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Aston Upthorpe Downs – 15 June 2016

The sky was overcast when 12 members gathered at the grain dryer on Wednesday 15 June for a walk up to Lowbury Hill, led by Jan and Laurie Haseler. Flowers seen on the side of the valley leading up to Aston Upthorpe Downs included Dropwort, Wild Candytuft, Wild Thyme and Horseshoe Vetch. With new knowledge gained on the recent field trip to Cholderton, the flower heads of Nodding Thistle were searched, and the tiny stripy-winged flies of the Nodding Thistle Gall Fly Urophora solstitialis were quickly found. The route continued up through Juniper Valley, with frequent sightings of Small Heath and Common Blue butterflies, together with a single Large Skipper. The first of a series of Corn Buntings was spotted, singing its jangling song from the top of a small Hawthorn bush. The field leading up to Lowbury Hill appeared to have been planted at some point with a grass and wildflower mix, which included lots of Yellow Rattle and Kidney Vetch. Pyramidal Orchids were just coming into flower and a single tiny Small Blue butterfly was seen. The field was alive with Skylarks. Long-headed and Prickly Poppies were in flower on the bank at the top of the field. The view from the top extended south to the Hampshire Downs and north to the Chilterns, with much of Oxfordshire in between. On the walk back, there were more good sightings of Corn Buntings and two Curlews flew over and landed in a grassy field. The road was very wet on the drive to the Red Lion at Blewbury, indicating that the group had had a narrow escape from a heavy shower.


Pictures by Laurie Haseler

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