February Sightings 2018

In N. Cambridge, the Toads are waking up and on 19th Feb were seen moving to the pond from gardens in Stanley Rd and Oyster Row, West Chesterton. I understand this to be a large pond, in the estate of what used to be a farm – does anyone know about this?

It is a wonderful time of year for mosses. However, on one outing in Paradise, we came across something which turned out to be not moss, but the Liverwort, Lophocholia heterophylla. This typically grows on damp logs and is one of 8 different different species of liverwort growing here.

     Lophocholia heterophylla

Paul Rule 

Meanwhile, in the Botanic Garden, with the help of a well-experienced ‘truffle dog’ called Lucy, researchers from Cambridge’s Department of Geography have begun to study the seasonal changes and productivity of the Burgundy Truffle. This fungus depends on tree roots and Lucy will help determine which trees support Burgundy truffles in the UK.

Black truffles


There have been a number of interesting bird sightings this month, in spite of the generally cold weather. On Jan 30th, Guy Belcher noted  6 Grey Partridges calling, beginning to pair up in the fields south of Addenbrookes, along the Shelford DNA route. In  Hobsons Park, 2 Corn Buntings were  holding territory, there were 10 Snipe on Pond 1 and 10 Skylark in full song. On Feb 1st, the Pitt Building Peregrines were seen mating on the clock tower over King’s College porters’ lodge, after which they flew to perch at the nest-site. All good news there!

                             Male bullfinch


A male Bullfinch was feeding on berries in Harvey Goodwin Avenue on 6th and 7th Feb. A Tawny Owl was heard calling in Newnham on 18th and in Highsett, there were regular sightings of a dozen or so Goldfinches high in the oriental planes and a pair of Long tailed Tits looking for a nesting site. In S. Cambridge, a Sparrow Hawk appears to have learnt where the bird feeders are located and has been seen several times flying low in a straight line over these, not yet successfully! Here, Coal Tits are nervously joining the blue and great tits feeding on sunflower seeds. On 24th, two Herons stood in the winter grass of the Trumpington estate, one attacking a meal, the other eyeing it from 100 yards off. A single Egret has often been seen this month by the brook on Sheep’s Green. The Red Kite seen at Duxford was out of our target area, but they seem to be getting ever nearer. Any sightings over the city yet?

The fields between the M11 and Grantchester Rd are full of Hares – up to 12 at a time, chasing and grazing the just-green crop. They may also be seen further afield, in the Fulbrook Rd and Pembroke allotments. Any in the NW of the city, or Fen Ditton fields?

Other mammal sightings include Muntjac in the Botanic Garden on 2 occasions and, on 21st Feb, a Fox crossing the road by Addenbrooke’s hospital roundabout, with what looked like a rabbit in its mouth.

On 17th, Girton College hosted the Cambridgeshire launch of Orchards East. (https://www.uea.ac.uk/orchards-east) This project aims to map, record and preserve all the old orchards that were once so common and which provided fruit and nuts for the local towns. I know of one at Laundry farm, but there must have been many more. Do you have old fruit trees in your garden? Were you and your neighbours once part of an orchard which has now disappeared? Please let us and them know. Old orchards host a huge variety of invertebrates and fungi, some unique to that habitat.

Finally, an update on the current Floating Pennywort removal project. The Cam Conservators together with the Environment Agency have launched a massive 5 year clearance operation, working from top downwards. They have already removed many tons of the stuff, but to keep it clear involves a lot of removal of overhanging vegetation, to eliminate residual pockets. In preparation for this, Cam Valley Forum and Cambridge Canoe Club have installed a chicane boom system, between the River Bank club and Grantchester Meadows, designed to catch any Floating Pennywort that is released during the treeworks, while still allowing river traffic to pass between them.

Grantchester Mill, before and after Floating Pennywort removal

Environment Agency

Olwen Williams