Wednesday 13 September 2023

Survey of Bats in the Belfry

7th September 2023 - the Bat Conservation Trust recently identified the bat species in St Mary's Church, Little Abington by recording and analysing the very specific echo-locating sounds that bats make when flying around. Perhaps to the surprise of some of us, four different species were identified there.

The Common Pipistrelle and Soprano Pipistrelle are quite frequently seen around the village, so it was perhaps no surprise to that they were there, and a Long-eared Brown Bat has been previously recorded in the church by Derek T. However, the surprise was that Natterer's Bat was also found there. 

The Bat Conservation Trust provided some interesting information sheets about these species - see below. Many thanks to Marilyn Broadhurst for sharing this information with Abington NatureWatch.

More information can also be found here:

Jersey Tiger Moth

5th September 2023 - whilst doing a spot of gardening, Polly M disturbed this rather beautiful Jersey Tiger Moth.  Being a little annoyed about being disturbed, it showed the bright orange pattern on its underwings, which are a warning to would-be-predators. Once it calmed down, it hid the underwings again, to just show the more camouflaged black and white patterning.

[photos Andy M]

Common Newt

3rd September 2023 - Jade TS spotted this rather dark Common Newt in Meadow Walk, and took a photo and short video of it.

To watch video, click on central arrow twice

Saturday 9 September 2023

August 2023 - Summary of Sightings from around the Abingtons

August 2023

Amphibians and Reptiles

It was good to get a few sightings of froglets which were seen mainly in long grass.

Common Frog - a froglet was seen in Lt. Abington church yard on 11th and 13th, with five further sightings in Great Abington gardens later in the month.

Common Toad - one in Pampisford Rd garden (see blog)



A generally quiet month, as is often the case in August, with a total of 44 species reported in 239 records. The local Swift have departed, and Swallow and House Martin have been seen gathering in flocks in readiness. Both Great Crested and Little Grebe have breed successfully on the GP lake, and both Little Egret and Kingfisher were seen along the river.

The Swift nesting in Hall Farm had fledged by 5th, and of the two further sightings overhead, that on 19th is likely to be the last for this year. An increase in House Martin numbers, 8-12 seen around Hall Farm and Mortlock Gdns later in the month, suggests that their young have also now fledged, and Swallow were reported gathering in flocks of around 20 on the LSA.

The two adult Great Crested Grebe on GP lake were seen with just two young on 27th, and both an adult and a juvenile Little Grebe were also seen there on the same date (see blog). Four Barnacle Goose and around 50 Mallard were also reported around the lake.

Unusually, a Little Egret was seen visiting a garden pond along the High St, and along the river, two Kingfisher were seen near the cricket pitch (14th).  A Grey Wagtail was spotted by the Recreation Gd on 31st, and good numbers of Pied Wagtail were seen in paddocks on the LSA.

Buzzard, usually one but up to three, were reported several times from around the village, with a Kestrel seen gathering prey from the cricket pitch, likely a worm (see blog), a Sparrowhawk was seen along the ORC on 7th, and a Tawny Owl continues to be seen in a garden at Hall Farm. Unusually, there were no reports of Red Kite this month.

A Chiffchaff was reported twice, on the ORC and on GP, and a Common Whitethroat was seen, again twice, along the ORC and along North Rd. Also along the ORC, a pair of Linnet and a Yellowhammer were seen on 7th.

The number of Blue Tit and Great Tit seen visiting gardens has increased dramatically towards the end of the month, with mixed flocks of 20-30 being seen, with the young birds starting to develop more adult-looking plumage now. These flocks also occasionally included 1-2 Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tit and a Goldcrest was spotted on Hall Farm.

Goldfinch and Greenfinch were regularly seen on feeders, with a flock of 20 Goldfinch seen on GP, but only one report of a Chaffinch, on 27th in a Cambridge Rd garden. Small numbers of both Wren and Dunnock were regularly reported, as were Robin which could be heard singing again towards the end of the month. A few House Sparrow were seen in Lewis Cres, and a flock of 10-20 Starling was spotted on the paddocks of the LSA. Small numbers of Blackbird were also seen regularly.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen in gardens on Cambridge Rd and Hall Farm, and similarly a Green Woodpecker was occasionally seen, with a young one spotted on Cambridge Rd. Magpie were regularly seen with up to seven seen on Hall Farm, and a Jay was also reported. Carrion Crow, Rook and Jackdaw were also widely seen, the latter two in good numbers along the ORC.

A pair of Pheasant, seen regularly in a Cambridge Rd garden, appeared with seven young this month (see blog). Both Collared Dove and Stock Dove were seen in several gardens, and Woodpigeon were widely reported.


This month 29 species were recorded in a total of 151 reports, and of these 129 reports were of butterflies, 7 of bees, 6 of odonata and 9 of other species.

Butterflies – Interestingly, a Wall Brown was reported this month, the first record in the Abingtons. This widespread species, which fluctuates in abundance but is becoming increasingly scarce inland, generally favours sunny stony habitats, such as railway embankments, field edges, open grassland and gardens, with the second brood generally peaking in August. An unidentified species of Fritillary was also seen along the ORC.

Otherwise relative to July, the reporting of many species remained very similar, namely: Brimstone, Common Blue, Gatekeeper, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Small Skipper and Essex Skipper (see blog).

Interestingly, Brown Argus reports were up (with 20+ being seen along the ORC on 7th, see blog), as were those of Holly Blue, both in keeping with the expected peak abundance of the second brood this month. Other species showing a large increase in reports, relative to July, were: Peacock, Large White and Small White, again in keeping with the second brood emergence. Red Admiral reports were also well up, this corresponding to the emergence of the new generation of this migrant species (see blog).

Conversely, reports of Meadow Brown, Green-veined White and Comma were all down, relative to July. The former two species start to decline during August and Sept, and the Comma typically shows a gap between broods in August.

The number of butterfly reports were: Red Admiral 22, Small White 21, Large White 13, Brimstone 11, Meadow Brown 10, Gatekeeper 9, Peacock 9, Holly Blue 9, Comma 6, Brown Argus 4, Speckled Wood 4, Common Blue 3, Green-veined White 3, and 1 each of Small Tortoiseshell, Wall Brown and a Fritillary spp.

Odonata – both Emperor Dragonfly and Migrant Hawker were reported twice, both from a Lewis Cres garden. A pair of Common Darter was seen once around a Bourn Bridge Rd pond (see blog), and a Southern Hawker was spotted in a Cambridge Rd garden.

There were also reports of Buff-tailed Bumblebee, White-tailed Bumblebee and Common Carder Bee, as well as a Beefly. Several Hummingbird Hawkmoth were seen, and the rather striking Jersey Tiger Moth was seen in several gardens late in the month (see blog). A Dock Bug was also reported.



Bat – seen regularly in a Cambridge Rd garden throughout the month, and also in Lewis Crescent, all probably Pipistrelle. A bat nursery was reported in Hall Farm with up to 60 bats seen flying out at dusk.

Hedgehog – two seen together on a trail camera in a Bourn Bridge Rd garden regularly throughout the month.

Muntjac – one by the Perse fields on 26th, and one near Hall Farm seen with two Magpie sitting on its back on 20th (see blog).


Flora and Fungi

No reports this month.



The regular river sampling session was held at Abington Ford on 24th (see blog).



Rainfall was recorded at 47.75 mm, so again about double the average. The highest temperature was recorded on the 10th at 31.2 degrees C, but the overall monthly average was in the mid-twenties. The lowest temperatures was 5.5 degrees C on the 31st, but this was exceptional as the overall minimum temperature was around 12 degrees C. Winds were mainly south westerly veering to north westerly for the last week of the month.

Many thanks to all those who contributed reports of their sightings for August 2023:
Peter Brunning, David & Gaynor Farrant, Gordon Hannah, Emma Jones, Len Mead, Andy & Polly Merryweather, Mary Miles, Nancy Ockendon, Marion Rusted, Gill Smith, Maggie & John Turner, Derek Turnidge, John Webb.

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Two types of Grebe breeding on the lake

27th August 2023 - whilst on his regular visit to Granta Park, David F spotted two rather interesting species on the lake. It was not until quite recently that a Great Crested Grebe was seen on the lake, but they have clearly been around for a little while now, as David saw not only two adults, but also two juveniles (these being the ones with the stripy heads).  

Shortly afterwards, he also saw a Little Grebe, which were believed to be nesting around the lake margins this year, and this photo of the juvenile, with the stripy head, rather confirms this!

Great Crested Grebe - two adults (top left and bottom right), 
and two quite well-grown stripy headed juveniles

Little Grebe - also believed to be a juvenile, with a stripy head pattern

Red Admiral

26th August 2023 - this rather smart-looking Red Admiral was seen feeding on the Buddleia in David F's garden.

River Sampling results

24th August 2023 - the regular sampling of the river at the ford was done on 24th August by our Abington RiverCare team, and the results are shown below.

Common Toad

24th August 2023 - this really rather 'warty-looking' Common Toad was seen by John W in his garden.

Common Darter

22nd August 2023 - this lovely Common Darter dragonfly was spotted by David F, as one of a pair mating around the pond in his garden. 

Muntjac and Magpies

 19th August 2023 - an unusual behaviour, perhaps more commonly seen on safari than in Abington, was seen by Maggie T in her garden recently.  A Muntjac is a regular visitor, and on this occasion a couple of Magpie felt the urge to jump onto its back, presumably in search of insects and the like. Maggie was quick off the mark and took this video - somewhat reminiscent of the behaviour of Oxpeckers on Zebra and Buffalo on the plains of Africa!

Click on central arrow twice to start video

Jersey Moth

21st August 2023 - Derek T spotted this rather striking black and white patterned moth feeding on his buddleia recently, and a few days later, Carole McC saw a similar moth resting in her garden.  Both are believed to be a Jersey Moth.

Jersey Moth on Buddleia [photo Derek T]

Jersey Moth resting on some mesh [photo Carole McC]

Brown Argus butterfly

16th August 2023 - Polly M spotted this Brown Argus butterfly in the garden - not a species normally seen there, and Andy managed to get a quick photo to confirm it as a female.

Note the strong orange spots along the wing edges, right to the tip in the female, the absence of the 'cell spot' on the underside of the forewing (the 'cell spot' is present in the female Common Blue), and the presence of the 'twin spots' just visible on the underside of the hindwing.

Kestrel on the Rec

18th August 2023 - John T noticed that a pair of Kestrel were being regularly seen around the recreation ground, and in particular that the birds were making repeated visits to the ground whilst the grass was being cut, presumably searching for food. With a good deal of patience, John was able to get this lovely photograph of the female Kestrel, flying toward him grasping what looks to be a worm.

Grey Squirrel

18th August 2023 - Peter B spotted this Grey Squirrel in his garden recently, and was quick enough to be able to get a photo from the kitchen window.

More butterflies

 7th August 2023 - parts of the Old Railway Cutting have been very good for butterflies this year, particularly the areas of Bramble, Creeping Thistle, Wild Marjoram and Clover, the flowers of which seem to be irresistible.  Andy M

Peacock on Creeping Thistle

Red Admiral in Creeping Thistle

Male Brimstone on Red Clover

Gatekeeper on Wild Marjoram

Gatekeeper - note the double 'eye spot' within the black dot on the forewing

Pheasant chicks

7th August 2023 - Derek T has been seeing a pair of Pheasant in his garden for some months now, and recently the adults came to the feeders with a number of chicks in tow, which have continued to feed in the garden.


7th August 2023 - there are three 'skipper' butterfly species seen in the Abingtons - the Large Skipper, which is larger and has a bold black line on the wing, and the very similar Small Skipper and Essex Skipper.  The latter two were both present along the Old Railway Cutting recently, giving Andy M the opportunity to photograph both, and to highlight the differences - which, should be said, are hard to spot in the absence of a good photograph!

The Small Skipper and Essex Skipper are both similar in size, both appearing in July and August, both being a somewhat variable orangey colour with darker veins, and both holding their wings up separately (as do all skippers).  

The key difference is the colour of the underside of the antennae tips , which are best viewed from the front of the butterfly, rather than above.  In the case of the Small Skipper, the underside of the antennae tip is orange, whereas in the Essex Skipper this is black, as can be seen in the photos below.

Small Skipper - top view - hard to see the underside of the antennae tips

The same Small Skipper - front view, clearly showing the orange antennae tips

Essex Skipper - top view

The same Essex Skipper - front view, showing the all black antennae tips

Getting the Blues!

7th August 2023 - early this month, there was a profusion of various 'blue' butterflies along the Old Railway Cutting, so Andy M decided to take some close-up photos to help identify the various species, and any differences between the sexes for each species. 

The three species of 'blue' which are found along the railway cutting are: Holly Blue, Common Blue and Brown Argus.  Although Chalk Hill Blue are found relatively nearby along Fleam Dyke, and Small Blue have been seen very occasionally along the Roman Road, neither have been seen along the Old Railway Cutting.

Holly Blue are (slightly) larger than the other 'blues'. They almost always close their wings when resting, and the underside is plain pale blue with a number of small black spots. When flying, their brighter blue upper side can be glimpsed, but the general paleness can help in recognising it. The underside is the same in both sexes.

Holly Blue - pale underwings, with small black spots. Wings mostly closed when resting

Common Blue - the male lives up to the name, and has a striking blue upperside to the wings, darkening towards the body, with black line surrounding, and plain white fringes to the wings. The upperside of the female Common Blue is actually brown with a row of orange spots along the outside edges of each wing - just like a Brown Argus, and therefore in itself is unhelpful in identification. However, both male and female Common Blue have a similar underwing pattern, which has a characteristic 'cell spot' nearest the body on the forewing (see arrow in photo).  This cell spot is absent in the Brown Argus.

Male Common Blue - obvious bright blue upper, with black margin and plain white fringe

male Common Blue 

Common Blue (male, but both sexes are similar)

Common Blue underside, showing the characteristic 'cell spot'

Brown Argus - similar in size to the Common Blue, both male and female Brown Argus have dark brown upper wings, with a row of orange dots near the edge of each wing, and a white fringe.  In the female, the orange dots are brighter in colour and extend right up to the wing tip, whereas in the male the orange dots fade to become absent at the wing tip.  One the underside, again both sexes are similar. The 'cell spot' is absent, but on the underside of the hindwing there are two closely spaced black and white spots (so called 'twin spots'), which are much further apart in the Common Blue (see arrows)

Brown Argus pair - male (lower) with orange spots that fade at the tip,
and female (above) with stronger orange spots right to the tip

Brown Argus pair - the same individuals, but with the female showing the underside

Brown Argus (male, but sexes similar). 
Note the absence of the 'cell spot' (left arrow), and the two closely-spaced 'twin spots' (right arrow)

Brown Argus pair - male (left) and female (right)

Brown Argus male

Brown Argus - showing absence of 'cell spot' and presence of 'twin spots'

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 (