Village Wildlife Diary for April 2018

Cuckoo-flower

Curbside Cowslip

30th April, it is so cold I can hardly believe that it’s May tomorrow. The Bluebells are out but the chilly north wind sends the blossom falling like snow. A Swallow sits hunched up on the wires on East Street, not an insect to be seen.

26th April, off to work via Foxhill Road, and half way up, on a concrete post sits a cracking male Whinchat. A beautifully plumaged passage migrant in from Africa, it’s on its way to Northern climes to breed but drops in to Buckby to make my day. As I cruise past it flicks off onto the yellow heads of the rape. I go to work and then come back an hour later with fingers crossed. It’s still there, and I get great views. A while later and another migrant pops up. A Wheatear. Funny how all month I’ve been looking for passage migrants without success, and as I was beginning to give up hope… …mmm…Male Whinchat. Let me see…late summer records, yes one a year maybe…but the last spring record was? Well there isn’t one I can find!

25th April, 4 House Martins and a Red Kite over the village. The Cuckoo-flowers are up at the Park, and I kneel on the wet sod for a photo’.

Frog in Duckweed

Hare

22nd April, Red Kite, a female Sparrowhawk and several Buzzard are seen. A Jay reported and also a drumming Woodpecker.

21st April, Opening Cotton End Park and the car park is full of song. A newly arrived Garden Warbler is one of 5 Warbler species singing. I also see a pair of Greenfinch. I then venture down Lodge Lane and onto the Brington Road. I see a male Roe Deer, a pair of Red-legged Partridge, another Greenfinch, hear 3 Lesser Whitethroats, and find 4 Hares together having a bit of a boxing match.

20th April, a sixth sense is a handy attribute and for no real reason I look up and then see 5 Lapwing go over. One of them is full of the joys of spring, and tumbles, dives and flips over in a brief display flight. They have a bit of a look at the bare fields below but continue on. I am out again looking for migrants but I can tell it’s getting a bit late because all I see is a fly-by Tawny Owl, and a few Bats.

Peregrine

Chiffchaff

18th April, Terry reports Orange-tip and Holly Blue. I am at Evans’ Pond and I hear a Kingfisher, see a pair of Tufted Duck. They are hiding from the pesky Canada Geese. Common Whitethroat pops up and Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff sing. A sudden movement in the grass. A Stoat – long time no see. At CEP I feed the sheep and hear an unfamiliar call. I look up to see 2 birds sparing, in fact 2 Peregrines, both males have a brief scrap then both depart in opposite directions. One comes my way and lands on the Pylon in the sheep paddock. Amazingly I have a camera and get a shot as it sits there panting. Two male Peregrines fighting? Is that a territorial boundary clash? Is there a female watching somewhere?

17th April, an Orange-tip goes past at full speed, and Billy sees a Peacock. The Church Warden reports that he and the Vicar were clearing up inside the St Lawrences’ and they came across a ‘snake’. By the description I think it was a Slow Worm. Thankfully they are both sensible chaps and release the interloper to the bottom of the graveyard.

16th April, I am half a mile away from CEP in a game covert in fields towards West Haddon. I hear a bird singing that reminds me of a bird I had 2 years ago at this time at the Park. This time I have got a decent ‘phone and I video record the song and try to study the bird. It is a Chiffchaff, and the song and plumage suggest a Siberian Chiffchaff. I do not have a camera with me.

Linnet

Grass Snake

15th April, I’m ambling down Lodge Lane before 7 and hear the first Lesser Whitethroat, 2 each of Chiffchaff and Blackcap, and a dozen Fieldfare are seen. 2 Hares and a flyover Meadow Pipit add to the list. Armley field still has a flock of about 20 Linnets, and Lee reports Slow Worm. CEP hosts my first Willow Warbler, and has a handful of Fungi which are loving this wetness. Baby Blackbird reported.

14th April, Dean and Jane report Butterbur from the footpath near Vanderplanks Covert, and Tufted Duck from the Ponds. Hanglands NR has a Grass Snake, 2 immature Toads, and a Common Shrew under the old roofing tins. Bee-fly, Comma, Brimstone, Small Tort’ and Peacock are about, and a Hare is flushed. Evans’ Pond has spawning Toads, about 10 males are wrestling 1 female, and the egg ribbons are just visible. 2 swallows reported.

13th April, Richard sees a Swallow on Brington Road, Angela sees two large long-legged birds go over that we assume were Grey Herons (I hope they weren’t Cranes!). John reports 2 Little Egrets from near The Wharf. After a couple of weeks of mainly queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees I start to see a few Red-tailed Bumblebees.

8th April, Blackcaps arrive and are singing at Heath View, CEP, Mill Park and Lodge Lane. The latter still has 6+ Fieldfares, and 3 Greylag Geese go over.

Little Egret

Flood Visitor

7th April, a Swallow over Oak Tree Farm, Bill reports a female Blackcap from Grove Farm Close, Alan a nest of well grown Robin chicks at The Wharf, and Sue a pair of well-marked Redpoll from her garden on Lakeside.

6th April, spring-like and a Chiffchaff is singing at CEP, and the Willow catkins are alive with Bumblebees.

4th April, Lodge lane has 2 Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush with the Blackbirds on the excellent sheep paddocks there, and Denise at Bridge House Farm reports Little Egret from their lake.

1st April, flood water abounds and during the morning my wife sees an odd mammal surface for a few seconds in the flooded field of Foxhill Road. She gets a photo…

Village Wildlife Diary for March 2018

Treecreeper

Small Tortoiseshell

30th March, Graham and I plant an Oak tree for Tony. My son Billy and I have been making a bird nest box, and we finally get a few minutes without rain to get the ladder out and fit it. Fingers crossed.

28th March, the Linnet are now back at the farm and at Cotton End Park. During the winter they are in feeding flocks out on the stubble but now the flocks split up and the birds start pairing. There are perhaps 6 -10 birds at CEP and they tend to nest in lose colonies. Will it stop raining soon?

26th March, at last a Chiffchaff. It is not impressed and moves on. Small Tortoiseshell, and Queen Wasp reported. Alan finds a White Collared dove at The Wharf. It still has the black collar and is paired with a ‘normal’ looking bird. Dean reports Barn Owl and Reed Bunting.

Moss

Violets

25th March, My wife does it again. Every year is seems, she spots Brimstone before me and I’m the one who is supposed to be looking! Daniel, Louise, and Mark are getting stuck into some hedge-laying at the park and also report Brimstone. Better still, our man on Ashmore, David, reports Bats. Sue sees and photographs Hare, Treecreeper, and Violets.

24th March, a rolling flock of 200+ winter thrushes are feeding across the sheep paddocks on Dead Moor. Feed and move on. More fly-over Meadow Pipits noted.

20th March, at CEP the Skylarks are duelling high in the sky, and we look but never see the source of the music. There is spawn in every available bit of water, and the Reed Bunting sings to compete with the Yellowhammer. There are still 3 Snipe but they will soon go and look for breeding territory – which sadly these days does not included Northamptonshire.

Yellowhammer

Reed Bunting

17th March, more snow and this grounds a handful of north-bound Meadow Pipits. Jo, Cassie, and Mr Baker all have (male) Reed Buntings visiting their gardens. The females may be there too but do look rather Sparrow-like.

16th March, a Red Admiral is seen.

14th March, a bedraggled Buff-tailed Bumblebee sits on my bonnet and I give it a bit of golden syrup in water. Gina reports Frogs spawn from CEP, and Jo has 10 Chaffinches, and 1 Greenfinch in her garden.

Easter Bunny

Feed Me

11th March, Louise reports Barn Owl along the Brington Road, and the damp evening is bringing out the Frogs and Toads, plus the odd Newt.

9th March, sometimes.. ok most times I don’t see that much when I am on duty at CEP, but just occasionally something pops up. This morning a male Teal (A small duck – look it up!), 2 Snipe, and 2 Reed Buntings are noted. Cassie reports dozens of Frogs Spawning in her garden pond on Brington Road.

8th March, Alan has a pair of Mute Swan on the canal and they are joined by one of last year’s young. Angela sees a Barn in the relative light of 1800hrs.

6th March, snow nearly gone and Alan sees 50 Lapwing at The Wharf. Vicky and I see a Tree Sparrow in her garden, plus House Sparrow and Chaffinch.

Meadow Pipit

Redwing

4th March, the farm is cut off by drifts but the old Ford Ranger ploughs through and we get to feed sheep and people. We see Tree Sparrow and Nuthatch on the Peter’s bird table. The village has gangs of Fieldfares desperate for food, and Lize, DW, DS and others report them. There are also reports of Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tits, and Reed Buntings feeding and sheltering in gardens.

2nd March, a good covering of snow and Cotton End Park, has 6 (3 pairs) of Greenfinch tucking into the Blackthorn, and Sycamore buds, and in the Lower Paddock a Lapwing is sitting tight. Sue and Chris Ebbage take me to a grain dump off the Brington Road. There are hundreds of birds, including maybe 80 Yellowhammer, 60 Chaffinch, and 50 Tree Sparrow. There are dozens of Fieldfare, Redwing, and Starling, and ones and twos of Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Robin and Dunnock.

Wildlife Diary for February 2018

Lapwing
Lapwing

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

Kestrel

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.

Gorse

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.