Village Wildlife Diary for September 2019

hours of fun
don’t know

25th September, daily fly-over Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Yellow Wagtail. I fail as usual to identify the fungi growing in the park. Small Tortoiseshell and Green-veined White reported. The former seen to be settling down for hibernation in an out-house.

22nd September, David reports a Tawny Owl calling from trees behind Ashmore. Several Swallow low and south. Cath sees Peregrine over Wright Road.

Tortoisehell with fly
Knopper Acorns

21st September, at CEP I flush 2 Snipe whilst cutting Willow. Several Goldcrest, Blackbirds and Chiffchaff are present. I keep treading on odd shaped Acorns under the Oak and decide to have a good look at the tree. It has no ‘normal’ acorns on it at all, all are ‘Knopper’ types, strange star shaped fruit infected by a parasitic wasp. I scan the ground and only find Knoppers. This name comes from the distorted shape resembling a medieval German felt hat. The upshot is that this tree will have no viable way or reproducing from this year’s fruit. Cath sees Comma and Speckled Wood.

17th September, the sky has birds going to and fro. 60+ Linnets are ready for winter, a handful of Skylarks go over, the odd Meadow Pipit and Yellow Wagtail. Green Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail and a 20 strong flock of Long-tailed Tits reported. The vocal Little Owl is becoming a regular post-midnight in our row of gardens along Armley. There is a young Rat in the Yew tree eating the berries (if you please!) and shows no fear as it sits in an old Wood Pigeon’s nest taking the evening sun.

Brown Rat loves Yew berries
Melanoleuca maybe

14th September, 0100hrs and the Little Owl is calling so loudly it wakes me. The moon is huge and a mist is developing. 0645hrs I unlock the Park and find the small bird flock busy on the sunlit hedge at bottom left. There are easily 20 Chiffchaff, some singing, some displaying, 6 Blackcap, some with black and some with brown ‘caps’. 2 Goldcrest and the usual Tits of 3 species. 2 Cormorants fly over, as do several Rook, and 3 Raven, and 1 disturb 2 Moorhen from the pond.

11th September, it is blustery but mild and humid, courtesy of ex hurricane Dorian. There seem to be Southern and Migrant Hawkers everywhere I go. A brief lunchtime visit to CEP and a (the) mixed flock of small birds includes a good dozen Chiffchaff, 1 obvious young Willow Warbler and 1 interesting probable adult. This bird seems larger, with contrasting clean, white underneath, with a lemon yellow vent/under-tail, the upper-parts are distinctly greyish. Bats are reported from Rockhill Road, The Leys and Grange Farm.

Male Migrant Hawker
Male Ruddy Darter

8th September, Thanks to Ian for the annual mow of grasslands at CEP. The exposed ground is now of interest to a passing Red Kite, and a Kestrel. I hear Yellow wagtail and Meadow Pipit, and see at least 4 Chiffchaff, a Southern hawker and 20+ Common Darter, and one Ruddy. A flock of Mistle Thrush and a Grey Wagtail reported.

7th September, a Hobby over East Street heads for Cotton End but is intercepted by the Swallows from Highfields. It avoids the noisy throng and heads south towards Ashmore. A small Toad is reported, and we find a Grass Snake.

Grass Snake plays dead
Buzzard

6th September, a tinge of autumn but 30 odd House Martins over The Banks and Pytchley Drive are still busy feeding until being interrupted by a prospecting Hobby. Two minutes of counter moves by the flock and their predator sees the falcon go very high and around into the sun, only to come straight back out like an arrow having targeted a lone Martin slightly away from the others. A worn out Painted Lady reported.

3rd September, Alan reports Willow Warbler from the Wharf.

1st September, of course I used to be young and fit and now I’m not so. Last week’s manoeuvre to get better views of the Redstart (jumping the stream) has left me with a swollen left ankle and a swollen right knee. I do remember the ankle going over as I landed fully on the knee. I don’t use my hands to ease the fall as I always hold on to my binoculars so they don’t smack me in the face, and because they cost a couple of month’s wages. Was it worth it for better views of the bird? Yes it was and always will be. Although I can’t walk yet.

Village Wildlife Diary for August 2019

Green-veined White
Lime Hawkmoth caterpillar

31st August, 0730hrs. By the picnic benches I find dozens of pieces of litter, including beer, cider and wine bottles and tins, plus sweets and take-away wrappings. I guess it’s the same group of youngish villagers who love to come up to the park but simply don’t care about what they leave behind. I hope they grow out it, and don’t let their offspring do the same. Trouble is I’m not sure they will. Having created a community park, a ‘public’ space, littering and vandalism by a minority is sadly par for the course. I shouldn’t get precious about the thousands of hours of volunteer labour that goes into keeping Cotton End Park successful. There are oh so many positives. I collect all the litter, all the tiny bits of broken glass, and beer tops, every last bit, so that today’s visitors can enjoy themselves. The sun shines, though its cooler this morning. A Robin sings.

30th August, Daniel and I are preparing the Orchards for mowing and see a pristine Comma, also Red Admiral and Common Blue. At the pond a male Reed Bunting is seen for the first time in ages, and a noisy Raven goes over. Adam sends me a photo of Lime Hawkmoth caterpillar. Alan hears a Tawny Owl (or two) at The Wharf.

28th August, 0500hrs and a Little Owl is sitting in the Plumb Tree calling. I listen but hear nothing reply to it other than our Jack Russell. A few larger, well-marked Hoverflies are about from the Volucella family. Both Inanis and Zonaria noted (This news is due to having a new field guide and a good stand of Lavender to hand)

Emerald Damsel
Frog

27th August, Mike sees Froglets no bigger than your thumb nail. Old Lady Moth reported, plus big House spiders. Grey Wagtail noted, and over the space of 2 hours, 3 different Painted Lady Butterflies seen to be heading purposefully south. A Wheatear is still on the bale stack in the field next to Foxhill Road.

26th August, it feels right for migration and I attempt to re-find last night’s birds. I find 2 Wheatear and 1 Whinchat. (Richard comes along to have a look, and Sue gets a photo. Thanks Sue). The field also has Skylark, Yellow Wagtail and Tree Sparrow, as well as 2 Hares. Brilliant. I go out again in the afternoon and chose Oak Tree Farm via the footpath between Murcott and Foxhill Road. Again lots of bird movement in the hedges with Warblers including 6 Willow Warbler of note. I see a flash of orange and know it has to be a Redstart and sure enough, after I change my position by jumping the stream, a female/immature shows well. Near Davids pond’s, I see 2 Brown Argus, 3 Common Blue and 2 Small Copper Butterflies, along with Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady, and Speckled Wood. Not forgetting the pond itself, and 20plus Migrant Hawkers, dozens of Small Red-eyed Damsel, and a few Southern Hawker are all noteworthy.

Peacock
Wheatear

25th August, early visit to CEP and the park is full of birds. One each of Green Woodpecker, and Great Spotted Woodpecker. 2 Mistle Thrush, 8 Blackbird, 1 Song Thrush, a handful each of Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Great Tit, and Blue Tit. 2 or 3 each of Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Stock Dove, Robin, Dunnock, and Treecreeper. And there are several birds I don’t identify. Then this happened. I flush a bird from the zig-zag in the Orchard. Frustratingly it doesn’t call but I see it is a species of Pipit and follow it in flight to where it lands, which is in a big Ash at the bottom of the access track. I get down there but can’t initially re-find it. After a minute I think about getting back to work and as I move, up gets the bird calling furiously, ‘Sbeezz!’. A Tree Pipit. Cotton End Park’s first and number 99 on the Park bird list. Late afternoon and I’m scanning the bale tops for passage migrant birds and come across 3 Wheatears on a tall stack of big bales next to Foxhill Road.

24th August, a hot afternoon is good for insect activity and the park hosts 7 Butterfly and 7 Dragonfly species. There is a fly-over Yellow Wagtail, and a Yellowhammer. Harvest is in full swing and air is full of dust. Red Kite and Hare are reported.

20th August, Richard reports a Wheatear from the Brington Road. More reports of Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillars, and Geri sends me a photo’ of Privet Hawkmoth caterpillar.

15th August, several sheep in the wildlife area at CEP. They are not mine. I stick my head through a gap in the boundary hedge and find our farming neighbour’s fence hasn’t been maintained since the first moon landing. There 70 odd Swallows and House Martins over the pond feeding and drinking. I see Southern Hawker, its smaller cousin the Migrant Hawker, and Ruddy and Common Darter. There also a lone Small Copper.

odd find
Privet Hawkmoth caterpillar

12th August, Jane finds an Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar, Cath’s friends find an exhausted juvenile Black-headed Gull. Bats reported from Pytchley Drive, and Church Street. Alan finds a pair of severed Crayfish claws. Something has had a meal and left the hard bits.

10th August, sun, rain, wind, cloud, sun, rain, strong wind, sun… The gusts are exciting and no bird dare fly. A Southern Hawker carries on as usual.

9th August, near Floyer’s farm with Cath and we see 3 Ravens. I unlock CEP and find a Brown Hawker patrolling the car park. The place is humming with Orthoptera, Roesel’s Bush-crickets, Common Field and Common Green Grasshoppers.

5th August, heavy rain has brought out a few fungi, big white Horse Mushrooms appear. The Blackbirds are making a good job of stripping the unripe berries off my Rowan and also my Yew is being constantly de-berried. I see 2 Willow Warblers off Grasscroft and a Meadow Pipit goes over. Another Willow Warbler awaits me in the garden as I return from work. Calling constantly, a sweet, up-slurred, ‘hu-eet’.

Male Black-tailed Skimmer
Roesel’s Bush-cricket

4th August, Steve has Southern Hawker in his garden.

3rd August, at CEP at least 5 Willow Warblers and 3 Chiffchaff, all very vocal, are with the resident Goldcrests and Robins along the right-hand boundary hedge. They are joined by a dozen Long-tailed Tits, and a Treecreeper. There still lots of Meadow Browns, 5 Painted Lady, a handful of Common Blue males and the brown and blue females, Gatekeepers, Small Skippers, Speckled Wood and Peacocks. There is also an old male Black-tailed Skimmer. Hanglands has a worn out Ringlet, a pea-green and sky-blue male Southern Hawker, and we find a Grass Snake whilst strimming.

2nd August, juvenile Bullfinches lack the colour and black cap of the adults and I watch 2 stripping the crunchy seeds from a Dock inches from the ground. I step forward and 40 Goldfinches get up from the downy heads of the Thistles. This flock too contains youngsters with a plain head lacking the black and red of the adults. I notice the Swifts are not there. The Swifts have gone. Just upped and left.

1st August, I run out and scan the skies above Armley, The Leys and Holyoake, for Swifts and phew! yes they are there, along with some House Martins. Jennifer reports dozens of Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Peacock from her Buddleia, as do others.

Village Wildlife Diary for July 2019

Green Woodpecker
Small Skipper

31st July, Common and Holly Blues, Painted Lady, an odd Longhorn Beetle, and Green Woodpecker reported. Young Kestrels, and Buzzards heard and seen.

25th July, lunchtime in the garden nurturing my tomatoes, runner beans, chillies and cucumbers, and I see a 2nd brood Holly Blue. I am joined by an inquisitive Southern Hawker, and am delighted to see 2 Greenfinch. There must be 10 Large Whites about and a dozen White-tailed Bumblebees on the lavender. Out in the village there seems to be a several roaming flocks of mainly young Starlings and Sparrows generally spread over lawns and roofs. Chattering, arguing and chasing each other about. Oh to be young.

21st July, is the warmest day on record. Which is rather unnerving.

Male White-legged Damselfly

18th July, first the Parakeet, then the King Snake, now a Sacred Ibis.. with one seen in flight over sandy lane by the brilliant Gary Pullen. Talk about Global warming bringing associated exotics. Back to our wildlife, Terry sees an adult Hedgehog with 2 young off South Close. Cath finds 15 young Swallows on the wires on Brington Road, Barred Straw moth, and a nice spider, Enoplognatha ovata, no I haven’t just made that up.

14th July, after a bit of a lull hundreds of Whites and Peacocks appear, along with Comma and Red Admiral. All pristine newly hatched adults. There are even fresh Painted Lady still arriving, (or hatching locally the offspring from earlier immigrants?) A 2nd brood Small Copper is seen. 16 or more Swallows gather over Heath View, perhaps all the adults and young from the property up the road.

Enoplognatha ovata
Longhorn sp

12th July, warm and humid, the Park is a riot of flowers busy with insects. I also see a blood-red Ruddy Darter. Two Hobbies, an adult and a Youngster are soaring over Miles Lane, and this has attracted every local Swift, Swallow and Martin to mercilessly mob the pair. A true baptism of fire for the young falcon. Late pm, and I am in the garden looking at but not really identifying Moths as they come to the flowers. Silver-Y, Mother of Pearl, Small magpie.. In the air there are some vocal Swifts, a party of about 20 scream and scythe high into the sky and they are then suddenly joined by another similarly sized flock. All 50 birds now move together, long, board circles, towering upwards, their piercing calls getting fainter. Is this territorial behaviour or mutual protection for an over-night sleep out? There actually seems to be more swifts about the village this year though rather ironically there has been an internet appeal to support declining Swift populations by legislating to make builders include Swift nesting boxes within the construction process for new houses.

11th July, a lady calls me in great distress having seen a ‘large banded snake’ on the footpath next to Mill Park. I take a brief description and think it sounds like a King Snake perhaps Californian. She is rightly concerned for public safety and suggests her dog, or other dogs could be potential victims. I immediately contact my fellow Park Manager Richard, who says he’ll keep an eye out.
8th July, the butterfly count at CEP is 11 species in twenty minutes including Essex Skipper, and the Marbled Whites are well into double figures. There are 9 species of Dragons and Damsels as well, including an egg-laying Emperor. For the first time in ages I hear and see a Raven, suddenly vocal again after what seems like months. Cath and Angela also report Raven today. Sandra sees Humming-bird Hawkmoth and dozens of Butterflies at the allotments below St Lawrence’s. The holders there have been working hard this spring to improve the site for all God’s creatures.

Female Marbled White
Emperor Dragonfly laying eggs

7th July, Speckled Wood and Marbled White, plus 5 other Butterfly species reported. CEP has 2 male Black-tailed Skimmers. At midday a Hobby is gaining height over East Street whilst surrounded by a squeaking ball of 40 House Martin and Swallow. A Red Kite drifts by. A walk to Picnic Spinney and 2 Herring Gulls go over, White-legged Damsels are amongst the Nettles and there are 6 male Beautiful demoiselles holding territory along the stream. David Evans is silage making and reports a Buzzard and a Kite following the tractors.

5th July, Burnet Companion, Southern Hawker and Long-eared Bat noted at CEP, and Fiona adds Sparrowhawk and Reed Bunting. Cath notes Cinnabar, Comma and Painted Lady near Patford Bridge.

4th July, over 8 Marbled Whites at CEP, which is more than last year, plus Small Skipper, and a male Common Blue. There are hundreds of Meadow Brown. Emerald Damsel noted. Steve sees Ringlet and Azure Damsel.

Meadow Brown
Burnet Companion moth

1st July, Alan sees a Rose-ringed Parakeet (A now established breeding bird in southern England having escaped from bird collections in the last few decades) at the Wharf. His neighbour says it tried to feed from the nut feeder but ended up feeding from seed on the ground. He also reports Marbled White and Ringlet butterflies from the A5 junction and hatchling Moorhens from the canal.

So last month I listed the species of birds recorded at Cotton End Park. This was prompted by my finding a Reed Warbler singing in the hedge near the top orchard. I have been noting down wildlife all my life and normally keep my records them up to date but alas I have to admit to have made an error re, the Cotton End Park bird list. I had failed to add Tufted Duck and Red-legged Partridge, so our new total is 98. If you would like to look at the list on this website and give me a guess as to the next two species. I could offer a prize for a correct prediction.