Summer 1998 has started off warm and wet continuing the spring theme. This has lead to abundant grass growth indeed it is 'lodging' (falling over) in places. Farmers try to avoid lodging in their cereal crops as it can lead to rotting and makes it more difficult to harvest but on the trail it just adds a bit of variety and you may find more insects landing in the flattened areas. There was also a second pulse of heavy rain leading to further flooding which probably finished off any of the nests in the Walton lake reedbeds however I'm sure they will be back again next year.
Plants - Summer is the time when most of the plants round the trail are in flower but also look out for the cottony fruits of early flowering trees such as willows and poplars blowing about in the breeze.
The bee orchid shown on the right has not yet been spotted along the trail but it may only be a matter of time as they are often the first orchids to invade new areas. This species does occur in road verges and parks in Milton Keynes and the spike shown was photographed this year within a mile of Walton Hall. If you look in the centre of the flower you may be able to see two sticky yellow 'pollinia' which contain the pollen. This species of orchid produces a special scent which attracts a certain type of bee, when the insect arrives the pollinia attach themselves and get carried to the next flower so ensuring cross pollination - well that's the theory at least. Unfortunately in cold areas such as Britain the insects are in rather short supply and the plants tend to self pollinate. The other orchid to look out for is the common spotted orchid possibly on the banks of Walton Lake as it usually comes up in damp often calcareous areas. Of course you should not pick any of the orchids.
Insects - the picture on the right shows a bush cricket. Adults are rather large and sometimes seen on flower heads although they eat a wide variety of vegetation and some species will also have a go at your finger if you get too close. More of them can be seen if you happen to come to the Open University Open Day on 27 June 98 as one of the students in biology is working on their mating behaviour. He is always on the look out for more bush crickets so if you come across a good site for them let us know.
Birds - Look out for spotted flycatchers, there are usually some nesting in the general vicinity of the nature trail. These small greyish birds are most easily recognised by their fluttering and swooping for insects in flight. They often return to the same perch. In the evenings look out for owls. Various species have been seen in Milton Keynes including barn owls and tawny owls shown right. They fly silently and have very good hearing to help them locate prey in the darkness. If you click on the owl picture it should zoom in to show the intricate feather detail round the face, but don't forget to click on the 'back' button to return to this page.
Fungi - In recent years there have been a number of interesting species such as rare Boletes and agarics coming up after periods of summer rain so keep your eyes open.
Animals - If you are walking round the trail in the evening then look out for bats, rabbits, foxes and badgers. The population of rabbits has recovered after myxomatosis and there are plenty round the trail especially near hedges in the fields. In other parts of Milton Keynes such as Mount Farm there are very large numbers of rabbits, I wonder if the council ever have to cut the grass there.