Leaders: Andy Swan and Mike Lawn (HNHS Members)
Mike led 18 HNHS members through the gate to enter the MoD land on a sunny but not excessively hot morning.
The level of the main pond was very low – it was just a few inches deep. Along the damp margins a Black Darter was found, and the extensive carpets of Marsh St John’s-wort were still fresh. Whilst the dry heathland appeared quite lifeless, some classic heathland insects were found around the pond: the sand wasp Ammophila and the scarce Grayling butterfly.
The site is the only location where all 12 UK native species of reptile and amphibian occur, but these are all quite elusive! We saw some shallow excavations that had been dug for the rare Natterjack Toad. Natterjacks breed in shallow seasonal ponds in otherwise dry habitats, so at this time of year they were (hopefully) secreted amongst vegetation, from which they emerge at night.
Some patches of almost bare boggy peat displayed both Round-leaved and Oblong-leaved Sundew, plus numerous plants of the pale green Marsh Clubmoss. Invertebrate activity included the semi-aquatic Raft Spider and the extraordinary Long-winged Conehead.
Two Green Sandpipers were found at the margins a boggy pond, and the rare Small Red Damselfly and uncommon Emerald Damselfly posed for photographs. During the return walk, the group was treated to a close encounter with a small flock of Woodlark.
We were lucky to have had a guide with such a depth of expertise and local knowledge, without whom we would have overlooked much of the special wildlife in this unique site.