We will be visiting the Backs for our field studies in 2022. I hope to include some college grounds, but this will depend on whatever Covid guidance is in force, both nationally and for the colleges.
Visits begin with the traditional New Year’s Day walk to find plants in flower – provided that outdoor gatherings are still permitted, meet outside the west door of Gt St Mary’s church at 1:00pm if you would like to take part.
Cambridge is a Covid hotspot, so please maintain social distance during the walk.
Our next field studies visit to Trumpington Meadows takes place on Thursday, July 22, meeting at 6:30pm. These visits aim to record the flora and some of the fauna of Trumpington Meadows, and introduce beginners to our local wildlife.
Meet at the entrance opposite Addenbrooke’s Road on the Hauxton Road out of Cambridge TL441539 – see https://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/295355#map=16/52.1643/0.1081
All welcome – it is helpful if you can let Jonathan Shanklin (jdsh [AT] bas.ac.uk) know if you plan to come.
Our first evening meeting took place in conditions more akin to the autumn – cold temperatures and a strong wind. This didn’t deter the dozen members who met up at the appointed place. We started with a walk round a small balancing pond, where we saw some members of the legume family – Common Vetch, Spotted Medick and Black Medick. There were also members of the daisy family – Ox-eye Daisy and Beaked Hawk’s-beard. The half hour that we spent here was not enough for one late arriving member who failed to spot us!
We then walked down the cycleway path, stopping when we found some Creeping Thistle. Jo Garrad, one of the Park Rangers, explained that they were looking for Thistle Rust in order to start a trial on reducing the invasive plant. What they hoped to do was collect spores from infected plants, make this into a solution and spray it onto thistle stems in patches. Trials elsewhere had shown this reduced thistle populations by 80% over a few years.
Continuing on to the large balancing pond we admired the Tufted Duck and other waterfowl that were present. We crossed over to the relict waterside meadow, where we saw the small fronds of Adder’s-tongue and the scrub that had grown up in the last decade. Back on the old railway we saw a few plants of Winter-cress in full flower, but didn’t try tasting any of the leaves. Dusk was now approaching and it was cold, so we walked briskly back to our starting point.
We seem to be progressing smoothly out of lockdown, so our next field studies visit to Trumpington Meadows on Thursday, May 20, should go ahead, though there is a risk of April showers. This is an evening visit, starting at 6:30pm. Although we should be able to meet in a large group, we will then split into smaller groups (depending on numbers) for the walk around. In order to help plan, we’d still like you to book by emailing Jonathan Shanklin firstname.lastname@example.org, but we should be able to accommodate everyone who does. Those booking will be told where to meet.
The field studies visits aim to make a regular audit of the natural history of the chosen sites and to introduce members to them and their wildlife. They are suitable for all, though you come at your own risk. Please follow the guidance given by the BSBI for participants on field meetings, which you can find at https://bsbi.org/download/25183/ The CNHS events are all suitable for beginners, with an element of tuition, and are “Green” rated.
The CNHS AGM will continue on Thursday, October 29 at 7:30pm by zoom.
When you join you will be put into a “waiting room” and will not be allowed in until shortly before the AGM starts. When you are let in your audio and video will be off. Please do not try and switch them on, as this may interfere with the sound for participants who have low bandwidth connections. If you are a regular zoom user make sure that you are on the latest version – you can check for updates when you click on your icon in the top right corner – the latest version is 5.3.2. It will be possible to ask questions, either by using the “chat” feature, or by “raising your hand”, which can be done through the “participants” button at the bottom of the screen. When asked for your question your sound and video will be set to on for the duration of the question. If the attendance is low, audio and video will be switched on for all.
This meeting continues the AGM adjourned from 2020 April 30 and covers the year 2019 April to 2020 March. It is intended that the verbal reports will be no more than 200 words and the written reports are at ‘About CNHS‘ with password protection. The two reviews will be illustrated with images of or from events. Members are welcome to nominate additional members to the Council as there are several vacancies.
Apologies – these can be sent to Jonathan Shanklin by email
Minutes of the 2019 AGM
General Secretary’s report – Post vacant
Membership Secretary’s report – Simon Mentha pp Hilary Pounsett
Programme Secretary’s report – Post vacant
Publicity Secretary’s report – Post vacant
Treasurer’s report – Simon Mentha
Election of Council and Officers. These are currently :
President: Duncan Mackay
Vice President: Kevin Hand
Vice President, General Recorder, Webmaster until new website launched: Jonathan Shanklin
General Secretary, Publicity Secretary: Vacant
Membership Secretary: Hilary Pounsett
Programme Secretary: Vacant
Treasurer : Simon Mentha
Archivists: Monica Frisch (also Conversazione/NatHistFest Organiser), Henry Tribe
Zoological Recorder: Toby Carter
Botanical Recorder: Charles Turner
Paul Mardon (Facebook Promotion, Assistant Conversazione Organiser)
CUNS & ARUWS representatives
Sophia Upton (Anglia Ruskin University Wildlife Society)
Alice Edney (Cambridge University Nature Society)
Review of the outdoor events – Jonathan Shanklin
President’s review of the Year – Duncan Mackay
The new web pages – Monica Frisch
We have continued with limited CNHS field studies over the summer, but these have been restricted to a group of six, so CNHS members have had first call.
With the restriction on numbers for events, regular notification of them only goes to members, so do consider joining the CNHS.
The restrictions will mean that there cannot be any CNHS meetings at the DAB this autumn, and we are planning zoom meetings as an alternative. Again these may need to be limited to members only.
The latest edition of Nature in Cambridgeshire was published in June and contains a wide range of articles and reports on local natural history. These cover microfungi, flora and bryophytes and the Devil’s Ditch, Fen Ragwort, Spotted Flycatchers, Adders and Slow Worms, Coe Fen, the Violet Carpenter Bee and Arthur’s Meadow amongst other topics. See http://www.natureincambridgeshire.org.uk/index.html for information about the publication.
A bright comet is becoming more readily visible from the northern hemisphere. It is named NEOWISE after the satellite that discovered it and is given the designation of 2020 F3 as it was the third comet to be discovered in the second half of March. It will be very easy to see with binoculars, which may help to find it at first, but you should be able to see it with no equipment at all. It has a tail several degrees long, which will make it obvious when you have spotted it. In the evening twilight (roughly 10:30 pm in Cambridge) it is low in in the north-north-west about 7 degrees up. It will remain visible all night until swamped in the dawn sky around 2:40 am when it will have moved round to the north-north-east. Each evening it will be a little higher in the sky and become visible a little earlier as the nights draw in, however it will also steadily get fainter. Because it is quite low down you will need a clear northern horizon to spot it.
Noctilucent Clouds, also known as Polar Mesospheric Clouds form at about 80 km up in the atmosphere. This part of the atmosphere is coldest during the summer months, hence allowing clouds to form. Because they are so high up, the clouds remain illuminated long after sunset (or before sunrise) and glow with a beautiful silvery-blue colour. The colour comes from scattering in the ozone layer (at about 20 km altitude) during the long path of the sunlight through the atmosphere. The clouds are most frequently seen low towards the northern horizon, though occasionally much higher up.
The clouds often can’t be distinguished from the bright sky background until an hour or more after sunset, so for Cambridge that means 22:00 – 22:30 in the evening at the moment. The chances of seeing them are even higher before sunrise, but you would have to be up at 2 in the morning. Another factor that improves the chances of seeing them is solar activity (or lack of it) and we are currently near sunspot minimum in the 11-year cycle which means that the atmosphere is a bit colder at 80 km altitude than it is at solar maximum. The season for seeing the clouds lasts until early August.
January 1. The traditional New Year’s Day outing took place under mild, overcast skies. There had been frosts in November, but December was generally mild and wet. Plants in flower were generally few and far between, with the most frequently flowering species being Veronica persica (Common Field Speedwell). We started around the information centre, pond and copse, somewhat surprisingly finding one plant of Erigeron acris (Blue Fleabane) still in flower. We walked along the spine road, then through Middle Green to the Martin Car Park area. By the pond we found the previously reported Isatis tinctorum (Woad) and a Teasel, which was not as previously reported D. pilosus (Small Teasel) but D. strigosus (Yellow Teasel). We had our picnic lunch in the Barn, then headed up Red Meadow Hill for a view across Cambridge. On the way down we added Sinapis alba (White Mustard) in flower. Continuing via the permissive tracks we eventually re-joined the spine road. A small group continued round Rowans Field and the Orchard, finding a couple more species in flower. By the time we returned to the information centre we had made 194 records of 133 species, of which 23 were in flower. This was the lowest total since we began counting species in flower, and well down on the 58 found last year, and the median number of 35.
Walks are allowed for exercise, so it is a good opportunity to make the most of your local environment without the distraction of the roar of traffic. Birds are nesting, butterflies on the wing and plants are coming into flower. If you do make records make sure that they get to your local recorder (see https://www.cperc.org.uk/links.php), or send them via iRecord (but make sure you use your real name rather than an alias) or to CPERC at https://www.cperc.org.uk/submit-records/
For botanical recording, see the information at https://legacy.bas.ac.uk/met/jds/cnhs/vc29.htm which includes recording guidelines, record cards, lists of species, both common and rare, found in Cambridgeshire, and more.