Village Wildlife Diary for December 2018

Empusa pennata
Empusa pennata

29th December, my neighbour Vicky finds an extraordinary addition to her prepacked broccoli, whilst preparing dinner. It looks like ‘Alien’ from the films and quite understandably freaks her out. Her husband Jason rescues her and it and gets some photos (of it not her). They box the creature and bring it to me, and I take to the only person for miles around who would want it… yes, the wonderful Brian Laney. Brian’s network of enthusiasts soon identify it as a species of Preying Mantis (Empusa pennata) It really had to be seen to be believed, what an incredible being, and a very odd addition to the list of wildlife of the village.

28th December, after a bit of an absence 200+ Fieldfares, Redwings and Starlings are on the sheep paddocks of Lodge Lane. They seem to have finished stripping the hedges and trees, and now get together in good numbers and take to the earth.

Roadkill – Polecat
Stakes & Binders

26th December, Carol sees a dead Polecat on the road near the Three bridges traffic lights, and Alan sees a Magpie mobbing a Red Kite. The recent shooting events have scattered the surviving Pheasants all over the parish, including some village gardens. Mistle thrush noted in song near Ashmore.

25th December, after prepping the ’veg, I pop up and feed the lambs at CEP, it is mild and unusually quiet, and I find myself singing ‘Oh come all ye faithful’ out loud. 3 Greenfinches fly over and a Great-spotted Woodpecker hangs on to the feeder.

21st December, 100+ Starlings and similar of Jackdaw are about Rockhill Road, and from a tv aerial, a Goldfinch is singing. Tom and I have a welcome change from electrical work, and harvest Ash stakes and binders from our Wood ready for some hedge-laying.

Great White Egret
Tufted Ducks

19th December, Angela finds another, fatter Newt in our garden, and I see Grey Wagtail.

16th December, Daniel and I see Green Woodpecker, Treecreeper, and Mistle Thrush, and Sue sees a Great Egret at Ravensthorpe Res’. Jo has a flock of Long-tailed Tits in her garden, and a Jay is reported. I notice the Blackbirds have completely stripped my Yew and Rowan of berries, and the Wood Pigeons are gobbling up the Ivy berries.

14th December, a frost overnight has forced the Snipe to feed in the ditch where the water is still flowing, and a male Reed Bunting is new in at the Park. The excellent Bridge House Farm lake has a pair of Tufted Ducks.

Kingfisher
Great-Spotted Woodpecker

6th December, Alan finds the Kingfisher perched in his garden at the Wharf, which is one heck of a garden tick. A flock of @50 House Sparrows is noted at the bottom of The Banks. A good sized flock going into winter and an increasingly less common sight these days.

5th December, Blackbird, and Song Thrush are joining with the Robin for some practice singing. Rooks are starting to Display and Adam sees a Kingfisher at The Wharf.

Bird’s-eye View
Grey Wagtail

3rd December, my company Long Buckby Electrical is again awarded the contract to put the Christmas lights up at Market Place. Aaron finds a Collared Doves nest with an egg in and I get dived at by a Jackdaw that is not used to seeing me in his tree. All good fun amongst the hard work.

2nd December, Jim reports Little Egret from Brington Road, and a Winter Moth is noted.

1st December, the Wood Blewit is a robust, edible, purple tinged mushroom, and several are up under the Ash trees at the Park dotted amongst an incomplete ring of Fairy-ring Champignon. There are still several Egghead Mottlegill in the Horse paddocks and other fungi I just can’t get to grips with. I need Jeff Blincow.

Village Wildlife Diary for November 2018

Green Woodpecker

25th November, Daniel and I see a Cormorant fly over going East. Brian Laney reports Hedgehogs from South Close, and regrowth of the rare Shepard’s Needle on ground off Brington Road. Vocal Ravens about, and Knapweed in full flower.

24th November, mild and dull and CEP is heavy with dew. There are Common Gulls about, joining the handfuls of Black-headed Gulls in the newly greened fields. I creep up to the wildlife area in my quest to actually see a Snipe on the ground, but yet again it defies me, and gets up from the pond edge and zig-zags away. I take another step and suddenly a larger bird leaps up and flies off, a Woodcock, a first for the winter here. A dog walk along the footpath near Vanderplanks Covert produces singing Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Yellowhammer, and Green Woodpecker.

17th November, Terry reports seeing a Peregrine over the village near South Close, which follows me seeing one first thing at Cotton End. It flew in from the North carrying a prey item then landed on a Pylon in the triangle of land between Lodge lane and Brington Road. It took twenty minutes or so to devour the prey (Probably a Pigeon) occaisionally throwing up puffs of white feathers. In CEP several fungi species were scattered over the paddocks, with Egghead Mottlegill, Snowy Inkcap, and Parrot Waxcap being identified.

Egghead Mottlegill

Snowy Inkcap

14th November, mildness brings out a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee, and dozens of small honey-type Bees. They feast on the remaining Ivy flowers and on the ever-flowering Hebe and Lavender in my garden. Angela sees a Barn Owl on the Ravensthorpe turn and a Red Kite is reported. Adam sees a Little Egret near the motorway at The Wharf.

12th November, I have a hedge to lay at the bottom of The Banks but my ‘day job’ running Long Buckby Electrical is all consuming. At lunchtime I have a walk along and think about preparation and disturb an Angel Shades moth in the process.

11th November, a beautiful low sun casts long, cold shadows, but there are still plants flowering. No work party at the park on this special Sunday but I unlock and walk to our WW1 memorial cairn. Doesn’t seem five minutes since we were building it to commemorate the lads from our village who went off in 1914. I take the poppy I’ve been wearing on my overalls all week and stick it in a crack in the weathered Oak upright. At St Lawrence’s we remember, we promise and we are engaged by the children. The red poppy petals, the golden autumnal leaves, and the various flags stir in the breeze.

Angle Shades Moth

Blistered Cup

9th November, I am perhaps the only person in the area to be happy to wait at the three Bridges traffic lights. They enable me to have a look at the surrounding countryside which at other times would just be sailing past. As the light turns green a Little Egret flops across the road in front of me. And as a follow up Alan then sees a/the Little Egret at the Wharf, and also reports on the ever-scarce Lapwings, with a flock of 50ish on Thrupp grounds.

8th November, Mike reports seeing 8 Blackbirds consuming the berries on my Rowan. Adam sees a Polecat cross Foxhill Road not far from the village and sees a Badger do the same further along.

6th November, dog walking past Picnic Spinney and the clear blueness is filled with Skylark song. The dressed fields have well-spaced Black-headed Gulls busily engaged in worming.

Great-crested Newt

maybe Turkeytail

5th November, the Guides and Brownies follow on from the Scouts and Cubs, and have a bonfire at CEP. Angela and I discuss logistics and are interrupted by a loud and maybe disgruntled Tawny Owl. Redwings go over in the dark issuing their thin ‘seee’ call.

4th November, a 300plus flock of birds on the fields near Ashmore is made up mainly of Fieldfares and Starlings, with fewer Redwings and the odd Blackbird. All of these could be winter migrants from Europe. The same is true of the 500 Woodpigeons going over. I follow a muddy stream and see footprints. A Fox, a Muntjac and an Otter have come this way. Back at home I put the bins out and under one of them sits a male Great-crested Newt. Alan reports Goldcrest, as dozens of ‘Britian’s smallest bird’ seem to have arrived in the village.

1st November, the evenings give in to darkness, and by 20.00hrs there are 2 Tawny Owls conversing between Berryfield and the Poplar plantation below Armley. The ‘kevit!’ is answered by the ‘Towoo’.

Village Wildlife Diary for October 2018

Rook

Fox

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.

Moorhen

Mandarin

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).

Long Tailed Tit

Harlequin Ladybird

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.