Wednesday 24 February 2021

News: First Butterflies, Bumblebees and Ladybirds reported

Saturday, 20th February 2021

Following the quite marked change in weather, from cold northerlies to sun and temperatures in the mid-teens this week, the first butterflies and bumblebees of the year started to be seen.  Jennifer H reported receiving several sightings of Brimstone butterflies on Saturday 20th, along with several reports of early Buff-tailed Bumblebee and Seven-spot Ladybird.  A Peacock butterfly was also seen on 24th.

Len M reported several Buff-tailed Bumblebee 
and a large number of Honey Bee feeding in this fine display of crocuses in his garden 

Buff-tailed Bumblebee [photo Len M]

Buff-tailed Bumblebee [photo Len M]

Crocus [photo Len M]

Two groups of Seven-spot Ladybird emerged into the sunshine [photo Andy M]

Muntjac eating berries

Jennifer H noted last week: Whilst watching three Redwing eating the berries on one of the bushes in her garden (quite regular visitors now), she looked down and saw a Muntjac Deer on the ground below the bush. It was seen stretching up and eating the berries. Jennifer then also realised that there was a smaller younger Muntjac also hiding under the bush.

News: First report of Siskin

Thursday, 18th February 2021

The first Siskin of the winter season was spotted in Abington this week, on Andy M's garden feeders. Initially, one brightly-coloured male was seen on 18th, followed by three, all males, during the following week.

Siskin are small finches that breed in northern and eastern Europe, but during the winter can visit the UK, often in large numbers when food becomes short across the North Sea. Their small size (smaller than a Goldfinch), feisty behaviour on the feeders, and striking yellow and green plumage with a characteristic black cap and bib, makes the males easy to spot.

Male Siskin
Note the black cap, yellow-green head and back, and striking black and yellow wing pattern.  
Also a strongly yellow rump most visible when flying away.

Male Siskin.
Note the small black bib too.

Male Siskin on the feeders with a flock of Greenfinch
(note Siskin is smaller, with more strikingly patterned plumage) 

Siskin often travel around in winter in mixed flocks with Goldfinch and Greenfinch - all shown to approximately the same scale below: 
Male Siskin (11-12 cm long)
Goldfinch (12-13 cm long)
Greenfinch (14-16 cm long)


The male Pheasant, which has become a regular visitor to the ground under the feeders in Andy M's garden, was joined by three females this week, perhaps coming into gardens in search of food after the recent snow.

Male Pheasant

A male and three female Pheasant, under the feeders

Two female Pheasant

Snowdrops and Aconites

Andy M noted that Mitch's Wood, alongside Linton Road in Great Abington, was putting on a fine display, being carpeted in Snowdrops and Aconites around mid-February.  Similarly, David F saw the same species in flower in Sluice Wood.

A carpet of Snowdrops in Mitch's Wood [photo AM]

A fine display of Aconites in Mitch's Wood [photo AM]

Aconites in Sluice Wood [photo DF]

Snowdrops and Aconites in Sluice Wood [photo DF]

Fieldfare and Redwing

David F spotted these Fieldfare and a Redwing which came into his garden on Bourn Bridge Road.  Jennifer H also reported having several Redwing visit berry bushes in her garden.

These thrushes, which are winter-visitors to the UK, normally frequent hedgerows but were undoubtedly forced into gardens in search of berries during the cold weather.

Four Fieldfare (larger, grey and brown backs), and one Redwing (second from left)

Snowy scenes over Abington

Early February brought a prolonged spell of cold weather across the UK, with snow remaining on the ground for several days, and cat-ice forming around the edges of puddles, leaving their striking patterns long after the water level had dropped.

Snow on the fields, looking east from near Abington Park Farm
Snow on the fields looking east, from near Abington Park Farm
An icy track, and snow on the fields looking towards Abington Park Farm
[photos Andy M]

Sunday 14 February 2021

Fieldfare - coming in from the cold!

Both David F and Len M commented that Fieldfare have suddenly arrived in their gardens this week, with a keen eye on the berries there. Polly M also saw one eating Holly berries in the garden today, and Derek T and Jennifer H have also seen Redwing around their gardens recently.  Given the recent cold snap, food in the local hedgerows is likely to be running low, forcing these winter-visiting birds to seek food in our gardens.

Fieldfare [photos David F]

Sunday 7 February 2021

Fallow Deer tracks - in Sluice Wood

On 1st February, when the paths in Sluice Wood were particularly muddy, David F noted some unusually large deer prints along the path. These were definitely too large to be made by the quite commonly seen Muntjac Deer, and David believes them to be made by Fallow Deer, probably both adults and young. David walks the paths around Sluice Wood fairly regularly, and this was the first time he had seen these large tracks.

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch

As has been the case for over forty years, the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch took place over the last weekend of January, this year from Friday 29th to Sunday 31st.

ANW members once again sent their local Abington garden results to Derek, who collated the results below.  An impressive total of 22 reports were received this year, up from 15 reports in 2020, and collectively a total of 30 bird species were seen this year!

'Top spots' of the 2021 BGBW were: 1st - Blue Tit; 2nd - Woodpigeon; 3rd - Robin; 4th - Blackbird.

Compared to the ANW BGBW in 2020, a few species were seen in 2021, but not in 2020: Fieldfare, Jay, Redwing, Reed Bunting and Stock Dove.  Conversely, several species seen in 2020 were absent from this year's list: Black-headed Gull, Green Woodpecker, Kestrel and Nuthatch.  In all instances, these species were only reported by 1 or 2 people, so whilst these species may have been around in both years, they are perhaps less common and so less likely to be seen during any given hour of watching. 

More interestingly perhaps, is the relative percentage of reports that record each species, since this may be a better indicator of the general abundance of each species. Several species were seen less commonly this year, most noticeably: Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Dunnock and Sparrowhawk. Some species however appear to have been seen much more often in 2021, including Blue Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker

Many thanks to everyone who took part.  Some concerns were expressed that we saw fewer birds than normal this year, but hopefully everyone enjoyed taking part.  Once the full results are published by the RSPB, it will be interesting to see how our our Abington results compare with those across the county and country this year.

January 2021 - Interesting sightings from around the Abingtons

January 2021

Amphibians and Reptiles

Gaynor Farrant has kindly agreed to become the new ANW Recorder for these species. Please email her any sightings, particularly as they start to emerge from hibernation over the coming months.



A total of 872 sightings, including 44 different species were received this month – a number boosted by the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch which took place during the last weekend of the month.

RSPB BGBW – an impressive total of 22 reports were received, spotting 30 different species.

Fieldfare – 10 reports, mostly of 1-4 birds on the ORC and LSA, but also a flock of c30 on Perse sports fields. Redwing – flocks of 10-30 seen in hedgerows right across the villages, including GP, ORC, LSA, Abington Woods and Cambridge Rd - a notable increase in sightings, with 19 reports mostly from in second half of the month.

Common Gull – small numbers spotted amongst larger flocks of Black-headed Gull (50-200), on GP cricket field and Perse sports fields, and following the plough in fields along Bourn Bridge Road.

Song Thrush – after an apparent absence of some months, 17 reports of birds singing, and feeding in gardens and on the LSA and ORC.  Wren – a few reports of 1-2 birds, similarly being seen and heard again in gardens this month.

Reed Bunting – unusually, seen again under feeders in one particular garden in Lewis Crescent, as was the case at the same time last year.

Blackcap – a pair seen on several occasions taking seed from feeders in Lewis Crescent, and a male on the ORC.

Skylark – several reports of up to 20, singing and displaying in loose flocks near AbPkFm.  Meadow Pipit – flock of 11 feeding in fields adjacent to Tom’s Wood. Pied Wagtail – flock of 12 feeding on GP cricket field.

Goldfinch – reports of good numbers (up to 23) at some feeders, alongside 4-8 Greenfinch and 2-6 Chaffinch, both seen more regularly this month. Blue Tit and Great Tit also reported widely, and Long-tailed Tit more occasionally.  A single Coal Tit and Goldcrest continue to be seen occasionally in a Cambridge Road garden.

Dunnock and Robin – 1-2 regularly in gardens, with both species occasionally heard singing.

Collared Dove – groups of 2-6, but up to 14, commonly seen under bird feeders, as were increasing numbers of Stock Dove (4-6). Both Magpie (1-2) and Jay (1-3) being reported more frequently around garden feeders at several locations.

Great Spotted Woodpecker – 1-2, both male and female, seen most days at some feeders, and a few reports of Green Woodpecker, mostly in the fields adjacent to Church Lane.

Barnacle Goose – several reports of 4-6 feeding on GP cricket field, and flying over Sluice Wood. Grey Heron – 2 feeding in the flooded meadows between the churches.  Mallard and Moorhen – also seen on the flooded river meadows, as well as along the river and on GP lake.

Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard – 1-2 seen at several locations around the villages. Red Kite – three reports of a single bird over both the LSA and Bourn Bridge Road.


Butterflies, Bees and other insects

Two reports, both at the end of the month.

Harlequin Ladybird - in a house.

a Seven-spot Ladybird - on a shrub in garden.



Fox – four spotted in Granta Park on 15th, one along the ORC on the 17th, and one in Cook’s Field on 28th.

Muntjac – one in Sluice Wood on 24th, one in Cambridge Road on 28th, and three on ORC on 31st.


Flora & Fungi

Aconite and Snowdrop in flower at several sites including Sluice Wood.



No organised activities in the river or litter-pick as all suspended due to lockdown. The team however, continue to work individually. There was a fair amount of flooding (the worst for several years), with some individual efforts from the team to clear trees and debris arriving by river.

Two of the team attended an online discussion about an EU initiative quantifying plastic waste pollution, carried by rivers to the ocean. The Great Ouse is the largest and most northern catchment being studied, and the only one not flowing directly into the English Channel. An attendee from Linton reported some quite bad littering there, and since we see less downstream in Abington, they seem to do a good job!



The rainfall in January totalled 83.5 mm, with the lowest recorded temperature being minus 4.7 C on the 25th and the highest 14.5 C on the 28th. However, we had several cold snaps during the month, so overall a more ‘normal’ January. One really windy spell during the 3rd week, but otherwise fairly calm.

Many thanks to all those who contributed reports of their sightings for January 2021:
Barry Brooks, Peter Brunning, David Farrant, Gaynor Farrant, Jennifer Hirsh, Andy Merryweather, Gill Smith, Maggie Turner, Derek Turnidge, Sally Turnidge – and all those reporting in the BGBW.
Please email your sightings, within the Abington parishes, to the relevant ANW Recorder:
Amphibians & Reptiles    Gaynor Farrant      
Birds:                               Derek Turnidge     
Butterflies, Bees etc:       Jennifer Hirsh        
Mammals:                        Gill Smith              
Flora recorder 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. AbPkFm – Abington Park Farm.

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 (