Sunday 22 May 2022

Painted Lady butterfly

21st May 2022 - Polly M reported a brief visit from a Painted Lady butterfly to her garden today - the first report of the season. Since then, she saw one again in the garden on 22nd, and Andy M reported seeing one along the ORC. 

It is too cold in the UK for this species to overwinter here, but adults migrating from their overwintering grounds in North Africa into northern Europe occasionally travel across the English Channel to appear here, in some years in quite large numbers.

Wednesday 18 May 2022

ANW trip to Beechwoods

17th May 2022 - our first trip of the year, to Beechwoods -  the Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve just south of Cambridge.  Six of us joined the walk through the woods in the warm sunny evening, the light on the fresh green leaves of the Beech trees contrasting with the dark branches.

The main reason for the visit was to see the White Helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonoium), a member of the orchid family, which prefers these shady conditions on chalky soils, often under Beech. At first only a few smaller specimens were seen, with some evidence that the flower heads may have been browsed by deer.  Indeed an old meaning of the name Helleborine may refer to 'deer food'.  Further into the woods though, and particularly in the more recently-planted more scrubby areas, the flower spikes were taller with more flowers on show.

Also seen were a good number of Hawkweed, most likely Spotted Hawkweed (Hieracium maculatum), also known as Common Hawkweed - although these can be difficult to identify at the species level.

Small plant of White Helleborine - mostly seen in the more mature wood

White Helleborine

White Helleborine

White Helleborine flowers which don't fully open

White Helleborine flowers

Spotted Hawkweed

Spotted Hawkweed

Spotted Hawkweed basal leaf floret

[photos Andy M]

Common Frog

14th May 2022 - whilst clearing some of the debris from his small pond, Andy M was happy to find that four Common Frog had take up residence, two large and two smaller ones.

Flowers along the ORC

13th May 2022 - a good variety of flowers are starting to appear along the Old Railway cutting now  [Andy M]

Cow Parsley making a sea of white foam

Oxeye Daisy

Speedwell in some profusion now

Dog Rose flowers recently starting to show

Hemlock really starting to gain some height now


White Dead-nettle also starting to flower now


Herb Robert

Red Campion

Small Heath butterfly

12th May 2022 - Small Heath butterflies are starting to appear - this one was along the Roman Road [Andy M]

Spindle Moth caterpillars

12th May 2022 - along the Roman Road, and elsewhere in the village, the webs and caterpillars of the Spindle Moth are again becoming very evident [Andy M].

Monday 16 May 2022


15th May 2022 - Len M reported finding this large 'wasp' dead in his house - reported as being 30mm long.  The size and continuous yellow 'head-band' make this most likely to be a Hornet.

Wednesday 11 May 2022

News - first House Martin spotted

10th May 2022 - the first House Martin of the year were seen flying over Great Abington today.  

The two birds appeared to be feeding as they flew over the tree tops, and didn't appear to be in any hurry to go anywhere, but it's not clear whether these were 'local' birds that nest in the village, or were just passing through.  [Andy M]

Mandarin Duck - update

8th May 2022 - the Mandarin Duck continue to be seen on the river and in Granta Park.  Up to four drakes (males) and probably two ducks (females) have been seen, with one duck seen sitting on nest, although it was not certain whether there were any eggs.  David F took this lovely photo of one of the drakes near the GP lake.


8th May 2022 - David F spotted a Green-veined White feeding on Forget-me-not flowers on Granta Park, and on 9th, Polly M spotted a Small Copper (the first report this year) trapped in the greenhouse. It very obligingly sat on a finger, and was released, once suitable photos were taken of course.  A Red Admiral was also seen basking in the sun, one of the few reports so far this year.

Green-veined White on Forget-me-not [photo David F]

Small Copper [photo Andy M]

Small Copper [photo Andy M]

Small Copper [photo Andy M]

Small Copper [photo Andy M]

Red Admiral [photo Andy M]

Red Admiral [photo Andy M]

Flowers around the village

4th May 2022 - the Cowslip were seen to be out in abundance along the Old Railway Cutting this week, and the Wych Elm seeds were looking good with their papery 'wing' [Andy M]

8th May 2022 - David F noted Red Campion, Common Storksbill and Forget-me-not in flower on Granta Park.

Cowslips along the ORC [photo Andy M]

Cowslips [photo Andy M]

Wych Elm seeds [photo Andy M]

Red Campion [photo David F]

Common Storksbill [photo David F]

April 2022 - Interesting Sightings in the Abingtons

April 2022

Amphibians and Reptiles

Smooth Newt – at least six spotted in a pond in LA. Three in Meadow Walk pond initially, increasing to twelve by mid-month.

Common Toad – one seen crawling across a patio, in a LA garden.

Slow Worm – desiccated skin found in a paddock on LSA



A total of 56 species were seen or heard this month, in a total of 542 reports. The last of the winter visitors were still around at the start of the month, but as the month progressed more summer visitor started to arrive, although somewhat reluctantly it seemed, due to cold weather and unfavourable winds.

A female Black Redstart was seen feeding on North Rd, LSA on 18th. This scarce species does occasionally nest in the UK, but is more generally seen as a migrant passing through from the Mediterranean. Reported only twice before in the Abingtons [link to blog].

Last reports of two Redwing and c20 Fieldfare on GP on 3rd, and a male Siskin was spotted once on 6th in a Lewis Cres garden, the latter undoubtedly passing through.

The first Swallow were seen on 13th, returning to their nest site in a barn on North Road. This first report of the year is a couple of weeks later than previous years.

Of the warblers, Chiffchaff continued to be heard around the village, joined by Blackcap which were heard regularly from 3rd onwards. These singing males are likely to be recent arrivals from southern Europe, displacing the over-wintering birds that will mostly have returned to Europe to breed. Both Common Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were first heard along the Roman Road on 17th, and along the ORC and LSA since.

Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting were also both heard for the first time this year, from 10th, along the Roman Road and on the LSA. Skylark and Linnet were also heard at the same locations.

Unusually, a pair of Mandarin Duck were spotted on the river and in Sluice Wood on several occasions, with a female reported nesting on GP. A pair of Mute Swan was seen on GP lake, and more unusually along the river by the recreation ground. A Mallard with 11 small duckling was seen on GP on 28th, and adult birds reported visiting ponds in the village. A Little Egret was spotted near the river, and up to 8 Canada Goose were reported in GP.

A Treecreeper was spotted nest-building in a dead tree on GP, and a Nuthatch made a welcome return to a garden on High St, LA. Great Spotted Woodpecker were regularly seen on some gardens, and a male was heard drumming in Lewis Cres on 12th. Green Woodpecker were also reported on GP and in a Cambridge Rd garden.

A Bullfinch was spotted along the ORC, with Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch continuing to be seen regularly. A pair of Long-tailed Tit started nest-building on Lewis Cres, and were more widely seen around the villages, as were a few Coal Tit. A Goldcrest was a reported once.

Pied Wagtail were seen more regularly this month, largely on the recreation ground, and on the LSA.

A Little Owl was sadly found dead near the Millennium Bridge. One or two Buzzard, Kestrel and Red Kite were regularly seen, with a Sparrowhawk reported on three occasions.


Butterflies and other insects

A number of warm, sunny days, particularly around the third week, brought out the insects and during April a total of 134 records were received (butterfly 117, bumblebee 12, other 5).

Butterfly species first reported this year during April were: Green-veined White (from 15th), Holly Blue (from 15th, good numbers), Common Blue (16th, 1 report, unusually early) and Speckled Wood (18th, 2 reports).

Good numbers continued to be seen of Brimstone, Orange Tip (note very few females reported), Peacock and Small White. In contrast, there were fewer sightings in April than in March of Small Tortoiseshell and in particular Comma.

Butterfly reports: Brimstone 30, Orange Tip 23, Peacock 16, Holly Blue 15, Small White 15, Green-veined White 9, Small Tortoiseshell 6, (others: Comma, Large White, Speckled Wood, Common Blue - all fewer than 5 reports).

Mining Bee (Adrena fulva) seen in good numbers in mid-April in Sluice Wood and some gardens. Bumblebees: mainly Buff-tailed and White-tailed, but also some Red-tailed were seen, and one report of Tree Bumblebee. Dark-edged Beefly and Ten-spot Ladybird also reported.



Badger – latrine seen on the Rec on 28th.

Bat – possibly Pipistrelle, above a Cambridge Road garden on 15th.

Fallow Deer six were seen in Hildersham Wood on 17th.

Field Vole – two a Cambridge Rd garden, on 7th and 24th.

Fox – one along the ORC on 18th, likely a dog fox due to its large size.

Hare – one on GP on 3rd and 22nd, and one in Hildersham Wood on 17th.

Hedgehog – one in a Meadow Walk garden on 5th, one in a Lewis Cres. garden on 13th, and two caught on trail camera in a Bourn Bridge Rd garden throughout the last week of April.

Mole – one found dead on the Hairdresser path on 22nd, possibly killed by a cat.

Muntjac – one near the Sluice on 3rd, one in a High St. LA garden on 6th, one in Hildersham Wood on 17th, one in ORC on 18th, and one in Sluice Wood on 21st.


The following species were reported in flower: Celandine, Sweet Violet, Ground Ivy, Cherry-plum, Garlic Mustard, Cowslip, Blackthorn, Bluebell, Forget-me-not, Snowflake, Crab Apple, Speedwell, Cow Parsley, Shepherd’s Purse.



None of us need reminding that this has been an exceptionally dry month with well below average rainfall of only 10 mm, mostly in the first week of the month. The highest temperature was 25.3 degrees C recorded on the 15th, with a low of minus 5.7 degrees C on the 3rd. Overall wind speeds were average, but with a strong gale at the end of the first week.

Many thanks to all those who contributed reports of their sightings for April 2022: 
Mark Austin, Barry Brooks, Peter Brunning, David Farrant, Gaynor Farrant, Jane Gambie, Robin Harman, Jennifer Hirst, Esme Langford, Carole McCrae, Andy Merryweather, Polly Merryweather, Joan Nevin, Brian and Pamela Parris, Gareth Rees, Marion Rusted, Gill Smith, John and Maggie Turner, Derek Turnidge, Mervyn Wingfield.

Wednesday 4 May 2022

News - first Swift of the year spotted

1st May 2022 - News!

The first sighting this year of a Swift in Abington was reported today.  Just one, flying low over Polly M's garden in Great Abington, heading north over the rest of the village.  Maybe 'one of ours' that nest in the village, but equally likely to be a bird travelling through.

In recent previous years, Swift were first reported on 4th, 5th, 5th, 7th and 8th May - remarkably consistent given the distance they have travelled to get here!

Swallow were first spotted this year by Brian and Pamela P, who reported birds returning to their barn on the LSA on 13th April, and there have been several sightings around the LSA since. This is a week or two later than previous years - first reports on 2nd, 5th, 5th, 6th and 7th April - a delay this year in line with reports elsewhere in the UK .

As of 4th May, House Martin have yet to be spotted in the village this year.  Again, this is late compared with previous years, when first reports in the village have been on 5th, 19th, 19th, 22nd and 23rd April.  Again, this aligns with delayed arrivals across much of the UK.

Swift - note the long 'scythe-like' shape of the wings
[Photo 21May2021 Abington Andy M]

Surprise Garden Visitors

26th April 2022 - there were a couple of surprise visitors to David F's garden on Bourn Bridge Road late one afternoon.  A Mallard pair dropped in, had a nice swim in the pond, snacked on some 'duck weed', then settled down for a couple of hour's rest on the lawn ... It's a Duck's Life!

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 (