Many birders reported a poor arrival of Swallows this year. I have seen very few in our project area – an early bird over my house on 10th April, the pair that regularly breeds under the A14 bridge near Horningsea arrived, a family group were feeding over Hobson’s Park on 21st July, and about 20 birds including young were seen over the horse paddocks at the Vet School off Madingley Road on 29th July; hopefully they bred in the stables.
Until last year I made an annual July visit to Athy, a small agricultural town in Eire and there all three species of hirundines were abundant. The theory is they have moved north and west away from intensive agriculture in southern England where our insect bio-fauna is much diminished by agrochemicals.
Lesser-black backed Gulls are regular flyovers to roost at the Cambridge Research Park off the A10, I suspect. They are regular over the riverside commons – they have either finished breeding and are on a return migration or non-breeding adults looking for easy pickings! An early returning Common Gull was over the A14 on 4th July.
The river has been remarkably clear and free of the mud/silt brought up by punting? – punting recommenced on 4th July. A Common Buzzard regularly watches the traffic from the street lamps at the A14 roundabout near Milton, Nuthatches were reported from King’s Fellows Garden on 7th July and there have been widespread reports of flyover Siskins and Crossbills from the beginning of the month across the county including two Crossbills and a Siskin over north Chesterton on 18th July (Jon Heath www.cbcwhatsabout.blogspot.com). A Whimbrel was over Chesterton on 8th July (Simon Gillings www.cbcwhatsabout.blogspot.com), Jays have been seen commonly all month and likewise Peregrines, which can often be seen on King’s College chapel spires. I’m sorry Don Pasquale’s on the Market Square has closed as it was an ideal coffee stop and Peregrine watch point. An adult Peregrine with accompanying juvenile were over Castle Hill/Histon Road on 26th.
I noticed a hay field near the Schlumberger building on the 12th July, which had been cut – I don’t recall a hay field in our project area before! Silver-washed Fritillaries were in a garden in Chesterton Road on 12th July and a pair of Muntjac were feeding on windfall apples in a large garden in Huntingdon Road on the 13th.
St Regis House in Chesterton Road which was demolished in 2018/2019 and had a significant colony of nesting Swifts has been rebuilt, the Swift nest holes have been reinstated and a splendid motif of Swifts decorates the front of the building – well played Clare College!
Common Terns have been were seen irregularly from Riverside to Magdalene Bridge during the month. At least two Reed Warblers were still singing at Eddington on 15th July (what are the contractors doing to the lake at Eddington?); two male Blackcaps seemed to be feeding the same brood on 21st July at Paradise Nature Reserve and across the river one of the fledged Kestrels appeared to fall out of the nest but managed to scramble onto a perch! On the same day an adult Little Egret, in full breeding plumage, was feeding on Coe Fen.
The City Council and Countryside Properties have enhanced the nature reserve at Hobson’s Park with two excellent display boards describing the wildlife that can be seen at the site. Breeding Corn Buntings have been disappointing at Hobson’s Park this year; I suspect dogs have disturbed this ground nesting species.
Three to four Blackcaps and a Chiff have been singing in Logan’s Meadow and copse all month and on 21st June a Spotted Flycatcher was reported along Hobson’s Brook just beyond the Empty Common allotments. On 21st June the Black-headed Gull colony at Hobson’s Park had almost gone with about 20 adults and still some downy chicks remaining; a Little Egret was also present; ditto on 23rd July. On the evenings of the 22nd to 25th July there were spectacular displays of screaming flocks of Swifts over the city. I think half the City’s population left on 26th to 27th and I think there was another major departure on the 31st July but good numbers remained into August.
I’m intrigued by the Bracken that grows in the corner of St Andrew’s Church cemetery in Chesterton. It’s the only plot of Bracken I know in our project area but there is a small front garden in Montague Road about 400m away that is full of Bracken. Is there a sub-terranean seam of acidic soil that breaks the surface at these two points?
In my June blog I mentioned the abundance of Woodpigeons in the City. Stock Doves (Stock Pigeons) are also an under recognised and appreciated species in the bird landscape of cities. All of our large church cemeteries and heavily wooded gardens have nesting pairs. They are a hole nesting species. It too has benefited from Winter Oilseed Rape as an autumn and early winter food source. They are mostly seen in pairs or small groups but I have seen a flock of 100+ on farmland in the north of our project area and 40+ at Hobson’s Park.
A Water Vole was seen at Logan’s Meadow on 30th and two on 31st. Duncan McKay reports a Southern Migrant Hawker dragonfly for the second year running at Ditton Meadows. This species is expanding its range since its discovery in Essex in the early 2000’s. On 31st July the UK recorded its third highest recorded temperatures of 37ºC on the day when the Met Office confirmed 2019 as the hottest year on record and that climate change is driving these record temperatures.
Bob Jarman 31st July 2020. firstname.lastname@example.org