February Sightings 2022

The Botanic Garden turned up some spectacular orange fungus – either Orange Peel (Aleuria aurantia ) or Orange Cup Fungus (Melastiza cornubiensis) by the brook (Rhona). The latter was thought more likely at this time of year (Jonathan).

Orange Fungus Rhona Watson

Lots of bird reports!  On 7th Feb, in the late afternoon, I watched 14 Herons circling the field opposite Paradise, near to the Heronry which they had still not occupied. Now, how on earth did these birds all know this was the time and place to gather to find a mate and grab a nest site?  Since then, from 14th they have returned in ones and twos and are busy patching up the nests. The Rooks have gone, as have most of the jackdaws. The following day, in a rather adolescent squeaky voice, a male Tawny Owl sat high over the back path of Paradise, calling frequently.

Becky reports at least one pair of Stonechats overwintering at Trumpington Meadows and a female Pochard had been hanging around the pond all winter. 4 Mistle Thrushes were seen there recently, as well as Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Song Thrush all singing.  In Paradise, Siskins have enjoyed the alder catkins and Treecreepers were seen. A couple of Nuthatches were spotted on a large Lime tree at Clare College, hopefully a breeding pair (Kate).

Female Pochard Paul Wyer

More exotic, 5th February about 10 am Martin saw a juvenile Gannet flying over the city, heading west and guessed the stormy weather must have pushed it inland.  A White Tailed Eagle appeared around 13/14th in Harston, again possibly derailed by the weather and was then seen being mobbed in the city near Victoria Rd (Clare).  Then a pair of Ravens appeared by the entrance to the Cambridge Crematorium – how appropriate! (Bob) (Apparently 44 were counted near a deer corpse in the south of the county, so it’s good to see them returning to our area.)

Blackbird on Crab Apples Pam Gatrell

Jesus still had ~40 Redwings well into February (Rhona), but other species were getting on with spring business: Buzzards displaying (Bob),  a Sparrow Hawk plucking a Chaffinch from the roof (Ionathan).  The Big Farm Bird Count (BFBC) between Huntingdon Rd/Histon Rd footpath and Girton on 17/2 produced 40 Skylarks, 20 Yellowhammers; 4 Grey Partridges and a male Stonechat. There was a Brambling in Logan’s Meadow (Ionathan).

At Hobson’s Park, many thanks to Guy Belcher and his teams, who have cleared the Tern nest rafts of overgrown vegetation. This hopefully will encourage Common Terns to return and breed.

Several people sent pictures of the FrogFest opposite Vie flats near Logan’s Meadow. Ionathan witnessed the spawning of about 60 Frogs with considerable croaking noises to match.

By mid-February, the trees were beginning to come into leaf and the Cherry Plum flowering well. The Coltsfoot along Snakey Path was just about to come into flower, though the individual stems were quite hard to spot until they did (Monica).  Insect life was also beginning to appear: an Early Bumble Bee on Aconite flowers (Pam), a Buff Tailed Bumble Bee on a Plane tree at Churchill College (John), a first Tortoiseshell Butterfly (Eve), several Butterflies and a first Hairy-footed Flower Bee of the year at Jesus (Rhona).

Rhona also found larvae of the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner, the moth Cameraria ohridella. The adult moths are tiny (4-5mm in length), a rich brown colour with bright white chevrons edged with black. In early summer, the adult female lays up to 180 eggs on newly opened leaves. Larvae then burrow into the leaves, causing premature browning and leaf fall. In order to restrict re-infestation, all dead leaves should be gathered up and burned, to get rid of the hibernating larvae.

Finally, the good news of fresh Otter spraint often found along the river bank and near the pond at Trumpington Meadow (Becky).

Olwen Williams olwenw@gmail.com

P.S. The publication of our Nature in Cambridge book is due about May and I will make sure you are informed when and where to get it.