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eMail Newsletter

Every month the society publishes newsletter sent out to members by email. It contains details of forthcoming society events, and also events held by other local natural history groups as well as general news items.

Here is a sample of a recent newsletter.


Field excursions

The following events are scheduled for July and early August.

Hartslock BBOWT Reserve, Goring

Saturday 6th August 10:30am and 2:30pm

Joint all day meeting with the Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland to look at snails (requiring crawling on hands and knees), together with a general interest walk round this fine (but very steep) chalk grassland reserve in the afternoon with volunteer warden Chris Raper. Parking at the reserve is very limited (SU616796) and will be for those staying all day. Coming along Gatehampton Road from Goring Station, bear left at the fork after 700m. After a further 1km, continue straight along the track when the road turns up to the left. The reserve entrance is on the right after 100m. For those just coming for the afternoon walk, meet at the reserve, or at Goring Station at 2:10pm to walk to the reserve.


Wednesday 17th August 10:15am

Meet at the car park of the Fox Inn, Hermitage on the main B4009 road (SU509731), where we will return for lunch. Five mile walk through woodland and farmland over Oare Common west to Old Street. No stiles but one steep climb. We should see a range of summer wildlife.


Sunday 21st August 10:30am

Meet at the National Trust’s Cookham Moor car park (SU892853), SL6 9SG. This is a pay-and-display car park, but is free for National Trust members if you bring your membership card. Alternative parking which is free on Sundays can be found at Station Parade, SL6 9BR. The 4 mile walk of general interest follows the Thames Path through Cookham to the Thames at Cliveden Reach, then explores the newly acquired Battlemead Nature Reserve, returning along White Brook and Strand Water. Good for reed warblers, kingfishers, herons and other water birds. The route is flat, with no stiles.

Snelsmore Common

Sunday 4th September 2:30pm

Meet near the café at Snelsmore Common Country Park (SU463710). With a very diverse underlying geology, the Common has a rich variety of wet and dry heathland and woodland habitats.

The Naturalist

Apologies to everyone for the delay in the production of The Naturalist for 2021. As you know, all of the work, including contributions, editing, checking and production, are done by volunteers. Life changes have delayed production this year.

We anticipate giving out copies at the first meeting in Pangbourne Village Hall in (Tuesday 3rd October) and posting out the others by the end of that month.

Next newsletter

If you make an interesting observation, hear about an event or find anything online that might interest our members, please let us know and we’ll include it in the next newsletter. Deadline for September contributions 27th August, due for publication 28th August.

Web site

Our web site ( contains the full programme as well as reports on all our field trips. If a weather warning has been issued for the day please check with our web site and walk organisers in case we have decide to cancel.


Could you help? We have had a request from a Social Prescriber who works within the Caversham PCN (referrals from the GPs at Emmer Green and Balmore Park surgeries) under the umbrella of Reading Voluntary Action. Her role is to connect people to activities and other services to improve their health and wellbeing. She has a lady in her 90s who is cognitively very lively and who would very much like to talk to a telephone befriender once a week or once a fortnight – a person with a particular interest in Natural History as she feels that doing this would keep her mentally stimulated and she has always been actively interested in the topic. It would be great if there is anyone in your organisation interested in volunteering as a befriender. It is important, however, to go through an official channel in order to safeguard both parties. Age UK Reading have a befriending service and provide advice and checks to both the befriender and to the volunteer. The process is to ensure the safety of all concerned. If anyone is interested please contact Debra Kent,uk Office 01189 502 480.

Kind Regards
Helen Murphy

Common Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus), Alfa Romeo car bonnet, Tilehurst. 25th August 2021


Reading Geological Society: Evening Geological Ramble – A walk along the River Whitewater

Monday 1st August 7:00pm – 9:30pm

We will gather at the Leather Bottle in Mattingley (RG27 8JU) leaving on our walk at 7pm. Returning to the pub approximately 2 hours later to enjoy a small refreshment… Fresh Food and Cask Ales – The Leather Bottle, Mattingley. This will be a gentle walk through the countryside and farm land discussing the local river system while crossing the River Whitewater twice. There is also a fascinating church, a lovely mill and if we are lucky alpacas! The way is fairly flat but potentially muddy in places so please bring good walking shoes or boots.


BBOWT: Family Nature Trail, the Lost Words

Wednesday 3rd August 10:00am – 1:00pm

Go on a wild trail to rescue ‘The Lost Words’ – before they are lost forever! With poems and artwork by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris. Come any time from 10:00 until 12:30. Family Trail at The Nature Discovery Centre, Muddy Lane, Lower Way, Thatcham, Berkshire , RG19 3FU. The Lost Words are hidden at The Nature Discovery Centre! Can you discover them all and complete the activities to rescue them? Follow the trail around the nature reserve, creating your own magic nature stick as you go and discovering the mysteries of The Lost Words through spells. Don’t forget to join us for a live storytelling session at 11am or 1pm. artwork and – of course – nature!

Activities are suitable for children aged 4 – 11 years with an accompanying adult.£5 per child, accompanying adult free.


BBOWT: Sutton Courtenay Nature Reserve Open Day

Friday 5th August 10:00am – 3:00pm
and Friday 19th August 10:00am – 3:00pm

Our nature reserve at Sutton Courtenay, Didcot, Oxon, OX14 4TE isn’t normally open to the public due to the site’s primary use as an education centre. However, we love to share the nature reserve so here is a chance to come in and explore! Stop by the centre to pick up a map and make a donation, then head out to discover the woodland, meadows and ponds. The open day is open to everyone however we ask that any children visiting are supervised by an adult at all times due to the nature of the site (open water). There will be no activities arranged by staff on this date – please take a look at our other event listings if you are interested in BBOWT run activities at the centre. Free but donations welcome.


Earley Environmental Group: Earley Green Fair

Saturday 6th August 10:00am – 3:00pm

Join us for our annual Green Fair at the Maiden Erlegh Nature Reserve. This year the fair will have a Platinum Jubilee theme to celebrate 70 years of service by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. There will be a wide array of stalls representing local organisations, small businesses, and artisan crafts for visitors to enjoy. The Green Fair is an Earley institution and has been running since the 1990s. It has been sorely missed over the last couple of years after the pandemic forced the event to be postponed and it promises to be a fantastic day out for people of all ages. Entry is free and refreshment stalls will be available. Lots of stalls on all aspects of Environmental matters. This is Earley’s most popular annual event.


BBOWT: Greenham Common Walk

Wednesday 10th August 10:00am – 1:00pm

Meet at the Control Tower, Burys Bank Road , Thatcham, Berkshire, RG19 8DB and bring weather suitable clothing and footwear and binoculars if you have them. Please note the post code is not accurate. Please check your destination and follow brown signs for the “Control Tower” once on Bury’s Bank Road. Free event but you need to book.


Butterfly Conservation: Upper Thames Branch Guided Walk at the Holies

Saturday 13th August 10:30am – 1:00pm

A guided walk with Maureen Cross to see some of the diversity of grassland and scrub butterflies recorded at this site; including species of restricted distribution, like Adonis Blue. A National Trust site forming part of one of the largest remaining areas of chalk grassland in the county. Meet in the main National Trust car park off the A4009 at the top of the hill out of Streatley RG8 9RD. Non-members please contact the walk leader to check availability.


Moor Copse Work Party

Sunday 14th August 10:00am – 1:00pm

Butterfly Conservation: Upper Thames Branch Guided Walk at Aston Rowant

Sunday 14th August 10:00am – 1:00pm

Please book with the leader, Tom Dunbar, for further information and a map. Also, to be informed of revised date and time, if the weather is inclement on this date. A careful amble along the steep slopes, amongst the rich, scented flora should reveal most of the special butterflies of this NNR. These may include Silver-spotted Skipper, Chalkhill Blue and Adonis Blue. A flagship NNR, managed by Natural England. It supports one of the best examples of steep chalk downland in our area. Park in the Beacon Hill car park car park. Follow the brown signs off the A40 west of Stokenchurch. Non-members please contact the walk leader to check availability.


Butterfly Conservation: Upper Thames Branch Guided Walk at Crowthorne

Sunday 21st August 10:30am – 1:00pm

We wander the extensive trail network in Buckler’s Forest in search of Grayling and enjoy a wealth of other butterfly species with walk leader Des Sussex. A huge open space in what used to be the grounds of the Transport Research Lab. Now managed by Thames Basin Heath Partnership. It supports a large areas of flowery grassland, small fragments of heather, mixed woodland and lots of ponds and wetlands. Free car park off Woodcote Green, Crowthorne. Postcode: RG45 6HZ. Non-members please contact the walk leader to check availability.


Wild About Reading

Sunday 21st to Tuesday 23rd August
Wild About Reading takes place at various locations around Reading and offers a real mix of events ranging from walks and talks to photography and demonstrations. The event celebrates our local green spaces and the individuals and organisations that care for, maintain and improve them for wildlife and the public. Events include: a tree walk on 22nd August 4pm at Clayfield Copse. The web site may not yet be available/complete so please look again in the next few days. >Details…

BBOWT: Awesome August – Magnificent Meadows

Tuesday 23rd August 10:00am – 2:00pm

Every Tuesday in August is awesome at the Nature Discovery Centre, Muddy Lane, Lower Way , Thatcham, Berkshire , RG19 3FU where we will be running a variety of activities for different age groups including trails and crafts. A creative workshop on how to build your own meadow habitat at home (whether garden or window box-sized!) with seed planting and bug hotels you can keep. Enjoy an immersive wildlife experience – for everyone from amateurs to experts! Please book for either the morning or afternoon session – each session lasts an hour and a half. Price £7.


Brimstone butterfly
Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) Tilehurst garden, 13th August 2017

Econet Wildlife Conservation activities

Please see the web site for details.

Wednesday 3rd August 10:00 – 2:30pm
Hosehill Lake, Theale
Path maintenance
Meeting Point: Fox and Hounds Car Park SU650697

Wednesday 3rd August 6:45pm – 8:30pm
Waterloo Meadows
Evening task
Meeting Point: Katesgrove Children’s Centre SU714722

Sunday 7th August 10:00 – 12:30pm
Clayfield Copse, Caversham
Regular monthly task
Meeting Point: Car Park, Caversham Park Road. SU725767

Sunday 7th August 2:00pm – 4:30pm
Reading Old Cemetery
Regular monthly task
Meeting Point: SU732731 RG1 3AQ.

Wednesday 10th August 10:00 – 2:30pm
McIlroy Park, Tilehurst
scrub clearance
Meeting Point: Pottery Road/Norcot Road SU678738

Monday 15th August 10:00 – 12:30pm
Clayfield Copse, Caversham
Regular mid-monthly task
Meeting Point: Car Park, Caversham Park Road. SU725767

Wednesday 17th August 10:00 – 2:30pm
Five a Day Market Garden, Englefield
Garden maintenance
Meeting Point: The Street, Englefield. SU625719

Wednesday 17th August 6:45pm – 8:30pm
Waterloo Meadows
Evening task
Meeting Point: Katesgrove Children’s Centre SU714722

Saturday 20th August 12:00 – 3:00pm
Waterloo Meadows
Regular monthly task – Pond maintenance
Meeting Point: Katesgrove Children’s Centre SU714722

Wednesday 24th August 10:00 – 2:30pm
Twyford Woodland
Laurel clearance and dead hedging
Meeting Point: Waggon and Horses Rear Car Park, Twyford. RG10 9JB.SU7836776032

Wednesday 31st August 6:45pm – 8:30pm
Waterloo Meadows
Evening task
Meeting Point: Katesgrove Children’s Centre SU714722

Identifying Fern Course from Katie Jenks

The Field Studies Council (FSC) runs a huge range of natural history courses, ranging from invertebrates, birds, mammals and reptiles to specialist plants. I have been on quite a few as my MSc was linked to them and they run in more or less the same format. The centres are scattered around the UK and include the beautiful site of Flatford Mill in Constable country. The one I did recently was a fern ID weekend in Betws-Y-Coed and I’ve outlined the basics below:

Friday – Arriving on a beautiful hot sunny day, unusual for Snowdonia (I come from here so am allowed to say that!), I can check into the centre after 3pm. The facilities are functional but comfortable – the rooms are en suite, there is a communal sitting room and meals are good. FSC centres are typically old mansion houses, the nearest to Reading being Juniper Hall at Box Hill.

Friday evening involves lectures between 7pm and 9.30pm. The fern weekend saw us up a slope being introduced to our first 4 fern species and then back to the classroom to go over what our next few days involved.

Saturday – Another glorious day looking at the ferns in Newborough forest and warren, Anglesey. The scenery is stunning here and we spent most of the day looking at each fern we came across, how to ID them and having a packed lunch overlooking the sea. The later part of the afternoon saw us at Treborth Botanical Gardens right on the edge of the Menai suspension bridge. Owned by Bangor University, it’s well worth a visit.

One advantage of doing the weekends for pleasure, is that you can dip out of things if you like. They are long days, typically 9.00am to 9.30pm, the evenings involving classroom work. I went to spend the Saturday evening with my cousin but the lectures I missed included fern taxonomy, life cycle and more identification.

Sunday – This time we were up Cwm Idwal to look at the ferns on mountain slopes. Again, stunning scenery, a paddle in the lake searching for quillworts and a scramble up the Devils Kitchen for mosses and Parsley fern. We left Cwm Idwal to go to a river and identify the Borrer’s Male fern and then on to a disused lead mine. Evening lectures were looking at stems and spores under microscopes.

Monday- Exam day! Obviously if you are not a student, the exam is optional but (sometimes) they are fun. Ten ferns are laid out for identification with the reasons behind your decision and the papers marked over lunch. Then it was off to an ancient oak forest dripping with ferns, mosses and lichens.

FSC weekends are great fun albeit quite tiring. The tutors are the best of the best and you get to be in amazing areas of the UK while learning of flora and fauna you may be passionate about. There are also heavily subsidised online courses run by FSC and FSC Biolinks, which are fantastic value for money. I can definitely recommend them!

Parsley Fern
Parsley Fern (Cryptogramma crispa) photo by Katie Jenks

Bird migration crisis

An illustrated video about how bird migration is threatened particularly in highly developed eastern Asia and the steps being taken to mitigate the effects. Read More…

Return of the Large Tortoiseshell

The Knepp rewilding project is famous for attracting Purple Emperor butterflies now it is home to a breeding colony of Large Tortoiseshell butterflies. Read More…

Violet sea snails on the move

A larger than usual number of these eye-catching snails has been seen on the Isles of Scilly. Read More…

New coral fungus discovered in Scotland

The Cairngorms have found to be home of another violet coloured species this time a fungus. Read More…

The joys of hunting orchids

Leif Bersweden describes his addiction to tracking down orchids. This follows up Katie Jenks article last month and our trip to Noar Hill which gets a mention. Read More…

Wild bison return to Britain

After thousands of years the European bison has made a return to a wildlife park in Scotland. Read More…

Bumblebees can feel pain

A study has shown that bumblebees, as well as can be safely assumed other insects, do feel pain and may qualify for more legal protection. Read More…

Celebrating national moth week

As national moth week comes to an end this gallery of moths from the Catskill mountains, New York shows the diversity of these beautiful insects. Read More…

James Lovelock tribute

An interview with the pioneer of holistic thinking about planetary ecology, James Lovelock, who died on his 103rd birthday. Read More…

New discoveries from the ocean floor

The Natural History Museum have discovered 39 probably new species from the deep sea floor. The finds made by a robotic submarine demonstrate the diversity of life in this little known part of the biosphere. Read More…

Snail on Large Bindweed, 18th August 2021 Horsemoor Wood, Sulham.

RDNHS Moor Copse Bird Report

I made two visits to the reserve in July, at either end of the month, and though I thought it was very quiet on the 4th, by the 24th, that first visit seemed bustling! Our birds are busy with families and are moulting out of their worn breeding plumage, ready for the winter, so are keeping quieter and out of sight, so as not to attract the attention of predators. July did bring a new bird to the reserve – at least, new during my years of surveying there.

On July 4th, a breezy morning of patchy cloud and a temperature of 13 degrees when I arrived, there was still quite a bit of birdsong to be heard, including twelve Chiffchaffs and ten Blackcaps; by the 24th, I heard no singing Chiffchaffs, though several calling, as well as a couple of family groups; and three Blackcaps, each of whom sang only short phrases of their usually ebullient song. A Song Thrush sang on the edge of 5 Acre Meadow, and I saw three on my survey, but neither saw or heard any on the 24th; Blackbirds, Goldcrests and Treecreepers were vocal on the 4th, and not on the 24th, although I did catch a glimpse of a Treecreeper feeding in Horsemoor Copse.

I heard a Green Woodpecker on each visit, Great Spotted Woodpeckers at the beginning of the month but not at the end, and a few Nuthatches calling in all of the woodland areas on both visits. Wrens are still noisy all over the reserve, but calling more than singing; and Robins can be heard, their “chink” calls emanating from deep in the undergrowth.

Horsemoor Copse was the busiest area at the start of July, with Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits calling and feeding, some in family groups; two Great Spotted Woodpeckers called, a Wren sang, a Nuthatch called and two Blackcaps sang. A Goldcrest sang in Park Wood, where I heard Goldcrests, a Treecreeper, two Chiffchaffs, a Blackbird, a Nuthatch and a Marsh Tit.

As I walked through 5 Acre, I could hear an unusual but vaguely familiar, quite strident bird call and stopped to see if I could spot who was making all the noise: then a Ring-necked Parakeet, in its bright green, tropical plumage came from above Park Wood, across the meadow, and over Moor Copse; I hope it kept going, as they can be destructive and over-bearing birds who compete with our native birds for nest-holes and food. They are common further east, and I know them from my sister’s garden in west London and visits to Hampton Court.

The meadows of the Extension part of the reserve were noisy, but with grasshoppers and crickets; every step I took in Barton’s Field, a shower of grasshoppers cascaded ahead of me. It was a delight to see, but I had to tread carefully. A Woodpigeon and Red Kite flew over, and it was a similar story throughout the fields of few birds and lots of insects. I was lucky to be there that morning, as the annual hay-cut began in the afternoon, and when I returned on the 24th, the lush vegetation had been shorn, and the insects, including butterflies, had only the field margins in which to feed.

I only visit Horsemoor Copse when I’m doing an official survey, as on the 4th; the brook which runs along its southern edge was completely dry, even then; I saw Goldfinches, a family of Wrens, a Song Thrush and a Robin.

There was a noisy Jay in Cottage Field, two Song Thrushes in the Bullace thicket, a singing Wren and, as I quietly approached the gate into Arable Field, a Fox cub scampered away into the hedgerow: I don’t know which of us was more surprised, but I’m sure that I was the happier of the two of us!

Arable Field seemed very quiet; Jody and Emma, from the BBOWT Reserves team, were checking fences and water supplies, as the Dexters are grazing on the reserve; but as they drove away in their Land Rover, a Skylark flew up from the ground, circling the field a couple of times, before landing near where it started: a really good sign that we have a family on the reserve.

Two Buzzards and two Red Kites flew over and I finished my survey with a Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tits, a couple of Robins, all calling, and another Kite flying above me. My walk on the 24th came post-heatwave, and it was a relief to see how green the woods were as I walked along the Pang through Hogmoor Copse. It was a sunny morning, and 25 degrees by the time I returned to my car. However, as I went further into the reserve, away from the river, and particularly in Moor Copse, the heat’s effect was clearer, as the Hazels, in particular, are yellowing and shedding leaves, though the most badly affected tree I saw was a Silver Birch in Park Wood which looked thoroughly autumnal.

Hogmoor Copse had calling Chiffchaffs, a Nuthatch, Robin and Blue Tits, with a singing Wren as well. I saw a Comma and a Silver-washed Fritillary, feeding on Hemp Agrimony on the river bank near the bridges. There were at least two families of Long-tailed Tits in Park Wood, as well as families of Blue, Great and Marsh Tits, all moving through the trees, feeding, and keeping in contact with each other by calling. There were dragonflies around, and several Meadow Brown butterflies. I was amazed to see new growth sprouting from the trunk of the big Ash tree blown over by Storm Chiara, earlier in the year: there’s such a drive for life in nature; the big conifer brought down in the same storm has, in contrast, few viable roots left, but is still an important part of the ecosystem and currently acting as a climbing frame for Wild Hop plants, whose leaves and flowers festoon its upturned roots.

A Green Woodpecker called as I crossed 5 Acre, I found squirrel-nibbled young, sweet, hazel nuts in Moor Copse, where I was scolded by a Wren and heard a Nuthatch, a family of Chiffchaffs and of Blue Tits. The meadows were quiet, with no birds and few insects, though I had another Wren scolding me and heard a Blue Tit family as I walked back to the car, along the hedgerow of layered beauty.

In an exciting development, new ponds are to be excavated, in Barton’s and Arable Field, by the Newt Conservation Partnership, in the hope of attracting Great Crested Newts and a whole range of water-loving and using fauna and flora. The work means that the path across Barton’s Field will be closed for 1 to 2 weeks, from August 1st.

I also noticed that somebody has undertaken what I think of as a Purple Poo Patrol: this isn’t official policy – I think a fellow visitor has, like many of us, found the amount of dog poo on the reserve distressing, and has used a bio-degradable spray to highlight the deposits, of which there are many.

I wish you pleasant walks on the reserve, Silver-washed Fritillaries and many other butterflies, and good birding.

Ailsa R.E. Claybourn
July 26th