August is a difficult month for observing flora and fauna, for birds are nearing the end of breeding, migration hasn’t started, the flowers are turning to seed and it is too early for autumn fungus. With this in mind we decided that a visit to a location which also has other interest would prove worthwhile: Stow Maries Aerodrome, a preserved World War 1 Aerodrome and originally the home of 37 (Home Defence) Squadron Royal Flying Corps and 37 Squadron Royal Air Force, was our choice.
With an almost full turn out of group members (15 in all came to the meeting) we were greeted firstly by volunteer Geoff Charge (also a member of the B-o-C U3A) and then, by Russell Savory, who was to be our guide. Russell, among his many talents, has been credited with saving the aerodrome.
Wildlife and wildlife photography are one of Russell’s keen passions and we started our day in the renovated Mess with a slideshow of birds and animals caught on his camera. Little Owls featured highly, and comically, and there were Barn Owls, Hares and Kestrels. In one room many of his excellent photographs are displayed and are for sale.
Stow Maries is a working airfield but surrounding the runway and buildings are several ponds, hedgerows, wildflower meadows and an area of woods. Children from local schools take part in Beetle & Bug sessions. Snakes, lizards etc that are captured and taken from building sites are relocated here. The RSPB take an active role in the conservation and the BBC in ‘The Great British Year, Wildlife Through the Seasons’ (I believe to be shown later in the year) has shot some footage at the aerodrome. State of the art night vision cameras were used and captured hitherto unknown facts. A book of the same name by Stephen Moss is due for publication in October.
An area has been planted to specifically attract Turtle Doves and there are currently two pairs, down from last year, as are the numbers of breeding Barn Owls. Hares also are down in numbers by two thirds to twenty pairs and Russell has noticed that many of the hares have eye problems.
Knowing where to find the various birds, Russell guided us around the site, but it wasn’t to be a fruitful day for us. A Tawny Owl showed itself but the Little Owls and Barn Owls remained elusive, as did the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. We did have some good sightings of a Buzzard, a Green Woodpecker, a flock of seven immature Pheasants emerging from the long grass and one Hare.
Near the ponds Blue Damselflies and Dragonflies hovered. It was a warm day with the occasional gentle breeze that sent floating seeds into the air. Although we did not have much success with birds, we did with Butterflies and on one patch of thistles we were entranced by the variety and quantity.
Tea and cake was provided and we enjoyed these with our picnic lunch. Nearby was the museum, which many of us visited and enjoyed. A few of us remained after lunch and two eagle-eyed observers were rewarded with the sighting of a Water Vole scurrying between the reeds at the water’s edge.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Stow Maries and would recommend it to anyone interested in aviation history as well as wildlife; the volunteers made us very welcome and I can recommend the tea and homemade cake.
Birds Identified: Blackbird, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Pied Wagtail, Linnet, Skylark, Crow, Rook, Yellow Hammer, Swallow, Pheasant, Green Woodpecker, Tawny Owl, Buzzard, Wood Pigeon, Little Grebe, Moorhen,
Wild Flowers Identified: Teasel, White & Purple Clover, Larkspur, Buttercup, Camomile, Great Willowherb, Scarlet Pimpernel, Bird’s Foot Trefoil and Mallow. Sloe fruits and ripening Blackberries.
Butterflies Identified: Red Admiral, Large White, Meadow Brown, Small Tortoiseshell, Little Blue, Peacock, Painted Lady,
Other – Blue Damselflies, Dragonflies, Bumble Bee, Honey Bees (in hives) Frog, Ladybird, Devil’s Coach Horse, Grasshopper, Hare and Water Vole.