Paradise (my local nature reserve) on a sunny afternoon – ripe Blackberries and Elderberries, Gypsywort in flower and a huge Willow has shed a large branch across the river. Chicken of the Woods Fungus, previously on this tree, has now sprouted on the picnic logs. (I am always saddened by the litter here, but for every one person abusing this site, I hope 50 are enjoying it.) See https://paradisenaturereserve.wordpress.com/ An unusual fungus in the Cenacle (Sue) was an Earth Ball Scleroderma verrucosum. Related to Puff Balls, they are more solid and tend to be partially underground.
Birds. Lots of reports of successful fledgings. The Newnham Heronry is estimated to have 18 youngsters this year, from about a dozen nests (Mike). Holly reports from Cherry Hinton : Great Tits, Blue Tits and Robins in the trees, Reed Warblers seen and heard in rushes by Backland allotments and young broods of Moorhen all along the brook. The last of Pam’s 8 Swift chicks fledged and flew on Aug 3rd but a few stragglers could still be seen flying south on 24th. In Pinehurst, there were crowds of very young Blue Tits in the trees and a Tawny Owl calling (Jill). I saw a Treecreeper on the riverbank in Newnham and another was spotted at Murray Edwards College (Jo).
Two exciting raptors! On Aug 12th, Val was enjoying the relatively traffic-free calm of the Romsey side of Mill Road and a delicious Limoncello raspberry sorbet, when she spotted a bird of prey, clearly hunting. This was identified as a Sparrowhawk and the party had the distinctly eerie feeling that the bird was checking them out for snackability too!
Then in Great Kneighton, Richard asks, “I wonder how likely I am to have seen an Osprey here today (26th)? It circled the lake, occasionally splashing into and out of the water feet first. It had a large raptor’s hooked beak, distinct white cap to the head and pale underparts. The top of the wings in flight were dark with a slightly paler patch about two thirds of the way towards the tips.” An excellent description and the right time of year for a bird returning south, so seems extremely probable.
Mammals. Hedgehogs are doing well in various parts of the city, reported this month from Leys Rd. This spring, I have released three in Newnham from the Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital, on the understanding that there were no Badgers in the immediate vicinity and our small back gardens would provide an ideal habitat. Alas! Diggings under the gate of one garden and a sighting in the road led me to set a night camera which caught both Badger and Fox in the snicket between the gardens. Foxes remain as brazen as ever, lounging on the cricket pitch at Jesus College (Rhona) and 2m from the house in Holbrook Rd (Ann). Badgers are known to be in Millington Wood and Newnham College grounds, but are spreading like Muntjac! I encountered two of these little deer in Paradise reserve and was greeted with prolonged and loud barking.
Jill reports many young Hares south of Fulbrooke Road, on the fields. Holly noted several dark Water Voles on the brook near St Bede’s playing field.
Invertebrates. Dragonflies and Damselflies On Aug 5th, Duncan reports that, following on from the rediscovery of the White Legged Damselfly in Grantchester Meadows, another new Cambridge species has just appeared in Ditton Meadows – the Southern Migrant Hawker. That takes Cambridge’s total Odonata to 23, so it is starting to be a dragonfly hotspot. Mo found the Willow Emerald damselfly in a typical pose, with wings held away from the body. On 12th a Southern Hawker appeared in my garden.
Jill found a Southern Oak Bush Cricket in her third floor flat and wondered how this wingless insect came to be there. Described as carnivorous, arboreal and nocturnal, it is a predator of the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner – splendid, we have lots of that and it is welcome. A recent British colonist, with well-documented expansion from southern Europe over the past few decades, it was first recorded from Surrey and Berkshire in 2001. Paul found this Asparagus Beetle on Empty Common.
I noted a Hornet’s nest in a willow tree on Grantchester Meadows and a Vapourer Moth caterpillar was chomping Meg’s basil plants in Fen Road. Liza found a pretty Cranefly Nephrotoma flavipalpis in the bedroom, which managed to get caught in a cobweb, even though the windows were wide open all night. Sue’s house was invaded by a Speckled Wood butterfly: I discovered that individuals in the north are dark brown with white spots, whilst those in more southerly locations are dark brown with orange spots.
A Canary-Shouldered Thorn Moth Ennomos alniaria appeared at Jesus on 8th Aug and on 22nd, a Southern Green Shieldbug Nezara viridula nymph (Rhona). There seem to be very few East Anglian records of the latter, as this species was first recorded in the UK in 2003 and is slowly spreading out from London.
Spiders. A couple of fantastic spiders. The Wasp Spider Argiope bruennichi, was found beside the lake on Trumpington Meadows. Yet another continental European immigrant, they arrived in Britain in 20thC. The female has a very striking appearance, with a body up to 18mm in length, characterized by bold yellow and black horizontal bands on its abdomen. In contrast, the male is tiny, with a pale brown body only about 5mm in length. The web has a characteristic area of zigzag weaving. Then this male Giant House Spider was wandering Mo’s house. With a leg span around 7cm, they are an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare. They are particularly prevalent in the autumn when seeking females and stay with them for some weeks, mating numerous times until eventually they die, at which point they are eaten by their female.
Olwen Williams email@example.com