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Aston Rowant – 16 May 2012

Chris Ash led a walk round the southern part of Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve on Wednesday 16th May, starting from the Cowleaze Wood car park. The dew pond at the top of the reserve was uncharacteristically full and even had a resident Mallard. A Dingy Skipper butterfly was nectaring on Dandelion flowers in the first field. The hillside to the south was the site of an unsuccessful experiment in using goats for scrub control – they failed to tackle the scrub, but needed supplementary feeding in winter. Cowslips were abundant in the steep south-facing field, the leaves of Common Spotted-orchids were showing well and there were several rings of St George’s Mushrooms. At Bald Hill, the next west-facing field, was a wonderful display of Early-purple Orchids. The open grassland situation came as a surprise to those who had only seen these flowers in woodland before. Tiny-flowered Early Forget-me-not and Common Whitlowgrass were in flower on some of the ant hills. Juniper bushes which had been planted about 15 years ago and were doing well inside a rabbit-proof fence were inspected. Leaving the field at the bottom, there was a Hornbeam with an impressive display of witch’s broom. The return route came back up through Linky Down, first through a sheep-grazed field and then through steeper chalk grassland where a number of Grizzled Skipper butterflies were seen. Finally, back along a sheltered track at the top of the reserve, Blackcaps and a Garden Warbler were singing, an Orange-tip and a few more Grizzled Skippers were found and black St Mark’s flies were abundant. Most of the group then went to the Carriers Arms at Watlington for lunch.

Pictures by Chris Ash and Jan Haseler