Wednesday 28 August 2019

Abington River Care - on Twitter!

Lynsey Stafford from RiverCare joined the Abington RiverCare crew for their routine sampling on August 13th - and posted a Tweet!!

The results from the August sampling are summarised below, as well as a nice photo of a Bullhead.

You can access the Tweet by clicking on '15/08/2019' find out more by clicking on
RiverCare&BeachCare (@River_Care)
#RiverFly surveying on the #Granta with Abington Naturewatch RiverCare group... No better way to spend a warm August evening! 🌅🦟🌍 #citizenscience

‪@AnglianWater ‪@KeepBritainTidy ‪@Riverflies ‪@Buzz_dont_tweet ‪@wildlifebcn ‪@cambsacre

Results from Abington RiverCare August 13th sampling:

Bullhead - photo Peter B

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Impressive fungus

Peter B spotted this impressive fungus on some dead wood by the side of the river today.

Common Toad enjoying the sun

David F reported seeing a large Common Toad near the pond in his garden today, sunning itself for a while before finding shady shelter.

Friday 23 August 2019

Lunchtime walk around Granta Park

Whilst on his lunchtime walk around Granta Park in the hot August sun, Andy M noted a few changes that seemed to be heralding the start of the transition from summer towards autumn.

With the meadows now all shades of brown - and many of the flowers, so bright just a few weeks ago, now turned to seed - a few flowers could still be found in sunny spots around the edges - such as Common MallowScarlet Pimpernell, Cotton Thistle, Agrinomy and Hawkbit. 

Cotton Thistle - running to seed (Onopordum acanthium)

A trio of Teasel heads (Dipsacus sylvestris)

 Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris)

 Scarlet Pimpernell (Anagallis arvensis)

 Cotton Thistle (Onopordium acanthium)

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)

In some cases, these flowers were being actively sought out by the few remaining butterflies, such as the resplendent Painted Lady, while others such as Speckled Wood and Green-veined White chose to remain in the cool shade of the woods.

Painted Lady butterfly on Hawkbit flower

 Speckled Wood butterfly

  Speckled Wood butterfly (underwing)

Green-veined White butterfly

Loose flocks of small birds such as Great Tit, Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit, were forming and moving through the woods, quietly feeding, 'chirruping' to keep together, and at their fringes the odd single Blackcap, Chiffchaff or Goldcrest.

Long-tailed Tit


The first berries and fruits, such as Elderberry, Hawthorn, Yew, HazelHorse Chestnut and Beechnut, were starting to appear, and the Ivy was covered in its strangely-shaped flower buds.
Fungi such as Boletus could also be found, starting to pop up through the leaf-litter.


Hawthorn berries

 Yew berries

Hazelnuts - more (or less!) expertly opened!

 Horse Chestnut



 Strangely-shaped flower buds of Common Ivy ....

... that the hoverflies and bees seem to love 
- Hornet Mimic Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria)
Fruiting body of a Boletus fungi

 A Sycamore leaf - still green - in a shaft of sunlight.
'Tar spots' showing, but autumn colours not yet here!

Wasp Spiders found on Granta Park, and Little Abington

After a few years of searching suitable habitats, Darren Bast has recently found 'at least three female Wasp Spider (Agriope bruennichi) in the lakeside meadow' on Granta Park.

A relatively recent introduction from Europe, the strikingly coloured Wasp Spider can now be found across much of Southern England, spreading north. With a body size of 1-2cm, the females build large orb webs in grassland and heathland, and attaches silk egg-sacs to the grasses.  Whilst mimicking a wasp for protection, it feeds on grasshoppers, and is non-dangerous to humans.

Since Darren's first report, a further Wasp Spider was reported by Marion R in her garden (23rd August).

Photos Darren Bast

Photo Matthew Gant, Marion R's gardener (23rd Aug)

A further photo was taken of the same Wasp Spider, after it had produced a large egg sack.
Photo Bill Rusted (18th Sept)

Monday 19 August 2019

Spotted Flycatcher Project - Michael Holdsworth Aug 2019 update

Michael Holdsworth spoke at the ANW member's meeting earlier this year, about his very interesting Spotted Flycatcher Project which, over the past few years, has aimed to understand more about the factors influencing the decline of this lovely migrant summer visitor.

He recently posted an update to this project on the Cambridgeshire Bird Ringing site.  Further details can also be found here:

Cambridgeshire Spotted Flycatcher geolocator project – 2019 update 

Our geolocator project fieldwork is now complete. By the middle of August, when this is being written, we are left with only a handful of second-brood or replacement nests still active and feeding young. Most adults will have left. As usual, I haven’t received more than one or two records from outside the project all summer, and I don’t expect to receive any more now, so here’s a quick stock-take of our results for the 2019 season.

The BTO geolocator project has been designed and managed by Chris Hewson.

We – mainly just Lee Barber (BTO) and I – have been working on a two-year cycle. We attached geolocator tags for the first time (anywhere in Europe for the species) on flycatchers in 2016, for retrieval in 2017. There is a parallel RSPB project in Devon. The tags, 0.35gm and the size of a small button, do not transmit and cannot be read remotely; so they have to be removed from the bird for the data to be downloaded. We attached tags on a second cohort last year 2018, so this year was our second retrieval year. The nature of our fieldwork is very much dictated by whether we are tagging or retrieving; in a retrieval year like 2019 we find fewer nests and spend all our time focussing on sites where we think our geolocator birds will be. It is thus important to remember that this isn’t anything like a county-wide survey or census; with just one exception we have no sites north of Ely, and we have none in the Fens. We probably only find a fraction of the flycatchers out there, even though birders never seem to record them at all.

This season we ringed 101 nestling and 32 new adult flycatchers. That total, 133, is the same as in 2018 (94, 39). This excludes nestlings which died before fledging – for which we had an exceptional number this year due to a spell of very wet and cold weather in early June; we also lost at least two incubating females at that time. Nationally, for Britain and Ireland, only 1,162 flycatchers were ringed in 2018. 742 of these were full-grown birds mainly trapped on spring and autumn passage at coastal bird observatories, and particularly at Portland and the Calf of Man. 420 were ringed as nestlings.

We had nineteen 2018 tags to retrieve, and we managed five. To do this, the birds obviously first must survive their round-trip migration of about 26,000km; then we 2 have to locate them; and then we have to catch them. Not always straightforward: one canny bird took us four site visits and over eight hours to re-catch. We had a sixth bird which came back, was seen once and then vanished. Overall, six (32%) is a reasonable return-rate. Of 89 identifiable adults in the project so far, we’ve re-found 35 (39%) surviving into a later year. This is of course a minimum figure, as some birds will always survive without being re-found. In 2017 we had 9/19 come back (seven tags retrieved), which at 47% was an exceptionally high proportion for a small sub-Saharan migrant passerine. The tag data are providing unique insights into migration timing, routes, stopovers, desert crossing strategies and wintering areas – mainly in Angola.

There will still be some pairs to add, but we have this year provisionally confirmed breeding in 49 out of 71 pairs in 50 tetrads (final count 65/80 in 66 in 2018). We know of 44 nests in 30 tetrads (41 in 32).

Since the project started, we have ringed a total of 382 nestlings and 127 adults. None of our adults has ever been encountered or recovered elsewhere. All our re-sighted adults have returned to within a few hundred metres of where they were originally ringed, except for one which moved 2.25km. If this happens regularly, then they could be many more adults that we are missing. With most territories within 100m of the nest, and often less, cold searching just isn’t an option.

We haven’t seen or heard of any of our 382 ringed nestlings again, which may be confirming the theory that one of the principal causes of the species decline is that survival of young birds in the first year after fledging is insufficient to recruit enough replacements into the population to offset adult mortality.

We won’t be continuing with a BTO geolocator project into 2020; we now have sufficient migration tracks to answer the main questions about routes, stopovers and wintering areas. I myself, however, will continue to monitor our Cambridgeshire birds as time permits next year.

My thanks this year to Geoff Barlow, Carole Davis, Rob McEwen and Bernard Siddle for additional help with fieldwork.

Michael Holdsworth 15 August 2019

Please email with all Cambridgeshire Spotted Flycatcher records
from May to October. Thanks in advance.

Sunday 18 August 2019

Sparrowhawk swoops in for the kill

Sunday, 4th August.  Sitting in her garden, Carole M was thinking there were not many birds around due to the hot weather, when she was startled by a whoosh and thud as two birds landed three feet away from her. One, which she thought was a Sparrowhawk, shot through a gap in the trees leaving what I thought was a headless Woodpigeon - however, the pigeon later recovered and flew off.

The next day, early morning, she peered through a gap in our bedroom curtains and was surprised to see the Sparrowhawk ripping at the remains of a pigeon. Clearly it had returned to complete its 'unfinished business'.


Jennifer H spotted these two dragonflies in her garden (7th August)

 Southern Hawker dragonfly

Ruddy Darter dragonfly

ANW Trip - Evening walk along Old Railway Cutting

On Wednesday 7th August, Sally Turnidge led an evening walk, principally to look at the flora along the Old Railway Cutting. The following species of flora were recorded:

Common Cudweed (no photo) Red Bartsia (no photo)
Cotton (formerly Scotch) Thistle Scabious
Great Bindweed  Teasel
Hemp Nettle Toadflax (no photo)
Knapweed Weld
Marjoram White Campion
Mignonette Wild Parsnip
Old Man's Beard Yellow Wort
Perforated St John's Wort
In addition, the following bird species were seen:
House Martin
Swift - one, possibly on passage?

(Photos from Peter B and Emma J) 

Cotton Thistle

Great Bindweed

Hemp Nettle





Old Man's Beard

Old Man's Beard

Perforated St John's Wort





White Campion

Wild Parsnip (seedheads)

Yellow Wort (after flowering)

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 (