Walton Hall Nature Trail, What's on Autumn 97

Walton Hall Nature Trail, What's on Autumn

Well, the weather has been mainly dry with just one very wet spell which was sufficient, bring on the mushrooms!!! However the fungi and the fine autumn colour were cut short by a series of severe frosts at the end of October. Indeed it was one of the sunniest Octobers ever seen in Milton Keynes. The cloudless skies also let the heat escape after dark, which lead to some of the lowest night temperatures ever recorded in October.

Fungi Fungi flourished in the moist conditions of early October and twenty eight different species of mushroom were found on one lunch time walk!

Birds The summer migrants flew south in search of more hospitable weather conditions. Although not many winter migrants seemed to have arrived yet, there have been plenty of greylag geese feeding in the fields surrounding the campus. They've been sharing the pasture with with sheep and the occasional Canada goose. The picture to the right is of a Tringa Totanus or what is more commonly known as a Redshank. The Redshank is roughly the size of a Blackbird. Redshank means "Red Legs", which comes as no surprise as they have bright red legs as you can tell from the picture. The Redshank is a wide-spread summer bird which likes to nest next to wet-marshy lands or in coastal areas, you are most likely to see it round the trail in winter.

Amphibians For the first in about thirty years the main pond has been dry for a large part of summer and autumn, this is because of the last eight years, six have been drought years in this part of the country. It will be interesting to see the effect this has on the Great Crested Newts.

Insects Autumn has again been a good time to spot Dragonflies. Remarkably some of them survived the series of fierce frosts which occurred in early October. There have been several pairs of Common Darters flying around together. The male Common Darter is a sort of orange, red colour and it tends to have light patches on his neck. The female Common Darter is a yellow, brown colour, sometimes with a thin red line along her back. The Common Darter can be seen on many ponds and lakes and one of the best place to look for them in Milton Keynes is on the ponds in Howe Park Wood. On dewy mornings look out for spiders webs, there are many different types including highly complex three dimensional structures which are often formed in low shrubbery. If the conditions are just right the grass can shine with a complete covering of glossy threads.

Plants The lovely Autumn colour often seen on the trees at this time of year has all but disappeared, this was due to the cold winter nights we had near the end of October. The effect on some of the Ash trees was dramatic with all the leaves suddenly turning black before falling off. As I look out of my window now the ground is covered in a sea of golden red leaves, nearly all the trees on the campus have shed their leaves now. I have noticed that now, early November, the Spangle Galls have fallen off the Oak trees. In the winter berries are very important to birds as the berries are a "high-energy" food, it is the berries which keep them going through the cold winter months.

The guest writer of "What's on Autumn" pages is Tony Friend from St. Paul's school, Milton Keynes.

Back to Nature Trail overview