Monday 22 April 2019

News - first Grass Snake sighting this year

Saturday 20th April

Derek T spotted a Grass Snake in their pond - thin and about 2 feet (60cm) long! He also reported a small Smooth Newt in the same pond.  Anne D-N commented that there was lots of newt activity in their pond too, and that the Grass Snake was the first sighting of the year.

A special encounter with a Badger

On 21st April, Ross and Anne D-N reported that a Badger came visiting their garden in the early hours of the morning (visiting at least twice between 1.30am and 4.30am).  Noisily scrunching up snails and (hopefully) slugs around their patio, they could hear the Badger turning over stones and loose bricks, and when the security light came on it came up to the french windows and gazed in at them - next to a bucket that it had overturned. 

Anne found plenty of snail shells in the morning, as evidence of their first encounter with a Badger in their garden in the 23 years they have lived on South Road!

Hairy-footed Flower bee

Andy M noticed a smaller bee in the garden last weekend (13th April), about 10-12 mm long with a 'blunt' rounded abdomen, completely black except some buff-coloured hairs on the hind legs, and a long proboscis. It seemed to be being 'followed around' by a similar sized bee, which was gingery-coloured with a banded abdomen. A little investigation indicated these were both Hairy-footed Flower Bees (Anthophora plumipes), the black one being a female, and the gingery one a male. One of the earliest solitary bees to emerge (seen Feb-June), they are found throughout southern England, being most common in the south and east.

Hairy-footed Flower Bee (female)
 Hairy-footed Flower Bee (female)
 Hairy-footed Flower Bee (female)

 Hairy-footed Flower Bee (male)

Friday 19 April 2019

News - The House Martins are back!

Friday 19th April

Derek T reports that the House Martins are back in the centre of the village again this evening.

Esme has a chat with Chris Packham!

Karen and Esme Langford were fortunate enough to attend the 'Big Cat Festival' in London on 13th April, hosted at the Royal Geographical Society.  An excellent conference with amazing speakers.

Esme took along her copy of the Abington NatureWatch Record, and talked with Chris Packham about wildlife in her village!  Chris was very interested to hear all about this, and looked in some detail at the invertebrate and butterfly lists in the Record.  Esme told him about how she feeds the fox and hedgehog in her garden, and learned that Chris also feeds the foxes in his garden, and is now seeing cubs.

Chris also gave Esme some tips on a photo of a Goldfinch she took, and signed it for her.  A wonderful chat with a really lovely and genuinely interested man!

News - First report this year of Speckled Wood butterfly

Thursday 18th April

Anne D-N reported seeing two Speckled Wood butterflies in her garden on the LSA on Thursday 18th - seeing them dancing madly together in a helix.  First report of this species this year!

Monday 15 April 2019

Newly-fledged young Robins in the garden

Somewhat to his surprise, since somehow it still seems quite early in the year, Andy M saw two and possibly three, young fledged Robin in his garden this evening.  They seemed to be reasonably competent at flying and were feeding themselves - although were not above accepting food from their parents when offered!

Angle Shades moth

An Angle Shades moth was seen out in the garden by Andy M this weekend.

Old Railway Cutting - Swallow

Andy M saw two Swallow at the weekend, feeding low over the fields next to the Old Railway Cutting for a few minutes, before heading north.  The Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Wren were all still very much in evidence too.

Swallow feeding low over the fields

Female Blackcap (chestnut cap, rather than the black one of the male)



Sunday 14 April 2019

Wild Flowers around Granta Park

There is a profusion of tiny wild flowers in bloom on the rough 'meadow' areas around the entrance to Granta Park at the moment, including the tiny bright-blue flowers of Early Forget-me-Not (the plants being only a few centrimetres high, and the flowers 2-3mm across), and Common Storksbill, which has small pink flowers (~10mm across) on similarly low-growing plants.  The Cowslips and Daisies are also in flower, and the Blackthorn is out around Cook's Meadow.
Photos from David F and Andy M.

 Early Forget-me-Not (Myosotis ramosissima)

Common Storksbill (Erodium cicutarum)





Saturday 13 April 2019

Fox along the Old Railway Cutting

When out for a walk along the Old Railway Cutting first thing this morning, Andy M was lucky enough to see a Fox, walking along the path in the frosty early morning light.  It seemed relatively unconcerned at his presence whilst busying itself looking for food.

Toad lurking in compost bag

Peter and Vicki B discovered this Toad lurking in a bag of compost whilst gardening this week (11th) - this is the first report of a Toad this year.

Monday 8 April 2019

Peacock Butterfly

David F saw this Peacock butterfly today on his lawn, probably just out of hibernation, warming itself in the sun.  A Brimstone was also seen.

Sunday 7 April 2019

Yellow Archangel in flower in Sluice Wood

At the member's meeting on Friday, Sally T reported that Yellow Archangel had been seen flowering in Sluice Wood.  David F took this picture today.

A member of the nettle family, Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) also commonly known as Artillery Plant, Aluminium Plant and Yellow Weasel-snout, is a widespread wild flower with several subspecies, including a variegated form (spp argentatum) which has silver patches on the leaves.  Other cultivars have also been developed as garden plants.

Abington NatureWatch Programme 2019

The Abington NatureWatch 2019 Programme shared at the member's meeting on Friday. 
Further details and information will be circulated ahead of each event.

Abington NatureWatch Programme 2019

Also shared was a guide to using the Blog
Abington NatureWatch Blog User Guide

News. Raven seen for the first time in the Abingtons

Saturday, 6th April

A Raven was seen flying over the Old Railway Cutting, early on Saturday morning.

At first heard, making a loud, deep and repeated 'kraw', it was flying low about 30 metres up, across the arable fields to the south of the railway cutting. It progressed, somewhat erratically, over the cutting and headed out towards Hildersham.

Even at a distance, the all-black bird appeared large and heavily-built. The large bill and thick-set 'feathery' neck, as well as the long primary wing feather 'fingers' and deep powerful wing beats, all  seemed to set this bird apart from the usual Carrion Crow or Rook.

Andy M took a few photos, which he shared with a few birder friends for their opinion, and who agreed that this was indeed a Raven.

Apparently, Cambridgeshire has a few Raven reports each year, mostly in the south and east of the county, but they do seem to be spreading east.  Excitingly, Derek confirmed that this is the first report of a Raven in The Abingtons.

News. First Swallow sighting this year

Saturday, 6th April

The first Swallow of this year was seen over the Old Railway Cutting, early on Saturday morning. 

It was flying low and fast, heading north-east, and really didn't look as though it was going to be staying around long!  Hopefully the birds that breed around the Abingtons will not be far behind - so keep a look out!  - Andy M

Grey Wagtail along the river

A female Grey Wagtail has been seen several times recently along the stretch of river running through Sluice Wood.  Generally it has been seen hopping around on the fallen twigs and floating rafts of leaves, feeding on insects as it goes.  Derek T took this nice picture of it doing exactly that on 5th April.

Little Owl seen again on Granta Park

Since early March, Andy M has been hearing and occasionally seeing a Little Owl on Granta Park. During the last week, one has been seen more regularly though, warming itself in the early morning sun.

A pair of Little Owls nested on Granta Park last year, successfully fledging at least one young, so with a little luck we are in for a repeat performance this year.

News. Holly Blue Butterfly - first of the season

Wednesday, 3rd April

The first Holly Blue Butterfly of the season was seen on 3rd April by Lois B.

Jennifer adds: ANW records indicate first sightings of Holly Blue in the village were also in early April over the last couple of years, but were later in the years before that:

2019 - 03 April
2018 - 03 April
2017 - 03 April
2016 - 04 May
2015 - 15 April

The Butterfly Conservation website describes the Holly Blue:

Wings are bright blue. Females have black wing edges. Undersides pale blue with small black spots which distinguish them from Common Blue. The Holly Blue is easily identified in early spring, as it emerges well before other blue butterflies. It tends to fly high around bushes and trees, whereas other grassland blues usually stay near ground level. It is much the commonest blue found in parks and gardens where it congregates around Holly (in spring) and Ivy (in late summer). The Holly Blue is widespread, but undergoes large fluctuations in numbers from year to year. It has expanded northwards in recent years and has colonised parts of midland and northern England. 
                                   Photos: Iain Leach Butterfly Conservation

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 (