off to a small Buckinghamshire site, Aston Clinton Ragpits Nature Reserve. The volunteer warden had organised the annual orchid count and I spent a day in a sea of a different kind of pink orchids. Working with a group of lovely locals, pace by pace I counted the different species (fragrant, common spotted and greater butterfly orchids and common twayblade), my eyes down, marveling at the tens of thousands of these delicate, gorgeous plants growing from the chalk.

But it wasnt just about the orchids. I was also busy discovering an amazing new world on my hands and knees: shimmering quaking grass, huge roman snails, colourful elephant hawkmoths, large skippers, rare adders-tongue fern and the lovely cheer of fairyflax, possibly the prettiest flower I have ever seen.

If we keep our eyes down, we think we are seeing a whole new world, but its the same one; we just need to take the time to get a little closer. I have recently taken up the post of Community Wildlife Officer for Buckinghamshire and have the rather wonderful role of connecting people and wildlife across the county. Im very lucky; Buckinghamshire has wonderful sites that, with the support of amazing volunteers helping to look after them, are safeguarding wildlife for us all to enjoy. Alongside my working life, Ill be making sure I take the time to enjoy it for me too and remembering to look down.

See it for yourself:

  • Aston Clinton Ragpits is 1 miles from Wendover, Buckinghamshire. Visit for directions on Google

  • The best time to visit to see the orchids is from the end of June to the beginning of July, but theres plenty to see on this chalk grassland site throughout the summer.

On a butterfly hunt

Joe Harris, Seasonal Warden, BBOWT

Bowdown Woods Nature Reserve is magnificent all year round, with each passing season bringing its own particular wildlife treats. The summer is now upon us, heralding the spectacle of the myriad butterflies that can be found here.

As well as seeing the commoner butterfly species, I relish walking through this ancient woodland trying to spot some of the rarer species that can be found flitting across the sun-dappled woodland floor and sunning themselves in the open glades. With shafts of sunlight puncturing through the vivid green of the birch, hazel, oak and beech canopy, Im on the look out for dingy skippers flying fast and low to the ground around the old World War 2 bomb site; for purple hairstreaks flying high among the oaks; for silver-washed fritillaries gliding around Bowdowns open glades; and for the incredibly well camouflaged grayling which makes the heathland areas its home. But if I am very lucky, maybe, just maybe this year Ill spot the beautiful, but elusive, purple emperor as it makes its way down from the high canopy to the grass beneath to feed on early morning dewdrops.

Bowdown holds a wealth of wildlife, with the summer abundance of butterflies complemented by dragonflies, damselflies and woodland birds. Visit this magical woodland to share the delight of these enchanting animals, all of which make summer in Bowdown so special to me.

See it for yourself:

  • Bowdown Woods is 1 mile from Thatcham, Berkshire. Visit for directions on Google

  • Visit all through summer to see the different butterflies.

From town to country

Ian Stevenson, Berkshire Reserves Officer, BBOWT

As a Reserves Officer for BBOWT, I visit many wonderful nature reserves and get to enjoy great views of exciting wildlife. But one particularly memorable occasion was a visit to BBOWTs Wildmoor Heath Nature Reserve. The hot and stuffy journey through busy streets was beautifully contrasted with the stunning views available at the reserve. Cool woodland shade gave way to bright sunshine and vast open areas of purple, flowering heather. To accompany this, small lizards sunned themselves on the path and yellow gorse flowers drifted their coconut perfume on a warm breeze.

I was at the reserve to check up on the Trusts herd of British White cattle, which were sensibly resting under the shade of large pine trees; however, I couldnt help but be distracted by the aerobatic display around me. Keeled skimmer and emperor dragonflies were darting back and forth around a small pond created by volunteers. A short distance off, a flurry of wings caught my attention, and closer inspection revealed the long, pointed wings of a hobby, flying powerfully over the heath. Through my binoculars I could clearly see it reaching forward with its feet and eating an unfortunate insect on the wing. This was a truly remarkable encounter on a beautiful day that I will never forget.

See it for yourself:

  • Wildmoor Heath is in Crowthorne, Berkshire. Visit for directions on Google

  • The best time to visit to see hobbies and dragonflies is from June onwards. To see the heather in full bloom, head down during late summer.

White tufts on tiny ears

Andy Fairbairn, Diary Events Officer

After attending one of BBOWT's weekend training courses on dragonfly identification at College Lake Nature Reserve last year,I decided to do some more exploring around the reserve. Entering the Window in the Woods hide that overlooks a small pond virtually at eye level, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of some famous visitors. A couple of weeks previously, Simon King had been to the exact same spot and had managed to film his first ever polecats in the wild for Springwatch. As often happens with nature-watching, I didn't see what I hoping for, but did see something equally as special

As I settled down in the hide,before me wasa tranquil scene with little more movement than pond snails slowly creeping over lily pads watched by a couple of frogs with just their heads sticking out of the water. Then my attention was suddenly caught bysomerapid, twitchy movement in the middle of the pond, andto my surprisea water shrew popped out from under a lily pad!

For the nextfew minutes I was treated to amazing views of this creature foragingat breakneck-speed; swimming,scurrying around the pond edge, diving into the water toreappear moments later in an unexpected place.The most incredible part was whenit started rummaging through the mossy bank, pausing briefly to eat some tidbit only inches away from the windowbehind which I was breathlessly sat.It's not often you get so close to a wild water shrew that you can see the white tufts on it's tiny ears! Whata way to end the day.

See it for yourself:

  • College Lake is in Buckinghamshire, 2 miles north of Tring. Visit for directions on Google

  • Visit this summer and take a look around our new visitor centre where the latest sightings will be posted from polecats to water shrews, hobbies to lapwings.

To find out more about BBOWTs nature reserves or events happening near you visit

Why not join us today? Your support makes all the difference for wildlife. Members of the Trust receive our events diary, a high quality magazine, and a detailed and beautiful book about the Trusts 80 nature reserves. Visit or call 01865 775476.

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