I’m late with this blog. August is the peak of the wader migration and I have been waiting for the Cambridge Bird Club’s monthly report for August to see what has been recorded from nocturnal migration (“nocmig”) over the City in August. I’ll summarise records next month.
It’s been a good year …..for Swifts! I think it’s been a successful breeding season which means a good food supply for adults and young and access to nest sites. It was probably the many hot summer days that supported high flying insects, especially disbursing spiders. The 13th August was the sixth consecutive day with local temperatures over 34C. Perhaps it was me opening my green bin regularly and wafting the myriads of fruit flies skywards! Drosophila melanogaster – I remember those tortuous days at school mating various phenotypes of fruit flies and examining the progeny to build a genetic map of dominant and recessive traits. Thank goodness genetics can now be analysed by extracting DNA!
I think there were two main departure dates of Swifts from the City: the first on 27/28th July and a second on 4/5th August. But several remained over East and West Chesterton until the end of the month. The latest date was two over Victoria Avenue on 28th. In typical years August Swifts are uncommon. I suspect there was a late arrival of first year Swifts at the end of June; 17,500 were counted over the harbour at Southwold, Suffolk on 29th June. I think some of these birds returned to their natal site, ousting established incubating pairs and successfully rearing late broods that fledged in August.
A first year Marsh Harrier was over Oxford/Windsor Roads on 8th August. And a Barn Owl was roosting in a newly erected raptor nest box on the NIAB’s trials ground in our project area. A Little Egret was around Coe Fen throughout the month.
On 15th August there was a widespread arrival of Pied Flycatchers along the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts with 152 reported in Suffolk including 30 in the Southwold area. Few were recorded inland and the only local record was one at the Cambridge Research Park near Landbeach (Jon and David Heath) on 28th August outside our project area.
On August 24th a Chiffchaff was singing in a large garden in Huntingdon Road and in Logan’s Meadow on 24th August 3-4 Blackcaps were eating elder berries and a tit flock had 2-3 Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Treecreeper; nearby 2 Whitethroats and a Reed Warbler were in bushes around the stream. A tit flock hit my garden on 27th with at least one Chiff and a female Blackcap was eating my Honeysuckle berries on 28th. Chiffs were widespread across the City. It’s always worth looking through a Long-tailed Tit flock for other species carried along in the hullabaloo! A second? brood of Blackbirds were feeding on Rose hips and a flock of adult and juvenile Starlings were stripping a blackberry bush in Logan’s Meadow in late August.
On several late afternoons I’ve seen Water Voles along the edges of the pools in Logan’s Meadow. Each time they seem to become more confiding. Early one evening an adult Fox ducked back into the long grass – I was surprised to see a fox here during the day because of the number of off–the-lead dogs being walked. A young fox ran down Longworth Avenue into St Andrews Road in the (very!) early hours on 31st as a Tawny Owl was calling near the riverside boat houses.
The 1851 census (year of the Great Exhibition) was the first census to record that urban populations outnumbered rural populations. Towns and cities have become vital in our conservation of wildlife as draft papers to our project are demonstrating and our NatHistCam story will tell.
Bob Jarman 9th September 2020