Walton Hall Nature Trail, what's on Nov/Dec
- Plants Hawthorn or 'May' trees beside the Walton Lake Redway are in full fruit AND full flower in November. The summer drought followed by wet September and very warm October has tricked the plants into flowering in the wrong season. Other species such as white dead-nettle (Lamium album) hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) and dandilions (Taraxacum sp.) are also flowering again along the trail although it is not particularly unusual for these plants to regrow during a mild spell in winter. One species which normally blooms at this time of year is the cedar, the male erect yellowish flowers are shown in the picture above right, female flowers are rather small and insignificant although they do develp into large round cones which eventually fall apart releasing the seeds.
- Butterflies The unusual weather may also be responsible for sightings of migrant American monarch butterflies near Milton Keynes this autumn (although they could be escapes from butterfly farms).
- Birds Most of our winter visitors will now have arrived. Flocks of 'winter thrushes' - fieldfares and redwings - join our resident blackbirds and thrushes to feed on the hawthorns. Finches such as the redpoll and siskin can be seen on the alder and birch trees at Walton lake and the 'rasp' of brambling flying over on their way to the Brickhills can be heard. Ducks from northern and eastern Europe can now be seen on the lake: shoveler, tufted duck, gadwall, pochard and teal, all seeking refuge from the colder continental winter. An occasional blackcap or chiffchaffs may also take advantage of our milder winter - returning to their European breeding grounds in the springtime. The winter months are also a good time to see sparrowhawks which have left their woodland breeding territories and now wander further afield. In the twilight before dusk the hawks may be seen hunting over the reedbeds at the lake in search of buntings coming in to roost. (Birds section contributed by John Daisley).
- Fungi Late fruiting species such as the purplish wood blewit (Lepista nuda)(below centre) and orange capped velvet shank (Flammulina velutipes) may come up depending on the weather. Most species are killed by frost but velvet shank, which often grows on dead elm trees, can recover after being frozen and is even found in the very cold weather of January and Febuary. Earlier in the autumn two rare species of fungi were seen at the OU - the large Boletus impolitus(below left) with bright yellow pores and the rather smaller orange/tan Hygrophoropsis fuscosquamula, this latter species came up in the grass outside the BBC canteen and was only the third time it had ever been recorded in Britain. Below right is birds nest fungus mentioned in last months 'whats on'.
- Finally the WEATHER we can expect this Christmas?
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