Sunday 31 January 2021

If you have a pond, even a small one ... read on!

Gaynor F recently kindly agreed to be the new Amphibians and Reptiles recorder for Abington Nature Watch, so if you have a pond - however small - please keep a look out for the first signs of these lovely creatures coming out of hibernation.

Gaynor has included a hints of what to look for:

Now is the time to start looking for signs of frog and toad spawn, which can be found in ponds from late January, and into February and March. Frog spawn is always laid in clumps whereas toad spawn comes in long chains, usually draped over pond weed and submerged plants.

Also look out for the adults. Generally around the Abingtons, we could spot quite a number of amphibian species, including and two species of frog, one toad species, and two species of newt: 

Common Frog is about 9 cm (3.5 in) long, green or brown with irregular dark blotches on the back and behind the eye. 

Pool Frog is also about 9 cm (3.5 in) long, although the males are usually a little smaller, and are dark-brown with a yellow stripe down the middle of the back.  

Common Toad is about 8 cm (3 in) long with warty skin which is shades of brown, green or grey and the belly is often pale with dark speckles. 

Common Newt (or Smooth Newt) is about 8-11 cm (4 in) long, grey-brown on top with an orange belly, and black spots all over. Males have a smooth crest running down their body and tail, in the breeding season.

Great Crested Newt is larger, being up to 17cm (6-7 in) long, having almost black warty skin, with spotted flanks and a striking orange belly. Like the Common Newt, males also have a long wavy crest running along their body and tail during the breeding season.

The Suffolk Wildlife Trust has a useful website with more details: LINK

Please do let Gaynor know if you see any of these adults or spawn, or any other amphibians and reptiles, including where, when and how many you see.  

     Gaynor Farrant email:

Contact details for all ANW recorders can be found here: ANW CONTACTS

A good day for the RSPB Big Garden BirdWatch

David F was up with the lark this morning, and witnessed this lovely sunrise.  

Being a great improvement on the weather yesterday, it's turned into a good day to watch the birds, and to take part in the annual RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch.  David has already noted a few good species on his feeders!  And Barry B took some great photos of the birds visiting his garden.

If you do take part, don't forget to also send Derek your bird count for Abington.

A lovely sunrise this morning

Great Spotted Woodpecker (male) and Goldfinch [photo David F]

Several more Goldfinch, and a Great Tit [photo David F]

[all the following photos from Barry B]
Blue Tit

Blue Tit
Long-tailed Tit and Blue Tit

River level high and flooding again

Thursday 28th January 2021

After another spell of heavy rain, the river level again rose rapidly and was very high just prior to the weekend. It burst its banks once again into Lagden's Grove and Cook's Meadow, and to the west of Bourn Bridge.  

On the Hildersham side of the A1307, Andy M had to wade through fields to the Hildersham footbridge, where the river had flooded both sides, the levels in the fields rising while he watched!

The view east from Bourn Bridge, showing flooding again in Lagden's Grove and Cook's Meadow
[photo Barry B, 28th Jan]
The view west from Bourn Bridge, towards the A11
[photo Barry B, 28th Jan]

Footpath to Hildersham, from just over the A1307
[photo Andy M, 1pm 28th Jan]

Looking back towards Abington from Hilda's Wood
[photo Andy M, 1pm 28th Jan]

Hildersham footbridge - almost on its own island!
[photo Andy M, 1pm 28th Jan]

Wednesday 27 January 2021

A pair of Blackcap

In his garden today, Andy spotted a pair of Blackcap, feeding and sheltering together in a bush close to the house. As might be expected from its name, this warbler has a distinctive black cap - but only in the case of the male, the female having a lovely rufous brown cap.

Not often seen in the garden, Andy's hoping they are still around to be counted as part of the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch this coming weekend!

Male Blackcap - with a black cap!

Female Blackcap - with a rufous brown cap

Sunday 24 January 2021

A few garden birds

The cold weather and snow has brought a few more birds into gardens recently.  Mervyn W noted a male Reed Bunting was again feeding in his garden, as was the case this time last year - quite an unusual garden visitor!  

Similarly, a pair of Jay, normally quite shy birds, have become regulars in Andy M's garden, feeding on the seed dropped by the rather messy male Great Spotted Woodpecker. And after the recent snow, one Jay even ventured up to the feeders close to the house. The House Sparrow colony is also becoming more evident, especially if there's the faintest hint of sun!

A pair of Jay, have become quite regular visitors to the garden feeders now.

A male Great Spotted Woodpecker

A Jay, venturing quite close to the house to feed on dropped seed

A male House Sparrow line-up

Saturday 23 January 2021

Early morning walk around Granta Park

Last week, on one of the few sunny days, Andy M took an early morning exercise walk around Granta Park. The wildlife seemed more relaxed than usual, possibly because there are fewer people working on site and walking around at the moment.

The first treat was a lovely view of a male dog Fox, relaxing in the sun in Hood's Wood, the floor of which was covered with emerging Snowdrop flowers. Another adult Fox with a youngster was seen behind Abington Hall. The willows along the river were showing the first hints of their lovely yellow bark. Following the recent high river levels, the meadows between the two churches had flooded, and in particular the meadow north of the river, where a new lake had appeared, complete with Mallard swimming around, and Pied Wagtail feeding along its edges.

Through Sluice Wood, the Alder and Hazel catkins showed up brightly in the sun, and Snowdrop and Aconite buds were evident, just waiting for a little more sun to burst open. Walking on through Lagden's Grove, the path was cross by flooding from the river, quite deep in places. In amongst the undergrowth, Redwing could be heard, shyly flitting away when approached.  Song Thrush and Great Tit were singing, setting up their territories for later in the spring. 

Heading back across around the very sodden cricket field, a number of Barnacle Goose were feeding, accompanied by a few gulls - both Black-headed Gull and the more unusual Common Gull.

Basking male Fox in Tom's Wood
Snowdrops on Tom's Wood
Lovely yellow bark of the willows, with flooding behind
Hood's meadow, only slightly flooded
Flooded meadows north of the river
River and LA church
A new 'lake' in the meadows by the river, complete with Mallard ducks
The high level of the river, and the new 'lake' in the meadows behind
Alder catkins and cones
Hazel catkins
Hazel catkins
Hazel catkins
Flooded path in Lagden's Grove
Flooded path in Lagden's Grove
Great Tit
Barnacle Goose
Barnacle Goose
Common Gull and Black-headed Gull
Common Gull - in winter plumage of grey streaked head and nape,
with yellow-green legs and a black band on the bill
Common Gull

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Frosty trees and the first snowdrops

One crisp sunny morning last week, Andy M noted the fine frosty coating on the trees, and the first signs of the winter flowers, Snowdrop and Aconite on Granta Park.

The icy treetops catching the sun

Two 'ice-trees' on Granta Park

Fine clear ice crystals, obviously formed in a cold wind!

Snowdrop buds, ready to flower in a patch of sun in Sluice Wood

One solitary open Snowdrop flower

Aconite flowers, just waiting for the sun

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 (