Nightlife – real life

Trap for bats at Railway Fields

What an astonishing night at Railway Fields last Saturday! Bat expert Huma and her two volunteers set up a bat trap and the public saw bats close up, in real life, held in the hand, before ringing and release. No bat photo ever appealed to me in the slightest. In real life they were beautiful, perfectly-made, heart-achingly vulnerable. I’ll never feel the same about bats. It was a surprise in more ways than one  – We’d expected only a bat walk.

E-bay is where you can buy nearly anything, that’s where we got the owl pellets that are coughed up by owls!! Why? Cos they’re fascinating to dissect, inside are the tiny bones of their prey: mice, voles, shrews etc. The Cabin was full of people

Grandfather & child dissect owl pellets in Cabin

who Lizzy helped pick out the bones using pincers, water and trays. They found a jaw-bone with miniscule teeth, a lilliputian femur etc. We used a microscope connected to laptop for close view. For people who missed the owl activity, there are still some pellets Lizzy can help you investigate on Saturday 30th September (10.30am-12.30pm).

We also set a moth-trap which attracted a small number of colourful creatures, released unharmed afterwards into Railway Fields’ beautiful habitats.  Doing that is almost the best part.


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Small worlds in focus

It was great to welcome so many people to Railway Fields for our summer event, Nature Discovery Day, on Saturday 29 July – especially given the less-than-ideal weather!

Here’s a look at some of the stunning images we captured during our projecting microscope show, which gave visitors a magnified view of some of Railway Fields’ insects and plants live on the big screen.

There were two nature walks – on bees and plant/habitat management at Railway Fields – and visitors also enjoyed pond-dipping, minibeast safaris and wildlife art. Plus it was the perfect weather to play in the mud kitchen!

Congratulations to Alice, who entered our Twitter photo challenge and won a Big Green Bookshop voucher – many thanks to our friends at the Big Green Bookshop for donating the prize.

We also welcomed Cllrs Peray Ahmet, Emina Ibrahim and Zena Brabazon, who helped us raise Railway Fields’ recently re-awarded Green Flag.

A big thank you to all the volunteers who helped on the day and who baked delicious cakes for our refreshments stand, and to our walk leaders Quentin Given and Clif Osborne.

Visitors said:

“An oasis in this busy street. An excellent place to bring children to instil in them the love of nature.”

“We enjoyed the little beast trail and seeing the tiny beasts under the microscope.”

“Love the mud kitchen.”

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Getting up close to nature

A huge thank you to everyone who came along to our summer event on 30 July – hope you enjoyed it as much as we did! There were a range of activities designed to help you ‘get up close to nature’ – including pond-dipping and a minibeast safari, a walk and talk by renowned naturalist (and the Friends’ very own Patron) David Bevan, family wildlife art and a look at some of Railway Fields’ creatures and plants under our amazing new projecting microscope.


Lacewing eggs – photo by Michael Warhurst

We challenged visitors to Tweet their own photos from the event – check out #FoRFphotos to see the results. Congratulations to winner Michael Warhurst, who took this wonderful picture of lacewing eggs, which are laid on stalks to protect them from predation.

There were more special finds on the day too – including a slow worm, a beautiful small emerald moth and a spectacular (and very hairy) gypsy moth caterpillar.

Once again, a huge thank you to everyone who supported the event, either by coming along and taking part or helping on the day.


Here’s some of the feedback we received:

“The microscope thing was SUPER!!”

“Today was a special day because I learned more about animals.”

“We’ve had a lovely afternoon. My four-year-old found it all fascinating and engaging.”

“I liked the drawing.”

“Inspiring. Thank you for a beautiful afternoon.”

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Photos by Lizzy, Helen and Paul.

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Six months of Railway Fields happiness

A few memories of Railway Fields from my 2015 diary.

Last Saturday in January– I helped Friends dig out cherry suckers near the stag beetle loggery. Clif (our great TCV site manager) said a sparrowhawk had been round during the week. In a fallen tree, Keith found an empty wren’s nest which has stayed in the cabin all year for people to marvel at. And children fashioned nests for Family Wildlife Art.

Some of the Friends

Some of the Friends

Last Sat in February – Caroline, Bob, Anna, Clif and I witnessed a heron approach on foot through the meadow to hunt for frogs in the pond. He was undeterred by harassment from a crow who followed him about in comical fashion. We saw the heron catch and eat a frog. A pair of long tailed tits (‘flying teaspoons’) flew back and forth to a tree with plumes of the plant called old man’s beard –  for their nest.

March – Frogs, frogs, frogs galore in the pond. About 25 of them, with gold rings round their eyes, handsome white ‘collars’ under their chins, swimming froggily,touching one another on the nose sometimes, a few mating, and a wonderful loud croaky chorus to be heard.

BlackcapLast Sat in April– A blackcap sang beautifully as I made my way up the path and I saw him too – his little black cap at that jaunty angle. There was a great volunteer turnout and we removed lots of Japanese knotweed. Jenny and I identified wild plants in the new Back Meadow near the playground. The pond had plenty of newts – males in mating colours – and gorgeous creatures called the Hairy Footed Flower Bees were feeding in the white comfrey outside the cabin.

Making a dead hedge

Caroline making a dead hedge. These are great fences and harbour many creatures.

Last Sat in May – We removed hogweed from the meadow. I love hogweed cos it really does smell of pigs, but it can take over. The meadow was filling up with the fabulous yellow rattle wildflower that Clif planted last year to help other wildflowers thrive and reduce grasses. We came across two frogs, one of which was ginger! Jenny and I surveyed the new Back Meadow again, which is now crowded with small flowers, especially herb bennett.

Photo: Sandra Roberts

Photo: Sandra Roberts



Last Sat in June – Wildflower Saturday went well. Lizzy and I led a joint session for adults and children. The focus was six wild flowers on site: teasel (pictured), bramble, bacon-and-eggs, purple deadnettle, stinking iris and bindweed. Lizzy also did great crafts with children

With seasons greetings, Mary Hogan

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25 Years of Fungi Fun in Harringay

IMG_2342Last month it was the 25th Annual Harringay Fungi Foray. This long running event was set up by local naturalist David Bevan and continued by Ted Tuddenham. This year the foray was lead by Al Skipp, Mark Spencer and Keir Mottram. The foray started at Railway Fields with a brief introduction of what fungi are and a search around the site. There the most common finds were candlesnuff fungus, scaly earthball and jelly ear.  Then the group moved on to Queens Wood, where 55 different species of mushrooms were found, including some edibles. The final site was Alexandra Palace Park, where over 60 different species were found, including 7 species of colourful waxcaps. The variety of waxcaps found at Ally Pally is a good indicator of a diverse, unimproved (free from fertilisers) grassland habitat. Then it was time to return to Railway Fields for a taster of the edible mushrooms, which included trooping funnel, hen of the woods and shaggy ink caps (kindly brought along by Mario, from Kensington Gardens, along with a giant puffball, big enough to feed 30 people).








A big thank you to everyone who came along, and especially to those who helped with the transport.




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Marvelous Moths

IMG_0003On 21sth August, the Friends of Railway Fields set the moth trap to find out about the number and variety of moths that live at Railway Fields. The trap is a wooden box, with clear Perspex panels at the top and a light to attract the moths. The bottom was covered with egg boxes, giving the moths plenty of nooks and crannies to hide in.

The following morning, moth expert Dan Hackett helped to identify the moths (not to mention a few midges, a forest bug and an ex-wasp) who had made their way into the trap. Dan had brought his microscope with him, and it was wonderful to study the moths and other insects in so much detail. After identifying the moths, they were released back into the wild.

The moths identified were:

  • Jersey Tiger moth 
  • Copper underwing
  • Lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing
  • Large yellow underwing
  • Endotricha flammealis
  • Chequered fruit tree tortrix
  • Bell moth
  • Grass moth
  • Tree-lichen beauty

And the other non-moths that were also in the trap were:

  • wasp 
  • non-biting midge
  • forest bug
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Enjoying nature… whatever the weather

OK, so our summer event last Sunday wasn’t exactly summery. But we had a great afternoon despite the drizzle and gloomy skies. Our visitors made clay mini-beasts, discovered pond-dwellers, learned about trees, got some tips to improve their nature photography and found out about the healing properties of some of Railway Fields’ common plants.

A big thank you to everyone who came and took part, to all our brilliant volunteers for making it happen and to natural health consultant Lloyd Gee, photographer Vaughan Melzer and Clif Osborne of TCV for sharing their expertise with us.

Join us at our next event and find out about Railway Fields’ moths and other mini-beasts – it takes place on Saturday 22 August at 10.30am and is free.

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