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The Reading Naturalist
Published by the Reading and District
Natural History Society
Price to Non- Members
Two Shillings and Sixpence
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THE READIN G N ATURALIST
Ho. 12 for the Year 1958-59
The Journal of
The Reading & District natural History Society-
Professor H„ L„ Hawkins, D.Sc., F.R.S., F.G.S.
Mrs. Ac Pishlock,
93 f London Road,
Enid M. Helmes,
27, Westhourne Avenue,
Editorial Sub^- Commit tee
The Editor, B, R. Baker, Miss L.E. Cobb, A. Price, Mrs. A.M. Simmonds
Miss K. I. Butler, 18, Morgan Road, Reading.
B, R. Baker, Esq., flk, Berkeley Avenue, Reading.
Professor H. L. Hawkins, P.R.S., 63, Tilehurst Road,
Br. E. V. Watson, Little Court, Cleeve, Goring-on-Thames
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W.C. Fishlock 1875 - 1959
Meetings and Excursions in 1958 - 59
Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire
Haturalists 1 Trust
The Chiltern Research Committee
Meteorological Data for 1959
Annual Reports of the Honorary Recorders:
Pond Dipping in Winter
More of Wol
Some Native Medicinal Plants
Mesolithic Pine Cones
Fungi at Kingwood Common
Supplement to List of Members
WALTER C. FISHLOCK
Photograph by T. R. Street
WALTER CHARLES FISKLOCZ
1375 - 1959
For more than a quarter of a century the Reading and District Natural
History Society was privileged to have in Mr. Fishlock a benign and stimu-
lating leader. Although for the past few years his health has prevented
active participation in our activities, we were aware of his continued
interest in, and affection for, our Society. His death shortly before
Christmas took from us a personal friend as well as an outstanding figure
in the cult of Natural History. His wide experience in scientific work
and in administration brought to the Society qualities of very great value,
and his memory will be a lasting inspiration for his successors.
Mr. Fishlock v/as born at Bathford in Somerset, and although most of
his life was spent elsewhere, he delighted to revisit his home district and
to introduce to pa.rties of friends the town and country that he loved. His
parents were in humble circumstances, and the village school provided almost
all of his early education. He left school at the age of twelve, and after
two years at home started his career as a gardener's boy at Bath amp ton at
15s. a week. At that time he attended classes at the newly opened Tech-
nical School in Bath, and it was there that he became fascinated by the
scientific aspect of Botany.
In 1898, at the age of twenty- two, he decided to try his fortune in
London, and after a year of jobbing-gardening he entered the Royal Botanic
Gardens at Eew as a student-assistant in the Palm House. Here he profited
greatly from classes in Economic Botany given by J.B„ Jackson, and soon
acquired an especial interest in tropical plants. His employment shifted
to the Kensington Gardens in 1900, and in the following year the Director
of Kew Gardens offered him a post as a botanist in the Gold Coast. This he
was prepared to accept, but the medical examination overruled his desire.
This was probably fortunate for him and for us, for at that time the Gold
Coa.st was still the "Unite man's grave". He was to spend many years on the
Coast later on, but by tha.t time the study of malaria had rea.ched the stage
of at least partial control.
Early in 1902 he accepted a post with the Imperial Department of Agri-
culture for the West Indies, with the Virgin Islands as headquarters. He
thus joined the band of pioneers who introduced scientific methods into
tropical agriculture. On the journey out he visited many of the West
Indian islands, and actually called at St. Pierre in Martinique just 23 days
before the city was destroyed in the eruption of Mont Pelee on May 8th.
While in the West Indies, Mr. Fishlock took an active part in improving
the cultivation of Sugar-cane, Bananas, Sea-island Cotton and many other
tropical crops whose economic aspect was at that time precarious. His
interests were by no means limited to his professional work, for he studied
the history of the islands and the characteristics of their population. He
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had a fund of amusing stories centred on the strange "beliefs of the coloured
folk. He also, without intention, experienced end. survived a full-scle
hurricane in 1916.
In 1920 he was appointed to a more important post in the Department of
Tropical Agriculture in '.'/est x^fric:, ■ nd rea ined there until his retirement
in 1932. In that same jear he joined our Natural History Society and almost
at once became its secretary. During his twenty-one years of service in that
capacity he may he said, to have "put us on the map" as an important member of
the South-Eastern Union of Scientific Societies, This Union held two of its
annual Congresses at Reading during his period office 5 unfortunately his
failing health prevented his active participation in the 195$ meeting, he
retired from the secretaryship in 1953 > bequeathing that office to Irs. Hasher,
who, as Mrs, Fishlock, still holds it. His retirement as Secretary made it
possible for the Society to show its recognition of his services by electing
him as its President, and we had the advantage of his guidance in that
capacity for four consecutive years,
Mr, Fishlock' 3 energies were far from being restricted to his work for
our Society, for he served in the Report Centre of the A.R.P. throughout the
Second World War, in the Reading 'Food Office in 1943 > and in the University
Agricultural advisory Service from 1944 to 1948* He was a local secretary
for the Hospital Contributory Scheme for a considerable period,
Although primarily and by choice a botanist, he was an all-round
naturalist, with a wide and remarkably detailed knowledge in other fields.
He was never happier than when demonstrating natural phenomena to beginners,
and it is fitting that, through the generosity of his widow, his memory will
be perpetuated in the "Fishlock Prize" for primary school-children in Reading,
While we lament his death, we can but rejoice that we were favoured by having
him with us for so long,
H e L , H
Thanks to the willing co-operation of all concerned, and valiant last-
minute efforts on the part of some, we have not only achieved our aim
of advancing the date of publication of the "Reading Naturalist 1 ', but in
doing so have managed to produce a larger and more varied number than we had
dared to anticipate. We hope that everyone will find something of interest
in it and that the availability of members' records a season earlier than
formerly will prove useful to all.
We gratefully offer our thanks to all our contributors and advisors, to
the Director of the Museum and Art Gallery, Mr.T.L. Gwatkin, for granting
production facilities, and to those members who have given so generously of
their time in helping with the work.
We are particularly pleased to be able to include the plate of Mr.
Fishlock, which was prepared from a photograph taken by a former member at
one of the Society's field meetings at Christmas Common, and has been
presented by some of Mr. Fishlock' s friends as a token of their affectionate
esteem for him.
It is \-rith pleasure that we record that the honour of winning the
Laffan Prize for Natural History (Junior Section) this year has been shared
by two well-known members of the Society, John Hodgson and Clive Johnson.
John submitted an entry on Heathland Flora and Clive one entitled "Woodcraft
(Clues to the Wild) 1 '. Last year, Clive was the winner with his work on
Skull and Teeth Adaptations of the British Mammals and John came a very
close second with a study of Chalk Flora.
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Meetings and Excursions 1958-59
In addition to the Annual General Meeting (attended by 27 members), and
three meetings devoted to the Presidential Address, for which Professor Hawkins
chose as his subject "Water" (20) , the Honorary Recorders' Reports (23) and
Members' Exhibits (20), the winter programme included lectures by Mr. W. A.
Smallcombe on "The Costa Brava" (49) s Mr, R. Gillmor on "Bird Life in Spitzbergen",
an account of the Reading University Expedition of 1957 (46), Dr. R.D. Williams
on "Grass and the Plant Physiologist" (19 — a foggy evening), Professor C.H.
O'Donoghue on "The Biology of Jasper National Park" (40), Mr. P. Eanney on
"North of the Niger" (4l), and Professor T.M. Harris on "Ghana" (42). An
outstanding event was the visit of the Astronomer Royal, Dr. R.v.d. R. WooILey,
on December 11th, when he lectured to a joint meeting of the Society with the
Astronomers' Colloquium on "The Size of the Galaxy" (170)
The summer excursions weres- April 11th, Beenham, for plants and birds (3)
April 22nd, Ufton Nervet, for birds, plants and archeology (11)5 May 2nd,
"Green Trees", Greenliam, by kind invitation of Martin Sutton Esq., for rare
trees and shrubs (19)5 May 15th, Sheffield Bottom, for plants and geology (ll);
May 23rd, Maple durham , for spring flowers (l5)» June 3rd, evening visit to
Burghfield gravel pits for freshwater biology (30)5 June 13th, Ridgeway, for
downland plants (8)5 June 24th, evening visit to Thames-side meadows for
plants and freshwater biology (3); July 4"fch, Thatcham reed-beds, for insects
and birds (l0)? July 15th, Sulham, an evening woodland walk (8)5 July 25th,
Silchester and Pamber, for plants and insects (9)5 August 8th, Remenham, for
chalk and river plants (8)5 August 15th, Highfield Park, Heckfield, by kind
invitation of Major Stuart Black, for plants and archeology (14)? August 26th,
an evening visit to Finchampstead Ridges, for pinewoods and heather 5 September
5th, Hartslock 7/oods, for plants and birds (8)5 September 16th, Bearwood (2);
September 26th, Highmoor, for autumn colours and fungi (8)5 October 3rd,
Kingwood Common, Fungus Foray (28).
Any members with observations of general or topical interest that do not,
by their subject or nature, fall within the scope of the Reports, are invited
to submit accounts of them (typed, with double spacing, if anyhow possible,
please) for consideration for the next part of the "Naturalist" before
1st January 1961, Offers of longer articles would also be welcomed.
The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire
r ^^ turalistsj^ Tjrus t_ _________
On 14th November last 22 of our members travelled by coach to Oxford
to attend the inaugural meeting of the above Trust. Over 200 people were
present at this meeting and speakers included Air Marshal Sir Robert
Saundby (Chairman), Dr. Bruce Campbell, Dr. Max Walters, Mr. R.S.R. Fitter
and Mr. S.P.B. Mais. Among the many supporters for this venture are
seven departments of the Universities of Oxford and Reading, and nine local
natural history societies.
Since November the provisional Executive Committee has met twice and,
though much of the business has necessarily been the formation of the
"working machinery", reports of sites have already been received. In each
of the 3 counties negotiations are going ahead to determine ways and means
of preserving' these sites which we hope will become our first Trust Areas.
Professor H.L. Hawkins and Mr. W.D. Campbell are serving on the
Executive Committees as the representatives for Berkshire, Mr. D. Leatherdale
and Mr. B.R. Baker are assisting the general secretary, Mr. R.S.R. Fitter,
in the various clerical activities.
Although our Society is a subscribing member of the Trust, membership
is also open to individuals. We would hope that many of you will follow
the example of ten of our members who are individual subscribers.
It is hoped to include a new Trust brochure when summer excursion
cards are sent to members - full details of the Trust are set out therein.
Finally, come along on the evening of Friday, April 29th to the Art
Gallery - Berkshire will be holding its own public meeting and among other
speakers we have been promised a visit from Professor H.R. Hewer of Imperial
College who will illustrate his talk on "Badgers" by his own 16 mm. film.
Chilter n Research Copmi_ttee_
A meeting was held in Aylesbury Museum on 12th April 1959s a t which
it was decided to set up a Research Committee to study the problems of the
Chil terns. The four meetings held in 1959 were of an exploratory nature,
but it is hoped that serious work in the field will begin, on about six
projects, in I960. An expert on each subject will act as organiser, and
each society will have its own recorder. The following subjects have been
chosen, and two more are under considerations-
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1. Distribution of the Juniper,
how far it is regenerating
itself, and what factors are
responsible for its decline.
2. Status of the Wood lark and
3. Spread and distribution of the
4. Distribution of the Clifden
Blue Butterfly, linked with
its food plant, Horse-shoe
5. Drift Deposits
T.J.Pickvance, M.A. Mr. Leeke
Mr. B. Baker and
Mrs . Simmonds
Professor Hawkins Professor Hawkins
If any member is interested in these projects, please get in touch with
the recorders, because the R.N.H.S. is the sole representative Natural History
Society at the Southern end of the Chilterns.
The boundary of the Southern Region follows the Lower Icknield Way to
Chinnor, then to Watlington, Benson and Goring. It follows the G.W.R. main
line to Maidenhead from Goring. Our neighbours are the Middle Tliames Natural
History Society centred round Slough and Princes Risborough.
V. N. Paul
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Weather Records in 1959
Data supplied "by M, Parry
The data refer to Reading University Meteorological Station. A "rain day" is a day
which rainfall exceeds 0.01 in. The averages for temperature refer to the period
21-50, those for amount of precipitation to 1916-50, and those for number of rain
irs to 1881-1915.-
riON - READING UNIVERSITY
HEIGHT ABOVE SEA LEVEL - 148 FT.
e*i daIl? 'mat;
e^eratures, min ,
APR. "'""MAY fjUN. ; ' JuIT : AUG*.! SEP. i" OCTJ NOV. DEC. t YEAR
" T ?r:8~T-457r'-5J7ATsT:z \~65~;w~fn72ri 75~.s ' 74.5 \itt'Tt$?n 503 'T4e.4 j 66' ."0
jan7Tfeb. t 'mar,
30.7 ! 34.4; 39.4 43.2
36.3 ! 39.7J 46.4 : 50 .3
46.5 151.1 i 55.1
56.2 '61.2 j 65.3
50.3 I 46.8 | 38.4 37.4 \ 44,1
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The Recorder's Report for Botany, 1958 -39
By K. I. Butler
The nomenclature followed for the flowering plants is that of Claphain,
Tut in & Warburg in the "Flora of the British Isles" except for two species
from Dandy's "Check List of British Vascular Plants". As the botanists
tend to go further afield, the radius of the area covered is now extended
from the usual ten to a rough twenty miles from Reading. The Recorder
thanks all who have made this Report possible .
In spite of the phenomenal fine weather which broke so many records
during 1959 snd of the many observations carried out by botanists, from the
first leaf buds of Arum m aculatum L. found on January 1st to 23 species
seen in bloom near Span Hill, Henley Road, at the end of the year, there
were few botanical records of outstanding interest. Of the 596 plants,
including grasses, that she actually noted in flower during the year, Mrs,
A. M. Simmonds remarks that 559 were Berkshire species or could be found in
the neighbouring counties (Hants, Oxon, Bucks) within ten miles of Reading,
while 95 were observed within the Borough of Reading. Minor observations
by Mrs. Simmonds were the absence of flowers on Fagus sylvatica L. (Beech)
(a non-flowering year seems to occur veiy few years) and of fruits on
Pra xinus excelsior L. (Ash) and Acer campestre L. (Maple), though many
trees were examined. Professor Hawkins has commented on the extreme
abundance of fruit on Taxus baccata L. (Yew) this autumn. After last
year's success, 1959 proved rather disappointing for orchids.
To follow up the record of Miss E. Harris in 1958 of Cro cus purpureus
Weston (Purple Crocus) growing in the Inlcpen district of Berkshire, Dr.
Erith and the Recorder visited the pasture and saw the crocus growing in
great profusion and with a wide range of colour from dark purple to white.
The form alluded to by Bruce (1894) was also noted, "the inner perianth
segments beautifully veined with darker lines, the dark primary veins and
a large number of secondary ones crossing one another obliquely from the
Professor T. Harris (Reading University) has sent the following obser-
vations on Potamogeton nodosus Poir. (= P. druce i Fryer). "I have searched
the Loddon from Basingstoke to Stratfield Saye Park without finding a trace „
Then a few hundred yards below Stanford End Mill (just below Stratfield
Saye Park) it begins as a dense mass, so dense that it is hard to get a
boat through it. Below that it occurs all the way to Wargrave, but only
in abundance in water less than about 3 ft. deep and flowing fairly quickly.
This perhaps suggests that the species reached the Loddon somewhere below
Stanford End at some time and has been very slowly creeping upwards, but
that it spreads downwards with ease from broken-off bits of rhizome."
Last year Mr. A. Price introduced some members to Char a vul garis
(Common Stonewort) growing in a Burghfield gravel pit. This year he has
found, after a lapse of nearly two years, Mtell_a__trsnsluc ens , another
member of the family Characeae. It was growing in the pond near the "Three
Firs", Burghfield, probably the same pond where Bruce in 1887 saw it "filling
it to the exclusion of other aquatic vegetation."
Further Members ' Records
Equisetum telmate ia Bhrh. (Great Horsetail). Beenham, on the Society's Field
Excursion on April 11th.
Asplenium trichomanes_ L. (Maidenhair Spleenwort). On churchyard wall,
Christchurch Road, Reading (Miss L,E„ Cobb).
Helleborus foetidus L. (Stinking Hellebore) . Woodland, Whitchurch, Oxon„
Rapistrum orient ale (l.) Crantz. Rubbish tip, The ale (J. Hodgson).
Barbarea intermedia Bor. (intermediate Yellow Rocket). Tip, Theale
Melandrium noctiflor um (l) Ft. (Night-flowering Campion). Waste ground,
Pangbourne (Mrs. Hodgson) ,
Chenopo dium polyspermum L. (All-seed). Waste ground, Wargrave (Mrs. V. N„
Paul ) 5 Rus combe (Mrs. Simmonds).
Epilobium paryiflq rum Schreb. ( Small-flowered Willow Herb). Henley, Oxon.
(Mrs. Hodgson) „
Hippuris vulgaris L. (Mare's Tail). Aldermaston (j. Hodgson).
Rumex maritimus L. (Golden Bock). Rus combe Lake (Mrs. Simmonds, identifi-
cation verified by Br. Perrin of Cambridge).
Lathraea squamaria L. (Toothwort). Still grovdng on Elm at Byson's Wood,
April 26th" (Miss Cobb)$ Ashampstead Woods (Mrs. Simmonds).
L. clandestina L. (Purple Toothwort). Naturalised in Prospect Park on the
ground and on the trunk of Willow, April 24th (Miss Cobb).
Orobanche elatior Sutton (Tall Broomrape). Berkshire Downs, between White
Horse Hill and Wayland's Smithy (Miss Cobb).
Primula veris L. x vulgaris Huds. = P. x variabilis Goupil (Common Oxlip).
Chalk slope, Streatley (J. Hodgson).
Mentha x niliaca Jacq. (M. longifolia (L.) Huds, x M. rotundifolia (l) Huds.)
Highmoor, August 3rd (Miss Cobb).
M. x piperata L. (M. aquatica L. x spicata L. emend „ Huds.) var. citrata
(Ehrh.) Briq. Waste ground, Streatley (J. Hodgson).
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Ber beris vulgaris L. (Barberry). Lane leading off Lower Warren, Caversham
"(Mrs. Simmonds):; Remenham (Miss Cobb).
Artemisia absin thium L. (Wormwood) • Waste ground, Theale (Mrs. Eodgson) .
G al an thus nival is L. (Snowdrop). Iocs, Simmonds has sent the following
observations. "In a copse below Avenue Touse, Sindlesham, two plants were
seen on March 1st, each bearing a flower, and several plants without leaves.
All these plants v/ere very near the river's edge, and one speculates whether
the bulbs have been brought down by flood-water from Moor Copse a few miles
upstream. It will be interesting to see v/hether G. nivali s v/ill establish
itself in this wood if it remains unmolested."
Coeloglossum viri de (L.) x Orchis fuchsii Druce. This hybrid, found last
year on the Moulsford Downs, was considered to be in danger from grazing cows,
so was transplanted to a safer spot by Mr. D.E„ Bradley.
Gymnadenia conops ea (L.) (Fragrant Orchid). Graving in quantity again on the
Moulsford Downs, but being grazed by cows (D.E. Bradley).
Orchis si mi a Lam. (Monkey Orchid). Although this orchid is still holding its
own, it is apparently being interfered with in some way, A film of its nine
fine blooms was taken by Mr. Boggart (Bournemouth), but Dr. Erith reported
that a few days later only six flowers were found and there were obvious signs
that the plants had been disturbed. When Mrs. Simmonds and Mrs. E, R.
Blackwell visited the slope on May 20th, only two very poor specimens were
seen, even after a careful search.
0. morio L. (Green-winged Orchid). Abundant in a paddock near Kewbury? in Q
field at Russell's Water, Miss Cobb reports that both these localities were
being grazed by horses, and wonders if there is any connection between the
decrease in the orchid and the decrease in the horse population.
0. ustulata (Burnt-stick Orchid), The Downs near Ashton Upthorpe were visited
again this year, and although buds were seen early by D. E, Bradley, Mrs.
Simmonds and Mrs. Paul failed to find any flowers on June 10th,
Aceras anth ropop horum (L.) S.E. Gray (Man Orchid), The slope on which it
has been recorded since 1945 has now been completely ravaged by pigs, and no
plants were seen there this year (Mrs. Simmonds).
Lemna trisuloa L. (ivy Duckweed) and L. minor (L) (Duckweed), Both abundant
in a "ditch in Cow Lane, Reading (A, Price) .
L. polyrrhiza L. ( Great Duckweed). Abundant in Sulham ponds, although they
were nearly dry (A, Price).
Carex serotina Merat. Silchester (J. Hodgson).
C. elongata (Elongated Sedge). Wood, Aldermaston (J. Hodgson).
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C. polyphylla Kar. & Kir. Whitchurch, Oxon. (j. Hodgson).
C, laevigata Sm. (Smooth Sedge). Burghfield (Mrs. Hodgson)
Bromus commutatus Schrad. (Meadow Brome) . Wood, Aldermaston (j. Hodgson).
B. ferronii Mabille. Tilehurst Station (Mrs. Hodgson) „
B. lepidus Holmberg. Tilehurst Station; Theale tip; arable land, Alder-
maston (Mrs. and J. Hodgson).
Nardurus maritimus (L.) MutTd. This grass, listed in Dandy's Plant List, but
not yet in the majority of floras, was found near Christmas Common by Mrs.
Paul. It is characteristic of ant hills.
Horde lymus europaeus (L.) ( Hordeum sylvaticum Huds.) (Wood Barley). Bix
Bottom Wood (Mrs. Paul) .
Colutea a rborescens L. Coste (Bladder Senna). A deciduous shrub which is
naturalised on railway banks and in waste places, found by the railway, Reading
Galinsoga ciliata (Raf.) Blake. Henley Tip (Mrs. Hodgson).
Poterium polygamum Waldst, & Kit. This species, closely allied to P« san-
guisorba L. and grown for fodder, has become naturalised in field borders.
Arable land, Goring, (j. Hodgson).
Cornus stolonifera Michx. A shrub closely allied to C. san guine a L. and fre-
quently planted and naturalised. On building site (Mrs. Hodgson).
Omphalodes verna Moench Coste (Blue-eyed Mary). Whitchurch (Mrs. Hodgson).
Cannabis sativa L. (Hemp). Brought into Reading Museum from Peppard Common.
The plant had grown to a height of 8 ft , and presumably originated from waste
bird-seed (Mrs. Simmonds).
Amaranthus retroflexus L. (Green Pigwood) . Another alien plant occurring as a
casual. Sent to the Museum from Winnersh (Mrs, Simmonds); waste ground,
Pangbourne (j. Hodgson).
Datura stramonium L. (Thorn-apple), Dr. Perrin, Director of the Maps scheme of
the Botanical Society, has mentioned the widespread growth of D. stramonium,
probably due to the long dry summer. Such is the power of the press, supported
by the Ministry of Agriculture and the police, that this season it has become
Public Enemy No,l, and Reading, where it has made several appearances, has not
been immune from the scare.
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j ^_^ecor der t s Report for Entomology
1958 - 59
By B, Ro Baker, B.3c., A.M.A., F.R.E.S,
The Recorder wishes to thank the following' members for submitting re-
cords for inclusion in this reports- H.L. Bolton, A„ Price, Mrs. A. M.
Simmonds and Dr. E. V. Watson. The Director of Reading Museum has again
kindly made available the season's records kept at the Museum.
Early Appearances of Hibernators
Reading. Seven Small Tortoiseshell butterflies, Aglais
( Van e s s a) ur t i c ae (L.) were observed flying around a
f lowering shrub in Coley Avenue. A Brimstone butter-
f^/ r 9 Qonepteryx rhamni (L.), was seen later on the same
Pyestock, Hampshire. 4 specimens of the very local Dotted
Chestnut moth, Dasycampa rubi ginea (Schiff.), were taken
at sallow bloom. These hibernators were kept alive for
up to a month and a large number of fertile ova resulted.
Note s, on Individual, Insect Orders^
Order Ephemeroptera (Mayflies)
Caenis horaria (L.)„ Nymphs taken at Tilehurst Potteries,,
Ephemera daiiica Muell. ITymphs abundant at Tidmarsh Mill.
Caeni_sjnoe_sta Bengt. Nymphs taken from the Thames at Reading
on 15th May; produced imagines on the 23rd.
Ecdyonurus insignia (Eaton) • 2 male adults taken at
Caenis robj^ta Eaton. A small colony discovered in the lake
at Caversham Park. In captivity sub-imagines first
appeared on 13th July.
Order Odona,ta (Dragon-flies)
Coenagri on pu ellum (L.). A nymph taken at Whiteknight's Lake
earlier in the month emerged at this da.te
A nax imperato r Lea.ch. Many exuviae of this beautiful species
noted at Woke fie Id Common Pond.
Or the tr uni _ca ncel 1 atom (l) • A newly emerged female taken at
Queensmere Lake «
Sympetrum scoticum (Leach). Couples in tandem seen ovi-
positing at Kingsmere Lake. (Most of the Zygoptera or
Damsel-flies oviposit in tandem whereas in the Ani-
soptera - larger dragon-flies - the male releases the
- 15 *
female but often hovers near whilst oviposit ion is
in progress, (Svmpetrum therefore does not behave as
mos t othe r Anis opter ans , )
20th September Ae shna mixta Lat. Couples noted flying in tandem on the
Thames near Lit tie Johns Farm.
Order Flecoptera (S tone-flies)
28th January Taeniopteryx nebulos a (L.) ITymphs were found to be numerals
amongst Fontinalis at Caver sham Weir. Adults emerged
in the Musoma from 2nd to 7th February.
Order Neu roptera (Lacewing- flies etc.)
31st May Osmylus fulviceph alus (Scop.). This beautiful lace-wing
was plentiful on the stream in Pamber Forest.
Order Trichoptera ( Caddis-flies)
22nd March Holocentropus dubius (Ramb.). A number of the carnivorous 9
web-spinning larvae were collected at this date from
Wokefield Common Pond. The first adult emerged on
Order Lepidoptera (Butter- flies and Moths)
Wood-borin g larvae
Larvae of 3 species of clearwing moth were found during the season.
16th March Aegeria andr eniformis (Lasp.). Infested trees of
y ijmrnum I an tana were found at Hardwick, Fawley
Bottom and on Streatley Hill. Larval parasitization
was heavy but a few adults emerged from the cut stems
between 13th and 15th June.
5th April A. culiciforrais (L.). Larvae abundant in cut birch stumps
at Burghfield. Adults emerged in captivity from
4th to 14th May,
9th, 18th May A. spheciformis (Schiff.). The alders at Pamber Forest
still harbour this clearwing and larvae and pupae
were found on the dates mentioned. Adults emerged
in captivity from 23rd to 30th May.
In spite of the exceptionally fine summer migrant Lepidoptera were few in
26th September Vanessa atalanta (L.) (Red Admiral). Over a. dozen were
observed flying around ivy blossom at Calcot.
- 16 -
Macroglossa a tel l at arum (L.) (Humming-bird hawk-moth).
Several records have "been received for this attrac-
tive species %
8th August, Highgrove Street; 24th September^ Lome Street, Morgan Road;
27th September, Chester Street; 30th September, Honey-end Lane; 10th
October, a specimen was seen to fly into the Museum main door; lAth October,
Chester Street; 15th October, Reading University; 1st November, Holybrook
Lep idoptera in the R eadi nj?_AreG.
Yi/brk has continued into the fifth consecutive year on the survey of Lepi-
doptera of the marsh at ¥oolhampton, and 273 species of Macrolepidoptera
have now been recorded from this locality. Some of the interesting species
noted in 1959 a^e a s under %-
31st March and Orthosia advena (Schiff.) (Northern Drab). Several speci-
4 tii April mens on both dates.
4th June Leucania obsol eta (Hubn.) (Obscure Wainscot), Absence of
fire in the reed-bed this year had a marked influence
on this species which feeds on the leaves of Phrag-
mitG£ and pupates in reed stubble. L_»_ohj 5oJLe3il
abounded from early June until early July.
4th and 11th June Apamea unanimis (Hubn.) (Small Clouded Brindle). A few
specimens on each night.
2nd July Anticollix spar sata Treitschke (Dentated Pug). A single
example flushed from thick reed cover. Probably a
new county record.
8th, 15th end Hydraecia petas itos (jJoubl.) (Butterbur moth). Several
22nd August netted at dusk and others to mercury vapour light.
8th August Cerura hermelina (Soeze) (Poplar Kitten). First second-
brood specimen ever noted at TToolhampton.
8th August Plusia festucae (L.) (Sold Spot).
8th August Tholomiges turfosalis ("7ocke ) (Marsh Oblique-barred) .
8th iYugust Cosmia diffini s (L.) ('.Vhite-spotted Pinion).
Lepidoptera from oth er localities
23rd May Cepphis advenaria (Huebn.) (Little Thorn). Pamber Forest,
28th June Dipsosphecia scopigera (Scop.) (Six-belted Cloarwing).
Fawley Bottom, a single specimen swept from amongst
Order Coleoptera (Beetles)
(Hydr adephaga )
25th January Gyrinus urinator 111. 2 males taken in a small stream
near Burghfield Bridge.
- 17 -
Hydropo rus memnonius Nic. & H, nigrita (P.). 6 examples
of each taken in Sphag num pools at Wellington College.
Hygrotus versicolor (Schal,) . 4 from the Thames (warm
water effluent, Earley Power Station).
Hygrotus decoratus (Gyll.) & Hydroporus neglectus (Sohaum.)
Acid pond on Wokefield Common.
Ilybius ater (De G.), I. obscurus Marsh, , I. fuligin osus (F,)„
These 3 species were taken at mercury-vapour light at
Woolhampton. All had soft elytra indicating very
Ilybius subaeneus Er., 1 female, and Rant us grapii (Gyll.),
2 Coleman's Moor, Woodley.
Ilybius gut tiger (Gyll,), Upwards of a dozen in a Car ex
Ilyb ius aenescens Thomson. In Sphagnum , Kingsmere.
Gyrinu s marinus Gyll, In an artificial lake, Caversham Park,
Agabus af finis (Payk,), Upwards of a dozen in a Carex
swamp at Heath Pond,
Orectochilus villosus (Muell,). Sul Stream near Sulham
Church, 2 males,
Dytis cu s circu mcinctus Ahrens.
Cow Lane, Reading, 2 males,
The Recorder's Rep ort of Ornithology
By E. V. Watson, B.Sc,, Ph.D.
This Report covers the period from October 31st, 1958 until October
31st, 1959. It is subdivided into fewer parts than usual, namely (l) Winter
bird life! (2) Arrival and departure of summer visitors 5 (3) Passage migrants.
Spring and Autumn; (4) Rare visitors? (5) Miscellany, The response from
members of the N.H.S, has been even more disappointing than in previous years;
indeed contributions have been almost non-existent. This account owes some-
thing to the pages of the Reading Ornithological Club Report for 1958 > which
has been the source of several interesting records for the period November -
December, 1958. This debt is gratefully acknowledged. I am also deeply
indebted to Mr, Robert Gillmor who has most kindly put at my disposal a long
series of his own observations for 1959* These, together with my own
scattered records, are the main basis for the present Report,
1. Winter bird life
The prevailing duck reached the customary high numbers on local waters
quite early in the winter, records submitted by R.O.C members and included
- 18 -
in their 1958 Report revealing, for example, 150 - 160 Mallard on Whiteknights
Lake on November 16th., 90 Wigeon at Bullae rshe on December 23th, some 70 Tufted
duck on each of the three waters, Burghfield, Bulmershe and Theale "Hew pit"
during December, and about 100 Pochard at Burghfield and at Theale in this
month. After midwinter even higher figures were attained and Mr. Gillmor
reports a record high figure, of 120 Tufted duck and 250 Pochard on Theale "New
pit" on January 25th 1959.
Among other winter birds gulls are always prominent in this district,
ch'-fly of course the Black-headed gull. At Cleeve on the coldest days of
February one could see a few Common gulls and an occasional Herring gull
associating with the Elack-heads. Of considerable interest is H. M. Dobinson's
record (see R.O.C Report) of 2 Greater black-backed gulls over Sonning Common
on December 9th 1958.
Prom Mr. J. E.G. Sutton came the record of a Short-eared owl picked up dead
near Aston Upthorpe on December 17th. This is a species to be expected over
the Downs in hard weather.
Among the smaller birds, no outstanding finch records have come in from
the habitual winter flocks of stackyards, stubble and beechwoods. In this
last, one can look so often at the numerous Chaffinches without detecting a
Br ambling, Mr. D. G. Bradley's record of Hawfinches, 5 to 8 in number, at
Aldermaston Court in December, is of interest, however, since this decideifly
local species is all too infrequently seen, John Richards reported (to the
R.O.C.) some 60 Pied 7/agtails at Manor Farm on December 18th and Mr. H. T.
Randolph recorded a Grey Wagtail on the lawn of St, Mary's Vicarage on December
27th, This species can often be seen about central Reading during the 7/ inter,
especially where water is to be found. The Stonechat, none too common nowadays
in the district, was seen by Mr, Sutton at Aston Upthorpe on December 17th and
by me at South Stoke on January 25th, I v/as fortunate to see both Greater and
Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in the same wood at Cleeve on February 1st, On the
following day there v/ere about 50 Goldfinches feeding on alders beside White-
knights Lake, and on February 10th a small flock of about 12 were on the
birches at the back of St. David's Hall on the University Main Site. It is
in my experience unusual to see them there. The Cirl Bunting sang in my
garden at Cleeve throughout December,
2, A rrival and de partur e of summer visitors
On the whole, many species tended to come into the country early and
there is little doubt that the fine warm weather over much of Southern England
on April 4th was marked by a major influx of migrants, Down in Somerset over
that weekend, I had noticed that Chiff chaffs had come in strength by April 5 th
and Willow Warblers too had arrived. Meanwhile on this date (April 5th) Robert
Gillmor was recording the first Willow Warblers in several places, the first
Sedge Warbler (Aldermaston) , the arrivals of Redshank at Sonning Eye and at
Manor Farm, Yellow V/agtail at Manor Farm and Swallow at Theale "Hew pit" . I
observed some of these sane species when I visited Manor Farm on April 9th,
Linnets had returned to my garden as a breeding species by April 11th end on
- 19 -
April 12th Mr, Gillmor noted Whitethroat singing at Aldermaston gravel pit.
After this the influx tended to be slaved down and one had the impression
that some of the later migrants were behind rather than ahead of time. I
heard no Blackcap e.nd saw no Whitethroat before April 22nd. The Turtle
Dove had returned to Collins 3Cnd woods on May 4th, -- n( i on May 5th a second
brilliantly fine, still morning, Swifts had come in strength to the London
Road - Watlington Street area, Mrs. Fishlock reported them from the former
and I met with them in the latter street.
Departures are notoriously harder to observe than arrivals and notes
under this head are few, Mr, Gillmor records what was presumably a post-
breeding Lesser Whitethroat in Northcourt Avenue on July 3rd and I had a
similar experience of a Blackcap persistently "ticking" in my garden at
Cleeve on August 6th. Of some interest are Mr. Gillmor' s records of a
juvenile cuckoo which was seen about Manor Farm at various times from July
29th until August 17th. Mrs. Fishlock noted that Swifts left on August 5th,
but Mr. Gillmor met with late excmples at Manor Farm on the 17th of that month.
My own last date for House Martin, Swallow and Ghiffchaff was October 7th, but
this will doubtless have been far surpassed by others, especially in view of
the prolonged warm weather experienced throughout most of October.
Passage migrants, Spring arai Autumn
Easily the most favoured spot for passage waders now is Theale "New"
gravel pit, and many of the better records are from there. It has a spit
of wet sand and gravel not unlike that which existed some years ago at
Burghfield, but now exists there no more. The outstanding spring record at
Theale was an Oyster Catcher recorded by Mr, Gillmor on April 23rd, The
same observer also noted Common Sandpiper at Burghfield on April 5th and
Green Sandpiper at Manor Farm on April 22nd. I saw the latter at Theale
"New pit" on April 19th. Records on the whole were much more numerous and
exciting on the return passage, from late July until early September. All
these are Mr, Gillmor's records s 3 Wood Sandpipers at Manor Farm, August
llth-18th; records of up to four Curlew from Theale "Old pit", Theale "New
pit" and Manor Farm, on dates from August 8th - 25thj Greenshank, up to
three, at Theale "New pit" on August 23rd and other dates up till September
4th 5 one Oyster Catcher on August 12th at Theale "New pit"; finally, 2 to
3 Dunlin at Manor Farm, July 30th - August 2nd and up to 6 at different times
at Theale "New pit" between August 3rd and 15th. This is an impressive series
Turning to gulls and terns, one may say again that the return passage
gave the better results, although 3 Lesser Black-ba,cked gulls on April 9th at
Sonning were of course Spring pa-ssage migrants. Nobody ha,s reported any
Spring terns to me but Mr. Gillmor has notes of 3 species, on return passage,
all at Theale "New pit". They were Little Tern, 2, August 2nd., Common Tern,
2, August 9th and 1, August 14th s and Black Tern, 1 on August 25th, In general
we are apt to see more of this la,st species on the upward journey during May.
As regards small passerine birds on passage through our area, Theale
afforded Mr, Gillmor several Wheatear records, 4 on April 25th on the Spring
- 20 -
journey and 1, August 8th, 6, August 23rd, and 2, September 5th, on the return
passage. Two were on Sonning Golf Course on August 6th. I noticed 2 Whin-
chats along Gatehampton Road, Goring, on September 1st and a Redstart in bushes
flanking one of the fairways on Streatley Golf Course on September 3rd.
A count of Coots on Burghfield gravel pit on September 5th resulted in a
figure around 160, and it seems possible that this normal inhabitant of that
water may have had its population "swollen" by individuals on passage.
All the above records add up to but a smattering of what might be detected
if half a dozen keen observers set out to make a really thorough watch between
late March and late May and again from late July until mid-September, There
is very little doubt that a tremendous wealth of birds, some belonging to very
uncommon species which breed nowhere locally, pass through our district in
Spring and Autumn,
In truth one or two of the passage waders recorded in the last section
could have been placed here, but it was convenient to treat them all together.
This is particularly true of the Oyster Catcher *" and to a lesser extent of
the Wood Sandpiper.
The rare species which eclipsed oil others for the year under review was
the Ring-necked duck, which was seen by many observers, for a period in all of
about a week, after it had first been detected by Mr. J.T.R, Sharrock on April
19th. It was seen at various times on both The ale "New" and Burghfield gravel
pits, and was last observed by Mr. D. Bradley at Englefield on April 27th, A
full account of this, the second British and third European record of a duck
that is a native of North America has been published (Sharrock & Gillmor,
British Birds, vol. 52, pp. 427-30, Dec. 1959). I owe to Miss R. Amphlett my
view, on the afternoon of September 13th, of another exciting rarity in the
Reading area, namely an Osprey which appears to have frequented Whiteknights
Park Lake for several days. The bird was examined in some detail by Mir.
Gillmor who writes that it was judged to be a juvenile on account of its very
bright, clean appearance, "scaly" back and the fact that the breast-band was
less clearly defined than, the textbooks suggest it should be in an adult.
Two other unusual duck were a Common Scoter at The ale "New pit" on April
25th (R. A. P. Gillmor) and a She Id Duck at Burghfield gravel pit on April 19th,
The summer was said to be a particularly good one for Hoopoes in Britain
and I received a reliable report of 2 seen at close quarters on more than one
f- Note. Only about 12 records for Berkshire up to time of publication of
"An Annotated List of the Birds of Berkshire", by W. B. Alexander,
- 21 -
occasion in late May by Mrs. W. ¥„ Skinner and her daughter, of Hayfields,
Lower Basildon. The birds were studied on the lawn of the Skinners' home.
My own early morning visit to that address, however, proved unrewarding but
I have no reason to doubt the correctness of this identification. To end
this list of rarer birds, one may refer to a Water Rail that was picked up
dead on the permanent way near Goring on September 8th and was kindly passed
to me by Mr. Arthur Green of Cleeve. It was in excellent condition and was
duly presented to Reading Museum.
Under this head I would refer to an interesting document that I received
through the kindness of Mrs. Fishlock, It was a list of 50 species of "birds
that had been seen by the gardener at Highfield Park, Heckfield in his own
small garden of 30 x 25 yards. Whilst quite impressive, the list contained
no outstanding rarity and unfortunately a letter to the author of "the docu-
ment, querying one or two points, elicited no reply.
Mrs. A. M. Simmonds reports having visited the Heronry near Coley Park
on March 15th, and found 17 nests. Nine birds were seen talcing off from
the nests. When Mrs. Simmonds last examined this site (on an island in the
Holy Brook) there were 11 nests, but in that Spring, 1956, 6 further nests
had been built in Turkey oaks near by.
At dusk on July 2nd Mrs. Simmonds saw a Longeared Owl on the Pair Mile
(Berkshire Downs). When it alighted she had a good view of its strongly
marked face and erect ear tufts.
- 22 m
Pond D ipping in Winter
By A. Price
During the winter of 1957/8 and the winter period January-February
1959 I regularly visited ponds and ditches in and around Reading, Berks.,
and Kidwelly, Carms. Records were kept of the creatures observed (with a
bias towards water beetles) and of some of the conditions under which they
A careful study of my records has made it clear that much more precise
data must be recorded in future, e.g. air temperatures and water temperatures,
especially under ice.
Our knowledge of how water creatures spend the winter is incomplete and
it is hoped that these records and observations will add a little to that
Six visits were made to ponds and ditches which were covered by ice
and brief notes are included on these visits. Frequent visits were also
made during cold weather when no ice was present, and a few visits were made
on the occasional sunny days.
A list of the beetles, molluscs, and leeches seen on these visits in
an active condition is given at the end of this pap>er.
Vij3its_ to Ice-c overed jPpnds
November 24th 1957. Sulham Ponds
The ponds were frozen but the thickness of ice was unspecified in my
records. Under the ice two species of ^tiscus. were taken, viz. D. semisul-
catus Muell, and D. marginalis L. Other beetles seen vere Agabus bipustul-
atus (I,), Eyphydr us ovatus (L.) and Lac c gjjh il .us_ mi nut ;ua (L.)
In addition to the beetles , bugs were active and Cyclops , water fleas,
and Chironomus larvae were plentiful. Diatoms were found and some rotting
leaves of Potamogeton natans,
December 1st 1957. Tilehurst Potteries
The water was covered by ■§• in, of ice. Most of the beetles were found
in the grassy verges of the pond. In addition to one specimen of
D, circumflexus ?., eleven other species of beetle were recorded. Bugs
generally were plentiful and Ranatra linearis (L.) was found in fair numbers,
Corixids could be seen swimming actively under the ice.
-- 23 -
There were good numbers of Copepods and Daphnia. The Desmid,
Closterium , was seen on some algae. One frog, Rana temporaria , was fished
up in a reasonably active condition from the mud at the bottom of the pond.
January 12th, 1958. Sulham Pond s
A quarter of an inch of ice covered these ponds 5 the day was cold
following upon a sharp frost. The beetles seen weres L. minutu s,
Acilius sulcatu m L., Colymbetes fu scus (L.), Agabus nebulosus Forster,
A. bipustulatus , and liygrobia her manni F,
Not one eta obliqua Gall, and IT. glauca L. were fairly abundant and very
The microscopic organisms taken weres Canth o campus , Cyclops , Vorticella,
and a few diatoms.
January 26th 19 58. Wokefield Common Pond.
The water was covered by two inches of ice following a week's severe
weather^ 26th January was a mild day with, fine rain.
The main object of this visit was to establish in what condition the
Stonewort, Nitella transJLucens , overwintered. This alga had been found
there during the summer of 1957 • It 1ffas found on 26th January to be
flourishing under 3 ft. of water.
Three species of beetle were found, Acilius sulcatus, C. fuscus, and
H. hermanni P. Dragon-fly and damsel-fly nymphs were active and abundant .
The following larvae were also plentiful! caddis fly, Chaoborus and Sialis .
Microscopic life included the Desmid, Closterium , the diatom, jjavicul a,
Cyclops, and C ^an t_hp_campus, whilst water fleas were quite abundant,
January 18th 1959 « Little John's Farm, Reading
Two inches of ice was found on this ditch which in summer is covered
with Frogbit ( Hy dr ch ar i s morsus-r gna e L.) and Bladder-wort ( Utricularia
vulgari s L,), Turions of both these plants ?/ere dredged from the mud at the
bottom of the ditch.
Two species of the water beetle HydropOrus , H. palustris (L.) and
H. dor sal is (P.), and two species of HalipluS j Hj^^ufi oolli^ DG, and
H^_ 1 ine at oc oil i s Mar sham, were found.
Six species of water snail were found under the ice, -viz., Planorbis
co me us L. 9 P. carinatus Muell., P. cont o_rtus_ L., Limnaea stagnalis L.,
L. pereger Muell . and Physa f ontijial_is_ L,
Janua ry 25th 1959. Woke fie Id Common Pon d
This pond was covered by 1§ in, of ice and the water level was three feet
above the normal. Owing to this flooding the fauna taken was not very varied.
Only one species of beetle was taken, jffierus. cl ayic ornis DG. V/ater fleas
were abundant and one female smooth newt, ^^u^^J^^l^aris, in a fairly active
condition, was captured under the ice.
Hibernatin g B eetle s
Beetles were found hibernating in two places.
1. Tidmarah Mill tail race. November 24th 1957.
Many specimens of Plat ambu s macul a tus^ (L.) were found under flat stones
in the stream. They were torpid and swam away very slowly when disturbed.
2. Tilehurst Potteries. February 9th 195 B
Under some wet coconut matting just out of the water, on clay, two
species of beetle, Rantus pulver osus (Stephens) and Agabus ne bulosus, were
found hibernating. The;/" were not very active v/hen disturbed.
Partial H ibernation
Sunny days in winter bring out the Gyrinus beetles.
1. Salt Rock Farm, Carms. On December 31st 1957 » on a bright sunny day, I
saw some forty specimens of Gyj^inus. gyrating on the surface of a slow flowing
ditch. The few specimens I examined were all G. natator (L.)
2, Mynydd Y Garreg, Cams. On January 3rd 195 9 » on a quarry lake some
500 feet above sea level, I saw a large mixed swarm of G. minutus F. arid
G. nata tor actively gyrating. The day was fair with weak sunshine.
Frozen Frog_ Sp awn
After earlier sunny weather had beguiled the frogs into emerging from
hibernation, we had severe frosts about 8th-9"th March 1958. The result was -
dead frogs and frog spawn frozen into the surface of the ditches of Collier's
Clay Pit, Reading. Some of this frozen frog spawn was taken to school and
to my amazement tadpoles emerged to develop later into frogs.
- 25 -
A list of the Molluscs
Beetl es, and Leeches f o^&_iji_an_ active
dorsal is (P.)
- 26 -
macula tus (L.)
24.11.57 and 1.2.59
Troche t a
tessu Latum (Muell.)
_lin_eata Muell . )
23.11.58 and 25.2.59
One obvious fact may be deduced from the above lists s the species listed
all overwinter as adults. Some are active, some are torpid. Much work
remains to be done before our knowledge of hibernation allows us to sort out
which are which. I hope to continue this work in the ensuing winters.
- 27 -
MOHE OF WOL
By C o Jc Leeke, B.Sc.
In retrospect, I suppose July 8th was a day of some moment in several
lives s mine, my family's, and Wol's, for that was the day we met. I had, of
course, met my family before.
It is with some misgiving that I hear of a bird coming into someone's
hands because either it is a young bird which has been removed from its
parents or it is a sick or injured bird. In the former case I insist on its
return, in the latter case I carry out the die turns of common sense and limited
knowledge, hoping for the best, expecting the worst.
Wol arrived via several hands, so that it was impossible to trace him to
his home address. It appeared that Wol did not belong to the sick and
injured and my half-formed decision was clinched by the steady gaze of those
beautiful, brown eyes. There is nothing to compare with the appeal of young
animals and Wol was particularly well equipped in this respect.
As I took stock of this fluffy little marvel with the direct gaze, a
crush of thoughts jostled for attention - an occurrence of some rarity to be
sure. Living space, house training, claws on furniture, feeding pellet
formation, and my wife is allergic to birds, were some of those in the fore-
Both Wol and I were lucky in that he was a tawny owl otherwise my first
attempt at rearing a bird of this description might have turned out differently
for Gilbert White wrote on the 9th September 1767? "The young of the barn owl
are not easily raised as they want a constant supply of fresh mice| whereas
the young of the brown owl will eat indiscriminately all that is brought %
snails, rats, kittens, puppies, magpies and any kind of carrion or offal."
Neither of us knew this at the time.
There have been many changes but the appeal continues. Wol has grown
about three or four inches and now measures thirteen inches overall, as far
as it is possible to measure a moving object. This points to the possibility
that Wol is a male as the female is usually larger, some fifteen inches in
I am pleased to report that Wol is as tame as ever, probably due to a sort
of non-aggression pact based on cupboard love. In seven months he has only
injured me on three occasions and none of them with malice aforethought. The
first of these I have already reported, when he grabbed my ear in the "iron
maiden" that he calls a foot - a moment of remiss for him and remorse for me.
The second time was my fault? I was late with his breakfast. It was a
habit of mine to stand outside near a perch and offer food, he would fly on to
the perch and take it through the wire in his beak. This was always a thrill
to see him flying straight at me from the gloom. This time, however, he was
- 28 -
over eager and came with a "bang, one foot outstretched to grab. I think
that the wire made him miss. There was a shock as one claw struck my eye-
brow, the other three must have swung in the space beneath. It is amazing
how quickly some habits can be broken.
The third injury was a pure accident^ instead of waiting as usual for
me to get properly through the door and flying on to my shoulder, he flew on
to my head as I was ducking in. We were both surprised as he skidded off
nearly taking my scalp. Well, let's face it, ten years ago he would have
found a firm footing.
In spite of all this, or because of it, I get a secret kick out of the
fact that his friendliness is reserved mainly for me. When strangers appear
he watches them intently, draws himself up to his full height, then doubles
it by drawing in his feathers tightly against his body, while loudly clicking
his beak and blinking his disapproval. He hates hats.
If a stranger is introduced to him he will step on to the proferred
hand, then as soon as he feels that duty has been fulfilled he flies on to
my shoulder. Gratifying as this is, it is not without peril. He is a
bird of fair size and the excitement of meeting people plus the exercise
have drastic effects on his large intestine. I am thankful that this has
only happened once - in public,
Wol is remarkably cat-like in many ways, particularly as he is very
independent, taking a poor view of disturbances at inconvenient times. In
the daytime he only shows real interest when his bath water is changed;
everything else he treats with obvious disdain, but he never misses anything.
Towards evening, however, he loves to sit on my shoulder and converse in
The keeping of wild animals in captivity affords immense interest and
considerable knowledge. Much of this springs from one's own observations,
but more comes from the pursuance of information from the literature. And
what joy when one is supported by the writings of others. I had observed
Wol storing food and suggested that it might be an important behaviour
pattern if it were shown to be general. Gilbert White in that same letter
wrote furthers "When full, like a dog, it (the brown owl) hides what it
cannot eat." And 178 years later Eric Hosking and Cyril Newberry wrote j
".... and on several occasions we found that the (barn) owls anticipated the
approach of rain by laying in a small store of rodents even if it meant
hunting in broad daylight."
With many photographs and records, these writers show that the long-
eared and short-eared owls as well as the barn and tawny owls will store car-
cases in the nest. I wonder whether Wol's storing of food is an example of
incipient sexual behaviour?
Sometimes when Wol is feeling frisky, he walks and hops around the
floor of his enclosure pouncing on anything that catches his eye. At the
same time he droops his wings and tail in a half circle which would prevent
- 29 -
the escape of his "prey". I have since found references to this wing
drooping in some of the smaller species of heron when fishing.
At one time owls were regarded as nocturnal members of the Accipitres,
an order that also included the diurnal "birds of prey. Later these were
separated into two orders, the Strigiformes and the Accipitriformes, but
still considered to be related. Now I learn from J.L. Peters in his survey,
"Birds of the World" that the Strigiformes (owls) are more nearly related to
the Caprimulgiforaes (nightjars). But of course you already know this.
Sooner or later the burning question arises about the release of an
animal that has been reared in captivity. So much sentimentality is
expended both on behalf of the animal which should be allowed its freedom,
and on the part of the owner who cannot bear to part with it, that the proper
issues become obscured. These issues ares-
1. Can it fend for itself?
2. Is it to be released in the territory of an aggressor?
3. Is it likely to be as healthy and live as long in the wild as
Some Native Medicinal Plants
By K. I. Butler
The present century has seen a great decline in the use of vegetable
drugs, chiefly owing to the development of synthetic substances of inorganic
origin, which contain the "active principles" of drugs previously obtained
from plants. Nevertheless there are still substances of vegetable origin
which are used in medicine, and which the drug manufacturer needs. These
substances are the alkaloids and the glycosides, complex organic compounds,
comparatively restricted among plants of certain Families.
The source of supply of these substances to the Drug Manufacturer is not
only from abroad, but also from this country, from Drug Farms, where the
plants are cultivated. It should be of special interest to Reading
Naturalists that, out of the five important medicinal plants described
below, four are not only native to this country, but may be found growing
wild within a short radius of Reading .
Atropa belladonna L. (Deadly Nightshade | Dwale)
Atropa, bell adonna is a much branched perennial plant, 2-5 ft high, with
large egg-shaped leaves 3-9 inches long and 2-4 inches across. The
solitary flowers are wine coloured and bell shaped. The fruits are shining
jet-black berries, as large as cherries. It is indigenous to central and
southern Europe and Asia Minor.
- 30 -
The leaves, flowering tops and roots are official in the British Pharma-
copoeia, and are needed for the alkaloids which they contain - hyoscyamine,
hyoscine, and atropine. Internally, the drug, belladonna, serves to check
secretion, and is a sedative to the respiratory nerves. Externally it acts as
a local anaesthetic and anodyne to relieve pain, the extracts prepared from
the plant being used in ointments, plasters and liniments. Atropine is used
in eye surgery, and it was its power of dilating the pupil that gave the plant
its specific name, "bella donna", the Italian ladies of the middle ages
employing it to give increased brilliancy to their eyes.
Although the main source of supply is from the Continent, it is one of
the more important drugs cultivated in this country, e.g. in Suffolk,
Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey.
A. belladonna is a native of England, preferring a lime-rich soil. During
the last world war, when the drug manufacturers were cut off from their usual
source of supply, the wild plants were collected and harvested in this
country, and the calcareous slopes between Pangbourne and Streatley yielded a
It is no longer to be found growing along The Warren, Caversham, but is
fairly widespread in the Hartslock ?/oods, Oxon, and on calcareous soil north
of the Thames.
All parts of A. belladonna are highly poisonous and
man is very susceptible to the poison. The berries are most attractive to
children, and three are known to have caused death. Poisoning is chiefly
characterised by dilation and insensitivity to light of the pupil. Deadly
Nightshade is not so widely known as it should be, many people wrongly attri-
buting the name to the Bittersweet or foody Nightshade, Solanum dulcamara L.,
or even the Black Nightshade, Solanum nigr um L. Both these plants contain
the alkaloid, solanine, which does not dilate the pupil, and poisoning by
these plants is rarely severe.
Belladonna has certainly been used from earliest times, and is said to
have been described by both Dioscorides and Pliny. The generic name, Atrop a,
is from Atropos, one of the three Greek Pates, whose duty it was to cut the
thread of life, and alludes to the poisonous character of the drug. The
name of Dwale is either connected with the Scots "dule", and signifies
sorrow, or it may come from a Dutch word meaning "to be delirious". .Shake-
speare was probably referring to it in the passage in Macbeth s "Have we
eaten of the insane root that takes the reason prisoner?"
Digitalis purpurea L. (Foxglove)
Digitalis purpurea must be familiar to all, v/ith its rosettes of pointed
ovate- to lance-shaped leaves in the first year and its flowering spike of
purple flowers, 3-6 ft high, in the second year. The dried leaves, usually
gathered from first-year plants, are official in the British Pharmacopoeia
and are used in the treatment of diseases of the heart. Their action is due
to several active glycosides, among which digi toxin is the most important.
- 31 -
It is indigenous to central and southern Europe, and a native of
Britain. A considerable amount of leaf was collected during the last
war, especially in the west and. north, where the wild foxgloves are
abundant . The pla.it is cultivated mainly in West Suffolk, where a
specially selected strain particularly rich in glycosides is grown.
Digitalis is common locally, and is found growing in upland wooded
tracts and on stony hillsides among scattered clumps of trees ^ usually on
The medical history of the foxglove is somewhat varied. It appears
to have "been used "by the old herbalists, and found a place in the London
Pharmacopoeia in 1650 and in subsequent issues. It was however a medicine
with a popular rather than a professional reputation until Dr. William
Withering of Birmingham published "An account of the Pox-glove and some of
its Medical Uses" in 1795. Nov/, in the 20th century, it is said to be
the most valuable cardiac drug ever discovered; and perhaps one of the
most important drugs in medicine.
The generic name Digitalis is from the Latin digit us, a finger,
the tubular bell-shaped corolla bearing some resemblance to the finger of
a glove. The digitabulum was a finger cap used in gathering olives, and
may have suggested the name to Fuchs, the German botanist who named the
genus. * The specific name, purpurea , refers to the purple colour of the
Valeriana officinalis L, (Valerians All Heal)
Valeriana officinalis is a perennial plant with large pinnate
leaves and a flower stem bearing small pinkish white flowers in loose
The rhizomes and roots, which are collected and dried in the Autumn,
are official in the British Pharmaceutical Codex, the oil and alkaloids
which they contain acting upon the nervous system. The drug may be ad-
ministered as an extract, a tincture or an infusion, often in association
with bromide. Oil of Valerian is also used in perfumery.
Valerian is indigenous to Europe and Asia Minor, and a native of
England in damp shady places. It is cultivated on a small scale in West
Suffolk, Hertfordshire and Derbyshire, The old "Valerie growers" of
Derbyshire are now much reduced in numbers, but the art of cultivation has
been handed down through many generations. These growers collect their
"sets" in early spring from wild plants in the dales where they grow
Valerian may be found growing locally in wet meadows, on the banks of
streams, by riversides, and in damp woods, often attaining a height of
4-5 ft. It must not be confused with the Red Valerian, Kentranthus
ruber (l) DC., which has red, pink and "white flowers, and which is so
familiar on the walls in the west country.
- 32 -
The drug was well known to the Greeks and Romans, and it is thought
that the name may derive from Vale ri anus, Emperor of Rome A.D. 260, who first
used the plant in medicine. It was a domestic medicine of the Anglo-Saxons,
hence one of its English names, All Heal.
Hyoscyamus niger L. (Henbane)
Hyoscyamus niger has a distinctive appearance. The leaves are grey-
green, and coarsely toothed, with sticky hairs which are clammy to the touch.
The flowers are pale yellow and funnel shaped, with a network of purple veins.
The fruit, a two-celled capsule, is enclosed by the five-lipped calyx, and has
a lid (pyxis), which falls off when the seeds ripen. The whole plant has a
strong foetid smell. It is indigenous to Europe, Western Asia, and Northern
The dried leaves, or leaves and flowering tops, are official in the
British Pharmacopoeia, Its medicinal action somewhat resemble s that of
belladonna., and depends on the alkaloids, hyoscyine and hyoscyamine, that
it contains, which have narcotic and hypnotic properties.
Annual and biennial forms of the plant occur, the biennial form usually
being cultivated in this country and cut Y;hen it flowers in its second season.
It is a native of Great Britain, on sandy places, especially near the
sea., or on the waste ground of farmyards. Locally it has been found
growing at the Reading Sewage Farm and on the Berkshire Downs,
Hyoscya mus has been employed in European domestic medicine from the
remotest times. Anglo-Saxon works on medicine mention it in the 11th
century. After the Middle Ages, the drug fell into disuse, but was re-
introduced into regular medicine about 1760, The seeds were used by the
Babylonians 3000 years ago to relieve toothache, and the old domestic remedy
for toothache, of throwing the seeds upon hot coals and allowing the vapour
to enter the mouth, has only recently fallen into discuse.
The name Hyos cy a mus is derived from two Greek words, meaning pig and
bean - the plant is said to be poisonous to swine, Nige r - black - may
refer to the dark purple veins on the corolla. The English name Henbane
indicates the poisonous effect of the seed upon poultry.
Colchicum autumnal^ L, (Autumn Crocus s Meadow Saffron)
Colchicum_jiutumnale is a perennial with a corm, producing in the
spring numerous long, dark green, broad leaves, which die down before the
pale mauve fl avers open in the autumn. It is not a crocus, as its English
name suggests, but belongs to the Natural Order Liliaceae, with six stamens
and superior ovary. After fertilisation, the ovary remains dormant under
the ground until the Spring, when it is raised to the surface by the elon-
gation of its stalk, and by the time the leaves have withered in summer, the
capsule splits into 3 compartments, shedding its numerous seeds.
- 33 -
All parts of the plant contain the alkaloid colchicine which is used in
medicine to relieve the pain and inflammation of acute gout. Both the corm
and seeds are official in the British Pharmacopoeia. The corm is collected
in the spring or early summer before leaf development, deprived of its coats,
sliced and dried. The seeds are collected in July and August.
C. autumnal e is widely distributed over central and southern Europe and
is found in moist meadows and pastures in many parts of England, particularly
in the south-west and in South Wales. Formerly it was much more abundant in
England and Wales than it is now, so common that some of the older Floras do
not list localities for it. This is probably due to eradication by farmers,
as all parts of the plant are poisonous , both in the green state and when
mixed with hay.
Some ten years ago, Colchicum grew in Ashridge V/ood, North Berkshire,
but since the extensive felling of trees, it has not been seen. Our nearest
locality is probably near Oxford where it was seen this year by some members
of the Society,
The generic name, Colchicum , is from Colchis on the Black Sea v/bere the
plant flourishes. Autumnale refers to the season when the flowers bloom.
Dioscorides mentions a Colchicum , and the Arabs recommended the use <£ the
corm for gout in medieval times. It came into usage in Europe about the
middle of the 17th century and that of the seed about the 18th,
A more recent development in the use of Colchicine has arisen from its
power of doubling the chromosones, thus opening up a large field in plant
Mesolithic P ine Cones
By A, Iff. Simmonds
Cones of Pinus sylyestris (Scots pine) were found at Thatcham, Berks,
during the recent (1959) archaeological excavations. Their age is estimated
to be about 8,000 years, and their preservation is due to their having been
buried in peat and beneath lake and swamp deposits, and thus entirely pro-
tected from the air.
At this period (Middle Stone Age, about 6,000 B.C.), the climate of
southern England was similar to that of North Britain at the present time.
Analysis of tree pollen from samples of layers of peat from the site shews
that P. sylvestris was the dominant tree in the forests which then covered
much of the country. Associated trees at this period were willow
( Salix spp,), birch ( Betula sp.) and alder ( Alnus glutinosa) . The percent-
ages were Scots pine 83.9 per cent., willow 21.2 per cent., birch 14*9 per
cent,, and alder 0,8 per cent.
Hazel, or.k and elm (mixed oak-forest species) were entirely absent from
the older layers. In addition to the cones, pieces of wood were found, and
these have been identified as Scots pine and species of willow. The present-
day stands of P. sylvestris on local commons are descendants of planted
Fungi at Kin gv /ood Common
The fungi here recorded were collected at the Society's Forays at
Kingwood Common, Oxon, over the period 1945-57 • The list has been checked
by Dr. F. B„ Hora, to whom we are very grateful for his help.
Amanit a citrina
" var. alb a
Amanitopsis fulv a
lu ridu s
Clav aria amethystina
cine re a
cr is tat a
fusif or mis
s em i s angu ineus
Crucibulum vulgar e
Daedal s a quercina
si nap jeans
Hydnum repandum var. rufescens
t i — — ■ mm m i i i i n . ■■■!!■ . m I
" (pale form)
Hygrophorus cr.nthare llus
chry s as pis
Lace aria amethystina
La ctarius blennius
camphor at us
M erul ius tremellosus
Nyctalis aster ophora
Om phalic, fib ula
Panaeolus pap ilion aceus
Paxil 1 us i^vQ l^ t^ii
Pleurotus ostr eatus
Polyporus a d iposus
Strobilomy ces strobilaceus
Tramet e s gibbosa
pe r s onatum
Polys tictus versicolor
Psalliot a campestris
Tub aria fur fur ace a
Xy laria hypoxylon
Psathyrella graci lis
Rus sulr adus t a_
cyanox a ntha
- 37 -
READING AND DISTRICT NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY
The following changes in membership have occurred since the publication of
the last number of the Reading Naturalist %
Losses to the Society by deaths
W. C. Fishlock, Miss A, Evans, Mrs. M. Treacher „
Resignations and lapse s s
Sister Mary Aidan, D„ R„ Gillman, G.E, Greenhalgh, J. Ounsted, Miss C. Stone.
New Members s
Blakeney, Miss C.C., 63 Erleigh Road, Reading, Berks.
Charnaux, H.L., 168 Reading Road, ¥okingham, Berks.
Clements, Miss, 108 Kenilworth Avenue, Reading, Berks.
Coles, W.J., 11 Whitley Wood Road, Reading, Berks.
Coles, Mrs., 11 Whitley Wood Road, Reading, Berks.
Cooper, Master J.E., 2 Broadmoor Esto.te, Crowthome, Berks.
Haddock, Mrs., 78 Kidmore End Road, Caversham, Reading, Berks.
Latto, Mrs, B., 5 Derby Road, Caversham, Reading, Berks.
Levashaw, Miss L., 20, Wavell Close, Shinfield Rise, Reading, Berks.
Levy, E.G., B.A. , Ph.D., Horticultural Advisory Office, Ministry of
Agriculture, Coley Park, Reading, Berks.
Mollison, Miss D., 24 Greystoke Road, Caversham, Reading, Berks,
Moore, Miss P.J., 2 Larch Avenue, Wokingham, Berks,
Moore, Mrs. M.L., 28 St. Michael's Road, Tilehurst, Reading, Berks.
Newman, Mrs., Earley Cottage, 25 Beech Lane, Earley, Reading, Berks.
Newman, Master J., Earley Cottage, 25 Beech Lane, Earley, Reading, Berks.
Phillips, Mrs, V.A, , 42 Alexandra Road, Reading, Berks.
Price, Mrs. A.H., 1 Bulmershe Road, Reading, Berks.
Price, Miss, 1 Bulmershe Road, Reading, Berks.
Price-Jones, Dr. D., 82 Shinfield Road, Reading, Berks.
Reynolds, Miss D., 28 St. Michael's Road., Tilehurst, Reading, Berks,
Rhodes, Miss Judith, 65 Tilehurst Road, Reading, Berks.
- 33 -
Soole, Miss I., 5 Pearl Buildings, Station Road, Reading, Berks.
Stephenson, D.G,,. Bept. of Geology, University of Reading, Reading, Berks.
Vear, J.R., 134 Shinfield Road, Reading, Berks.
Changes of Add r_essj_
Hastings, Somerville, M.B., M.S., F.R.CS,, Brackenfell, Kingwood Common,
Henley-on-Thame s , Oxon.
Beck, A.G., School House, Remehham, Berks.
Blackwell, Mrs. E.R,, 81 "/ilderness Road, Earley, Reading, Berks.
Paul, Mrs. V.N., "Overdale" , Peppard Common, Oxon.
Quick, Br. H.E., B.Sc., F.R.C,S. S Craythorne, 259 Shinfield Road, Reading,
Alfred Sutton Girls' School, Cumberland Road, Reading, Berks,
Alfred Sutton Primary School, Wokingham Road, Reading, Berks.
Bradfield College Natural History Society, House on the Hill, Bradfield
E.P. Collier Central School, York Road, Reading, Berks.
George Primer (Southlands) Secondary Girls' School, Basingstoke Road, Reading,
The Grove School, Surley Row, Emmer Green, Reading, Berks.
Kendrick School, London Road, Reading, Berks,
Reading School, Erleigh Road, Reading, Berks,
St, Joseph's Convent, Broad Oak, Reading, Berks,
St. Peter's Hill School, Caver sham, Reading, Berks,