Wildlife Diary for February 2018


Stonechat male
Stonechat male

28th February, as if by magic a pair of Lapwings appear, up from the south over Surney and continue north along the valley. This looks like a genuine sign of spring but a couple of hours later I see five hunkered down in a high-hedged paddock, and wonder if they are on the move having been displaced by the weather. The east wind brings freezing conditions, and rolling snow storms. Even with sunny intervals, the temperature stays below zero. Dave sends me a photo’ of a Redwing in his garden. Several Fieldfares are also about. The persistent winds are holding these thrushes in the UK, interrupting their migration back to Scandinavia.

26th February, I’m checking the condition of the Three-cornered field at the bottom of The Banks. It’s been very wet and I’m thinking about drainage when a Snipe gets up in front of me and zig-zags away. A snow squall sits over the village and a Red Kite drifts in accompanied by a handful of playful Jackdaws. Alan reports a pair of Mute Swan from a canal lock pound at the Wharf. A Stonechat is briefly seen.

Red Kite
Red Kite


25th February, DW does it again, not only is he our number one volunteer at the park but he keeps coming up with wildlife sightings as well. This time he describes a bird flying up from the waters edge that sounds like a Green Sandpiper. Buzzard, and Kestrel are in the air, and although the sun shines and we are sweating as we move brash, it’s still freezing. The Canada geese are about in pairs looking for territory.

24th February, an impromptu meeting at Cotton End Park, with Mill Park Reserve manager Richard. We watch 3 Reed Buntings, two male and one female as they sing, display and chase each other around the wildlife area. 5 Yellowhammer, 30plus Fieldfares with 10 Starlings are spread over the meadow and Coal Tit, Goldcrest and Redwings are heard. With our Park manager hats on, we discuss the future.

15th February, singing Chaffinch and Goldfinch reported from Station Road. Lots of Yellowhammers and Chaffinches reported from a grain dump off the Brington Road, and at least two reports of Song Thrush in gardens where they haven’t been seen for a while.


Barn Owl

13th February, I see two Song Thrushes in my garden which is unusual. They are also singing from The Leys and The Banks. Stuart sends me an excellent photo’ of a Barn Owl. Our one and only Gorse is in Flower and looking fine.

10th February, 2 Grey Partridge at Cotton End Park is a good record. There are also 30 Fieldfares, 150 Woodpigeon and 2 Snipe. The Catkins are out and as I stare I notice someone has kindly thrown a pop bottle into the pond. I make my way carefully to a place where I can remove it from the water but find the water frozen. Gloves off, I break the ice and suddenly hear a ‘plop’ that makes me look up. Swimming across the pond is a Water Vole, it gets to the edge of the ice, jumps out, runs along and drops in again eventually going out, up the opposite bank, and out of view. This is a first for the site and perhaps the first record for many years in the parish. I am pleasantly surprised but remember that over the last few weeks, there has been a massive excavator ditching the whole of the valley back towards the village, Foxhill, and West Haddon.

Great Tit

Roly makes it look easy

6th February, Alan reports a large female Sparrowhawk through his Garden, “even frightened the Mallards”. Dean reports drumming Woodpeckers from Vanderplanks Covert, and David sees a Blackcap in his garden on Ashmore.

4th February, I am at the farm with Peter. He is showing me the Nuthatch, and Long-tailed Tits on his window feeders when up pops a Tree Sparrow. Excellent. We then feed sheep and listen to a Great Tit singing.

Wildlife Diary for January 2018

Mobile ‘phone through telescope

Dave, Mike and Tim

31st January, the full moon is much talked about and I get my field telescope, normally used for wildlife, set up and patiently guide my mobile ‘phone camera lens into position on the eye-piece. Amazingly, I get an image.

30th January, clear skies tempt the Buzzards up. A half-hearted display and a piercing call that cuts through the thin air. Snow-drops, Aconites, and the odd Primula are keen to be seen. Angela sees a Barn Owl going to and from work.

Adam and sheep

Blue Tit at Mill Park Reserve

28th January, two new volunteers at our Cotton End Park work party this morning. We have a great morning in the sunshine, and hear and see Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Blackbird, Wren, Chaffinch, and Kestrel, whilst repairing, digging, barrowing, pruning…

27th January, the RSPB Garden Birdwatch is done before the weather closes in but as seems usual with me, the birds turn up either side of the one hour recording period. Because I’m a birder my friends and family think I can ‘magic up’ birds and have great satisfaction in reading their species rich list to me. Well done everyone. The largest ‘citizen science’ experiment ever carried out in the UK?

Coal Tit at Mill Park Reserve

Daniel with Hazel

24th January, photographer Jane visits Mill Park Reserve and gets some good shots of birds on the feeders there.

22nd January, the snow is gone and a Song Thrush is singing alongside a Starling on the roof. I haven’t seen any Starlings in the garden for ages but I saw 300odd with the some Redwings in the horse field at the bottom of The Leys.

20th January, Jo has 10 bird species in her garden at Syers Green. This is a critical time for feeding birds but please don’t forget to clean your bird-table and bird-feeders regularly as diseases like Trichomonosis are still present and killing birds as we speak. When did you last see a Greenfinch?


Great-spotted Woodpecker

18th January, the birdwatching and photography hide at CEP is vandalised again, but this time we have some photos. I am clearing up the mess and hear a Moorhen. I open a flap and see a dog Fox sitting like a fisherman on the edge of the first pond. A Moorhen, oblivious to threat is floating a yard from it on the still water. The Fox stares but can do no more than swish his tail in frustration.

16th January, David Evans reports a Cormorant, Dean reports Goldcrest and Muntjac.

14th January, we get the digger in for some much-needed ditch maintenance at the park. We see Hare, Treecreeper, Long-tailed Tit, and Robin, and course get very muddy.

11th January, Alan reports 3 Goosander from the canal at The Wharf. An excellent record of a great-looking winter-visiting duck. Look them up!

Buzzard and Crows

Male and Female Goosander

10th January, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Starling are singing, and the Blue Tit is displaying. Terry points out that the Collared Dove is sitting on eggs on a nest in a tree on Market Place.

3rd January, a mixed flock of Chaffinches and Yellowhammers in and around Armley field attracts a male Merlin. In a brief 5 seconds of action, I luckily catch him approaching low over the ground and then bursting upwards amongst the scattering flock. I thought for a second it was a male Sparrowhawk but as the bird rose up I got good views of him.

(images by Jane Brennecker, Sue Ebbage and Nick Roberts)

Wildlife Diary for December 2017


Top gates

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

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

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

Reed Bunting


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

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



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

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

all is quiet


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

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


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

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

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

Wildlife Diary for November 2017


Fairies Bonnets

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

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



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

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

Black-headed Gulls

Coal Tit

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

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

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

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


Romulus and Remus

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

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

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

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