Monday 25 March 2024

Siskin - a winter visitor to Abington

22nd March 2024 - there have been a few Siskin seen on bird feeders around the villages recently. They were first reported along Bourn Bridge Road and Cambridge Road in the second half of February, and more recently in Lewis Crescent. 

These small finches are largely winter visitors to southern parts of the UK, often seen in mixed flocks with other finches on bird feeders.  In summer they breed in coniferous forests further north in the UK, in northern Europe and in Scandinavia, although some also breed around Thetford Forest.

Males are easily distinguished from other finches by their smaller size, black cap and bib, greeny-yellow breast and rump, and darker wings with yellow barring.  Females are less brightly coloured, with a dark-streaked pale breast, but retaining the yellow rump.

Male Siskin. Note the greeny-yellow breast and black cap.

Male Siskin. Note the characteristic greeny-yellow rump and darker wings and tail.

Male Siskin

Female Siskin. Generally paler yellowy-green hue, streaky pale breast,
pale yellow wingbar on dark wing feathers

Female Siskin. 
[photos Andy M]

Monday 11 March 2024

Waxwing feeding on Bourn Bridge Road

10th March 2024 - whilst out on a somewhat dull and damp afternoon walk, Derek T spotted a flock of about a dozen Waxwing high in the trees on the corner between Church Lane and Bourn Bridge Road. As he watched, the flock swooped down into a cotoneaster bush below, and proceeded to rapidly gulp down a few berries each, before returning to the treetop. This happened several times before the birds flew off. 

Having been alerted by Derek, Andy M joined him and after about 30 minutes, the flock returned to the same treetop, repeating the 'swoop-gulp-retreat' performance several times until all the berries had been stripped from the bush. A magical sight, despite the murky weather.

Unusual plumage

7th March 2024 - Andy M spotted what appeared to be the size and shape of a Collared Dove, but with completely dark grey plumage, rather than the more normal pinky brown-grey colour.  It seemed to retain the usual dark neck ring of the Collared Dove, as well as the usual red eye and red legs. Additionally, the plumage appeared to be soaked through, although over the time the bird was feeding it did not seem to change or dry out. Otherwise it was behaving and feeding perfectly normally, and could fly without problem.

It's possible this bird is melanistic, which is caused by a genetic mutation that results in an increased amount of dark pigmentation in some, or in this case all, of the feathers. It is unclear why the plumage appears wet through.  Andy emailed the BTO to seek their opinion.

The tapping Long-tailed Tit

4th March 2024 - for the last few days, a Long-tailed Tit could be heard tapping the windows at Andy M's house. Typically, the bird perches on the window ledge before continually tap at its reflection, sometimes getting quite agitated and flying up and down the window tapping as it goes. Eventually tiring of this, it moves away, only to see its reflection in the next window and starts the whole performance again. 

Quite common at this time of year, this (usually male) behaviour comes from fact that the male birds are starting to attract a mate and set up a territory. Seeing the reflection as an intruding male, the bird instinctively reacts by trying to scare it away, becoming increasingly frustrated as 'the other male' just doesn't seem to get the message!

On the upside, this may mean this male has established a nesting territory in his garden, and it does give really close views of this rather cute little bird.

February 2024 - Summary of Sightings around the Abingtons

February 2024

Amphibians and Reptiles

Two Smooth Newt were seen on 10th in a pond on Pampisford Road, and a few days later Common Toad, Common Frog and newts were spotted in a large pond on Chalky Road. Common Toad were also seen crossing the road there to get to the pond, and so we’re rescued!

About five or six Smooth Newt were also found during cleaning of a Bourn Bridge Rd pond on 20th. One had a red spotted underbelly so a male. Please keep looking and report anything you see.

Frogspawn was spotted in a pond on Bourn Bridge Road on the 15th February, ten days earlier than last year.



A total of 52 species were reported this month in 243 records from 13 reporters. Most notable amongst these was a Barn Owl in GA church, Blackcap and Siskin being seen in gardens, and three Woodcock and a flock of Waxwing, both on GP.

A Barn Owl again found its way into GA church on 15th, presumably sheltering from the persistent rain this month (see blog). Following consultation with the Barn Owl Trust, it was encouraged to exit via the door, left open at dusk. A Tawny Owl were heard on 6th and 24th.

A flock of 20 Waxwing was seen in trees around a carpark on GP on 29th, the first record this year in the village, despite good numbers being seen around Cambridge in this ‘irruptive’ year (see blog).  Three Woodcock were also spotted one evening around the cricket pitch on GP (19th).

Redwing and Fieldfare were both reported twice, the latter along the ORC early in the month, and the former on GP and along Cambridge Rd on 25th. A Siskin, another winter visitor to Abington, was seen on feeders on Cambridge Rd and Bourn Bridge Rd on 18th and 27th – these being the first reports this winter in the village. A Blackcap was also seen in Sluice Wood, these most often also being winter visitors from Europe.

On GP lake, two pairs of Mandarin Duck were seen on the river, and on the adjacent flooded fields, a flock of Black-headed Gull, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Grey Heron were seen on 11th, and on the lake, a two Cormorant and a Moorhen joined the Mallard there. A Reed Bunting was heard singing from the reeds, and a small flock of Meadow Pipit were seen.

Up to three Buzzard were spotted around the village, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk were both seen several times, and a Red Kite was noted twice. A Raven was also seen flying over the ORC.

Up to four Magpie were seen widely, and 1-2 Jay were seen on GP (see blog) and in a Cambridge Rd garden, as was a Red-legged Partridge on two occasions. A Pheasant was seen along the ORC, and Skylark were heard singing both along the ORC and along North Rd. Song Thrush were also regularly heard singing around the villages, often throughout the day.

A Goldcrest was seen at Hall Farm, and both Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker (heard drumming) were reported from GP and 1-2 gardens. A few Pied Wagtail were seen on GP and the Perse sports fields, and 1-2 Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird and Wren were spotted at several locations.

Reasonable numbers of Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch were seen in several gardens, as were Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tit. House Sparrow were seen in three gardens, and a murmuration of c400 Starling was seen over North Rd on 20th.


Butterflies and other Insects

The first butterfly record of the year was of a Brimstone on 12th along Church Lane, shortly followed by two further reports of this species on 15th. A Peacock was also spotted hibernating on 15th.

There were five reports of a Buff-tailed Bumblebee between 10th and 15th, and some Honeybee activity was seen around the hives on GP on 13th.


Flora and Fungi

Snowdrop and Aconite continued to bloom well in Granta Park around the sluice (see blog), and the Cherry Plum came into flower later in the month.



Fallow Deer – two seen along ORC on 18th.

Muntjac – one seen in a Cambridge Rd garden on 2nd and again on 12th.

Rabbit – two spotted in GA churchyard on 16th, and one in Sluice Wood on 24th.



A wet month, with 114mm, three times the average February rainfall, causing the river to flood again (see blog). This may well become a more regular feature with climate change. The highest temperature was 16.3°C on both 14th and 19th, with the lowest temperature being minus 1.8 C on 24th. Overall February was a mild month with average temperatures of around 12°C. Winds were generally from a westerly to south westerly direction.


ANW Trips

A small group visited WWT Welney on 3rd, spotting a total of 32 bird species (see blog).

Many thanks to all those who contributed reports of their sightings for February 2024.
Darren Bast, David & Gaynor Farrant, Betsy Gutteridge, Len Mead, Andy & Polly Merryweather, Joan Nevin, Nancy Ockendon, Brian Parris, Barbara Phippen, Gareth Rees, Gill Smith, Jade Taylor-Salazar, Maggie Turner, Derek Turnidge.

Waxwings - in the Abingtons - finally!

29th February 2024 - reports that it was going to be a 'Waxwing winter' started in November last year, with good numbers of these charismatic birds starting to appear in Scotland. Over the following weeks, these colourful winter visitors from Scandinavia slowly worked their way south and west reaching Cambridgeshire around mid-December.

Very small numbers of Bohemian Waxwing (to given them their full name) find their way across to northern Britain most winters, but occasionally when the berries run short in Scandinavia, this species can 'irrupt' across the North Sea with huge numbers visiting the UK for several months over the winter period. The last major 'irruption' was in 2012-2013, so for many this current winter's event was a spectacle not to be missed. 

During the run up to Christmas, small flocks of Bohemian Waxwing were being watched avidly in Coton and by the railway station in Great Shelford, but throughout January locally the birds seemed to be remaining largely within Cambridge.  However, as these flock methodologically stripped their favourite berries from the trees there, they would inevitably need to move on, and finally on 29th February a flock of 20 was spotted on Granta Park by Darren B.  Luckily he had his camera, and took a few photos.

Barn Owl takes shelter

16th February 2024 - a report from Betsy G that there was a 'white owl' in the nave of Great Abington church certainly caught the attention of some in the village, including David F who went to investigate. 

The owl in question was a Barn Owl which had apparently been sheltering in the church for a few days, probably to avoid the extremely wet weather we recently experienced - something owls do as their feathers are not as waterproof as other birds. The question was how to encourage the owl out of the church before the next service. After consulting with the Barn Owl Trust, it was agreed to leave the church door open for a short while at dusk to allow the owl to find its way out, which it duly did. Quite an experience for all!

[photo Betsy G]

[photo David F] 

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 (