Monday 29 July 2019

Ruddy Darter

This fabulous photo of a Ruddy Darter was taken by Len M's eight year-old grandson, Felix Hoskins - clearly a very talented chap!  Taken at Fen End in Over, so a little 'off-patch' for ANW, but it's such a lovely picture I just had to post it!

Ruddy Darter.  Over.  Photo: Felix Hoskins

Saturday 27 July 2019

Toadstool eruption from old tree stump

Earlier this month, alongside the river in Sluice Wood, Andy M spotted this sudden eruption of white toadstools on the old stump of a fallen tree. Given the shape, pale cream-white flat ovoid cap, and the broad open gills, he believes these may be Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus).

A few moths - so far unidentified!

Andy M has found that his bathroom light is apparently irresistibly attractive to quite a number of small moths at the moment. He photographed a few, hopeful that this would aid identification. However, it seems that there are really rather a large number of moth species in the UK, and identification of some has sadly thus far proved elusive, although the smaller ones may be species of 'wave moths'.

Lichen Beauty (possibly) 

Least Carpet Moth

Jackdaw 'pellet'

Andy M was intrigued to find what he thought was an owl pellet on his flat roof recently.  Pale in colour, and about 3cm by 1cm, it seemed to contain mostly plant material, such as the husks of grain - not the bones and fur of small animals as might be expected for an owl.
After some investigation, it seems that some corvids, and particularly Jackdaw, also produce 'pellets' and those produced by Jackdaw can be somewhat pale and contain indigestible plant and seed matter. Mystery solved - but sadly no owls!

'Pellet identification chart' (photo: The Barn Owl Trust website)

Butterflies around the village

Andy M spotted a number of butterflies in his garden and around Granta Park recently.

 Large Skipper butterfly (underwing)
 Large Skipper butterfly 
Large Skipper butterfly (Lewis Crescent, Gt Abington)

 Red Admiral butterfly (Granta Park)

Ringlet butterfly (Granta Park)

 Several Gatekeeper butterflies (Granta Park)

Small Skipper (Granta Park)
Small Skipper (Granta Park)

 Red Soldier Beetle (Granta Park)

News. Common Tern reported in Abingtons for first time

Saturday 27th June, 2019

Andy M was at home first thing this morning, watching the rain out of the window, when he noticed the unmistakable silhouette of a medium sized tern flying quite low over his garden, heading east.
Its size, the narrow pointed wings, long tail streamers and dainty flight made it likely this was either a Common or Arctic Tern, and given the location and time of year, this was undoubtedly an adult Common Tern

Derek indicated that this species has not been reported by ANW in the Abingtons before.

Adult Common Tern.
Photo 'All about birds' website

Comma butterfly

Jennifer H saw this Comma butterfly on a snapdragon flower yesterday.

Thursday 25 July 2019

Devil's Coach Horse Beetle

Len M spotted an interesting beetle recently - which tended to raise up its rear end when provoked.  Identified as a Devil's Coach Horse beetle.

Saturday 20 July 2019

Big Butterfly Count

Big Butterfly Count – 19th July to 11th August 2019

This is a national count – look at  for details and to see how you can take part. The site has a helpful chart of some of the butterflies you might see.

It is particularly important at the moment when numbers of some butterfly species are changing greatly from year to year.

Chris Packham has been talking in the media in the last week about the Painted Lady.  These butterflies fly up from Morocco in the summer to Europe and sometimes to the UK. We have seen a few in Abington this year; the last time we had a Painted Lady year was 2009 when there were millions in the UK and hundreds in Abington, especially on the Roman Road.  So that is one species that you should be looking out for.

Another species that you should look for is the Marbled White.  This was very scarce in Cambridgeshire 10-20 years ago but we are seeing it a bit more now in Abington.  In the last 10 years we saw none or only one from 2011 to 2015, but this July we have seen 10 already in 6 different places.  Please look out for it in your gardens and wherever you walk in the village.

Please report all the butterflies that you see in Abington, particularly as part of the national count, to me – I keep a record of all the Abington butterflies reported during the whole year. These reports are published in the Abington Naturewatch Record at the end of each year.

Jennifer Hirsh
Contact for butterflies, bees and other insects

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Lepidoptera on Granta Park

A few butterflies and moths seen recently around Granta Park.

White-letter Hairstreak butterfly - near the main entrance - Darren Bast 

Common Blue butterfly  - wild flower meadow near the new lakes - AM

Marbled White butterfly - near the river - AM

Gatekeeper butterfly - with characteristic 'double white dot' within the black spot - AM

Cinnabar Moth - Lagden's Grove - AM

 Cinnabar Moth caterpillars feeding on Ragwort - near hairdresser path - AM

Foxes in Sluice Woods

Andy M was lucky enough to see what he presumes to be a small family group of three Foxes near the river in Sluice Wood last week.  They were rather noisily playing in the undergrowth until they spotted him, at which point they headed off into the woods near Bancroft Farm. One decided that it needed another look at the human though, and stopped briefly to look back!

Marsh Orchid and insects in Church Lane garden

Len M has recently had a Marsh Orchid flowering by the pond in his garden. No doubt also attracted by the pond, was a Southern Hawker dragonfly which briefly flew into his house, as well as an apparently rather tame Comma butterfly.

 Marsh Orchid flower (and a Ladybird larva)

 Marsh Orchid foliage

Southern Hawker dragonfly

Comma butterfly

Emergence of a Southern Hawker dragonfly

Derek T captured this series of photos at his garden pond yesterday, showing a female Southern Hawker dragonfly emerging from its exuviae (the 'skin' sloughed off during moulting - still visible attached to the leaf), before expanding its wings, drying and hardening its 'skin', and flying off. 

Not something you get to see every day!

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Broad-bodied Chaser and Black-tailed Skimmer dragonflies

Derek T took this excellent photograph of a Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly in his garden this morning.

Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly - DT

Andy M also reports seeing a number of Black-tailed Skimmer dragonflies around the new lakes on Granta Park this week too.  Note subtle differences in body shape (longer and narrower in the Skimmer), patterning of the abdomen (larger dark area at the tip in the Skimmer), and the prominent black quadrants at the wing bases in the Chaser.

 Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly - AM
 Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly - AM

Thursday 11 July 2019

Dragonfly larval skins identified

Carol McCrae reported finding what looked like dried beetle skins on walls near her pond. She emailed the photo below to David F, who in turn contacted the Royal Entomological Society.  
Professor Jim Hardie responded identifying them as dragonfly larvae skins left behind when they crawl out the pond and change into adult dragonflies.  The Society is happy to identify insects if you send them a picture through their website.

News. First Small Copper butterfly seen this year

Wednesday 10th July, 2019

Derek T reported seeing a Small Copper butterfly in his garden today, the first seen this year.

Whilst fairly common and widespread on open rough chalky ground, Small Copper butterflies are generally only seen in small numbers, as the males are fiercely territorial. With it's distinctive orange and brown upperwing, and numerous black spots, the Small Copper is quite distinctive.

Small Copper butterfly (photo Bob Eade Butterfly Conservation)

Thursday 4 July 2019

June 2019. Interesting Sightings around The Abingtons

June 2019
Amphibians and Reptiles
Toad – one found setting up home in bag of compost
Grass Snake – one (~1m long) seen in pond on Cambridge Road – otherwise few sightings despite the recent warm weather

Lackford Lakesa group of thirteen enjoyed an interesting visit, seeing a total of 46 bird species, including Cetti’s Warbler (seen!), Hobby, Kingfisher, Marsh Tit and Spotted Flycatcher. An abundance of damselflies, dragonflies and some butterflies were also noted, as well as some notable flora. Blog article.
Fledglings – numerous reports of fledglings and young birds this month, including Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Kestrel, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Mallard, Canada Goose, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Wren and Nuthatch.
Common Whitethroat – two sightings on Roman Road, and one pair regularly seen collecting food, presumably for young in the nest, along the Old Railway Cutting (17th)
Lesser Whitethroat – one report from the Roman Road (3rd). 
Blackcap, Chiffchaff – both heard regularly, especially towards end of month
Willow Warbler – single report of a singing bird along Old Railway Cutting (5th)
Reed Warbler - heard singing in Granta Park reedbed (20th)
Corn Bunting – several reports from Roman Road and Old Railway Cutting
Yellowhammer – seen and heard along the Roman Road, and on the Land Settlements
Skylark – a few reports along Roman Road, and a pair seen carrying food along Old Railway Cutting
Swallow – only two reports, with very few (2-4) birds being seen around the village
Swift – regularly reported above the village and Granta Park, with eight around Lt Abington Church
House Martin – nests with young visible on High Street, and up to 12 seen collecting mud from the edges of the lake on Granta Park
Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker – both regularly visiting garden feeders along High Street
Coal Tit – visiting feeders, and calling in Great Abington
Little Owl – 1-2 seen on Granta Park.  Tawny Owl, Barn Owl – a few reports of calls after dark
Kestrel – 1-2 young in nest in Sluice Woods early in month, and fledged birds seen nearby later on
Sparrowhawk – at least five sightings in gardens, often after catching small song-bird prey
Red Kite – 2-3 reports from along Roman Road and above Sluice Wood
Great Crested Grebe – single bird seen for a few days on Granta Park lake early in the month
Tufted Duck – pair seen around reeds on Granta Park (17th)
Cormorant – one on Granta Park lake (7th)
Greylag, Barnacle Goose and Canada Goose with 2-3 fledglings, regularly on Granta Park lake
Little Egret – one disturbed along the river (24th)

Butterflies, Bees and other insects
A good number of reports this month (223 in total), despite the weather being quite variable with some very hot days at the end of the month, and relatively little rain so likely to have been a lack of food plants for some species.
Meadow Brown – 45 sightings, large numbers seen in gardens and other open spaces, particularly the Roman Road.
Painted Lady – 18 sightings in second half of the month, very pleasing to see these migratory butterflies here; our last good year for them was 2009!
Holly Blue – 16 sightings, they are having a good year.
Red Admiral – 15 sightings, should be more in July and August.
Brimstone – 14 sightings, they are having a good year.
Speckled Wood – 14 sightings, increasing numbers again.
Small White – 13 sightings
Small Tortoiseshell – 9 sightings as the food plants recover from the dry weather.
Smaller numbers of Large White, Green-veined White, Skipper (Large, Small and Essex), Orange Tip, Comma, Small Heath and Ringlet reported. No sightings of Peacock butterflies (apart from caterpillars) or Gatekeeper.
Buff-tailed, Red-tailed, White-tailed and Tree Bumblebees – relatively few sightings.
Honey bees – few sightings.
Damselflies - Azure Damselfly – 2 sightings late in month; Common Blue Damselfly – 4 sightings; Large Red Damselfly – 3 sightings.
Banded Demoiselle – 9 sightings in second half of month
Dragonflies – only 2 reports, one of a Southern Hawker
Hummingbird Hawkmoth – one report

Bourn Bridge Road verges were showing significant signs of recovery. Poppy were showing well and there were good flowers on both Hawksbeard and Hawkweed. Lady's Bedstraw and Hedge Bedstraw were not quite in flower but had plenty of buds. Field Scabious was coming on really well at the end of the month and Goatsbeard was setting seed well. Wild Mignonette was just showing colour and one small patch of Scarlet Pimpernel was seen. Wild and Bladder Campion, Hoqweed, Cow Parsley and Hemlock were in flower. There was a small amount of Yarrow. All along the verges there was plenty of Common Mallow. Unfortunately there were masses of Stinging Nettle too as well as Hedge Bindweed and Curled Dock.
Several Bee Orchid and one very rare Wasp Orchid were reported in Granta Park Blog Article, and Pyramidal Orchid were seen on the Old Railway Cutting, and on Granta Park.
Lackford Lakes visit - good examples of Southern Marsh Orchid and one Bee Orchid.
Viper's Bugloss around every corner.
Knapweed Broomrape seen along the Roman Road

Bat – most likely Pipistrelle. Four reports of late evening sightings from around the village.
Hare – three reported on Granta Park, near the ‘hairdresser path’
Hedgehog – dropping seen regularly in a gardens in Gt Abington and on Bourn Bridge Road.
Muntjac – three reports of single deer on Cambridge Road and Church Lane
Field Vole – one report in a garden on Cambridge Road

The Rivercare group met on 5th June to sample the water quality and survey the river wildlife. Their results are summarised in the Blog article

Monthly rainfall figures for Abington - after a dry April - 13mm, May - 35mm, June - 73mm

Many thanks to all those who contributed reports of their sightings for June 2019:
Darren Bast, Peter Brunning, Lois Bull, Tricia Cullimore, Anne Dunbar-Nobes, David Farrant, Gaynor Farrant, Jennifer Hirsh, Carole McCrae, Len Mead, Andy Merryweather, Polly Merryweather, Gareth Rees, Marion Rusted, Maggie Turner, Derek Turnidge, Sally Turnidge, Sally Simmons, Gill Smith, Isobel Smith, Richard Smith. 

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        
Flowers:                          Sally Turnidge        
Mammals:                       Gill Smith               

Wednesday 3 July 2019

News. First Gatekeeper butterfly of the year

Wednesday 3rd July, 2019

Derek T reported seeing a Gatekeeper butterfly in his garden earlier today - the first record in The Abingtons this year.

Sparrowhawk with prey

Derek T reported seeing a young male Sparrowhawk in his garden yesterday, with what was probably a young Blackbird in its talons.  Derek observed a great commotion from other birds in the area, and that the Sparrowhawk moved a short distance under a nearby hedge, where it could apparently deal with its catch in peace.

Young male Sparrowhawk, with its unfortunate prey

Monday 1 July 2019

Butterflies - Ringlets, Marbled White and others

Andy M noted quite a number of Ringlet butterflies around today - at least 20 in the meadows around the coach-road path and Sluice Wood, and 3-4 along the Old Railway Cutting in the evening.  He also saw a more unusual Marbled White butterfly along the Old Railway Cutting, and a Small Heath and an Essex Skipper on Granta Park.

Ringlet butterfly

Ringlet butterfly

 Marbled White butterfly

 Small Heath butterfly

Essex Skipper butterfly

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 (