Wildlife Diary for May 2016

Red Kite

Female Blackcap

Chiffchaff

29th May, I walk past Evans Ponds on the footpath along the parish boundary with Watford and Haddon. I find a male Common Blue butterfly and 5 Burnet Companion moths, plus a Silver Y. There are lots of colourful Damselflies, like hovering matchsticks, Large Red, Azure Blue, White-legged, and Blue-tailed. There are Yellow Flag Iris and Ragged Robin in flower, and in the air above a Red Kite is following me, and a Lark is hard at it high in the big blue, oh the spring!

28th May, at Hanglands the Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap are singing over the sound of my strimmer. I stop to refuel and in the distance, a Cuckoo utters two ‘cuckoos’. It is my first of the year and as far as I know the only one for the parish. I call Cuckoo enthusiast, Jenny Spokes, she arrives fairly quickly but we don’t hear it again. There are 3 Broad-bodied Chasers over the Nettle beds. They are huge insects and so perfectly adapted to hunting flight. During the evening the family joins me and we see 2 Hobbys together looking like they are house hunting. The Hobby is an ace catcher of Swallows, Martins and Swifts and nests in old Crows nests. We also see a ginger-red Fox his coat shining in the evening sun.

25th May, two residents of Parkfield and Syers Green Close report the Red Kite circling overhead. The smallish Hedgehog I saw on East Street last week didn’t last long and is squashed in the same place I saw it the other night. Sue Plant sees Red Kite and an Egret. Unbelievably, a white Egret these days could be a Little Egret or a Great White Egret, as both species are fairly regular in the county. The ‘Little’ is obviously smaller than a Grey Heron, the ‘Great White’ looks bigger. Red Admirals reported.

May Bug

Cuckoo Flower

Sweat Vanilla

24th May, Neil Chanter (our man on The Banks) relays that the House Martin colony on The Banks is no more. He has been on there for many years and says that in 2014 there were seven active nests but last year just three. This year they came and looked but did not stay. My wife finds a May Bug or Cockchafer, a now rare, large beetle, and gets a good photo. I just don’t see them anymore.

23rd May, Red Kite overload. There are 2 being seen quite low over the village which is upsetting the Jackdaws and Starlings that are busy breeding. I see a Hobby whilst watching a Kite, and Neil sees a Hobby as well. Holly Blues are in my garden and I see a female lay her eggs on the budding flowers. To my dismay a Blue Tit comes along five minutes later and seems to be picking at the very same spot.

21st May, Alan Webb finds a Grey Wagtails nest whilst on a WBLA work party on the Canal. My family use it as an excuse for a walk and enjoy seeing Grey Heron, Moorhen and Mallard with fluffy young, and the Wagtails. The mature gardens along the sides hold at least 2 singing Goldcrest’s plus Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps.

Sing For Spring

Marsh Marigold

Robin

20th May, A Mute Swan flies over as do 2 Cormorant. Red Kites are daily and Buzzard and Sparrowhawk barely get a mention. I see a live smallish Hedgehog on East Street during the evening and keep my fingers crossed.

17th May, I have been with a lady teaching her bird song and have realized that 40 odd years of knowledge cannot be passed on that easily. She shows me an app’ which is a real asset, and makes it easier for me to give out ‘homework’. I use it to sort out the annual bird song issue; is that a Blackcap or is it a Garden Warbler? It is a well-known birding dilemma that even the good birders struggle with, but the app’ is very helpful when the memory lets you down.

15th May, my neighbours draw my attention to 2 Red Kites low over the village, and other reports of them come in. At CEP we find a Robins nest with 5 chicks and a Pheasant on 12 eggs. There has been a hatching of St Marks Fly, again a couple of weeks later than last year. There is a part circle of St Georges Mushroom, you could argue they are late as well. Bernie, Lee, Cassie, David, Daniel, Jo and others see the Kites.

8th May, Nick Hudson sends a great photo of the large house spider Tegenaria Gigantea, and Ben Reeve sees 30 bird species, including Moorhen with chicks at CEP. At Hanglands NR, the first of the dragons/damsels are about in the form of 2 immature Large Red Damsels. There are one or two Bee Fly’s hovering in front of anything that looks like it might be the entrance of a bees nest, flicking their abdomens as they deposit eggs. The young are parasites of mining bees.

7th May, I see young Blackbirds and a young Robin along Lodge Lane. Other than size, they look rather similar at this age which belays their belonging to the same bird family The Thrushes. This family also includes Redstarts, Wheatears, Nightingale, The Chats, and of course the true Thrushes like Mistle, and Song. I pop into CEP and find young Mistle Thrushes, a Great-spotted Woodpecker, singing Blackcap and a brief glimpse of a Spotted Flycatcher. These are rare now, 20 years ago there were several pairs annually about the village. A splash of soft pink tells me that at last the Ladies Sock/Cuckoo Flower is in bloom. These flowers must be two weeks later than last year. Terry Laney reports Bee Fly, and Raven, and whilst looking up sees a large raptor alongside a Common Buzzard which he thinks is a Honey Buzzard. These birds are a rare British breeding bird and live on the larvae of wasps and bees, in the forested parts of the UK.

Mallard

Smooth Newt

New Helper

6th May, a warm day and the House Martins, and Swifts are over the village making a stand for summer. I see a Little Owl and a Hare off the Brington Road, and there are several of each of Holly Blue, Orange-tip, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock about.

5th may, Beth York sees Orange-tip at Watts Way, and a Peacock is seen in South Close. There are many parties of Mallard ducklings about the village and a nervous female is escorting her 14 down East Street to the delight/dismay of the morning commute. Yesterday’s one Swift turns into 13 and they scream information above The Library. Adam reports a Stoat and a Red Kite.

4th May, 7 house martins from the Holyoake crew are about over The Leys, and a Swift appears amongst them. Thomas reports 3 Bats from the garden.

2nd May I am aware that one of the regular passage migrants is missing from my list and that the passage time period is nearly up. I have been making an effort to go to where I might expect to see Redstart but have failed so far. With maintenance of the ponds at Hanglands NR on my mind, I spend a couple of hours carefully clearing some dead bulrush and on my way back, having to open a couple of field gates, look up and see the satisfying flash of brick-red telling me a Redstart is a fly, catching. The female sits for me while I grab the binoculars and then after a minute slips away.

Wildlife Diary for April 2016

Lapwing

Kestrel

Green Woodpecker

30th April, the North wind has stopped and the game is on. The First Yellow Wagtail comes over Lodge Lane, then ten minutes later another. I change tack and head for the big fields towards Haddon. I break out the artillery, and methodically use the telescope to scan the fence tops and hedges, and am eventually rewarded by distant shapes that ‘look good’. I am in my element as I move through the countryside, it is like hunting but I just want to see and identify. The skill is not be seen or disturb what you are looking at, to get the sun behind you, to be patient and move in a certain way, to position, to focus. A fine male Whinchat, followed by a female Wheater. The whole of this month I’ve been searching, and now the reward. Passage migrants are special. All the way from Africa, heading to Northern lands, the chances of connecting with them is quite low, and as I sit in a small gap in this hedge miles from anywhere I can’t help but smile. 2 Hares, 9 Skylarks, 2 Grey Partridge, 1 Lapwing and 3 Yellow Wagtails make the day.

28th April, the Wood Pigeon squab leaves the nest on the porch with an explosion of twigs, feathers and poo. It sits under my truck willing to be squashed but I chivvy it out and assist it into the air with my right boot. Hares reported from 3 places over the last week. We see only 1 House Martin over Murcott, and the cold wind is still holding things up.

26th April, morning after morning of frost and cold winds are holding back many species. I find the buds of a Ladies Smock a good week away from opening. At Cotton End Park the peace is wonderful as the Community Flock plus lambs have now gone on holiday. The paddocks now have Mistle and Song Thrushes, Blackbird, Robin, Moorhen, Stock Dove, and Jackdaw generally feeding. The car-park has twenty odd Greenfinches and Chiffchaffs and Blackcap sing from the greenery. A pair of Kestrel is ever present.

24th April, early morning, pre-work, migrant hunting, walks are now regular. 5 Lesser and 2 Common Whitethroats noted. Later David Walden and I see the season’s first Hobby over East Street. The standard dead Hedgehog is a sad sight. Survives a long winter’s hibernation, gets up, goes for breakfast, gets run over. We find a dead Muntjac in the field. It too has the injuries suggesting an RTI. To match that the Badgers are throwing themselves under cars. It’s all to do with too much speed and/or not caring anyway. Lambing duties, work and the park are all consuming. My old Herdwick slips a still-born, but the Swart gives a pair of fine long-legged sprites.

20th April, a bit of warm produces the first Green-veined White butterfly plus Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone. A House Martin appears in the sky briefly, and I see a pair of Linnets, a Jay and 3 Tree Sparrows, on a long walk. Neil sees Nuthatch, and Jenny reports Bats, and a Meadow Pipit goes over. I see 5 species of Bumblebee over the course of the week.

My Old Herdwick

Male House Sparrow

The Warm Up

16th April, The trouble with declaring Spring is that it then backs out of the deal. In a raw wind, I give myself time to walk to Oak Tree Farm, 2 Swallows pass by and I hear a new, arrival, a Lesser Whitethroat singing from Vanderplanks Covert. It is cold again and I amble down Lodge Lane wondering why there are no more migrant bird, s about. It then snows on me and I give up looking. Jim Jelley reports Little Egret and Swallow. Richard Brennecker reports Willow Warbler and Red Kite.

13th April, I am in the office with the doors open to the front of the house when I hear the House Sparrows start to argue. The sound increases and then I hear 2 dull thuds. I get up and look outside to see if they have hit the windows but no. Then I go back into the house and there on the kitchen sink sit a pair of Sparrows. Being stunned they let me pick them up and I return to the front and sit them on the wall for a moment of recovery. 2 Swallows and a Brimstone go over the garden and later I see the first Willow Warbler of the year. David Green sees Bats around Ashmore/High Stack. I mentally declare Spring.

10th April, I am amazed to see a dozen or more Greenfinches around Cotton End. I have also seen some down at St Lawrence’s. Maybe they starting to build numbers again. Near the Old Coopers on Lodge Lane, a/the last lone Fieldfare is feeding in the sheep paddock. Common Carder and Red-tailed Bumblebees are about the gardens, and Thomas and his mates see the Owl hunting in the field near the Church. Brian Laney reports Scarlet Tiger moth caterpillars on Comfrey at Market Place.

Half Hour Well Spent

Wren

road traffic incident

9th April, I am opening the Park and hear an odd song, I grab the bins’ and see a grey/brown Chiffchaff feeding with 2 ‘normal’ Chiffchaffs in the massive Sycamore at Heath View. It is acting rather oddly moving rapidly and uttering bits of a Chiffchaff-like song but with other complex aspects. I eventually get good views of the bird and think it is an eastern or maybe a ‘Siberian’ form. These forms seem to get into the UK during winter, but it’s still a bit of a shock to see one in Buckby. I go home and access the ‘net finding a positively identified ‘Sibe’ Chiffchaff singing similar phases to my bird.

I text the county bird recorder and he suggests I use my phone to get a recording of the song, but when I get back to the park the birds are quieter and I don’t get any conclusive song. Regardless of the song, I am still happy, based on plumage alone, that the bird was probably a ‘Sibe’ Chiffchaff.

7th April, I wake up and look out the bedroom window and see 2 male Blackcaps having a drink at my small pond. Neil Chanter reports a grey Tawny Owl from the allotments, and Mandy, Keith and others see the Short-eared Owl again.

5th April, the fabulous Bridge House Farm Lake has 4 Swallows, 2 Grey Wagtails and 2 Pied Wagtails. On the water, there are 14 Teal, 2 Gadwall, 6 Mallard and 2 Moorhen. Pete Seymour reports Red Kites and Ravens daily plus hopefully a breeding pair of Lapwing. Donna sees 2 Stoats around the Sheep shed at CEP, and Alison finds a live Bee Fly.

4th April, Terry Laney reports Chiffchaff, and there are 2 at CEP on morning check-round. Alan Webb has Redpoll on his feeders, and a Cormorant is seen over the village.

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.