Field Event Reports

17th August: Shotover Country Park

Close inspection is often needed to confirm identity.

Leaders: Ivan and Jacqueline Wright

Four members of Abingdon Naturalists met our leaders in the main Shotover car park at the top of Old Road on a bright and warm afternoon. The car park and adjoining recreation field were busy with family groups and an ice cream van was doing good business. However, the purpose of our visit was a follow up up to the 2018 visit, this time focussing on the dry, acid grasslands rather than the woodland. The hope was also to see some of the solitary wasps and bees that use these sandy soils.

Our first stop was to the west of the car park at Mary Sadler's Field. The flourishing Ling Heather in full flower was immediately apparent. This field was the home for Grass Snakes and Common Lizards, which benefited also from the thick scrub cover surrounding the field. Management was simple - an annual cut to keep the Bracken and Silver Birch encroachment under control.

The group then traversed Shotover to the east walking along grass tracks often bordered by Bracken patches and sparse woodland. We stopped at two ‘fields’ that had been created, one 11 years ago, the other nine years ago. This had been done by simply removing all the top soil and letting nature take its course from the natural seed bank. The result was a patchwork of heather, herbs and grasses with frequent bare sandy soil. Once a year the areas were cut, mainly to control Silver Birch that was continuously seeding and the encroaching Bracken. The latter bare patches were clearly to the benefit of burrowing solitary bes and wasps as the surface was peppered with small holes, mostly covered with grains of sand resulting for the previous nights rain. No lizards and snakes occupied these sites.

At the second site, two very notable bee discoveries were made by Ivan: Colletes succinctus and its cleptoparasite Epeolus cruciger. These discoveries and the historcal records of the species were confirmed later after further research by Ivan. To quote:

Both bees confirmed: Colletes succinctus and its cleptoparasite Epeolus cruciger. My memory was nearly OK, Epeolus cruciger was last recorded on Shotover in 2002 (17 years ago) - a single specimen in Mary Sadler Field. Records suggest that Shotover is the only place in Oxfordshire where Epeolus cruciger has been recorded in recent decades. However, I was surprised to see that Colletes succinctus has also not been recorded on the Hill since 2002. These are especially notable records for Shotover as it can only be in direct response to our heathland and heather restoration work over the past 10 years. I'm still grinning!

The group then retuned through the wood land back to the car park where thanks were conveyed to Ivan with a request to pass the same to his wife who had to leave us earlier.

Notable species identified:
Flowering Plants: Heath Grass, Early Hair Grass, Pill Sedge, Heather, Creeping Tormentil (originally found by John Killick), Trailing St John's-wort, Heath Speedwell, Bird's Foot, Common Centaury, Hawkweed species, Lesser Stitchwort, Wild Service Tree.
Polytrichum moss (sphagnum-like on scalped areas), Scaly Earthball, Common Earthball
Bombus pascuorum,?Lindenius albilabris (wasp), Common Wasp, Ornate digger wasp (Cerceris rybyensis), Epeolus cruciger (cuckoo bee), Colletes succinctus (host).
Graham Bateman, David Guyoncourt, Gillian Taylor, Michael Bloom

Graham Bateman