Saturday, 29 June 2019

The Chalkpit in Bloom and What to Expect next Month

Wild Thyme
Common Spotted Orchid, and (below) pictures showing the spotted leaves which give it its name

Valerian (a non-native but good for insects)

Yellow-wort, soon to be out.  Note how the leaves join around the stem

Pyramidal Orchids

Common Centaury (the pink thing)


Birdsfoot trefoil, an important food plant for butterflies
Hedge Bedstraw


What to Expect in July and August

This is a Carline Thistle now...

...and in a few weeks' time it will be covered in Chalkhill Blue butterflies like these below taken in early August 2016.

Greater Knapweed (below) another important food plant

The Chiltern Gentian

There is much more to see, this is only a selection of those I have photographed on the north side of the chalk pit and identified.  
Enjoy the show as it unfolds throughout the summer! 
Tread carefully as you go. 


Monday, 10 June 2019

Woodside Link revisited

In February 2018 I was discouraged by the mess around the Woodside Link as I reported in the post 'News Catch-up 2017-2018', but this year it's very different.  The rubbish is being cleaned up much quicker and travellers have been prevented, mostly, from parking up along the road and cycle tracks.  Now that contractors are on the HRN1 site, there is oversight and better monitoring of illegal activity.  As a result, nature is flourishing in the fields, in the stream and ponds and in the air.  I'm enjoying it while it lasts.  Work is starting at the northern end of the site so some of my favourite spots are happily undisturbed. 

The evening sun picks out red campion, ox-eye daisies and hawkweed on the spur for yet another bridge over Houghton Brook, with the grove of hybrid black poplars behind. 

I am taking a greater interest in insects, even though I can't identify most of them.  They play an essential role in food production, and come in all colours, shapes and sizes. 

This deer slot is in the borrow pit wildlife area that is no longer flooded since it was drained into the stream.  It is interesting to follow tracks to see what visits at night. 
Ox-eye daisies glow in the half-light on the chalk meadow.

Cornflowers add blue to the colour palette.

A pair of tufted duck have joined swans, mallards and moorhens on the pond.  I still miss the little ringed plover and grey wagtails which I used to see regularly.  I want to see an increase in number of species, but at present they seem to be coming and going rather than staying. 
However, underwater in the stream, biodiversity is improving with my first sighting of a mayfly nymph during our water quality monitoring last week and pond skaters.  We also saw lots and lots of sticklebacks and snails (below), and watch out for the golden beetle that is disturbed by the snail as it moves. 


Thursday, 30 May 2019

'High in the Blue Above Swifts Whirl and Call'

Swifts in flight
Photo Ben Andrew/

The arrival of swifts in Parkside each year has always filled me with excitement and joy, as they are lovely to watch 'high in the blue above' as well as to hear them screaming in parties of two or more around the rooftops, a sign of breeding and nesting.  I've never yet worked out where they are nesting though and that is my goal this year. 

My title comes from the 'Ducks' Ditty' in Kenneth Grahame's much-loved tale of 'The Wind in The Willows', which is currently being used to advertise the Wildlife Trusts' aims to encourage more people to play their part in nature's recovery. 

Published on Mar 27, 2019, the trailer shows Badger, Toad, Mole and Ratty in serious trouble when they return to the Willows! Join in to play your part in nature’s recovery:

There is something we can all do about swifts.  I am watching the skies above Houghton Regis for their familiar outline against the sky, and listening out for their familiar screaming parties around the rooftops.  Watch this You-tube video for correct identification:

You can do the same and report your sighting of screaming parties and, if you are lucky, nest sights in holes in roofs, on the BCN Wildlife Trust's special survey website:

or on the RSPB survey

If you have a swift nesting box on your house, the Wildlife Trust would like to know.  Or just let me know via the contact button or on facebook if you have heard or seen swifts in your area of Houghton Regis and I will come to your street to record them.

Swift numbers are declining but we have them here and can do something to help them increase in numbers again.  Why not have a go at spotting them, and listen out for them screaming around the rooftops.

Friday, 3 May 2019

May - a walk along Ouzel Brook

Yesterday I took a lovely walk along Ouzel Brook where I found new bridges, gates and marker posts installed, and I do recommend it to my readers for this weekend.  Accessible from Chiltern Way alongside Bedford Road, or from the Tithe Farm bridleway 22, I was walking through fields of lush grass and flowers, and it was very beautiful and almost peaceful.

Starting from the bottom of Grove Farm bridge, this first gate leads into a meadow which must have been a field of gold when the dandelions were all out -  I should have come earlier!

You can't miss the way with these marker posts.  This is footpath 13.

There is no livestock in these fields at present, but there often is, so please keep dogs on a lead as indicated on the signs below.

The new bridges and kissing gates are a great improvement on the old rickety stiles.

I turned back along footpath 14 towards the Grove Farm bridge again.

I saw a jay in this field and heard chaffinches, chiff-chaffs and a green woodpecker calling. 

The path runs along the side of the field, and there are some beautiful flowering and fruiting trees which attract the birds here.

Grove Farm bridge where I started from, left takes you back to the first kissing gate, straight ahead leads over the bridge and to Bridleway 44.

The blue signs are bridleways and yellow footpaths.

This is where the scenery changes dramatically as the thick brush has been cleared south of the stream for HRN1, letting in a lot of light and reducing shelter for wildlife. 

This used to be very dense thicket.  The yellow tipped stake beyond is NOT a way marker!  It's part of the building works.

The bridleway runs very close to the works here.  One can only hope they plant some more trees to replace the scrub they cleared.

Work in progress...

From the top of the footbridge one can see the foundations of the main street being laid. 

View of AMP1 from the top of the hill on the by-way which, thankfully, hasn't changed a bit.

At this point it poured down with rain so I made a hasty retreat to my car.

I hope you enjoy the holiday weekend, whatever the weather, and the signs and sounds of spring in the remaining green areas of Houghton Regis. 

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Autumn Watch around Houghton Regis

Two sorts of fungi on this log in Houghton Hall Park

In Parkside I came across this honeycomb with wasps swarming over it, and a broken wasps nest nearby.  I have no idea what had happened.  Curious!

Just south of the A5 dual-carriageway is a footpath through dense woodland, and here I found an unknown climber dripping with jewel-like berries.  Any ideas?

These sloes contrast beautifully with the yellowing leaves.
Hawthorn berries, a feast for birds

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Colours of Autumn

Sunset from the Chalkpit
Common Darter in Houghton Brook

Green, white and gold in the Chalkpit

An abundance of red berries in Sewell Quarry amongst the yellowing silver birches

View north east from Sewell Quarry towards HRN2 and the new warehouse, with Wingfield beyond
Looking south west along the Chilterns towards Totternhoe Quarry, Ivinghoe Beacon and Wendover Woods