A bright, cool, breezy morning heralded a warm spring day as 20 gathered for a 2.5 mile loop through Milkham Inclosure. This mixed woodland sits north of the A31, accessible from the road between Bolderwood and Linwood. It stretches westwards then south, continuous with Roe Inclosure, then Red Shoot and Pinnick Woods, ending at Linford. Today we limited ourselves to the northern area where there has been recent clearance of some conifer stands leaving open slopes or small areas of dense, deciduous replanting including wild cherry, in blossom today. Beech and Oak were fresh in spring foliage and soft shoots of Larch had to be touched. Wide grassy rides run west-east and north-south bordered by ditches with a winding cycle path and several crossings of Linford Brook and its shallow tributaries that drain toward Blashford Lakes. After a slow start all these areas provided their own wildlife interest.
© Richard Coomber
As an overture, a Peregrine zipped over the car park, too fast for some to see. Swallow, Robin, Willow Warbler, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Nuthatch and Raven were seen by most. More elusive, and identified by call, were Chaffinch, Siskin, Blackbird, Blackcap, Song Thrush and Chiffchaff.
In both shallow and deeper water there were dark Leeches, stretching to several centimetres then contracting, mating Palmate Newts, and a few frog tadpoles.
© Richard Coomber
Insects were represented by Southern Wood Ants teeming over their large brown hillock-nests. Several dozen were getting the better of a solitary Dor Beetle until a helping hand lifted it away from the unfair struggle, dusted it down and released it to safety. As the day warmed, butterflies appeared including Speckled Wood, spiralling round each other, Peacock, Brimstone and Orange Tip. A single dragonfly larva walked along the pebbly bed of a shallow drainage channel with Pond Skaters and Whirligig beetles on the deeper water.
© Duncan Wright
Spring flowers on the verges took our eye: one Tormentil, many Common Dog-Violets, Wood Anemones, Wood Sorrel and Wood Spurge. Bilberry had not been grazed as short as usual and some early flowers were present. As for ferns, Southern Polypody was found.