November 2021 sightings

Up to storm Arwen (“worst storm in last 20 years”) at the end of the month, November 2021 was the driest November on record. The first frost was on 2nd  but the rest of the month was very warm.

A few invertebrates linger on. Several people reported Darters (both Common and Ruddy) (Mo, Jeff, Ben) and there were also butterflies – a Red Admiral at Trumpington Meadows (Rose) and several species at Jesus College (Rhona).

Monica had a bee land on her leg on 17th November when sitting in the conservatory. It was identified as a Drone Honey Bee, thought to have been evicted from the hive by the workers and unable to mate. Lesley asked what this spider might be – Spotted in Norfolk Street among dead autumn leaves.  It’s one of the few I can recognise instantly from the white cross on its back:- a Garden Spider, Araneus diadematusIt looks a rather healthier specimen than the one in my October blog (http://www.nathistcam.org.uk/october-2021-sightings/). 

I have seen hardly any birds around the house, except for the large flocks of Rooks and Jackdaws, and some Starlings. In Grange Rd, the only birds Jean had seen frequently this year were Jackdaws and Magpies, rarely a Robin and once a Blackbird.  There had been no Tits (Great, Coal, Blue, Long-tailed), Finches (Gold, Chaffinch, Green), Pigeons or Dunnocks. This seems a catastrophic decline in Newnham, no idea why.  I keep hoping that the warm weather has kept them in the countryside and that they will reappear. Cathy reports both a female and a male Blackcap on the Callicarpa berries in the garden and Bob found more off Huntingdon Rd on Honeysuckle berries and Mistletoe, with one in Mill Rd Cemetery.

The bird of the month was the Great Grey Shrike which turned up at Comberton (out of our area) – to Gleb’s great excitement.   Two Mistle Thrushes were seen in trees over Chesterton Road gardens (Pat) and several people reported Jays (Val, Eve) while three fledged from Jesus College this year (Rhona). Jeff reports up to 35 Pied Wagtails in horse paddocks near Grantchester Church.

Stonechat Bob Jarman

We have an overlap of summer visitors, not yet departed (Chiffchaff up to 18th) (Jeff) and winter visitors, with a big influx of Winter Thrushes especially Redwings over the City on 5th (Bob).  Jeff also reports 11 Siskin perched above the Paradise pond – they love the Alder catkins in this reserve. A Green Sandpiper was seen at Eddington and a Woodcock noted over Huntingdon Rd on 17th. (Bob says to look out for these in gardens during cold weather). Stonechats were seen throughout the month at Hobson’s Park and a pair at Eddington. On 14th  Nov, there was a covey of 11 Grey Partridges near the Histon Rd/Huntingdon Rd footpath (Bob).

Lots of water birds are around. The Botanic Gardens hosts Little Grebes, very much at home and feeding successfully on what appear to be very small fish (Vicky). Grey Wagtails (Rhona), Kingfisher (Mo), Little Egrets (Holly), Heron (Rose) were reported from various parts of our area. In Paradise, Janet spotted a female Goosander on the pond and Bob confirms there have been several other sightings. Up to nine Cormorants collect at the Riverside daytime roost and are often seen flying over. A first winter male Goldeneye was seen at Milton Country Park.

Holly has been amused to witness a pair of Swans on the Brook near Cherry Hinton Hall, trying to get rid of their juvenile who is still hanging around. The pair breed on the chalk pit lakes and use the Brook to go up and down to the ponds in Cherry Hinton Hall.

Chesterton Nature Explorers did Barn Owl pellet dissection with Peter Pilbeam from the Cambridgeshire Mammal Society. Amongst the voles and mice bones he identified a mysterious ‘hand’…. that of a Mole! He’d never seen a mole in an owl pellet before. The photo shows the forearm, with the extra digit, looking like a big canine tooth (Ben).  Judging by the number of mole hills, they are very active just now.

There were lots of reports of foxes this month (Mary, Rhona, Gleb, Jean) and also Grey Squirrels (Jean, Monica). One very tame fox is now to be seen regularly at the Botanic Garden, appearing to be totally unconcerned about the proximity of people (Vicky).

Peeling Oysterling or Soft Slipper Toadstool Lottie Collis

Finally, a Peeling Oysterling or Soft Slipper Toadstool,  Crepidotus mollis on dead wood at Newnham College.  Nature Spot describes Crepidotus mollis as a fan-shaped fungus, with a cap cuticle (skin) that readily peels away from the flesh. The skin is rubbery and transparent and can be stretched to at least double its length before it tears. Thanks Lottie for that one – quite new to me.

Olwen Williams                                  olwenw@gmail.com