Thursday 29 April 2021

News: Short-eared Owl along the Roman Road

Monday 26th April, 2021

Whilst out walking in the evening sun along the Roman Road earlier this week, Andy M was particularly excited to see a Short-eared Owl. Seen initially gliding along the Roman Road, it drifted over the hedge into the field beyond. Andy followed and spotted it 'perching' on the ground a short way off.

This relatively large owl (a little larger than a Barn Owl) has coarsely-patterned brown plumage on the back, being more finely patterned on the head, with a striking pale facial disk, darker areas around the large eyes, and short 'ear' tufts. As Andy approached, it flew off across the field, gliding gracefully on surprisingly long and narrow wings, to again 'perch' on the ground beneath another hedge. 

Unlike other owls, Short-eared Owl are partly diurnal and can be seen hunting during day-light hours, preferring open scrubby grassland away from woodland.

Whilst only very rarely seen in the Abingtons (the last one was seen by Anne D-N south of the LSA in Sept 2015), small numbers of Short-eared Owl overwinter in Cambridgeshire, being more usually seen in places such as Burwell Fen, Wicken Fen and the Nene Washes.  Derek T has also more recently seen one around Dernford Reservoir, near Stapleford last winter.

Photos of a Short-eared Owl, taken by Derek T at Dernford Reservoir in Nov'2020.

Young Blackbirds in the garden

Barry Brooks noted a trio of young Blackbird in his garden recentlyand took a few photos of their antics, including some lovely photos of them being feed by the adult male which, along with the female adult, was still around keeping a watchful eye.  
Barry also noted a Robin and a young Dunnock hopping around under the feeders - looking similar to an adult, but still showing the yellowish markings at the base of the bill seen in fledglings and young birds.

Young Blackbird

Young Blackbird taking a dip

A lovely trio of young Blackbird

Getting a snack from the male Blackbird

Young Blackbird

Young Dunnock


RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch - results from RSPB

The RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch took place in January, and the RSPB have recently released the collated data from across the UK.  Derek T compared the ten most commonly reported species from our own Abington survey, with those most commonly reported across England.


Interestingly there are a number of differences, mostly relating to Abington's relatively rural location.  The low number of sightings for House Sparrow and Starling in the Abingtons is striking, and the higher position of both Woodpigeon and Jackdaw in Abington perhaps indicates the relatively close proximity to farmland. 

Thanks to all who took part in the BGBW earlier in the year, and to Derek for collating the results.

News: First Common Whitethroat heard

Thursday, 22nd April 2021

Whilst walking along the Roman Road Len M reported hearing several Common Whitethroat singing from the hedgerows - the first report of this summer visitor warbler species in the Abingtons this year.

Granta Park

16th April. Jez Smith, a personal trainer who works on Granta Park and a photographer, took a walk around Granta Park on Easter Sunday and sent a few photos through to Naturewatch:

Blue Tit


Green Woodpecker - having just left its nest hole

Green Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Tuesday 13 April 2021

Old Railway Cutting walk

11th April 2021.  For the first time in a while, Andy M took a walk along the Old Railway Cutting at the weekend, and captured a few things that peaked his interest.

Muntjac - apparently oblivious of my presence
Muntjac - even when it saw me, it seemed uncertain what to do!
A larger herd of Fallow Deer in the distance
The vibrant brilliance of Blackthorn in the sun
Blackthorn flower clusters close-up
Tree 'catkins'
The last of the bright yellow Sallow catkins
The lovely finely-divided foliage of Hemlock - still quite low to the ground... for now
An early Cowslip, with many smaller plants and buds following on behind
An unexpectedly late clump of Snowdrop flowers
Ground Ivy
White Dead-nettle
White-tailed Bumblebee
Female Common Redstart 
- perching along edge of the hedgerow, ready to drop onto insects in the grass below
Female Common Redstart - note the rufous red rump and tail ...
... giving that characteristic 'redstart' flash of colour in flight!

Monday 12 April 2021

News. First sightings of Green-veined White and Orange Tip butterflies

Monday, 12th April 2021

Despite the cold temperatures recently, in the sunshine Derek T spotted a Green-veined White butterfly and an Orange Tip butterfly in his garden today, these being the first sightings of these species in the Abingtons this year.

Some unusual bird sightings

11th April 2021.

At the weekend, David F saw a small group of Mandarin Duck, just outside the village, on the Hildersham water-meadows.  

Andy M spotted a female Common Redstart feeding in the hedgerows along the Old Railway Cutting.  This latter species is a somewhat elusive passage migrant in the south-east of England - wintering in Africa, it travels north during April to nest in the west and north-west of the UK. Drought in the Sahal where it over-winters, and loss of hedgerow breeding sites in the UK in recent years have caused populations to decline, and this sighting of this uncommon species is believed to be the first in the Abingtons in recent years (since 2000).

Two male and a female Mandarin Duck
Two male Mandarin Duck

Female Common Redstart
- perching in the hedgerow edge, from where it drops down on insect prey on the ground below.

Female Common Redstart
- quietly calling from within the safety of a thicket
Female Common Redstart
- note the characteristic rufous red rump and tail, which particularly obvious in flight.

News: First House Martin seen

Monday, 5th April 2021

Derek T was very happy to see the first House Martin of the year, flying over his garden around midday. None House Martin seem to have stayed around the school and shop yet, so this was likely a bird passing through.

In 2019 the first House Martin was seen in the Abingtons on 19th April, and in 2018 on 22nd April. 

The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) recently published this very useful guide to when summer migrants might be expected to return to the UK - the dark orange boxes showing the main period of return, with the paler boxes showing the broader period, and the average date shown by the dark line. The exact dates depend on the location in the UK, and weather conditions each year.  

Granta Park walk

4th April 2021.  
A few photos from Andy M's walk around Granta Park, when the weather was sunny, but with a bit of a cold wind.  The foamy white clusters of Blackthorn were in full bloom, attracting numerous Buff-tailed Bumblebee. Underneath, the spikes of small purple flowers of Ground Ivy were appearing above the creeping foliage, interspersed with Celandine flowers still shining out from the more sunny patches. Many of the trees were starting to come into leaf, including Sycamore, Horse Chestnut and Hawthorn.  A broad swathe of yellow Cowslip flowers was starting to show on the sunny meadows, alongside Daisy and the delicate pink five-petal stars of Common Storksbill.  The Honeybees were very active around the hives, and a number of Dark-edged Beefly could be seen resting on prominent leaves, apparently soaking up the warm sun. 
In the trees, the song of the Blackcap and Chiffchaff was prominent alongside that of the Robin and Great Tit.  The few Mallard on the lake were all paired up, as were the Jackdaw and Pied Wagtail searching for insects in amongst the grass.

Blackthorn now in full flower
Buff-tailed Bumblebee in the fresh foam of Blackthorn flowers
Ground Ivy
Ground Ivy
Starburst pattern left by beetles
- mining under the bark of a now long dead tree
Fresh green tree leaves starting to open up
Common Storksbill and Daisy
Common Storksbill
Common Storksbill
Broad swaths of Cowslip on the entrance meadow
Honeybee - busy at the hive entrance
Dark-edge Beefly
- so named from the characteristic dark patches on the wings
Dark-edge Beefly
Male Blackcap  - singing from the top of an Elder 
Male Blackcap
Mallard - one of a few pairs on the lake
Female Mallard
Male Mallard - one of a few pairs on the lake
Buzzard - hunched up against he cold wind, waiting for a meal to pass underneath.
A strident male Pheasant
Blue Tit - fluffed-up against the cold
Jackdaw - a variety of delicate grey and black, with a piercing blue eye
Male Pied Wagtail - with characteristic black and white plumage
Female Pied Wagtail - with grey back

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 (