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.
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.
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.