31st October, on the way back into the village from the Northampton Road and a large falcon drifts overhead into the air space above Cotton End. I park the van, jump out and watch it go south-west over Ashmore and the Brington Road. A female Peregrine. As always the Crows, Rooks and Jackdaws that any other time are happy to hassle all other raptors are completely absent from the sky. You don’t mess with a Peregrine.
27th October, frosty, cold but sunny. 4 Moorhens sit on the bowed heads of the Reed-mace soaking in the weak warmth. Rooks and Woodpigeons are in the air.
22nd October, it can’t get better than this… I am about to leave CEP after checking for litter etc when I see a chap leaning on the gates looking at the view. I turn to get in the truck to come home but glimpse a pair of binoculars around his neck. I can’t resist ambling over and asking if he is ‘into’ birds, and he says he is. During a bit of a chat he says he had a Wryneck in his garden last spring (03.05.17). That would be brilliant, another first for the parish and another rare bird for the county. Better still he says his wife has a video of it! I am invited to pop and have a look, and there on the screen is a Wryneck, searching for Ants on a front lawn on Kingston Close.
21st October, There is a Common Darter basking in the sun on the sheep shed. Olive grey with age it is surely the last shout of summer. Clear skies have Skylarks and a Raven, and a big, slow queen Hornet glows orange in the low sun. I am with a gathering of well-wishers at a garden party off East Street, when the ever-observant David shouts ‘Is that a Cormorant Nick?’ I spin ‘round to see a Gannet cruise gracefully overhead. I am gob-smacked. Gannets are true seabirds spending their lives out at sea and breeding on distant islands. They are huge with long thin wings and a long missile-like body, and if you’ve been out on a boat around the coast of Britain you may have seen them diving from height into the sea for fish. It is a first for the Parish and I contact the county recorder.
20th October, yesterday’s thrushes seemed to have dispersed and are replaced by dozens of Goldcrests. There are mixed flocks with Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Blue Tit and Treecreeper. At 1150 The Rev Collingridge sees a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on Honeysuckle at Hall Drive. A visit to Hanglands and we creep up on a Hare that sits in the wood motionless and well camouflaged in the leaf-litter between the trees. He is there most winters and I rarely disturb him. Donna reports Red Kite roosting in a tree off The Banks.
19th October, it’s frosty, foggy then sunny. There has been an arrival of Thrushes, CEP has a handful each of Redwings, Blackbirds and even Song Thrushes are just into Double figures. Out of the Haw laden Thorns come 3 Fieldfare, and over the hillside comes a Mistle Thrush. 5 Thrush species in less than an hour. A Snipe and a Moorhen are seen and singing Chiffchaff and Goldcrest are also noted. I read that Hares are being found dead from a strain of the disease used to kill rabbits. I’m sure this isn’t the intention of the people who use this virus for rabbit control, but it just goes to confirm the vast ignorance of humans when it comes to playing God.
14th October, as a contrast to yesterday it rains all day. I open the Park as usual and walk through the double gates and stand quietly in the rain staring at the outstanding view of our countryside. We need this wet, and the warmth will bring out the Fungi.
13th October, unusually warm and the Ladybirds are, I think, trying to find places to hibernate. There are Butterflies and Hoverflies, Bees and Wasps, and a big slow Hornet is noted. A cluster of Mushrooms in the garden are new. I pick one and have a good look. It’s brown with yellowish gills and smells lovely. I quote the book ‘although widely eaten in Eastern Europe, the Brown Roll-rim contains a poison that accumulates in the body and can cause death’. Nice.
10th October, Mike and Sally find a Beautiful Plume Moth, and I don’t know if this species has occurred before in the parish. Jane and Dean report 3 sightings of a Mink off Foxhill Road. Alan Webb sees a Mandarin drake in his garden at The Wharf. These exotic ducks have occasionally wintered there on the Canal and are worth a look at.
9th October, working on The Chase and a Redpoll, 8 Skylarks and 10 Redwings go over. It is warm and dozens of Harlequin Ladybirds are wizzing about. I see Brimstone, Peacock, Red Admiral and Small White around some flowering Ivy. I’m washing up in the evening and from the light of the kitchen see something flapping around in the garden. I think it’s a big moth so nip out with the ‘phone torch on to have a look. It’s big for a moth and I soon realize it’s a Pipistrelle Bat. It comes within inches of me, and for two minutes or so is hovering and swooping only a foot from the ground. (Don’t worry I did finish the washing up).
8th October, Winter arrives in the form of Redwings. Small flocks over the village and the Park are accompanied by one or two Skylarks. (I saw breeding Redwings in Northern Norway this summer and they come to the UK, along with Fieldfares and many other species to avoid the harsh continental winter) A big Crane-fly is trussed up in the web of an ever-growing Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus, the later word meaning cross-shaped mark – as seen on the abdomen), and reports of the ‘big hairy one’ (Tegenaria gigantean) are on the increase. CEP has 3 Blackcaps, 6 Chiffchaffs, 2 Mistle Thrush, and a rolling, squeaking flock of Long-tailed Tits.
7th October, we’ve been planning to replace some of the assault course equipment at the Park with some play items for younger children, and this weekend saw us on the digger and dumper removing posts and concrete and preparing the ground. I’m sure that Red Kites can smell fresh earth as one appeared overhead and had a look. The local Rooks did not welcome such attention and noisily had at it until it moved off.
4th October, the farmers are making a beautiful job of harrowing and rolling the fields around the village and this activity does not go unnoticed by the gulls and corvids (members of the Crow family). Over 400 Black-headed Gulls swirl like a snow storm around the tractor off Foxhill Road. I see this as a local wildlife spectacle and check the flock for the ages and plumage, and for anything odd. And there it is. I see a glimpse of patterning that suggest another species maybe Common Gull, but it disappears in the melee. Persistence pays off and the said bird comes into view landing on the edge of the flock as the tractor heads away. A first year Mediterranean Gull. The last one I remember seeing in the parish was October 2004.
1st October, for the sake of the list I revisit CEP and see the Stonechat. I wonder if it will stay? At dusk I’m walking along Station Road to our LBGS committee meeting and hear the call of a Green Sandpiper. It calls several times and I think there may be 2 birds. Anyway if you were out that evening and saw a chap standing in the road looking upwards for no apparent reason, now you know.