Wildlife Round Up (WRU)
March 21st 2022

A recent report from the BTO Garden Birdwatch team said this about Brimstone Butterflies: So far we have seen much higher numbers of gardens reporting them than usual for March, likely as a result of the warm weather experienced by much of the UK during the last two weeks. We have also seen an increase in records of Small Tortoiseshell.

 

Brambling Male in Cherry.jpg

What a great time of year! It is difficult not to get excited when the garden starts to fill with colour. Daffodils and Primroses and Pulmonaria(lungwort) are showing various shades of yellow, pink and blue. The Bees are already chasing between them. Early garden Bumblebee was well behind the first appearance of hairy footed flower bee. The latter is distinctly all black except for its yellow knees and here it stores its collection of pollen. They are very territorial and chase each other away from the group of plants they are using.   The recent warm days and bright sunlight have tempted out a few butterflies. Brimstone butterflies have flounced through the garden several times this last week stopping to drink from the pulmonaria on route. They have then disappeared into the yellow variegated leaves of the Elaeagnus shrub never to be found again! I have also seen Small Tortoiseshell butterflies and the newts are back in our pond. Traffic lights have been needed on some of the Caynton roads to allow the frogs to travel safely back to their ponds (Neil). Many local residents reported frogspawn in their ponds some weeks back!

A recent report from the BTO Garden Birdwatch team said this about Brimstone Butterflies: So far we have seen much higher numbers of gardens reporting them than usual for March, likely as a result of the warm weather experienced by much of the UK during the last two weeks. We have also seen an increase in records of Small Tortoiseshell.

RIGHT Finch fest.  2 male and 1 female Brambling, Greenfinch male and Goldfinch hiding behind.

The warm days recently have brought out the first bats. The early evenings have managed about 7 degrees Celsius. In a walk back from Newport along Newport Road I watched bats hunting in three different locations. Judging by their size, they were probably the common pipistrelle bat our smallest British bat. They dash, in what seems like random flight, flitting beneath the roadside trees and hedges in the gardens of the Newport Road residents. It won’t be long before the first swallows will be found sitting on the telegraph wires above this road! The first hirundine migrants have already arrived back in the UK with records this week of Sand Martin that have been seen over our local reservoirs and lakes.

The cameras in the garden picked up our first hedgehog (male) this week, newly out of hibernation and very hungry. I went on a torch walk early evening to see what was about and I heard something thrashing about in the Epimedium and went to investigate. I found an adult hedgehog obviously very hungry. It was trying to extract the last fragments of bird food that had drifted down amongst the stalks of the plant from the bird table above.

finch fest at Paulas.jpg

This is a time of change, the days longer and warmer. The living world now bursts with new life and there is also the excitement that comes with the changeover of birds as our winter migrants leave and summer migrants arrive. Walking locally, you still find a few small groups of Fieldfare in the field hedges and out on open pasture on cold mornings. Bramblings have been a feature of garden visits this late winter and early spring with more reports than I can ever remember. They are very hesitant about bird feeders but they gradually seem to be getting the hang of it!! We also like to ground feed and like many other birds Brambling seem happier being fed in this manner. A single Hawfinch has been seen in an Edgmond garden, ground feeding below a bird feeder. That is a very unusual record and may be a first! Our male Blackcaps from Eastern Europe are still with us and occasionally bursting into song on sunny days. They are still enjoying the homemade bird fat feed we provide. We are also getting regular visits from Siskins and Repoll have been recorded on garden feeders recently(Paula). Stonechats can still be found in a few local areas but not for long.

RIGHT: Mealey (common)  Redpoll - Female

linnet on feeder.jpg
Female Common or Mealey Redpoll.jpg

Our winter visitors leave and already there is a steady influx of spring migrants. Look out for wheatears on the ploughed fields. Listen for Chiffchaffs, they are already here and in some numbers. Several males can be heard singing locally for example along pond lane and on the playing field. Their song is easily recognized, chiff chaff chiff chaff chiff chaff. No prizes for identifying this bird song! Some Chiffchaff over winter and have done for many years but this winter I have not seen or heard any Chiffchaffs and they have not been in any of their usual places!

 

Out in the surrounding countryside there is always a great deal to see. Ron’s pond has a pair of Egyptian Geese and the surrounding wet and flooded areas along the Strine River, canal and neighbouring pools are a great place to see, yes, Oystercatcher (Martin). I occasionally pick one up calling and in flight over the house in Edgmond. In recent weeks a Water Rail was heard calling where the Strine and canal nearly touch. This is a great bird, but so very difficult to see. The calling is described as being like a squealing pig. Once heard, never forgotten!

The larger flocks of finch, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits are breaking up. The Skylarks are already singing over territories and the number of Meadow Pipits at the sewage works are already in decline as these birds move off to their more favoured upland habitats.

Have you seen the Buzzards in the last few weeks? On bright sunny days they have been putting on quite a display over the village. Buzzards normally mate for life and a pair will fiercely defend their territory from any intruders. In recent weeks the male buzzards have been putting on acrobatic aerial displays to impress females. These display maneuvers are known as the ‘rollercoaster’. Male birds climb high into the clouds using air currents and then plummet down, twisting and turning as they descend. On some days we have recorded as many as 12 adults circling, calling and displaying together over the village.

Our leucistic Chaffinch ( ABOVE RIGHT) turned up in another garden. We currently have a one legged Chaffinch which seems to be surviving and a female (right) with the white leg disease which won’t survive long.(viral papilloma).

 

Some birds are already sitting on eggs, typically Blackbird, Robin and Long Tailed Tit but out in the wider countryside Ravens are also early nesters. Ravens usually pass over the village on most days and if can’t see them then you can usually hear them. We have Sparrows back in the apartment box on the side of our house and elsewhere in the garden, Great and Blue tits have taken up residence. It doesn’t matter for how many years they use the same box the entrance hole is never quite right and needs a little fine tuning before the nursery is ready!!

Mallard have an uncanny habit of turning up in the most unexpected places at this time of year. They are in search of nesting sites and sites are often chosen that are some way from water. The birds at the HAU nest in an internal quad with glass and walls. Very safe but no way out. It is surprising just how much effort people will take to help tiny ducklings!! A pair of Mallard (RIGHT) turned up in our garden this week, they enjoyed the ground feed and then disappeared!

Our little rodent friends, those that have survived the local cats and cold winter, are beginning to show themselves. The Bank Voles (RIGHT) seem to have disappeared from our garden but we are still seeing Woodmice. They love to dash out to pinch bits of sunflower seed that have been dropped by the Goldfinches. Other residents are now seeing Bank Voles doing much the same thing. (Paula)

Thanks to all to all those who have contributed to this edition of Wildlife Round Up and if you have anything to report then please email me and I will try to make sure it in included in the next WRU.

 

Thanks Jon jslloyd@btinternet.com

Now don’t forget to check out the plants in flower as you walk. Our knowledge of birds and animals is pretty good but our plant knowledge as a nation is not great so I am on a campaign to get you to identify more on your walks. Plants as a whole get poor press and yet, did you know that 75% of the world’s food comes from 5 species of plant.

Here are some plants to look out for at the moment on your travel around the local countryside.

Left to Right

Red Deadnettle – Lamium pupureum – another true nettle that doesn’t sting. It is also a prominent source of pollen for bees in March/April (in UK), when bees need the pollen as protein to build up their nest – garden weed, leave until its finished flowering. Wiki says: Young plants have edible tops and leaves, used in salads or in stir-fry as a spring vegetable. If finely chopped it can also be used in sauces.

White Dead Nettle – Lamium Alba - early nectar source for bees – very early flowering. Plantlife says: The flowers and young leaves are edible, and can be used in salads or cooked as a vegetable. Medicinally, white dead nettle is an astringent and demulcent herb.

Common field Speedwell – Veronica persica  - introduced around 1825 in imported seed, agricultural weed.

leucistic chaffinch female.jpg
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Bank Voles at Paula.jpg
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Thanks to all to all those who have contributed to this edition of Wildlife Round Up and if you have anything to report then please email me and I will try to make sure it in included in the next WRU.

 

Thanks Jon jslloyd@btinternet.com

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