About the Trap Grounds

The Trap Grounds Town Green & Local Wildlife Site in north Oxford lies immediately south of the Frenchay Road canal bridge (nearest postcode OX2 6TF). An information board on the towpath marks the entrance to three acres of reed bed and seven acres of woodland, grassland, stream, and ponds. The site (open to visitors 24/7) is owned by Oxford City Council and managed for conservation, recreation, and education by the Friends of the Trap Grounds, a group of local volunteers. For more information about current events and activities, the history and wildlife status of the site, and our campaign to save it as a Town Green, visit You can also contact the Secretary via the website.

If you are not an authorised poster and would like to submit a photo for consideration for posting on this blog then please e-mail: cmrobinson DOT oxford AT gmail DOT com

Monday, November 11, 2019

It's been a miserable month of rain and more rain. But at least the fungi like the damp conditions. Nicola photographed a clump of Straight Coral Fungus (Ramaria stricta) on 9 November and described it as 'like gothic spires on a hillside'. 

                     Straight Coral Fungus (Ramaria stricta), Nicola Devine, TGs, 9.11.19

And a beautiful Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystine) on the same day.


Monday, October 14, 2019

After three gloomy weeks of torrential rain, last month's golden autumnal sunshine seems like a distant dream. But here, as a reminder of those bygone days, are Nicola's photos of a Jay, a Grey Wagtail, and a Chiffchaff. (The level of the Mill Stream has risen by at least one metre since the Grey Wagtail was skipping along it in the mud.)

Jay (Nicola Devine, Trap Grounds, 14 Sept 2019)

Chiffchaff (Nicola Devine, Trap Grounds, 14 Sept 2019)
Grey Wagtail (Nicola Devine, Trap Grounds, 14 Sept 2019)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Tuesday 1 October 2019

Clare Weiner writes: Like many parents at this time of year, Ethel, the Trap Grounds swan, is preparing her offspring for independent adult life. She leaves the two cygnets alone on the water for increasing lengths of time, and will soon be teaching them to fly. Their wing feathers are well developed and (see photo) are white rather than the grey of younger days. By December she will have to actively drive away the cygnets she has cared for so well. Usually the male swan does this, but Ethel has been on her own since Ernest failed to return (or failed to be returned) after his removal to a swan sanctuary in July. We wish them all well and hope she will find a new mate.

Ethel's cygnets, Oxford Canal, 1 October 2019 (Clare Weiner)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

30th September

I was lucky enough to stumble across one of the Kingfishers sitting on the perch on Tim's Pond recently. The light wasn't great and he didn't linger enough but I managed to get off a photo or two.


Thursday, September 26, 2019

Brown Hairstreak butterfly and Emerald damselfly

Belatedly catching up with some of Nicola Devine's most notable photos from earlier this summer ...

Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae) is a conservation priority species, in severe decline all over the country, but Nicola has photographed it on the Trap Grounds in every year since 2015. Its larvae need Blackthorn to feed on; we planted several Blackthorn trees five or six years ago, and it has paid off.

Brown Hairstreak butterfly (Trap Grounds, 20 August 2019, Nicola Devine)

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa): this mating pair were spotted on 23 July. The last of all damselflies to emerge, this is a late-summer species; the eggs won't hatch until next Spring. Emeralds colonise shallow pools that temporarily dry out in summer, which is just as well, because our Dragonfly Pool dried up completely during the August/September drought.

Emerald damselflies mating (Trap Grounds, Nicola Devine, 23 July 2019)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Rhinoceros beetles

These beetles were found in May on a rotten tree stump on the Trap Grounds during our Springwatch Family Day by a pupil at St Philip & St James primary school, but until today we did not know his name. Today I had the pleasure of meeting Karim Chibane and congratulating him on his significant find. According to beetles expert Linda Losito, Rhinoceros beetles, members of the scarab family, have been reported only once before in Oxford (on the Lye Valley nature reserve).

Rhinoceros beetles (Alan Allport, Trap Grounds, May 2019)

Friday, September 13, 2019

A fox in the sun

Clare Weiner writes: "Today (September 13th) about 5.45pm, I spotted a Fox in the meadow by the school fence. It ran off, but we saw it again later, boldly out in the midst of the mown meadow, in the sunshine. A family with a dog (on a lead) were nearby. I told them there was a fox ahead, and we all stopped, and the fox stood still to be photographed. It seemed in very good condition, better than many urban foxes, and so bold."

[Dog owners, please respect the wildlife and keep your dog on a lead. -- C. Robinson]

Trap Grounds fox (Clare Weiner, 13.09.19)

Banded Demoiselle

Banded Demoiselle

Clare Weiner writes: "On 22 August, Nicola Devine and I saw this Banded Demoiselle (female) perch on a small dead branch of a willow growing by the Mill Stream. These Damselflies (we know it is a Damselfly as its closed wings are lying along its back) like slow-flowing streams, so the location was perfect for it. Unlike most damselflies, the wings are not colourless but a pale brownish green in the female, which has a green body. The males are much more colourful, with an iridescent turquoise body and blue veins in the wings."

Banded Demoiselle (f.), Trap Grounds (Clare Weiner, 22.08.19)

Spotted Flycatcher

Nicola photographed this rare visitor to the Trap Grounds today. In the UK, numbers of Spotted Flycatchers fell by 85 per cent between 1970 and 2015. So this was an honoured guest. 

Spotted Flycatcher, Trap Grounds, Nicola Devine, 13.09.19

Water Rail

It was Nicola's lucky day. Besides the Spotted Flycatcher, she got a glimpse of our most elusive resident, the Water Rail. More often heard than seen, uttering a high-pitched squeal from the depths of the reedbed, it rarely ventures out into the open. Perhaps the warm autumn sunshine tempted it out?

Water Rail, Trap Grounds (Nicola Devine, 13.09.19)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar (Dielephila elpenor)

Caterpillar of the Elephant Hawkmoth (C Robinson, Trap Grounds, 7 Sept 2019)

Spotted by Alan Allport on 7 September feeding on Rosebay Willowherb. Three inches long! It will pupate in a couple of weeks' time and overwinter under the ground; but will we see the spectacular pink-winged adult next summer? Not likely, because it is a nocturnal moth.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Autumn approaches, but butterflies are still plentiful on the Trap Grounds. Nicola photographed this Red Admiral (which she describes as "bold and brassy") on a Buddleia bush on 1 September. The most important food plant for the larva is Common Nettle - of which there is no shortage on the TG.

Red Admiral, Trap Grounds, 1 September 2019 (Nicola Devine)

Common Green Grasshopper (Omocestus viridulus)

On the following day Nicola photographed this Common Green grasshopper (male), sharing a leaf with an unidentified wasp. The males display to females by rubbing their legs against their wings to create a loud churring noise known as 'stridulation'. After mating, the eggs are laid in the soil ready to hatch the following spring.

Common Green Grasshopper, Trap Grounds, 2 September 2019 (Nicola Devine)

Friday, August 30, 2019

Brown Argus butterfly

Nicola photographed this Brown Argus feeding on a cornflower on 26 August. The caterpillar of this species has an unusual relationship with ants. As it grows, it produces a secretion that is irresistible to them, and when it turns into a chrysalis they will carry it away and bury it underground. There is no shortage of ants on the Trap Grounds. One of the ant heaps has proved irresistible to a fox, which has been poking deep inside it for sustenance. And so the cycle of life goes on ...

Brown Argus (female?), Trap Grounds, 26.08.2019, Nicola Devine

And speaking of foxes, on visits to the Trap Grounds do you ever get the feeling that you are being watched?

Trap Grounds fox (Nicola Devine, 29 August 2019), 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Stock Doves again

On 16 August Nicola photographed a pair of Stock Doves mating (scroll down to see the evidence), next to the requisitioned owl box from which their chicks were clamouring for food. By yesterday (27 August) those chicks had ventured out of the box and were still calling for food, while their mother disappeared into the box for a long period, presumably to lay more eggs. Nicola says that at this rate our resident pair will be single-handedly responsible for removing Stock Doves from the Amber List of Conservation Concern!

Young Stock Doves, Trap Grounds, 27.8.19 (Nicola Devine)

Monday, August 26, 2019

August is a purple month

Purple flowers are everywhere on the Trap Grounds this month, in the form of thistles, teasels, marjoram, mallow, knapweed, water mint, hemp agrimony, clustered bellflower, buddleia and michaelmas daisies (both of them garden escapes) ... and (photographed below) Great Willowherb, Rosebay Willowherb, Purple Loosestrife, and Phragmites australis.

Great Willowherb. (C. Robinson, Trap Grounds, August 2019)

Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum -- 'hirsutum' refers to the softly hairy stem) frequents damp places and flourishes on the banks of the TG ponds and streams. Many insects feed on the leaves, including the Elephant Hawkmoth, Deilephila elpenor. This is the largest of all the willowherbs, even taller than the spiky-flowered Rosebay Willowherb (below), which flourishes on waste ground.

Rosebay Willowherb (C. Robinson, Trap Grounds, August 2019)

Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria (below), even taller than Great Willowherb, is another plant that flourishes in reedbeds, marshes, and riverbanks. Its nectar is a valuable food source for long-tongued insects, such as Brimstone butterflies, Red-tailed Bumblebees, and Elephant Hawkmoths.

Purple Loosestrife (C. Robinson, Trap Grounds, August 2019)

Even our ubiquitous reeds, Phragmites australis, providing safe havens for Water Voles, Water Rails, Reed Buntings, and Reed Warblers, produce purple flowers in dense panicles in August.

Phragmites australis (C. Robinson, Trap Grounds, August 2019)

Friday, August 23, 2019

August 23rd

Adam Hartley very kindly created this blog for the Friends of the Trap Grounds in mid-August 2019. In retrospect here are a few of Nicola Devine's outstanding photographs taken last month, starting with a Silver-Washed Fritillary observed on 4 July.

Silver-Washed Fritillary, Trap Grounds, 4 July 2019 (Nicola Devine)

On the previous day, Nicola photographed a Southern Hawker teneral emerging from its exuvia:

Southern Hawker, emerging from its exuvia (Trap Grounds, Nicola Devine, August 2019)

and a Six-Spot Burnet Moth emerging from its cocoon, while nearby two of the same species were mating:

Six-spot Burnet Moth, emerging from exuvia (Trap Grounds, Nicola Devine, August 2019)

Six-spot Burnet Moths mating (Trap Grounds, Nicola Devine, August 2019)

Monday, August 19, 2019

19th August

Another visit late morning to look for Nicola's Small Red-eyed Damselflies, again sadly without success. Saw quite a few Blue-tailed Damselflies, lots of red Darters of both species, one Brown Hawker on the Swan Pond and one blue Damselfly (Common or Azure).


Blue-tailed Damselfly
Common Darter

Saturday, August 17, 2019

17th August

I visited this afternoon with my camera to look for Nicola's Small Red-eyed Damselflies. Sadly there was no sign of them though there were quite a few Blue-tailed Damsels around. There was plenty of other insects to see though, especially in the Meadow area where the Wild Marjoram was buzzing with activity. Butterflies seen included: Brown Argus, Small Copper, Common Blue, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood and various Whites.


Brown Argus
Ruddy Darter

Friday, August 16, 2019

Stock Doves on the TG UK Conservation Status: Amber

A pair of Stock Doves were mating today, alongside the owl box that they requisitioned earlier this year for their offspring. It seemed late in the summer for them to be mating, but apparently they mate up to four times each year; and indeed their previous brood were still in the box, calling for food!

So here is the definitive proof: Stock Doves ARE breeding on the TG.  And the cutest thing was that once they had finished mating, they seemed to face each other one last time and bow.


Stock Doves mating (Nicola Devine, August 2019)

An early start this morning .... Mr Fox

A fox, glimpsed on the east bank of the Kingfisher Pond, enjoying the sunshine. 

Nicola Devine

Relaxing on the bank of the Kingfisher Pond (Nicola Devine, August 2019)

Then strolling off into the woodland. (Nicola Devine, August 2019)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A huge stroke of luck yesterday

The first reported sighting of a Kingfisher for many months, perched above Tim's Pond. And then, even more exciting ...

Mr. K courtesy of Nicola Devine

… a new damselfly, photographed on a butterbur leaf on the bank of Tim's Pond, and later identified by Stephen Burch (Country Dragonfly Recorder) as a Small Red-eyed Damsel: "An amazing find, as I am only aware of one other reliable site in the county for this species - and that is in Faringdon! So very well done on that."

This brings to 20 the number of species of damsel and dragon confirmed on the Trap Grounds (out of the 33 species recorded in the whole of Oxfordshire).

Nicola Devine

Small Red-eyed Damselfly courtesy of Nicola Devine

Migrant Hawker courtesy of Nicola Devine