Category Archives: wildlife

Barton Fields in December

Barton Fields December
The Thames Path below Barton Fields is very muddy on this sunny December day.
Barton Fields December
More birds are visible in the trees – now without foliage. They flit away as you approach and look shy.
Barton Fields December
Looking up from the bottom of the field, across through the willow herb and bare trees, the office buildings along Barton Lane are visible.
Barton Fields December
The newly surfaced Sustrans cycle path allows cyclists a smoother ride.
Barton Fields December
Similar surfaces have been introduced this year between Drayton and Abingdon.

Through Abingdon Town Centre cyclists are guided by a couple of signs back towards the cycle route, but nobody has solved how to get the cycle way through a town centre as a joined up cycle way
Barton Fields December
In December there are very few flowers. Berries are getting eaten or are drying out.
Barton Fields December
At the top end of Barton Fields – where wild flowers are such an feature in Spring and Summer, the grass is cut, the small trees are bare, and piles of hay provide a place for animals to remain warm during the winter.
Barton Fields December
Brown has taken over from green as the main colour.

Thankyou to the Abingdon Naturalist Trust for the chance to enjoy the fields for a monthly exploration in 2020. Barton Fields provided a green space for people to walk and cycle during the lockdown. But at the same time more people have been walking over what is intended as a wildlife habitat. Mini thicket fence barriers have appeared at some junctions to keep people on the main paths.

Bird watch sunset at Radley Lakes

Radley Lakes
I went for a walk and reached Thrupp Lake (one of the Radley Lakes) at about 3:30 pm. Going in by a gate next to the cycle track I found the path got very muddy at first.
Radley Lakes
Instead of doing the usual full circuit I stayed on one bank and gazed across the water.

At first all the birds seemed a long way away.
Radley Lakes
In the trees of the central islands some large birds (Cormorants?) were already roosting.
Radley Lakes
Flocks of smaller birds flew around, landing in the high branches above the large birds and then taking off again.
Radley Lakes
Nearer at hand, some ducks drifted by.
Radley Lakes
A Grebe kept diving and reappearing. There were also coots diving but they did not travel such long distances underwater.
Radley Lakes
The sun set behind me and a young swan came up very close. It must be familiar with humans as a source of food and waited in front of me for a little while before drifting away.
Radley Lakes
It went on to join another young swan dipping the lake for vegetation.
Radley Lakes
As the light faded, the moon became clearer. I retraced by steps back across the mud and back on the cycle path.

Barton Fields in November

At the end of October I walked round Barton Fields with David Guyoncourt from the Abingdon Naturalist Society and he told me about some of the work they are doing this autumn, and pointed out some plants.
Barton Fields
There is a wetland area down the centre, and dry grassland at the top. Round the wetland area is  tall herbage. This is good habitat for Water Rail (winter), Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Whitethroat & Reed Bunting (summer). It is also good habitat for Harvest Mice, whose nests they find frequently.
Barton FieldsThere were six ponds in the wetland area. Graham Bateman organised for two to be redug. He reported ‘On Monday morning (19 Oct), two of the Barton Fields ponds, which had become completely overgrown with vigorous Reed Sweet-grass (Glyceria maxima), were rejuvenated. We were ‘loaned’ a digger and driver by Fergal Construction Co Ltd, of Standlake, who have been working on the resurfacing of the Sustrans path running through Barton Fields. Ashley, the digger driver, was a delight to watch as he skilfully removed the top vegetation for stacking, then the roots and bottom mud that were delicately smoothed around the pond edges to allow any ‘creatures’ to return to water. We now have two ‘new’ ponds that would have been lost as manually they could never have been dug out.’ Graham says thankyou to Fergal and Ashley.
Barton Fields
I returned this morning to see the progress of some other work. Whicker fences have been put up to try and protect some of the areas and so I only looked at them from a distance.
Barton FieldsNear a pond that was originally made by the Freshwater Trust, Graham has also cleared a 300 sq m plot in the marshy, peaty area during Lock-down in which they have introduced 1000 Snake’s-head Fritillary bulbs and will be introducing other plants next year. This wetland meadow will be mowed each summer. This area also has Snipe.
Barton Fields
In October, David showed me some of the remaining Cornfield Annuals in the Cornfield Annual Patch: Corn Marigold (yellow), Corncockle (pink flower, poisonous seeds), Corn Chamomile (white daisy flower), Cornflower (blue). This patch has since been rotovated for next year.
Barton Fields
In October David did show me some common plants: Common Knapweed, Field Scabious, Common Toadflax, Yarrow (Achillea), Wild Carrot, Upright Hedge Parsley, Tufted Vetch, Meadow Crane’s-bill. He also showed me the rarer Small Scabious (finer leaf than Field Scabious).

Returning in November I did not see as many flowers but did see this Small Scabious with a spider and a fly.
Barton Fields
There was also this Corn Marigold.
Barton Fields
Among the bushes with berries are Barberry (or Berberis). This small bush has elongated red berries, and is said to harbour Ergot which can harm corn crops so is not popular with farmers. David said they planted it as a foodplant of the Barberry Carpet Moth (which they do not have yet).Barton Fields
Regarding reptiles, Grass Snakes are common throughout the site and lay their eggs in the compost heaps. David frequently sees young ones. Last year they introduced 10 Slow Worms, five of which we have seen again this year. They have also seen a baby this year. Another 6 adults were donated and released this year.  He also showed me the pits they have dug and covered with wood and soil as refuges for slow worms. Apparently last year the police were called to one of these in the copse because somebody reported a possible grave!
Barton Fields
The Abingdon Naturalist’s are also introducing a shrub called Purging Buckthorne – the foodplant of the Brimstone butterfly.
Barton Fields
The work on the cycleway continues, and the contractors will be sowing wildflowers along the dug over margins beside the path.

Thankyou to David for the tour. Here are the links to the Abingdon Naturalists Group
http://www.abnats.org.uk/home.html
https://www.facebook.com/groups/abingdonnats