March sightings 2022

Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of The Nature of Cambridge – the book which is the result of our NatHistCam collaboration over the last 5 years.

March has been really interesting month!

After years of decline, Frogs are having something of a come-back. Logan’s Meadow was a hot spot, as reported last month (Bob says, “Never seen frogs like that before!”).

Christine in Wordsworth Grove was disappointed by the small frog turn out (possibly due to a grass snake having taken up residence on the small garden pond). However, she noted one clump of spawn was white, thought to be from an albino female.  

The white eggs were very much slower than their black cousins to develop and hatch, even though laid on the same night. Most of them eventually hatched and had no black skin melanophores, but they had pigmented eyes, so it is likely the male was normally pigmented, Many were abnormal and had kinks in their tails.  No sign of the white female – perhaps the grass snake got her!

The next special was Rhona’s Dotted Bee-fly, Bombylius discolor from the Botanic Garden. It had not been recorded in Cambridge for 120 years.  It is similar to the much commoner Dark-edged Bee-fly, but the wings have black dots all over. The UK distribution shows it to be an insect of South and Central England, possibly creeping north now.

Paul reports a Cuckoo Bumblebee Bombus vestalis in the Botanic Garden – a parasite of Buff-tailed Bumblebees, hence the close mimicry.  Also Tawny Mining Bee Andrena fulva and Chocolate Mining Bee Andrena scotica, which was a new garden record, bringing his total species number to 938. (We have some Champagne on order for when it reaches 1,000.) Rhona found Grey-patched Mining Bee Andrena nitida and Common Mourning Bee Melecta albifrons and lots of Hairy-footed Flower Bees Anthophora plumipes.

Lots of Butterflies and Moths are also emerging.  Paul finally managed to attract a male Emperor Moth to a lure, but it refused to settle, so no photo! A lovely Brindled Beauty was added to the garden list. Aglaostigma aucupariae Sawflies, whose larvae feed on bedstraws, were noted at Jesus and in Paradise. 

Paul also found a cute Owl Midge Boreoclytocerus ocellaris, along with a Black Snail Beetle Silpha atrata, a tiny Moss Chrysalis Snail Pupilla muscoru and another previously overlooked micro-snail, the 2.5mm Ribbed Glass Snail Vallonia costata.  Finally, he turned up Pogonognathellus longicornis, our largest springtail whose antennae are longer than the head and body combined (and even longer than its name!).  Amazing what you find when you start turning over logs.

Paradise has larger species too – a Stoat emerged briefly (Anita) and Water Voles continue to spread along the river bank. Rhona spotted four Bank Voles at Jesus.

There is the general impression (Bob, Olwen, Ionathan) that Great Spotted Woodpecker numbers are down.  However, Newnham’s small nature reserve of Paradise has made up for that with a Chiffchaff on Mar 3rd, a Blackbird in full song on Mar 2nd, a Treecreeper, a Mistle Thrush in song, and both Blackcap and Garden Warbler song.  Pam was delighted by a return of House Sparrows to Owlstone Rd – in the garden for the first time for over 20 years. Sue saw a Bullfinch in the Cenacle. Being on the edge of the city, Newnham has garden, field and river species. A Reed Bunting cock was seen in Skaters’ Meadow, along with a couple of Snipe and Barn Owls are occasionally sighted there. The Herons have returned to the tall trees by the river, the Rooks having departed to their rookeries. Cormorants and Kingfishers regularly use the river as a flyway. A weekly survey done over breakfast through Feb and March produced an average of 14 species and a total of 22 (Olwen).  

Danish Scurvy Grass Paul Rule

A Tawny Owlet was seen in Jesus (Rhona) and a Bramling at Logan’s Meadow (Bob). There was a big influx of Chiffchaffs to the Science Park on 24th March (Duncan).

I leave you with a picture of Danish Scurvy Grass, which is in flower on many road verges. Enjoy the spring!

Olwen Williams