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.
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.
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?