Saturday 8 May 2021

April 2021: Interesting Sightings from around the Abingtons

April 2021

Amphibians and Reptiles

Smooth Newt – only one report in a pond in LA.

Frog and Toad spawn does not seem to have appeared, tallying with observations from further afield. The question is will they still spawn but much later or not at all?


An interesting ‘transition month’ with the last remaining ‘winter visitors’ still being seen, along with a few more exciting migrants, and the returning ‘summer visitors’, although prolonged spells of cold northerly winds for much of the month may be holding some species back. A total of 60 species were reported, in a total of 591 sightings this month.

Common Redstart – single female feeding along ORC on 11-12th, characteristically dropping on insects on the ground from a perch in the hedge. Also a migrant travelling to breed in the north and west of UK.  An uncommon bird generally in the south, and a first report for the Abingtons.

Short-eared Owl – single bird hunting along Roman Road on 26th. Rarely seen in the Abingtons (last one was in Sep2015), but small numbers overwinter in Cambs, migrating north in the spring.

Ring Ouzel – single bird with a flock of Mistle Thrush on recreation ground on 29th. Another unusual sighting in the Abingtons (seen only once or twice in the last 20 years), and generally uncommon in east England, and en route to its more northern breeding grounds.

Raven – single report of a bird flying over Granta Park on 11th.

Winter visitors: in much smaller numbers now. Siskin – a few reports of 1-4 on feeders, and Lesser Redpoll – only two reports of 2-3 birds, both species last seen on 11th. Brambling – a single bird drinking from a birdbath in a BBRd garden report, quite late in the year on 20th. No reports of Fieldfare or Redwing.

Summer visitors: Swallow – first seen on 2nd above High St, LA, then several sightings on GP, ORC and birds returning to nest sites on LSA. House Martin – only one report of a single bird flying over on 5th. None around local nest sites yet. No reports of Swift in April.

Warblers: Common Whitethroat – several singing along Roman Road (first on 22nd), and Lesser Whitethroat – 2-3 singing along ORC from 30th. Chiffchaff and Blackcap regular reports (12-14) of singing males, throughout the month and at a number of locations.

Mistle Thrush – several reports, some apparently passing through, but also seen collecting food presumably for sitting females or young, on the recreation ground and around Church Lane.  Song Thrush – several reports, singing and collecting food. Blackbird – several fledged young seen from 8th, and fledged Robin (11th) and Dunnock (24th) also reported.

Nuthatch – pair seen near recreation ground. Treecreeper – pair reported nesting, but have since abandoned. Great Spotted Woodpecker – 1-2 still regularly visiting some gardens, and Green Woodpecker – 1-2 on GP, where a pair is known to be nesting, and two reports of 1-3 on Cambridge Road and on LSA. Stock Dove – 2-4 reported regularly in some gardens and GP.

Corn Bunting – seen once on LSA.  Reed Bunting – in reedbeds on GP, and a few still under feeders in Lewis Crescent. Yellowhammer – singing male on LSA, Linnet – 1-2 occasionally on LSA and ORC, and Skylark heard above fields on LSA, ORC and Pampisford Rd.

Pied Wagtail – regular reports of small numbers, mostly feeding in fields around the villages.

Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Wren, Jay – small numbers, and only occasionally at a few locations.  Small groups of Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch still around feeders.

Mute Swan pair, Canada Goose and Greylag reported on GP lake, alongside a few Mallard and Moorhen. Grey Heron – two reports, on GP and Cambridge Rd.

Buzzard – regularly 2-4 high above village, often mobbed by corvids. Red Kite – six reports, with three seen above the allotments on one occasion. Kestrel – usually of single bird, along ORC, and Sparrowhawk – three reports, including display flights above GP, and Lewis Crescent.

Butterflies, Bees and other insects

April has been an unusual month for invertebrates this year with only 138 reports. (Last year 2020, with very warm April, 422 reports). The month has been very cold with frosts almost every night and very little rain. All these reports are from within the boundaries of Great and Little Abington, but exclude Granta Park. Note that the numbers shown below are the number of reports of sightings, not the numbers of butterflies or other insects seen.

Butterflies (95 reports):

Brimstone, 30; Orange Tip, 26 – first on 12th, but numbers low for April; Peacock, 15; 

Small White, 7; Green-veined White, 6; Comma, 4; Small Tortoiseshell, 4; Holly Blue, 2;

Large White, 1.

Bees (38 reports):

Buff-tailed Bumblebee, 8; , White-tailed Bumblebee, 1; Red-tailed Bumblebee, 1; Tree Bumblebee, 2; Unknown Bumblebee, 1;

Honey Bee, 5; Tawny Mining Bee, 3; Hairy-legged Flower Bee, 2; Common Carder Bee, 1; Solitary Bee, 1.

Bee-fly, 10 reports – more being seen.  Seven-spot Ladybird, 3; Hoverfly, 1; Rosemary Beetle, 1.


Bat – small number reported over a Cambridge Road garden on 20th.

Fallow Deer – over 30 seen in field south of ORC.

Muntjac – one seen on GP, and several spotted along the ORC.

Flora and Fungi

Cowslip flowering in abundance around the village, and especially on Granta Park. Dog’s Mercury and Ground Ivy continued to flower well, as did Celandine. Blackthorn flowers appeared in the first week, then abundant for the remainder of the month. Sweet Violet, both white and purple forms early on, as were Celandine. Common Storksbill, Daisy and White-dead Nettle throughout, and Garlic Mustard appearing later in the month.


The river is still looking good after getting a good amount of rain earlier in the year. We are once again doing our monthly litter-pick along the public section of the river by the cricket and recreation grounds, and keeping an eye on it in Sluice Wood.

A small group did the first sampling of the year on 27 April. There was a good flow and there is now weed once again at the ford. Water quality, as usual, was high in nitrate and low in phosphate. We did not find many fly larvae, perhaps due to the cold weather and faster flow, but there were some very small Olive Mayfly, as well as a few shrimp. We did, however, spot fish (probably trout) rising under the bridge and caught a Stone Loach and a small Brown Trout.


April was an exceptionally dry and cold month, with only 4mm of rain and a lowest temperature of minus 4.7 degrees C on the 17th April, and a high of 21.5 degrees C on the 19th. There were a total of 16 frosty mornings over the month, and the general daytime temperatures were below 'normal'. For the whole of the month the winds have been in a northerly or easterly direction.

Many thanks to all those who contributed reports of their sightings for April 2021:
Barry Brookes, Peter Brunning, Lois Bull, David Farrant, Gaynor Farrant, Robin Harman, Jennifer Hirsh, Carole McCrae, Len Mead, Andy Merryweather, Freda Orgee, Brian Parris, Gareth Rees, Marion Rusted, Gill Smith, Jez Smith, Maggie Turner, Derek Turnidge, Diana Wingfield.

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. BBRd - Bourn Bridge Road

River sampling results - April

Tuesday, 27th April 2021

The ANW Rivercare team resumed river sampling again this month at the Abington ford, with a small group maintaining good social distancing.

The river was observed to be flowing well, and the water clear. High nitrate was noted, as usual, but with more blanket weed than would normally be seen.
Two fish were noted, one Stone Loach and a possible juvenile Brown Trout.

Full reported results below, and photographs can be accessed at this LINK

Possible juvenile Brown Trout

Official - April was cold!

Gaynor F has been recording the weather in Abington for some years now, and recently compared the daily April temperatures for this year, with April 2020. 

This April, she noted a total of 16 frosty mornings, compared with only 3-4 in 2020, and this year both minimum and maximum temperatures were generally lower compared to 2020.

In the graph below, solid lines show April 2021 temperatures, and dashed lines show 2020 temperatures. Blue lines are minimum temperatures, and orange lines maximum temperatures, each day in degrees C.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

After an absence of a few weeks, a male Great Spotted Woodpecker returned to Andy M's garden to take a look around.

Note the red patch on the nape at the back of the head
 - distinguishing the male from the otherwise very similar female.

Granta Park walk

Sunday, 2nd May 2021.  

Andy M took an early morning walk around Granta Park. The field of Cowslip at the site entrance, and the Cherry blossom were a real spectacle in the spring sunshine, and the woods were turning a verdant green as the trees come into leaf.  Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Wren were all singing.

Around the lake a pair of Mute Swan were feeding, as was a Grey Heron, and Reed Bunting were busy singing and pairing up in the reedbed.  Unusually, a Sedge Warbler was also heard singing from deep in the reeds, not a species that Andy had heard there before, and likely a bird just passing through on the way to a larger reedbed. 

Quite a display of Cowslips in the field by the site entrance

Cowslip and Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom along the avenue path

Common Storksbill

Low sun in Sluice Wood

Wych Elm seeds



Dappled sun in Sluice Wood

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

The river in Sluice Wood, near the footbridge

Seeing double!  A pair of Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Grey Heron

Male Reed Bunting

Male Reed Bunting

Male Reed Bunting

A female Reed Bunting, watching the singing males

A male Pied Wagtail displaying to a female...

... who was apparently unimpressed!


A Greylag goose snoozing in the sun

A few garden insects

A few insects Andy M spotted in the sun in his garden.

Dark-edged Beefly

Dark-edged Beefly

Hoverfly on a Doronicum flower

White-tailed Bumblebee

Tawny Miner Bee

Friday 7 May 2021

News: Swift seen over Abington - and bang on schedule!

Thursday, 6th May 2021

Whilst walking up Great Abington High Street on Thursday evening, Andy M spotted a single Swift, flying around over the High Street and Mortlock Gardens.  A single bird was again seen over Lewis Crescent on Friday, so it may be that this one is a 'local bird' here for the summer.

This is the first report over the Abingtons this year, and it's bang on schedule when compared to first sightings in previous year over the villages. Considering the distance these birds travel to get here, the first sighting dates are amazingly consistent - between 4th and 7th May in eight of the last twelve years!

2021 - 6th May.     2020 - 5th May.   2019 - 4th May.    2018 - 7th May.    2017 - 5th May.
2016 - 2nd May.    2015 - 7th May.   2014 -11th May.   2013 - 6th May.    2012 - 30th April.
2011 - 6th May.     2010 -12th May.

Photo: Patrick Barkham Guardian website  

Bird food preferences

Until recently, Peter B has been filling his bird feeders with mixed seed and has been disappointed at the lack of variety of bird species visiting - most often just seeing Jackdaw and Woodpigeon.  

So recently, he got a fat-ball feeder, and 'it's been busy!'  He's now seeing Blue Tit, Robin, House Sparrow and Robin, as well as the ubiquitous and persistent Jackdaw. Between them, they managed to consume six fat balls within a day!

An amazing difference, and just goes to show that birds have food preferences too! 

Blue Tit
Blue Tit
Blue Tit
Blue Tit
Collared Dove

Tuesday 4 May 2021

News: Ring Ouzel on recreation ground

Thursday, 29th April 2021

Late afternoon on Thursday, Maggie and John T were lucky enough to spot a Ring Ouzel on the playing field by the river, along with a group of six Mistle Thrush. Sadly, by the time John rushed home and returned with his camera it had gone. 

Normally birds of more northern heath and moorland, or craggy cliff tops, this bird was likely a migrant travelling through. Ring Ouzel are uncommon in the east of England, with only around 20 sightings a year in Cambridgeshire, with only a handful of reports in the Abingtons since 2020!

Ring Ouzel are visually similar to Blackbirds, the male being black and the female dark brown, but both have a crescent-shaped mark on their upper breast.  In the male, this is white and very obvious, but is more muted and can be harder to spot in the female.

Male Ring Ouzel [photo Wikipedia]

Female Ring Ouzel [photo Wikipedia]

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 (