Saturday 27 January 2018

Partially melanistic Blue Tit

Andy M has seen this partially melanistic Blue Tit in his garden recently - having a black-coloured lower breast and flanks instead of the more usual yellow.  It seems perfectly happy, feeding and moving around with other Blue Tits.  Since it is so distinctive and easy to spot, it will be interesting to see if it stays around as spring approaches.

Pictures from Granta Park

David F spotted the Barnacle Geese were back on Granta Park cricket green today, and noted that the Snowdrops and Aconites are putting on a fine display in Lagden's Grove.

Earlier in the week, Andy M notes that a number of the Poplar and Willow trees, alongside the river behind Abington Hall, had been blown over by the strong winds last week.  One the badly damaged trees was the willow in which the Grey Heron nested last year, but as fate would have it, the branch with the nest on it remained unscathed.  It'll be interesting to see if the herons use this, now rather more exposed, nest again this year.

A rather sad gap in the line of Poplars behind Abington Hall. Two poplars were 
blown down and the willow tree containing the Grey Heron nest was badly damaged.

The top of the willow was snapped off, leaving a somewhat more 
exposed aspect for the Grey Heron nest!

 Further upstream, two more willows also snapped off by the wind.

Snowdrops in Sluice Wood

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Mealy Redpoll - an interestingly different species of redpoll

Last weekend (Jan 20th) Andy M noticed that a slightly different redpoll had joined the regular group of Lesser Redpolls on the feeders.  Very similar in many respects to the regulars, and sharing the characteristic red forehead and black bib, this new visitor was noticeably paler than the usual redpolls.  Recognising the wide variation in redpoll plumage, Andy emailed a detailed description and photographs to the Cambridgeshire County Bird Recorder, who confirmed the new arrival as a Mealy Redpoll.  Many older books considered these to all be variants or races of the Common Redpoll, but in 2001 two distinct species were recognised - namely Mealy Redpoll (Acanthis flammea) and Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret).

The Mealy Redpoll appears generally paler, and slightly larger and more 'fluffed-up'. Underparts are more white (rather than buff), with only a few small diffuse streaks on the flanks and, in this male, a pale pink-red breast and throat.  Upper parts appear more greyish-brown than the Lesser Redpoll, with a distinctive white 'tramline' down the centre of the back.  The wings are longer, with wing bars appearing broader and white, rather than buff, and the white rump is often streaked with pale pink.  An interesting addition to the winter flock of mixed finches and redpolls.

Sunday 14 January 2018

Lesser Redpoll on feeders

Andy M reports that up to five Lesser Redpoll have been regular visitors to his bird feeders over the past few weeks, first appearing on 12th December 2017.  They seem to be travelling and feeding in a mixed flock with Goldfinch and Greenfinch.  Smaller than their finch cousins, with a small black bib and red forehead, they are never-the-less typically the most feisty, fighting off the larger finches to keep their perch, and often remaining last on the feeders when other birds are spooked off.

Male - black bib, red forehead, and red on breast and flanks

 Female - black bib and red forehead, but lacking red on breast

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.

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