Village Wildlife Diary for December 2019

Redwing
Hare

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.

Blackcap
Brambling

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.

Peregrine
Wren

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
Kingfisher

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.

Redwing
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.

Kestrel
Dunnock

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.

Village Wildlife Diary for October 2019

On Helen’s Front Lawn
Parasol Mushroom

31st October, I am unloading the van for work on Tebbit Close and I hear a distantly sharp, solid and loud single Pipit flight call. I look up to see a fairly large, pale bellied bird I am fairly sure is a Water Pipit. These birds breed on Mountains in Europe but winter in small numbers in the UK. Grey Wagtail, ‘big’ flock of Wood Pigeons, more Redwings, a Coal Tit, and Cormorant reported. ‘An alien invasive’ is quoted as I get collared to discuss the amount and variety of fungi about, whilst in the pub. Nice when nature gets noticed!

30th October, Wildlife expert Brian Laney reports an adult Hedgehog from South Close. Thinking about it I have recently noted a number of mainly small swished ‘hogs from several village High Streets during my travels for work. Though I still can’t work out if this means that they now only live in villages, or the road–kill victims on countryside are scavenged quickly and so the evidence of their presence is lost.

29th October, CEP has a Snipe and vocal Green Woodpecker. Conspicuous by their absence over the last month, a dozen Fieldfares (Wintering Thrushes) appear. Quite a few species that normally come over from the continent in September and October have been held up by the onslaught of westerlies, but they’ve now eased and the migration is in full flow.

Blewit
Dog-sick Slime Mould

26th October, incessant rain and the predictable floods. There is no joined up policy for the passage of water from where it falls to where it goes. The big farmer that brings in a big excavator and digs out all his ditches in one session does not mention this to his neighbouring farmer/landowner down-stream. All of a sudden more water flows at a far quicker rate and bottle-necks, and consequent floods are inevitable.

24th October, rain and wind and rain again. The colourful leaves are blasted off and washed away. Over Thrupp grounds a flock of 25 Golden Plover are circling. These birds are from way up north or even Scandinavia. 2 Cormorants over the village look like they’re heading to Daventry Reservoir. I get an interesting record from a chap who whilst driving sees 2 Polecats briefly fighting on Sandy Lane.

Giant Clitocybe maybe
Horse Mushroom

19th October, At CEP 2 Red Admiral on the fallen apples, and 2 male Common Darter dragonflies basking in the pallid sun. At home a small orange ‘butterfly’ out in the warm is not what it seems and after a fair bit of effort to get good views, turns into a Satellite moth. In a reverse of habit the Little Owl that has been about the gardens and fields at the back of us most nights, decides to call at 1830hrs as I’m out the back doing the recycling. I race in, grab the binoculars and go and hide behind the hedge at the top of the garden to try and hear where it’s calling from. I slowly stand up and see a small rotund, grey/brown shape sitting on a foot peg on the power pole nearby. I focus in and am stared at by a pair of intense, bright yellow irises. I daren’t breathe, and time stands still, but then a flick of the wings and gone.

18th October, mildness brings out Red Admiral, a Queen Bumblebee, Hawthorn Shieldbug, and flowering Buttercup, Dandelion, and Knapweed. Raven, Red Kite and Buzzard are in the air.

15th October, a flock of 14 Siskin with 10 Redwing going over Armley is a sign that more birds are moving to winter quarters.

Lawyers Wig
Shaggy Parasol

13th October, Members of the CEP committee and the Gardening Club are hosted by the Bunnage’s for an apple pressing session. The Apples came from villager’s gardens and the orchards at the park, and were soon transformed into a gorgeous sweet drink.

12th October, Grey Wagtails are coming into the village, with 1 at The Castle, and 1 off High Stack. More Fungi enquiries, and I’m out of my depth with identification.

10th October, The Fungi species are really making a show as I get several photos and reports over the early part of the month. A newt is found, and a Skylark is heard. Alan sees a Tawny Owl at The Wharf.

No sorry
Verdigris Toadstool

7th October, more Redwings, flocks of twenty or so, and the sky seems to always have a varying number of Wood Pigeons, with a flock of 200 noted. Goldcrests reported from the village.

6th October, the high grounds of Thrupp have as far back as I can remember regularly hosted passage or wintering Lapwing, and even though their population appears to be in continual decline, 40 birds cross the Daventry Road mid-morning and make my day.

5th October, 0600hrs Little Owl calling, ok.. I’ll get up. In the sky at Cotton End is one lonely Meadow Pipit, uncertain of whether to carry on migrating or stop for a rest. It is soon joined by 1 Swallow and 2 House Martins, and they all move off south. I can hear the familiar ‘seeep’ of a Redwing but can’t yet see it. There are about 6 Robins, 4 Chiffchaff, 10 Blackbirds, and a Mistle Thrush is back on the big berry-laden Hawthorn tree next to the Sheep Shed. He is agitated and looks ready to defend his tree and its precious fruit at all costs. A flock of 50+ Redwings scatter from the dense Blackthorn as I approach. I saw them last in July in Arctic Norway where they are a breeding bird.