Village Wildlife Diary for April 2019

Blue Tit and Blackthorn

29th April, still cold but a single Swift drifts over the village reminds me… Where are the House Martins, and will any more Swallows arrive?

23rd April, a cold snap brings a halt to proceedings. Richard sees a male Whinchat at Cold Ashby Golf Course. I can’t find any passage migrants. I think there is a growing colony of nesting Linnets at CEP, as I see them most times I visit and number have increased with 12 plus noted on the Dandelion heads in the newly extended wildlife area.

21st April, Billy sees Red Admiral, Peacock and Large White. 3 juvenile Blackbirds are reported by Richard from Pytchley Drive. At Hanglands we find a dead Grass Snake. It is intact other than damage to the head, but looks like it may have been attacked whilst in moult. A green, teneral Large Red Damselfly is the first odonata of the year, and a Ladies Smock is just in flower. Red Kite is now almost a daily sight. Later I check out the ‘chat’ fence off Foxhill Road but nothing doing. Reward for stopping comes in the form of a fly-over Yellow Wagtail and Skylark. Lots of Butterfly records coming in.

Holly Blue

20th April, at the horse-sick fields behind Lime Avenue a single Redwing is sitting high in an Ash, calling. Numbers of Butterflies are being seen with Speckled Wood, Holly Blue and Orange-tip reported. I am walking down The Banks and a movement on the path turns out to be a Bank Vole. It runs from doorstep to doorstep before realising the grassy bank is a better place to be. Swallows are reported from converted farm buildings on the Brington Road, Grange Farm, Foxhill Farm, and Buckby Folly.

19th April, at CEP a defiant Canada Goose and his mate are churning up the pond, and annoyingly they send off the Snipe and a Moorhen. There are several birds singing including Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Pied Wagtail, Linnet, Reed Bunting, and the first Willow Warbler and Whitethroat of the year. Bold Red Kites over the village. Alan is having regular Hedgehog sightings at The Wharf and has got nest boxes in place just in case. He also has nesting Robin and noted Coal Tit on the feeder.

18th April, warmth brings Orange-tip and Brimstone into the garden. Mr Evans sees 3 Swallows. There are 2 Linnets at Grange Farm, and House Sparrows in the nest boxes. Cath reports 4 Tit species visiting including Coal Tit, and nesting Dunnock from her garden in Cox’s Close. She also reports Swallows, Blackcap and Linnets.

Grub Up

14th April, a couple of Meadow Pipits go over North, as do Common and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. There are Linnets and Greenfinches singing at CEP. Steve sends a photo of a big hedgehog from Wright Road. David sees Swallows off Brington Road.

12th April, a frosty start and in the clear sky above East Street a huge Raven is being harried by a pair of Jackdaws. At CEP as I retrieve litter from the pond I suddenly have two birds get up in front of me, fly away and vanish within a split second. I stepped forward and nearly onto a Jack Snipe, and twenty yards away a Common snipe also reacts. Both do what it says in the Book, the Jack just silently arches away for a few yards then goes back down into the Sedge. The Common flies up, zig-zags, calls, and flies away. 3 Blackcaps, 1 Chiffchaff and a Reed Bunting sing. I see David on Market Place and during our discussion I hear Fieldfare calling. David looks up to see 2 go over.

11th April, a Chiffchaff is singing from a tree in my garden and then moves to four other trees around the close before coming back to mine. Another lone Swallow over, and the Blackbirds’ bills are full of Moss as they disappear into the Holly.

10th April, sunny and cold for Tony’s funeral. A lone Swallow over Mill Park brings a smile. Drifts of Blackthorn blossom adorn what’s left of the unmolested hedges. And out there somewhere a Skylark is giving its all.

Pesky Moles!

6th April, a maintenance trip to the rarely disturbed Hanglands NR provides singing Chiffchaff, and a Muntjac. Dave sees Great Tit, Yellowhammer, and hears a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker at Cotton End Park. I visit later and hear a Blackcap singing.

5th April, a female Stonechat is risking it by fly-catching from the road-side at Surney. Alan has 2 Little Egrets flying together parallel to the motorway at the Wharf. Later I see 2 white birds in a field near Willow Mill. I reverse the van and find they are Little Egrets.

2nd April, at 0730 I am watching a Blue Tit from the bedroom window as it checks out one of Billy’s nest boxes. In the tree next to it a male Blackcap appears. Jim reports 2 Hedgehogs in Armley Close. Bill sees Goldcrest at Grove Farm Close.

1st April, for quite a few years now we have been battling with the Moles at CEP. They create excellent ’trip hazards’ on the paths and Adam has been regularly flattening the soil hills whenever they occur. It looks like this morning the Moles have really got their own back!

Village Wildlife Diary for March 2019



30th March, at Cotton End Park I wonder whether the Snipe is still in residence but don’t have the heart to disturb the Moorhens. Then a pair of Mallard swim to the back of the pond and up gets a Snipe. I find 2 Snakes-head Fritillary flowers which Mike introduced a couple of years ago, more appear from the grass, quite beautiful. Meadow Pipit over high, heading North, as are the chattering Fieldfares.

29th March, the Brington Road seems to be the place to go as David sees 6 Hares and several Lapwing, Tom sees a Hare and 2 Jay, and Cath sees 4 Lapwings and a Chiffchaff. I see 2 Bee-fly which is a first for March, as I normally see them well into next month. Peacock, Brimstone and Comma seen.

28th March, Laura sends me an image of the new pottery stamp for our CEP pots. Rolf holds out a pot with 2 big insects in. They are new to me and Tom suggests they are a Shield-bug. I visit the books but no luck, and have to resort to the internet. They are Western Conifer Seed Bugs, (a bit like a Shield-bug) from the good old U, S, of A.

Western Conifer Seed Bug
Snakes-head Fritillary

25th March, we visit Peter and Jennifer at Grange Farm and over tea and cake see close views of Nuthatch and Coal Tit on the feeders. Back at base Maggie and I see a small white Butterfly go by and it looks like Green-veined White. Geoff reports Hares, and Cassie reports a Blackbird with white flecks in its plumage.

24th March, at CEP we are finishing the new Adventure Trail and have time to see and or hear 2/3 Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Buzzards, Kestrel, 2 Moorhen, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Great and Coal tit, and about 90 Fieldfare. A Peacock Butterfly is a first for the year for me. Having found several feathers and regurgitated pellets over the last year or so I am convinced a Barn Owl is now a regular visitor to the park, and we decide to extend the wildlife area to give it more undisturbed feeding area.

23rd March, two male Wrens are battling using song in the gardens behind my house. They are loud and fierce, and sit high on the hedge risking all to claim the patch. Another Chiffchaff off Brington Road, and off Foxhill Road, 10 Linnets, 2 Greenfinch, and a flyover Meadow Pipit are noted by Kevin’s Barn. A wander down Lodge Lane finds 3 Fieldfare, Chaffinch, and singing Dunnock.

So cold

22nd March, Another Reed Bunting reported is probably indicative of the period after winter but before spring known as the hunger gap. The food supply provided by last year’s natural countryside is largely exhausted and many animals seek supplementary food from us.

20th March, a Chiffchaff (the first summer migrant) is singing in the Poplar plantation behind Armley. A male Brimstone is reported, and a Blackbird is seen carrying nesting material. Jo has a male Reed Bunting in her garden off Syers Green.

18th March, there is a singing Greenfinch in the trees behind the Baptist Church on Market place, and a Pied Wagtail is running around between the parked cars. Tom and I see a Little Egret flying over the Three Bridges Road and then up and over Hoborough Hill. I find a perfect Periwinkle flower which shouts spring.

We want more.

13th March, Richard reports Woodcock, Little Egret, and Greylag Goose from off the Brington Road. He also sees a pair of Lapwing in fields behind the railway there.

12th March, Fieldfares are thinning out now from hundreds to dozens, and they are sporting a richly coloured summer plumage. Yellowhammer and Goldcrest noted in song. I feed sheep and note some good growth in the grass.

10th March, there are still a few Gulls left around the parish and some of the Black-headed Gulls are acquiring their beautiful dark brown hoods. Frogs-spawn reported on grass verge makes me wonder whether the female just didn’t get to a pond in time or perhaps a bird had removed it from the water to eat it. The Rooks at Vanderplanks Covert are not happy with a Raven which appears overhead, and several go up to escort it from their airspace.

Finishing touches
Is it spring yet?

9th March, 3 Greenfinch and a singing Chaffinch at CEP. The village is full of blossom, and the magnificent Magnolias are ready to burst.

8th March, Red Kites suddenly become more visible and so do Buzzards. The sustaining or creating of new feeding territory prior to breeding is all consuming.

5th March, Alan sees a female Siskin on his feeders down at the Wharf. This maybe the one and only report for this winter as they migrate north to their breeding grounds.

Village Wildlife Diary for February 2019

Toad and Guests
February Spawn

28th February, Terry Laney calls with a sighting of Humming-bird Hawk-moth off South Close. We speculate whether this individual hibernated as an adult or as a pupae which has hatched due to the mildness. A few winters ago I dug out a bit off a dew pond at Cotton End Park. It has water in over the winter months but tends to be dry during the summer. I check it this morning and see half a dozen clumps of Frog spawn laid over several days.

27th February, the Woodpigeons are mating on next-doors tv ariel and it bows under the pressure, then twangs alarmingly when they leap off. On the Three Bridges Road I see a male Kestrel drift in and onto a perching female, mating is brief, he doesn’t actually settle on her, but wings open is away within seconds amid a lot of scolding calls from the her.

26th February, 2 Small Tortoiseshells chase each other over the burgeoning Nettle bed at CEP, and the Aconites and Snow Drops are fully open. 2 Reports of active Hare’s from Foxhill Road and Brington Road. Small Tortoiseshell reported from Harbidges Lane. Reports also of soaring, mewing Buzzards around the village.

Small Tortoiseshell

24th February, I see Brimstone on Armley, a male busy looking for a female. Mike and Beth see one off High Stack. CEP has Fieldfares, and singing Skylark, Chaffinch, and Reed Bunting. 1 Snipe is seen.

22nd February, the mildness is coaxing out lots of insects, and Bumblebees and Ladybirds are about. Skylark and Blackbird and singing, and a cockerel is crowing at 0400hrs, which is bit too keen. I’m awake because a bit of jet-lag. A Mistle Thrush is singing beautifully at Cotton End, and a Song Thrush is singing not a hundred yards away. I love the songsters and decide to have dawn chorus session this spring. May 5th is International Dawn Chorus Day so if you fancy joining me at Mill Park between 0500hrs and 0730hrs on that Sunday, I’ll identify what we can hear.

21st February, Brian rescues more Newts from drains, this time 8 juvenile and 1 male Great-crested. Goldcrest reported singing on West Street. Canada Geese noted at the pond near Oak Tree Farm.

Canada Goose

20th February, Carrie gives me a second-hand report of a dead Otter from the stream towards the sewage works near the motorway.

17th February, David sees a Bat at dusk on High Stack.

15th February, Brian reports an active Hedgehog from South Close, and rescues a female Smooth Newt from a drain on Berryfield.

10th February, David sees a Little Egret, Jay, Muntjac and 3 Hares from the Brington Road. Oddly Mild weather.

8th February, Barn Owl now regularly reported from Foxhill Road, sightings are anywhere from Grange Farm to past Foxhill Farm.

7th February, there is a point where the wintering thrushes have stripped all of the available berries from the hedges and then take to the village gardens. Of course they spend a lot of time spread across the pastures and meadows as well, and now is the time for them to re-flock ready for the steady move north.