Wildlife Diary for September 2016

30th September, Kath Shep’ rings and tells me that a few weeks back she saw 2 strange black and white butterflies in her garden. After a brief chat, we decide they were Marbled Whites. Perhaps the same ones that turned up at Cot, on End Park. Let’ hope they appear next summer. Fab, fat and fast spiders are about. The ‘big, hairy, fast one’ as described by most people from inside their homes is Tegenaria Gigantea. The ‘fat round one with the cross on its back’ in the garden is one of the Orb-web Spiders maybe Araneus Diadematus. Look them up – I dare you.

27th September, Alan Webb reports a young Moorhen being fed by a parent, from the Wharf. We think it is part of a second or late brood. The next day Adam Webb reports it being taken by a Sparrowhawk from the back lawn. Such is life. They also see a young Hedgehog and we can’t help wondering about its chances of survival too. There are mushrooms about, I see Blackening Waxcap, and Horse Mushroom, plus others I don’t know.

23rd September, Migrant Hawker, a female Brimstone, a dead Speckled Bush-cricket, Small Tortoiseshell and Small White all reported. Terry hears a Tawny Owl and sees Comma and Allison send me a photo’ of Comma. A Peregrine going towards Watford and more Grey Wagtail records is a sign.

22nd September, an ex-bean field being ploughed brings in maybe 1100 Gulls of only 2 species. Maggie and I see Hobby, and I spend an hour judging the LB Photographic Clubs wildlife photo’ competition with Mike Ivens and Jayne Bassett.  

20th September, a small Hedgehog and 3 Hares reported. Meadow Pipits and Skylarks are on the move. Chiffchaffs are starting to sing again.

18th September, a white blob bouncing over the fields towards me has me guessing. Surely it’s a Rabbit, but no, it’s a pure white Grey Squirrel called Lucky. How is it still alive? Snipe, Grey Wagtail, Moorhen, 2 Cormorant and 2 Mistle Thrushes it was seen. Butterflies – Red Admiral, and Speckled Wood, and a Painted Lady heading south at full speed, maybe on a reverse migration.

17th September, I ask the dog to go a bit further than usual, away from the people and into the vastness of the field system. Away from the dog-walking tracks, the wildlife is less disturbed. I see Wheatear, and Stonechat being careful not to disturb them myself. 80+ Linnet and 30+ Goldfinch are on the post-harvest soil.

15th September, an afternoon with the children and staff at the junior school is great fun and very rewarding. Mini-beasts, insects, predators, the food chain, metamorphosis, and eco-systems were all up for discussion and the  

creatures of the Wildlife Garden get heavily examined. Many thanks to Sue Ebbage and all involved. 

11th September, Alan Webb reports Kingfisher from the wharf. Records are now few and far between for these birds. The new pond at CEP has Swallows flying low over the surface and taking a drink. 40 arrive to take a quick drink then all are off south. The regular sightings of Buzzard, Red Kite, Hobby, Sparrowhawk, and Kestrel all suggest that the biodiversity at CEP is intact.  

8th September, you’re right, I don’t sit down that often. But at lunchtime, I sit on the bench and next to me is a Hebe plant. It has flowered well but now has just one little, purple cone. As I look, a Hummingbird Hawk-moth arrives and, hovering in front of the flower extends it long proboscis and takes a sip. It is there for two seconds. I am Mr Lucky and must try sitting down more often.

7th September, we see 2 Spotted Flycatchers, once a common breeding bird but now just passing through. There are small parties of Meadow Pipit going over almost on a daily basis. CEP has 2 Snipe.

5th September, at Mill Park working on the new education room, we hear and then see 4 Green Sandpipers go over. They are a wading bird and we get the odd one or two, so 4 is good for stat’s and records. They seem to be around most autumn/winters visiting the various odd ponds around the village. A large fungi attracts my attention. Me thinks its Purple Brittle-gill.

4th September, Terry Laney reports Lesser Stag Beetle, Arthur Broughton reports gangs of Swallows and Martins low over his garden. There are dozens of juvenile birds in amongst the loose flocks at CEP. Blackcap, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Treecreeper, plus Tits and Finches, with Thrushes and the odd Robin.

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for August 2016

30th August, without asking the people of this country what they think, our government have recently announced that they are allowing gamekeepers to kill our native Buzzards to protect introduced non-native Pheasants. This is rather odd. Buzzards were shot to extinction in this and many other counties, about a hundred years ago. They are British, a native bird and part of the nature of our islands, so common sense and education has led to them eventually returning to grace our skies. 

And gamekeepers release anywhere from 35 to 50 million Pheasants every year into our countryside without any consideration for the effect that has on our native wildlife. So what percentage of Pheasants are actually killed by Buzzards as compared to say being killed on roads? What percentage of the millions of released Pheasants are actually being shot for ‘sport’ i.e. how efficient is the industry to start with? Pheasants are everywhere and live and die in many ways.  Surely Buzzards mainly kill Rabbits that eat crops – Rabbits in fact 

damage well £100 million of crops a year, has that process been assessed and quantified for its true value to agriculture and us?

And finally, in our civilised and educated society, what message does shooting that fabulous bird out our skies, say to our children? 

The Gamekeepers I know and work with in this village think this legislation will alienate the public, and further damage the image of the countryside and the people in it.

29th August, Feast Day! I am at it all day on the Long Buckby Green Spaces stand. And as usual, people see me and remember a wildlife record they needed to give me. So thanks to Angela for the Stoat, Caroline for the Blue Butterfly and Bats, Alex for the Green Woodpecker, David for 3 Buzzards, and the two ladies that said they saw a young Badger in the ally-way near Benbow Farm as they were walking to the feast at about 1300hrs. In the damp orange glow of the evening, I hear a Little Owl calling.

28th August, CEP has Goldcrest, Coal, Blue, Great and Long-tailed tits, alongside Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and Robin in a mixed flock in the big Sycamore trees. There are at least 12 Speckled Woods on site, also Red Admiral, and the last of the Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers. Hanglands has a patrolling Southern Hawker, a record 6 male Ruddy Darters, 1 Common Darter, and a female Black-tailed Skimmer, a species I haven’t seen there for years.

I meet David and Jonathon Evans on the footpath near Vanderplanks Covert, and we see a family of Hobby’s, two adults, two juv’s, swooping for Dragonflies over the ponds.A young Kestrel and several Jackdaws join in and for five minutes they chase, harass, and play in the afternoon sun.

18th August, Alan Webb reports a Sparrowhawk taking a House Sparrow, and sees 3 Juvenile Grey Wagtails at the Wharf. Hobby, Red Kite, and Green woodpecker reported. 

The run-off pond on the new estate near Manning Road holds a Mallard with ducklings, and as I approach a shrill piping call tells me there is a Common Sandpiper there. Sure enough up it gets and flies around a couple of times before settling on a culvert. Is that a 1st for the Parish?

17th August, a perfectly marked Badger lies in the road this morning. She is a big sow and I guess her cubs are beginning to wonder where she is. A dead Fox cub is also laying peacefully across the white lines on the 428.

13th August, a Sparrowhawk swings through the farm yard at Grange Farm after a shocked Swallow. The latter are busy on their second brood and now is not the time to be eaten. The young of many species are about, and a good dozen young Blackbirds are in our Rowan and Yew trees stripping out the berries. I don’t think any of the berries are actually ripe but this doesn’t seem to matter. Kestrel, Mistle Thrush and Linnets all have young about at Cotton End Park. 

Hobby reported, also Panted Lady and Holly Blue. I see over a thousand Black-headed, Common and Lesser Black-backed Gulls together on a field being disked, and spend a good hour searching through them for oddities.

10th August, Doc How reports Green Shieldbug and Raven from Stenhouse Close. Dan at Grasscroft has Tree Bumblebees. Hanglands has Painted Lady and Red Admiral with the Whites and Gatekeepers.

7th August, Hobby three days on the trot. The aforementioned House Martins are the target as young inexperienced birds join the flock. 2 Migrant Hawker at the front of the house are hunting amongst the Ivy in the evening sunshine. A Brown-eared Bat is seen as it takes a spider from a web at the Living Room window. We haven’t seen those here many years, although I don’t spend a lot of time looking.

5th August, Billy and I are restacking some fire-wood. The original stack collapsed for no apparent reason, but drying and shrinking must play a part in destabilizing. We see and carefully avoid spiders, wood-lice, ants and beetles. Job done and into the garden, Comma, Gatekeeper, Large and Green-veined-white are joined by Holly Blue. We see Hobby zap over after being warned by the Holyoake Martins. Have you noticed that all the Swifts have gone?

3rd August, a Common Tern comes over the village at 1730hrs. From East to west.

1st August, more reports of Dragonflies in and around houses and gardens. Southern Hawker seem to be the commonest, but Brown Hawker and Common Darter are also seen. Ben reports seeing Greenfinches with Trichomonosis. This killer disease had a massive impact on populations of greenfinch locally but they have recovered somewhat recently as reported. Ben suggests we all make sure we clean our bird feeders and tables regularly as this is thought to be where it is contracted.  

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for July 2016

31st July, Jo and Mike separately report Red Kites. Two birds are seen over the rape fields as they are being harvested. They are scavengers and cruise about staring intently at the newly exposed ground. Rob jumps off the ‘combine’ for a beer at the back gate. We talk moisture, tonnage, ploughing, beer and dogs, all in 1 minute. The sun shines, the days are long, the time is now..

 30th July, 21 species of butterflies so far and I haven’t tried for the Purps’ at the Station yet. It is my birthday and I treat myself by getting up early and strimming the flower meadow at Hanglands. It is the once a year equivalent of scything, in fact, a scythe would do a better job other than the ground being uneven. I am watched by a young Buzzard and a Kite comes over to look for pickings.

 A male Brown Hawker is patrolling the fast evaporating 2nd pond. It’s called a Brown Hawker because as with all named things that’s the first impression – a brownish thing. On closer inspection, it has amber yellow wings, and blue and yellow blocks and rings on its chocolate-orange, brown body, a real beauty. The flowers and grass tumble, and the seed-pods of the are vetch are still popping as it lays on the ground. The sweat rolls down my face, and I breathe in the smell of summer.

27th July, Butterflies reports still coming in, courtesy of the sunshine, with Brimstone, Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, and Red Admiral seen. A big green and black Dragonfly appears in the garden during the evening, a female Southern Hawker may be eyeing my rather pathetic garden pond

22nd July, Terry reports 2 Holly Blue butterflies, and I see Painted Lady and Peacock. Tony sends a photo of his resident Toad, a formidable looking lady indeed. Ruddy Darter at Hanglands is a good find as some years I have none. Having mentioned Lesser Black-backed Gulls (LBBG) on the 20th I see no reason not to push my luck again so here goes.

20th July, Comma joins the butterfly list and July Belle, the moths. Tommo and I start to tackle the garden but we still have nests of Blackbird, Robin and Dunnock with chicks, so I cancel the operation, much to Tom’s delight. Plus we disturb a big Frog. I know Gulls are not that interesting but I challenge you to go to the Royal Oak industrial estate in Daventry on a sunny day and not be thinking of the seaside after five minutes. The sounds of Gulls, in this case Herring Gull, and Lesser Black-backed Gull, nesting on some of the vast roof tops is quite evocative. Either that or I am in real need of a holiday.

19th July, Hobby again over village suggests breeding locally. A very hot day is bringing out the insects and my garden is abuzz. At work on some garden lights on Pytchley Drive and I disturb a large red/white/black moth which I work out to be Scarlet Tiger.

13th July, Vicky and I see Hobby over Armley, and David sees the Kite low over Market Place. 9 species of Dragons at CEP including the first Brown Hawker, and 11 species of Butterflies including Marbled White (3!) Small Skipper and Red Admiral. The first Common Darter reported.

10th July, a brilliant royal blue male Common Blue butterfly appears whilst I search for the Marbled White. I see that and another. A Raven and a Red Kite cruise over.

9th July, Tony sends a photo of a moth I think is Leopard Moth. Common Shrew and Gatekeeper are reported.

6th July, CEP has hundreds of butterflies on the wing including Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, and Large Skipper in the meadow, and as if by magic a Marbled White suddenly pops up. I am not sure there are any colonies left in Buckby parish so this is good news. The small pond at Hanglands is hosting an emergence of Southern Hawkers. A dozen or so newly formed adults are resting next to their exuvia, building themselves up to the first flight of their lives. The Water Lilies flowers are just perfect.

5th July, Brian finds a roadkill Little Owl towards Surney Bridge, and I find a roadkill hedgehog on Spencer Road. As an electrician I find myself travelling the roads through nearby villages and have noticed how every village seems to have a resident squashed Hedgehog on its main road. I rarely if ever see a squashed Hedgehog outside the villages themselves as if Hedgehogs only live in villages, not in the greater countryside.

3rd July, CEP work party is enlightened by views of Beautiful Demoiselle, Hobby, Sparrowhawk, Red Kite, and the Red Arrows, as well as hundreds of butterflies.

2nd July, Mr Ball from Parkfield donates some slabs to Mill Park and we see 2 Trout in the stream at the bottom of his garden whilst collecting them. Mike Ivens reports a Little Egret, and we find a pair of mating beetles we think are Gastrophysa Viridula, whilst we unload. Hobby at dusk over Grange Farm.

1st July, Kevin reports a large Grass Snake from CEP whilst starting on the new pond. I pop down to monitor progress and hear a Little Owl, and a Reed Bunting and see a pair of Grey Partridge, 2 Black-tailed Skimmers, and 5 Broad-bodied Chasers. Dean reports 14 Ducklings with the pair of Tufted Duck at Evans Ponds and Painted Lady is seen on Jackson Track.

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for June 2016

30th June, some poor weather is suppressing the insect activity and this is telling on the Swifts. They are normally high-level feeders, racing through the skies gathering insects. When the weather is poor they come lower down and this leads to accidents with cars and sometimes buildings, as they have the speed but often not the manoeuvrability. Swallows, however, are low-level insect catchers and often follow animals, vehicles and us as we inadvertently flush insects. My two Hebridians, Romulus and Remus refuse to get in the trailer and go on holiday with the rest of the CEP sheep. They now stand there staring at the gate. A Wren is singing full-belt on the gate post as if to scold them.     

26th June, the good thing about looking up at a bird in the sky is you often see other birds in the process. I take the time to look at the now daily, but still amazing, Red Kite for a few seconds and notice 2 Hobby’s calling and swooping around it. I wonder if they have a nest nearby?

24th June, at CEP, working out with Kevin where the new ‘peoples pond’ is going to be and we see some big Dragonflies. The largest, a big blue-bodied male Emperor, is patrolling the open water on the existing pond with Black-tailed Skimmer and Broad-bodied Chaser around the edges. A male Southern Hawker appears. In the flower studded grassy areas, the first Meadow Browns and Ringlets join the Large Skippers amongst the Clover and Buttercup.

19th June, Buckby birder Ben sees a Weasel and Red-legged Partridge at Cotton End Park and sees 30 other bird species during his survey around the village. My wife sees a Jay.

15th June, escorting more guests to Hanglands for the Bee Orchids, and we hear a quiet but grating warble from inside a Hawthorn. It is a Sedge Warbler. We call the quieter song that some birds sometimes do, sub-song and think it may be the bird practising to itself prior to the main performance. This bird did eventually come out from the centre of the bush to the topmost twig and give the full rendition. Better late than never, there are 4 Speckled Woods on the wing.

12th June, A drowsy Lesser Stag Beetle wondered on the drive at home and even through the mandibles look a bit scary, I pick it up and deposit it in the log-pile out back. There is a degree of truth and humour in my son’s remark that it might have spent the last three days walking away from there in the first place. I find a big moth and have the joy of looking it up in a book. It is Scalloped Oak. Fab names Moths.

11th June, with the kind invitation from Trevor Moore of Costcutter, Sue and Chris Ebbage and myself are given access to private land off the West Haddon Road. Trevor and his family have created some wonderful habitats based on Trevor’s love for the Barn Owl. Sue and Chris were armed with their professional cameras and although the weather isn’t kind we still manage to see some good wildlife including Common Spotted Orchid and Chimney Sweeper Moth. Afterwards, I took them to Hanglands NR to look at the Bee Orchids.

10th June, there are Daddy long-legs or Crane Flies emerging at the moment and there is more than one species to look for. The commonest (Tipula Paludosa) is fairly dull and tends to emerge a bit later in the year but at the moment the small yellowish ones are the Spotted Crane-fly, and the massive ones with camouflage wings are Tipula Maxima.  

9th June, a warm morning at ponds of the Brington Road produces Dragonflies including Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers, a Male Beautiful Demoiselle, and Azure, Red-eyed, Common Blue and Large Red Damselflies. Speckled Wood represented the Butterflies, and Silver Y, Brown China-mark, and Silver Ground Carpet, the Moths. A family of 4 Grey Heron and Coot were also about.  

8th June, Red Kite is becoming daily and quite low over the village. Buzzards tend to come over the houses to get some thermal lift from heat retention in the roads and houses and disappear up and away, but the Kite is looking for food. Maraki reports a House Martin from the Holyoake crew being taken by a Sparrowhawk and suggest there are about 10 active nests which are more than last year. This contrasts with the loss of nests on The Banks and I wonder if The Banks crew has joined the Holyoake crew. Safety in numbers and all that.

6th June, one of the three immature Broad-bodied Chaser I saw last week has started to gain the blue colouring on the abdomen telling me it’s a male. He is fighting his brothers to establish a territory at the small pond on Hanglands. A Cormorant goes over towards Watford and the resident Lesser Whitethroat is still singing his heart out. Terry Laney reports Speckled Wood and 2 Painted Lady’s. The former is about a month late, and the latter a month early!

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for May 2016

29th May, I walk past Evans Ponds on the footpath along the parish boundary with Watford and Haddon. I find a male Common Blue butterfly and 5 Burnet Companion moths, plus a Silver Y. There are lots of colourful Damselflies, like hovering matchsticks, Large Red, Azure Blue, White-legged, and Blue-tailed. There are Yellow Flag Iris and Ragged Robin in flower, and in the air above a Red Kite is following me, and a Lark is hard at it high in the big blue, oh the spring! 

28th May, at Hanglands the Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap are singing over the sound of my strimmer. I stop to refuel and in the distance, a Cuckoo utters two ‘cuckoos’. It is my first of the year and as far as I know the only one for the parish. I call Cuckoo enthusiast, Jenny Spokes, she arrives fairly quickly but we don’t hear it again. There are 3 Broad-bodied Chasers over the Nettle beds. They are huge insects and so perfectly adapted to hunting flight. During the evening the family joins me and we see 2 Hobbys together looking like they are house hunting. The Hobby is an ace catcher of Swallows, Martins and Swifts and nests in old Crows nests. We also see a ginger-red Fox his coat shining in the evening sun.

25th May, two residents of Parkfield and Syers Green Close report the Red Kite circling overhead. The smallish Hedgehog I saw on East Street last week didn’t last long and is squashed in the same place I saw it the other night. Sue Plant sees Red Kite and an Egret. Unbelievably, a white Egret these days could be a Little Egret or a Great White Egret, as both species are fairly regular in the county. The ‘Little’ is obviously smaller than a Grey Heron, the ‘Great White’ looks bigger. Red Admirals reported.

24th May, Neil Chanter (our man on The Banks) relays that the House Martin colony on The Banks is no more. He has been on there for many years and says that in 2014 there were seven active nests but last year just three. This year they came and looked but did not stay. My wife finds a May Bug or Cockchafer, a now rare, large beetle, and gets a good photo. I just don’t see them anymore.

23rd May, Red Kite overload. There are 2 being seen quite low over the village which is upsetting the Jackdaws and Starlings that are busy breeding. I see a Hobby whilst watching a Kite, and Neil sees a Hobby as well. Holly Blues are in my garden and I see a female lay her eggs on the budding flowers. To my dismay a Blue Tit comes along five minutes later and seems to be picking at the very same spot.

21st May, Alan Webb finds a Grey Wagtails nest whilst on a WBLA work party on the Canal. My family use it as an excuse for a walk and enjoy seeing Grey Heron, Moorhen and Mallard with fluffy young, and the Wagtails. The mature gardens along the sides hold at least 2 singing Goldcrest’s plus Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps.

20th May, A Mute Swan flies over as do 2 Cormorant. Red Kites are daily and Buzzard and Sparrowhawk barely get a mention. I see a live smallish Hedgehog on East Street during the evening and keep my fingers crossed.

17th May, I have been with a lady teaching her bird song and have realized that 40 odd years of knowledge cannot be passed on that easily. She shows me an app’ which is a real asset, and makes it easier for me to give out ‘homework’. I use it to sort out the annual bird song issue; is that a Blackcap or is it a Garden Warbler? It is a well-known birding dilemma that even the good birders struggle with, but the app’ is very helpful when the memory lets you down.

15th May, my neighbours draw my attention to 2 Red Kites low over the village, and other reports of them come in. At CEP we find a Robins nest with 5 chicks and a Pheasant on 12 eggs. There has been a hatching of St Marks Fly, again a couple of weeks later than last year. There is a part circle of St Georges Mushroom, you could argue they are late as well. Bernie, Lee, Cassie, David, Daniel, Jo and others see the Kites.

8th May, Nick Hudson sends a great photo of the large house spider Tegenaria Gigantea, and Ben Reeve sees 30 bird species, including Moorhen with chicks at CEP. At Hanglands NR, the first of the dragons/damsels are about in the form of 2 immature Large Red Damsels. There are one or two Bee Fly’s hovering in front of anything that looks like it might be the entrance of a bees nest, flicking their abdomens as they deposit eggs. The young are parasites of mining bees.

7th May, I see young Blackbirds and a young Robin along Lodge Lane. Other than size, they look rather similar at this age which belays their belonging to the same bird family The Thrushes. This family also includes Redstarts, Wheatears, Nightingale, The Chats, and of course the true Thrushes like Mistle, and Song. I pop into CEP and find young Mistle Thrushes, a Great-spotted Woodpecker, singing Blackcap and a brief glimpse of a Spotted Flycatcher. These are rare now, 20 years ago there were several pairs annually about the village. A splash of soft pink tells me that at last the Ladies Sock/Cuckoo Flower is in bloom. These flowers must be two weeks later than last year. Terry Laney reports Bee Fly, and Raven, and whilst looking up sees a large raptor alongside a Common Buzzard which he thinks is a Honey Buzzard. These birds are a rare British breeding bird and live on the larvae of wasps and bees, in the forested parts of the UK.

6th May, a warm day and the House Martins, and Swifts are over the village making a stand for summer. I see a Little Owl and a Hare off the Brington Road, and there are several of each of Holly Blue, Orange-tip, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock about.

5th may, Beth York sees Orange-tip at Watts Way, and a Peacock is seen in South Close. There are many parties of Mallard ducklings about the village and a nervous female is escorting her 14 down East Street to the delight/dismay of the morning commute. Yesterday’s one Swift turns into 13 and they scream information above The Library. Adam reports a Stoat and a Red Kite.

4th May, 7 house martins from the Holyoake crew are about over The Leys, and a Swift appears amongst them. Thomas reports 3 Bats from the garden.

2nd May I am aware that one of the regular passage migrants is missing from my list and that the passage time period is nearly up. I have been making an effort to go to where I might expect to see Redstart but have failed so far. With maintenance of the ponds at Hanglands NR on my mind, I spend a couple of hours carefully clearing some dead bulrush and on my way back, having to open a couple of field gates, look up and see the satisfying flash of brick-red telling me a Redstart is a fly, catching. The female sits for me while I grab the binoculars and then after a minute slips away.

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for April 2016

30th April, the North wind has stopped and the game is on. The First Yellow Wagtail comes over Lodge Lane, then ten minutes later another. I change tack and head for the big fields towards Haddon. I break out the artillery, and methodically use the telescope to scan the fence tops and hedges, and am eventually rewarded by distant shapes that ‘look good’. I am in my element as I move through the countryside, it is like hunting but I just want to see and identify. The skill is not be seen or disturb what you are looking at, to get the sun behind you, to be patient and move in a certain way, to position, to focus. A fine male Whinchat, followed by a female Wheater. The whole of this month I’ve been searching, and now the reward. Passage migrants are special. All the way from Africa, heading to Northern lands, the chances of connecting with them is quite low, and as I sit in a small gap in this hedge miles from anywhere I can’t help but smile. 2 Hares, 9 Skylarks, 2 Grey Partridge, 1 Lapwing and 3 Yellow Wagtails make the day. 

28th April, the Wood Pigeon squab leaves the nest on the porch with an explosion of twigs, feathers and poo. It sits under my truck willing to be squashed but I chivvy it out and assist it into the air with my right boot. Hares reported from 3 places over the last week. We see only 1 House Martin over Murcott, and the cold wind is still holding things up.  

26th April, morning after morning of frost and cold winds are holding back many species. I find the buds of a Ladies Smock a good week away from opening. At Cotton End Park the peace is wonderful as the Community Flock plus lambs have now gone on holiday. The paddocks now have Mistle and Song Thrushes, Blackbird, Robin, Moorhen, Stock Dove, and Jackdaw generally feeding. The car-park has twenty odd Greenfinches and Chiffchaffs and Blackcap sing from the greenery. A pair of Kestrel is ever present.

24th April, early morning, pre-work, migrant hunting, walks are now regular. 5 Lesser and 2 Common Whitethroats noted. Later David Walden and I see the season’s first Hobby over East Street. The standard dead Hedgehog is a sad sight. Survives a long winter’s hibernation, gets up, goes for breakfast, gets run over. We find a dead Muntjac in the field. It too has the injuries suggesting an RTI. To match that the Badgers are throwing themselves under cars. It’s all to do with too much speed and/or not caring anyway. Lambing duties, work and the park are all consuming. My old Herdwick slips a still-born, but the Swart gives a pair of fine long-legged sprites.

20th April, a bit of warm produces the first Green-veined White butterfly plus Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone. A House Martin appears in the sky briefly, and I see a pair of Linnets, a Jay and 3 Tree Sparrows, on a long walk. Neil sees Nuthatch, and Jenny reports Bats, and a Meadow Pipit goes over. I see 5 species of Bumblebee over the course of the week. 

16th April, The trouble with declaring Spring is that it then backs out of the deal. In a raw wind, I give myself time to walk to Oak Tree Farm, 2 Swallows pass by and I hear a new, arrival, a Lesser Whitethroat singing from Vanderplanks Covert. It is cold again and I amble down Lodge Lane wondering why there are no more migrant bird, s about. It then snows on me and I give up looking. Jim Jelley reports Little Egret and Swallow. Richard Brennecker reports Willow Warbler and Red Kite.

13th April, I am in the office with the doors open to the front of the house when I hear the House Sparrows start to argue. The sound increases and then I hear 2 dull thuds. I get up and look outside to see if they have hit the windows but no. Then I go back into the house and there on the kitchen sink sit a pair of Sparrows. Being stunned they let me pick them up and I return to the front and sit them on the wall for a moment of recovery. 2 Swallows and a Brimstone go over the garden and later I see the first Willow Warbler of the year. David Green sees Bats around Ashmore/High Stack. I mentally declare Spring.

10th April, I am amazed to see a dozen or more Greenfinches around Cotton End. I have also seen some down at St Lawrence’s. Maybe they starting to build numbers again. Near the Old Coopers on Lodge Lane, a/the last lone Fieldfare is feeding in the sheep paddock. Common Carder and Red-tailed Bumblebees are about the gardens, and Thomas and his mates see the Owl hunting in the field near the Church. Brian Laney reports Scarlet Tiger moth caterpillars on Comfrey at Market Place.

9th April, I am opening the Park and hear an odd song, I grab the bins’ and see a grey/brown Chiffchaff feeding with 2 ‘normal’ Chiffchaffs in the massive Sycamore at Heath View. It is acting rather oddly moving rapidly and uttering bits of a Chiffchaff-like song but with other complex aspects. I eventually get good views of the bird and think it is an eastern or maybe a ‘Siberian’ form. These forms seem to get into the UK during winter, but it’s still a bit of a shock to see one in Buckby. I go home and access the ‘net finding a positively identified ‘Sibe’ Chiffchaff singing similar phases to my bird.

 I text the county bird recorder and he suggests I use my phone to get a recording of the song, but when I get back to the park the birds are quieter and I don’t get any conclusive song. Regardless of the song, I am still happy, based on plumage alone, that the bird was probably a ‘Sibe’ Chiffchaff.  

7th April, I wake up and look out the bedroom window and see 2 male Blackcaps having a drink at my small pond. Neil Chanter reports a grey Tawny Owl from the allotments, and Mandy, Keith and others see the Short-eared Owl again.

5th April, the fabulous Bridge House Farm Lake has 4 Swallows, 2 Grey Wagtails and 2 Pied Wagtails. On the water, there are 14 Teal, 2 Gadwall, 6 Mallard and 2 Moorhen. Pete Seymour reports Red Kites and Ravens daily plus hopefully a breeding pair of Lapwing. Donna sees 2 Stoats around the Sheep shed at CEP, and Alison finds a live Bee Fly.

4th April, Terry Laney reports Chiffchaff, and there are 2 at CEP on morning check-round. Alan Webb has Redpoll on his feeders, and a Cormorant is seen over the village.

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for March 2016

30th March, There has been talking on social media of a Parrot type bird down at The Wharf, so Alan Webb eventually tracks it down and confirms it is a Ring-necked Parakeet. An introduced or escaped exotic species that is now breeding in large numbers in southern England. My thanks to Alison Squire for being observant enough to notice a dead Bee Fly on a washing line peg. (See photo) the insect has been affected and killed by Entomophthora muscae, a fungus that makes the insect hang or stretch outwards before death so the fungi can more easily release and disperse its spores. Rick Bunnage also found a good example of this a couple of years ago. Fantastic stuff. 

27th March, Kevin Spokes reports a Little Owl, good numbers of Greenfinch, and Hare, from Grove Farm. Terry Laney sees Ravens over South Close, a Weasel at Surney, and hears a Curlew over the Brington Road. There are 4 Raven and 8 Buzzard together over Lodge Lane. Neil Chanter gets first prize for the first bird migrant, in the form of a singing Chiffchaff off The Banks, and Jenny Spokes reports 2 Redpoll on feeders at Hammas Leys via Steve Dickenson. Tufted Duck reported from Vanderplanks pond.

25th March, the Song Thrushes seem to be in better numbers this year if you go by the singing birds. I still don’t actually see any, with the assumption they are very secretive and mainly crepuscular. At Hanglands NR there are eight clumps of Frogspawn, calling Bullfinches, Fly-over Meadow Pipit and the now common, Ravens. I do a bit of pond maintenance and whilst thigh deep in freezing cold mud see a Peregrine go over. At home my wife shouts Brimstone and claims the first for the year, we then see Peacock and I go into my office and my hibernating Small Tortoiseshell is gone. Thank God. I’ve been sitting in the cold all bloody winter so as not to wake it up. I’ve also kept the ever increasing Cellar Spiders from attacking it. Alan Webb has a Rook on his fat balls.

22nd March, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies are reported. Catharina Hunter reports Snipe and we see a big (female) Peregrine being hassled by 2 possible males. There have been one or two more Peregrines around so far and I think there is a link with the planting of rape. Oil-seed rape is a favourite of Woodpigeons. If fact I reckon they consume over 25% of the plants actual growth during the early stages. Anyhow, Pigeons generally, are number one prey item for Peregrines.

19th March, I am in conversation with a chap from East Haddon regarding wildlife and we get onto woodland management. We discuss the mildness of the winter and the sourcing of firewood and I question the sustainability of hardwood production for the fireplace and he drops a bombshell. The claims the majority of ‘kiln-dried, hardwood firewood’ sold by the local suppliers is from Eastern Europe. He says that it is harvested, dried and shipped in on pallets from the Baltic States. Did you know that? Is that what we should be doing? No wonder our native trees are under constant attack by new diseases.

18th March, I am unintentionally positioned under an evening Woodpigeon roost. I am actually looking out for Owls, but none so far. And then it starts to snow. No it isn’t snow but small white feathers drifting down from the preening pigeons. It is an odd experience.  A Small Magpie Moth appears in the kitchen, has it been hibernating?

17th March, a lone male Lapwing is trying hard not to be put off his chosen nest site. He just managed to breed there last year raising 2 young. For several years if not a decade there were no Lapwings nesting in the parish, but a couple of years ago 1 or 2 pairs came back. The trouble is careless dog walkers are not controlling their animals and the dogs are running a mock whilst their owners are stumbling along staring at their ‘phones. Lapwings are ground nesting birds and are a rare and precious part of our village wildlife. This year there may be just 3 pairs trying to hold territory. Please control your dogs. (As I write the said Lapwing has now given up the fight and gone and that’s a real shame)

15th March, some Redwings and Fieldfares appear, they are feeding up ready to head north. Meadow Pipits, Redpoll and Siskins are also in the skies, and Skylarks are in full song.

13th March, some welcome sun brings out the first butterfly, a Small Tortoiseshell. There are Bees and Ladybirds about and in the Co-op car park the Collared Doves, Jackdaws and Woodpigeons are all sitting in pairs. Norman How reports Barn Owl from the top of Stenhouse Close, and Chrissy gamble reports a Red Kite. Buckby Birder Ben sees 27 species of birds including a Brambling (the first and probably last record of this winter species in the parish this season) at the end of Wright Road.

10th March, Phil says his neighbour has frogspawn but he just has Frogs, patience Phil, patience. There are 3 Lapwings in the bean field at Cotton End. Eileen reports a Barn Owl whilst walking her lovely doodle.

9th March, 24hrs of rain combined with tonnes of branches and twigs from the slaughtered hedges adds up the several floods in the village. I inspect the ditches and culverts at a handful of sites about the village and find them all blocked by hedge ‘trimmings’. My local farmer tells me that to save money, they cut the hedges once every two years and so are severe as they can be each time. The result is very badly damaged hedges with tonnes of splintered wood filling the drainage ditches. 

There is little leaf producing life left on the plants so for example, nesting birds will find it harder to find cover and breed.

  From an ecological view, it’s a bloody disgrace. For the economy of the village, it was also bad news.Locally flooding stopped hundreds of commuters from getting to work on time. Deliveries, appointments, and general travel disruption etc, but hey….. the farm, rs saved some money. 

8th March, We are hedge-laying at the park and find a Stonechat. The Rooks at the railway station and at Vanderplanks Covert are in full breeding mode. Lots of raised voices, nest building, squabbling, and general mayhem. As colony nesters, you would have thought they would get on better with each other.

7th March, Keith Thompson reports the Short-eared Owl again at the fields below the church. This could be the same bird from before but moving back through. 4 Raven, 4 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, and Siskin over the village.

4th March, Alan Webb reports Siskin, and 2 Goldcrests from his garden at The Wharf. 1 Lapwing flies over CEP heading North, then we see a pair in the field next to Marrowell whilst picking up sheep food. Red Kites were seen over A5 and A428.

 

Nick Roberts

Wildlife for February 2016

27th February, in the cold clear morning air I can just pick out the disjointed song of a male Reed Bunting somewhere from the wildlife area at the park. I scan for a while then spot him on a plump mace of Bull-rush. His dark head, white collar and streaked back are the colours and shapes or the reed bed around him. He is a cousin to the Yellowhammer also a Bunting, but the song of the Yellowhammer, which is now just starting to sing is the sweet classic ‘little bit of bread and no cheese’. The song of the Reed Bunting, however, is a short, uncertain stutter of single and double syllables rather like counting numbers out of order ‘one – two – seven – ten – thirteen’. I am pleased that for the third year now this rare parish bird has chosen to attempt to breed at Cotton End Park.

26th February, Jonathon Evans reports Snipe. Chrissy Gamble a Green Woodpecker, David Walden a pair of Mallard, and Alan Webb, 2 Siskins. Red Kite over Ashmore.   

23rd February, to my teenage sons’ dismay a big queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee wakes him at 0700hrs trying to get out of his bedroom window. After a brief discussion we work out there are a thousand places in his room it could have happily spent the winter without fear of disturbance!

21st February, Solitary Bees are reported, plus other insects are about. Song Thrush, Skylark and Starling are singing well and Cowslips are reported in flower. Lesley reports a Treecreeper from her garden that flew into a window and stunned itself for a moment before flying off. 2 Meadow Pipits fly over. I find some hibernating Ladybirds they are all different in looks but all are Harlequin Ladybird. They are also called Asian Multi-coloured Lady Beetles and were introduced for agricultural use to tackle Aphids. It is suggested that they are now out of control and happily eat other Ladybirds. Rather predictably the agricultural experts are too embarrassed to admit that this has had anything to do with the decline of our once common native Seven-spotted Ladybird.

20th February, Kathy Hall finds a Pipistrelle Bat clinging to her house wall during the daytime. Rather cleverly she stands planks of wood around it to protect it from cats etc. The Haisman’s report that the House Sparrows reported earlier in the month has now fledged the nest!

18th February, neighbour Dave reports Eileen seeing a Fox go past our front gardens, and my wife sees a Tawny Owl fly over and land on another neighbour’s wall near their bird feeder. Sue sends some great photos of Redpolls. I think they are the British form known as Lesser Redpoll, which is common, though in winter we do sometimes get what used be called the Mealy Redpoll, and is now known as Common Redpoll which quite rare. Yes, I don’t understand it either.

Forgive me for I am going to have my annual moan about the flaying of hedges. I can’t work it out. The hedges are recognised as being the last bastion of wildlife in the greater arable landscape yet no law stops them being totally abused to a point where they become useless for wildlife. I see miles of splintered stumps, many have rabbit guards on them which is laughable, and were no doubt part of a subsidised scheme. This may be the reason why I can walk miles through the countryside I call home and see no birds smaller than a Wood Pigeon.

10th February, many Prunus are now in blossom. In the village, Cherry Plum and their cultivated cousins are the first to show flowers, a nice example being those at the very top of Pytchley Drive. Little Owl reported from Watford Park. Skylark, Blue Tit, and Chaffinch now starting to put song together.

 Interestingly I notice there are a few more Greenfinch about in the village this winter. They must be some way to recovering their population from the massive decline brought on by Trichomoniasis a few years back.                

7th February, Richard Haisman reports a nest of House Sparrow chicks on The Banks. The volume of their calls would suggest they hatched in January! Neil reports Barn Owl from ‘the owl field’. Two Red Kites together being seen regularly at East Haddon, Holdenby, Ravensthorpe, and Buckby, suggesting perhaps a pairing and hopefully nesting nearby?

Nick Roberts

Wildlife Diary for January 2016

 

31st January, in a half hour sheep feeding session we manage to see Red Kite, some displaying Buzzards, a pair of Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk. Add to this Raven and 2 Green Woodpeckers and you wonder if anything got fed.

20th January, A gang of Wrens are roosting in an old Swallows nest. From a distance, they look like a cupful of Ferrero-roche chocolates. A Woodpigeon is wanting to nest above my porch door. I can tell this by the dropped sticks and poo that greet me first thing. Aconites and Daffodils join the Snowdrops and Primrose, in flower. Great-crested Newt seen on the move. Dean has a pale albino/leucistic Dunnock in his garden and reports a Little Egret and Grey Heron together below Oak Tree Farm.

17th January, a layer of snow to start does not stop us tree planting at the park. 20+ Yellowhammers are seen off the Brington Road, and 3 Common Gull and 2 Black-headed Gulls are seen on The Long Buckby Rugby Club pitch. Peter has Nuthatch, Yellowhammer and Chaffinch at Grange Farm. Blackbird and Mistle Thrush are reported singing. I hear Song Thrush singing for the first time this season. A female Hornet is an unseasonable record then again these days…anything goes.

16th January, Fieldfares and Redwings, the thrushes that spend the winter with us are starting to move back through. A flock of 250 ish are reported. I sneak into the Bird & photography hide at Cotton End Park and flush a Snipe within 1 second of opening the window flap. I am trying to work out how to see one without disturbing it so I can show someone else with a camera. But to get anywhere near a good view of a Snipe on the ground is now seriously testing my field-craft. Jo sees 2 Red Kites together and David sees a Blackcap in his garden. Blackcap, Tree Sparrow and Reed Bunting are birds that come into the gardens of the village when things change in the countryside. It could weather conditions, food availability, or local population movements, but records of them seem to coincide. 

14th January, Neil reports Goldcrest and Treecreeper from The Banks. Buzzard, Red Kite, Raven and Kestrel also reported. My cold, North facing garden is adorned with two flowering Daffodils. I find Jelly Ear and Yellow Brain fungi, and whilst moving some hay bales a pile of scat from a predator. Something like a Stoat or Polecat. I have a sniff and take a photo. Size-wise they would suggest Polecat. The monotonous ‘see-saw’ or tee-cher’ song of the Great Tit is being heard.

10th January, a work party discussion at CEP is suddenly brought to a halt when almost predictably I wonder away half way through, looking intently upwards. “What’s he got now?” I heard as I watched a female Peregrine Falcon slice the flock of Rooks and Jackdaws in half. The fun doesn’t end there as now we are all looking upwards a Red Kite is seen as well. Talk about Wales on your doorstep!

8th January, just when we thought it might be a bit too mild to attract oddities into the garden, a Reed Bunting is sitting in my neighbours’ hedge looking expectantly at the feeders. Having asked several regular dog-walkers it appears the Short-eared Owl may have moved on. Snowdrops out on West Street and at The Wharf.

Nick Roberts