Fourteen members met in the Cotswold Gateway Centre car park on a beautifully sunny morning. The walk was short in length (only about 650 metres on the outward leg) along the towpath of the disused Thames-Severn Canal but there was plenty to see and we identified at least 119 species of all sorts. The birds alone accounted for 40 species and along with the many every-day species a big surprise was a Grey Cockatiel flying along the canal calling loudly, probably an escape. A number of summer residents had moved in – Sedge Warblers calling from the reedbeds, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcap and a possible Garden Warbler calling from the trees, and from the side of the towpath a blast of song from two Cetti’s Warblers. At the end of the walk a lone Swallow flew over determined to be somewhere else.
Spring butterflies were very much in evidence with Orange-tips, Green-veined Whites and Brimstones showing frequently with occasional Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and a Comma, and right at the end of the walk back in the car park was a newly-emerged Speckled Wood. Several animals commanded particular attention and among them was a harvestman (Platybunus triangularis) with its pair of googly eyes perched on top of its body surmounted by a spiky crown, a species that matures earlier in the year than most others. Another species of interest and a first for many people was a pseudoscorpion (Chthonius tetrachelatus), all of 2mm long and living under a stone on the boundary wall. They are very distantly related to true scorpions but do not have the poisonous tail, are all very small, and feed on springtails and other small animals. Also residing under these stones in large numbers were the young larvae of the Buff Footman moth and a single larva of the Common Footman, many accompanied by moulted larval skins. Members of the Footman family feed on lichens growing on trees and walls and can be found all over the Cotswolds.
Some of the early flowers were out with abundant Butterbur, White Violets, Lesser Celandines, and Dandelions in evidence with Ground Ivy and Cuckoo flowers just appearing but, most spectacular of all were the Kingcups on the ditch sides, large and bright against the vegetation clearance going on alongside.
An enjoyable walk in good company, and thank you to all those who contributed records.