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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org