Thursday, 27 June 2013

Matty's study of the River Windrush

I am very lucky to have Matty Spiers with me over the summer. Matty is a student at Plymouth University studying marine biology so it seemed logical to get him into the river as much as possible. There is a wealth of information around about the Windrush and this seemed a great opportunity to gather it together into a format that is accessible for the general public.

'I’m currently studying Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology BSc at Plymouth University. Throughout the course it has been instilled into us how important conservation, study and management of nature is in order to fully protect it. This summer I will be undertaking a research project on the lower section of the River Windrush for the Lower Windrush Valley Project. This study will take a look at the social, historical and scientific aspects of the river with numerous ecological surveys being performed by myself at locations along the lower Windrush to look at bio-indicators of water quality. Another strong focus of the work is the social history of the river, things such as works of art and literature based upon the Windrush itself. It is so far proving a pleasure to work on such a beautiful piece of water and I will be displaying some of my work at the Wychood Forest Fair on Sunday 1st September at Foxborough Wood, Witney'.
If anyone has any information about the river that you think would be useful for Matty's study please email him at

Where do you have your lunch?

Sometimes I am very lucky and manage to have my lunch in one of the bird hides. And what better way to get to your lunch spot than to walk along this path serenaded by invisible songsters.

But days like today it is hard to get time to eat anything as there is so much going on. I am just reading Dragonflight: In Search of Britains Dragonflies and Damselflies by Marianne Taylor  and although I am finding it an entertaining and manageable way to learn more about these amazing creature it is a bit of a chatty ramble; rather like I am doing now. So I was delighted to watch a pair of common blue damsels pair up as she describes and try to get into the  'cop' position that is commonly called a wheel but Marianne likens more to a heart shape. The male grasps the female behind the head and the female then has to get the tip of her abdomen with a receptacle called a 'spermatheca' into position below the base of the male's abdomen to collect his sperm. That might sound relatively simple but the male has already transferred his sperm from his primary genitalia at the tip of his abdomen into the secondary genitalia at the abdomen base from where the female will collect it.  But this pair found it all too much hard work and flew off together to try again later.

Then there were the common terns flying to and fro a few metres in front of the hide (quite impossible for me to photograph) diving constantly to collect fish to feed the young on the island over on the far side of the lake;  a pair of canada geese with three chicks passing by and a swan having a wash and brush up just under the window.

And that was just what was going on outside. Inside the hide it was just as busy with a spider joining me as a lunch companion. I haven't got round to ID for spiders yet; I think the dragonflies and damselflies are going to keep me busy this summer, oh and there are a few grasses to get to grips with as well.
 This might look like just a strip of grass but clouds of common blue Enallagma cyathigerum and  possibly blue-tailed damselflies Ischnura elegans flew up as I walked through later on.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Geology walks in the Lower Windrush Valley

I met with Lesley Dunlop from the Oxfordshire Geology Trust this week and we have planned two walks that will show how the geology has influenced the landscape of the valley that we see today.

Wednesday 10th July from Stanton Harcourt to the Devil’s Quoits
Wednesday 21st August from Rushy Common Nature Reserve car  park    
The walks will start at 7.00 pm and cover 2-3 miles over flat ground that might be rough and have long vegetation in places.
Places will be limited so to book your place on one, or both, walks please email or call 01865 815426.
 There will be no charge for these walks.
     The Devil's Quoits
                                                                             Typical willow scene along the Windrush

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Lower Windrush Valley bird watch

Many thanks to everyone who joined in with the first LWVP birdwatch. Thirteen local birding experts were out in the Lower Windrush Valley in mid May recording across a variety of sites. We regularly collect records from the hides at Rushy Common and Standlake Common nature reserves but do not, as yet, collect records from other locations in the valley. Mostly we were recording along public footpaths and in the nature reserves but a couple of landowners allowed access to their land for the purpose of the survey.

Valley bird watchers at the hide at Rushy Common

This was an experimental session and hopefully we will be able to repeat the survey with more recorders and gain access to more sites in the future. A few logistical problems were encountered and will be ironed out next time round but it seems that everyone enjoyed their morning out in the valley and will be happy to take part next time.
Thanks to Graham Lenton for the photographs of Rushy Common bird hide.
Celia and Jane and the splendid oak tree at Rushy Common bird hide

In total 83 species were recorded with Barry Hudson recording the highest number on any one site with 49 at Rushy Common. Blackbird were recorded at all 14 sites with mallard, wood pigeon and robin being recorded at 13 sites. Sadly no redshank were recorded and only one curlew, with lapwing at four sites. John Melling noted an absence of little grebe so any sightings of them in the valley will be welcome news. If you would like more details about the records or would like to take part in a future valley birdwatch (late autumn?) please contact me at the project office

Thanks to Antony Collieu for photograhs of sightings at Standlake Common Pit 60.