Saturday 26 September 2020

Grey Heron visitor to garden pond

Derek T has had a young Grey Heron visit his garden pond recently - although it could be there may not have been much of interest for it there.

A bit of  'research' indicates that juvenile and first winter birds have a dark grey crown, whereas second winter birds have a light grey crown, with adults having a white crown and white neck.  Suggesting this is a second winter bird!

Thursday 24 September 2020

Wild fruits of autumn

Walking along the Old Railway Cutting over the last few weeks, Andy M has noted the sheer abundance of various wild fruits and berries in the hedgerows at the moment.

Ripening Elderberries
Ash keys in the autumn sun
A proliferation of Rowan berries
A 'wild' Apple tree in the hedgerow
A heavy crop of Haws
Old Man's Beard seed-heads catch the sun
A good crop of Pears on a 'wild' tree - sadly all out of reach!
Old Man's Beard
Sloe berries
More Blackberries
Old Man's Beard
Large bunches of Ash keys
Rowan or Mountain Ash berries
Ivy flower buds

Common Darter

A week or two back (9th Sep) Andy M spotted this female Common Darter dragonfly in his garden.  Perching in the sun in a prominent position, it seemed to be keeping a look-out for other passing insects, which it would immediately chase - either to scare them away or as a potential meal, he couldn't tell which.

More Fungi

Derek T photographed this fine toadstool in amongst the leaf litter in his front garden - mostly probably a Shaggy Parasol or the larger Common Parasol.

And Andy M spotted an Earthball toadstool in a  flower beds in his garden.

Shaggy Parasol (or possibly a Common Parasol) [DLT]

An Earthball [AM]

Monday 21 September 2020

Excavated Wasp Nest

 David F spotted this half-excavated Common Wasp nest near Sluice Wood, possibly dug open by a Badger.


David F found a up to six Giant Puffball near Sluice Wood recently - an increase on just the single one last year. Gill S also reported a very impressive Field Mushroom, slightly past its best, and an oyster mushroom, possibly a Bracket Oyster, on her front lawn this week.

Giant Puffball [photo DF]
Giant Puffball [photo DF]

Field Mushroom [photo GS]

Oyster Mushroom [photo GS]

Tuesday 8 September 2020

August 2020. Interesting sightings from around the Abingtons

August 2020
Amphibians and Reptiles
Common Frog – Adults and young frogs were seen early in the month leaving ponds for terrestrial habitats. A very small froglet was observed in West Field LA, some distance from any known water, and a large adult and young frog were seen leaping across the lawn from a pond on South Road, GA, both in the first week in August. 
Common Toad – no sightings.
Smooth (or Common) Newt – very young newt-lets (almost transparent) caught in net while pond dipping in a pond on South Road, (20th).
Grass Snake – late in the month (21st) two snakes were found together under an old paving stone in undergrowth in a garden on South Road GA. Both were very slender, one 40 cm long, the other c. 25 cm long. Possibly preying on young froglets that have recently left the garden pond. Another snake (possibly the same 40 cm long one) seen in the same place on the 24th together with a sloughed skin.

A quieter month for birds, with adults and juveniles of many species foraging quietly in the hedgerows. Some species starting to gather in flocks ahead of autumn, and coming back to garden feeders – particularly Finch and Tit species. Robin now commonly heard singing again, setting up their winter territories, and House Sparrow more evident again around their colonies.
Bittern – an exciting sighting of this rare species, normally confined to large reedbeds, but some birds prone to ‘wandering’ around the local area after breeding. Single bird seen in the river by the recreation ground, before flying upstream over the ford (8th).  A ‘first report’ for the Abingtons.
Common Sandpiper – single bird on migration, seen feeding for a few days around GP lake (~20th).
Peregrine – brief sighting of a single bird, hunting along hedgerows at south end of LSA (20th).

Summer visitors: Spotted Flycatcher – a welcome sighting of this species, seen on 13th and 18th in a Cambridge Road garden.  Presumably a bird passing through after breeding, these are the only reports of this species in the parish this year.
Swift – two reports of 2-3 birds, presumably passing through – last on 8th. Swallow – frequent reports of 1-4 from several sites until 20th.  House Martin – frequently seen, flocks 10-12 over High Street GA, and returning to nests on the school (13th), also around the lake on GP.
Warblers - several species still around this month, but more silent and hidden. Blackcap – three reports early in month of 1-2 birds, including juveniles along ORC. Chiffchaff – more regularly along ORC, and one drinking from a garden pool on LSA. Common Whitethroat – several reports on ORC and LSA until 18th, and Lesser Whitethroat – one seen on ORC (7th).

Long-tailed Tit – returning to gardens after a period of absence, 6-10 seen on South Road. Blue Tit and Great Tit – small groups of 4-6 frequently with juveniles on several feeders. Coal Tit – 2-3 also on feeders in South Road garden.
Greenfinch – small flocks of 6-8 returning to some feeders, as are Goldfinch – 8-12 adults and juveniles. Bullfinch – 1-2 regularly visiting running water near pond on South Road, as well as a pair along ORC.
Goldcrest – 1-2 heard calling whilst feeding in conifers on LSA, and one bathing in birdbath on LSA.
Buzzard – two over Sluice Wood, also an adult and juvenile regularly over LA and ORC. Kestrel – two reports, from GP and LSA. Sparrowhawk – one hunting around feeders in GA gardens.
Grey Wagtail – one along river near Millennium Bridge. Pied Wagtail – flocks of c30 adults and juveniles feeding on GP cricket green; 1-2 birds also reported on ORC and LSA.
Great Spotted Woodpecker – regular visitor to garden feeder on South Road, also occasional reports from GP, LSA and GA garden. Green Woodpecker – reports of one bird near Millennium Bridge, and on GP and LSA. Nuthatch – occasional visitor to High Street LA feeder, often with mixed species Tit flock, and also one on garden feeder on Cambridge Road.
Song Thrush – single bird seen regularly on ORC, but no longer singing.  Mistle Thrush – one in Sluice Wood early in month (7th).
Yellowhammer and Linnet – small flocks (4-6) feeding along hedgerows on Roman Road and ORC.
Mute Swan – two flying over LSA, heading towards GP (27th). Barnacle Goose – 6 on GP cricket green, and Canada Goose – 8 adult and juveniles on GP lake. Mallard – c20 in various stages of moult, 4 Moorhen and up to three Grey Heron around GP lake.
Great Black Backed Gull – small loose flocks seen ‘roaming’ especially over recently harvested fields, often including a few Herring Gull and Black-headed Gull.

Butterflies, Bees and other insects
August was a disappointing month for invertebrates, especially butterflies, with 213 reports in total.  The weather in August was very variable with a few hot days, a few very cold days and nights, and a great deal of rain and strong winds
The reports are from within the boundaries of Great and Little Abington parishes, including a few from Granta Park.  Note that the numbers given below are the number of reports of a species (not the number of butterflies).

Butterflies (19 species, 181 reports).  Butterfly reports for July were dominated by Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Comma and the ‘Whites’. Two possible sightings of Painted Lady.
Butterfly species
Butterfly species
Small White
Small Heath
Red Admiral
Small Tortoiseshell
Meadow Brown
Common Blue
Essex Skipper
Large White
Holly Blue
Large Skipper
Painted Lady
Green-veined White
Brown Argus
Speckled Wood
Chalkhill Blue

Bees (11 reports); Moths (6 reports); Dragonflies (13 reports); Ladybirds (2 reports)

Bats – several bats still flying regularly around a Bourn Bridge Road garden, and in Cambridge Road.
Fallow Deer – four spotted on ORC on the 12th and another two on the 20th.
Field Vole - a continued presence in a Cambridge Road garden.
Grey Squirrel – a continued presence in a Cambridge Road garden, and also in Bourn Bridge Road.
Hare – two on 9th in Granta Park and another two on the 29th along the ORC.
Muntjac - one regularly in Cambridge Road.
Rabbit – one spotted in Cambridge Road.

Flora species reported in flower this month:
          Common Knapweed, Common Restharrow, Spear Thistle, Dwarf Thistle, Goat’s Beard, Lady’s Bedstraw, Bladder Campion, Yarrow, Wild Basil, Common Mallow, Small Scabious, Field Scabious, Mugwort, Ragwort, Common Mallow, Golden Rod, Dark Mullein, Common St John’s Wort, Common Storksbill, Marjoram, Wild Strawberry, Rosebay Willowherb, Himalayan Balsam

After a long break, river sampling was restarted on 11th August, but with reduced numbers of people due to COVID. The river level was low, and the water quality was much as usual, high in nitrates but minimal phosphate. We were a little alarmed to find the usual weed was missing, and reported disappointing results, with no fly larvae, or indeed much else, apart from three different fish: Minnow, Stone Loach and Miller's Thumb.  The detailed report can be found here.
Several clumps of Himalayan Balsam reported and removed.

The rainfall for August was a respectable 93 mm. The highest temperature was 39.5 C on the 12th, with 7 days of temperatures of over 30 C! The lowest temp was 5.6 C on the 31st. Generally a calm month but with a couple of windy spells towards the end.

Many thanks to all those who contributed reports of their sightings for August 2020:
Peter Brunning, Lois Bull, Anne Dunbar-Nobes, David Farrant, Gaynor Farrant, Jennifer Hirsh, Len Mead, Andy Merryweather, Polly Merryweather, David Pimblett, Gill Smith, Derek Turnidge, Sally Turnidge.

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      
Mammals:                       Gill Smith             
Flora:   Currently vacant - if interested, please contact David Farrant for more details.

Abbreviations: GA – Great Abington, LA – Little Abington, LSA – Land Settlement Association, GP – Granta Park, ORC – Old Railway Cutting.

Tuesday 1 September 2020

Unusual Willow Emerald damselfly seen around Granta Park lake

Darren B saw reasonable numbers of the unusual Willow Emerald damselfly around the willow trees alongside Granta Park lake today.

These relatively recent colonists of the UK have been spreading slowly from Suffolk eastwards across south-eastern Britain.  Darren adds that he saw the first one in Herts a few years back, but these were he first he's seen locally in the Abingtons.

[photos Darren Bast]

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 (