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.
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.
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.
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.