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