Wildlife Diary for December 2017

Treecreeper
Top gates

(Thanks to Sue Ebbage for the images of birds, other than my attempt at the Peregrine, Alan Webb for the fish, and Daniel Tabor for the snow scenes.)

27th December, more snow and then floods of melt water. I walk my little field and find lots of House Sparrows and Blackbirds amongst the horse hay. A couple of Black-headed Gulls are paddling about and pull drowned worms from the water. I then discover a hole in my right Wellington.

23rd December, I open Cotton End Park. It’s cold, wet and foggy and I almost think twice about having my usual check-round walk. I should be shopping or wrapping or something Christmassy, but I set off and hear the dull distorted sounds of wet Pigeon wings flapping in the mist. A (the) male Kestrel sits on the Pylon. He is used to me and ignores me, besides he needs breakfast. A Moorhen is back on the pond. They disappeared for a while after some kids had been messing about in the Wildlife Area. I hear then see a Treecreeper, 2 Redpoll go over, and then I hear and eventually see 2 Brambling do the same. Hang on.. Brambling (Winter visiting finches, similar to our Chaffinch, from Scandinavia) is new for the park. Worth a walk after all! 

Reed Bunting
Dunnock

20th December, several reports of Thrushes including Fieldfare, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Redwing now in peoples gardens on fruiting bushes and fallen apples. The berries in the countryside hedges have now mostly gone so these birds are having to move into the gardens. It doesn’t take long for them to take what’s available, and then they’re off to raid the next garden, but it’s a good chance to see them close up.

18th December, there are a number of fallow fields in the parish at the moment and these are proving helpful to the wintering farmland birds. Commonly now you can walk along way in the countryside and see not much at all. The birds are mainly in mixed flocks and sometimes hard to find. I was lucky this afternoon and managed to find one north of the village. Feeding together on the ground within an area of 100 square yards and adjacent to the field hedge were 30 Fieldfare, 20 Redwings, 15ish Blackbirds, 10 Yellowhammer, handfuls of Chaffinch, Goldfinch, and Greenfinch, singles of Pied wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Bullfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Wren and Blue Tit. The latter spent more time in the hedge but stayed with the general flock as it moved along the field.

Peregrine
Zander

17th December, Alan and Carol see a male Blackcap in their garden at the Wharf. That’s the first wintering record so far. At CEP all is quiet in the fog. About 50 bedraggled Woodpigeons sit in an Ash, wings drooping, trying to dry out. Suddenly they all leave the tree and instead of loosely flopping off as they normally would, they group closely and swerve down then up in a shoal-like move. I stand for a second thinking that’s odd and then see a falcon raking through the air hard on their tails. The flock rises sharply and the falcon clips of the ‘corner’ bird. The flock heads away, but the lone pigeon and the falcon power over my head and up towards Sandy Lane. I am so engrossed in this five second show that I forget I’ve got my camera around my neck. I raise it just in time to get a couple of poor shots. Size wise I think it was a Peregrine, maybe a young male.

16th December, Alan sends me a photo of a chap (from the Canal & River Trust) holding a Zander, caught at The Wharf. This fish species has been introduced into the UK and loves the deep murky water of the canals. Trouble is as with most introductions, it’s causing havoc amongst the natives. The question is who cares? Who cares about the damage this species is doing to our native fish. Who cares that the introduced Grey Squirrel has wiped out the native Red Squirrel. The list of wildlife disasters caused by man’s ignorant actions is I’m afraid, virtually endless.

All is quiet
Fieldfare

10th December, a thick layer of snow is quiet and pure, and innocently puts a stop to the head-long stampede towards Christmas. I’m out in the truck delivering stranded workers, and see many excited families out and about, perhaps even more so than a summer’s day. The Park is riddled with animal tracks and Badgers, Foxes, Rabbits, Squirrel/Rat are noted. It’s great to see their previous night’s journeys and interactions.

Some girls build a fab’ snow-lady in the car-park, then some others come and smash it up. The birds are lit from below as well as above and take on a new look. The beautiful plumage on a Fieldfare, red-brown back, grey head, nape and rump, ochre and white breast with streaks and spots, a real beauty.

Pied Wagtail

 

Chaffinch

7th December, the rain and gloom does not stop a Blackbird from singing for a few, brief seconds. Not long now and the switchover to increased daylight will truly set them off.

5th December, the Station Road building sites are providing lots of bare soil for feeding Wagtails and Pipits. Redwings and Blackbirds are also dodging the diggers.

3rd December, Richard reports 3 Redpoll on Brington Moors.

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for November 2017

30th November, Cold and clear is how we like it, but up in the ‘cherry-picker’ installing Christmas lights on the trees on Market Place is not for the faint hearted. The freezing wind sways the cage as it blows over the roof-tops. Steady your nerve and carry on. My lads do a great job but accuse me of standing around chatting to passers-by and birdwatching! Of course they are right, the second tree has a Collared Dove sitting on a nest (no egg – yet), and several Jackdaw hang about watching our antics. We see a Buzzard and small flocks of Redwings and Chaffinches. As we pack up for the day the horizon turn golden and we watch the sun set over the Library.

25th November, Terry reports 5 Raven together, and suggests that House Sparrows have had a better year, and I agree. Anita and Tommy see a Red Kite and David reports seeing 8 together over Cottesbrooke, with second hand report of 18 together there. A dog walk around the bare arable fields out back sees handfuls of Yellowhammer, and Chaffinch picking over the ground, with Woodpigeon, Rook and Collared Dove also. The setting low sun makes a perched Robin positively glow.

24th November, there are some odd vocal Coal Tits now appearing and I see one off West Street. There are a couple of flocks of 30ish Goldfinches and a Siskin also. Have you noticed that there are now a few Gulls, mainly Black-headed that have moved in? They don’t have the dark head this time of year and hang around on roof tops being raucous and argumentative. A good place to see them and the odd Common Gull is on the playing Fields early morning and late afternoon.

I visit Cotton End Park at half four and its nearly dark. I creep down to the lower picnic area and sit quietly. I soon see a white set of wings and watch a Barn Owl settle on a fence post. It calls three times, a slow, hollow rasping hiss, then moves off. I switch to hearing only as the light goes and hear Redwings, Blackbirds and one or more Snipe over and around me. The rush hour traffic sounds like the sea and the lights of the West Haddon bypass twinkle in the distance, but it’s not long before coldness gets me gone.

23rd November, there is something about a clear and windy day that brings out the crows and raptors. I see Rooks and Jackdaws over the village, just up there playing in the winds. And Buzzard, Red Kite and Kestrel are also seen during the day variously practicing or experiencing the winds. I sure I’m not supposed to use the phrase ‘playing’ or ‘fun’, but you just watch them for a while and see what you think.   

20th November, neighbour Dave hears Tawny Owl out back and I am beginning to agree with Rebecca and think that the number of recent records suggest that they have had a good year. David Evans reports Nuthatches stripping his feeders of nuts. They are taking and catching them, Coal Tits also do this

18th November, there is a Mistle Thrush singing in the distance, and 3 Snipe are circling CEP. I visit the lambs and am confronted by the two Hebridians, Romulus and Remus. Their winter wool is thick and makes them look twice the size they did after shearing.

In the fabulous ridge and furrow field on the footpath north of St Lawrences, several Meadow Pipit, and dozens of Goldfinches are amongst the grass. This beautiful and ancient site is perhaps the only regular wintering place for Meadow Pipits that I know of in the parish.

14th November, Grey Wagtail reported. There seems to be a handful now in the parish presumably for the winter. Laura sees a Grey Heron on the side of the A5. Nick reports 3 Hares from Lodge lane, and Trevor reports Woodcock. Alan sees ‘his’ Hedgehog again and says it looks in good health, and Rebecca reports Tawny Owl in and around South Close, and Barn Owl on the Three Bridges Road, suggesting they might be doing at bit better at the moment. 

12th November, a great cloud of Jackdaws (100+) are enjoying the wind. 1 Snipe reported and the Game Shooters report seeing Woodcock.

11th November, I find 3 Greenfinches and start to think these may be part of the European winter influx as opposed to a sudden upturn in fortunes for our local birds.

3rd November, 5 Grey Partridge are a rarity, so two adults and three young feeding in the lower sheep paddock at CEP is a notable record. Flyover Raven, Fieldfare and 2 Redpoll seen.

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for October 2017

*re the Hawfinch record from the 8th. (The 90th species for Cotton End Park) It turns out that there has been an unprecedented invasion of Hawfinches into the UK and there have now been dozens of reports from the county and hundreds seen all over the country.  

31st October, moving the CEP Sheep onto new grass at the bottom of The Banks and we are entertained by a Kestrel that carries on hunting regardless of the mayhem. Handfuls of Fieldfares and Redwings are about the Parish hedges trying to find the Haws, Hips, and Sloes before the flayers attack. There is a small bird zipping about in the Willows by the hide at CEP. It has a mono-syllabic ‘weet’ call which varies in pitch. It looks like a Chiffchaff and is constantly flicking its tail, which I think makes the tail look marginally longer. 

It is a dull bird more brown and grey than I see in the ‘usual’ Chiffchaffs. Have I got my camera with me? Have I ****! Alan sees a Hedgehog at The Wharf. Let’s hope it doesn’t end up choosing to hibernate under a bonfire. 

 I watch a farmer/contractor making a hash of spreading Lime on a field. I think he’s using a muck spreader but whatever it is, only a small percent of what it’s throwing out is actually landing on the field, the rest is in a massive, towering, white cloud that’s drifting continually over a good half a mile or more onto other people’s land and gardens. This goes on for quite a while and I begin to wonder how and why he has got to the stage in his life where he doesn’t actually care about what he’s doing

29th October, we have repaired and re-opened the Bird hide at Cotton End Park and are rewarded by 3 Snipe that leap out of the marsh, and zig-zag away. There is a Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk, 3 Greenfinch(!) and 6 Goldcrest about the place.

24th October, ‘chack,chack,chack’, Fieldfares, about ten come out of the North-east. I stand for half an hour and perhaps a thousand Woodpigeons are doing the same, wonderful visible migration. Lots of Redwings, Larks and Pipits and many others go by too high to see or hear well enough.

19th October, a 30 strong flock of small mixed birds includes mainly Long-tailed tits, Great and Blue Tits, Goldcrest and a Chiffchaff. An odd call comes from the sky and then again twice more. I look up but even though I don’t see it, I know it’s a Grey Plover.

18th October, 7 Cormorant fly in V formation over the village, and a Grey Wagtail is reported. There are odd ones and twos of Blackbird and Song Thrush going over. Donna and her sheep watch a Muntjac, and Kevin sees a Little Owl at Grove farm. A few Grey Wagtails seem to be arriving in the village.

14th October, David Evans and Dean report a pair of Dabchick from the ponds at Oak Tree Farm, and there are lots of fungi fruiting in the fields including the candle-like White Spindles and the yellow/green Parrot Waxcap. Richard reports an injured Barn Owl on the roadside, and Brian and Julie see a massive Hornet which they thought could be Asiatic (the photos don’t help this time).

12th October, the gardens and hedges have perceptively more Goldcrests and Blackbirds than before. On the east coasts hundreds of thousands of continental birds are moving into Britain for the winter, and these include many of what we call ‘garden’ species. The first snipe is seen, and it is mild enough for Red admiral, Peacock and Comma to be on the wing.

10th October, brooding skies and uncertain winds are promising as I open up the Park. Black specks are heading south on a broad front, mainly Woodpigeons, Starlings, Meadow Pipits, Finches, Skylarks and then about 30 Redwings, the first of the incoming winter thrushes. As I watch them I see two other birds behind them – unfamiliar shapes and calls. Within a second I realize that they are Hawfinches. Big robust, heavy headed, broad white wing bar, and strong undulating flight. They call continuously and disappear to the south-west. Hawfinches are now very rare in Northants with no records in some years. I am sure of what I saw but not sure of the reaction I am going to get from the bird records committee.*  

8th October, the Stonechats persist and Red Kite, a Hornet, and a flyover Greenfinch are also noted. I am discussing some maintenance work with a group of volunteers from the village when we hear a rush of wings above us and receive a shower of white feathers. A female Sparrowhawk has struck a Woodpigeon but not enough to down it. It is a life and death moment, though somehow the Pigeon recovers and flies on with the Hawk in hot pursuit. We collect and stack away the last of the hay bales.  

6th October, CEP has 2 visiting Stonechats but the local Robins are unhappy and chase them off. 1 male Common Darter by the pond may be the last.

5th October, half a dozen small specks materialize into Siskin as they come over West Street. Handfuls of Skylark, Yellowhammer and Meadow pipits are in the air, and the Jackdaws are performing aerobatics above the roof tops. A job on The Banks and I stop my conversation as a Redpoll flies over.

4th October, Dave reports being woken by Tawny Owls in and around The Grange on East Street, Angela sees a Bat flying around at midday near Pytchley Drive, and Louise reports Newts from her garden on Ashmore. Chiffchaff and Skylark are singing, and a Shaggy Inkcap reported.

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for September 2017

30th September, a last day treat. I open the Park and things are quiet. A few Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, and a Pied Wagtail, fly over going south. Suddenly I hear a ‘Clip, clip, clip’ call, and look up to see 8 Crossbills flying over. As I look skywards 3 Cormorant and a Grey Wagtail follow. The Crossbills are specialist at extracting seeds from Spruce cones, and may well end up at Harlestone Heath. They are species number 89 for CEP, and I’m now thinking what species number 90 will be. Exciting stuff!

29th September, Ivy is now flowering well and it’s a magnet for insects. I step up to within an inch of a flowering cluster on my house, to try and see more of the minute flower heads. I see that some are not opening and have small holes in them. I then see a very small green, black-faced caterpillar which turns out to be Holly Blue. A first for me to see anything but the winged form of them, and great to know they breed by my front door. The caterpillar will pupate and overwinter, and hopefully I’ll see the blue-winged adult at the end of April next year.

26th September, back to the horse paddocks at Lunchtime, and this time the male Stonechat has gone. I stand and search but then hear the ‘chacking’ call of a Ring Ouzel. Trouble is there is too much cover. I try my hardest to get to see it but it stays out of sight and calls only once more in about 40 minutes. Work beckons and I’m away. I try later on but no luck. Further out between Second Moors and Edgen Hill another Stonechat is fly-catching, and I see 6 Tree Sparrows, and a Raven, plus hare. Devil’s Coach-horse, Red Admiral, and Forest Bug also noted, but only when I fell head-long into a ditch. 

25th September, 12 hours of rain ends mid-morning and I do a lunch time dog-walk for ‘brownie’ points. Some left over Elephant grass on a damp patch holds a pair of Stonechat and a Reed Bunting. Stonechat are smart little birds with black, orange, russet, and white, and are mainly passage migrants that sometimes over-winter. I’m pleased I went out, and so were the dogs.. There is an upturn in Goldcrest numbers, they seem to be everywhere though are seldom seen as much as heard. And even that is an issue as the pitch of their call is so high that many (particularly older) people can’t hear them.

24th September, another rolling ball of migrating Swallows and Martins comes over heading south. They are on a wide front and the furthest are specks in the binoculars. I search through the busy birds seeing dozens of Swallows and perhaps proportionately less House Martins, and then a brown bird, a Martin.. with no white rump.. a Sand Martin. Is that new for the park? I think it is. A Common Gull follows them. 

23rd September, I like a nice surprise now and then. I unlock Cotton End Park and don’t find any litter. It gets better.. I see Raven which comes over and sits on the Pylon ‘cronking’ like an old hound. A Jay appears and a Grey Wagtail flies in. I see that the Common Carder Bees are still busy on the wildflower patch, and a few Grasshoppers are at it. I am quite happy with these but then see a face staring at me. A ginger head-cap with a pure, white ‘heart-shaped’ face and two black eyes. A Barn Owl.

17th September, Brian sees 7 Red Admirals and a Comma on the Ivy at the Co-op Garden. More migrating Swallows and Martins are noted. Southern and Migrant Hawkers are reported, also Common Darter.

16th September, Raven, 2 Jay, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Red Kite, Buzzard, Pied Wagtail, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Swallow and fly over Meadow Pipit, are all noted as I check the park. Later, walking the footpath below Oak Tree Farm sees 40 odd each of Lesser-black backed and Black-headed Gulls, and dozens of Rooks and Jackdaws on the plough. 20 Meadow Pipits go over and I hear Little Owl (how vocal they are at the moment)

15th September, a feeding flock of Swallows and Martins are moving just ahead of an ominous frontal wall of rain cloud. Dozens turn into hundreds and the grey sky is full of frantic feeders. I gaze up, face battered by the first heavy drops.

13th September, I am at the Long Buckby Junior School by kind invitation of Sue Ebbage to talk all things wild. The wildlife garden gets a thorough survey and we wow them with Sue’s photos and a few mini-beast facts. The questions keep coming, and I am delighted at the level of knowledge and interest in this room full of bright young faces.

9th September, a brief view of a Wheatear off the Brington Road but I’m in work mode. Small Toads reported. Grey Heron over. Comma, Red Admiral, Small white and Speckled Wood about.

5th September, Small Copper and Common Darter in the brief sunshine. Terry reports 2 Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillars on his Fuscia. Jay reported.

4th September, walking, well stumbling over turned field edges. All is quiet. Too quiet. Not a Crow or Pigeon to be seen. I stand for a while and scan, come on there must be something?.. There it is, a Peregrine is soaring high above the fields and presumably waiting for a Wood Pigeon to break cover. The humble Meadow Pipit is a passage migrant from Northern climes and is a sign. I see the first of the autumn overhead, and know they will be almost daily for the next few weeks. 

3rd September, baling the hay at the park is unnervingly reminding me of the old days, tractors, trailers, adults, youths, and dogs spread over the meadow like a scene from a long forgotten Agricultural College health and safety video. It’s a rush because a circling, leaden sky is wanting to drown us. It hangs in suspension, like a freeze-frame of a heavy duvet about to alight on a bed. The weather App says serious rain for the next 2 hours and we all believe it – but somehow we are spared, we are blessed. Itchy seeds and stems find their way into shirts and onto sweaty backs, the spiking Thistle makes its last stand as it penetrates sleeves and gloves, and finally by late afternoon, we’ve create a stack, with some hastily tied tarps’ to suite. Time for tea? Hang on – what’s the dog rolling in? Oh; it’s a dead Grass Snake, maggots and all, I’ll let you tell your mum.

2nd September, there are some very competent local photographers that include wildlife in their portfolios, Sue and Chris Ebbage (Who’s images appear in these wildlife diaries), Tom Goode, and Sandy Oliver to name a few. I have friends who are professional wildlife photographers who were once just watchers. I still just want to see, to watch what I find and enjoy it in the moment, but I am wrong. The bird recording authorities, at local and national levels are now insisting on photographic evidence of any notable bird that you find. So I need to get with it. I open the park and a normally high, fast and distant Hobby flies low and slow, and over my head in good light! As if to say – ‘get with it! Where’s your camera?’ I meet some members of the Northampton Mensa Group and we have a delightful walk and talk.

1st September, this time of year I am thinking about migrant birds and where to see them in and around Buckby. I have my favourite places, places that maybe have produced more sightings for me than other places. Of course this is probably flawed because I then stop looking in those other places and just visit my favourites. Who knows what wonderful delights are being seen in the other places I don’t visit. And that ladies and gentlemen is an insight into the weird way a birdwatchers brain works. To confirm my affliction I stop-by at one of my favourite places, which is half way up the back road to West Haddon. I scan the fence lines as I’ve done a dozen times in the last month and no doubt will do even more so in the following month. And there is a stunning male Wheatear, so I will shut up, take back what I said, and continue with my affliction…

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for August 2017

29th August, 30 odd members of the Long Buckby Gardening Club meet at CEP for a walk and talk. We see Small Copper, lots of flowers and Bats.

27th August, the round bales make ideal perches for birds and a scan of those in Moore’s Bottom, sees Magpies and a Buzzard perched up. I re-scan and pick up a small, sandy bird which as it jumps down reveals a white rump – a Wheatear (Or White-arse, as they were once named) A Red Kite looks expectantly over the cut Meadow at CEP.

26th August, Trevor finds a Common Sandpiper at his lake, I see that and a Kingfisher. Aaron finds and photographs a Roesel’s Bush-cricket, Sam does the same with a Vapourer moth caterpillar, and I find a Speckled Bush-cricket in the porch. David reports Kingfisher from Lakeside, and Geoff reports a Buzzard attacking an adult Hare. Of course the Hare is way out of the range of prey for a Buzzard. Was the Hare injured? This is quite possible during process of harvest. Hobby and Southern Hawker reported. Mr Evans sees a Little Owl as does Dean. I hear one, and have 2 Yellow Wagtails fly over. A night in the Van with Billy and we listen to Tawny Owls and Foxes, and play cards by torch-light. Happy Birthday Billy.

25th August, Moth night at Mill Park sees twenty odd species identified before the cold sets in. Hobby about in the day.

24th August, the routine is the key. Part of my daily routine, on a rota with others, is to open the Park. Work pressures sometimes allow for nothing more than a quick check-‘round then away, but other times I get a chance for a ten minute walk. The low sun hits the hedges and wakes the insects, and the Bramble and Elder berries already have birds flitting and catching. A Robin and Blackbird both sit, feathers fluffed out and warm up, and a careful scan along the full length of hedge is rewarded by yes, a Redstart. They often sit and act like a Robin (They are related) but the Redstart will shoot out from a perch to grab a fly and in the return movement will spread and flash its orange tail feathers. A Jay is a sign of Autumn, but a Chiffchaff still sings and a charm of 25 Goldfinch, 30 Swallows and a Whitethroat carrying food says we’re not done yet. There are 5 Speckled Wood and 2 Meadow Browns left, and we need to get that Hay made!

22nd August, ah! the first fog, but still mild. 2 (now very late) Swifts are calling with the Martins from the sunny morning above. Fungi love this damp warm weather and several are noted. I see (and eat) some Horse Mushrooms, and find a strange porridge like mess in the long grass which is the beautifully named – Dog Sick Slime Mould.

20th August, Anne and Donna at the bottom of The Banks win the Feast Scarecrow competition, (No they don’t but the scarecrows they built did) and a sunny afternoon walking around the village includes a male Brimstone and a large moth that settles long enough for me to guess at Old Lady. Hanglands and CEP have Ruddy Darter and Emerald Damsel, plus patrolling Southern Hawker. Alan sees Raven at the Wharf, Terry has Common Blue butterfly at South Close, and Pete sends photos of Peacock, and a Privet Hawkmoth caterpillar.

10th August, 3 Swifts this morning…they’ve normally gone by now, perhaps the weather’s not to their liking. Young passerines are forming mixed species foraging parties in the hedges, and Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, and Whitethroat are stocking up prior to departure. The flocks also have young Tits and Finches, sometimes Robins, Goldcrests and Blackbirds, and the can be 30 plus strong. This is a treat for a birdwatcher, if you can keep up with them. 50 Swallows are gathering to dip and drink at the CEP ponds, but this attracts a Sparrowhawk who unwisely approaches in full view. The Swallows go wild and turn on the hawk and I watch as it slips away with an angry swarm of chattering Swallows on its tail. Harvested fields are a fresh canvas, and a scattered party of 30 odd Black-headed Gulls are busy worming. There are this year’s brown and white youngsters, white-headed adults in winter plumage and others in various states of moult. To the untrained eye they could all be different species. 

7th August, 2 Swifts over Holyoake first thing. They hang out with the Martins but then are gone when a Hobby appears. A trustees meeting in the new educational room at Mill Park was good fun. It is an excellent facility. I find Copper Underwing moth.

5th August, 5 Tree Sparrows are seen and a fly-over wader calling suggests Grey Plover. Grange Farm gets another Hummingbird Hawkmoth record and 2 Willow Warblers are heard. Hanglands NR has a female Southern Hawker egg-laying at the pond edge, and a blood-red Ruddy Darter, a slightly more orangey, Common Darter, and Emerald Damsels are also noted. Laura finds and photographs a Ruby Tiger moth caterpillar, and a Lesser Hornet Hoverfly.

3rd August, the Jet Stream is doing its best to spoil summer. Billy and I walk the dogs along a farm track and by the look of the tall grass, go a bit further than most folk. We see a few Yellowhammers, Linnets and 4 Tree Sparrows which is nice. More meadow management and we see 3 Small Copper, 2 Gatekeepers, 1 Peacock, and Green-veined White whilst raking. Dullness grounds the Hawkers but Common Blue and Azure Damsels are joined by a smart metallic green, Emerald Damsel at the pond at CEP.   

1st August, a visit to Murcott and there are a good handful of House Martins in the air. I find a Lesser Stag Beetle and a mating pair of Red-tailed Bumblebees. How often do you see Bumblebees mating? I can’t remember when I last did. Brian has released Unarmed Stick Insects in his garden at South Close. (No he hasn’t removed any arms.. Unarmed is their actual name) One assumes there is one called ‘Armed’ Stick Insect which is a worry.. although they can’t that big so I guess they’re maybe carrying a sharp cocktail stick as opposed to an assault rifle.   

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for July 2017

31st July, I’m working at The Poplars and have a break by visiting the Castle Mound site. How lucky we are to have such a fascinating and rare historical feature in our village. Trying to imagine how it once looked, and how big Buckby was in @1150 AD. As I walk I see 2 male Common Blue butterflies, and on the extensive and heavily fruiting Brambles is a male Holly Blue. Billy and I return later and have blackberries for tea.

30th July, owning and managing land is reassuringly cyclical, and for the third year running I am mowing a wildflower meadow on my birthday. Watching the grass and plants tumble, feeling sorry for the last of the Knapweed that are still in flower, but knowing it has to be done. Strimming long grass is a skill as it needs to be cut and not obliterated, so a slow, right to left sweeping action just like scything is required. This enables the intact stems to lie and dry, and raking and removal, which takes away nutrients, to be more efficient. Taking the nutrients gives the wild flowers a better chance, and they bring the insects and the diversity, and the life of the meadow improves as the years go on.  

27th July, Brian reports Hedgehogs at South Close including a mating couple. Ruddy Darter, Hobby, Green Woodpecker (a young greyish looking bird) Bullfinch, 4 (a family) Raven, and 2 Swift noted. I mention the Swift because they will soon be gone for another year. Tom and I mow and rake the flower strip at Hanglands. Its hard graft, but ten years on and the flowers to grass ratio is now about right. Just ask the butterflies.  

23rd July, the NGS open gardens is a chance to see what can really be done to our domestic green spaces with some time, effort and dedication. I enjoyed them all and they were all very good but I favoured Tiny and Sheila’s on High Stack. Lots of Red Admirals, a few Small Tortoiseshells, and Comma. A handful of Migrant Hawkers, One Southern Hawker, and Hummingbird Hawkmoth and a Silver Y were pointed out.

16th July, Adam sends a reasonable photo’ of a Pied Hoverfly, and Dave sees a Greenfinch. A young Willow Warbler is attempting to sing at Hanglands and is watched by a young Blackcap. At CEP, 3 Buzzard and 3 Kestrel are joined by a Kite. The sun brings out a perfect Painted Lady, and new brood Common Blue and Small Copper. The park list for July is now on 18 species. The grass holds Roesel’s Bush-cricket, Long-winged Cone-head and Common Green Grasshopper.

14th July, the Holyoake crew of House Martins are about 30 strong in the air, and joined by a couple of Swallows, delight in mobbing a passing Sparrowhawk. The fun is cut short though as a Hobby appears from nowhere and scatters them. Late evening sees Brian and I with a Moth identification trap at CEP. We hang on till past midnight and the powerful light attracts hundreds of them. Some of the names are fab, the Beautiful Hook-tip, the Peppered, the Phoenix, the Swallow-tail, and the Setaceous Hebrew Character.

12th July, An Emerald Damsel, an immature Darter which was too quick to disappear, and a Fox cub are seen. There are about 50 House Sparrows including many youngsters in a roaming flock around Armley Close and Field. They are joined by a juvenile Blackbird, which is part of a third brood from a nest in my out-of-control Clematis. Alan Webb sees a Cormorant fishing in the Canal at The Wharf, and Southern Hawker is reported.

10th July, not to be outdone a Marbled White appears at Hanglands, and a teneral Emerald Damsel, and two Muntjac are seen. Dean reports a dead snake, presumably a Grass Snake killed on the road north of the village, and John Coleman reports Skylarks in a similar place.

8th July, we ‘Have a Field Day’ our first involvement in a nationally coordinated event. The weather is fine and wildlife is on good form, lots of butterflies and I am at the dipping platform showing the constant stream of visitors all the dragonfly action. A male Emperor, and Brown Hawker are cruising, and Black-tailed Skimmers and Broad-bodied Chasers are duelling. The Swallows and even a House Martin take a swooping drink, and the Reed Bunting and a Yellowhammer are singing for us.  I wonder back up later in the day and see a Small Skipper. As it sips nectar from a Thistle flower, I get a chance to look closer and find it to be an Essex Skipper, new for Cotton End Park!

6th July, unlocking and checking CEP and I can’t resist a scan of the lower meadow. Hundreds of butterflies including a new Gatekeeper and Marbled White.

3rd July, my wife does it again. Following from last month’s discovery of a rare Orchid, she finds 4 Marbled Whites in the fields at the back of Berryfield/Lime Avenue/Stenhouse Close. Hundreds of Meadow Browns and Ringlets also there.

1st July, a Brown Hawker is patrolling the herbage at the park and in a split second encounter takes a Meadow Brown. It flies slowly at head height and after a couple of seconds the butterfly’s wings drop away one by one.

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for June 2017

 June – dates withheld, unlocking and checking around at CEP I again find lots of discarded litter, mainly beer tins and bottles, this time thrown into the wildlife area. So for the umpteenth time I have to get the barrow and load up the litter. As a volunteer my time is valuable and it’s getting a bit boring now, and with the minor bit of vandalism that goes with it I decide to lock the hide until further notice. Rather a shame as I didn’t mind these lads visiting and drinking/relaxing, we all need somewhere to chill-out, but having carried the tins down there, then not being bothered and not caring enough to take back the empties, well they’ve scored an own goal.

We are also getting misuse of the pond-dipping platform, and litter thrown into the pond. A few idiots spoiling this piece of England for their neighbours and community

30th June, wet grass and cooler conditions over the last few days are a stark contrast to the week before. The butterflies at Cotton End Park are just about holding on and are joined today by Small Skipper.

 A Red Kite drifts into view and into the Buzzard territory but the lack of thermals means the Buzzard can nothing but sit and stare. Richard reports a presumed House Martin colony at a farm off the Brington Road, and we have a conversation about the rise in Goldfinch numbers in relation to the feeding of niger seed in gardens. We also agreed that Greenfinch, a very common garden bird ten years ago could almost be classed as a rarity these days.

26th June, Peter Spokes reports a Hummingbird Hawkmoth at the farm and I nip up at lunchtime and catch a glimpse and snap a poor photo.

25th June, for the first time in ages, but for two days in a row, a noisy, probably juvenile Raven goes over the house at 0500hrs. If it’s not the persistent Wren, or the monotonous Wood Pigeon, it’s now a Raven, woe betide I might actually sleep until the alarm goes off!

23rd June, my wife finds a Common Spotted Orchid whilst dog walking. An amazing find of a rare plant in the sense that one just pops up, every couple of years or so, without warning, and usually does not appear there again in following years. Jane correctly identifies and laments the death of a juvenile Goldfinch, Cath reports a Hummingbird Hawkmoth from her garden, and Ian finds a Scarlet Tiger moth, and sees Cinnabar Moth and caterpillars. We are visited by a Dark Arches moth. Moth names are just the best.

20th June, Brian’s moth trap produces 17 Scarlet Tiger, 2 Elephant Hawkmoth, and 1 Poplar Hawkmoth, plus others yet to be identified. Terry and Joan find a female Purple Hairstreak off the Brington Road, these small butterflies are lovers of Oak trees and Bramble flowers. A butterfly count at CEP sees fresh Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma, with dozens of Meadow Brown, Ringlet, and Large Skipper. Ones and two’s of Speckled Wood, and a newly arrived Large White.

19th June, a long overdue visit to Hanglands NR is full of surprises. Firstly I find the Bee Orchids, three spikes including a new one. (Does anyone know of any other Bee Orchid site in the Parish?) I am then shocked to hear a loud growling coming from the undergrowth, followed by three ear-splitting barks and the sound of something scuttling away. I nearly jumped as high as what I assume was a disturbed Fox. I hear a Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Lesser Whitethroat, and find 4 Four-spotted Chasers battling over the receding pond.

18th June, the new pond is alive with Dragonflies, a pair of Emperors, 6 male Broad-bodied Chasers, and a couple of Black-tailed Skimmer put on a great show of aerobatics as they clash with each other over territory. I see amongst the Common Blue, Azure and Blue-tailed Damsels, a new species for the park, Red-eyed Damsel. A lover of open water with a bit of something to perch on. Amongst the 6 species of Butterfly noted the presumably last of the spring brood of Common Blue is seen.

17th June, a pair of House Sparrows are using nest box at CEP and seem happy to feed on what’s left of the hay and straw around the sheep shed. I hear a familiar call from the big Sycamores, and find a Nuthatch. Although popping up in gardens during the winter a spring record in suitable habo’ suggests it might be looking for a nest site. I find out we haven’t seen one at the park before and it becomes the 87th species recorded.

16th June, a Cinnabar Moth floats across the lawn. The sun brings out the raptors and soaring Red Kite, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel are about almost on a daily basis.

13th June, we see a hedgehog at Foxhill at 0300hrs. Ally sees 4 Scarlet Tigers, and we think they are either ‘emerging’ nearby or they are male and there is a female about. Alan finds 2 juvenile Grey Wagtails in his garden at The Wharf.

7th June, David reports a Stoat hunting in his garden at Ashmore. A Common Blue butterfly is reported.

3rd June, 3 male Yellowhammers and a handful of Linnets are about at CEP. I find 6 Speckled Wood, and 3 Large Skipper, and along the sheltered hedge a Broad-bodied Chaser, Azure and Blue-tailed Damsels are sunning themselves. A trip to ponds off Brington Road, with kind permission of Mr & Mrs Jelley, produces a good dragonfly list including Red-eyed Damselfly. A family walk along the canal at The Wharf produces Beautiful and Banded Demoiselle, and White-legged Damsel. Billy finds me a Sloe Shield-bug. Steve finds a shiny blue beetle which I think is the first record for the village of a Blue Mint Beetle.

2nd June, Ally sees 2 Scarlet Tigers together, and a Meadow Brown.

1st June, a Robin has built her nest within 1 yard of my front door. A regular human presence has deterred the Magpie, but not our neighbour’s cat which this morning ripped the nest down and attacked all four nearly fledged young, disabling each one with a bite. 1 died immediately, 1 had its leg broken, 1 its neck torn and the other seemed ok. I got outside just in time to push the cat away, and picked up the 3 survivors and the nest and put them back in place. Of course the injured 2 died within hours but the last one was seen with one of the parent birds later in the day. Why do domestic cats have the freedom to slaughter wildlife?

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for May 2017

31st May, Terry is still watching a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on South Close and the first Large Skipper butterfly is seen.

30th May, Billy and I are at Hanglands NR on maintenance duties but break to see what’s about. He gets good photos of a male Broad-Bodied Chaser dragonfly, and there are dozens of Large Red and Azure Damsels. I see an odd pale blue one which becomes White-legged Damsel on closer inspection, a species more used to big slow rivers and canals than my little ponds.

28th May, the early bird catches the worm etc… and again unlocking the park rather early is rewarded with a 10 second view of Barn Owl. The Oak Tree Farm to Murcott footpath is my next stop with Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, several Tits and Finches, still 7 tufted Duck and thankfully no Canada Geese. A splash of sun brings up 2 female and 1 male Common Blue Butterflies. Next back to CEP for a meeting and we find a Cockchafer (this time alive), see Moorhen with 2 chicks, and the Demoiselle. 2 more Painted Lady records and Terry also reports the first Hummingbird Hawkmoth. Donna and I see a Small Copper whilst attending the CEP flock at The Banks. Busy, busy.

27th May, the House Martin colony, now numbering c25 birds, on Holyoake appears to be concentrated on a disused house which is worrying as houses rarely stay in this state. As far as I can work out there are about five places that Swifts nest in the village and the total population is about 40 birds. Terry Laney reports Speckled Wood and the first Painted Lady. Red kite is becoming daily. CEP is visited by a male Beautiful Demoiselle, a metallic green dragonfly with all dark wings. Several Azure Damselfly are on the wing by the Flight of Falls, aka the muddy ditch on the right.

22nd May, neighbour Jim reports a Red Kite killing a large-ish, assumed young bird, maybe Pigeon or corvid, by dropping onto it in the top of a tree. Pale Tussock Moth and Cockchafer reported, and David Green is visited by a large swarm of Bees. Jo finds an abandoned Dunnocks nest, with eggs inside, which fell out of the nettles during the bad weather. I see a small beetle thing that looks like Asparagus Beetle.

20th May, I don’t believe it. Unlocking this morning rather early and yes there it is – the reeling Grasshopper Warbler. I crawl through the soaking, cold Nettles and do a Dave by holding my mobile up to record the sound. I then retreat and finding higher ground scan with the bins’ and eventually find the bird. It is small and brown with a vibrating, buffy throat, and is holding its mouth wide open to reveal a red gape. The reeling noise is constant for 30 seconds or more, and the sounds drifts away as the birds turns its head slowly from side to side.  

19th May, unlocking CEP, I am picking up litter and dog poo (Oh the joys of being a park manager) although I am somewhat rewarded by seeing a pair of Grey Partridge, a Chaffinch feeding young, and a pair of Bullfinch.

17th May, it rained all day, and a Grey Squirrel sits it out in my Birch.

13th May, Alan sees, in daylight, a Tawny Owl on the Three Bridges Road. I rescue a Starling and a baby Blackbird from death by cat. It is a battleground out there, young birds harassed by cats, Magpies and Crows, and if that’s not enough they get run over, trapped in a greenhouse, drowned in a bucket.. the list goes on. The adult birds are constantly reacting to some threat or other. I get calls from people saying their cat has brought in a baby bird what do they do? Take it back out and leave it somewhere less obvious for the parents to find it, and keep your cat in at night! In my opinion there should be rules on owning a cat which should include them not being out from the hours of 1800 to 0600hrs just to give our garden birds, small mammals, insects etc a break from the slaughter.

12th May, 12 Swift over Market Place, and 2 rare parish birds are reported, Mike Ivens sees Spotted Flycatcher at Willow Mill, and Dave Walden records a strange whirring or reeling sound from the wildlife area at CEP. To my amazement (and envy) it is a ‘singing’ Grasshopper Warbler, the second ever parish record..

10th May, the much neglected Hanglands NR has my first dragonflies of the year with 4 Large Red Damsels. Butterflies include several peacock on the Nettle bed, Green-veined White and Orange-tip.

7th May, the LBGS Cotton End Park work party is enjoying the Sunday morning sunshine when the inevitable occurs – I look up and see something. The sky above us has a dozen or more large birds soaring around together. I grab the bins’ and count 9 Buzzards, 1 Red Kite, 2 Ravens, and 2 Peregrines. For several minutes we are treated to various interactions and the Falcons, a pair, are displaying by stooping and calling. It’s a rare spectacle and after a while they generally disperse, and we get back on with our work. 7 Swifts appear overhead having just missed the party but soon move north.

3rd May, 5 House Martins at Holyoake now, they are arriving later than usual and this seems to be the only colony left in the village. My first Hobby appears and streaks between the lumbering Buzzards on its way north. CEP has 2 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Swallows and a Speckled Wood. Terry and Joan see 12 Swift over South Close and Richard at Mill Park reports an Otter!

2nd May, Jane from Grange Farm hears a Cuckoo at Foxhill and Trevor also hears and sees it! Alan Webb is monitoring the Grey Wagtail nests along the Canal at The Wharf, and reports several juveniles. Orange-tip, Holly Blue and Red Admiral about. Anna from The Banks reports Barn Owl.

1st May, from footpath EY31 (off the back road to West Haddon) you have a fab walk past Oak Tree Farm with views of ponds, with Vanderplanks Covert behind, then the parish boundary stream, Picnic Spinney and if you keep going you come to Mill Park Reserve. No better way to start the month of May when looking for our parish wildlife, and I see Garden Warbler, Jay, 7 Tufted Duck, and 2 Greylags.

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for April 2017

 

30th April, a beautiful sunny spring morning, and the Davis family and the Long Buckby Green Spaces committee hold a ceremony to remember Phil Davis. We install an Oak bench looking over the park, and plant an Oak tree by the lower picnic area. We see Brimstone, Orange-tip, Peacock and Small tortoiseshell, 

there hundreds of St Mark’s Flies dancing in the stillness, we see 4 Swallows, a Buzzard, and the first Yellow Wagtails of the year. At Hanglands NR on strimming duty I hear a Jay, and on The Banks, with the park flock, Donna and I see 30 Starlings, 2 Song Thrush and a Wheatear whilst checking the Lambs. And to 

end a very busy day I see a large Bat sp around the white mercury street lamp on Church Street on the way back from the OKH quiz.

26th April, a bitterly cold northerly wind convinces me that northbound migrants would want to go to ground. Eyes watering, and 

numb fingered , I birdwatch the top of the village, pre-work and am finally rewarded by a cracking male Wheatear at my last port of call, Cotton End Park.

23rd April, Happy St. George’s Day. The CEP Sunday work party is, as usual, more of a social event in the morning sun. Some mowing and trimming whilst the birds sing is all good fun.

St Marks Fly are on the wing, two days before the event, and Common Whitethroat are noted. Mark Jelley reports a Little Egret and sends some photos. Swallows, mainly singles reported.

22nd April, a lone Fieldfare, is particularly late, in the fields of the West Haddon Road. Alan sees a Green Sandpiper on the GUC at The Wharf, and Large White is reported. 

19th April, working along Holyoake and 3 House Martins appear. Red Kites about, always lower over the village than any Buzzard would dare. Cowslips, Dog Violet and a strange cup fungi of the Peziza family noted.

17th April, at Patford Bridge, a singing Lesser Whitethroat adds to the list of incoming Warblers. At Oak Tree Farm ponds, a pair of 

Tufted Duck is busy avoiding the Canada’s. 15th April, in the excellent paddocks behind Berryfield/Lime Avenue, 4 Swallows are noted and a male Redstart pops up in front of me. Quick to raise the camera, the resulting shot is a blur of hedge and sky.

13th April, 2 singing Willow Warbler, join the Blackcap and Chiffchaffs at the park. A Raven silent for once, flies over with a crop full of food.

8th April, a late Snipe at CEP is a surprise, and Small Whit a and Peacock are seen. Brian notes Green Field Speedwell (a declining native wildflower) in the village. Mr Evans sees for the first time in years, a Dabchick (Little Grebe) at his ponds. Richard sees 3 Swallows on the Brington Road, and Mike a possible Stonechat.

7th April, I walk Yolanda and her friends through Mill Park at 0530 and we hear 15 species singing before it gets light. Inspired I go to CEP and flush a Green Sandpiper from the new pond, see 3 late Fieldfare, and a fab’ male Redstart at Grange Farm. What a day.

6th April, Richard reports Bats over The Leys. And a Bee-fly (another indicator species) noted at Armley.

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for March 2017

 

30th March, More sun! Terry Laney and I see Orange-tip, his at South Close mine at Armley, perhaps the earliest we’ve known. At Hanglands one or two Peacocks and Small torts’ are already laying eggs on the emerging Nettles. The last of the winter thrushes, 20 Fieldfare with 1 Redwing are still in the paddock with 4 Starling. Daniel reports 2 Comma’s, and David Evans

 describes the activities of perhaps 3 Nuthatches that have been raiding his bird feeders. Brian reports a flowering Elm, Slow Worm, 2 Toads and Chiffchaff.

28th March, Dave describes a Stoat, Daniel reports a pair of Reed Bunting, Anne finds Cedar Cup fungi, and David sees Bats. Hares are seen off Brington Road and at Murcott.

25th March, as migration is under way I give time to Sandy and Lodge Lanes. The winter coldness is matched by seeing 100plus Fieldfare, and a Common Gull, but the spring is represented by song-flighting Greenfinch and singing Linnets and Great Tit. At Murcott I ‘scope the lake and see 6 gadwalls, 12 teal, 8 mallards, 3 Moorhen and 2 Canada’s. 

At Grange Farm, a spot of lambing duty is rewarded by very close views of Red Kite, and we find a huge bracket of fungi on an Ash stump – Dryad’s Saddle.

24th March, we count 28 Frog spawns and 1 Toad spawn, in 5 different water areas at the Park, and Skylark and Chiffchaff are singing well.

19th March, at CEP a pair of Raven and a Red Kite are soaring together for five minutes but of course, my camera is elsewhere and I’m covered in mud. A nervous female Reed Bunting is watching us, but we work on perhaps making less noise.  

17th March, I am working at Murcott Mill and whilst unloading to, ls hear Chiffchaff, and Little Owl and see Buzzard and Grey Wagtail. Brian rescues a Great-crested Newt from a drain on Berryfield. Dean reports an odd goose with the flock of Canada’s at Oak Tree Farm ponds. We think it could be a Greylag/Canada cross.

15th March, sunny weather brings out Brimstone, Peacock, Small Torts’, and Red-tailed Bumblebee. Mike and Beth report Brimstone, and Keith reports Little Egret at Bridge House Farm Lake.

13th March, I am working at Winwick and hear my first Chiffchaff of the year. CEP has one very precious Gorse bush and even though it flowers continually there is now a hint of the scent of vanilla from the flower heads.

12th March, Dave and Adam, my top CEP volunteers, see 2 Common Snipe, and Brian 

reports a Barn Owl near Patford Bridge on the Brington Road.

11th March, foggy and damp but this doesn’t stop Chaffinch, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch, Skylark, Great and Blue Tit, Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song and Mistle Thrush, and Reed Bunting from singing at CEP on my walk-about first thing. Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Jackdaw, are seen and overhead small parties of Redwing and Fieldfare are in and out of the fog banks, joined by a single Meadow Pipit.

9th March, today is the funeral of our friend and college Phil Davis. He was with me from the start, and as a then parish councillor worked to bring my ideas of a new community park to fruition. Long Buckby Green Spaces and Cotton End Park owe him so much.

The church is packed, and the sunshine floods in. And to add a bit of magic, a newly awoken Small Tortoiseshell flies about over our heads as if personally tasked with announcing the arrival of spring.

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for Winter 2016/2017

As the summer ends this year’s juvenile birds start to gather in flocks. In the gardens, noisy mixed groups of young Great and Blue Tits are joined by Goldcrests, Long-tailed, and Coal Tits. Out on the fields, Chaffinches and Yellowhammers gather with family parties of Skylarks and Linnets. Flock sizes of these species used to number in the hundreds, but in recent years have declined to a few handfuls. Ploughing and drilling follow the harvest and just for a few hours, thousands of Gulls appear 

 including Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed, but also with the odd Herring and Common Gulls. Swallows and Martins congregate on the lines making ready to migrate, although their main predator, the Hobby is still about, now with her family. Soon they will all leave to spend the winter in Africa.

 Migrating birds from northern climes are passing through the parish and include moorland summer visitors like Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Meadow Pipit, and Stonechat.  The hedgerows have parties of Warblers also heading south including Whitethroat, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat, and Chiffchaff. A Willow Warbler and two Spotted Flycatchers also appear for an afternoon but then move on. Both were once regular breeding birds in the village, now only rare visitors.

A few resident Dragonflies and Butterflies are still about, Common Darter of the former and Red Admiral of the latter being seen until late October, though in recent years I have recorded Red Admiral on the wing in every month of the year. Some of our insects also migrate, and we have a couple of sightings of 

 Humming-bird Hawk-moth and Clouded Yellow Butterfly, both originally from southern Europe. The warm, damp conditions bring out Fungi, and Field Blewitt, Blackening Waxcap, Shaggy Inkcap, Purple Brittle-gill, and Horse Mushroom are found. As continental Europe gets colder the UK sees a steady influx of birds seeking our relatively mild climate.

Thousands of Woodpigeons, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins, Finches, Wagtails and Starlings, arrive in the parish, and some set about what’s left of the hedgerow fruit. They are joined for the winter by Redwings and Fieldfares from Scandinavia, and Lapwing, Snipe, Woodcock, Jay, Grey Wagtail, Redpoll, Siskin, Peregrine, and Green Sandpiper are also noted in the parish, and can just as easily be 

 from the continent as from northern Britain. Muntjac and Roe Deer, Hare, and Polecat are reported by the shooting and hunting fraternity. These gentlemen provided tens of acres of invaluable, long-term habitat for our local native wildlife, also the various plantations, and cover crops, as well as game bird feeders, go a long way to helping birds through the winter months. 

A mild start to the winter sees a Bat reported on the wing in early December, also an under-sized Hedgehog. The short days see an upturn in Owl records including a handful of Barn Owl and Little Owl sightings from Grange Farm and Station Road.

As we approach Christmas a Little Egret moves into the parish, being seen several times along the streams between St Lawrence’s and Surney. A Blackcap is noted in a garden on Ashmore, and a pair of Gadwall (a duck species) and a white Grey Squirrel are seen at Cotton End Park. A sighting of Kingfisher on the canal at The Wharf, a Green Sandpiper and a Chiffchaff at Mill Park, and Nuthatches on feeders at Oak Tree Farm are also worthy of note. I am pleased to report that there are now regular sightings of Otters at Ravensthorpe Reservoir also a Great White Egret has been seen there recently.

The Little Egret was surprising dog-walkers between Surney and Oak Tree Farm, with its habit of creeping along the stream-bed and leaping out at the last second, when disturbed. A Stoat with some white bits in its coat was seen at Cotton End Park, being chased and scolded by a gang of fierce Wrens. A handful of noisy Canada Geese are backwards and forwards over the village trying to decide where to nest, and although tempted not to look up, I can’t help myself and am duly rewarded by seeing 4 fly-over Cormorants as well. The sight of Aconites and Snowdrops in flower is accompanied by the sound of a Mistle Thrush singing and a Great-spotted Woodpecker

 drumming. Light is the giver of life. Fairly regular Barn Owl records from sites North and West of the village suggests separate territories and is a testament to the effort some of our Farmers are putting in to save this species locally. Buzzards still don’t have enough warm air to soar but are content to sit on the overhangs, poles and hedges patiently staring downwards ‘Mixy’ Rabbits are noted, and may be on their menu.

Now rare and irregular in winter, 7 lapwings pass over. What has happened to the wintering

 flocks that contented our parish? A Green Woodpecker yaffles if laughing at a private joke, but is seen off by a prospecting Kestrel, who’s just not in the mood. The list of bird species joining the dawn that contented weekly, and Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Wren and Dunnock are practising hard, with the monotonous and repetitive ‘teacher-teacher’ of the Great Tit being easy to pick out. Frog spawn on the 24th is nowadays believable and a barking Fox sets the dogs off. Moles are having a bit of a come-back and the Fieldfares and Redwings are picking away at their hills on 

our sheep pasture, prior to moving back North. A male Reed Bunting seems to have already attracted a mate but sings anyway from ponds at the Park.  A, or the Blackcap is seen again at Ashmore and also off East Street. In theory this is a wintering, Eastern European bird, and will soon depart making way for ‘our’ Blackcaps as they return from Africa in a month’s time. A sleepy Common Newt is reported, and the irrepressible Brian is out with his torch and bucket, assisting Toads across the roads. Shame the Badgers don’t have a similar hero.

 

Nick Roberts