Category Archives: Project Blog

This blog will record the progress of the project as we go along.

January Sightings 2021

Well, the Water Meadows certainly came into their own this month! Upstream of the city, there has been widespread and repeated flooding : Paradise, Coe Fen and Sheep’s Green, Skaters Meadows and Grantchester Meadows all turned into lakes. (So far, there has not been enough of an overnight frost to turn them into skating rinks.)  Fulbrooke Wood and allotments suffered from a blocked drain adjacent to the woodland.  The water level in the lake in Hobson Park and in Hobson Brook was also very high. Along with the rain came mud, in large quantities! The riverbank path in Paradise has been closed and most footpaths are uncomfortably muddy.  Cold water and high water levels did not deter a couple of swimmers, however.  Furthermore, all this rain must be good news for the chalk streams and aquifers.


Some decided to stay indoors: David sent this picture of a Christmas present Grow Box for Yellow Oyster mushrooms. Grown in the kitchen indoors, they were from a self-contained kit, and all that was needed was to spray with water – too easy, he says. I hope they tasted good.

Quite a lot of Raptor reports: a Buzzard sitting on top of flagstaff on The Job Centre opposite the Jesus Green footbridge (Liza).  Jesus’ female Kestrel is still around (Rhona).  Peregrines were mentioned by Jeff and by Gleb, who also encountered a Sparrowhawk sitting on the pavement, eating a pigeon. Pam was entranced by the sight of a Red Kite, low over Paradise and heard Tawny Owls calling in Newnham.

Water birds

From being an occasional and notable rarity, Little Egrets are now about as common as Herons. I spotted 4 together on Skaters Meadow and several others also sent reports (Mo, Richard, Rosemary, Jeff, Bob). They seem to be everywhere (but where do they nest? A NatHistCam prize for the first answer to this question.)  However, in addition to the Little Egret, Grantchester has been visited by a Cattle Egret (Gleb) and Bob says there had been about 6 in the Earith/Fen Drayton area. Perhaps they are moving in too?

At Hobson’s Park, the island in the lake has been drastically reduced by the rise in water level. Squashed into this area were at least 100 Snipe, a dozen Lapwings, a pair of Teal, a male Shoveler, Tufted Ducks and several Pochard, a pair of Great Crested Grebes, an occasional Cormorant, Egret and Grey Heron.  And then there were the Geese! Up to 100 Greylags plus plenty of Canada Geese : the roosting birds were unable to practice social distancing on the island, the snipe being forced to roost along the tops of the tree trunks.  (Richard comments that Countryside, the main developer here, failed to cut back the vegetation last year on the eight rafts on the lake, which deprives the birds of roosting space now and of nesting sites later on.)

A female Goosander was seen sleeping with the Mallards in the flooded field opposite Paradise (Pam, Bob, Gleb). There was also an Egyptian Goose in the same place – chased by the local Domestic Geese, who then in turn were charged by a Swan (Gleb). It’s all getting territorial as spring approaches.  Jeff reports about 30 Teal and 3 Shoveler (2 drakes and a duck) in Grantchester Meadows. The Glossy Ibis is also still around, caught here with a rather disgruntled Heron.

The unmistakable  first overhead  honk of a Heron was around 20th January – a week earlier than 2020 (Pam). In Newnham, this signals the end of winter – the change-over from large gatherings of Rooks and Jackdaws as the herons reclaim their nesting territory in the tall trees of Paradise Island. Ionathan comments on a Black-Headed Gull with a pink breast in Logan’s Meadow. (I have never noticed, but apparently it is not uncommon.) Bob saw a Water Rail at Logan’s Meadow.

Plants

With typical under-statement, Jonathan had ‘nothing of real significance’ to report on the botanical front for January and had seen only 314 species in the NHC area during the month, with 111 of them in flower, the most frequent being Common Fieldspeedwell. Monica’s perambulations  turned up a few Sweet Violets in flower along Snakey Path and Aconites at Cherry Hinton Hall. Meanwhile, Bob has been further afield, finding Daphne laureola (Spurge-laurel) flowering in woods between Girton and Madingley.

Bee Orchid rosettes are appearing: at West Pit Cherry Hinton, near Addenbrooke’s hospital and at Nightingale Recreation Grounds. This last site was the scene of spectacular Helleborines last spring – one benefit of lock-down, when children were excluded. Hopefully it will not be repeated this spring.

Countryside birds

The distinction between ‘garden’ and ‘countryside’ tends to blur in the winter, as hungry Fieldfare (Jeff) and Redwings (Stella) invade our gardens. Ionathan (aged 12) says, “You may be interested to know that during the Big Garden Birdwatch I saw a Black Redstart in our garden. It was unmistakable and amazing.”  Certainly unusual!  Stonechats have been reported from 3 sites (Richard, Jeff, Bob) – are they getting more common?  The hedgerows and meadows around Grantchester Rd turned up about 400 Lapwings, 9 Grey Partridges, around 80 Skylarks, 8 Meadow Pipits, 32 Pied Wagtails and 6 Corn Buntings (Jeff), while Bob noted  about 1000 Linnets on crop/trash and stubbles between Impington and Huntingdon Road and 40 Meadow Pipits behind Huntingdon Road.  David reports a flock of 25 Goldfinches near the Coton Footpath.

Garden birds

Lots of reports of Blackcaps visiting feeders (Pam, Liza, Clarke). Less usual were 2 Greenfinches (Clarke), not seen or heard here for a long time: indeed Goldfinches and Chaffinches have also virtually disappeared from Newnham. However, I did see a Bullfinch at the Pembroke allotments and Jeff reports 3 from Fulbrooke area. Then there were 2 Siskin in Paradise, doubtless enjoying the Alder catkins (Jeff). Bob heard a Nuthatch calling around Chaucer Rd – nice to have additional records, away from the Backs. Lots of comments about Great-Spotted Woodpeckers, both sightings and drumming. Jo reports up to 8 Magpies together in Mill Road cemetery. Do we have a magpie boom just now?

Invertebrates

On Jan 26th, Liza says, “The sun is not shining and the air temperature is 3 degrees C, but I have just seen a queen Bombus terrestris visiting flowers of Clematis cirrhosa.” Rhona also reports  Buff-tailed bumblebee on Hellebore.  In Madingley Hall grounds, Peter found a statue with a beautiful ‘tiara’ of hibernating 7-Spot Ladybirds. A small number of early moths – Chestnut & Pale Brindled Beauty – are starting to turn up in moth traps (Paul). Finally, I found a perfect, though dormant, Peacock Butterfly on the kitchen carpet.

Vertebrates

Water Voles have been active at Cherry Hinton Brook (Monica) and Logan’s Meadow (Bob) during the month. (Apparently, they do not hibernate over-winter, but do spend more time in their burrows.)  Jill reports a Fox abroad at night, while Jeff saw a Stoat crossing Grantchester Rd with prey and a couple of Brown Hares in the same area.

Clarke reports 3 Frogs and a Newt in small garden and comments, “Plenty of fodder for the Grass Snake (September sightings) if it reappears in 2021!”  However, I imagine they have disappeared again during our current cold snap.

I leave you with Val: “What I’ve seen is birds (magpies, robins) rushing about with stuff in their beaks like they are building nests. And the birdsong is getting louder, more frantic and more beautiful.  Is the sap rising?  Snowdrops are coming out – and I saw a daffodil yesterday. 

Oh Wind, if winter comes, can Spring be far behind?  (PBS)”

December 2020 Sightings

Pictures of the Month

Jonathan reminded us of the Grand Conjunction of the planets Saturn and Jupiter on Dec 21st, the two planets coming together in the SW sky. Sadly, Cambridge was largely cloudy, but Duncan took this photo at Soham a couple of days beforehand. He says, “You can see the rings of Saturn (and Ganymede is in the middle of the image)”.

A little nearer home, 2020 was one of the top five hottest years on record for the UK and also one of the top ten wettest and the top ten sunniest years (Met. Office). This is a graphic illustration of the ongoing effects of global warming and climate instability (and a warning that neither Brexit nor COVID19 pandemic should take our attention away from climate change – infinitely more damaging than either).

Gleb spotted a Glossy Ibis in the fields S of the A14 – this is no longer considered a great rarity in UK, but is another signal of climate change. Early flowering plants included Snowdrops in the wooded area at Churchill College (John), Primroses and Cyclamen (Eve) and Cowslips (Mo). December has been very wet, with water meadows flooded, and footpaths muddy. (Anita comments that the water seemed very ‘dirty’ – brown and frothy – was this agricultural run-off?) Even the boardwalk in Paradise flooded at one point, while the riverside path had a stream running across it from the central swamp. 

Early Snowdrops at Churchill Katherine Davis Banarse

Birdsong is also early – on 2nd Dec, a Blackbird was in full song. By 20th a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming and Great Tit, Blue Tit, Dunnock and Song Thrush were all singing.  Bird feeders were busy: Blackcaps (Eve, Anita), a huge flock (12-15) of Long Tailed Tits twice a day (Pam), a male Siskin in Cherry Hinton (Holly), in Newnham, a Sparrow Hawk (Gerd), a Jay and several Magpies (Olwen) and in Grantchester Street, Jackdaws shaking a bird feeder and getting enough to feed both the Jackdaws and the local Pigeons (Anita).

Are House Sparrows making a come-back?  In Eden Street, 2 males were squabbling over the birdbath, the first sighting there in four years (Lesley), while in Chesterton Hall Crescent they have also moved in this year – Eve sent this picture of a family of young sparrows feeding on her Pyracantha.

Young House Sparrows on Pyracantha Eve Corder

Other birds: a Newnham garden turned up a Tree Creeper (Gerd), Gleb reports a Little Owl at Waterbeach (outside our target area), Jeff found 13 Pied Wagtails at the Cambridge Rugby Club and a Stonechat in the same area, a Tawny Owl was calling at Pinehurst (Jill) and flock of 10-20 Redwings in Paradise were eating the ivy berries (Rhona).

Sam reports Starlings (50-100) around Parker’s Piece. I spotted a bedraggled Kestrel and then followed a Kingfisher all the way down river through Paradise – a great treat. In Cherry Hinton, Ann had good views of a hunting Peregrine and also reports a Reed Bunting at Great Kneighton. Anita saw a Cormorant catch a fish in the upper Cam. 

There were still some Invertebrates around:  a Buff-Tailed Bumble Bee on Dec 1st, feasting on Lonicera flowers (Mo), a Brimstone Butterfly flying about Barnwell East on 17th Dec, and Rhona saw the hoverflies Episyrphus balteatus (Marmalade hoverfly) and Meliscaeva auricollis and a Common Green Shieldbug, in its winter colouring.  (They may apparently remain green or turn brown in winter – all good camouflage.) Paul’s moth trap turned up a Winter Moth, fully equipped with fur coat.

Chris became excited at the discovery of the mildew, Erysiphe symphoricarpi on Snowberry plants on Madingley Road (well, you would be, wouldn’t you!?)  He’d been looking for it for the last few years and had eventually found it. Mo was excited for a different reason: even though 3 Hedgehogs had been found dead nearby earlier in the year, the night camera showed one was still visiting her garden in Trumpington.

Another contribution from Chris (at which point I must take the opportunity to thank the various members of the NHC committee for their superb contributions this month). On a memorial in Histon Rd Cemetery are four Serpents, each slightly different, on the sides of the memorial. Chris finds: “Snake: Or, serpent, despite its nefarious reference in the Bible, has come to represent eternity and rebirth. The snake forming a circle and nearly devouring its own tail is known as an oroboros and symbolizes infinity. Also, the ability to shed its skin and be “reborn” in a new body is of significance to spirituality.”  

Although NatHistCam is neither eternal nor infinite, Bob’s declaration of finality (The Last One – December 2020) was premature and I will continue once a month for the time being until our eventual re-incarnation in the form of the book we are preparing (and I hope you will all read). Thanks to all contributors and please keep them coming.

Olwen Williams olwenw@gmail.com

The last one – December 2020

I have never seen as many local foxes before and never before so close up: an early morning visitor to St Andrew’s Road/Longford/Whytford Place, St Giles Cemetery, a large garden in Huntingdon Road and one fearless individual in the underpass of the roundabout at the junction of Newmarket Road and East Road one Saturday morning at 10:30am.

Song Thrushes have been singing but rarely seen and Mistle Thrushes have been defending a berry-laden clump of female Mistletoe in Chapel Street, Chesterton.

Song Thrush – Paradise

Despite the rise in the levels of the river Water Voles can be easy to see in Logan’s Meadow. Vince Lea (Lea, 2020) has written an excellent paper in the latest edition of British Wildlife magazine about the eradication of Mink to enable Water Voles to flourish again. It’s working, Bourne Free, the eradication of Mink in the Bourne Brook, a tributary of the Cam, has been a great success.

I have a soft spot for House Sparrows – the antithesis of twitching! They are locals and tell us about our relationships with birdlife in cities and the wider countryside. Sunny days in December are when colonies noisily congregate before disbursing to nearby nest sites from January/February onwards; Fen Road, Union Lane, Coldham’s Lane and a big assembly in Newmarket Road opposite Pizza Express have all attracted interest from passers-by.

There was a very interesting Wildlife Trust zoom talk on Turtle Doves by Guy Anderson of the RSPB. Turtle Doves have declined by 95% in the UK from a combination of reasons including lack of seed feed when they arrive and over-hunting on their migration routes. Political and conservation pressures in France have reduced the hunting bag of Turtle Doves from 92,000 in 2013 to 7,000 in 2020 and the Spanish hunting season has been reduced by 85% to relieve pressure on Turtle Dove populations. There is hope for this emotive species that is now confined to breeding in the UK only in the south-east of England.

In most winters there is an influx of an uncommon species – Waxwings, Hawfinches, Parrot or Two-barred Crossbills; this year it is grey geese with White-fronted Geese turning up in numbers with single or small groups of Bean Geese. Flyovers have been heard over our project area but it’s worth looking on any yet-to-be-harvested sugar beet fields or even large sports fields.

A pair of Stonechats seem to be staying over winter on the NIAB’s Trials Ground on the edge of our area. I have seen them there as passage singles before, but this year there is an exceptional area of crop trash and weedy stubbles that have been left which has attracted overwintering Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and offers the chats insect food.

Our NatHistCam project has now finished. What remains is perhaps the hardest part, editing the contributions which will document the diversity of wildlife in Cambridge and its immediate hinterland. Cambridge is undergoing exceptional growth from new housing and business developments. It is important we measure and catalogue what is here so that we can monitor future changes. Since the 1950’s and in every decade since, the north and north east of the City have experience major new building developments from Arbury to Eddington, The Meadows and Orchard Park to Cambridge North Station, new business parks and soon new housing on the site of the former sewage works and the old Sewage Farm.

Visit Milton Country Park (MCP) during the school holidays and you will find it full of families and dog-walkers. It illustrates the need for open space and countryside, for a bit of the wild-side! It cannot take much more. Relying on MCP to provide recreational space for a nearby development of 8,000 homes and 20,000 people will destroy MCP. More open space is needed. In my view every new development should include a biodiversity action plan – a commitment to include wildlife in all new developments and improve the biodiversity of the site. The Sewage Works development is an opportunity to recreate Chesterton meadows and perhaps return breeding Snipe, Redshanks and Lapwings to riverside pastures that have been drained and over-grazed as well as build new homes.

The Covid crisis has shown that we need open space and wildlife. Riverside, and Paradise/Coe Fen are full of families, couples and dog walkers on any day (when it’s not raining!) enjoying a brief experience in or near wild-space. Contact local politicians about biodiversity and contentious building developments and the result is – silence. I know I have tried!

Over the last four years the blogs I have written and the piece I have prepared for our publication have given me much pleasure. Birdwatching is about the experience of birdlife and wildlife and wild-space, the analysis of data, historical comparisons to monitor and measure change and watching the emergence of new observations and ideas.

“Noc-mig” – the sound recording and identification of migrating birds at night – is revealing species we would never imagine passing over our urban gardens. I was always intrigued that even small areas of open water areas were quickly colonised by Little Grebes – how? – it’s obvious with “noc-mig” – they fly over at night, find them and colonise them. In a (near!) lifetime of birdwatching I’ve never seen a Little Grebe fly more than about 50feet and about 2feet above the water! “Vis-mig” – watching birds and identifying flyovers from a garden, or park or any open space in our NatHistCam area has revealed passage Cranes and Harriers and Crossbills, big movements of thrushes and corvids and gulls going to roost and Short-eared Owls and a Bee-eater. “Vis-mig” can be done by us all.

Our book about the Natural History of Cambridge is in preparation. Most contributions are complete and await editing. The energy and drive of Mark Hill is gathering together a comprehensive inventory of the wildlife of Cambridge in all its diversity in a single publication. It has generated interest from local radio stations, the local and regional press to Chris Packham and the crew of Spring Watch.

That’s it for now!

Best wishes

Bob Jarman

Lea, V. (2020) Is Mink control for ever? Prospects for eradication in East Anglia. British Wildlife 32,3.

November 2020 Sightings

Although this month is nearly all about birds, I propose to start with the Ladybirds. At this time of year they hibernate, often in groups. Rhona’s 7-Spot huddle on holly leaves is complemented by John’s double take: 7-spots occupying one cane and Harlequins the other.  (Segregation of species is apparently normal.) All the canes in that area had ladybirds crowded into them.

Less fortunate were Rhona’s Kidney Spot LB, which has Hesperomyces sp. fungi showing on the wing case.  This fungus is known to infect several ladybird species including Harlequins. Then Paul found a dead 7-spot Ladybird with the cocoon of the parasitic wasp Dinocampus coccinellae attached to its underside. The gruesome story here is that this wasp lays a single egg which is planted in the host’s soft underbelly. The wasp larva hatches after 5–7 days into a first instar larva with large mandibles and proceeds to remove any other eggs or larvae, before beginning to feed on the ladybird’s fat bodies and gonads. After a further four larval instars, when it is ready to emerge, the wasp larva paralyses the ladybird before tunnelling out. It pupates in a cocoon attached to the leg of the living ladybird, whose brightly coloured body and occasional twitching deter predation. While the developing wasp is extremely vulnerable, the ‘zombified’ ladybird acts as its bodyguard.

Jeff reports a small, dark Sylvia Warbler over the fields to the west of Grantchester Rd on 7th. There was a prevailing south-easterly airstream.  It was uniformly dark grey, with a red eye ring. He thought it might be a Marmora’s or Balearic Warbler, otherwise perhaps a juvenile Dartford Warbler. Lesley comments on the increasing Starling population in the trees in Histon Road Cemetery. She asks, “They like the high limes rather than the lower sycamores. I’d be interested to know if that’s because they prefer to be high up or because the limes provide more food –  no doubt someone in this group can tell me!”  A winter murmuration of Starlings can be seen over Newnham, the birds roosting on the island of Bolton’s Pit (Penny). A Song Thrush was heard singing 20/21st Nov.

Ben’s ‘Arbury’ Peregrines are still about and hunting the Pigeons above St Luke’s School. Malcolm reports one at close quarters near the river in Newnham.  Jill watched as a male Kestrel dismembered a catch (probably a vole), one foot holding it firm, beak wrenching away. After ten minutes a fat grey squirrel challenged it and it flew off. Sparrow-hawks are regularly seen at St John’s (David) – I hope they don’t find Maria’s Sparrows, seen in numbers on the feeder in S. Cambridge for the first time in 15 years.  David also reports Nuthatches and Treecreepers at St John’s – rare elsewhere.  Many thanks to all who sent accounts of other bird-life, including Goldcrests in the trees along the Burnside allotments (Holly). Like many others, I have enjoyed the flocks of mixed Tits, especially the Long-Tailed Tits.

The usual water birds are reported – thanks to Sue for the picture of the Heron. A Water Rail has been seen several times at the end of Burnside along Snakey Path (Holly).  Several folk had seen Kingfishers – Pam for the first time, in spite of living locally for 60 years! It was fishing alongside a Cormorant.

Martin reports a female Blackcap feeding on over-ripe grapes and rowan berries, while Clarke watched one eating mistletoe berries in the garden. He informed me that the BTO had recently drawn attention to a paper on blackcap migration, showing that the UK’s winter blackcaps (rather strangely) migrate in a northerly direction to come here for winter from central Europe, while the ones that breed here in summer head south for winter! It makes me wonder if they greet each other as they pass.  Our winter blackcaps have increased in recent decades and are very good at distributing mistletoe seeds.

Jean comments on the Buff-Tailed Bumble Bees which are still active. A queen (from a second brood) regularly visited her ‘Hot Lips’ Salvia until mid November. Steven Falk notes that “In some areas (especially southern cities) these queens give rise to a third winter-active generation that take advantage of winter-flowering shrubs”.  Most other invertebrates have retreated for the winter, though Paul continues to find new ones – his most recent tally is 503 insect species.

 Gleb saw a small Hedgehog off Church Street – possibly too small to survive the winter – they shouldn’t be out in November.  The Botanic Garden turned up a Water Vole scampering along at the edge of the lake, and a beautiful large Fox which strolled off across the lawns (Sam).

Maria was visited by a Muntjac Deer in her S. Cambridge garden.  She says, “We had just finished breakfast, when it wandered onto the patio, at one point coming right up to the door. It stayed for about 15 minutes investigating the bird food and nibbling a few plants before leaving by the steps to the main garden. There was a cat sitting on top of the steps and the deer calmly stepped over the it: neither seemed bothered, so I don’t know if they have met before!”  It certainly looks a bit skinny and under-fed.

PS I previously asked where to find red toadstools with white spots: Mark says “The reason we do not get Fly Agaric in Cambridge is that it is a strict calcifuge”. The Wildlife Trust says it occurs in Holme Fen and in beechwoods – both presumably acidic soil.

Olwen Williams                                  olwenw@gmail.

This could be the last …or almost the last! November 2020

A Woodcock erupted from cover in Logan’s Meadow on 2nd November and was the second record for the site (the first was a past record over the river nearby (Rob Pople)). There was a second, and quite remarkable, Woodcock record on 8th November when one was disturbed from an enclosed terraced garden in Petworth Street. The habitat is unusual but this is the second record from exactly the same location – the first was on 1st November 2017 (Salim Algailani). Coincident location and +/- dates suggest a returning bird to the same spot. (A similar record from Bishop’s Stortford – a Woodcock in a small garden of a terrace house on a new estate).

Feathers left behind by the Woodcock in Petworth St (Salim Algailani)

Single Kingfishers have been recorded from Logan’s Meadow, East Chesterton, and the Mill Pond through the month and Sparrow-hawks were hunting over residential parts of the City: Charles Street, Longworth Avenue, St Kilda Avenue, Cherry Hinton Road, Logan’s Meadow, Fishers Walk – Cherry Hinton and Gilbert Road/Stretton Avenue.

Tawny Owls have sounded an occasional presence near the top of Castle Hill. It’s a regular site but whether they stay to breed is uncertain as there are periods during the breeding season when they remain silent. A Little Egret was in the Weeping Willows of Logan’s Meadow on 5th November overlooking the “Tesco’s Bridge” and one was seen regularly on Coe Fen during the month.

Little Egret – Logan’s Meadow

Two Yellow-legged Gulls were at Hobson’s Park on 6th November. Also on the 6th November one of two squabbling Grey Herons landed in the middle of the road at Riverside causing cyclists to swerve round it and enabled passers-by to photograph it close-up!

My garden hedgehog weighed in at 978 gms so it is hibernation ready – any hogs less that 400 gms apparently need feeding! On 7th November a pair of Stonechats were on stubble and crop trash on the NIAB’s Trials Ground just within our project area. I suspect they may over-winter there if the crop residues and arable weeds remain and numbers of insects on which they feed are maintained. Stonechats on open arable farmland are unusual but there is now a trend for minimum tillage to improve soil health by allowing leguminous weeds to establish, fix and return nitrogen to the soil, encourage mycorrhizal associations and reduce carbon loss. A Red Kite passed over and Red Listed farmland species were present nearby: Skylarks, Yellowhammers and Meadow Pipits. Twenty-four Meadow Pipits were in a flock, next to the Histon Rd/Huntingdon Rd footpath on 30th November.

There is a regular evening flypast of Jackdaws going to roost over St Andrew’s recreation ground in Chesterton. They appear to be flying due north; my highest count is 326 and they are all coming from the south of the City – I suspect from Petersfield/Romsey Town (and beyond) where they nest in chimneys of the Victorian terraced houses. Jon Heath has counted c400 over Lovell Road which is due north from St Andrews Rec. and the feeling is they are heading to roost with the Rooks at the Cambridge Research Park off the A10 near Waterbeach.

At the same time as the Jackdaw passage 400+ (mainly) Black-headed Gulls pass over Chesterton going NNW (count on 16.11.20) probably heading to the roost at RSPB Fen Drayton.

On 9th November a Buzzard was sitting in a tree in Storey’s Way and Roger Horton tweeted that two Red Kites and a Buzzard were over his garden and Cherry Hinton Hall. A Buzzard over Fisher’s Walk, doctors’ surgery on 28th. Seventeen Fieldfares flew over Huntingdon Road on the 11th (my first in our study area this year) and a single Brambling flew over Nuttings Road on 14th (Iain Webb cbcwhats about.blogspot.com).

The daytime Cormorant roost on Riverside is active with up to eight individuals. Grey Wagtails are a recent addition to the Red List of birds. I’m surprised as I see or hear regular flyovers across the City often well away from the river. It has become much commoner in recent years and two were feeding on farmland on 7th near Darwin Green.

The release of 50+ million non-native game birds, Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges, for shoots has been questioned. I usually see native Grey Partridges on the chalky arable fields opposite the Beechwoods. Not on 18th November when I counted three coveys of Red-legs with a total of 22 birds. On the north side of the City I used to count two coveys of Greys but no longer – they too seem to have been replaced by Red-legs and the Greys are nowhere to be seen.

There was no mast in the Beechwoods so no feeding Bramblings or Chaffinches. Wintering Blackcaps have made their November arrival with a male in Lovell Road feeding on Cotoneaster berries, a female in Tenison Road feeding on Rowan berries and grapes and two males and a female in a garden near Histon Road feeding on Honeysuckle berries and Mahonia nectaries.

Peregrine(s?) have been seen in the City centre (no more sitting in Don Pasquale’s watching the Peregrine action from the Market Square as the café/restaurant has sadly closed for good) and one was round the Riverside chimney on 21st November. A Great White Egret was seen over the City on 22nd (James Littlewood, cbcwhatsabout.clogspot.com); on 23rd a Chiffchaff was in the All Saints Cemetery off Huntingdon Road.

Song Thrushes were singing in Chesterton at the end of the month. The next new record for our NatHistCam project area could be Glossy Ibis – birds have been seen at RSPB Ouse Fen and Fen Drayton in November.

Bob Jarman 30th November 2020

bobjarman99@btinternet.com

October 2020 Sightings

For once I am going to start with fungi. It has been a most magnificent year, especially for luxuriant Honey Fungus, though not good news for gardeners. Mark sent a photo of honey fungus attacking a Holm Oak, which later died. 

On Lammas Land, a full circle of Shaggy Parasols was enjoyed until a passer-by kicked it all down.  Our chairman, Mark Hill says, “Took enough home for two large helpings on buttered toast.  Yum, yum.  According to the WildfoodUK website ‘Shaggy Parasols can cause gastric upsets in about 1 in 25 people. If you are trying some for the first time, cook well and only try a small amount, wait 24 hours to see if there is a reaction.’  Clearly I did not do a trial.”  This ring surrounded a Cherry tree and perhaps was introduced on the rootball: a delightful fairy ring in municipal grass, thanks Stella.

The other really prolific family have been the Coprinus (Ink Caps), coming up in great swarms. Although they only last a couple of days before melting into an inky mess, they have been spectacular.  Meanwhile. Gleb found 3 White Star-fungus growing in the garden near the walls of the house and at the birch glade near the nursery at CMS, 3 Woolly Milkcaps – a birch specialist. Another birch specialist was the Birch Polypore on an old birch log in the Botanic Garden. This bracket is also known as Razor-strop Fungus, a reference to its old use in sharpening cut-throat razors.

David writes ‘Because it is so photogenic, a Fly Agaric which was in Knettishall Heath, Suffolk (but I know that’s too far away to include in your blog)’. Not at all – I wish I knew where they grew more locally – can anyone help?  Jill reports the (rather more edible!) Field Mushroom on Grantchester Meadows: thanks Jill, the soup was delicious.

Becky reports lots of Waxcaps at the Wildlife Trust BCN Trumpington Meadows – including Blackening Waxcaps (above) and Splendid Waxcaps. There are some exquisite tiny fungi – I am adding a group of photos, some from Coton (Jonathan) and some Paradise (Paul). The Mycena family are generally small and bell-shaped.

Jonathan reported a Myxomycete (Slime Mould) – Stemonitis fusca – which was remarkable in being pink when first seen, but turned claret within 1½hrs. These are not fungi : they have a fascinating life history in that they can live freely as single cells, but can also aggregate together to form multicellular reproductive structures, as in this picture.

Several reports of untimely flowering – at Trumpington Meadows, Richard found several Cowslips in flower and Jill reports Horse Chestnut trees flowering again on Victoria Avenue and at Pinehurst. Jonathan records Spiked Veronica (Veronica spicata) growing on the Eddington site.  It is native on Newmarket Heath but at Eddington probably came in as a seed contaminant in the wildflower mix sown.  It is not common in Eastern UK, but is the county flower of Montgomeryshire.

There have been no more snake sightings, but Jane found a Common Newt in the lavatory bowl of a little-used (though indoor) toilet in Blinco Grove and a Common Frog had taken up residence in a washing up bowl in my courtyard.

Badgers and Hedgehogs have been reported to co-exist at Jesus (Rhona) and Trumpington Meadows (Becky), admittedly over large areas. At Trumpington, there are more hedgehogs in the north near the houses and more badgers in the south nearer to Hauxton. Gleb reports hedgehogs from Church St. Mo’s Trumpington night camera showed a visiting fox, also a rat, mice, pigeons and grey squirrel.  Unfortunately nothing as welcome as a hedgehog, but also no badger this month.  Perhaps the rain means they no longer need to dig in soft flower beds.  Pipistrelle Bats were active at dusk along the Grantchester Meadows late in the month.

Birds: Jane noted a Grey Partridge in Blinco Grove, Holly comments on the 4 surviving Cygnets, now becoming independent in Cherry Hinton and Gleb reports Sparrowhawks in Gilbert Rd. In Newnham, Tawny Owls were calling (Jill) while the big flock of Rooks and Jackdaws give spectacular displays morning and evening.  Kingfishers in Cherry Hinton brook and Paradise indicate a continuing, though unobtrusive population. Parkside pool turned up a young Jay on the grass (Val), Ben reports a Red Kite over Logan’s Meadow and a Cormorant resting in the trees opposite the Technology Museum.  A tiny Goldcrest was found in Jesus College (Rhona).

Jeff says, “The ‘set-aside’ fields along the Grantchester Rd held up to 20 Corn Bunting, 40 Skylark & 70 Linnet, with fewer Yellowhammers, but still a good number of Grey Partridge, I think 24 was the max total.” He also noted a male Stonechat along Barton Rd.

A Red-Green Carpet Moth, 22-Spot Ladybird and a Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax)(Rhona) were among the invertebrates seen. (The Drone Fly is a convincing Drone Bee mimic, hence the name, but note the single pair of wings, large eyes and short antennae which distinguish Diptera from Hymenoptera.) Jeff also reported a male Southern Hawker Dragonfly at the Paradise pond on the 6th and also 3 Willow Emerald Damselfly, a tandem pair of Migrant Hawker, & numerous ovipositing Common Darters.

As we travel into winter, please keep your records coming.

Olwen Williams                      olwenw@gmail.com

I told you so! – October 2020

Easterly winds from across in the first and second weeks of the month brought in an exceptional number of far-eastern vagrants to the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts. Many more must have filtered inland, a Radde’s Warbler was a brilliant find in north Cambs (see below) but many more probably passed unnoticed and some even through our project area.

The 3rd October was the wettest day in the country since records began in 1891 with an average of 1.24” or 31.7 mm nationwide. It was ideal rare bird migration weather with a low pressure over eastern England and a high pressure on the continent. Sure enough exceptional numbers of Radde’s Warblers arrived (I did catch up with the one in the overgrown corner of Southwold’s campsite) and Dusky Warblers followed. A first for the County, Radde’s was found at Peakirk on 4th October. Then – perhaps the most sought-after autumn rarity showed – Red-flanked Bluetails along coastal Norfolk and the remarkable occurrence of the Rufous Bush Chat (Robin) (eastern race syriaca) that was mob-twitched* at Stiffkey.

These arrivals followed a period of NE winds from central Europe. Perhaps just as remarkable was the influx of Goldcrests that arrived overnight on 14th/15th October: 400+ were at Holme Bird Observatory (HBO) and I saw 100+ around Southwold town. A further arrival was recorded at HBO on 26th October. They were not just in the conifers; every Sycamore – with or without leaves – was alive with Goldcrests feeding desperately. I rarely see them in my garden but hear them daily in the Leylandii just 50 m away where they stay put; even isolated conifers in the city – Coldham’s Lane, Roseford Road, St Andrew’s cemetery in Chesterton – have their own “endemic” Goldcrests. At Southwold they were feeding almost exclusively in the Sycamores and occasionally on the ground for insects after their North Sea migration flight. They will filter inland. How this tiny bird – weighing just five to six grams – makes this migration over the North Sea and at night is quite remarkable.

Migration is not without fatalities. I saw a Starling pitch into the sea just 75 m from land and was swallowed whole, alive and flapping by a Great Black-backed Gull. An exhausted Fieldfare landed on the beach to be instantly chased as prey by a mob of gulls; it made it to safety.

There is an excellent article on the latest Bird Guides web site by Simon Gillings of the BTO about “noc-mig” – the night time recording of overflying migrants and the identification of species by their calls. Simon cites the Tree Pipit which is a county rarity but he has recorded it 29 times over Chesterton in the last three years. On 23rd October Simon recorded Hawfinch, Brambling and Lesser Redpoll over his Chesterton home (cbcwhatsabout.blogspot.com). (There is a very good web site – Xeno-Canto – with recording of bird calls and songs).

On 5th October Simon Gillings had a Gannet over Newmarket Road heading towards the City centre! and 12 Crossbills over Chesterton (cbcwhatsabout.blogspot.com). On 7th October a late Swallow was over Huntingdon Road and on 10th October Jon Heath photographed a fine male Hen Harrier over his house in north Cambridge.

I told you so! I expected that Great (White) Egret would be the next new bird (tick!) in our project area (blog September 2020) – sure enough Jon Heath recorded one flying over his north Cambridge garden on 15th October. Little Egrets** were seen at Hobson’s Park and Coe Fen during the month and one flew over Elizabeth Way on 29th heading towards the city centre.

Great White Egret

On 7th October the first few overwintering Black-headed Gulls were around Jesus Lock and by 22nd October numbers has increased to about 55; on the same day there were 100+ at Hobson’s Park. These appeared to have had a poor breeding season with only 2-3% first-year birds but the Black-headed Gulls at Milton Country Park numbered 55 with 9 first calendar year birds.

During the month Nuthatches were seen/heard in the Botanic Gardens, along “The Backs” and in Chaucer Road.

Water Voles were seen regularly at Logan’s Meadow and a Hedgehog is now regular into my small garden after I cut a gap in the base of my garden gate (for the cat!). The City Council have a project “Hedgehog Highway” that offers to cut access points for hedgehogs in enclosed gardens. On 23rd October about 20 Siskins were feeding in the Alders on Newnham Recreation Ground.

Coal Tits, like the Goldcrests stick to the nearby Leylandii and rarely make it into my garden; when they do its always single birds, a quick snatch of a sunflower seed then up and away back to the cover of the Leylandii. Two Red Kites were on the northern edge of our project area near Histon on 25th October and a Grey Heron was standing on the chimney pot of a three stores house on Mitcham’s Corner on 26th October! Two to three Buzzards were seen at Eddington throughout the month, one to two over the Milton/A14 roundabout and the Cormorants’ roost in Logan’s Meadow is active.

A red-head Goosander was at Milton Country Park on 28th October (Jon Heath).

*Twitching/to twitch/a twitch – travelling distance to see a new/rare bird – was a late 1960’s humorous turn-of-phrase. It originated in Norfolk from a birder called Dave? who exhibited a tweak/twitch in his cheek when told of a rare bird he had not seen! **In those days Little Egrets were twitched as exceptional rarities! Two London birders travelled to South Wales overnight from Cley, Norfolk on a Lambretta 175 scooter to “twitch” a Little Egret.

Grey Herons are becoming very confiding along the river.
(picture from a punt by Seun Oratokhai)

Bob Jarman 31st October 2020
bobjarman99@btinternet.com

Big migration time – September 2020

I never seem to get enough spare days to visit the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts during the autumn migration. This year is the same. On special days with northerly winds sweeping down the North Sea the skua migrations peak – I’ve missed the Long-tailed Skuas, (again!) caught the fringes of the Arctic and Great Skua (Bonxie) movements and may still catch the Pomarine Skua passage in October.

Big numbers of Arctic and Bonxies were seen heading south-west inland over Lynn Point/King’s Lynn on 25th September probably following the River Cam/Ouse valleys over the south of England at great height to eventually exit in the Bristol Channel. It’s a short cut route on their southerly autumn migration. In spring they have been seen flying north-east overland through the Great Glen short-cutting between the Atlantic and the North Sea on their way to their northern breeding grounds. Autumn skuas on the North Norfolk coast always seem to be flying west into the Wash not east to round East Anglia.

The dead Long-tailed Skua found last year along “The Backs” (probably brought down by a night-time Peregrine strike) is an example of this unseen overland sea-bird passage.

For me the second highlight are the autumn warblers especially seeing/finding Yellow-browed Warblers. They have become so frequent that they were unclassified as scarce migrants in 2017. With the Yellow-broweds will come other northern vagrants. Yellow-broweds have now become regular inland finds – two have been recorded in Cambrideshire already this autumn and one/two have been seen in our project area in autumn in the last few years. They seem to like sycamores and can be picked out by their penetrating distinctive call, a drawn-out “sooeeet“.

The third autumn passage highlight is new! It’s the overhead passage recorded on tape by Simon Gillings and Jon Heath in our project area of overflying night calls that are then identified to species and numbers of birds. Species recorded in August that are only rarely seen in our project area “on the ground” include Whimbrel and Grey Plover, Tree Pipit, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers.

The next night-time call we should all be hearing soon is the arrival of Redwings (the first in the County were recorded on the 27th).

Two groups of six plus eleven Common Buzzards were flying high in the thermals over the City on 6th Sept, on the same day at least two Chiffchaffs were in the Long-tailed Tit flock in Logan’s Meadow and two Water Voles were seen nearby. On 8th September at Hobson’s Park a Sedge Warbler was seen plus a singing Chiff and a Water Rail was heard and another seen. Chiffs were widespread across the City throughout the month. On 15th September a Whinchat was seen at Hobson’s (Ali Cooper, cbcwhatsabout.blogspot.com). Another singing Chiff was heard near Fen Ditton on 17th September and four House Martins were high over Eddington on 17th plus two confiding Buzzards.

Eddington is the best local site to see Buzzards, remarkable, considering they first returned to breed in Cambridgeshire in 1999 and are now common residents – probably our commonest raptor (good article by Brett Westwood on Buzzards in the August 2020 edition of British Wildlife magazine).

Water Voles at Logan’s Meadow (above)

The Bioblitz at the Botanic Garden on 19th produced 25 species of birds including a Nuthatch, two Grey Wagtails – one on the lily pond, the other a flyover – two Chiffs, a Sparrowhawk and a Jay peeling an apple! plus a late Swift on 17th during the bat search (Rhona Watson). Late September Swifts are rare. No Song Thrushes were recorded, where have they gone?

A Peregrine flew over Victoria Road Bridge on 25th and one was also seen over Castle Hill/Histon Road junction on the 26th. A Tawny Owl was hooting in trees near the doctors’ surgery at no1 Huntingdon Road throughout the month.

Two Crossbills flew over Trumpington Meadows on 22nd (Iain Webb, cbcwhatsabout.blogspot.com) and a Greenfinch was in my bird bath on 27th. Where have the Greenfinches and Song Thrushes gone? They were widespread in spring, located by singing territorial males but since then I have seen or heard very few of either species. I think it is predation of nests – eggs and chicks – by Grey Squirrels.

In contrast Long-tailed Tits are common and generate interesting multi-species bird activity in their roving feeding flocks. In Logan’s Meadow during the month I have seen Chiffs, (a Willow Warbler in August), Treecreeper, Great, Coal and Blue Tits, the occasional Goldcrest and even a Great-spotted Woodpecker swept along in the frenzy of the flock. It’s always worth looking through a flock of Long-tailed Tits. Last year at Paradise there was a Pallas’s Warbler in such a flock. Long-tailed Tits seem to have become commoner this year probably assisted by a mild winter and spring which helped over-winter survival.

At least 12 Meadow Pipits were at Hobson’s Park on 30th September and two Snipe were disturbed by the overhead air ambulance helicopter. Meadow Pipits have become Red Listed; they used to breed regularly on the NIAB’s Trials Ground, part of which is in our project area, but did not do so in 2019 and 2020.

There have been many reports across East Anglia this autumn of Great (White) Egrets in 1’s,2’s, 3’s and 4’s. It’s a bird of big open marshes and reedbeds and as big as a Grey Heron with a whopping long, often kinked, neck! Ten years ago, it was a rarity with occasional breeding in the Somerset Levels. It might show up soon at one of our open water sites: Trumpington Meadows/Hobson’s Park/Eddington/Cherry Hinton pits. Grey Herons along the City’s river banks have become very confiding. One catches fish at the end of a moored “Lets-go-Punting” punt by Jesus Green.

Bob Jarman 30th September 2020

bobjarman99@btinternet.com

September Sightings 2020

The best sighting of the month was undoubtedly Vic’s battered Swallowtail in Cherry Hinton, which nearly caused her to crash the van! (She assumed it was a migrant from a European population, though it might have been raised locally: Wicken Fen has tried to re-introduce them.)  I gather: “The British race is the subspecies Papilio machaon britannicus, which is confined to the fens of the Norfolk Broads. This is partly due to the distribution of the sole larval food plant, Milk-parsley. In some years, there are reports of the P.m. gorganus subspecies arriving from the continent. This is less fussy and will use many kinds of Umbellifer as the larval food plant.”

Other butterflies include Jeff’s Small Copper, Brimstone and Common Blue; Mary’s Speckled Wood, Guy’s Small Copper, Small Heath and probable Small Blue and best of all, Paul’s Clouded Yellow, the last few all being at Trumpington Meadows.

Dragons and Damsels are still around: Jeff reports a Brown Hawker and at least 3 Willow Emerald Damselflies at Paradise pond (also present along Jesus ditch). The Botanic Garden is a hotspot for Odonata and the pond is full of nymphs of different species. The most interesting find here was an Emperor Dragonfly nymph, with its black and white banding (Duncan).

The BioBlitz at the Botanic Gardens was a great success. Dr Lynn Dicks, a visiting researcher from UEA Department of Zoology, pointed out all the different bees and wasps to be found there.  Colletes hederae, the Ivy bee, were in the Systematic Beds, the females burrowing into the bare soil around the plants.  Though solitary nesters, they aggregate, nesting close together.  These bees first turned up in 2001 in the South of the UK and are now widespread.

A Grange Rd garden turned up a splendid but unwelcome Scarlet Lily Beetle and a splendid and most welcome Cream-spot Ladybird (Paul); also, a small Soldier fly – the Dull Four-Spined Legionnaire.  Sam reports  a Silver-Y Moth and there are increasing sightings of the dreaded Boxmoth: beautiful but deadly!  Better news was a Humming-bird Hawkmoth in Newnham (Pam).

Rhona (Jesus  College) is always on the lookout for something new: this month a very rare medium-sized Ground Bug Raglius acuminatus with striking red-brown and white markings on the forewings and rear third of the pronotum.  A couple of other bugs turned up: a Brassica Shiedbug Eurydema oleracea (nymph) and this bright coloured Cinnamon Bug which startled its host (Andrew).  Finally, Paul warns of the dangers of long grass, sending a picture of a Deer Tick before  a feed. Although tiny (2-3mm) they may transmit Lyme’s Disease. (This one was (out of our area) at Fulbourn Fen.)

Hirundines gradually reduced in numbers over the first half of the month. Swifts, always the first to go, were last seen on 4th, a few House Martins lingered until 10th and Swallows until 24th (Jeff).  Guy reports a Cetti’s Warbler in song and I heard Chiffchaff calling. This seems to happen in the autumn – are they looking for company for the voyage or (someone suggested) is it more to do with the day length being the same as spring? Jeff reports other migrants: 2 Whinchat, 10 Blackcaps, juvenile Lesser Whitethroats along Barton Rd and a couple of Willow Warblers.

Grantchester Rd fields seem to be a good place for Grey Partridges (20) and Jeff saw 80 Linnets there too. Guy noted 5 Gadwall, Great Crested Grebes and Tufted Ducks at Cherry Hinton Lakes.  There has been a gradual build-up of Rooks and Jackdaws in the tall trees of Paradise Island – always a sign of autumn for me.  St Luke’s Church has been a good spot for Peregrine watching: one harried a flock of pigeons for 5 minutes before effortlessly snatching one mid-air (Ben).  Holly’s list of 21 species in Cherry Hinton includes Greenfinches (returning after an absence of several years) and 6 out of 7 surviving Cygnets.  My local Swans (new parents) had only one, which has survived and lives with Mum, Dad seemingly bored with parental duties. At Jesus Lock, Rufus saw a young male Swan apparently deliberately slide down the weir! 

A few mammal reports: a Water Vole in the brook along “Snakey Path” (Holly), 3 Hares and a Stoat at Nine Wells LNR, a Weasel at Barnwell West and a Field Vole at Hobson’s Park (Guy). Jenny says, “Not an exotic visitor, but I now know who is ripping the heads off the sunflowers I leave to go to seed in the garden for the birds”.

Jonathan says, “Probably the most exciting Botanical find this month was in the River Cam along Stourbridge Common.”  There are two species of Water-milfoil that are commonly seen in Cambridgeshire.  The Whorled one, Myriophyllum verticillatum produces “turions”, vegetative growths that allow the plant to survive over winter, whilst the other does not.  Both are threatened species in Cambridgeshire.  Using a small fallen branch as an improvised fishing rod, he fished some out, finding some Water-milfoil with two large turions.  Why the excitement? – this plant hasn’t been reported in the NatHistCam area for over 100 years. 

Other Botanical highlights included Fox and Cubs Pilosella aurantiaca (Monica), the Small Teasel Dipsacus pilosus, and an alien Goosefoot Chenopodium gigantium on Empty Common (Liza).

Guy reports 3 Grass Snakes in the contractors yard at Hobson’s Park. Meanwhile, in Milton, Clarke has been adopted by one. At the end of July, he found it inside the ‘barn’ – it put on a ‘threatening’ display and hissed at him! A week later, a kerfuffle just outside the back door found the Snake on the patio chasing a Frog, which it caught and proceeded to eat over a period of 11 minutes. Later in September, he found it swimming in the small pond. At some points, there were almost daily sightings, though none now since 15th September 2020. He hopes it will return.

Another enchanting story: Gleb was visited by a Frog, which availed itself of the invitation of an open door, hopped inside and began climbing the staircase! Although escorted outdoors, it stayed put on the grass. A week or two later, it was again in the porch – looking rather menacing, with glowing white eyes.  (I told him he had missed the opportunity – he should have kissed the frog in order to turn him back into a handsome Prince.)

Olwen Williams     olwenw@gmail.com

Mostly birds – August 2020

I’m late with this blog. August is the peak of the wader migration and I have been waiting for the Cambridge Bird Club’s monthly report for August to see what has been recorded from nocturnal migration (“nocmig”) over the City in August. I’ll summarise records next month.

It’s been a good year …..for Swifts! I think it’s been a successful breeding season which means a good food supply for adults and young and access to nest sites. It was probably the many hot summer days that supported high flying insects, especially disbursing spiders. The 13th August was the sixth consecutive day with local temperatures over 34C. Perhaps it was me opening my green bin regularly and wafting the myriads of fruit flies skywards! Drosophila melanogaster – I remember those tortuous days at school mating various phenotypes of fruit flies and examining the progeny to build a genetic map of dominant and recessive traits. Thank goodness genetics can now be analysed by extracting DNA!

I think there were two main departure dates of Swifts from the City: the first on 27/28th July and a second on 4/5th August. But several remained over East and West Chesterton until the end of the month. The latest date was two over Victoria Avenue on 28th. In typical years August Swifts are uncommon. I suspect there was a late arrival of first year Swifts at the end of June; 17,500 were counted over the harbour at Southwold, Suffolk on 29th June. I think some of these birds returned to their natal site, ousting established incubating pairs and successfully rearing late broods that fledged in August.

A first year Marsh Harrier was over Oxford/Windsor Roads on 8th August. And a Barn Owl was roosting in a newly erected raptor nest box on the NIAB’s trials ground in our project area. A Little Egret was around Coe Fen throughout the month.

On 15th August there was a widespread arrival of Pied Flycatchers along the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts with 152 reported in Suffolk including 30 in the Southwold area. Few were recorded inland and the only local record was one at the Cambridge Research Park near Landbeach (Jon and David Heath) on 28th August outside our project area.

On August 24th a Chiffchaff was singing in a large garden in Huntingdon Road and in Logan’s Meadow on 24th August 3-4 Blackcaps were eating elder berries and a tit flock had 2-3 Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Treecreeper; nearby 2 Whitethroats and a Reed Warbler were in bushes around the stream. A tit flock hit my garden on 27th with at least one Chiff and a female Blackcap was eating my Honeysuckle berries on 28th. Chiffs were widespread across the City. It’s always worth looking through a Long-tailed Tit flock for other species carried along in the hullabaloo! A second? brood of Blackbirds were feeding on Rose hips and a flock of adult and juvenile Starlings were stripping a blackberry bush in Logan’s Meadow in late August.

On several late afternoons I’ve seen Water Voles along the edges of the pools in Logan’s Meadow. Each time they seem to become more confiding. Early one evening an adult Fox ducked back into the long grass – I was surprised to see a fox here during the day because of the number of off–the-lead dogs being walked. A young fox ran down Longworth Avenue into St Andrews Road in the (very!) early hours on 31st as a Tawny Owl was calling near the riverside boat houses.

The 1851 census (year of the Great Exhibition) was the first census to record that urban populations outnumbered rural populations. Towns and cities have become vital in our conservation of wildlife as draft papers to our project are demonstrating and our NatHistCam story will tell.

Bob Jarman 9th September 2020

bobjarman99@btinternet.com