All posts by Monica Frisch

One of the best Novembers yet! November 2019

On 22nd November, a Pallas’s Warbler was found in Paradise Nature Reserve. It was a sensational find of this tiny rare migrant warbler inland and a fantastic discovery (Mike Crosby, cbcwhatsabout.com). It’s the second County record. Local naturalists say that it could have been there some days before it was identified. The first County record was a moribund bird found in Peterborough outside the Natural England offices in 1998; it had struck a window. Over the weekend of the 23rd/24th November it attracted about 100 birders. I caught up with it on 25th and 26th November but it was difficult to locate and it moved with speed through the foliage loosely associating with a Long-tailed Tit flock and Goldcrests. The most recent national annual total of this rarity is just 27 in 2017. Inland locations are very rare; overwintering birds are even rarer. This bird ought to be in south-east China by now!

Also seen in the nature reserve were two Chiffchaffs, a Nuthatch (a good find – this bird is rare in our project area), 1/2 Treecreepers, a well-watched Kingfisher fishing and a Woodcock.

The October monthly bulletin of the Cambridgeshire Bird Club has an item by Simon Gillings about his analysis of October night-time bird calls over his Chesterton home. His findings are remarkable and the practice of analysing overhead nocturnal bird calls adds a new dimension to ornithology – I nearly said bird watching – but it is not “watching”! If I’m reading his tabular summary correctly he has recorded the following October monthly totals (highlights only): Whooper Swan 4; Little Grebe 9 (I don’t think I have ever seen Little Grebe fly more than a foot above the water but migrate and colonise they must and they do!); Turnstone 4; Knot 4; Common Sandpiper 4; Ring Ousel 17 (I have never seen Ring Ousel in Cambs and as I live about ½ a mile from Simon they probably flew over my house!); Redwing 3417; Song Thrush 980; Tree Pipit 9. The numbers and species recorded are …… astonishing and add a new story to the intrigue of bird migration – remarkable! Less vocal species may also pass over such as Corncrakes on their way to the Hebrides and maybe it will unravel the secret westerly migration of Aquatic Warblers too.

During the month, a Common Gull on The Pond at Eddington had a white Darvic leg ring on its right tarsus plus an aluminium? ring on its left. From a number of photos, the ring identification was “JK81”. I contacted the Euroring internet site and received the following details: ringed at the Stavanger ringing centre, Ostfold, Norway on 21 May 2016 as an adult – possibly three years old; seen at Ostfold, Norway in August 2016 and then Eddington on 7th November 2019 – so it’s at least six years old.

A probable Rose-ringed Parakeet (Ring-necked) was seen in Jesus College on 4th November. This non-native escapee is an uncommon bird in Cambs. Bramblings have been present in the Beech Woods since the beginning of the month and Kingfishers can be seen in the small sector of Milton Country Park in our project area (Jon Heath saw 4 there on 6th November).

Eddington is the best place to see Common Buzzards in our project area and nearby in the grounds of Girton College on 10th November one, possibly two Nuthatches and two Tree Creepers amongst the roving tit flock. On 11th November, a Peregrine was over the Market Square and on 15th November, the female and male Peregrines were “jousting” in flight together over the Market Square. I have never seen male and female birds together as well before. The female is larger, bulkier and deeper chested than the male and after aerial spats they often sat together on the corner spires of King’s College. Take a seat for coffee at Don Pasquale’s and wait for the action!

Also seen on the 11th November, at Hobson’s Park, a Water Rail, four Common Snipe and a female Stonechat and on 14th November at Hobson’s 12 Common Snipe (in a wet sector of the area set aside for allotments) and a flyover Peregrine; on 24th November, there was a pair of Stonechats at Hobson’s Park and a Little Egret.

On 16th of November I watched angler Alan Stebbings (he works at Ridgeon’s) land a 10 lb pike near the Mill Pond whilst a nearby Grey Heron waited for him to throw it the disgorged fish bait. Panic amongst pigeons in the Market Square on 22nd November was not caused by a Peregrine but a flyover Kestrel!

A Mistle Thrush was singing in Chesterton on 13th November, another was heard near Storeys Way on 19th and Paradise Nature Reserve on 26th; one was defending a Mistletoe clump with berries in Chesterton on 26th November. On 16th November, a male Blackcap was in my Chesterton garden – mid-November is a typical arrival date for overwintering Blackcaps from central Europe. This matches ringing records from Holme Bird Observatory on the Norfolk coast. A female Blackcap, a “browncap”, was seen in a garden in Benson Street on 23- 26rd November feeding on Mahonia nectaries and a male in Tenison Road feeding on the shrivelled remains of grapes on a vine.

A nocturnal Peregrine strike is suspected of killing the Long-tailed Skua that was found in October; perhaps the Skua was too bulky to carry off or the falcon failed to “get-a grip”! Records of Red Kite over Mill Road cemetery in May, June and September this year (Andrew Dobson). This is in the very centre of our NatHistCam project area.

Bob Jarman 30th November 2019

bobjarman99@btinternet.com

The remarkable remarkable! – the autumn passage 2019 continues

On 16th October Shaun Mayes of the St John’s college staff found the fresh corpse of a bird outside Merton House at the junction of Queens Road and Madingley Road. Shaun and his birdwatching colleague David Brown contacted David’s brother-in-law Jonathan Bustard (a good name for a birder)! and the identification was confirmed as a juvenile Long-tailed Skua.

This is a remarkable inland record for this rare migratory sea bird. I think it is the first for our project area and possibly only the 12th record for the County. Previous records have come from Foul Anchor in the north of Cambridgeshire, beyond Wisbech, on the banks of the River Nene five miles south of The Wash. It adds further evidence to the idea that migratory sea birds travel overland to short-cut migration routes. In the 1970’s and 1980’s Graham Easy saw flocks of skuas (Arctic and Great Skuas) passing south west overhead, at great height, in autumn over Milton. He speculated that there were major overland migration routes for skuas and Kittiwakes following the north east/south west trajectories of the Ouse/Cam, Nene and Welland river valleys exiting in the Bristol Channel. Remarkably, these seabirds appear to take an overland short cut on their way to wintering grounds off the coast of Senegal.


The Long-tailed Skua found dead in Cambridge on 16th October
The Long-tailed Skua found dead in Cambridge on 16th October

We know that some skuas on their northerly spring passage fly through the Great Glen from the North Atlantic to exit in the Moray Firth and the North Sea on their way to their breeding grounds in the northern Isles and the sub-Arctic tundras. Watching Skua movements on the North Norfolk coast this time of year and all the skuas appear to be flying west i.e. into the Wash not east which, as you would expect, would take them around the East Anglian coast and then south eventually into the English Channel.

This is a brilliant record – thanks to Shaun and David.

On 6th October, there was a big night time passage of Song Thrushes and Redwings and daylight passage of Redwings over the City. I haven’t seen a Fieldfare yet! On 10th October, there was a Yellow-legged Gull at Hobson’s Park and two there on 15th October. Also at Hobson’s Park on 15th October were 60+ Redwings (over), a Water Rail, 2 Snipe, 4+ Corn Buntings and outside Trumpington a huge flock of 500+ Golden Plovers. The influx of Jays into the country – apparently due to a failure of the acorn crop in Europe – seems to have stopped but they have filtered inland and are common throughout our project area.

The common wagtail in our project area seems to be Grey Wagtails not Pied Wagtails. I see or hear them most days. There is a regular pair on or over the Radio Cambridgeshire building, a male was singing in Regents Street on 16th October and they are often flying over the Market Square and where I live in Chesterton. Also on 16th October was a late Swallow over Mill Road Cemetery.

I discovered a new habitat! Behind the West Cambridge university building there is a balancing pond – a large lake of at least one hectare; it is hidden from view behind the hedges along the Coton/west Cambridge footpath. According to a local angler it’s been there for about 5 years and is full of huge Common Carp – ideal for a passing Osprey.

On 18th October, a Chiffchaff was calling in a large garden in Huntingdon Road and there were three Buzzards over Thornton Way. On 19th October, there were eight Common Buzzards over the rough land at Eddington, 12 Linnets and 12 Meadow Pipits. Buzzards are now, probably, our commonest raptor. Twenty years ago, in 1999, they nested for the first time, in great secrecy, in west Cambridgeshire. It is a remarkable turn-round and is likely due to legal protection (thanks to EU law!) and the subsequent lack of persecution.

On 29th October one of the Peregrines was roosting at its regular site in the city centre and on 30th October Gadwell were the commonest duck on the slice of Milton Country Park in our project area; the regular wintering Widgeon had also returned.

Dr Simon Gillings of the BTO has collected the night-time recording device from my garden. It recorded night time calls of birds passing over head from 6pm to 6am and he had placed a number of them across the City. Martin Walters has written a very good “Nature Notes” in the Cambridge Independent (23rd October 2019) about Simon’s project. Simon now plans to download the recordings to survey nocturnal migration (“noc-mig”) over Cambridge.

Bob Jarman 31st October 2019

bobjarman99@btinternet.com

The autumn passage September 2019

Whinchats and a Pied Flycatcher as autumn passage migrants arrived in our study area – see August Blog. A Pied Flycatcher on Coldham’s Common on 1st September (Rob Pople) is only the second I can remember in our study area. Two Whinchats at Hobson’s Park on 3rd September (Peter Bircham) (cbcwhatsaboutblogspot.com). A Wheatear was seen on the bare fields on farmland in the north west of our study area. A Nuthatch in St John’s College gardens (David Brown) is a welcome sighting of a bird that has bred widely in west Cambridge but seems to have disappeared.

There seems to have been an influx of Jays and many are moving through the City. This has coincided with groups seen together at Holme Bird Observatory on the North Norfolk coast with up to 40 present one day. Nine flew together over Chesterton on 29th September.

On the 10th September, a single Little Egret at Hobson’s Park and a flock of 16 Corn Buntings. There were lots of Chiffchaffs throughout the month: 3-4 in and around Logan’s Meadow, at least one ventured across the river to Tesco’s carpark off Newmarket Road. A tit flock in Logan’s had at least one Treecreeper. Towards the end of the month in the warm weather a Chiff could be heard singing regularly in Milton Country Park.

Fifty Golden Plovers over Trumpington (Doug Radford) signals the beginning of winter (cbcwhatsaboutblogspot.com).

Most winters a Woodcock will turn up in a Cambridge garden especially during freezing conditions. I was interested to read of a juvenile bird ringed at Holme Bird Observatory and found dead six years later at Tralee in southern Ireland. British tracked birds have also been recovered in central Asia. Where do our Cambridge birds come from? Redwings have been heard outside the city – it’s only a matter of time before we hear their night-time calls over the city (but, see the PS below!).

I’m never sure what to think of Greylag and Canada Geese in our study area; presumably all originally derived from feral birds. The flock of about 60 Greylags centred around Milton Country Park must have a considerable impact on vegetation on the lake margins. In Suffolk, it’s the breeding feral (?) Barnacle Geese that have multiplied over the last 10 years to flocks of several hundreds. I have seen small groups of Barnacle Geese in our study area in the past presumably from this feral population.

Dr Simon Gillings of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is setting up a number of devices across the City to record the night time migration of birds over the city. Is Cambridge and our study area a major migration highway/flyway? This is one of the most exciting current ornithological projects and is happening here in Cambridge.

PS a major flyover of Song Thrushes and Redwings on the night of Sunday 6th October ahead of the very heavy rain early that morning.

Bob Jarman 6st October 2019

bobjarman99@btinternet.com

Swifts, Painted Ladies and Emeralds – August 2019

Swifts were still around on 26th August despite the major departure from the City a month earlier on 28th/29th July. Fifty high over the City, 15 over the Senate House on 15th August and 10 over Histon Road on 17th August perhaps signalled another local departure. On 26th August two over Trumpington Street and one over the Market Square were probably feeding late broods.

A Wren was feeding young in Logan’s Meadow on 2nd August and Painted Ladies were the commonest butterflies on the Buddleia at Cambridge North Station on 19th August. The Painted Ladies looked in good condition, not ragged migrants, suggesting they had hatched locally. The invasion of Painted Ladies this year has been remarkable. In mid-July, I visited the Malin Head, the most northerly point in the Republic of Ireland, and there was a Painted Lady every 25m.

The Willow Emerald Damselfly (above) is a species new to our study area. I think Duncan McKay discovered it first. Nationally it is expanding its range and the one photographed by Trevor Kerridge at Milton Country Park – just within our NatHistCam study area – is a new location.

I haven’t seen a Spotted Flycatcher in the City for many years. They used to breed in Whitehouse Lane off Huntingdon Road but when the Elms went so did the flycatchers. There is an excellent article in the latest bulletin (covering June/July observations) of the Cambridgeshire Bird Club by Mike Holdsworth about a three-year study into the distribution of Spotted Flycatchers in the County which have declined dramatically. The College Gardens and the Botanic Gardens look ideal habitats but none have been found in the City.

Keep an eye open for Common Cranes in flight over the City – Jon Heath has seen them. This time of year they gather in numbers and move around the countryside. The Fenland population in 2018 was 53 individuals and is now the largest in the Country and exceeds the North Norfolk population and the reintroduced population in Somerset. I recently visited The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust reserve at Welney and saw a group of 26 – disappointingly they were all adults with no young birds from the current breeding season.

A recent article in British Birds magazine by Mark Avery describes how forty-three million non-native young Pheasants are released for shoots annually. He questions the impact this might have on local wild bird populations (British Birds, July 2019). Only about 13 million of these are actually shot! This may account for the increase in Buzzards which must be our commonest countryside raptor and probably breeds in our study area. There have even been calls from the shooters to cull Buzzards that are taking some of these released birds or scaring the released game birds onto non shooting land. Most pheasant shooting is carried out with lead shot so there is a knock-on pollution problem. In Denmark lead shot is banned and replaced by steel shot.

A Willow Warbler (above) was in the Buddleia at Cambridge North Station on 19th August. I used to think I could tell Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff apart on their calls. Willow Warblers have a disyllabic “hoo …weet”, Chiffs a monosyllabic “hooeet”. I’m not so sure now! At least two Chiffs in Milton Country Park on 15th August, two Chiffs in Logan’s Meadow on 23rd August were typical tail and wing flicking Chiffchaffs; one heard calling in a private garden in Huntingdon Road on 29th August (identified by call!).

There have been several county records of Pied Flycatchers in the last two weeks of August and lots along the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts but none revealed themselves in our study area.

There have also been county reports of Whinchats and Redstarts. Whinchats used to be regular autumn migrants on a farm in the north of our study when I worked there.

An Osprey was seen at Great Kneighton/Hobson’s Park on 26th August – a typical date for this migrant. One of the adult Peregrines was seen near its City centre nest site on 29th August.

Bob Jarman 29th August 2019

bobjarman99@btinternet.com

Cambridgeshire’s Mosses and Liverworts

Cambridgeshire’s Mosses and Liverworts: a dynamic flora

Christopher D. Preston and Mark O. Hill

NatureBureau 2019

326pp colour illustrated

ISBN 9781874357896 £25 (paperback)

This new flora by two of our friends and colleagues has attracted an excellent review in British Wildlife, August 2019: “….is beautifully written and nicely illustrated. ……. Chris Preston and Mark Hill are both highly respected bryologists with a deep knowledge of Cambridgeshire, its habitats and its species. Their enthusiasm shines through in this flora which deserves a place on the bookshelf of any serious student of mosses and liverworts, whether they live in Cambridgeshire or not.”

Bob Jarman 25th August 2019

July 2019 night timers and new to Cambridgeshire

I recently received an email from Jon Heath and records from his garden in north Chesterton, Cambridge. The bird list covers those recorded as night time flyovers then identified by recorded calls on night time passage/migration (“noc-mig”). The July bulletin of the Cambridgeshire Bird Club has a more complete list. These discoveries are fascinating and open up new dimensions in the study of bird movements; Quail and Turnstone are county rarities.

Are these birds moving on a broad front or are they following the NW/SE trajectories of the Nene/Ouse/Cam river valleys as suggested by Graham Easy in the 1980’s from his observations of Skuas in autumn over Milton and Cambridge flying south west? Are they just night-time movements or do day-time movements occur also but too high to see and background noise make them too difficult to record? Or, are they night-time migrants attracted to the city lights?

Whimbrel passage is particularly interesting. The only place they breed in the UK is Fetlar in Shetland. They are breeding waders of the northern tundras. I have just returned from Donegal; Whimbrels on their southward passage were the commonest shore bird especially around rocky coves. Guy Belcher’s record of 43 over Little Shelford in September 2018, Jon’s records from Cambridge and recent sightings of Whimbrels from Norfolk and Suffolk show that they migrate on a very broad front. I suspect the birds in Ireland continue a westerly transit and winter on the Canary Islands.

Jon writes: “Here is the list of waders (and notable others) for July over my garden. I recorded 18 out of 31 nights and the numbers indicate the minimum number of birds which were calling whilst flying over.”

Coot x 1Redshank x 5
QUAIL x 1Black-tailed Godwit x 2
Common Sandpiper x 5Dunlin x 3
Little Grebe x 1Ringed Plover x 1
Whimbrel x 3TURNSTONE x 1
Little Ringed Plover x 3 Oystercatcher x 1

In addition, Jon has the following exceptional records of two micro moth species: “The micros moths which I caught are (I believe) both firsts for the county: Vitula biviella on July 24th and Acompsia schmidtiellus on July 29th. Also, a spectacular Scarlet Tiger was caught on June 29th which is also quite rare in Cambridgeshire”.

bobjarman99@btinternet.com Thanks to Jon Heath for his exceptional records.

Hawkers, Emperors, Darters and Swifts – July 2019

I’ve been affected by Duncan MacKay’s enthusiasm for the Odonata. I went on a Damselfly and Dragonfly identification course at Wicken Fen some years ago but never really followed it up. This year is different. Hip surgery means I’ve been confined to home, the daytime skies above and nearby Logan’s Meadow. I struggle with the small blue damselflies but am sure I have recorded Variable; Blue-tailed Damselfly has been present all summer; similarly Banded Demoiselles (the iridescent body colour of the males must be one of the most striking colours in nature!), the females are completely different; Common Darters appeared briefly; Brown Hawkers appeared for three-weeks; Anax imperator (Emperor – I prefer its Latin name!) cruised the meadow and a Migrant Hawker visited my small garden. Banded Demoiselles are often blown into the City centre and I have seen them fluttering over the Market Square and Petty Cury.

Male Banded Demoiselle (left) Brown Hawker – egg laying (centre) Common Darter (right)

In the poplar trees above the river near Logan’s Meadow are two juvenile Sparrowhawks (they breed here most years) that erupt out and fly in a panic then land in the densest part of the tree top canopy. Their principle seems to be if we cannot see you then you cannot see us. It doesn’t work! Reed Bunting in Logan’s Meadow on 26th July – probably been there for years but I have only just noticed! Two Buzzards over Logan’s and a Kestrel sitting on the goal posts on 1st August.

Variable Damselfly – I think!

At the beginning of July, the Council strimmed all St Andrew’s Cemetery just as butterflies were emerging. As a result, the butterfly list for the cemetery is limited to about 11 species compared to Histon Road Cemetery, which has active wildlife management with a butterfly list of 22 species this year including Essex Skipper, Ringlet and Marbled White. (per Martin Brett, Lesley Dodd).

I’ve been watching the Swifts! A cursory impression is that they have had a good breeding season with fine weather and plenty of flying insects.

I think there was a major departure on 24th of July, just before the hottest temperature every recorded in the UK at the Botanic Gardens on 25th – 38.7C; local birds moved out ahead of the weather front on 27th July and returned in numbers on 28th. There was another major departure on the 29th. A few still over the City on 1st August but the majority of local birds have now left.

On 9th July, a dead Nuthatch was found outside the Attenborough Building in Downing Street. Unusual! – over the last two years no breeding Nuthatches have been located in the Botanic Gardens or west Cambridge despite the wooded college gardens appearing to be ideal habitat.

Not so unusual! – just round-the-corner in Tennis Court Road is Pembroke College with its magnificent avenue of London Plane trees (possibly the tallest trees in the City). Nuthatches probably breed at Girton College and 2-3 pairs in Madingley Wood just a mile away. These two localities have mature oaks. I think they are absent from west Cambridge because of the loss/absence of mature oak trees. On 13th July: a Common Tern over Downing Street and six over the Histon Road/Huntingdon Road Junction on 16th July; 51 apparently active House Martin nests at Addenbroke’s Hospital on 22nd July. Juvenile Tawny Owl heard near the Huntingdon Road/Histon Road junction.

The weather front on Saturday 27th July caused a spectacular fall of waders migrating south along the east coast. My first Wood Sandpipers were at Cambridge Sewage Farm decades ago and I’ve never forgotten their distinctive “chiff, chiff” call. To find one Wood Sandpiper is a good day, to find two is a memorable day but 110 were at Cley, Norfolk on 28th July with Curlew Sandpipers , Little Stints and Whimbrels. On Sunday night 28th Jon Heath’s night recording had a Common Sandpiper, a Ringed Plover, a Dunlin and a flock of Curlew but no Wood Sands over the City although several night time recorders in Norfolk had Wood Sandpipers.

Bob Jarman 1st August 2019

bobjarman99@btinternet.com

June bird reports 2019

On Dawn Chorus day (7th May) Duncan McKay cycled across the City and recorded dawn bird song from 17 locations; he also asked other Nat Hist Soc members to record the dawn chorus from their bedroom windows – on their mobile phones – and received replies from 7 other locations. He had the following results from the total of 24 locations:
Blackbird 18/24; Robin 17/24; Wren 16/26; Woodpigeon 13/14; Blackcap 11/24; Carrion Crow 7/24; Chiffchaff 6/24.

In addition, he recorded single Sedge, Reed and Cetti’s Warblers along Cherry Hinton Brook. The big surprise that Duncan has confirmed is the widespread presence of Blackcaps and Chiffchaff across the city this year. He emphasises a 7th May dawn chorus is a single time-point in a much bigger time-frame. From late February until mid-April gardens are ringing with singing Great Tits especially on sunny mornings. By the beginning of May, they are feeding broods and feature less in early morning throng. Blue Tits are odd songsters. They have a variety of calls but their song is a strange scratchy effort that is only delivered during a short period in April – and that’s it! Thanks, Duncan – brilliant! Blackcaps are still singing widely until the beginning of July.

An article in the current British Birds Journal summarises work by the BTO looking at garden bird feeding. As a nation, we spend between £200m and 300m on bird feeding products annually (I’m at least £50 of that!) and this has contributed to significant changes since the 1970’s – Goldfinches and Woodpigeons in particular have become much more common. I’m not convinced about Goldfinches; I remember often coming across “charms” of Goldfinches in north Cambridge with my friends as schoolboy birders in the early 1970’s. Woodpigeons, yes! Modern farm rotations have included winter Oilseed Rape since the late 1970’s and this has produced a benign environment for Woodpigeons in the countryside – it’s becoming full up with Woodpigeons so they have moved into urban areas!. They raid my fat balls and often browse the grass and weeds in my small lawn and on the nearby park.

Broomrapes – Chesterton
Goldfinch – Chesterton

I have had my differences with Cambridge City Council over their use of Community Payback teams clearing vegetation. I came across a team who were using sticks to thrash the vegetation to shreds to clear the pathway along Hobson’s Brook. The thrashing of path-side vegetation seemed completely indiscriminate and included a thicket where I had seen a pair of Chiffchaffs building a nest in May close to the path…I did not see or hear the Chiffchaffs again. I also questioned the Council commitment to conservation after all the nettle clumps on Midsummer Common were strimmed – nettles being an important larval food plant for several of our declining butterfly species.

Lastly an Osprey over Trumpington Meadows on Friday 21st June (Iain Webb – www.cbcwhatsabout.blogspot.com). This blog may go quiet in the next month as I recover from hip surgery.

bobjarman99@btinternet.com – 2nd July 2019

May to the first few days of June 2019

Telling Arctic Tern from Common Terns is not easy (see April blog). I have only once seen the two together– the Arctic’s were breeding in a dense colony and a single pair of Common Terns were breeding in a near-by harbour. The translucent primaries and secondaries of Arctic’s is difficult as is the blood red bill without a black tip that often darkens to blackish in breeding plumage. The terns at Hobson’s Park are definitely Common Terns – I think there are two breeding pairs – the photos below show the flight patterns of the two terns. The sharp blackish edge to the underside of the primaries in Arctic Terns compared to the diffuse grey undersides of Common Terns is a good way of distinguishing the two species – but not always easy to see.

Arctic Tern
Common Tern at Hobson’s Park 


I agree with Rob Pople (BTO) – I think the terns fishing along Riverside, opposite the boat houses and in the Long Reach near Ditton Meadows are from Hobson’s Park. At 21:00 on 1stJune – Strawberry Fair night – a diving Common Tern with its catch headed over the City towards Hobson’s. I saw the Long Reach terns doing the same last year.

Two Black Terns at Hobson’s Park was an excellent find (Pete Holt – www.cbcwhatsabout.blogspot.com) and coincided with a small influx in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Blackcaps have been one of the commonest song birds across our study area all month, together with a strong arrival of other warblers. A small copse at the end of Arbury Road on 3rd May had singing Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat,and Lesser Whitethroat. Lesser Whitethroats have been a feature of this spring; in addition to April records I have heard birds singing at the following locations: Cherry Hinton Brook (behind Sainsbury’s), Coldham’s Common, Brierley Close and Cherry Hinton Chalk Pits (2) plus Garden Warbler, Blackcap (2) and Common Whitethroats (2) also at the chalk pit. Swifts arrived in numbers on 8th May and are using the Swift tower in Logan’s Meadow. On 7th May a Chiffchaff was still singing behind the Riverside Museum and on 12th the Chiff was still singing in gardens in Gilbert Road.

The City Centre Peregrines have had a difficult time. On 29thApril, the male bird was found injured in Newnham College grounds probably damage by a collision during high winds. It was taken to the Raptor Centre near St Ives to recover, leaving the female to feed the chicks alone. On 30th April, she was seen recovering cached prey and on 1stMay a third bird appeared – possibly another male. (see Twitter: @cambsperegrines). On 27th May I photographed the fledged bird below. On 7th May the female Peregrine at the second city site seemed to be firmly sitting on eggs. A Hobby was over Highsett on 31st May.

City Centre Peregrine
Reed Warbler


A singing Reed Warbler was a good find in Mill Road Cemetery (sorry date and observer mislaid). I have seen them before in unusual places in mid to late May – Romsey Road, Asda carpark – Beehive Centre. They may be late migrants from Eastern Europe that often have a more mimetic song. Reed Warblers were also singing at Hobson’s Park. Corn Buntings are singing in Hobson’s Park – it’s the best place I know to see this uncommon and charismatic farmland bird; they can easily be seen singing from the tops of the saplings. A territorial Yellow Wagtail was displaying at a farmland site on the north edge of our study area on 31st May.

Yellow Wagtail
Corn Bunting

I have seen a pair of Turtle Doves, but just outside our study area, heading towards a regular breeding site. Turtles Doves have become so rare that breeding numbers are now being collected and collated by the UK’s Rare Birds Breeding Panel.

A visit to Byron’s Pool and Trumpington Meadows on 30th May with the Wildlife Trust’s bat experts, Anita and David, recorded Common and Soprano Pipistrelles and excellent views of Daubenton’s bats and a hunting Barn Owl. A visit to Addenbrooke’s Hospital on 4th June counted 81 House Martin’s nests that appeared to be actively used or freshly repaired with nesting birds inside.

The British Ornithological Union, which manages and supervises the list of British birds has added/reinstated a 30-year-old record of Falcated Teal duck without considering any new written or visual evidence of the original record. Reinstate the Cambridge Moustached Warblers, I say, that were seen by all the top Cambridge birdwatchers in 1946 but rejected 60 years later in 2006 by the BOU!

bobjarman99@btinternet.com– 4thJune 2019

April – first few days of May 2019 – Rook revival

How did I miss them? Perhaps a tree was obscuring the view and it was removed/felled over the winter or was it just observer failure! The rookery in Cherry Hinton Hall was again 10 Apparently Active Nests (AANs) but a new rookery has appeared about 75 m away in Walpole Road with 12 apparently active nests. They were obvious so how did I miss them!? I didn’t, I hadn’t; Roger (Horton) and Duncan (McKay) both confirmed that this was a new colony. All the Rookeries in our NatHistCam study area have maintained numbers or increased; this year the total count of AANs was 134 (2018 – 111; 2017 – 108).

Early Common Terns were seen at Hobson’s Park on 9th April, a pair along Riverside on 28th April (Rob Pople) and a pair noisily patrolling the northern edge of our study area at Milton Country Park on 2nd May. I do not know where the Riverside birds breed but they might be from Hobson’s Park.

Late Teal were at Eddington in the early part of the month but are easily disturbed to the ditches closer to the M11 where they may breed.

Male Teal at Eddington
Early juvenile Green Woodpecker at Milton Country Park (Trevor Kerridge)

The pair of Nuthatches were again seen at Girton College (Jon Heath) but nowhere else in the City despite searches. A dead Tawny owlet, almost fledged, was found in Jesus College grounds on 1st April (Rhona Watson) and a vigorous living owlet was at Girton College on 2nd April (Duncan McKay); a Chiffchaff in Gilbert Road on a cool damp evening on 2nd May and a Willow Warbler was singing in Tenison Road on 12th April (Martin Walters). On 2nd April two Swallows were near Darwin Green and on 18th April two Swallows were over Oxford Road but numbers of hirundines have been few; the regular nesting pair under the A14 bridge near Horningsea were seen on 2nd May and birds over Milton Country Park on the same day. Bullfinches are breeding in a garden in Huntingdon Road.

Throughout most of April Blackcaps were the commonest songbirds across the City. I have never heard so many – every suitable copse, clump of trees hedge, wayside shrubs or wooded garden seemed to have a singing male. Mill Road cemetery had four singing Blackcaps, two Chiffchaffs (and two singing Greenfinches) on 16th April.

Female Blackcap – bumper spring for this bird

There has been an interesting sequence of inland records in Cambridgeshire of Little Gulls and Arctic Terns this April but few coastal records from Norfolk or Suffolk of these pelagic species. Numbers of Little Gulls recorded at Grafham Water peaked at 37 on April 11th and 32 Arctic Terns at RSPB Fen Drayton on 27th April. I have seen large numbers of Little Gulls following the French and Dutch coasts north in spring to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia taking advantage of the prevailing south westerly winds. This April easterly winds might have stalled their passage round the coasts so they may have taken the short cut overland to the North Sea to avoid rounding the English Channel. This might add weight to the theory that overland passage following the SW/NE (NE/SW in autumn) trajectory of our major East Anglian river valleys – Ouse, Cam, Nene – is a regular overland migration flyway.

On 16th April a well fledged sub-adult Mistle Thrush was in the next field to 50 Fieldfares in the Fen Road meadows. Two Oystercatchers flew over the Botanic Gardens on 18th April (Nets Shelford) and again on 28th April (Rob Pople) – possibly the same birds; this species, exploring potential inland nest sites over our study area, occurs most springs.

On 17th April winds changed to gentle south easterlies and many spring migrants must have arrived. Rob Pople recorded 2 Reed Warblers at the Sanctuary in Adams Road on 28th April and I heard my first Whitethroats and a Garden Warbler in our study area on 2nd and 3rd May; Lesser Whitethroats were heard by the Milton cycle bridge, in the bushes by the Sewage Works and near Cambridge North Station on 2nd May. The first Swift was over the City on 1st May.

A possible new housing development in our study area next to Darwin Green may advance beyond the Huntingdon Road/Histon Road boundary footpath. I knew this land as Green Belt but there are proposals from Barratt Homes to build houses, and possibly a new school, up to the A14; this land was ‘scoped” by archaeological surveyors early this year. It has two pairs of breeding Grey Partridge and other Red Listed Farmland species including Yellowhammer, Linnet, and Yellow Wagtail; Barn Owls hunt this farmland regularly and a pair of Kestrels nest there. In 2016 four pairs of Lapwings nested – the first time in (at least) 50 years.

bobjarman99@btinternet.com – 3rd May 2019