As we begin to emerge from a year in lockdown due to the Covid19 pandemic and creep slowly into spring, March 2nd seems to have been a significant turning point. On that day, Ralph reports, “A tiny but indubitable Cowslip, out, in Trumpington Meadows”; Paul says, “Despite the drop in temperatures, the first Frogspawn was laid in the pond”; Ben saw his first Hairy-footed Flower Bee of the year in Arbury; Jeff heard a Blackcap in sub-song in Paradise and I heard a Chiffchaff on Grantchester Meadows.
With the gradual exodus of Fieldfare (last reported on 5th Jeff) and Redwing (reported 13th Sheila and last seen 22nd Rhona) come the summer exchanges: abundant Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps (Clarke, Eve, Holly), Wheatear (a passage migrant) (Bob, Jeff), the first Hobby and three Sand Martins at Washpit Lake in Eddington (Bob). Martin noted 2/3 Cetti’s Warblers singing at Wilbraham Fen.
Mary reported a Red Kite quartering Parker’s Piece and Anna saw two Buzzards mobbing another in Chesterton, so, as predicted, they are becoming a common sight in the city. Larger and more spectacular were a pair of circling Cranes on 17th (Martin). The Peregrines are continuing their City residency (Jeff, Gleb). Tawny owls were reported from Cherry Hinton (Ralph) and Logan’s Meadow (Gleb). A pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were noisily displaying in Mill Rd (Jeff) while David had a Jay outside the study window – an added attraction of working from home, he says! Martin noted 2 Marsh Harriers. Holly reports a brief visit from two Common Scoters at Cherry Hinton as well as the Egyptian Geese there.
LESS USUAL SMALLER BIRDS
There seems to be an abundance of Skylarks this year (Ben, Jenny, Jeff). Grey Wagtails are also doing well (Vicky, Paul). Ionathan reports that the Black Redstart has found a mate and is now courting her. Ralph comments on the now unusual sound of a singing Chaffinch in Cherry Hinton. At the beginning of the month, Jill saw a pair of Serin on alder trees in Paradise. A singing Mistle Thrush near Paradise pond, about 20 Linnets gleaning in a fallow field (Jeff) and Siskin reported from Paradise (Jeff, Bob) confirm Newnham as a splendid bird watching area. To my delight, Greenfinches and Goldfinches have returned here too. However, Jean warns of the dangers of Trichomonas gallinae, which is fatal for so many birds in the UK, and the need to disinfect bird feeders regularly. (If you were to plot the amount of bird food bought for wild birds in the UK against the numbers of native birds, you could be forgiven for wondering whether bird food was actually responsible for the decline…)
But for pure enjoyment, birds are hard to beat. Kingfishers along the Cam between the Elizabeth and Green Dragon Bridges (June), Red-legged Partridge and a Hen Pheasant in a Blinco garden (Jane), five happy young Sparrows having a whale of a time splashing and bathing together (Alec) and 8 Peacocks flying round Jesus College (Rhona). (But did she actually mean butterflies?)
A couple of nice fat caterpillars were reported: a bright green one overwintering in a greenhouse belonged to an Angle Shade Moth (DavidR) and Tom found another very large one under old bark in Paradise – a Leopard Moth.
Rhona’s Ladybird tally was increased by a Cream-spot and two 10-spot ladybirds. She also found a variety of bees: Andrena bicolor (Gwynne’s mining bee), Mellecta albifrons (Common Mourning bee) Osmia bicornis and a Bombus lapidarius queen. Brimstone and Peacock Butterflies are now abundant (Suki, Jeff) and also the first Small Tortoiseshells were seen (Jeff).
Bill Mansfield (County Moth Recorder) found two of the micromoth Pamme giganteana in Jesus on oak. This is a moth formally considered scarce, but now that a pheromone lure has been released, it is evidently not so uncommon.
Ionathan garden bioblitz turned up a Damsel bug in the garden. See https://www.britishbugs.org.uk/heteroptera/Nabidae/himacerus_mirmicoides.html a Polydesmid millipede and also a tiny Ladybird: the Four-spotted Nephus, Nephus quadrimaculatus.
Eve’s Frogs have been and gone (fewer than last year) leaving several floating batches of spawn. She was then visited by a heron who had a frog-fest. Tanya writes, “ Here’s a grass snake enjoying a warm day at the Botanic Gardens on 31 March 2021”.
Ionathan cleared a small patch of ground in the summer to see what would colonise it. Along with the Dead Nettles, Violets, Daisies and Dandelions, he found a small Pansy – possibly a cultivar, possibly wild. Jo reports “Violets! Viola odora everywhere in everyone’s lawn and on banks and under trees everywhere in all colours.”
Both Butterbur and its cousin, Coltsfoot are in flower this month (Paul).
Lesley comments on the Black Squirrel population in north Cambridge. A good number of Brown Hares are active between Newnham and Grantchester (Jeff, Jill). Rhona noted a Bank Vole in February and Water Voles are also becoming active, with sightings in Snob’s Brook (Lammas Land) (Paul), Botanic Garden (Stuart) and in the Cam below the city (Anna). All good news: hibernation is over for them (and us?) this year.
Olwen Williams email@example.com