Highland Wildlife 22nd October

The next online talk is on 22nd October when Roy Atkins, a guide with Speyside Wildlife based in the Cairngorms National Park, will give a talk on “Highland Wildlife” during which he will talk about and show pictures of the special birds, mammals and other wildlife of the highlands of Scotland.

Crested Tit

CNHS Autumn update

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.

NEOWISe & Noctilucent clouds

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.

Coton Countryside Reserve 2020 diary

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.

Jonathan Shanklin

Coronavirus update 11 May

The latest detailed Government guidance unfortunately means that meetings in May cannot go ahead.  This means that the visit to Coton Countryside Reserve on May 27 is cancelled.  CNHS will review the position again in June to see if the next meeting can go ahead or not.

The detailed guidance does say you can now spend unlimited time outdoors, that you can drive anywhere to green spaces (though you cannot stay away overnight) and that you should not use public transport to get to them.  Dogs should be on lead in areas used by other people – see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-guidance-on-access-to-green-spaces

Jonathan Shanklin, 11 May 2020

Record natural history

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.

Jonathan Shanklin

Welcome to our website

Cambridge Natural History Society has a new website but we are still working on this, so please accept our apologies for sections where information is incomplete and for any links that do not work. Please bookmark our website and do check back from time to time, as it is one of the ways we keep members and others informed of our activities.

If you find links that do not work, or if you have events you would like added to the diary, please email website(at)cnhs.org.uk