All posts by Olwen W

July Sightings 2019


Grass Snakes have been very abundant this month – Duncan reports six at Barnwell pit, others at Empty Common, in East Barnwell nature reserve and swimming across Cherry Hinton lakes. One was also seen in Fulbrooke Road.  Then great excitement in the press when a nine foot Python climbed out of an upstairs window and was awol for 5 days, before recapture.

Python on the loose!


It is a quiet time for birds, but the Newnham Swifts have done well, with 8 fledged altogether, the last on 31st. The (now empty) LMB building at Addenbrooke’s has at least 50 House Martin nests (Richard). Guy spotted 3 juvenile Green Woodpeckers feeding together on an ant hill at Sheep’s Green. In Newnham, 3 tawny owl chicks have fledged. Peter reports small groups of Long-tailed Tits seen quite often in the apple trees, while at Pinehurst, Jill had good views of a Jay. There were lots of Gulls (mainly Black Headed) and Corvids (Rooks and Jackdaws) on the playing fields of St Bedes (Holly). Rhona had excellent views of a female Sparrowhawk in Jesus Woods, which had just caught a young Moorhen. Kingfishers are always a joy to see and Steve reports one seen in Queens’ ditch.


Butterflies are having a fantastic year.  The Histon Rd cemetery count totals 22 species, including a Marbled White, not previously seen there. There was another in Trumpington, on some Cardoon flowers (Mo). Liza reports the small form of the female Small Blue butterfly Cupido minimus, with total wing span just 16mm, on Trumpington Meadows. There have been huge numbers of Painted Ladies (Mo, Mary, Martin).  A  White-letter Hairstreak was seen on 8th July near Bourn Brook (Jeff S) and Purple Emperor female on Buddleia at roadside 200m N of Cambridge North station on 16th July (Chris H). Interesting to speculate where this came from, as they are found “High in the tree-tops of well-wooded landscapes in central-southern England” – hardly a description of N Cambridge!

Other invertebrates

Dragon and Damselflies are also doing very well. Duncan found a White-Legged Damselfly on Grantchester Meadows – a first for the NatHistCam study area and generally rare in Cambridgeshire, but apparently expanding their range north and east. Then, just outside our area on the Cam at Horningsea, were two more displaying males and a tandem pair of White-legged Damselflies, seen on 16th July (Jeff).  Rhona reports from Jesus College a Southern Hawker, a Migrant Hawker and her first Black-tailed Skimmer.

Lots of other Invertebrate records this month. On cedar tree stump at Cherry Hinton Hall, Rob found a Giant Horntail Urocerus gigas (a sawfly) being predated by a Steatoda spider. Liza found many tiny black bees (5mm) Chelostoma campanularum, which specialise on Campanula plants.  Kevin was delighted to find 2 Hornet Mimic Hoverflies on buddleia and also in Histon Rd was a 6-spot Burnet Moth (Sue Woodsford). Meanwhile, down the road in Chesterton, Bronwyn was invaded by a Hornet Robberfly Asilus crabroniformis….. “It came into the house, there were tiny children all around and everyone too scared to even take a picture of it!!” These fearsome-looking flies are top predators of dung flies and this was less than 1k from the grazing on Stourbridge Common.

Equally scary to arachnophobes, Jill reported a Harvestman, Dicranopalpus ramosus on her bedroom ceiling in Pinehurst. The extra long second pair of legs act as feelers.  Paul noted a soldier fly, Banded General Stratiomys potamida on Coldhams Common. This guy looks rather like a very flat wasp – it was regarded as a rarity in the 19th century, but has increased its distribution in recent years. A second Cambridge record this month was seen in Shaftsbury Rd. Paul also noted a Pale Prominent Moth and an Eyed Ladybird. Rhoda found Social Pear Tree Sawfly larvae Neurotoma saltuum on the Medlar tree in Jesus.  Penny was blessed with visits from Hummingbird Hawk-moths.


There were several reports of Water Voles; along Robinson Crusoe island ditch (Guy), at Jesus College (Rhona), in Paradise (Jeff) and Cherry Hinton (Holly), so they are plainly doing well.  The Hares noted in the spring are now all over the fields behind Fulbrooke Road. I continue to release Hedgehogs in Newham, well away from the known Badger hotspots.


One interesting find was Broad-leaved Helleborine on the CNHS visit to Cherry Hinton Lakes.  The last time it had been reported in the Cherry Hinton area was around 1770 (Jonathan).  This does show the value of the NatHistCam project in getting permission to visit sites in the City that are not usually visited. And finally, the line of Oak Trees along the Baulk track in Newnham, planted and replanted over the past four years, are finally burgeoning (Jill).

Broad-Leaved Helleborine

June Sightings 2019

Birds.  It has been an excellent year for warblers!  Duncan’s request for Dawn Chorus recordings from mobile phones provided 24 contributions and the outstanding result was that 11 had Blackcaps singing in them. Blackbirds were found on 17 and Wrens on 16. One had a Garden Warbler – fairly unusual, but another one, heard in Paradise, made it onto Radio 4 with Tony Jupiter praising the green spaces of Cambridge. A Willow Warbler was around between 3-7th June on the edge of Trumpington Park & Ride car park (Hugo) and Chiffchaffs are also abundant.

In spite of problems with the male, a city Peregrine was seen carrying feral pigeon prey over Market square (Guy). The out-of-town pair have also done well: by 18th, all 3 chicks were fledged and had left the nest.  They will probably be around for the next few weeks before being driven off by the parents (Norman).  A Barn Owl was seen hunting over Grantchester Meadows on Friday 29 June (Hugo). Also, a Cuckoo was noisily making his presence known on 10th to the South of Trumpington Meadows (Mo).

Grey Wagtail Norman De’Ath

Earlier in the year, a pair of French Partridges turned up in Newnham and recently reappeared with 3 young in tow. At Byron’s Pool was great to see a male Grey Wagtail on the lily pads.

Val’s early morning rowing turned up lots of new arrivals on the river: Herons of various vintages, Swans with Cygnets (3 different clutches of 1, 2 and 5 near Stourbridge Common), Moorhen with 2 teeny babies near The Plough in Fen Ditton, a set of Ducklings (6, newly hatched, 5 brown and 1 yellow) and House Martins hunting over the water. For further entertainment, there was a Bullock in the river, being patiently retrieved by Council workers. She comments that there were far fewer Swifts than before and it does seem to be a bad year for them, though the Owlstone Rd pair are feeding 2 chicks (Pam). 

Mammals On 11th, a nocturnal trip through Paradise produced recordings of 6 species of Bat (Paul). These were Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle (lots), Daubenton’s, Brown Long-eared, Noctule, Serotine.  Other mammal records were the 2 Hedgehogs which returned to Maggie after a 10 month absence and the Muntjac which leapt over Ron’s deer fence yet again!

June N asks, “Does the sighting of a Grass Snake among some ivy near a pond in Chesterton deserve a mention (about the diameter of a good sized thumb)?”  It certainly does – I reckon to see one every 10 years if I am lucky. I did recently disturb a black Toad under the dustbins, though.

Wool Carder Bee Rhona Watson

Mediterranean Spotted Chafer Oxythyrea funesta Rhona Watson

Invertebrates.  Rhona sent a picture of a Wool Carder bee on Lamb’s Ear  – more evidence of Jesus College’s rich diversity. Then a new record for Cambridge, the Mediterranean Spotted Chafer Oxythyrea funestaa small chafer probably imported to Jesus College on a rootball. They are common on Continental Europe, but with few UK records (Rhona). A Hummingbird Hawk-moth appeared on my honeysuckle for a few minutes.

Lesser Stag Beetle Annette Shelford

Urophora cardui, a thistle gall fly

Simon Mentha

A Lesser Stag Beetle arrived in a moth trap in Chesterton (Nets) and a fly was snapped in Cheney Way (Simon).  This was identified as Urophora cardui, a thistle gall fly. The female lays her eggs in thistle flower heads, usually Creeping Thistle, causing damage to the seeds. They are sometimes used in thistle weed control.

Dragonflies. In early June, Bill had Broad-bodied Chasers mating over the garden pond. Scarce Chasers were found at Fen Ditton and a colony of Variable Damselfly on Ditton meadows. Eddington lake has now got a good population of Damselflies and Dragonflies while Byrons pool has masses of Banded Demoiselles.

Emperor Dragonfly Duncan Mackay

Butterflies   Trumpington Meadows is a huge success story. The wildflower meadows are superb and besides the recent appearance of Small Blue butterflies, Mo sent the following list:   Large Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Painted Lady, Common BlueMarbled White butterflies were reported from Coldham’s Common.

Marbled White Paul Rule

Large Skipper Mo Sibbons

Moths  Some recent finds illustrated below (Paul).

Spectacle moth Abrostola tripartita Paul Rule

Glyphotaelius pellucidus Paul Rule

Cherry bark Tortrix Limnephilus lunatus Paul Rule

Fungus From sublime to ridiculous in Paradise?  The mildew Podosphaera filipendulae on Meadowsweet (Chris) and the gigantic Chicken of the Woods on a Willow tree were both observed on the riverside path in May Week, as punters enjoyed the post-exam sunshine.

Chicken of the Woods

David Williams

Podosphaera filipendulae Chris Preston

And finally, a really nice bee orchid on Trumpington Meadows (Norman) and others reported at Nuttings Road (Guy).

Olwen Williams

May Sightings 2019

What better sound to welcome the spring than the Cuckoo! Heard in Newnham Riverbank Club on 10th, by the river at Byron’s Pool on 12th, then finally over Trumpington Meadows on 27th. Thanks to John, Jean and Mo, but alas not heard by me – I had to travel to Suffolk for mine.

By May 9th, the Swifts were back in Eden Street (Suki). On 12thDorothea said, “Swifts have just done a fly past over my house – they really lift my spirits!”  By 14th Pam reported swifts in the nest box on camera and a little later, a dramatic 2 hour fight between 2 males: “Male intruder swift fights with resident male. Female on nest variously joins in, yawns, preens, flies off for a while, then goes altogether.  Two hours later, the defeated intruder exits still just alive and the victor rests in the nest for hours. (It is often a fight to the death.)”  Later the female returned and they were both peaceful on the nest.  Eggs were laid on 28thand 29th. Apparently females are faithful to the nest site, but not necessarily to the male, so a victorious male intruder may be accepted by her.

Consolation for the Victor   Pam Gatrell

Guy reports two Swallow nests high up under the Addenbrooke’s Access Rd bridge on Hobson’s Park, but Martin comments how very few swallows there are this season. Mo noted that the House Martins were back nesting on the old MRC building at Addenbrooke’s.

Great Spotted Woodpecker    Duncan Mackay

Nesting Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen on Grantchester Meadow (Jeff) and with young in a hole at Cherry Hinton Hall (Duncan). I also had an unconfirmed report of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Paradise in early May – exciting news if so.  Tawny Owls, with 2 chicks, are nesting in a garden in Newnham and a Red Kite was sighted over Newnham mill pond.

Ann sent a picture of a Mallard’s nest beside a friend’s garage in Luard Rd. It was totally camouflaged, but a few days later, 6 ducklings appeared.

Hidden Mallard’s nest   Ann Laskey

Holly reports from Cherry Hinton brook: Little Egret, perhaps breeding on the lakes, lots of warblers: Blackcap,Chiffchaff, Cetti’s and Reed Warbler, but no recent Willow Warbler.  Lots of Whitethroat around this year. There have been several broods of Moorhen and one of 7 Mallard ducklings on the Brook, doing well in spite of the Sparrow Hawk!

It has been a good month for invertebrate records. Sam noted a bright lemon yellow Ladybird  with no spots and wondered if it was newly hatched. After emergence from the pupa, 7-Spot Ladybirds are indeed yellow and spotless, the colours changing over the next 3-4 hours.  

Newly emerged 7-Spot Ladybird

7-Spot Ladybird, after 3 hours 

Jean found a 3mm 14-Spot Ladybird in Trumpington Meadows. Another 1 showed up in my garden and there are Mayflies about on the river: this one is Ephemera vulgata.

Mayfly    Paul Rule
Salticus scenicus    Chris Preston

Arachnophobes look away now! This tiny jumping spider, Salticus scenicus, loves warm walls and may well jump onto your hand or even come indoors – thanks Chris. Those eyes always remind me of aviator goggles.

Cinnamon Bug  Paul Rule

Paul lists his haul from a short visit to Byrons Pool / Trumpington Meadows: Cinnamon bugs, Corizus hyoscyami, and Black-and-Red Froghoppers, Cercopis vulnerata, the Soldier Beetles Cantharis decipiens and C. Pellucida, Phyllobius pomaceus (Green Nettle Weevil) and Byturus ochraceus (Pollen Beetle),  with large numbers on buttercup flowers.

Black and Red Froghopper  Ceropsis vulnerata     Paul Rule
Cantharis decipiens   Paul Rule

Hobson Park has had a series of infestations of Brown-tail Moth caterpillars affecting young specimens of willow, hawthorn and other deciduous species, which are being defoliated. Vanessa found the ‘tents’ (which looked as if made of a tough white polythene) on various young shrubs last autumn and Richard rather unwisely opened one with his bare hands to reveal many ‘hibernating’  caterpillars. (Fortunately he did not develop the nasty persistent rash which can occur with this species.)

Green Silver-lines Moth    Paul Rule

Paul’s moth trap caught 75moths, (22 species, including 5 new garden records) in one night, of which the most spectacular was a Green Silver-lines. Ben’s moth trap turned up an intruder – a red Ichneumon Wasp, most probably a Netelia species. These are parasitic, laying their eggs inside a caterpillar.

Ichneumon Wasp   Ben Greig
Mating Azure Damselflies    Duncan Mackay

In response to warmer temperatures and night time temperatures in double figures in mid May, there has been a huge hatch of Dragonflies all over Cambridge. Duncan found Hairy Dragonfly, Broad Bodied Chaser, 4-Spot Chaser, Variable Damselfly, Azure Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly, and Red Eyed Damselfly. More recently, Banded Demoiselle have also appeared (Jeff, Paul, Mo).

4-Spot Chaser   Duncan Mackay

Painted Lady Butterfly    Paul Rule

Butterflies have also appeared in good numbers,including a Small Blue Butterfly inTrumpington Meadows, Sunday 26th May.  This species has been ‘extinct’ in Cambridgeshire for 15 years and is now breeding in Trumpington Meadows. Thanks Mo for that one! Paul reports the first migrant butterfly: a lone Painted Lady on the Coldhams Common survey on May 30th.

Tree Bumblebees Bombus hypnorum are again appearing in numbers – variously looking to make their home in a nest box on a tree and in an old watering can which was stuffed with straw in the hope of attracting robins.

On 15thMay, a Newnham Bat walk in Paradise found both Common and Soprano Pipestrelles, also Daubentons Bats flying low over the river. (We were surprised by a fly-by of a couple of Herons at 10pm, calling loudly in the dark.) I get regular updates on visiting Hedgehogs, including a new sighting in Trumpington. Foxes continue to do well, especially at Jesus college, also one with 3 small cubs at the back of St. Phillip’s Primary School, off Vinery Road and one in the Botanic Gardens, where Mary also saw a Muntjac.

Fox with young rat in Jesus College     Rhona Watson

At the Stapleford Pit (a nature reserve just under Magog Down) we found large numbers of Roman Snails, in a very active state! They were introduced here about 80 years ago and continue to flourish. (This site is marginally outside our study area, but too good to miss.)

 Roman Snails   Menage a trois     Norman De’Ath

Finally, Jeff spotted a Grass Snake in the Paradise pond – what luck!  Perhaps it will find the masses of tadpoles flourishing this year – this batch was at East Barnwell Reserve.

Tadpoles in Barnwell Reserve  Duncan Mackay

Olwen Williams        

April Sightings 2019

Spring– the best I can remember – has given us a long period of fluctuating warm and cold spells, with enough rain to keep things moving.  This has prolonged the emergence of leaves and spring flowers.  Duncan reports fish are migrating into small streams to spawn and sends a picture of two large Chub in the ditch around Jesus college.

Chub     Duncan Mackay


Colin was sitting on a bench by Baits Bite Lock (April 1st) when approached by a weasel which came right up to the toe of his boot: very small with body under six inches long and no black tip to tail. Larger mammals in the city are also reported: the Jesus College Foxes have made it on to national media ( and Nets saw a Roe Deer in her Chesterton back garden. Jill caught a hare in Fulbrooke Wood on a night camera.

Roe Deer  Annette Shelford
Midnight Hare   Jill Newcombe

Bats have emerged in the last couple of weeks (one dead Pipistrelle on my mat, sadly) and lots over the new lake at Hobson’s Park. Alec noted a brown Rat in the shed, which then declined and a day later was found dead. However, Duncan was witness to the birth of a Muntjac fawn and managed to film the mother as she cleaned it up.  (


 Lots of reports of the arrival of spring migrants: Swallows on 2nd (Bob) and 14th (Holly), Cetti’s Warbler singing in scrub by lakes across from St Bedes crescent, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing all along the brook (Holly), Blackcaps in Jesus College (Rhona) and on feeders in Newnham (Jean), Willow Warbler (17th Holly, mid-April Martin Tenison Ave, 27th Olwen Grantchester Meadows).

Blackcap    Rhona Watson

Jays seem to be doing well: Duncan reports the beech woods are full of them and I saw 5 flying together over the playing fields. Judith noted a part-albino Blackbird on 4th, at Christ’s Pieces and the first baby Moorhen brood was seen on 17th April. A Tawny Owl chick was spotted at Girton College.

Jay    Duncan Mackay
Juvenile Tawny Owl, Girton College    Duncan Mackay

Sue notes. “Our lawn has been dive bombed by Starlings over the past week – up to around two dozen. We haven’t seen a starling for about five years, so I am not sure what has attracted them”.

Mike reports that the Paradise Heronry has 12 “Apparently occupied nests” to date and that numbers are still stable despite some favoured trees blown down in recent years.  This was in contrast with the other large colony in the area (Stapleford), which was down from 10-15 pairs to only one in 2017, then totally abandoned in 2018. He believes that a gang of super aggressive Rooks,that were displaced from their usual site, harassed the herons so much in the early spring of 2017 that they departed.  (In Paradise, the Rooks gather in the winter, but depart as the herons arrive leaving only some Jackdaws from the big winter flock.)

 A couple of unusual sightings: on 18th Nets was unpacking the moth traps at the Botanic Garden at 08.20am when an Oystercatcher flew over calling loudly. She presumed it had been grounded by the fog. Then on 19th, I saw a pair of Mandarin Ducks on Pembroke playing fields. But where are all the Nuthatches? They seem to have vanished from all their former city sites, including the Beechwoods reserve. Have you seen any?

Richard reports drama on Hobson’s lake at Great Kneighton. He witnessed a pair of Lesser Black Backed Gulls systematically removing and eating Greylag Goose eggs on the islands in the lake, while Black Headed Gulls mobbed the larger gulls.  Then on 9th April, four Common Terns visited, disappeared and then reappeared on 24th April and have stayed since then, catching insects and feeding on fish robbed from the Great Crested Grebes! Their technique is to hover and then swoop on the grebe, forcing it to dive again and abandon the fish. A juvenile Black-Headed Gull appeared to be watching this and when the Grebe emerged from another dive with a fish, it used the same tactics.  However, the grebes seem to be flourishing in spite of all this and at least one pair has, on several occasions, started (but not completed) their wonderfully elaborate courtship display.  Finally, a pair of Canada Geese were seen shepherding six goslings around the perimeter of the lake – the first hatchlings of the year. Evidently more successful than the Greglags in keeping off the predators!


The ongoing battle against Floating Pennywort continues, this picture showing more in the Cam at Fen Ditton this month. If you see any, please hoick it out!  On 6th,we spotted a plant which turned out to be Annual Mercury, Mercurialis annua  in Mill Rd Cemetery – a new one for me, but apparently fairly common.  Many flowers now coming out -particularly noticeable is the Bulbous Buttercup, with its turned down sepals, which is turning meadows yellow.

Floating Pennywort   Duncan Mackay

Jean reports the first small plums appearing on the many Cherry Plum trees (Prunus cerasifera) around Cambridge, a legacy of the Edwardian’s use of this species for hedging.  Last year a wide-spread infection by Taphrina pruni affected all these trees, destroying their fruit.  This fungal plant pathogen of Blackthorn(Prunus spinosa) causes the Pocket or Bladder Plum gall, a chemically induced distortion of the fruit,which becomes swollen on one side, resulting in a deformed and flattened fruit gall without a stone. The twigs on infected plants may also be deformed with small strap-shaped leaves. This year, the infection is still present on these trees and signs of the fruit deformation already visible.

Taphrina pruni infection   Rosser  Wiki


Small Tortoiseshell
Paul Ru

Holly Blue        Paul Rule

Everything is waking up fast, the first Peacock butterfly of the year on 1st April (Pam, Olwen) Holly Blues in good numbers from 1st April (Duncan, Paul, Rhona), Orange Tips (Duncan, Pam), Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone (Pam) and Comma (Paul).

Comma Paul Rule
Female Orange Tip         Rhona Watson

There are also lots of 7-spot Ladybirds, and Jonathan spotted the rather uncommon Eyed Ladybird in Robinson College.  Sightings of others welcome!

Eyed Ladybird 

Penny reports “An insect with a very long proboscis on a patch of Aubretia. It was the size of a large bumble-bee with caramel coloured wings, a grey head and black and white back end. The long proboscis went into each individual aubretia flower while the wings were flapping so fast that it reminded me of a hummingbird”. This was confirmed as a Humming-bird Hawk-moth, now probably resident in UK.

The earliest damselflies appeared April 23rd. Jeff saw 2 female Large Red Damselflies in Newnham and then a male on 26th April. More were seen over the Easter weekend: Banded Damoiselle on the Cam near Baits Bite Lock and a Large Red Damselfly in the pond at Cherry Hinton hall (Duncan). Hoverflies are also appearing –this Nursery Web Spider has just caught one and if you hold your hands up in a sunny glade in a wood it is quite likely you can get a hoverfly to land on your fingertips…

Hoverfly  Duncan Mackay
Nursery Web Spider with Hoverfly          
Duncan Mackay

Olwen Williams

PS I have had the Newnham Riverbank Club sightings for 2018: they include Kingfisher, Heron, Snipe, Common Tern, Red Kite, Little Egret, Green Plover (Lapwing) and Otter footprints.

River Temperatures ranged from 0.5C on Mar 2nd– 23.0C on June 25th.T

February Sightings 2019

An unusually hot month has meant an early season for many things – even reports of Swallows and House Martins arriving along the SW coast, a good month earlier than usual.  Here in Cambridge, Frogspawn was seen in Newnham on Feb 17th (Pam has a tiny pond with between 30 and 40 frogs, including four mating pairs) and towards the end of the month at Mayfield School. 

HAVE YOU SEEN ANY?  Please let us know where and when. You can email me or submit a sighting via the website.

Another query, this time from Chris Preston, who is undertaking a survey of Smuts and Rusts. There is a smut fungus, Antherospora hortensis,  which infects the anthers of Grape Hyacinths (Muscari), so you have to look into the flowers to see masses of brown spores, rather than normal pale yellow pollen grains spilling out of the anthers. Although it is widespread in W. Wales and in Richmond (Surrey), he failed to find it in Cambridge last year,so needs help!  A similar smut occurs on Scilla species. This one (Antherospora scillae) on Scilla forbesii was an exciting find in St Giles churchyard.  Please let him ( or me know if you see any more.

Antherospora scillae
Chris Preston
Antherospora hortensis
Arthur Chater

Mammal reports – a dead Badger on Barton Rd was spotted by several people.  In the fields by Grantchester Rd, seven Hares were seen crouched against the grass. The first Water Vole of the year appeared at lunchtime on 14th, in Jesus Ditch. Rhona reckoned it still looked rather groggy, as if it needed a strong coffee after over-wintering underground. Still at Jesus College, a Fox has been sauntering around and seems to have taken up residence.

Water vole   Rhona Watson
Jesus’ Fox       Rhona Watson

At Mayfield School, Amy reports one Rat, one Mouse and a Vixen with 4 cubs.  I have been intrigued by the Moles at Pembroke sports ground. Molehills abound all around the playing fields, but never encroach.  I wonder if this is because there are no worms or grubs to be found there?  There  are no worm casts either.

On this theme, Duncan comments: “One interesting thing that is causing the College head gardeners a lot of pain at the moment is the Crows attacking their lawns and eating Cockchafer grubs. This also happens on Parker’s Piece. I counted on Parker’s piece – there were 60 Carrion Crows and 20 Herring Gulls and  I think  both species were after the cockchafers.” He speculates how they locate the grubs, which are generally feeding on grass roots below the ground and wonders if they make ultrasound noises as they eat and the birds are able to hear in this frequency. He intends to take a bat detector to investigate!


Susanne reports Redwing in Chesterton at the beginning of the month and while winter migrants have not yet departed, the weather has encouraged lots of birds to start singing.  On 9th, I was delighted to hear Greenfinch and on 19th Goldfinch. After last summer, they had both disappeared altogether.  On 11th I heard a Song Thrush in full song and also a still- subdued Blackbird. In Paradise, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Robin are all competing for air space. The large winter flock of Rooks and Jackdaws has now dispersed, with just a few of each remaining. Meanwhile, the Herons have moved back in and are noisily restoring their nests.

Walking back from Grantchester along the headland path parallel to Grantchester Rd, we saw a male Yellowhammer on the hedge, then 2 Grey Partridges.  

Yellowhammer Paul Rule
Little Grebes   Paul Rule

These are a red list species, so nice to see in Cambridge. There were also Skylarks singing over the fields. On the river, 3 Little Grebes were diving but (not yet) displaying.  On 17th, Duncan noted a Blackcap singing along Cherry Hinton Brook, also a Little Egret and fighting Moorhens. Then a Water Rail was spotted in the brook, adjacent to the reed beds at the end of the lakes – not a common sight in the city. These allotments have two branches of the brook beside them. One goes underground at Birdwood Rd and the other passes beside the lakes and on past Sainsbury’s. Charles Turner has pointed out that this area used to be Cherry Hinton Moor and once had a very acidic plant community growing on it. So this very curious split drainage system may have been the way of draining it, to allow all the houses to be built.

On 17th, Pam heard Tawny Owls are calling in Newnham.  On 22nd Mistle Thrushes were noted on the top of a plane tree in Jesus College.  Liza spotted a Peregrine flying over Alpha Road. She also has male Blackcap feeding regularly, along with a beautiful pair of Song Thrushes which love grapes and pears! Then the lucky children at Mayfield School were able to see a Heron eating a frog and to film a Sparrowhawk catching and demolishing a Wood Pigeon.

Sparrowhawk with pigeon    Amy Ellis


My first Brimstone butterfly was in Newnham on Feb 17th. Lots of Bees have been reported: Mahonia blossom seems to be a good nectar source.

Buff-Tailed Bumble Bee  
Paul Rule

Early Honey Bees  (Amy, Paul), Buff-Tailed Bumblebee (Paul, Guy on 6th Feb, Duncan on 17th), and on 26th Feb, Rhona reports Barbut’s Cuckoo Bee (Bombus barbutellus)a social parasite of the Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortensis). She says, “It is locally widespread, but ‘There are indications of a significant decline in many areas’ (Falk & Lewington,2015). Females don’t usually emerge until late April! Nice to see a NFS bumblebee in Jesus.”
Barbut’s Cuckoo Bee   Rhona Watson
Epissyphus balteatus     Paul Rule

She also spotted several Hairy-Footed Flower Bees since 21st Feb.  Occasional Queen Wasps have been seen and also a couple of common hoverflies, Eristalis tenax (drone fly) and Epissyphus balteatus. Both are rather dark specimens, possibly due to the time of year they have emerged.

Drone Fly       Paul Rule

Adult moths can be found throughout the winter months, but the warm spell at the end of the month has seen an unusually high number attracted to light traps at various locations across the city. Over 10 species seen in all, with Common Quakers appearing in the largest numbers. Good numbers of Hebrew Characters, March Moths and Clouded Drabs have also been captured. Star moth of the month has to be the Oak Beauty captured in Annette’s Girton garden.

Oak Beauty       Annette Shelford

Finally, an oddity.  A collection of fluffy twigs on a large Willow appear to be the remnants of last year’s Mossy Willow Catkin Gall.  “This gall is actually an abnormally distorted catkin, and is probably caused by a virus or phytomplasma, but the precise causer has not yet been identified.”

Mossy Willow Catkin Gall    Paul Rule

Olwen Williams

January 2019 Sightings

I returned from a tropical holiday, thinking that there would not be many observations for a cold January, but was wrong!  Anita tells me that Paradise pond froze over for the first time this winter (having dried out completely in the summer) and looked lovely. She comments on the beautiful Turkey Tail fungus on some of the cut bits of tree in Paradise.  

Several people have noted Dab Chicks (Little Grebe),which seem to be flourishing in Fen Ditton (Trevor), Newnham (Anita) and Byron’s Pool (Ann L). More exotic was Holly’s sighting on 21st January of a Water Rail on the brook up by Blacklands allotments – a brief glimpse as it skulked in the margins. First sighting for several years here. 

 Winter thrushes are still about, with Fieldfares in Grantchester meadows (Jill)and lots of reports of Redwings, about 30-40 in Jesus woods (Rhona) and flocks near Lime Kiln Hill, also the Beechwoods and in Cherry Hinton Hall (Duncan).                                                  

Redwing        Duncan McKay

At Clay Farm lake (Hobson’s Park) a number of ‘Birders’ with telescopes were sighted!  Assuming that this meant something interesting had flown in, Richard went out and was shown a Jack Snipe along with about 40 Common Snipe.  (A useful guide to the difference can be seen here:  Little Egrets seem to be expanding their range generally and a pair was noted at Clay Farm (Vanessa) as well as on Sheep’s  Green in Newnham (Anita), who also saw Kingfisher,  and commented on the young incompetent Heron, begging fish from the fishermen! A Pied Wagtail plied the pavement outside the Co-op on Perne Road (Monica).

Guy noted the Peregrine, regularly seen perched on the United Reform Church, was feeding on feral pigeon on 21st Jan.  Tawny Owls have been calling in Newnham.  Both Green Woodpeckers (Ann G in Arbury) and Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been around, the latter starting to drum, though only occasionally (Pam, Sandra, June).

There are lots of reports of smaller birds, in particular flocks of Long Tailed Tits, mixed with Blue and Great Tits,Goldcrest, Coal Tits. Reports too of Blackcaps at feeders and the return of some finches, which have been very scarce recently.  June reports Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch, Val had a Greenfinch on the feeders and Ann G saw a Chaffinch after none for some time. Then, in the Beechwood Reserve, lots of Bramblings were seen (Duncan, Paul).                  

Female blackcap on Crab Apples     Pam Gatrell

Jonathan led the New Year’s Day Plant Hunt and found 58 species in flower. Several unusual/overlooked ones were noted, including Butcher’s Broom and Persian Ironwood. The former shrub has tiny flowers in the middle of what look like leaves. These develop into red berries.  The Persian Ironwood (a tree) has small red flowers that appear like shrivelled berries.

After the drought of last summer and the mild winter, the autumn-germinating annuals are doing very well on Cambridge’s roadside verges, and in places there are dense swards of Geranium molle and G. pusillum. These support at least three species of parasitic fungi and fungoids including Ramularia geranii, shown as white colonies on the leaves which are discoloured and upturned at the edges. Another fungus which is currently very conspicuous on Cambridge’s roadside verges is the mildew Blumeria graminis, which parasitises grasses, photographed here on New Year’s Day by Chris.

Blumeria graminis             Chris Preston
Ramularia geranii           Chris Preston

Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) was flowering on the road verge in Cherry Hinton Road towards the end of the month and the Snowdrops and Aconites are earlier than ever. This is a good time of year to look for Bee Orchid rosettes- there are quite a few city centre monads without sightings, but the plants are quite likely to be there. Please let us know if they are in your lawn and avoid mowing them down! We still have no sightings of Mistletoe in Cherry Hinton or Grantchester.

Muntjac Deer are abundant in Newnham, both by the river and in many larger gardens (Jill, Anita). A Fox was seen in Brooklands Avenue (Ann L) and a couple of Hares in the Fulbrooke Rd allotments (Jill).  Val comments on a grateful Grey Squirrel who loves the bird food.

Finally, Paul found an abundance of 7-spot Ladybirds adorning the buds of trees and even the barbed wire fencing in Beechwoods. Good to see we have not been taken over entirely by Harlequins!  

7-Spot Ladybirds            Paul Rule

Olwen Williams       

December 2018 Sightings

A very mild December has allowed both late retreats and early arrivals.  On Dec 9th, a Buff-tailed Bumble Bee queen was investigating cyclamen in my window box and on Dec 31st, a Garden Spider was hanging in a web with plenty of small flies still to harvest. Meanwhile, by the end of the month, both Primroses and Snowdrops were already flowering. On Christmas Day, Monica found more than 10 plants in flower.

Mammals: in Baldock Way allotments, a Fox made off with one of Jane’s son’s shoes!  He gave chase and managed to retrieve it. Foxes are always around in Newnham too, scenting in Paradise and scrounging in the back gardens, while Monica encountered one by Cherry Hinton Brook. Ann had delivery of a turkey leg, on Dec 30th, presumed by courtesy of a fox!

Ann Laskey

In the Clay Farm country park, Vanesssa saw a pair of Hares – both ‘hared off’ in the direction of Long Road. Dorothea noted her Hedgehogs were restless, with the mild weather interrupting hibernation. Muntjac droppings in Owlstone Road and sightings at the allotments confirm these strange deer are becoming more plentiful. There is a growing Grey Squirrel colony in Newnham College’s grounds some of which are migrating into the gardens across the road. Their presence is marked by small holes drilled at a 1′ spacing across the lawns.

Birds: the Cambridgeshire Bee Keepers Association (CBKA) were subject to a Green Woodpecker attack on a storage shed of their apiary. Although the bird got inside, nothing was attacked there and it presumably exited where it entered! Thanks Bill!                                                                   

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Dec-Green-woodpecker-attack-2-763x1024.jpg
Bill Block

Paul caught another felon in the act – one Sparrowhawk, one less woodpigeon.

Sparrowhawk Paul Rule

Little Egrets were reported from the Botanic Gardens (Mary), Fen Ditton (Trevor) and Grantchester (Ian) – they seem to be well established now, though we still don’t know where they are nesting. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen in Highsett (Mary), Newnham (Pam), Grantchester (Ian) and Trumpington Rd (Ann), while Lesley reports a Green Woodpecker calling in Histon Road Cemetery.  Tawny Owls were heard, looking for partners in Queen Edith’s (Karsten). Kingfishers are back again on Cherry Hinton Brook (Monica) and also seen in Newnham and near Fen Ditton and Elizabeth Bridge (Val).

 My garden Robin has been singing continuously though December. Several people have heard Song Thrush in song, too. In Chesterton, a Blackcap was feeding on berries (Susanne) and another in Newnham on honeysuckle (Anita). Val reports half a dozen Cormorants up in a high tree on the side of the river away from the Museum of Technology. Five were the normal skinny black ones, but one was “bigger, greyer and had a big white tummy”. Dabchick (Lesser Grebe) have been around the Grantchester Meadows for some time and Anita reports one swimming underwater, looked very mammalian.

Fungi: at the Beechwood Reserve, I found Jews Ear (now renamed Jelly Ear), Common White Helvella (Helvella crispa), Funnelcap and Candle-snuff Fungus. In Fen Ditton, Trevor reports Pluteus romellii, a rare fungi for these parts, on wood chippings right beside the front door. Then, on wood chippings at the entrance to Midsummer Common Community Orchard, was a Wood Cauliflower (Sparassis crispa). This was probably imported into the City with the chippings. Thanks Guy for this one!

Wood Cauliflower fungus   Rob Murrison

Moths: There are a number of moths on the wing during December, including Mottled Umber and Pale Brindled Beauty. Paul found one of the latter in the light trap on Dec 28th. This was a freshly emerged male (as with many winter emerging moths, the females are flightless). Adults can be seen from late December through to March and the eggs will lie dormant until hatching in late spring.

Pale Brindled Beauty    Paul Rule

Many thanks to all who sent sightings of smaller / commoner garden birds (Ian, Pam, Jill, Jean, Ann, Vicky.) These are all valuable and indicate what is around – equally what we are not seeing. Several people have confirmed my feeling that finches are genuinely rare at the moment – Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Greenfinches used to be ubiquitous – now not so (though there were several reports of chaffinches). After such a difficult year, it is not surprising that there will have been winners and losers.

Best wishes for 2019 and please keep them coming!

Blackbirds on Crab Apples    Pam Gatrell

Swans at Byron’s Pool   Jill Newcombe

November sightings 2018

At the beginning of the month, Sandie found a Garden Spider blocking her exit from the house. In trying to get a photograph of the beautiful web, she made it look quite scarily large!

Garden Spider

Araneus diadematus

Sandie Mercer


This has been a month of bird sightings and (at last) some fungi.  I have been somewhat dismayed at the absence of small birds locally, but at British Antarctic Survey garden, Goldfinches have returned and in Newnham, Pam reports an influx of birds to feeders in late November: Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits, a few Goldfinches, at least four Blackbirds, males singing loudly in high ash trees, a  very young Robin and ever present Magpies. She also  heard a Wren in Paradise. Then Sue says there were far more Blue Tits than usual on the feeders, so maybe it was a good breeding year for them.  She also has a plague of Pigeons, which have decimated the large holly tree, leaving nothing for Christmas decorations! Mary has flocks of both Goldfinches and Long Tailed Tits in Highsett, while in Petersfield, Val has a visiting garden Wren.  She also noted Little Grebes on the river and Cormorants high in the trees towards Fen Ditton and a smallish flock of Starlings atop the Church on St Matthew’s Street.

 Wren   Paul Rule

Several other garden events were reported: June lives by the Cam in Chesterton and has had  about 14 Swans interested in the windfall apples, also two Great Spotted Woodpeckers at the bird feeder.  Jenny asks, “This morning a large Heron walked up and down on the top of hedge eyeing the pond but did not venture any closer. Do you think the sculpture heron at the pond’s edge really is a deterrent?”  In Eden St, a flock of Redwings appeared in the back garden. Mike looked out one day to see 10 male Blackbirds, presumed new arrivals from the continent.

In Arbury Rd, Colin was peacefully watching football when,  “A dirty great hawk (Sparrow hawk?) bombed down from the sky and completely flattened a poor fat Pigeon that had been safely grazing on the lawn.  It started plucking, then winged off, bearing the remains of its prey in its talons. I was left to ruminate on the fact that in 21 years in Kenya, I witnessed only one kill – of a water buck by a leopard – whereas in Cambridge I can watch kills from my armchair.”

In Empty Common, we had great views of a Little Egret (small white heron with black bill, yellow feet) fishing in Hobson’s Brook and perching in the trees above.  In the woods, a Jay was calling and they seem much more visible in autumn, busy collecting supplies for the winter ahead.  Judith noted one in the garden in Leys Rd – beautiful colours.

Blue Jay

Little Egret

Song Thrush and Wrens have been singing intermittently on the warmer days of the month. The mixed flock of Jackdaws and Rooks over Paradise Island is deafening at dawn and dusk, 200-300 birds circling the air and calling – wonderful sight and sound.  A spectacular murmuration of 500-600 Starlings has persisted over Bolton’s Pit (the lake in Newnham), circling at dusk, before suddenly settling on the reeds in the middle of the lake. As they settled, I noticed a couple of Bats emerging. November has been quite mild and these had evidently not hibernated yet (Nov 15th).

Starlings over Bolton’s Pit

Olwen Williams Nov 15th


Newnham’s river corridor is home to six species of bat: Common and Soprano Pipistrelle, Brown Long-eared, Daubenton’s, Noctule and Serotine. There is constant tension between the human need to see, be seen and feel secure and the need to avoid light pollution along the river, for example at the Canoe Club, the Queens’ hostel and the cycle way across Sheep’s Fen.  My own view of cycling here at night is that unless your bike lights are good enough to show you the way, it is safer to use Fen Causeway.  Stud illumination is already in place and for the sake of wildlife, this must not be increased to full lighting. Bats are particularly susceptible to intrusive light.

A small excursion along the Grantchester Meadows turned up the usual Mallard, Mute Swan, Moorhen, and Black-headed Gulls. More excitingly, there were a couple of Cormorants, a Dabchick (Little Grebe) fishing along the bank and finally a Kingfisher flying upstream.  This meeting was called to discuss the severe and increasing problem of river bank erosion, due mainly to grazing cattle but also punts, people and their dogs. Remedial measures will be needed, with alternative drinking places for cattle.

Kingfisher  Paul Rule

Sue noted a black Squirrel just outside the back door. Melanistic squirrels occur as a dominant mutation of the grey and are fairly common in N. Cambridge. Indeed, they are found in a ribbon across Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire and in some hot-spots, blacks now outnumber greys, making up an estimated three-quarters of the squirrel population in villages such as Girton.  June reports a large Hedgehog in Chesterton, still active at the end of the month and sadly, a dead young one in Frank’s Lane.

Foxes seem to be doing well. I left food out for the hedgehogs and was surprised that the plastic bowl was disappearing as well as the food. After the third one went, I set the camera and found the fox had stuck his nose through the hedgehog hole in the gate.

Visiting fox                  Olwen Williams

Jenny has had chickens at the bottom of the garden since coming back to Cambridge 3 years ago, but this month acquired a family of Foxes – “They came, they ate and they stayed”. So she won’t be keeping chickens again anytime soon!

Alan reported several small self-sown plants of Sophora microphylla by St Bene’t’s church – a first county record for the species. Then Jonathan reports interesting finds during the CNHS visit to Bramblefields: Royal Mallow (Malva trimestris) growing by a pond – its second record in the county.  That excursion also turned up some fungi, including rare Conocybe plicatella (aka Pholiotina plicatella, Galerella plicatella) in grass just outside the closed-off bit. One other remarkable local occurrence was Leucopaxillus rhodoleucus under one of the cedars near the University Library–it is a south European species with just two or three twentieth-century British records, but now spreading, presumably thanks to warming. In Empty Common, we found Laccaria laccata, The Deceiver Fungus, maroon when wet, but drying to a brown colour. Jill found these Common Inkcaps in Fulbrooke Road.


Common Inkcaps

Jill Newcombe



Olwen Williams               



October sightings 2018

Many thanks to Jon Heath for his recent Moth Blog! This is an area I have not (yet?) ventured. Paul Rule also uses light traps and in his first season, has clocked up more than 190 species of moth and micro-moth. In addition, all sorts of other beasties turn up there: an 18-spot Ladybird appeared on 5th October – a mature Scot’s pine specialist! An Ichneumon Wasp, Ophion luteus, was another bonus visitor.

18-spot Ladybird 




Ophion luteus Paul Rule



Then there were a couple of Gall Flies, Tephritis divisa and Tephritis formosa.  First recorded in Sussex in 2004, T. divisa would appear to be yet another species expanding its range northwards. This is its first Cambridgeshire record.

Tephritis formosa                            Tephritis divisa        Paul Rule






A tiny Sisyra dalii (a Spongefly) 4mm length, was the next visitor. Their larvae are aquatic and feed on freshwater sponges. Related to lacewings, they were completely new to me.

Spongefly Paul Rule

Next was the Giant Willow Aphid Tuberolachnus salignus (‘giant’ in that the body was 6mm and overall 1.2cm, so pretty large for an aphid!)  Finally a minute 4mm green Spider, Nigma walckenaeri, appears to have taken up residence in the moth trap.

Giant Willow Aphid Tuberolachnus salignus Paul Rule

Nigma walckenaeri (female) Paul Rule



Weather conditions have favoured autumn moths and Duncan reports Barred Sallows, an unusually large number of Blair’s Shoulder-Knots, Green Brindled Crescents and also the spectacular Merveille Du Jour (see Jon Heath). Caddis Flies such as Limnophilus lunatus have been coming to moth traps in good numbers as well.

On 10th a Carrion Beetle Nicrophorus humator – the Black Sexton Beetle was found at Holbrook Rd.  As its name suggests, it buries the mammalian corpses that provide food for its offspring.

Nicrophorus humator Paul Rule

By October, most Dragonflies have gone to bed for the winter, although some are still around,  mainly Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers. The once abundant Willow Emeralds have now all vanished.  At the country park in Great Kneighton, a number of very young saplings and shrubs had large white cocoons on the branches, harbouring numerous small caterpillars of the Brown-tailed Moth.

Brown-tailed Moth cocoons      Vanessa Price

On 3rd October, the Friends of Sheep’s Green Learner’s Pool held an open morning for local 9-10 yr olds. Among the activities provided, Guy Belcher was dissecting cow dung pats and demonstrating the various invertebrate inhabitants. Dung Beetles form an important food resource for birds and bats here.

Guy Belcher with dung pat

Again in Newnham, a neighbour was concerned to see what was digging up the grass in the back garden. Expecting badgers, we set the camera trap, but found only a visiting Fox.


A Hedgehog was seen trundling along Blossom St near Broad St – thanks Val for that one. Then on 8th Oct, Jackie saw a Heron on the towpath near the Jesus lock, which had caught a Rat by the tail.  The rat was squealing and twisting itself around the heron’s beak. The heron was too intent on the victim to notice the gathering crowd, but eventually the rat broke loose and escaped. I am told this particular heron regularly stands behind the fishermen here!

During the October field studies, Oxalis triangularis was found on disturbed ground on a bank at the edge of Stourbridge Common – a county first. It has been a generally poor year for fungi, but maybe the rain will help.  The very distinctive Magpie Mushroom was found in the Botanic Garden – thanks Jonathan. Lactarius pubescens Wooly Milkcap fungus in grass and Skeletocutis (Incrustoporia) semipileata on the stump of a weeping beech tree are both fungi associated with birch. The latter was a tough flat pancake polypore, about 2cm depth and 8cm diameter, oddly with the pores facing upwards.

Skeletocutis (Incrustoporia) semipileata  Paul Rule

There is currently a national survey of Tawny Owls. June reports that the tawny owls always heard in Chesterton since 1974 have sadly disappeared in the last two years. However, reports of a male from Cherry Hinton and both male and female in Newnham are encouraging. At Great Kneighton, a Meadow Pipit flew into the glass surrounds of the new balcony. Stunned initially, it recovered and was released.  Other birds mentioned were Pied Wagtail (Alec) and 3-4 Little Grebes near The Plough at Fen Ditton (Val).

Meadow Pipit      Vanessa Price

6-7 Fieldfares were spotted on 22nd and Starling murmurations over Bolton’s Lake and near the rugby club (Jill). It has been a great harvest year for Sweet Chestnuts and Walnuts and there is a huge crop of Haws for the visiting thrushes, as we prepare for winter.

Olwen Williams                            






September Sightings 2018

What do plants and their leaves do in autumn? Mostly, change colour, go spotty and fall off, I hear you say. Therein lie a number of interesting stories. Sam reports, “I found galls of the mite Aceria tristriata on Walnut Juglans regia in Chesterton. This is a very local species, and apparently new to Cambridgeshire, according to the British Plant Gall Society.” I was curious about the term “mite” and found they were minute maggoty things, indeed arachnids, but with only 2 pairs of legs. (In the first picture A. tristriata has caused the smaller pustules, while the larger brown patches are remnants of galls of a much commoner mite, Aceria erinea.)

Galls of the mites Aceria tristriata  and A. erinea on Walnut leaves         Sam Buckton


Aceria tristriata mites

UKRBIN (Ukrainian Biodiversity Network)


Then Mark Hill found Gymnosporangium sabinae (European Pear Rust) in Cavendish Ave. It produces very conspicuous yellow, orange or red leaf spots on the upper side of the pear leaf, with bumps followed by conical structures below. Chris Preston has since found it in a few other sites in Cambridge and there is some in Newnham. Can you they can find any on your local pear trees before the leaves fall? A photo with details of the site would be great, either to me or him (<>). It is one of the rusts with an alternation of hosts, two stages of the life cycle on pear and two stages on junipers (usually cultivated bushes). Does anyone have has any experience of it on juniper, where it produces gelatinous orange masses on old twigs (most conspicuous when wet)? These are probably produced in spring but there are very few British records from juniper and none from Cambridgeshire. (The only juniper I can think of is in the Botanic Garden, but there must be more.)

Gymnosporangium sabinae on pear    Olwen Williams

It has been a strange year for many plants. May found a mature Rowan (Mountain Ash) tree had lost half of its leaves by June, but with some watering it revived and in the middle of September burst into bloom at the same time as the fruit was ripening.

Rowan fruiting and in bloom          May Block

It has also been a great year for apples, hops and particularly walnuts, where even the crows and the squirrels are overwhelmed.  Sue reports an oak tree where nearly all the acorns have been turned into Knopper Galls – a parasitic wasp is the culprit here.

This lovely moth (Angle Shades Phlogophora meticulosa) was found indoors and released, while the Goat Moth caterpillar (Cossus cossus) was ambling across the towpath. Thanks Peter for these.

Angle Shades Moth                            Goat Moth caterpillar                       

Peter Woodsford 

Pam noted a Speckled Wood butterfly and a late dragonfly in the garden at the end of the month. I had a visit from a Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis).  This Leaf-footed Bug resembles a shield bug, but is much bigger and has expanded hind tibias, hence the name. It is another new-comer, a US native only found in UK since 2007. Its larvae attack the immature cones of several conifer species.


Western Conifer Seed Bug        Olwen Williams


Paul reports Ivy Bees (Colletes hederae) enjoying the late flowering Ivy. This solitary bee was new to science in 1993, arrived at UK in Dorset in 2001 and has been slowly spreading north since then. It is the latest solitary bee to emerge and on the wing as late as November. Mark reports seeing dozens, burrowing into a steep bank. So if you have nearby ivy in flower, check it out – you will find all sorts of other insects there too.

Ivy Bee    Paul Rule

A quiz from Mary: which one of these is a Hornet (Vespa crabro) and which the hornet mimic Hoverfly Volucella zonanaria? Both were feeding on ivy.  V. zonanaria is the largest hoverfly in the UK, another fairly recent addition to the UK fauna, very rare before the 1940’s, but now common in the SE and spreading northwards. CLUE The Hoverfly has much bigger eyes and smaller antennae than the Hornet (also has no sting, but then male hornets don’t have a sting either).

Mary Wheater

A dead young Badger on Grange Rd and the presence of a badger latrine on one of the local playing fields reminds us that these nocturnal mammals can flourish in suburbia. Newnham college has had a colony for some years and several of the College Head Gardeners say that they have been seen in the grounds.

We should not forget the river. Guy reports that electrofishing the Rush Stream (Sheep’s Green) produced two mature Brown Trout 260mm, so potential breeders! Also a 600mm Eel on her way to the sea, Spined Loach, Bullhead and lots of Roach, Perch, Minnow, Chubb and Dace of all ages. Kingfishers were seen taking advantage of this lovely small stream and its other new inhabitant is a Terrapin! A recent bat punt through Sheep’s green and Paradise detected two Noctules, several each of Soprano and Common Pipistrelles and four Daubentans, with a bonus of a bat-hunting Sparrowhawk low over the punt. However, I gather that the Cambridge Angling and Fish Preservation Society have given up having matches in the Cam because the fish have all gone – they blame this on the recovery of the Otter population, which have even found their way into Robinson College lake to feed on Swan Mussels.

    Brown trout  Guy Belcher

For many years, there has been a flock of white (feral domestic) Geese in Newnham. Originally more than 20, they are now down to about 10, with one succumbing to a recent killing and BBQing on the bank. The scorched remains were not a pleasant sight. They are quite inbred, some with a genetic wing disorder preventing flight. Val reports the dramatic appearance of a male Sparrowhawk, which landed on the balcony while they were still in bed. I heard an Osprey calling from the other side of the Cam, but did not get a view. Then the next day, out at Beechwood Reserve in Wort’s Causeway, I saw a Hen Harrier, perhaps on migration, quartering a field of stubble. Never mind all these big raptors! Susan reports the sight of a flock of around twelve Long Tailed Tits, together with four juvenile Blue Tits descending on the feeders, where they fed feverishly for about ten minutes and then flew away, never to be seen again. A similar wave of mixed tits swept over my breakfast chair in the back garden today.

On the local river, Swans with five cygnets had spread themselves over the footpath in Paradise. But the best news is that the Paradise Rooks are back! At 6.23am on Sept 23rd, the first winter flock appeared and summer is officially over.

Olwen Williams