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