Wednesday, 4 December 2019

ANW November Members Meeting - Photo-Identification Quiz

At the November meeting, Abington NatureWatch members tested their identification skills against twenty-two photo-ID questions, which drew inspiration from photographs or articles posted on the ANW Blog this year.

For those who would like to test their knowledge (or that of their family and friends), the quiz photo-questions can be downloaded here QUIZ, and a version with answers here ANSWERS.

Nov 2019. Interesting sightings around the Abingtons

November 2019
Amphibians and Reptiles
No sightings reported this month. 

Kingfisher – single bird seen around 1-2 ponds along Chalky Road in early November.
Bullfinch – pair feeding on fruits along Old Railway Cutting.
Goldfinch - (10-12) regularly on feeders, with a few Chaffinch and occasionally 1-2 Greenfinch.  Good numbers of Blue Tit (15-20 in one report) and Great Tit, with a few Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tit also regularly seen.  Mixed Tit flocks also in Lagden’s Grove and Sluice Wood, including an occasional Goldcrest.
Sparrowhawk – many sightings from around the village, mostly attracted to flocks of small birds on garden feeders.
Red Kite – two reports of a bird over Sluice Wood, and a Buzzard regularly around Cook’s Meadow.
Tawny Owl – several reports of calling around Abington Wood, especially earlier in the month.
Redwing – c12 feeding on haws in Cook’s Meadow, up to c40 in Yew trees around Abington Hall, and a single bird in Cambridge Road garden.
Fieldfare – flock of c30 over Granta Park (9th), 8 flying over LSA, and 2 over great Abington.
Mistle Thrush – loud rattling alarm call heard from two on Chalky Road.
Song Thrush – 1-2 on Granta Park in amongst Redwing flock, so presumably also migrants.
Blackcap – over-wintering bird along Old Railway Cutting (9th)
Meadow Pipit – three on rough scrubby grassland on Granta Park (8th).
Grey Wagtail – single bird on leaf rafts downstream of sluice (6th).
Pied Wagtail – pair on the school roof, and a flock c15 feeding on Granta Park cricket green.
Great Spotted Woodpecker – regularly on Granta Park, and reported at several garden feeders.
Green Woodpecker – 1-2 on several garden lawns, and on Granta Park.
Nuthatch – one in fine breeding plumage on a garden feeder on the High Street.
Jay – 1-2 being seen again collecting food in several gardens, and in oak trees on Granta Park.
Barnacle Goose – flock of seven regularly on Granta Park until 20th.
Grey Heron – 1-3 in river around the sluice and in adjacent fields, and around Granta Park lake.
Lesser Black-backed Gull – large flock feeding in fields near A11. Great Black-backed Gull and Black-headed Gull in smaller numbers flying over Granta Park, especially in early morning. Large flock of c500 mostly Herring Gull seen wheeling high over Perse playing fields (25th).
Red-legged Partridge – around 20 in field near Old Railway Cutting.  Pheasant – a few starting to come into gardens.

Butterflies, Bees and other insects
A very quiet month due to the large number of wet days and some very cold nights. Only eight reports in the month, exactly the same number as last year.
Butterflies – two Red Admiral, one Comma and one Brimstone.
Bees - four bumblebees, the last on Mahonia in a short spell of sunshine on 24th.

Bat – late in the year, reported on 1st over gardens on Cambridge Road.
Badger – three or four on the track near Abington Park Farm, at night.
Roe Deer – adult and foal seen along Pampisford Road.
Fallow Deer – seven young deer at top of Chalky Road.
Grey Squirrel – more commonly in gardens again now, across the village.
Fox – young fox found in Granta Park lake, apparently having drowned.

Peter B attended very useful Riverfly refresher course at Babraham. 
Concerns regarding the ecological health of the River Cam, or lack of it, were expressed in the Cambridge Evening News (link to article).

Rainfall for November was 55.5mm.  Minimum temperature of minus 5.2ºC, with a high of 15.5ºC at the beginning of the month.

Many thanks to all those who contributed reports of their sightings for November 2019:
Darren Bast, Barry Brooks, Peter Brunning, Mike and Lois Bull, Peter Dawson, Anne Dunbar-Nobes, David Farrant, Gaynor Farrant, Robin Harman, Ros Hedge, Jennifer Hirsh, Andy Merryweather, Mr & Mrs Murphy, Brian Parris, Gareth Rees, Gill Smith, Derek Turnidge, Sally Turnidge,

Please email your sightings, within the Abington parishes, to the relevant ANW Recorder:
Amphibians and reptiles: Anne Dunbar Nobes
Birds:                               Derek Turnidge     
Butterflies, Bees etc:       Jennifer Hirsh        
Mammals:                        Gill Smith              
Flora:   Currently vacant - if interested, please contact David Farrant for more details.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Interesting Milkcap toadstool

At the ANW meeting, Carole M brought in an interesting toadstool from her garden. Growing through gravel under a birch tree, and amongst the fallen leaves, it seemed likely this was a type of Milkcap or Lactarius toadstool.  The cap was about 8-10cm across.

Spore-print showing brown spores

A Wintry Walk around Granta Park

A few photos from Andy M's wintry walks around Granta Park this week.  The frosty nights were certainly bringing the leaves down, and in the quiet stillness of the early morning, you could hear the leaves gently falling!

 Frosty thistles by the river

 Frost on Cow Parsley seedheads

Autumnal Oak leaf colours

 A carpet of red, orange and yellow sycamore leaves

 Leaf rafts covering the slow moving river

Mallard on the lake

 Barnacle Goose 'lawnmowers' in the early morning

 A Grey Heron, hunched up against the cold

 Fabulous patterns in dead bark made by the Bark Beetle


 'Wood Ear' or 'Jelly Ear' fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae)

 Pink-orange bracket fungus on a dead oak (species unknown)

A watchful Owl carved in situ from a standing tree-stump

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Early morning walk along the Old Railway Cutting

Last weekend, Andy M took a walk along the Old Railway Cutting in the early morning mist, just as the rising sun was starting to melt the frost. All nature was stirring, and the colours were fabulous.

Mist over Abington village

Hazy trees on the horizon

Low misty light on the frosty wheat

Frost on a thistle

 A covey of Red-legged Partridge setting out for the day!

Two male Pheasant squaring up for the fight



Common Buckthorn berries catching the dew

 Common Buckthorn berries

 A Buzzard waiting patiently for some warm air

 Male Chaffinch 

Female Blackbird feeding on the berries

An inquisitive rabbit 

Female Bullfinch feeding on Hawthorn berries

 ... and showing the distinctive white rump in flight.

Old Man's Beard
 Old Man's Beard

 Bright Bramble thorns catch the light

Sycamore leaves

 Yellow Ash leaves just about to fall


Thursday, 7 November 2019

Male Sparrowhawk at the feeders

First thing this morning, in the drizzle and the murk, Andy M noticed that the garden feeders were unusually quiet.  Looking across the road, the reason became apparent - a male Sparrowhawk, in lovely richly-coloured plumage, was playing the watchful waiting game in a tree near the feeders, hoping the small birds would forget about him.

The bluish-grey back, and lovely rufous colouration to the breast feathers marked this out as an adult male bird; juveniles and (larger) females being more grey-brown and lacking the rufous tint.  Interestingly, the eye colour of males turns from yellow to orange as the bird gets older.  Note the characteristic long tail, as well as a few white spots on the back - apparently something which is becoming increasingly common in many birds, including in some birds of prey.

Monday, 4 November 2019

October 2019. Interesting sightings around The Abingtons

October 2019
Amphibians and Reptiles
No sightings reported this month. 

Hobby – further report of two raptors, believed to be Hobbies, being mobbed by crows near Sluice Wood (4th).
Swallow – three flying over Granta Park lake on 3rd – last report.
Winter thrush – small flock of Redwing (10-15) first seen on Granta Park on 9th and regularly since, and two Fieldfare seen in Gt Abington (on 31st). A Song Thrush also reported in Cambridge Road garden (24th).
Small flocks of birds return to garden feeders, particularly Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and occasionally Coal Tit at several locations. Greenfinch notable by its relative absence – only one report of a single bird.
Linnet – occasional small flock on waste ground in Granta Park.
Skylark – 2-3 singing high above stubble fields near Abington Park Farm, and one over Granta Park.
Goldcrest and Treecreeper – both as part of mixed flock in Lagden’s Grove, on several occasions.
Reed Bunting – two in reedbeds around Granta Park lake.
Cormorant – single bird fishing in Granta Park Lake throughout the month, alongside up to c80 Mallard, several Moorhen and a single female Mandarin Duck (9th).
Sparrowhawk – one (likely juvenile) chasing a Woodpigeon in Gt Abington garden.
Buzzard – three reports of a single bird over Cambridge Road, and Sluice Wood.
Kestrel – three heard calling to each other, over Granta Park (9th).
Red Kite – one over Gt Abington and regularly over South Road, and two over Sluice Wood (13th).
Tawny Owl – several reports of ‘hooting’ heard around the village. A Barn Owl also heard ‘screeching’ in Gt Abington (17th).
Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker – in several gardens, and on Granta Park.
Jay – often seen collecting acorns and flying between woodland areas on Granta Park.
Nuthatch – a single bird in a garden on High Street Lt Abington.
Grey Wagtail – one on the river in Sluice Wood, and another in a garden with a pond in Lt Abington.
Pied Wagtail - up to 25 feeding on Granta Park cricket field, and on Perse sports fields.
Grey Heron – two sightings of one juvenile bird near the river.
Little Egret – four reports of (presumably the same) single bird on the river near recreation ground.
Barnacle Goose – flock of seven regularly on Granta Park cricket green, and Perse sports fields.
Mute Swan – single juvenile on a new lake in a garden on South Road.

Butterflies, Bees and other insects
A very quiet month for butterfly reports, again due to the very variable weather and frosty nights in the last week.  Only 18 reports during the month.
Butterflies – Brimstone and Comma, 3 of each; Red Admiral, 2; Speckled Wood, Large White, Small White, 1 of each.
          The last Brimstone on 16th in the sunshine was a beautiful pristine male.
Bumblebees – two Buff-tailed bumblebees.
Dragonflies – one Hawker, one Emperor and one Darter.
Other reports: one Hummingbird Hawkmoth, several reports of Hornet.

Bat – reported over gardens on Cambridge Road and Bourn Bridge Road.
Hare – one on the Roman Road.
Muntjac – four reports; in gardens on the High Street, Bourn Bridge Road, and in Sluice Wood.
Mole – fresh molehills at various locations around the village, especially on the Recreation Ground and Perse sports fields.

The river continued to have low flow for most of the month. Further small patches of both Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed were reported and have been removed.  Further vigilance and reporting of these invasive plants is encouraged (contact Peter B). Further information can be found on the UK waterways website.

Rainfall for October was 66.5 mm. Average daytime temperature was 15ºC, with a high of 20.9ºC on the 1st, and the low being minus 2.3ºC on the 28th. Strong gusty winds in the first and last weeks of the month.

Many thanks to all those who contributed reports of their sightings for October 2019:
Darren Bast, Audrey Bugg, Anne Dunbar-Nobes, David Farrant, Gaynor Farrant, Jennifer Hirsh, Len Mead, Andy Merryweather, Polly Merryweather, Joan Nevin, Pamela Parris, Gareth Rees, Marion Rusted, Gill Smith, Derek Turnidge.

Please email your sightings, within the Abington parishes, to the relevant ANW Recorder:
Amphibians and reptiles: Anne Dunbar Nobes
Birds:                               Derek Turnidge      
Butterflies, Bees etc:       Jennifer Hirsh         
Mammals:                       Gill Smith                
Rivercare:                       Peter Brunning       
Flora:   Currently vacant - if interested, please contact David Farrant for more details.

The Aims of Abington Naturewatch

At their meeting on 9 April 2005 the members approved this revised version of the aims of Abington Naturewatch:

  • To monitor and record the wildlife (fauna & flora) within the borders of the Abingtons;
  • To encourage protection of our wildlife, maintain its quality and foster its diversity;
  • To promote awareness of the richness, potential and problems of the natural environment of the Abingtons;
  • To cooperate in improving access to the local natural environment for the benefit of all Abington villagers.

Pat Daunt, Founder

The organisation is informal and communication is by email if possible; members are notified of events from time to time. Contact details are maintained by a small "project team". There is currently no membership fee as costs are covered by voluntary contributions at events.

Members are encouraged to report notable sightings of flora and fauna within the Abingtons to the appropriate sector coordinator and an illustrated record is published annually.

A map of the area covered, with some features noted, is available here:>

For more information or to join, please contact David Farrant on (01223) 892871 or Peter Brunning via e-mail

Contributions to our records should be sent to sector contacts or either of the above. Photographs may also be submitted to Andy Merryweather (