Sunday 31 March 2019

News - first Orange Tip butterfly of the year. Chiffchaff and Blackcap heard singing

Saturday, 30th March

The first sighting this year of an Orange Tip butterfly was reported by Derek T in his garden along Cambridge Road.

Orange-tip (male/upperwing) by Neil Hulme
Male Orange-Tip (picture from Butterfly Conservation website)

Summer visiting warblers have also been arriving in greater numbers this week. An increasing number of Chiffchaff have been heard singing across the village over the last week or so, joined this weekend by several Blackcap, heard singing in Sluice Wood and along the Old Railway Cutting - David F, Andy M.

 Chiffchaff - Old Railway Cutting - Andy M

 Male Blackcap - Old Railway Cutting - Andy M

Monday 25 March 2019

News - first Beefly of the year in glorious weekend weather

Sunday 24th March - Jennifer H

The glorious sunny weather this weekend brought out the first Beefly of the year, seen by Jennifer H feeding on evergreen Alkanet in her garden.

Saturday 23 March 2019

News - Goosander seen for first time in The Abingtons

Thursday 21st March - Andy M

female Goosander was seen flying low over Granta Park, heading east towards Great Abington.  Excitingly, this species of duck has not been reported before in the Abington parishes.

Goosander belong to the 'sawbill' family of diving ducks. Breeding mainly in Scandinavia and northern Russia (and occasionally in Northern Britain), Goosander migrate south in winter, which they spend in northern Europe including the UK, most often on inland lakes or along the coast.

Andy was unable to take a photograph of the bird seen on Thursday, but below is a female Goosander from BirdGuides - Sawbill Photo ID guide

The male and female Goosander appear very different. A large duck, some 60-70cm long, with a wing-span of around 80-90cm. The female has a long red bill, and a chestnut-brown head, sharply distinct from a long pale neck which is extended when in flight. Underparts of the long body are pale, with a darker back, and the long, narrow, pointed wings have a clearly visible block of white on the inner wing, contrasting with darker wingtips. The flight is fast and direct, on stiffly-held wings with a rapid, shallow wingbeat.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Along the Old Railway Cutting

Along the Old Railway Cutting, the Blackthorn flower buds are simply bursting to go - with just one or two flowers coming out.  At the end of the cutting, a lovely Sallow tree is covered in fluffy, yellow-tipped flowers, in much demand from a large number of Buff-tailed Bumblebees.  Also a rather pretty, but as yet unidentified, small bracket fungus growing on some deadwood along the path.  A lovely lunchtime walk - Andy M

 Blackthorn flowers - just bursting to go!

 Sallow flowers

A rather lovely-coloured small bracket fungus

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Like a number of other people in the village, Andy M has had the pleasure of seeing a Great Spotted Woodpecker visit his bird feeder over the last couple of days. This one is an adult female, readily told from the male by the absence of a red band on the back of her head.
Over recent months, there have been a number of similar reports, in particular Jennifer H has reported regular almost daily visits by a Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch to her feeders.

Sunday 10 March 2019

Toadstools in the compost heap

Andy M found these large toadstools - the largest being about 10cm across - sprouting out of a heap of rotting turf and compost at the bottom of his garden this weekend. These could be Agaricus bisporus - the wild relative of the commercial mushroom - but not totally sure, and definitely not sure enough to try them on toast!

Brown gills under the large cap, with two more smaller mushrooms coming up underneath

Tuesday 5 March 2019

Fresh foliage and Spring flowers on Granta Park

The last week of sunshine and warm weather brought out some lovely fresh foliage and early spring flowers on Granta Park, a few of which Andy M photographed on his lunchtime walk.  Leaf buds on some of the trees are also starting to burst - including hazel, privet, hawthorn and willow - giving the woods a hazy green look.

Lovely glossy leaves of Wild Arum - some with black dots

Dog's Mercury

Small clumps of Sweet Violets on a shady bank

Almost overnight, every patch of rough grass was covered in Daisies

A humble first Dandelion


Clumps of Purple Dead-nettle scattered across the grass

The tiny but vibrant Speedwell

Hornbeam flower buds starting to expand

...whilst the Alder catkins are largely over and starting to fall

The pale green haze of early willow leaves

Monday 4 March 2019

Green Woodpecker

David F saw this Green Woodpecker on the lawn in his garden today.

Sunday 3 March 2019

February 2019. Interesting sightings around The Abingtons

Amphibians and Reptiles
Common Frog - first reports of activity in a garden pond in South Road on 22 Feb, with first spawn of the year appearing in a pond on Chalky Road on 26 Feb.  This is the earliest record of frog spawn in the Abingtons since reporting began in 2011, no doubt encouraged by the five days of warm weather at the end of the month. 

Many species continue to be reported in small flocks, prior to dispersing to breed. In particular, 10 Meadow Pipit and up to 60 Pied Wagtail were reported on the cricket green, a flock of 20 Yellowhammer were regularly seen on the arable fields on the Land Settlements, and 10-30 Linnet along the Old Railway Cutting and on Granta Park. Up to 44 Reed Bunting were seen roosting in the reeds around Granta Park lake.
Winter visitors such as Fieldfare (up to 50) and Redwing (up to 100) were reported throughout the month, particularly on the fields between the churches, and near Hildersham Wood. 
Golden Plover – a flock of ~30 were reported flying over fields near Abington Park Farm.
Siskin were reported for the first time this winter (14 Feb) on feeders at two locations – far fewer than last year. There have been no reports of Redpoll yet this winter.
Nuthatch (1-2) and Great Spotted Woodpecker were also seen on several garden feeders, visiting almost daily at some locations. 
Goldfinch and Chaffinch in flocks of 10-12 were regulars in several gardens, occasionally joined by only 1 or 2 Greenfinch, numbers of which seem to be sharply down this year.
Bullfinch (2-6) were twice reported feeding on tree flower buds, along the Old Railway Cutting (10 Feb) and in a garden on the Settlements (24 Feb).
Goldcrest – a pair was spotted in conifers along Cambridge Road (10 Feb), and occasionally a single bird was seen amongst mixed tit flocks on Granta Park.
Jay - reported at two locations, as a regular visitor to one, and was seen recovering stashed acorns from a garden lawn.
Little Egret - spotted several times along the river (18 and 26 Feb), as was a Grey Wagtail, seen feeding on the floating mats of fallen leaves near the sluice (20 Feb). Grey Heron were also regularly seen along the river.
Red Kite were reported on three occasions, flying over Granta Park, Four Went Ways and North Road.  Up to six Buzzard were also seen soaring high on the thermals over Hildersham Wood, above North Road, and around the meadows alongside the river. A Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk were also occasionally seen over Granta Park.
Skylark was reported singing on 10 Feb, along the Old Railway Cutting - first time this year.
Corn Bunting was heard singing from a small clump of dried grasses near Abington Park Farm, also the first report this year, on 19 Feb. 
Several other species were also heard singing this month, including Blackbird, Great Tit, House Sparrow, Wren and Robin.  A large number of Song Thrush have been heard around the village, as well as a Mistle Thrush high up in trees by old A11, and a Coal Tit singing in oak trees in Gt Abington (24 Feb), and on Granta Park in following days.
Red-legged Partridge – a small covey was seen in the fields alongside Cambridge Road (25 Feb).  

Butterflies, Bees and other insects
Brimstone butterflies first seen on 15 Feb.  Then 28 reports of Brimstone between 22 and 27 Feb, mainly in gardens across the village and a few along the Roman Road. (In the five years 2014 to 2018 a total of only 21 were recorded.) Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, first seen on 22 Feb with four more reported 23 to 27 Feb.
Comma butterfly first seen on 22 Feb in the warm sunshine, with three more reports over the following days.
Red Admiral butterfly first seen on 25 Feb in Church Lane.
Peacock butterfly first seen on 27 Feb in West Field
Buff-tailed Bumblebee first reported on 16 Feb and then 11 further reports between 21 and 27 Feb.
Early Bumblebee seen on 25 Feb along High Street.
Red-tailed Bumblebee seen on 26 Feb in garden on Cambridge Road.  
7-spot Ladybird first reported on 12 Feb and then large numbers seen on 27 Feb in a garden on South Road.
No Harlequin ladybirds reported.
Note that between 22 and 27 Feb the weather was exceptionally mild, accounting for larger numbers of early insects.

Snowdrop and Aconite flowers in Granta Park woods were at their best in the sum mid-month.
Coltsfoot reported in flower near Hildersham Wood on 23 Feb, much earlier than last year.
Sweet Violet and Celandine were seen in flower on rough ground along the High Street towards the end of the month.

Montjac Deer – several sightings throughout the month, including two deer in Sluice Wood, two near the Old Railway Cutting, and a one in a garden on Lt Abington High Street.
Hare – two seen south of the Old Railway Cutting (10 Feb).  Two reports of a group of three seen on the fields near Abington Park Farm, and 1-2 regularly at dusk on rough ground on Granta Park towards the end of the month.
Roe Deer – a group of 14 in the field near Hildersham Wood in 25 Feb.
Badger – report of one in Abington Woods near the river on 28 Feb.

Many thanks to all those who have contributed reports of their sightings for February 2019: 
Peter Brunning, Lois Bull, Anne Dunbar-Nobes, David Farrant, Gaynor Farrant, Ros Hedges, Jennifer Hirsh, Susan Hodges, Len Mead, Andy Merryweather, Ross Nobes, Freda Orgee, Gareth Rees, Gill Smith, Derek Turnidge, Sally Turnidge, George Woodley.

Please email your sightings, from within the Abington parishes, to the relevant ANW Recorder:
Amphibians:      Anne Dunbar Nobes
Birds:                 Derek Turnidge   
Butterflies etc    Jennifer Hirsh      
Flowers:            Sally Turnidge     
Mammals:         Gill Smith             

January 2019 - Interesting sightings around The Abingtons


2nd       Small flock of 9 Barnacle Goose on cricket green on Granta Park.
3rd        Polecat found dead on side of road on Granta Park.
7th       Sparrowhawk circling high above Sluice Woods, and again in a low-level, high speed attack on a flock of feeding Redwing on 29 Feb.
8th        Peacock butterfly seen in Lt Abington garden.
22nd    Pair of Little Egret seen in Sluice Woods, and a female Reed Bunting regularly visiting a garden feeder on Bourn Bridge Road.  Group of 12 Canada Goose and a Greylag on Granta Park lake.
             A Badger was reported on Great Abington cricket pitch.
23rd    Low numbers of Greenfinch reported on garden feeders this year (only 1-2 and not often seen), compared to larger groups of Goldfinch and Chaffinch being regularly reported.
25th       One or two pairs of Stock Dove seen regularly in ivy-covered trees near the sluice.
26th  Lovely display of Snowdrops near the sluice and in Lagden’s Grove on Granta     Park.  Aconite flower buds remain resolutely tightly closed.
31st      An unusual sighting of a large pale-ish brown owl, most likely a Short-eared Owl, hunting in the late afternoon over scrubby ground on Bourn Bridge Road.

Many thanks to all those who have contributed reports of their sightings for January 2019:
Peter Brunning, David Farrant, Jennifer Hirsh, Andy Merryweather, David Pimblet, Sally Simmons, Richard Smith. 

Please email your sightings, from within the Abington parishes, to the relevant ANW Recorder:
Amphibians:      Anne Dunbar Nobes
Birds:                 Derek Turnidge   
Butterflies etc    Jennifer Hirsh     
Flowers:            Sally Turnidge     
Mammals:         Gill Smith            

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 (