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The Reading Naturalist 

No. 9 

Published by the Reading and District 

Natural History Society 


Price to Non-Members 
--^—^ SliilHifirT p pd Sixpen ce f 




No. 9 for the Year 1956 - 57 

The Journal of 
The Reading & District Natural History Society- 

Walter. C. Fishlock, Esq. 

Hon. Secretary: 

Mrs. A. Hasker, 

Clarence Lodge, 
93 f London Road, 


Meteorological Data for 1956 

Extracts from the Annual Reports of 
the Honorary Recorders; 




Some of the Insects of the Burghfield Area 
On the Local Freshwater Pishes 


Enid.M. Nelmes, 

27, Westbourne 

Avenue , 
Acton, W.3. 







E f V. 











In this number of the Reading Naturalist we have, for the first time, 
an article on fish, a group of animals that is often neglected by 
naturalists, but one of which the local species, at least, should 
henceforth be better known to our readers. The other paper, on the insects 
of a restricted area, is remarkable for the large number of noteworthy 
species of different orders with which it deals and the varied information 
it contains. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to include a 
botanical article this year, but we are confident that those members who 
thus appear to have been neglected will find much to please them in both 
the papers offered and assure them that we shall do our utmost to give 
them first consideration next year. 

We take this opportunity of warmly thanking our contributors, also 
Mr. Parry, who has again kindly supplied the meteorological data, Mr. W.A. 
Smallcombe, who has granted facilities for the production of the Journal, 
and those members of the Museum Staff and others who have so generously 
given their time to this painstaking work. 

In accordance with a suggestion that the Society's activities should 
be put on permanent record each year, we include a brief summary of the 
meetings and excursions held during 1955-56. 

The Annual General Meeting, the Presidential Address, the Honorary 
Recorders' Report, and Members' exhibits accounted for four of the eleven 
winter meetings, and Nature Films were shown by I/Ir.W.A. Smallcombe at a 
fifth, The others were devoted to lectures the titles of which included: 
"Fungi" by Dr. J. Ramsbottom. "Our Chalky Heritage" by Professor P. Allen, 
"Twins" by Professor C.H. O'Donoghue, "Leeches" by Dr.K.H. Mann, and "The 
Study of British Mosses" by Dr.E.V. Watson. Mr.D. Grant King was 
unfortunately unable to deliver his lecture on "Avebury" , but kindly lent 
his slides and notes and Mrs. A. Hasker deputised for him. The average 
attendance at these meetings was about 20; the Nature Films and the 
lectures on fungi and mosses were particularly well attended. Bad weather 
reduced attendance at several of the summer excursions, and the coach trip 
to Selborne proposed for June 16th was cancelled owing to lack of support. 
An evening walk proved to be a popular innovation, and more were requested 
for future years. The excursions and, in brackets, the numbers taking 
part in them were:- 

April 1M:h, Padworth Gully, for spring flowers (k) ; Alril 25th, 
Pleasure Grounds of Stratfield Saye Park, by kind permission of His Grace 
the Duke of Wellington (10); May 5th, Swallowfield Park, by kind 


invitation of Sir Arthur Russell, for woodland flowers and rare trees (17); 
May 16th, Emmer Green, evening walk; May 26th, Bucklebury Common to Kiff 
Green, for spring flowers and birds (13); June 6th, Finchampstead Ridges 
(5); June 27th, Hazeley Heath, for bog flora (3); July 18th, Downland Walk 
(Pairmile) , for chalk flora (3); July 28th, Woolhampton Marshes, for plants 
and insects (16); August 8th Remenham, for chalk and river flora (3) ; 
.august 18th, Alderroaston Gravel Pits, for insects (3); August 29th, Basildon 
Park, by kind permission of the Hon.E.L. Iliffe, for rare trees, peacocks 
and golden pheasants (12); September 8th, Fawley, for chalk and wayside 
flora (11); September 19th, Bearwood, for trees and water birds (2j; 
September 29th, Museum of Rural Life (13); October 13th, Kingwood Common, 
Fungus Foray (25 - 30). 

During July 7th - August 1st the Society held its 75th Anniversary 
Exhibition, an account of which was given in the previous number. 

Honorary Recorders 
Botany: Miss K.I. Butler, 18, Morgan Road, Reading. 

Entomology: B.R. Baker, B.Sc, A.M.A. , F.R.E.S., 71**-, Berkeley Av, Reading 
Geology: Professor H.L. Hawkins, D.Sc. , F.R.S. , F.G.S. , 63, Tilehurst 

Road, Reading. 
Ornithology: E.V. Watson, Ph.D., 15, Ilkley Road, Caver sham, Reading. 

South Eastern Union of Scientific Societies 

The Congress for 1958 is being held in the University of Reading on April 
9 - 10 - 11t h. 

Members of this Society and their friends can attend Congress 
on payment of the modest sum of 2/6d. As the Reading Natural History 
Society is acting as host Society for the Congress it is earnestly hoped 
that all 'our members will each contribute their 2/6d, and not only take 
full benefit of the attractive lecture programme (details of which will be 
circulated as soon as possible) but also help the Congress toward the 
great success which we hope will be achieved. 

Any further information required may be obtained from our 
Hon. Secretary, Mrs. A. Hasker, 93> London Road, Reading. Tel. Reading. , 

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Ext racts from the Recorder's Report for Botany 1955-56 

By K.I. Butler 

(Nomenclature as in 'Flora of the British Isles' by Clapham, Tutin 

& Warburg ) 

Cold weather during February and March, 1 956 greatly delayed the 
flowering of early spring plants, and even by April 1Vth, the occasion 
of the Society's first Excursion of the year to Padworth Gulley, very 
few species were seen. As if to atone for their late appearance in the 
spring, plants flowered late into the autumn, and as many as 22f3 species 
were counted on October 2Vth. 

At the Society's Field Meetings during the year, only one or two 
plants of special interest vrere noted. 

Petroselinum segetum (L) Koch. (Corn Caraway), Aldermaston Gravel Pits, 
August 18th. 

Cirsium eriophorum (L) Scop. (Woolly Thistle), observed again at 
Basildon Park on August 29th. 

G-entiana germanica (Willd) , Fawley Bottom, Sept. 8th. This is a local 
plant of chalk downs in the south, sometimes called ' The Chiltern 
Gentian' , it differs from G. amarella in the large bluish-lilac 
flowers, and the unequal calyx lobes. Also located at Fawlc.y Bottom 
were Hypericum montanum L. (Mountain St. John's Wort), and Picris 
hieracioides L^ [Hawkweed Ox-Tongue) . 

At the Fungus Foray on October 13th, new records for the Kingwood 
area were - 

Crucibulum vulgare (Bird' s Nest fungus) , Clitocybe flaccida and 

Clayaria rugosa. 

The year 1956 has been a successful one, not perhaps for the new 
records made, but for the number of new localities discovered by members 
for some of the more uncommon species. 

Adonis annua L. (Pheasant's Eye), seen by Mrs. Hodgson, J. Hodgson, and 
the Recorder, growing profusely and flowering on arable downland near 
Aston Tirrold, on October 20th. Many plants were over a foot in height. 
Near the same locality was found the rare Papaver hybridum L. (Round 
Prickly-headed Poppy) which is easily distinguished by its crimson 
petals, with a blackish spot at the base, and its capsule covered with 
stiff yellow bristles. 


Dianthus armeria L. (Deptford Pink). A new locality found by Mrs. 
Lamb in a hcdgeroY/ at Cavcrsham. This is good news as it has not been 
seen at Tilehurst, where it was recorded in 1952, since 195A-* This Pink 
is described in Druce's Flora of Berkshire s.s one of our very l»cal 

Cerastium arvense L. (Field Mouse-ear Chickweed) • Another of our less 
common species that is being found more frequently. Streatley Hill (j. 
Hodgson); The Warren, Cavcrsham (1.17. Connell, Reading University). 

Melilotus indica (L) All, (Small -flowered Melilot) has appeared as a 
weed in Mrs. Paul's garden at Peppard, after an absence of four years. 

Melilotus alba Desr. (White Melilot). A cornfield near Kingstanding 
Hill, Berkshire Downs (several members) • 

Trifolium incamatum L. (Crimson Clover). Spencer's Wood (Mrs. Paul), 

Medicago arabica (L) All, (Spotted Me dick) . Tilehurst (Mrs. Hodgson); 
Stoneham School Playing Fields (J . Hodgson) . 

Lotus tenuis Waldst. and Kit. (Slender Birdsf cot-Trefoil). Remenham 
Slope (Mrs . Simmonds); Berks. Downs (The Recorder). 

Astragalus glycyphyllos L, (Milk Vetch) . Still growing by the roadside 
on the old Bath Road near Twyford (Mrs. Simmonds). 

Lathyris aphaca L. (Yellow Vetchling ) was recorded by Mr. Douglas in 
1954--5 as growing plentifully along a path leading from Moulsford Village 
to Fair Mile. This year, Mrs. Hodgson found a small amount by a field 
which is in all probability the end of the path, 

Saxifraga granulata L. (Meadow Saxifrage), recorded from Sulham in 
1 954-5 , was growing in great quantity there this year. The Recorder 
saw many tall plants with flowers just beginning to open in a moist 
meadow on May 7th. It must have been a lovely sight a week or so later 
to have seen them in full bloom, 

Torilis arvensis (iiuds) Link. (Spreading Hedge-parsley) , In a cornfield 
between Waltharn St. Lawrence and Ruscorabe (Mrs. Simmonds) . 

Apium inundaturo (l) Rchb. (Lesser Celery). This species is more uncommon 
than A. nodif lorum (L) Lag. , but easily overlooked. Gallowstree Common 
(Mrs . Paul) . 

Mercurial is annu a L. (Annual Dog' s Mercury) and Euphorbia lathyrus L . 


( Caper Spurge). On a rubbish heap at Thatoham (Mrs. Paul)% 

Euphorbia virgata Waldst. and Kit, Tilehurst (Mrs, Hodgson)* 

Hottonia palustris L. (Water Violet), Coleman's Moor (Dr.SltVi Watson) 

Gentiana pneumonanthe L. (Marsh Gentian) 'was visited by several members 
at Hook Common, and was seen growing plentifully in moist open heathland* 

Mentha lon&if olia (L) Huds. (Horse-mint), Nettlebed (Mrs, Paul). 

Calamintha asoendcns Jord, (Common Crlamint) . Sulham (J. Hodgson) J 
field near Henley (Mrs. Paul), 

Ccntaurea solstitialis L. (star Thistle, St. Barnaby's Thistle) was 
found by J. Hodgson in a fiold off the Basingstoke Road, Reading. This 
very striking annual has not boon recorded since 1952, when it wag found 
near Whitohuroh. 

Allium . oleracoum L, (Field Garlic) , distinguished from A. Vincale L, 

•y wmmmm*m mam mm wm*M ma «, ■»■■!■■— * f » *J -«_».—-.. — .—^ ___.■-__ w 

(Grow Garlic; by the long points of the spatho bracts, Tilehurst (Mrs. 
Hodgson) • 

£rchis_ PJ^lcl ^am. (Monkey Orohid) The slope wae visited several timcB 
during the season, but the Monkey Orchid was not seen, which was di§- 
eppointing after its re-appcaranoe there in 1955« 

Ophrys insootifera L, (Fly Orchid) appeared soaroo in its usual haunt, 
where normally it grows plentifully, 

S^S^S^^P^^^¥S^J^MA (^) L * Ct R ich, (pyramidal Orohid). Largo numbers 
of very fine specimens were seen at various places. 

Dosmazoria rigida (L) Tutin (Hard Poa) , Tilehurst (J. Hodgson). 

Phalaris canariensis L. (Canary Grass). Hill's Meadow (Mrs. Simmonds) 

Nardus stricta L. (Mat Grass) , which is easily overlooked was found by 
Mrs. Simminds on a woodland track at Finchampstead Ridges. 

Hordclymus c u ropacus (L) Harz. (Wood Barley). Near Russcl's Water 
(Mrs . Paul) . 

Sieglingia decumbens (L) Bcrnh. (Heath Grass) Hazeley Heath (Mrs. 
Simmonds) ; Nettlebed (Mrs . Paul) . 

One species of the Family Polypodiaceao, i .Cetera c h officinarum D.C 


(The Rusty-back Pern) has been recorded from a wall at Peppard Common 
(Dr. E.V. Watson) and Henley (J, Hodgson). 

Equisetum telmateia Ehrh. (Great Horsetail). Nettlebed (Mrs. Paul). 

It is very often regretted that owing to the vast feystem of drainage 
being carried out in various parts of the country we are gradually losing 
many wild plants which like damp places in which to grow. It is therefore 
most satisfactory to know that Mrs. Paul discovered this year a sluggish 
stream, actually within the borough of Reading, between the railway and 
river Thames, where the following interesting plants were found: - 

Utricularis vulgaris L. (Greater Bladderwort) ; Hottonia palustris L. 

(Water Violet); Hydrocharis morsus-ranae L. (Prog-bit); 

Myriophyllum verticillatum L. (Whorled Water-milfoil); Lemna trisulca L. 

(ivy Duckweed); and Carex pseudocyperus L. (Cyperus Sedge) 

The Recorder would like to thank all those who have contributed 
to this Report. 


Extracts from the Recorder's Report for Entomology for 1956 
By B.R. Baker, B.Sc, A.M. A. , P.R.E.S. 

The Recorder wishes to thank those members and other entomologists in the 
district who have sent in material for this year' s report - particularly 
as he was unable to make many observations himself during the first six 
months of the year. Our thanks are due to Mrs. Simmonds, Air Marshal Sir 
Robert Saundby, Messrs. H.L. Dolton, W.J. Edwards, P.W. Hanney, and R.W. 
Parfitt, Master John Richards, The Leighton Park Natural History Committee, 
and Mr. W.A. Smallcombet 

Apart from a run of good weather in late April and May, and again in 
September, the weather merits no further mention. Insects have consequently 
been conspicuous by their absence - this particularly applies to immigrants 
to this country. 

The following early dates for insects have been supplied by Leighton 
Park entomologists and by Mrs. Simmonds: 

January 22nd, a Brimstone butterfly (G-onepteryx rhamni.L.) at Burghfield; 
March 4th, Brimstones out of hibernation, flying on the Berkshire Downs, and 
7 Spot Ladybirds (Coccinella septempunctata.L.) observed at Arborfield; 
March 18th, Small Tortoiseshell butterflies (Aglais urticae.L.) well out at 
Leighton Park and at Chalkhouse Green, March 26th, Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) 
active in local gardens, April 2nd, Honey Bees and Humble Bees (Bombus sp.) 
both present. 

Notes on Individual Insec t Orders 

Hemiptera (Plant Bugs, Water Bugs ) 

During the past three years a systematic study of water bugs has been carried 
out by Mr. Hanney with the object of determining the distribution and numbers 
of different species within the county and of putting forward some suggestions 
as to why certain species are found in some areas and not in others. The 
first part of the work is nearly complete and Corixids have been studied 
from 71 Berkshire ponds covering such varied situations as the top of Inkpen 
Beacon and the acres of Windsor Great Park. Actual counts of these Corixids 
have resulted in over 3>000 specimens. Of the known 33 British species, 
24 have been found to occur in Berkshire - this is a high figure and may be 
compared with the number of 23 recorded by the Fresh Water Biological 
Association at Windermere, where of course many workers have combined to 
cover their area. 

Details of the Berkshire Corixids will be published in one of the 
entomological journals later on. 


Trichoptera ( Caddis -flies ) 

The Berkshire list was published in the Entomologists Monthly Magazine for 
March 1956 and we made mention of some 78 different species. Donisthorpe 
has recorded 14 species, mainly from Windsor Great Park, that we have not 
yet come across and Grensted from Oxford has recorded several others. As 
Oxfordshire is only on the other side of the Thames from Berkshire, it is 
more than likely that around 100 species will eventually be in the local 

D. Elwyn Jones has given me many records of caddis larvae that he has 
found locally and of these Lype re duct a Hag , from the Kennet at Burghf ield 
Bridge, is worthy of special mention, as also is Cyrnus flavidus McLach. 
from Burghf ield gravel pits. Lype does not make the usual type of caddis 
case but constructs larval tunnels of sand grains and rotten wood held 
together with silk. By comparison, Cyrnus cases are often fixed in the angle 
between the stem and leaves of water plants. Radiating out from the cases 
are large numbers of sticky green filaments which are attached to surround- 
ing objects, the whole resembling the web of a spider. The larva sits in 
the case until a small crustacean or mosquito larva becomes entangled in the 
web, when it immediately darts out and seizes its prey before it can get 

Larvae of Phryganea varia.F . were found in Burghf ield Acid Pond on 
January 22nd. This is quite a local species, and I was somewhat surprised 
by the finding of an adult at Tilehurst in late July by Mr. Edwards. 

I can add two new local records of caddis for Berkshire: 

Athripsodes albifrons L . , very common to mercury vapour light at 
Thatcham on 29th August; and Chae top t oryx villosa F. , adults common on the 
river Pang at Tidmarsh on October 15th. 

I think it worth mentioning that although caddis adults are often 
thought of as short lived, a pair of Limnephilus decipiens . Kol . lived for 
over a month in my room - from October 8th until early November - feeding 
daily on a diet of sugar and water. During this time the female laid four 
egg batches with an estimated total of some 650 eggs. 

Hymenoptera (Bees, Ants and Wasps) 

Mrs.Simmonds has made a note on the nuptial flight of ants. She writes - 
"the usual date for this event seems to be the end of July or beginning of 
August - dates recorded in past years range from July 19th to August 2fth. 
Members on the Society's excursion to Pawley Bottom on September 8th were 
able to cbserve winged ants leaving a nest. On September 13th there were 
considerable numbers on the wing at mid-day in the town (Mount Pleasant) . 
In 19A-8 it was also observed that the flights took place much later". 


I also noticed ants swarming later this year whilst on holiday down in Dorset. 

A very interesting hymenopteron brought into the Museum last June 
was Rhyssa persuasoria L. , a parasite of the Giant Horntail (Sirex 
gigas L ) whose larva lives within the wood of conifers. How the Rhyssa 
detects the Horntail larva deep in the pine-trunk is not definitely known, 
probably smell largely enters into it. In order to lay her egg on the larva 
the Rhyssa must drill into the trunk and has a most workmanlike ovipositor 
to carry out the drilling. This thin needle is able to drill a hole 1^ 
inches deep into solid wood in less than 20 minutes. 

Coleoptera (Beetles ) 

There are only two notes on this order. The first concerns the 
familiar Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus L) . Returning from London one evening 
towards the end of June I saw several of these large beetles flying around 
the Bullace tree at the bottom of my garden. They looked ungainly creatures 
as they sailed around the tree and were a pleasant reminder that mid-summer 
was now upon us. 

The other note is a brief one on the weevil Cossonus pa ralleli pipedus 
Herbst . These were swarming in great numbers over the trunks of Black Poplar 
trees in Coley Recreation Ground in late June. 

Odonata (Dr ago n-flies) 

One record of interest here, that of Or t he t rum cance l latuia L . (the 
Black-lined Orthetrum) taken on July 12th at Leighton Park. 

Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths) 

Mr. Dolton has bred out further specimens of microlepidoptera this year 
particularly species of Lithocolletis . These are indeed micro-lepidoptera, 
averaging 7 mm. in wingspan. He mentions specifically L. harri sella L . , 
L. heegerie 11a. Zell . , and L. messaniella Zell from oak; L, Coryli von Nic 
from hazel; L. spinicolella Zell from blackthorn; and Li thocolletis 
blancardella F . from apple. The mines of all these species were collected 
during the autumn of 1 955 • Recently Mir. Dolton has taken eight mines of 
blancardella from a four -year old apple tree in his garden, 

Mr. Parfitt also specialises in microlepidoptera and he has made 
special mention of the following uncommon species: 
Phalonia drooltella Hb- , Con rami rough on J~\j 17th (this is stated in 


the books to be mainly a coastal species); Chrysoclista linneella Clerck 
on 2nd July, from the lime trees in Porbury Road; Mompha fulyescens Haw 
on 11th and 12th July at Crowthorne; and Lithocolletis comparella Pup 
a reputedly scarce species which Mr. Parfitt has bred out from white 

Among the macrolepidoptera, Mr. Parfitt recorded Preyer' s Pug 
(Eupithecia egenaria H.S. (arceuthata Prey) ) on June 20th from Parnborough; 
this is a good species, found on Juniper and Cypress trees and could well 
occur closer to us than Parnborough. 

John Richards found Pox moths (Macro thy lac ia rubi L) in come numbers 
on Streatley Hill in May, and records the Silver-spotted Skipper (Hesperia 
comma L) butterfly from the same locality in August. He tells me that at 
Pamber Forest both Silver-washed and High-brown Fritillaries (Argynnis 
paphia L. and A. cydippe L) were abundant in late July, and that in August 
they were lucky to take the beautiful dark form of the Silver-washed 
Fritillary known as valezina . At the same time a Purple Emperor (Apatura 
iris L) tantalisingly flew overhead at Pamber but continued to keep well 
out of reach of the net. Prom Hardwick there is news that the colony of 
Chalkhill Blues (Lysandra coridon.Poda) continues to flourish and that the 
butterflies give a good percentage of varieties. 

It is very interesting that two such woodland butterflies as the White 
Admiral (Limenitis Camilla L) and Silver-washed Fritillary have both been 
observed at Leighton Park, and I have further looked through the School's 
list of lepidoptera compiled by Christopher Watson and have been impressed 
by the imposing list of species recorded from that area. 

On our Society's excursion to Swallowfield Park on May 5th, Orange Tip 
(Euchloe cardamines L) , Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria L) , and Peacock 
(Nymphalis io L) were observed, and on July 18th, when members visited the 
Berkshire Downs, the Marbled Whites (Agapetes galathea L) were well out. 

Prom the excursion to Remenham on August 8th, Mrs. Simmonds brought 
back several larvae of the Striped Lychnis moth (Cucullia lychnitis Ramb) . 
These were kept on show at the Museum and pupated successfully in mid- 

Prom my own notes I can record the Butterbur moth (Hydraecia petasites 
Doubl) from the Kennet near Newbury. This moth was mentioned in the Victoria 
County History, 1906, as rare in Berkshire, but I am sure it is not so 
much a case of rarity as getting to know the habits of the creature. Prom 
the butterbur roots it was found possible to dig up the pupae, though 
this proved to be a rather tedious business. The moth itself flies for 
only a very short period at dusk and is not readily attracted to light, but 
a visit to the locality on a beautiful drizzly night in August certainly 
proved that the Butterbur moth is to be found if really searched for. 

The general picture for the season for lepidoptera is however one 


of scarcity. As Mr. Dolton remarked in his note to me, even the White 
Butterflies have been few in number. Even so, there are one or tvvo species 
that have not conformed to the general pattern, and Sir Robert Saundby 
records that the Suspected moth (Parastichtis suspecta Hb) , and the Garden 
Dart (Euxoa nigricans L) were present at Burghclere in higher numbers than 

Two immigrant moths of some note have also braved the weather and visit- 
ed our shores. My first news of the immigration was obtained firsthand 
between midnight and 1 a.m. on Studland Sand Dunes, Dorset, when both 
Death' s-head (Acherontia atropos L) , and Convolvulus Hawkmoth (Herse 
convolvuli L) came to mercury vapour light. This was in early September. 
Back in Reading later in the month, I learnt from Mr. Smallcombe that a 
Death's-head was taken at Calcot - this specimen flew into a boy's face 
and was brought into the Museum on the following day, surprisingly enough 
in quite good condition. 

Autumnal butterflies increased somewhat in numbers, Small Tortoiseshells 
(Aglais urticae L.) , Commas (Polygonia c-album L.) decorated our michaelmas 
daisies and buddleias, and Red Admirals ("Vanessa atalanta L) were seen 
enjoying fallen fruit during September. The last Small Tortoiseshell 
flying in my garden was seen on November 7th. 


Extracts from the Recorder' s Report for Ornithology 
(November 1955 - November 1956) 
By E.V. Y/atson, B.Sc, Ph.D. 

The Recorder stresses that the observations that have come to his 
notice represent only a very small fraction of what in fact occurred among 
the birds of the Reading district during the year under review. 

1 . Yi/inter Gulls There is little to report. It was remarked that on Febru- 
ary 19th some mottled and some "all-white" Black-headed Gulls still 
retained the dull salmon, black-tipped bill. Mrs. Simmonds has referred to 
the "return of the gulls" on October 50th, and the Recorder urges members 

to keep a look out for the numbers of Herring Gulls, which are subject to 
much fluctuation. He himself noted the Lesser Black-backed Gull (which 
is more of a passage migrant) in the months of April, Hay, September, 
October and November 1956. 

2. Winter Duck Some records for late autumn and early winter 1955 we owe 
to Messrs J. E.G. Sutton and C.E. Bignal. These, already noted in the 
Reading Ornithological Club's Report for 1955, include a fine range of 
species at Sonning Eye gravel pit: 50 Wide on on November 20th, 62 Pochard 
on December 27th, one male Goldeneye on December 16th, one female Smew on 
the same date ond one female Goosander during November and December. At 
Bearwood on November 27th, the Recorder saw some 25 Wigeon. Kr.K.E.L. 
Simmons recorded the usual species at Burghfield gravel pit during the 
winter months. A Smew was there in early March and the number of Wigeon 
reached A0 on March A,th. In the early winter period of 1956, no specially 
unusual duck came to the notice of the Recorder, but Pochard and Tufted 
Duck were present at Burghfield on November 4th, Tufted Duck, Mallard and 
Shoveler at Aldermaston on November 8th, whilst one Pochard, several Tufted 
Duck and some 150 Mallard were seen at Sonning Eye on November 11th. 

3« Winter Pinches, etc . The winter under review was notable for observat- 
ions of Brambling and Siskins. Dr. C.C. Balch had a f'ock of up to 300 
Brambling under observation at Finchampstead in the early months of 1956. 
Mrs. G.W. Tucker saw about 100 Siskins by the Loddon at Stratfieldsaye on 
December 11th, and M% J.L. Pox saw one at Bearwood on December 25th. The 
Recorder met with a ^lock of about 20 Siskins in pine trees at Mortimer 
Pickling Yard on March 18th, where they were consorting with Goldfinches. 
Bullfinches were widely reported in the press as doing particularly serious 
damage in many places during the early months of 1956. On February 15th, 
the Recorder saw six together in Cavers ham Lower Warren. 

if. Spring Arrival of Migrants The following arrivals were noted: 
April 2nd, Chiffchaff, Mrs. Simmonds; April 1Ath, Willow Warbler and 
Cuckoo at Padworth, Mrs. Simmonds; April 17th, Blackcap and Common White- 
throat at Sonning Eye, the Recorder; April 27th, Nightingale, Eldon Sq. , 
Mrs. Hasker; May 2nd, Yellow Wagtail and Sedge Warbler at Sonning Eye, 
the Recorder; MayAth, — almost the first really warm sunny day with wind 


from the west - a Swift appeared over Ilkley Rd. , Cavers ham, during the 
evening; Hay 5th, Turtle Dove, Sonning Eye; May 6th, Swifts reported by 
Mr. Fishlock and by Mrs, Simmonds; Hay 12th, Garden Warbler, Sonning Eye. 
Observations were scanty, especially during early April, but even when 
allowance was made for this, 1956 was a "late" year on the whole* 

5« Spring Passage of Waders and Terns 

There is nothing to report under this head, 

6. Breeding Records 

Lir.B.T. Parsons reported the breeding of Red-backed Shrike at Maiden 
Erleigh, and the Recorder had evidence of the birds at Kidmore Road, 
Caversham, although it is not known whether they stayed to breed. A fine 
male was seen at this site on June 6th. Little Ringed Plover nested in 
two places in the district. Tufted Duck bred at Burghfield gravel pit for 
the first time. Mr. P. Hanney recorded pairs of Canada Geese;, each with 
three young, on June 26th at Aide rmas ton, on July 12th at Sonning, and 
during July e.t Longmoor. He also recorded nests of Kingfisher (with young) 
and Little Grebe (eggs and young) at Woolhampton on August 6th. Mrs. 
Simmonds found little activity at the Coley Park Heronry on February 26th, 
perhaps attributable to cold, but observed an increase in the number of 
nests from 13 to 17» Miss. K.I. Butler, Miss.D. Mason and Miss A.J. Towns 
found two pairs of Stone Curlew at the locality by the Pair Mile on May 3rd. 
They also had the good fortune to see a Hobby. It is to be regretted that 
there were no Wrynecks nesting at Caversham in 1956. 

7. Departure of Regular Summer Visitors 

Only three specific "last dates" are available; August 9th, Swift, Mr, 
Fishlock; September 19th, Spotted Flycatcher, and September 26th, Yellow 
Wagtail, both by the Recorder. Miss Mason had a November record of 
Swallows from the South Coast. 

8. Autumn Passage of Waders and Terns 

Most of the records under this head came from Mr. Hanney, who observed 
Common Sandpiper at Aldermaston gravel pit on July 8th and 15th and the Green 
Sandpiper at the same place on the latter date. The same observer reported 
a Ringed Plover, found dead by the Grenadier, Burghfield, by Mr. Gillings 
of Allan Dene, Three Mile Cross, on November 9th 1 955* The bird was 
brought into the Museum. Mr. Simmons recorded seven Curlew over Burghfield 
gravel pit on August 4th, Records of autumn terns were not numerous, and 
referred only to Common (or possibly Arctic) terns. One oiled bird was 
present at Burghfield gravel pit from July 1st till August 6th, whilst 
another individual was reported by Mr. Hanney from Sonning Eye on July 12th. 


9. Various Passage Movements: Rare Visitors, etc . 

Perhaps the November Ringed Plover already mentioned and the Water Rail 
seen at Bea.rwood by Mr, Fox in early spring find a place in this section of 
the Report. The Pied Flycatcher seen by Mr. Parsons in Prospect Park in 
April was a notable visitor to the Reading district, although it is not 
uncommon in certain parts of west and north Britain. Of exceptional intere- 
st was the report received from Mr. Simmons of a most unusual wagtail seen 
at Manor Farm from .April 17th to 20th, among at least 20 male Yellow Wag- 
tails. The head was predominantly a uniform pale grey and the bird was 
considered to be referable to the race known as Sykes's Wagtail. Among 
less exciting passage records may be mentioned the occurrence of a male 
Whinchat at Manor Farm on April 25th (Mr. Simmons) and the rather ramarkable 
appearance of a large Wheatear (probably referable to the Greenland race) 
in Ilkley Road on the misty morning of May 5th, when it was seen by the 
Recorder before it flew away over the house-tops. Autumn passage, among 
small Passerines, showed itself in the form of one Wheatear and two Whin- 
chats in arable fields at Burghfield on September 19th and a female Red- 
start in waste land, Kidmore Road, Caversham, on September 23rd« 

10. Miscellaneous Notes 

1. Several observers recorded Fieldfares and Redwings drawn to the 
vicinity of town gardens during the hard weather of February. 

2. "Overlooked" species, of which few or no records came in, include 
the Hawfinch, and also the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, of which the Recorder 
saw something at the University Athletic Ground during May. Also notable 
in this context was the Tree Sparrow (records by Mr. Sutton at Manor Farm, 
December 21st, and by the Recorder at Sonning Eye in early May) and the 
Willow Tit, which one tends to hear in many places once the call-note is 
known and which is certainly commoner than many people suspect. 

3. Observations of bird behaviour by the Recorder included a curious 
variant of the song of the Whitethroat, heard on April 17th, which was more 
subdued, more varied in note quality and of longer duration of phrase than 
usual j the drumming of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker on a telegraph pole, 
the "drum" being repeated at intervals of 15 seconds; and a very persistent 
Robin that built a nest and reared young successfully on a bookshelf in the 
private room of a lecturer of the University of Reading. 


Some of the Interesting Insects of the Burghfield Area 
by B.R. Baker, B.Sc. , A.k'.A. , F.R.S.S. 

Even as far back as 1834 the woods and commons of the Burghfield area 
were well known to field naturalists. The Rector of Burghfield, the Rev.C. 
S. Bird, writing at that time, has left us a delightful account of early 
entomological practices, and his observations are perpetuated in P.B.M. 
Allan's fascinating book "A Moth Hunter's Gossip". 

Today, the Burghfield area is still a favoured one with naturalists - 
a place where one can observe a pageant of wild life. Insects, Amphibians, 
Reptiles and Birds all have their particular niches over these heathy tracts, 
but it is with the first group that this paper is largely connected. 

The geological make-up of the area, predominantly plateau gravels, gives 
rise to country of pine, birch and heather, with, here and there oak and 
mixed woodland present in association with the underlying London Clay. 

Certain of the insects inhabiting this type of country are worthy of 
special mention, and it might be appropriate to commence with the Kentish 
Glory moth (Endromis versicolora.L ), an insect for which Burghfield was 
formerly famous. This beautiful moth disappeared from the local heaths about 
1919* hut the keen lepidopterist of today will still find, in the latest 
edition of Richard South' s "Moths of the British Isles", the "Reading distr- 
ict of Berkshire" quoted as a favoured locality. The answer to the question 
"Why did the Kentish Glory disappear from Burghfield ?" cannot be given with 
any certainty, for this was not the only area in the south of England to lose 
the moth. Rather than place the blame on collectors, it seems more likely 
that a widespread climatio change so influenced the physiology of the 
species that it practically ceased to exist all over the south of England. 
The moth also occurred, and indeed still does, in Wyre Forest, Shropshire, 
in many places in the north of England and, most frequently of all, in 
Scotland. Protection seems to have been afforded the Kentish Glory at 
Burghfield for, as Allan relates he was once confronted by a gamekeeper and 
asked if he had a permit to collect the moth. The keeper was acting for a 
Mr. Palmer (said to own the Common) and he showed Allan an official permit - 

a rather soiled piece of paper, on which was written "Permit Mr , to 

catch 2 Kentish Glory moths" and this was dated and signed by the landowner. 
Allan was able to his moths, for, as he reasoned he was operating on 
the roadway, and was therefore immune from the landowner' s attention. He was, 
in fact, what is commonly known as "sembling" the moth, which is, simply, 
taking a captive, virgin, female moth to a favoured locality and thereby 
attracting the males to her. Providing the female is isolated in a small 
muslin cage, males will continue to arrive (under favourable weather 
conditions) in some numbers. 

Although an expedition to Burghfield today will not reward the visitor 
with the sight of Kentish Glory moths assembling, the process may equally 


well be tried with the Emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia.L.), whose habits are 
very similar. 

All female moths must assemble - each species having its own particular 
time of day or night when this is undertaken. Often it takes place at dusk 
or dawn, but as we shall see, there are exceptions to this generalisation. 

The Emperor moth is common on our heaths and the visitor to Burghfield 
on any fine afternoon in mid April will soon see the mr.les dashing about 
madly over the heather. The moths are obviously busy about their business - 
the important business of assembling - and they appear to let little stand 
in their 'way. We have had male Emperors frantically crawling about our 
persons - a dozen or more at a sitting - all obsessed with the task of success- 
ful pairing with the captive female that we had brought along. They take not 
the slightest notice of mere humans I 

How do these persistent suitors know where to pursue their courting ?. 
The means of attraction between Emperor moths, and indeed between over fifty 
other species, has been studied by Dr.H.B.D. Kettlewell, and he has lucidly 
collated the known facts. 

The process commences with the female moth emitting a scent from a 
gland situated at the tip of the abdomen, and the substance producing it, 
probably a highly volatile oil, becomes air -be me. As two different species 
may use the same scent stimulus it is of the greatest importance that the 
optimum time for assembling should differ in these species. 

Our female Emperor may then be envisaged, clinging to a heather stem, 
and emitting the scent stimulus. Nov/, it is known that many moths choose 
dusk or dawn to assemble because at this time there is a layer of cool air 
immediately on the surface of the earth. There is an analogy here with the 
release time for a poison gas attack-the optimum conditions for such an 
attack, so we were informed, is indeed at dusk or dawn, for at these times 
there would be little loss of the gas due to convection currents. In hot sun 
such a gas attack is said to be useless, Yet our Emperor releases her gas 
equivalent quite happily on warm, sunny spring afternoons and appears to have 
little cause for anxiety as to the effectiveness of her "attack". Obvious- 
ly there must be great wastage of the scent due to convection currents, and, 
equally obvious, the male must possess some extremely delicate mechanism 
for picking up the remaining molecules of rapidly disseminated scent. 

The agreed sites of reception in male moths are the antennae, and the 
Emperor, assembling as it does in sunshine, is possessed of very large 
antennae, feathery in shape and thereby forming a large receptive area. 
Complete amputation of both antennae leaves the male incapable of assembling, 
whereas loss of one antenna prevents him from perceiving direction. It 
appears that by balancing the number of scent molecules striking each antenna 
per second, and by turning in the direction of increased concentration, the 
male is enabled to track down the female. 


It can easily be envisaged that the male approaching up-wind will, 
should he overshoot the position of the female, land himself in a negative, 
or dead, zone, where the scent, due to the air currents will be absent. He 
must then wheel round and make a fresh ap-proach - the actual behaviour 
varying in different species. Dr. Kettlewell's excellent paper, quoted in 
the list of references, is well worth reading for fuller details of this 
fascinating process of assembling. 

Before leaving the moths of Burghfield, mention might be made of one 
further species - a relative newcomer to Berkshire, and one which would 
have delighted the eyes of such indefatigable workers as our former members 
W. Holland and W.E. Butler. 

The Pine Hawk-moth (Hyloicus pinastri.L) was, until the late 1930' s 
known only in this country from Dorset and Suffolk, A gradual spread from 
the former county then took place northwards up through the New Forest, and 
in 1944 I had the great pleasure of finding the first recorded Pine Hawks 
known from our district, A pair of these striking moths were sitting on 
a. telegraph pole a few yards south of the Berks/Hants border at Burghfield, 
Defeated by these few yards we had to wait until 1945 to record authentic 
Berkshire specimens. 

Since 1944 the moth has spread northwards and eastwards, but Burghfield 
remains one of its most favoured localities. Proof of its establishment at 
Burghfield was forthcoming during the winter of 1947/8 when a systematic 
dig around the trunks of a large number of pine trees brought to light 
several of the distinctive, large, reddish pupae a few inches below ground 
level. Indeed, the Pine Hawk has well and truly 'dug itself into' Berkshire 
and now it forms a welcome addition to the local lepidoptera list. 

Burghfield has within its bounds some interesting ponds which support 
populations of several species of dragon-fly. A number of these have been 
studied by Dr. Corbet, particularly at the celebra.ted 'fishpond' on the 
Common, and the relevant papers are given in the list of references. This 
particular pond, situated, as it is, partly on gravel and partly on clay, 
is a highly productive locality for dragon-flies. It forms a breeding site 
for the largest British species, the Emperor dragon-fly (Anax imperator. 
Leach) which may be seen hawking over the water and surrounding common from 
late May to early August. If a visit to the pond can be made early in the 
day - in other words just before dawn - then the visitor will be well 
rewarded by the sight of numbers of these beautiful insects newly emerged, 
drying their wings prior to maiden flight. Thin-bodied dragon-flies (damsel 
flies) emerge at a more respectable hour - the Large Red Damsel-fly, which 
also breeds in this pond, has its peak emergence time between 9 and 10. a.m. 
Thicker-bodied dragon-flies, such as the Emperor, take longer to harden 
than the delicate damsel-flies, and emergence generally takes place at 
night to prevent predation by birds. 

The trees and bushes in the neighbourhood of the pond provide shelter 
for many adult insects who have spent their larval existence below water. 


Many caddis-fly adults, for instance, shelter by day among the needles of 
the smaller pines and may be readily tapped out into a beating tray. By 
the same technique of beating, two of our three native species of cockroach 
may be found as they become disturbed from their hiding places at the bases 
of thick clumps of heather. 

Higher up on the heather one frequently finds the exquisite little mud 
nest of the Heath Potter Wasp (Eumenes coarctata.L). These tiny earthen pots 
often complete with neck and rim, are the work of the female wasp, who then 
provisions the nest with several very small caterpillars. Having provided 
this store of fresh food she then suspends a single egg from a delicate 
filament and the nest is sealed. On hatching, the wasp grub, still hanging 
on to its suspensory filament, takes its first meal of caterpillar. This 
unusual feeding attitude would appear to protect the grub from being crushed 
by its much larger caterpillar victims, and allow it to reach a size at 
which it can venture down among them. 

The commons of Burghfield are populated with a host of other interesting 
insects - we have had time to talk over only a few of them. 

The Burghfield of today, changed though it must be from the time of 
the Rev. Bird mentioned in our opening paragraph, is still a fascinating 
place to have so close on hand to those of us who live in Reading. Indeed 
one feels a very close link with that reverend gentleman sitting in his 
study, and by the light of his Sinumbra lamp writing - "I have for experim- 
ent's sake, sat up in the summer 'till 3 o'clock, when the whole heaven 
was bright with the rising sun, and moths of various kinds have never 
ceased arriving in succession 'till that time". 


Allan.P.B.M. "A Moth Hunter's G-ossip". Watkin & Doncaster, Welling, Kent. 

Baker. B.R. "Burghfield Common Today". Ent. Record. Vol 67, No. 2. 

Corbet. Dr.P.S. "An Adult Population Study of Pyrrhosoma nymphula" , 

Journal of Animal Ecology, Vol 21 . 206 - 222. 

"The Immature Stages of the Emperor Dragon-fly". 
Ent. Gazette, Vol 6, No. if. 

Kettlewell, Dr.H.B.D "Female Assembling Scents with reference to an 

important paper on the subject". Entom, LXXIX. 8. 


On the Local Freshwater Fishes 
by C.J. Leeke, B.Sc. 


The term "fish" is taken to mean only those aquatic vertebrates which 
breathe by gills and possess fins for locomotion. This excludes all the 
invertebrate animals to which the term "fish" is loosely applied, such as 
jellyfish, shellfish, cuttlefish, crawfish, crayfish and starfish. 

The fishes are an important group because not only do they include 
the largest class of vertebrates but also the oldest class. Thus the first 
vertebrates were fishes, known by fragmentary fossils from Ordovician 
deposits, possibly more than 400,000,000 years old and by complete 
fossils from Silurian deposits, some 300,000,000 years old, that showed 
them to be jawless. 

These original, jawless fishes, of the class Agnatha, gave rise to 
all the subsequent fishes both extinct and living and also to all the 
Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals. 

The following chart will show at once the relationship between the 
vertebrate classes and the importance of the fishes. It must be stated, 
however, that all the details of the origin of the classes are not known, 
but &hat sufficient evidence is available to indicate strongly the sources 
and approximate dates, (see chart on page 23) * 

The classification of fishes is difficult and different writers 
attach varying degrees of importance to the larger groups. The simple 
Classification, used by A.S. Romer in "The Vertebrate Body", is followed 

The four classes of fishes are worth a brief review, so that the local 
fishes may be seen in the context of their ancestry and their relationship 
to other fishes. 

Class I Agnatha 

The group, which began with the original vertebrates, is still repres- 
ented by living members. The living, jawless, round-mouthed fishes, 
collectively called the cyclostomes, are now specialised for a parasitic 
existence. Originally, it is believed that the group were filter feeders 
as indeed are the larvae of the living lampreys and hagfishes. They have 
no scales, no paired fins and the six. or more, pairs of gills have 
separate openings. Internally they differ markedly from other fishes. 


Class II Placodermi 

These were the first fishes to evolve jaws, an important develop- 
ment, which enabled them to enjoy a diet of sizeable animals that they 
could catch and bite up. Although the group itself is not known to have 
survived beyond the Permian, its descendents were provided with an 
impetus towards a development of and selection for better sensory organs 
and thence better brains. 

Class III Chondrichthyes 

This group comprises all the sharks, rays, sawfishes and dogfishes. 
The skeleton is cartilaginous, a condition which is believed now to be 
secondary and not primitive. There are five to seven pairs of gills usually 
with separate openings and a functional spiracle, used, particularaly by 
rays, as a respiratory intake to avoid taking sand from the bottom. The 
fins are fleshy,, supported by cartilaginous structures. Most members of 
the class are marine, none occur in British freshwaters. 

Class IV Osteichthye s 

The bony fishes, the largest class of vertebrates. A very important 
group becuase it was in this group that simple lungs first developed, from 
which swim bladders evolved and also the complex lungs of the terrestrial 
vertebrates developed. Early in the history of the class, it divided into 
two lines: 

(a) the Actinopterygii an enormous group containing the bulk of the 
bony fishes and all except one species of our local fishes. The name 
means "ray-finned fishes" the fins being supported on bony rays or 
spines and consisting of a web of skin. 

(b) the Choanichthyes comprising the lung fishes (Dipnoi) , 
coelacanths and other extinct forms. This group not only has members 
with lungs, but also with paired fins on short limbs or lobes, just the 
structures necessary for the development of land-going vertebrates. In 
fact the first amphibians evolved from the basal stock either in the late 
Devonian or early Carboniferous. 

All of the Osteichthyes have )+ pairs of gills opening under an 
operculum and swim bladders or lungs, unless these have been lost 
secondarily. In the chart on page 2L showing the relationship between the 
various groups of the Class Osteichthyes, the words 'palaeoniscoid', 
'ganoid', 'cycloid' and 'ctenoid' refer to the type of scale found on the 
fishes of that particular group. 

The cycloid and ctenoid scales of the teleosts are similar in being 
extremely thin and overlapping but differ in shape, the former being 
rounded whilst the latter have "teeth" and are thus comb-like. Palaeoniscoid 
and ganoid scales are usually thick and do not overlap. 















Periods and 
Note. Romer 


























PL^CODERMI (with jaws) 


I / 


X Earliest fish remains (jawless). 





dates after J.Z. Young. 

considers the Ordovician extends back to A80 million 

years , 



a Perch et 






Carp etc. 

Higher ^-^ Lower 



(Polyp terus 


HOLOSTEI (ganoid) 


Paddle Pish 






















(Chart modified from 


The Local Freshwater Fishes 

There are 9 families of fishes represented in local waters and all 
except Family I "belong to the group Teleostei. 

Family I Petromyzontia (Order Hyperoartia, Class Agnatha) 

A mass spawning of lampreys, in the Holy Brook, was observed by Lir.B.R, 
Baker. So far as I know, fishes have neither been taken with lampreys 
attached, nor with scars of previous attachment, therefore I believe the 
species seen by Mr. Baker to be Lampetra planeri (Bloch) . This is the only 
British cyclostome that is not parasitic because, following three years of 
larval development spent inconspicuously buried in the mud where it filters 
a living, it metamorphoses into a non-feeding sexually mature adult, which 
spawns and dies soon after. 

The Families II, III and IV of this list are representatives of the 
higher teleosts, they are all characterised by the possession of spiny fins 
and ctenoid (comb-like) scales. Also, characteristically, the jbelvic fins 
are forward under the pectorals. 

Family II Percidae (Order Percomorphi, Class Osteichthyes) 

The Perch family has two local species, the perch, Perca fluviatilis.L . 
a handome fish found in most local waters including many of the isolated 
lakes and ponds. 

This species has two dorsal fins, the anterior one being supported on 
erectile spines, the posterior one with soft, branching rays. A well-coloured 
specimen will be dark green above, yellowish on the sides and white below, 
whilst across the yellow it will have about five black bands and the paired 
fins will be red. 

A carnivorous fish, it feeds on other fishes and will take worms. I 
have seen a small perch swimming alongside a shoal of fry and, without 
disturbing the shoal, quietly picking them off one by one. The largest 
perch caught by rod e.nd line was recorded at 5 lbs. 15 ozs. 6drms. , but may 
have weighed 6 lbs. as the scales were later found to be inaccurate. While 
several specimens have been recorded over 5 lbs., they are not common. A 
perch over 3 lbs is considered a good one. It is possible, that under ideal 
conditions, that specimens of 10 lbs. occur, but, so far, none has been 
authenticated in the records of rod-caught fish. 

The other species of this family, found in local waters is the ruffe 
or pope. Acerina cernua (L ) . .an insignificant fish by comparison with the 
perch, it rarely exceeds 8 inches in length and a few ounces in weight. It 
is brownish in colour with darker speckles and the two dorsal fins are 
joined. A carnivore, the ruffe feeds on any small animals it can find. Both 
the perch and the ruffe have teeth in the mouth. 


Family ; III Cottidae (Order Scleroparei Class Osteichthyes) 

Only one species of this family occurs locally, the bullhead, Cottus 
gobio.L. , known in olden times as the 'miller's thumb' because of its 
broad, flattened head, -An extremely spiny fish, all fins except the tail 
are supported by spines and there are also spines on the operculum. 

The scale-less skin is brownish, splashed with darker brown, which 
makes the fish difficult to see as it lies on the bottom and since it 
often burrows under stones it is more often overlooked than seen. It feeds 
on small fishes and other small forms of life which it seizes in a quick 
dash from its hiding place. 

Family IV Gasterosteidae (Order Scleroparei Class Osteichthyes) 

The two species from this family occurring locally are very well known. 
They are the three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus L , and the ten- 
spined stickleback Pflgosteus pungitius (L) . 

. The anterior dorsal fin is reduced to a series of erectile spines, the 
number giving the species its common name. The pelvic fins, well forward 
under the pectorals, are reduced to single spines. 

In both species the number of scales is much reduced, a few scutes or 
plates occur along the side of the body. Gasterosteus builds a nest at 
the bottom of the stream whilst Pygosteus builds in water plants off the 

Both species are noted for the breeding colours of the males. In the 
former the breast becomes scarlet while the latter becomes jet black. In 
spite of their small size, rarely more than two inches in length, their 
pugnacity during the breeding season is well known. 

The following families (V, VI, VII, VIII and IX) belong to the lower 
teleosts and are the ray-finned fishes, that is the fins are supported by 
soft, branched rays. Occasionally the first ray of the dorsal fin is 
replaced by a spine. The scales are cycloid. 

Family V Salmonidae (Order Isospondyli Class Osteichthyes) 

The whole family can be recognised by the small, fleshy, dorsal or 
adipose fin, without rays, whichis situated posteriorly to the typical 
rayed fin. No other British family has this adipose fin, therefore its 
presence is a sure identification of the family. 

The trout Salmo trutta L . occurs in many varieties to which some 
writers attribute specific status. However, no anatomical differences can 
be found, therefore it is probable that there is only one species and that 
different habitats and, in particular, different feeding are having their 
effects on the appearance of the fish. Given sufficient time, the varieties 
might well become true species especially as many of them are geographically 


Trout are sometimes taken in the Thames and Kennet, but are by no means 
common and it is possible that these fish are wanderers from privately 
stocked waters. Some of these fish however, may spawn in higher reaches of 
the Thames and its tributaries. The river Pang and some enclosed waters 
in that area are stocked with trout by the owners of the fishing rights. 

The trout and its relative, the grayling, thrive in fast flowing, chalk 
streams. They both require water of high purity and high oxygen content. 

The size of trout varies enormously from water to water. Many of the 
smaller streams are fortunate if they can boast trout of two pounds, yet in 
the larger lakes of England and lochs of Scotland it is possible that they 
reach fifty poiind. The record rod-caught fish weighed 39^ lbs and was 
taken in Loch Awe. 

The grayling Thymallus thymallus (l) a beautiful fish with a long, 
backward pointing dorsal fin with colourful stripes, occurs in some reaches 
of the Holy Brook. Its distribution in England coincides with the 
distribution of the monasteries. It was probably introduced by the monks, 
who knew the culinary virtues of this fish. 

While, in general, members of the Salmonidae are autumn spawners, the 
grayling spawns in the spring from March to May. The record weight for 
grayling is 7 lbs. 2ozs. , but a 2 lb. or better, fish is reward enough. 

Family VI Esocidae (Order Haplomi Class Osteichthyes) 

The pike Esox lucius L. is the sole species of this family in local 
waters. A fish-eater with very prominent teeth set in long jaws, the pike 
is easily recognised by its torpedo shape and the rounded dorsal and 
ventral fins positioned well back beyond the jbelvics. A well camouflaged 
fish with green back and sides marked irregularly with darker bands and 
blotches, it waits very still and invisible in the shelter of water plants, 
making sudden dashes to catch its prey. 

As with the trout, larger waters generally produce bigger fish. A fish 
above 10 lbs is a fair one, above 20 lbs a very good one. The best for the 
Thames is 29§- lbs while the record for England is 31 2 lbs, the latter was 
taken from the Hampshire Avon, a very prolific water. The Irish lakes 
hold the record for the British Isles with a 53 lb. specimen. Larger fish 
have been reported but not properly authenticated. In Ireland, with the 
accent on salmon and trout, pike are not heeded, nevertheless, several fish 
above A0 lbs and many above 30 lbs have been taken. 

Family VTI Anguillidae (Order Apodes Class Osteichthyes) 

The eel Anguilla anguilla (L ) may be recognised by its snake-like 
shape, lack of pelvic fins, apparent lack of scales (actually they are 
very small and deeply embedded in the thick skin) and the long dorsal and 
ventral fins meeting at the tip of the tail. 


This is the only local representative of its family. It will eat any dead 
or moribund fish or other animal remains. A slimy fish, it is able to 
travel overland from one water to another, usually at night assisted by 
the dew. It may not reach sexual maturity until 20 years old. Eels have 
appeared in very old records above ■@0 lbs, and, more recently, on'fl6§- lbs 
was netted. The record rod-caught specimen weighed &§■ lbs. 

The eel is considered a delicacy but few are angled for, most being 
taken by basket traps set at weirs. Many of the eels used for food in this 
country are imported from Holland. 

Family VIII Cobitidae (Order Ostariophysi Class Osteichthyes) 

The stone loach, Nemacheilus barbatula (L ) is the only species of this 
family found locally. It has been found in a stream at Pinge Wood and also 
in the Pamber Forest brook. It is a small, slim fish about 3 or if inches 
long, without scales and with 6 barbels around the mouth. Its brown 
blotched colour and a habit of hiding under stones makes it very inconspic- 

The loach often dashes about in an excited manner in thundery weather, 
earning it the name of 'weather fish' . It also has the interesting habit 
of gulping air, which it passes through its intestine where respiration 
occurs j this it does when the oxygen content of the water is low. While 
intestinal respiration is not uncommon amongst aquatic animals, it is 
usually done by passing in a current of water. 

Family IX Cyprinidae (Order Ostariophysi Class Osteichthyes) 

There is one dorsal fin and the pelvic fins are situated well back 
from the pectorals on the ventral surface. There are no teeth in the mouth, 
mastication occurs in the pharynx by means of protuberances on the hyoid 
arch. In the breeding season the males develop white tubercles on the head 
and may adopt special breeding colours. 

This large family has M+ local species, which are abla to 
inhabit waters varying from muddy ponds to fast-flowing clear streams. 

The carp, Cyprinus carpio.L . occurs in three varieties :- 
the common carp normally scaled, one with a few, large scales dotted about 
along its sides called the mirror or king carp, and a scaleless variety 
called the leather carp. 

This species is the lake or pond fish par excellence. It has a 
reputation for being very cunning and difficult to catch, which is borne 
out by angfeB 1 experience. However, many large carp have been taken and 
the present British record is a common carp of i+4 lbs which is now in the 
London Zoo Aquarium. A carp of 10 lbs or over is a fair one and one of 20 
lbs or over is one to remember. 

Carp may be recognised by the long dorsal fin, short ventral fin and 
four barbels. 


The crucian carp, Carassius carassius (L ) , is a much smaller species, with 
a less deeply forked tail. Seldom exceeding 3 lbs in weight, the cruoian 
carp also differs from the common carp in having no barbels. The rod record 
crucian carp weighed i+. lbs.11ozs. 

The related goldfish, Carassius auratus (L) , may be included here since 
it has been introduced into the lake at 'California' where it may be 
fished for along with other carp and tench. Thi3 fish resembles the crucian 
carp but has a more deeply forked tail. 

The roach, Rutilus rutilus (L ) , is perhaps the most common species of 
this family, occurring in most rivers and many lakes and ponds. A fairly 
deep-bodied fish, dark green above, with silvery sides and reddish fins, it 
is a popular fish with anglers. A 2 lb. fish is considered a specimen but 
the record stands at 3 lbs. 14 ozs. 

The rudd, Scardinius erythrophthalmus (L ) is very similar to the roach 
but tends to be deeper-bodied and more brightly coloured, with a definite 
golden sheen on its sides. It can be distinguished by its protruding lower 
jaw, (the roach has a receding lower jaw) , and by the position of the dorsal 
fin posterior to instead of level with the pelvic fins. The record is Albs. 

Both of these fish will feed not only on small molluscs, crustaceans, 
annelids and insect larvae but also on vegetable matter. The roach, in 
particular will feed on silk weed, a green, filamentous alga that grows on 
submerged walls, piers etc.. 

The dace, Leuciscus leuciscus (L) , is a small, active, silvery fish, 
found in flowing water often where there is a strong current. It takes 
insects at the surface, but larger specimens will feed at the bottom as 
well. A 11b dace is one to remember as it has extraordinary fighting 
qualities. The heaviest rod caught specimen v/eighed 1 lb. 8ozs. 12 drms. 

The ohub Leuciscus cephalus.Day . , which may be confused with the dace, 
particularly when young, is a heavier built fish with a broa.der head and 
larger scales. The fins tend to be reddish except the caudal fin which is 
blue. A sure diagnosis is the shape of the dorsal and ventral fins, concave 
in the dace and convex in the chub, hence the angler's tag "dented dace and 
curved chub" • 

The record chub was 101b. 8oz., but a five pounder is a good one. A 
great variety of baits is taken by chub including elderberries, cheese, 
bread, worms, crayfish, frogs, artificial spinners and flies. It is 
reasonable to assume that it will eat anything that moves near it. 

The minnow, Phoxinus phoxinus (L) , rarely exceeds k- inches in length 
and is an active fish of shallow waters. It feeds on small crustaceans 
and vegetable matter such as algae , and will also take insects and their 
larvae. A colourful little fish, with a golden gleam along its sides 
broken by dark patches. Its body is thick, the head rounded, the tail 
slim and the caudal fin deeply forked. 


The five fishes, dace, chub, roach, rudd and minnow have all been 
included in the genus Leuciscus by the anatomist Day, but the genera 
Phoxinus , Rutilus and Scardinius are still generally recognised although 
the genus Squalius for the chub is not generally used today. 

The barbel, Barbus barbus (L ) , is reckoned? next to the pike, to be 
the finest coarse fish for angling purposes. Many an angler has struck a 
barbel and been convinced it was the bottom, so powerful are the larger 

A bottom-loving fish, the barbel is often found in large shoals in 
the tails of weirs, where it snaps up the many delicacies brought to it 
by the stream. It will take insect larvae, particularly caddis larvae, 
worms, crustaceans and such as cheese, bread paste and so on, and 
there is even one record of a barbel taking a dry-fly at the surface. 

The record for barbel is 1lflb 6oz; three specimens have been recorded 
at this weight. The biggest barbel angled weighed 161b. It was caught 
in the Lea in 1880, but for some reason is not recognised. The general 
colour of this fish is a rich brown with white ventral surface. It has 
2f barbels and a ventral, crescent-shaped mouth. 

The gudgeon, G-obio gobio (L) , resembles the barbel in shape, being 
long with a ventral mouth and fairly pointed snout. It differs in having 
only 2 barbels, in having patches of dark colour which have a deep blue 
sheen, e.nd in reaching a maxajnum size of only a few inches. The largest 
recorded gudgeon weighed k- oz.Zf dm., and three specimens of this weight 
have been taken. 

This fish, like the barbel, is a bottom feeder and can be attracted 
to a particular place merely by raking over the area, whereupon it moves 
in to feed on the organisms dislodged by the rake. Like the barbel, it 
enjoys a flowing stream over a gravel bed. 

The tench, Tinea tinea (L) , gives the impression of a round fish, for 
all its fins rounded (convex) and its body is round and plump. In 
colour it is dark brown dor sally shading to green on the sides, all the 
fins are coloured and it has a small red eye. There are two barbels by 
the slightly ventral mouth. 

This fish is found in most of the enclosed waters of the area, where 
it feeds in the mud which it churns over to find the organisms on which 
it feeds. These include annelids such as Tubifex, molluscs, insect larvae 
and even the mud with, no doubt, a vast flora and fauna cf protozoa, 
flagellates, diatoms and bacteria. 

The record weight for tench is 8lb. 8oz, A lethargic fish, it 
requires much patience to hook one, and then much skill to land it, in 
view of the habitats it delights in, which are usually overgrown with 
aquatic plants and further encumbered by fallen branches of bordering trees 
or the roots of willows. 


The "bleak, Alb u rnus alburnus (L) , is a lively, .urface-feeding fish, 
its oblique jaws and dorsal mouth point to this. A small slender fish 
that swims rapidly, taking aquatic insects as they hover over the water, 
or any edible morsel that enters the surface waters, it is a pest to anglers 
because of its small size and willingness to take bait offered for more 
worthy quarry. 

Superficially like the dace it can be distinguished from that fish by 
the mouth (terminal in the dace) and the long ventral fin (much shorter in 
the dace). It is anatomically similar to the sprat. 

Yftiile no one yet has begun large-scale canning of bleak, there is an 
industry associated with this fish. Some six thousand bleak provide enough 
scales for the extraction of 1 lb. of a substance used in the manufacture 
of artificial pearls. This substance is contained in the iridiocytes of 
the scales, which give the fish its flashing, silvery appearance. 

The two species of bream are, I believe only found in the Thames and 
not in other local waters. Both are very much laterally compressed. The 
first of these, the common bream. Abramis br am a (L) , is a deep-bodied fish 
with a long ventral fin and a deeply forked tail, the lower part of which 
is much longer than the upper. 

It lives in deep "holes", where the current is steady rather than 
fast, feeding on the bottom. It will bask near the surface in worm weather 
returning to the bottom for feeding or if disturbed. 

A large bream weighing 17 lb. was found dead, but the angling record 
is 13 lb. 8 oa. 

The silver bream, Blicca b joem k a (L ) , is a very similar fish in 
shape but not in size, the record weight being only 4- lb. 8 oz. It is 
difficult to separate small common bream from silver bream, apart from 
colour, which is very often of doubtful value. The only other obvious 
difference is the 3 unbranched rays in the ventral fin of the silver bream. 

The identification of the local Fishes 

This is considerably simplified by the limitation of the field to 
only 25 species. Whereas a zoologist might require scale counts, fin-ray 
counts e.nd possibly a dissection in order to identify a fish from the vast 
array of species that exist, it is possible for an experienced angler, who 
knows his local fish, to identify them offhand with accuracy. 

The angler, hcv. r ever, might have to call in a zoologist to carry out 
his counts etc. , if he encounters a hybrid. Owing to the manner of external 
fertilisation, many hybrids could arise where more than one species are 
spawning together. 

All fishes submitted for record purposes must be properly authenticated , 
which is carried out by an expert. 

The weights I have quoted are from a list published by "Angling Times" 
1 6th December, 1955- 


PERCH (Perca fluviatilis.L) 

Pectoral fin 

Pelvic fin 

Ventral fi 

_ Operculum 

Lateral line 

Spiny dorsal 

Rayed dorsal 

- Caudal fin 


Scale counts are taken along the lateral, line and across the body. 
Fin rays are counted in dorsal and ventral fins. The length of the dorsal 
and ventral fins is indicated by the arrows in the diagram. Obviously the 
size of the scales and length of fins is closely related to scale and ray 

During growth, scales and fin-rays become enlarged but do not increase 
in number, therefore determination counts are constant for the species. 

it. simple key for identifying the fishes of the Reading area 

(hybrids excluded) 

No paired fins 

1 pair of paired fins (pectorals) 

2 pairs of paired fins (pectorals & pelvics) 

Dorsal fins (2) separate, both spined 
Dorsal fins (2) separate, first one spined 
Dorsal fins (2) joined, first one spined 

3 separate spines anterior to rayed dorsal 
10 separate spines anterior to rayed dorsal 
Dorsal fins (2) one rayed, one adipose 
Dorsal fin (1) rayed 

3 Salmonidae - rayed dorsal short 

- rayed dorsal long & striped 

2f Rayed dorsal well back behind pelvics 
(confirm prominent teeth in large jaws) 
Rayed dorsal never very much behind pelvics 
(confirm no teeth in mouth) 

5 6 barbels round mouth 

i). or less barbels round mouth 

6 Dorsal fin long, ventral fin short 
Dorsal fin short, ventral fin long 
Dorsal fin short, ventral fin short 

Lampetra planeri 
jjiguilla anguilla 

Cottus gobio 
Perca fluviatilis 
■t.cerina cernua 
Gasterosteus aculeatus 
Fygosteus pungitius 
Salmonidae 3 

Salmo trutta 
Thymallus thymallus 

Esox lucius 

Nemacheilus barbatula 




7 k- barbels round mouth 
No barbels round mouth 

7a Caudal fin slightly forked 
Caudal fin deeply forked 


Mouth opening dorsal, jaws oblique 
Mouth terminal 
8a *mterior 3 rays of ventral fin unbranched 
iill rays of ventral fin branched 





Carass ius 






Blicca b.ioernka 

Akbramis brama 




Key continued 

9 A barbels round mouth 
2 barbels round mouth 
No barbels round mouth 

9a Small scales, uniform colour, rounded fins 
Larger scales, blotched, pointed fins 

9b Dorsal & ventral fins concave 
Dorsal & ventral fins not concave 

10 Pectoral & pelvic fins red 
Pectoral & pelvic fins not red 

Barbus barbus 


Tinea tinea 
G-obio gobio 



Leuciscus leuciscus 


Lower jaw protruding & dorsal fin behind pelvics 

Lower jaw not protruding, dorsal fin level 
with pelvics 

11 Body marked with dark patches, scales minute 
Body not marked with dark patches, scales large, 
paired fins pink, dorsal & ventral fins convex 

Scardinius erythro - 

Rutilus rutilus 

Phoxinus phoxinus 

Leuciscus cephalus 


Observer's Book of freshwater Fishes. 

Pishlore . 

Study of Pishes. 

The Vertebrate Body. 

The Life of Vertebrates. 

A History of Pishes. 

A Classification of Pishes both fossil 

and recent. 

A list of record weights. 

A. Laurence Fells 
A. P. Llagri McLIahon. 
Chapman Pincher. 
Alfred Sherwood Romer. 
J.Z. Young. 
J.L. Norman. 

L.S. Berg. 
"Angling Times"