Wildlife Diary for March 2016

Bee Fly Victim

Extreme Pond Maintenance

Scrambled Eggs

30th March, There has been talking on social media of a Parrot type bird down at The Wharf, so Alan Webb eventually tracks it down and confirms it is a Ring-necked Parakeet. An introduced or escaped exotic species that is now breeding in large numbers in southern England. My thanks to Alison Squire for being observant enough to notice a dead Bee Fly on a washing line peg. (See photo) the insect has been affected and killed by Entomophthora muscae, a fungus that makes the insect hang or stretch outwards before death so the fungi can more easily release and disperse its spores. Rick Bunnage also found a good example of this a couple of years ago. Fantastic stuff.

27th March, Kevin Spokes reports a Little Owl, good numbers of Greenfinch, and Hare, from Grove Farm. Terry Laney sees Ravens over South Close, a Weasel at Surney, and hears a Curlew over the Brington Road. There are 4 Raven and 8 Buzzard together over Lodge Lane. Neil Chanter gets first prize for the first bird migrant, in the form of a singing Chiffchaff off The Banks, and Jenny Spokes reports 2 Redpoll on feeders at Hammas Leys via Steve Dickenson. Tufted Duck reported from Vanderplanks pond.

25th March, the Song Thrushes seem to be in better numbers this year if you go by the singing birds. I still don’t actually see any, with the assumption they are very secretive and mainly crepuscular. At Hanglands NR there are eight clumps of Frogspawn, calling Bullfinches, Fly-over Meadow Pipit and the now common, Ravens. I do a bit of pond maintenance and whilst thigh deep in freezing cold mud see a Peregrine go over. At home my wife shouts Brimstone and claims the first for the year, we then see Peacock and I go into my office and my hibernating Small Tortoiseshell is gone. Thank God. I’ve been sitting in the cold all bloody winter so as not to wake it up. I’ve also kept the ever increasing Cellar Spiders from attacking it. Alan Webb has a Rook on his fat balls.

Cowslips at CEP

Flailed to Death

Small Magpie Moth

22nd March, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies are reported. Catharina Hunter reports Snipe and we see a big (female) Peregrine being hassled by 2 possible males. There have been one or two more Peregrines around so far and I think there is a link with the planting of rape. Oil-seed rape is a favourite of Woodpigeons. If fact I reckon they consume over 25% of the plants actual growth during the early stages. Anyhow, Pigeons generally, are number one prey item for Peregrines.

19th March, I am in conversation with a chap from East Haddon regarding wildlife and we get onto woodland management. We discuss the mildness of the winter and the sourcing of firewood and I question the sustainability of hardwood production for the fireplace and he drops a bombshell. The claims the majority of ‘kiln-dried, hardwood firewood’ sold by the local suppliers is from Eastern Europe. He says that it is harvested, dried and shipped in on pallets from the Baltic States. Did you know that? Is that what we should be doing? No wonder our native trees are under constant attack by new diseases.

18th March, I am unintentionally positioned under an evening Woodpigeon roost. I am actually looking out for Owls, but none so far. And then it starts to snow. No it isn’t snow but small white feathers drifting down from the preening pigeons. It is an odd experience. A Small Magpie Moth appears in the kitchen, has it been hibernating?

17th March, a lone male Lapwing is trying hard not to be put off his chosen nest site. He just managed to breed there last year raising 2 young. For several years if not a decade there were no Lapwings nesting in the parish, but a couple of years ago 1 or 2 pairs came back. The trouble is careless dog walkers are not controlling their animals and the dogs are running a mock whilst their owners are stumbling along staring at their ‘phones. Lapwings are ground nesting birds and are a rare and precious part of our village wildlife. This year there may be just 3 pairs trying to hold territory. Please control your dogs. (As I write the said Lapwing has now given up the fight and gone and that’s a real shame)

15th March, some Redwings and Fieldfares appear, they are feeding up ready to head north. Meadow Pipits, Redpoll and Siskins are also in the skies, and Skylarks are in full song.

13th March, some welcome sun brings out the first butterfly, a Small Tortoiseshell. There are Bees and Ladybirds about and in the Co-op car park the Collared Doves, Jackdaws and Woodpigeons are all sitting in pairs. Norman How reports Barn Owl from the top of Stenhouse Close, and Chrissy gamble reports a Red Kite. Buckby Birder Ben sees 27 species of birds including a Brambling (the first and probably last record of this winter species in the parish this season) at the end of Wright Road.

10th March, Phil says his neighbour has frogspawn but he just has Frogs, patience Phil, patience. There are 3 Lapwings in the bean field at Cotton End. Eileen reports a Barn Owl whilst walking her lovely doodle.

Robin

Slaughtered

Tufted Duck

9th March, 24hrs of rain combined with tonnes of branches and twigs from the slaughtered hedges adds up the several floods in the village. I inspect the ditches and culverts at a handful of sites about the village and find them all blocked by hedge ‘trimmings’. My local farmer tells me that to save money, they cut the hedges once every two years and so are severe as they can be each time. The result is very badly damaged hedges with tonnes of splintered wood filling the drainage ditches.

There is little leaf producing life left on the plants so for example, nesting birds will find it harder to find cover and breed.

From an ecological view, it’s a bloody disgrace. For the economy of the village, it was also bad news.Locally flooding stopped hundreds of commuters from getting to work on time. Deliveries, appointments, and general travel disruption etc, but hey….. the farm, rs saved some money.

8th March, We are hedge-laying at the park and find a Stonechat. The Rooks at the railway station and at Vanderplanks Covert are in full breeding mode. Lots of raised voices, nest building, squabbling, and general mayhem. As colony nesters, you would have thought they would get on better with each other.

7th March, Keith Thompson reports the Short-eared Owl again at the fields below the church. This could be the same bird from before but moving back through. 4 Raven, 4 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, and Siskin over the village.

4th March, Alan Webb reports Siskin, and 2 Goldcrests from his garden at The Wharf. 1 Lapwing flies over CEP heading North, then we see a pair in the field next to Marrowell whilst picking up sheep food. Red Kites were seen over A5 and A428.

Wildlife Diary for February 2016

Greenfinch

Little Egret

Redpolls

27th February, in the cold clear morning air I can just pick out the disjointed song of a male Reed Bunting somewhere from the wildlife area at the park. I scan for a while then spot him on a plump mace of Bull-rush. His dark head, white collar and streaked back are the colours and shapes or the reed bed around him. He is a cousin to the Yellowhammer also a Bunting, but the song of the Yellowhammer, which is now just starting to sing is the sweet classic ‘little bit of bread and no cheese’. The song of the Reed Bunting, however, is a short, uncertain stutter of single and double syllables rather like counting numbers out of order ‘one – two – seven – ten – thirteen’. I am pleased that for the third year now this rare parish bird has chosen to attempt to breed at Cotton End Park.

26th February, Jonathon Evans reports Snipe. Chrissy Gamble a Green Woodpecker, David Walden a pair of Mallard, and Alan Webb, 2 Siskins. Red Kite over Ashmore.

23rd February, to my teenage sons’ dismay a big queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee wakes him at 0700hrs trying to get out of his bedroom window. After a brief discussion we work out there are a thousand places in his room it could have happily spent the winter without fear of disturbance!

21st February, Solitary Bees are reported, plus other insects are about. Song Thrush, Skylark and Starling are singing well and Cowslips are reported in flower. Lesley reports a Treecreeper from her garden that flew into a window and stunned itself for a moment before flying off. 2 Meadow Pipits fly over. I find some hibernating Ladybirds they are all different in looks but all are Harlequin Ladybird. They are also called Asian Multi-coloured Lady Beetles and were introduced for agricultural use to tackle Aphids. It is suggested that they are now out of control and happily eat other Ladybirds. Rather predictably the agricultural experts are too embarrassed to admit that this has had anything to do with the decline of our once common native Seven-spotted Ladybird.

Lesser Redpoll

Red Kite

Yellowhammer

20th February, Kathy Hall finds a Pipistrelle Bat clinging to her house wall during the daytime. Rather cleverly she stands planks of wood around it to protect it from cats etc. The Haisman’s report that the House Sparrows reported earlier in the month has now fledged the nest!

18th February, neighbour Dave reports Eileen seeing a Fox go past our front gardens, and my wife sees a Tawny Owl fly over and land on another neighbour’s wall near their bird feeder. Sue sends some great photos of Redpolls. I think they are the British form known as Lesser Redpoll, which is common, though in winter we do sometimes get what used be called the Mealy Redpoll, and is now known as Common Redpoll which quite rare. Yes, I don’t understand it either.

Forgive me for I am going to have my annual moan about the flaying of hedges. I can’t work it out. The hedges are recognised as being the last bastion of wildlife in the greater arable landscape yet no law stops them being totally abused to a point where they become useless for wildlife. I see miles of splintered stumps, many have rabbit guards on them which is laughable, and were no doubt part of a subsidised scheme. This may be the reason why I can walk miles through the countryside I call home and see no birds smaller than a Wood Pigeon.

The First Bombus

Gorse

Harlequins

10th February, many Prunus are now in blossom. In the village, Cherry Plum and their cultivated cousins are the first to show flowers, a nice example being those at the very top of Pytchley Drive. Little Owl reported from Watford Park. Skylark, Blue Tit, and Chaffinch now starting to put song together.

Interestingly I notice there are a few more Greenfinch about in the village this winter. They must be some way to recovering their population from the massive decline brought on by Trichomoniasis a few years back.

7th February, Richard Haisman reports a nest of House Sparrow chicks on The Banks. The volume of their calls would suggest they hatched in January! Neil reports Barn Owl from ‘the owl field’. Two Red Kites together being seen regularly at East Haddon, Holdenby, Ravensthorpe, and Buckby, suggesting perhaps a pairing and hopefully nesting nearby?

Wildlife Diary for January 2016

Sparrowhawk

Blackcap

Hornet

31st January, in a half hour sheep feeding session we manage to see Red Kite, some displaying Buzzards, a pair of Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk. Add to this Raven and 2 Green Woodpeckers and you wonder if anything got fed.

20th January, A gang of Wrens are roosting in an old Swallows nest. From a distance, they look like a cupful of Ferrero-roche chocolates. A Woodpigeon is wanting to nest above my porch door. I can tell this by the dropped sticks and poo that greet me first thing. Aconites and Daffodils join the Snowdrops and Primrose, in flower. Great-crested Newt seen on the move. Dean has a pale albino/leucistic Dunnock in his garden and reports a Little Egret and Grey Heron together below Oak Tree Farm.

17th January, a layer of snow to start does not stop us tree planting at the park. 20+ Yellowhammers are seen off the Brington Road, and 3 Common Gull and 2 Black-headed Gulls are seen on The Long Buckby Rugby Club pitch. Peter has Nuthatch, Yellowhammer and Chaffinch at Grange Farm. Blackbird and Mistle Thrush are reported singing. I hear Song Thrush singing for the first time this season. A female Hornet is an unseasonable record then again these days…anything goes.

16th January, Fieldfares and Redwings, the thrushes that spend the winter with us are starting to move back through. A flock of 250 ish are reported. I sneak into the Bird & photography hide at Cotton End Park and flush a Snipe within 1 second of opening the window flap. I am trying to work out how to see one without disturbing it so I can show someone else with a camera. But to get anywhere near a good view of a Snipe on the ground is now seriously testing my field-craft. Jo sees 2 Red Kites together and David sees a Blackcap in his garden. Blackcap, Tree Sparrow and Reed Bunting are birds that come into the gardens of the village when things change in the countryside. It could weather conditions, food availability, or local population movements, but records of them seem to coincide.

Red Kite

Fieldfare

Reed Bunting

14th January, Neil reports Goldcrest and Treecreeper from The Banks. Buzzard, Red Kite, Raven and Kestrel also reported. My cold, North facing garden is adorned with two flowering Daffodils. I find Jelly Ear and Yellow Brain fungi, and whilst moving some hay bales a pile of scat from a predator. Something like a Stoat or Polecat. I have a sniff and take a photo. Size-wise they would suggest Polecat. The monotonous ‘see-saw’ or tee-cher’ song of the Great Tit is being heard.

10th January, a work party discussion at CEP is suddenly brought to a halt when almost predictably I wonder away half way through, looking intently upwards. “What’s he got now?” I heard as I watched a female Peregrine Falcon slice the flock of Rooks and Jackdaws in half. The fun doesn’t end there as now we are all looking upwards a Red Kite is seen as well. Talk about Wales on your doorstep!

8th January, just when we thought it might be a bit too mild to attract oddities into the garden, a Reed Bunting is sitting in my neighbours’ hedge looking expectantly at the feeders. Having asked several regular dog-walkers it appears the Short-eared Owl may have moved on. Snowdrops out on West Street and at The Wharf.

Jelly Ear

Peziza

Yellow Brain