As I cycled through Grantchester Meadows after dark on 8th Jan, I was accompanied by Bats, which were chasing the Moths circling in my bike light. Everywhere, everything is early. There were several reports of Buff-tailed Bumble Bees before 29th Jan (they are always the earliest to emerge) (Pam, Olwen, Paul, Rhona). Rhona also sent pix of an Angle Shades Moth caterpillar, which pupated on 20th Jan.
An Episyrphus balteatus Marmalade Hoverfly on Winter Aconite, a Common Green Sheildbug in its winter ‘brown’ colour and an Irish Yellow Slug (aka Green Cellar Slug) complete Rhona’s invertebrate haul. She recommends the slug survey and identification guide https://www.rhs.org.uk/slugssurvey.
A very mild January has seen a return of Grey Herons to the heronry in Paradise Island, the first visitor on 8th. By the end of the month, there were several sightings each day of birds returning with sticks to patch up the nests, a month earlier than 2019. The Rooks and Jackdaws are still around, but in smaller numbers and soon they will return to their nesting sites. Bird song has ramped up through the month: Green Woodpecker, Dunnock, Stock Dove, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Goldfinch, a solitary Greenfinch, a rather tentative Blackbird, Robin, Collared Dove and numerous Song Thrushes locally in Newnham. Add into this the drumming of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and you could be forgiven for thinking it was March!
Treecreepers were seen in Jesus College (Rhona) and also a pair along the Grantchester Meadows path (Penelope). At the Newnham Riverbank Club, Ted and John saw 3 Snipe and a Woodcock rise on the opposite bank during a pheasant shoot. This land has become a wetland and Lapwing are seen there in the spring. In the field above the Meadows on Jan 29th, 4 Skylarks were seen, one singing and two others having an aerial scrap. Cormorants are seen frequently on this stretch of the river.
Val reports Long Tailed Tits at the feeder, a Jay and also a large Brown Rat which had somehow squeezed its enormous bulk inside the domed cage over the seeds. In CB1, Sandra had a couple of Jays feeding on mealworms and in Highsett more Long Tailed Tits were reported by Mary. There was a Mistle Thrush in Jesus and another in Newnham in December (Ted) – they are not common, so it is nice to get these reports. Jesus College also hosted a flock of about 20 Redwings recently. Rhona found a Coral Fungus (Ramaria species) and at Murray Edwards College, an Earth Star caused excitement (Jo).
Sarah send this picture of a Muntjac strolling along the King’s Backs on Jan 14th , while Rachel’s newly planted plants were systematically demolished by one in a Grange Road garden. These guys are a real menace, both to gardeners and particularly to woodland. They are so immune to danger that they no longer bother to be nocturnal. Breeding is currently unchecked by colder winters, they can breed year round and numbers have rocketed in the last decade. Venison, anyone?
On Jan 11th at 4pm, I listened to a Song Thrush singing in an ash tree above a field of cabbages by Grantchester Meadows for at least 20-30 minutes, into almost darkness. I was reminded of Hardy’s Poem, written at the end of the 19th century and I echo its final hope for 2020. Perhaps we can turn those cabbages into woodland for him.
The Darkling Thrush By Thomas Hardy
I leant upon a coppice gate when Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate the weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh had sought their household fires.
The land’s sharp features seemed to be the Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy, the wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among the bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small, in blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through his happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew and I was unaware.
Olwen Williams firstname.lastname@example.org