Village Wildlife Diary for January 2020

Male Bullfinch
Female Bullfinch

30th January, Alan says the Goosanders and the Tufted Duck are still on the Canal, and he is regularly feeding a reassuringly nocturnal hedgehog. Terry and Sue report a butterfly on the wing, and I see a Small Tortoiseshell fly by and straight into a web next to an upstairs window. The sun is on it as it flaps furiously trying to break free but no. Do I knock on the said house door and say can I go upstairs and open your window to rescue a butterfly?

26th January, There are 60+ Goldfinches in a roosting flock near the Infant School, and a similar number of Starlings over Watson Road. Both areas have few tall ‘leylandi’ for them to roost in. There is a complaint about the lack of garden birds by few villagers on social media, also comments on the excessive numbers of Jackdaws. Primroses and Daffodils are in flower, and Great Tit and Blue Tit are heard singing. Red Kites seem daily.

Tufted Duck
Goosander Pair

20th January, Blackbird has joined the early morning singers. There are 50 Gulls roosting, feeding (and presumably fertilizing) the Rugby pitches off Station Road. David sees Blackcap in his garden on Ashmore.

19th January, I walk for about half a mile but apart from Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Magpie and Black-headed Gulls only see 4 Chaffinch and 1 Yellowhammer. Twenty years ago at on the same walk at this time of year, in these conditions, I would have easily had ‘tens’ of each of the latter two.

18th January, I can hear a commotion in the Poplar plantation behind the house and find 4 Great-spotted Woodpeckers in some sort of courtship display. They are engrossed in chasing each other, and calling loudly, show explosions of red, white and black each time they move. After a few minutes they pair off and I watch a male ‘dance’ in front of the female, quickly spinning his body from left to right, then they move off for more chasing and calling.

Robin Singing

16th January, There are singing Song Thrush, Dunnock, Wren and Robin out the back of the house. Brian rescues juvenile Great-crested Newts from the drains along Berryfield.

15th January, I am working on Pytchley Drive, look up, and am surprised to see a Merlin crossing the sky. It has a distinctive flight pattern, also size and jizz, and is in view for several seconds in good light. There several Snowdrops, and Aconites in flower. And to add to the sense of a lack of winter I see a squashed Hedgehog at Murcott.

dot the i

10th January, Richard reports Bullfinch, Redwing and Fieldfare from the Brington Road. Norman sees a Peacock Butterfly off East Street, and Alan sees a pair of Goosander on the canal at The Wharf. The County Bird Recorder tells me these winter visiting ducks are in low numbers this winter and normally prefer larger reservoirs. It is unusual for them to use the canal. We are driving home along the Foxhill Road and see a huge bright light through the back of the Poplar plantation. I stop the van and we realize it is the rising Moon. It is massive and dominates the Eastern horizon. An hour or so later I get some crude images, and through the ‘scope notice a darken area which my friend Steve suggests is the partial prenumbral eclipse.

7th January, Muntjac at The Wharf, also the noisy Ring-necked (aka Rose-ringed) Parakeet is still about. It is mild – there are midges.

4th January, 1 Snipe, 1 Jack Snipe, 1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Red Kite, 30 Redwings, at CEP. I am gifted a brace of hung French Partridge, and pluck, and gut them during my lunch break. Later I spatchcock them with carrots, leeks, cauliflower, roast potatoes and red currant jelly.

3rd January, at Murcott Lake there are 60+ Black-headed and 2 Common Gulls bathing. There are 14 Teal and 7 Gadwall as well as Moorhen and Mallard. I see 2 Tree Sparrows over Parkfield plus a Grey Wagtail. Alan reports a male Tufted Duck with the mallards, on the canal at The Wharf.

1st January, Trevor reports a bird which matches the Description of a Ruddy Shelduck, in with the flock of Canada Geese at Foxhill. The Shelduck (really an Asian bird – maybe an escapee from a wildfowl collection) has been resident at Hollowell Reservoir for quite a while and may be stretching its wings. Gina and Jimmy report Wigeon flying over Brington Road during the night. Wigeon are a wintering duck with a rather distinctive whistling call. Good record, thanks.

December 2019 late record – Cath sees Tree Sparrows, a hunting Owl and Raven at the end of Watson Road/Wright Road.

Village Wildlife Diary for December 2019


30th December, such a cracking, clear day. I walk and with purpose, breathe, and without caring see nothing other than a couched Hare. And there are such vistas, our familiar rolling vastness, a harlequin’s coat of fields and copses. And this enslaved landscape, winter shorn and comatose, sweeping away to a crisp horizon. The proud, winter sun paints gold-leaf filigree onto the crusted Ash trunks, and slayed thorn. It is astounding. It is my homeland.

29th December, I am looking at the drains and culverts for the streams that comes from the North and East and end up below The Leys, Pytchley Drive, and The Banks. It floods across the road and into the fields up to the allotments below St Lawrence’s on a regular basis. I find a submerged tunnel entrance and without over-flowing my wellies, manage to extract a barrow full of debris, releasing the blockage with a satisfying ‘woosh’. Such a volume of water, off East to the Nene and then to the North Sea via The Wash. Only a couple of villages away and a similar sized stream is sending its contents Westwards to the Atlantic via The Avon, Severn and Bristol Channel. We are (the) middle (of) England, neither Midlands Today, nor Look East.

28th December, My wife is greeted by a doorstep dragon in the form of a ‘big black newt’. It stares at her from near the dog’s food bowl but she scoops him up before the hounds arrive. A Great-crested Newt on the move, must tell Brian. I am abed at 2200 and straight away a Tawny Owl is ‘too-woo-ing’ in the Poplar plantation out back. He emits his call every few seconds for a couple of minutes, then ceases as if the job is done. To balance this ‘my’ Little Owl starts his calls at 0200, just loud enough to dig me out of the depths of sleep. 2 Owls in one night is quite rare now, I should be pleased….zzzzzz.

Little Owl
Reed Bunting

27th December, Tom and I plant 2 Oak trees for two ladies from the village who have been bereaved this past year. A Chiffchaff is calling and Robin hops in and inspects our work. David reports 7 Swans flying over.

26th December, the dark late afternoon brings out 2 Hares to the roadside along Foxhill.

25th December, I’m up and at the park way before eight. It’s cold and clear with a light frost. A welcoming Wren gives a bust of song as do 2 Robins. As is regular I see nothing for ten minutes and start to wonder why I didn’t stay in bed. And then a call from the big blue. A short, nasal ‘yehk’, a Brambling (A rare winter visiting finch). Another four calls but I only see it on the fifth as it’s going away high to the North-east. Nice Christmas present! But there’s more, 2 male Reed Buntings appear, then I see a Moorhen and a pair of Mallard, and then to top it all a Little Owl flies off in front of me as I get to the Sheep flock. Goodness me, I was half expecting to see a Partridge in a Pear tree next! The sheep are still laying, and casually look up at me. ‘Did you see that?’ I inquire. No reply. I count them and wish them a merry Christmas. I think of getting home and the impending mayhem of excited dogs and kids around the Christmas tree. God bless us…every one of us.


23rd December, Alan has a Raven over the Wharf, and Tom reports 2 geese going over. A Mistle thrush is singing. He knows the solstice has past.

22nd December, the ground at CEP is waterlogged and the paths are becoming a mud-bath. I call off the work-party as we’d probably do more harm than good. I check for litter and because of the lack of foliage, litter from the summer months hurled into the undergrowth now comes to light. Ah the summer…. What fun they must have had. I have a look at the wildlife area and straight away manage to flush a Jack Snipe. The sun catches the golden stripes on its back as it leaps away from my feet and goes down about twenty yards ahead. I then check the hide and just as I carefully raise the viewing flap a Snipe freezes and stares at me from the far edge of the back pond. I stop still and watch as the bird slowly lowers its head until out of view.

14th December, singles of Raven, Red Kite, Buzzard and Kestrel noted today. Also a flock of 6 Cormorant flying in ‘v’ formation. David describes perfectly a male Blackcap from his garden on Market Place. Also seeing a flock of Long-tailed Tits as well. Sue reports Fieldfares on Lodge Lane.

10th December, another 5 a.m. alarm call courtesy of a Little Owl. It’s my fault for always having the window open at night. Late back from a job that evening and as we come up the hill past Vanderplank’s Covert on the Foxhill Road, a ‘flurry’ of moths appear in the headlights. I wouldn’t know where to begin on knowing the species but along about 50 yards of road we saw 20 plus.


8th December, with all the usual excesses of bad language, mud and sweat, we move what remains of the original Cotton End Park sheep flock, to the park from The Banks. Let the grazing begin! My wife sends me a photo’ of a Wren that has popped into the conservatory. On the way back from Dav’ and a flock of Lapwing, say 30ish are still about Thrupp.

7th December, Keith from Bridge House Farm reports a good number of Teal on the lake at Murcott, and also Woodcock about.

2nd December, at Long Buckby Wharf, Carol sees a Blackcap in her garden. The Bird which is probably a migrant from Eastern Europe stays for twenty minutes.

1st December, cold but sunny at CEP. A good morning has been had digging clay and with a dozen visitors, making pinch pots with Laura from Long Buckby Pottery. We are having a post work-party chat, and the very observant David Stoddart spots a bird going over us and lets me know in time for me to grab the bins’ and see that it’s a Peregrine. Excellent.

Village Wildlife Diary for November 2019

Long Buckby Green Spaces’ Christmas Tree
Laura Howard (local potter who uses the clay from C.E.P.) and Daniel Tabor, Chair of L.B.G.S.

Long Buckby Green Spaces has entered a Christmas tree in the exhibition at St Lawrence Church on 7th and 8th December. The message of our tree is ‘Plant a tree in 2020 and help to save the planet’.

Ring-necked Parakeet

27th November, Alan Webb sends a photo’ of a Ring-necked Parakeet that’s sitting on his bird feeder down at The Wharf. Keith sees a Kingfisher near the stream below St Lawrence’s. My farmer friend suggests it’s been the wettest November since 1963.

25th November, my wife gets up for her Ambulance shift at 0430hrs and I wake enough to register a calling Tawny Owl from the paddocks behind Lime Avenue or Berryfields.

24th November, a Carrion Crow is put out by a couple of Black-headed Gulls who have the cheek to grab at a worm in front of the Crow. The sky has Woodpigeons, Redwings, Gulls, Jackdaws and the odd Skylark.

23rd November, dull and wet, but a Blackbird utters a few notes of song in an effort to save the day. A Robin also issues a tune but it’s as melancholy as it is sweet. Jack Snipe again at CEP.

21st November, Brian finds Annual Mercury, an uncommon plant, near the Football Club.

Tawny Owl

18th November, loading the van on the drive is ceased as a Water Pipit goes over calling. Possibly the bird from the end of last month? This and the previous one flew over just above the roof tops which might suggest being local. Where to start looking with all this flood water is the big question.

16/17th November, as is traditional for this time of year we are up in a cage on a teleporter erecting Christmas lights for the Parish Council. I spend a lot of time looking upwards and shouting orders but am rewarded by views of Red Kite, Sparrowhawk with 30 Starlings, Lesser Black-backed, Common and Black-headed Gulls, Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Blackbird and Collared Dove, all over or at Market Place.

15th November, CEP has a vocal Meadow Pipit, a Green Woodpecker, winter Thrushes and a new visitor in the form of a Jack Snipe. A smaller cousin of the ‘Common’ Snipe.

14th November, rain in excess transforms Surney into a water-world, a scene from a Norfolk grazing marsh, with a hundred Black-headed Gulls feasting on drowned worms.

10th November, a Mistle Thrush sings tentatively, from behind Murcott, and a Starling also sits and attempts a bit of ‘song’ on a chimney in High Stack.


7th November, a Chiffchaff near the Castle site sings as if it’s March.

5th November, high over the village the blueness of the sky is clear and clean, and into view comes a skein of ‘grey’ Geese, perhaps a dozen birds. I am working so no Binoculars to hand. I strain hard and look at the ‘v’ formation, and l listen intensely but they’re too fast, and too high and I don’t get a positive identification. It was a pleasant few seconds of magic and I have learnt to just let these moments go.

2nd November, 60 odd Redwings, 15 Fieldfare, a dozen Blackbirds, and seemingly more Robins, and Goldcrests. Wrens are amongst the reeds and sedge grasses at the pond and an adult and immature Moorhen noted. CEP looks and feels autumnal. A dog walk on the parish boundary below Vanderplanks Covert is an afternoon treat and 2 Bumblebees look like queen Buff-tailed. A late Chiffchaff calls clearly and is easy to see with less leaves to hide amongst. A Female Kestrel is using the old, bare twigs on the tops of the half-dead Hawthorns to perch and stare downwards. The breeze playfully lifts and flicks her feathers but she is deadly serious. Suddenly she falls off into the wind and breaks into a frenzied hover, and then drops with half a spiral to bounce into the long grass with wings held high. I watch for a few seconds but no…She’s unlucky this time.