Thursday 23 February 2023

Abington NatureWatch Big Garden Bird Watch results

23rd February 2023 - over the last weekend of January, the RSPB held their annual Big Garden Birdwatch survey, and NatureWatch members were invited to send their survey results to Derek T. 

A total of 16 survey results were received this year (one fewer than 2022), and Derek has collated the results. A total of 30 different species were recorded by the group as a whole, one more than the 2022 survey!

Blue Tit and Blackbird topped the chart this year with 15 reports each, closely followed by Robin and Woodpigeon, each with 14 reports. These four species were also in the top 5 last year, although the order was only slightly different: 
2023: 1st equal Blue Tit and Blackbird, 3rd equal Robin and Woodpigeon.
2022: 1st Blue Tit, 2nd Robin, 3rd Blackbird, 4th equal Woodpigeon and Great Tit.

There were a few other notable changes from 2022, although the sample size is not large of course. 
Coal Tit reports were up from 4 in 2022 to 7 in 2023, and Jay reports were also up, from 3 to 5.
Great Tit reports decreased, from 13 in 2022 to 7 in 2023, and Long-tailed Tit reports were also down from 7 in 2022 to 3 this year.

Frogspawn spotted!

20th February 2023 - Gill S has spotted the first Frogspawn in her pond, interestingly on exactly the same date as last year.

If you have a pond, maybe take a moment to see if you have any amphibians or frogspawn there, and if you do, please drop Gaynor an email !

Update!  And more Frogspawn appeared on 12th March. Also, in this photo, the 'black dots' in the previous 'deposit' can be seen to have short tails as the tadpoles develop.

Granta Park walk

19th February 2023 - David F took a walk around Granta Park and spotted a Canada Goose on the lake, and the Snowdrop flowers in the woods.

Canada Goose

Snowdrop in flower

Evidence of Badger

9th February 2023 - Andy M spotted these widely spaced and quite deep scratch marks on the path along the Old Railway Cutting which he believes to be made by a Badger.

Conservation along the Old Railway Cutting

12th February 2023 - a group of volunteers from the Cambridge Wildlife Trust spent some time along the Old Railway Cutting recently, cutting back scrub like Bramble and Blackthorn which gradually  encroach onto the grass edges. Chalk Grassland, such as that along the railway cutting, is a fast disappearing habitat and is important for many chalkland flowering plant species. By regularly removing encroaching scrub and letting the sun in, the value of this area for these flower species is greatly improved for the following year.

Winter flowers

5th February 2023 - David F took a walk around Sluice Wood earlier in the month and spotted a Grey Wagtail feeding along the river there. Alas he did not get time to get a photo, but did photograph the Snowdrop and Aconite in flower there  and along the Old Carriage Track.



Wednesday 8 February 2023

Giant Puffball and Wild Arum

6th February 2023 - David F spotted this Giant Puffball 'toadstool' along the Old Carriage Track, which seemed to have already released some of its spores. He also noted that the Wild Arum, also known as' Lords and Ladies' was growing well in Sluice Wood.

Giant Puffball

Wild Arum

Sunday 5 February 2023

January 2023 - Summary of Sightings in the Abingtons

Amphibians and Reptiles

No sightings in January, as expected so early in the year. However, from mid-February look out for Smooth Newt in your ponds. If you don’t have a pond, it is very easy to make a small one using an old washing-up bowl or similar. There are further details on the BBC Springwatch website


A total of 52 species were reported in 362 records this month. Woodcock were again spotted around the edge of Granta Park, with more reports of winter thrush, as well as a couple of ‘winter finch’

Two reports of a Woodcock again being seen flying around the eastern edge of Granta Park, so it seems likely that one or two birds have a regular winter roost nearby.

Redwing are around in larger numbers (10-20) at several sites mostly around the edges of the villages, but including the field adjacent to Church Lane. Fieldfare were also seen, with 10-20 being spotted in the Perse sports fields and perching in trees behind Lewis Cres. Single reports of Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush too, as well as Blackbird, all starting to sing.

A male Brambling was briefly spotted on 11th, and a male Lesser Redpoll seen on 25th, both on feeders in a Lewis Cres garden. There have been several reports of Blackcap (both male and female) visiting feeders too (blog item).

Good numbers of Goldfinch (up to 22), Greenfinch (up to 6) and Chaffinch (up to 12) have regularly visiting feeders, as have smaller numbers of Blue Tit and Great Tit, alongside an occasional Coal Tit, or small flock of Long-tailed Tit. One or two Wren were spotted in several gardens, as were a few Dunnock, and more commonly small numbers of Robin. A pair of Goldcrest were seen in conifers in one garden, and a Jay was quite often spotted in several gardens.

Several pairs of Reed Bunting were seen feeding with Chaffinch in the fields along Bourn Bridge Rd, as were good numbers of Black-headed Gull with a few Lesser Black-backed Gull and, unusually, about 40 Lapwing.

A Treecreeper was seen in both Sluice Wood and South Wood, and both Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker were spotted at several locations. A few Pied Wagtail were seen in the paddocks on the LSA, and both Pheasant and Red-legged Partridge were reported.

A  Cormorant was seen flying over south of Chalky Rd, and along the river, a Little Egret was seen (26th). In GP, a Grey Heron was twice spotted around the lake, as were a few Mallard and Moorhen, and five Barnacle Goose.

Red Kite were reported nine times, mostly at locations around the edges of the villages, and 1-2 Buzzard were seen around the north side of the villages. A Kestrel was spotted on several occasions, and a female Sparrowhawk was seen taking a pigeon. A Tawny Owl was again heard regularly calling at night around Lewis Cres.

A Skylark was seen on the LSA, and Stock Dove, Collared Dove, House Sparrow and Starling were also all reported, as were Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Magpie, Rook and Carrion Crow.


A single insect report this month: a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was seen in Great Abington church on 15th. It had presumably been disturbed (woken?) from its hibernation in the church by the heating being on that Sunday.


Hare – one flushed from the stubble field alongside Pampisford Rd, and seven seen in the field to the east of Chalk Rd.

Badger – one dead alongside Pampisford Rd near the junction with Cutting Rd.



More typical January weather with 67 mm of rain and temperatures ranging from a low of minus 9.2 degrees C on the 23rd, to a high of 13.1 degrees on the 3rd. The first two weeks of the month were typical of the average, but followed by 12 days of very sharp frosts and low daytime  temperatures. Winds were mainly southwesterly for the first two weeks, but then swinging from the north and northwest until the end of the month.

No summary this month for Flora or RiverCare.

Many thanks to all those who contributed reports of their sightings for January 2023:

Barry Brooks, Lois Bull, David Farrant, Gaynor Farrant, Ros Hedge, Emma Jones, Len Mead, Andy Merryweather, Polly Merryweather, Nancy Ockendon, Freda Orgee, Gareth Rees, Jade Taylor-Salazar, Sally Simmons, Gill Smith, John Turner, Maggie Turner, Derek Turnidge.

Friday 3 February 2023

'Common' Bloody-nosed Beetle

02 February 2023 - Whilst working with the Cambridge Wildlife Trust conservation group on the Old Railway Cutting, Iain Webb spotted this quite unusual beetle, a Common Bloody-nosed Beetle.

This marvellous beetle is black with a blue-violet sheen, being domed in shape and about 2cm long, and having interestingly shaped 'feet'. Being flight-less, it can be found crawling around in grassland habitats, and under hedgerows. Regarding it's intriguing name, when disturbed it can exude a drop of distasteful red-coloured 'blood' from its mouth, thought to warn off potential predators.

It's also not so very 'Common' either, Iain checked his records and last saw this species along the old railway cutting in April 2013!  Being only occasionally reported in Cambridgeshire, mainly from along the three 'linear' chalk sites locally (i.e. the Old Railway Cutting, Fleam Dyke and the Roman Road), the population along the railway cutting is really quite important in the county!

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 (