The Reading Naturalist
Published by the Reading and District
Natural History Society
Price to Non-Members
--^—^ SliilHifirT p pd Sixpen ce f
THE READING NATURALIST
No. 9 for the Year 1956 - 57
The Journal of
The Reading & District Natural History Society-
Walter. C. Fishlock, Esq.
Mrs. A. Hasker,
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
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.
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
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. ,
STATION - READING UNIVERSITY.
HEIGHT ABOVE SSA L£VEL - 148 ft.
2? r <5
Fob 2, 14 J
E. GRASS MIN.
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MAX. RAIN IN 1 DAY
LONGEST RUN OF
CONSECUTIVE RAIN DAYS
LONGEST RUN OF
CONSECUTIVE DRY DAYS
SNOW OR SLEET DAYS
DAYS SNOW LYING
THICK FOG (220 yds))
FOG 220.1100 )
DAYS OF THUNDER
DAYS OF HAIL
1 MEAN DAILY
= No gr
•mometer from Gth onwi
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.ied by M. Par;
The data refer
Logical Station except those
sunshine, which were recc
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3 Seed Trial G:
rounds, A "rain day" is a c
on which rainfall exceeds
fcure averages refer to the pe
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and the rainfal
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,
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
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
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.
£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.)
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 ts.ke 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
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
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
(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.
CRA^T SHOWING 1ELATICNSKIP BET73EN THE
PL^CODERMI (with jaws)
X Earliest fish remains (jawless).
dates after J.Z. Young.
considers the Ordovician extends back to A80 million
CH/lRT SHOWING THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE GROUPS
of the BONY PISHES
a Perch et
Higher ^-^ Lower
(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
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 ba.it 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 a.re 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
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
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-
IDENTIF1CATI0N FEATURES APPLIED TO THE
PERCH (Perca fluviatilis.L)
- 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
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
7 k- barbels round mouth
No barbels round mouth
7a Caudal fin slightly forked
Caudal fin deeply forked
Mouth opening dorsal, jaws oblique
8a *mterior 3 rays of ventral fin unbranched
iill rays of ventral fin branched
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
Lower jaw protruding & dorsal fin behind pelvics
Lower jaw not protruding, dorsal fin level
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 -
Observer's Book of freshwater Fishes.
Study of Pishes.
The Vertebrate Body.
The Life of Vertebrates.
A History of Pishes.
A Classification of Pishes both fossil
A list of record weights.
A. Laurence Fells
A. P. Llagri McLIahon.
Alfred Sherwood Romer.