By the middle of April the better weather finally arrived and with it lots of wildlife activity in and around the village. Spring wildflowers – Wood Anemone, Cowslip and Primrose – have been in full bloom and the Damson trees, of which there are many in the village, are white with blossom. You may have seen butterflies recently also, on a bright day in early April I had a Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterfly pass through the garden. During the Easter holidays on a fine bright day an ‘aggregation’ of ladybirds gathered in my garden. There were well over 100 individual insects on an evergreen shrub and this part of their breeding cycle was quite a sight. They are of course welcome as their presence will be of benefit during summer.
I was pleased to see my first swallow on April 8th (a week later than last year). The bird was flying low over the fields from Betton to Norton. I did not see another until the 14th April when there were three birds flying together near the sewage works. A single House Martin was flying over the sports ground on the 21st April. If you saw either of these birds earlier please let me know as it would be good to keep a record.
I expect you will have seen much nesting activity and birds moving around in pairs. Malcolm N found a recently fledged Blackbird in his greenhouse on 20th April. The Reed Bunting I watched in Autumn have remained and are nesting down by the river and a pair of Blackcap have taken up residence at Partons Pool. There is a pair of Bullfinch that are moving around the middle of the village that you may have seen. The male has a splendid plumage and really stands out, Doreen B reports seeing them in her garden several times. Richard J was still seeing Brambling up to 14th April in his garden – not quite in breeding plumage (the males head turns black) – and also a pair of Long-Tailed Tit at the end of March into the first week of April. These birds were gathering insects by flying at the garage window (one even ended up in the bathroom having tried the same thing!).
Phil B has seen Greater Spotted Woodpecker in his garden on a regular basis from early spring and the Green Woodpecker can be heard occasionally out towards Oakley Hall. I heard my first Chiffchaff calling on the 2nd April at Partons Pool and there are now many moving through the hedgerows. Tom S reported a Willow Warbler in his garden on the 21st April – another summer migrant (although some Chiffchaff, an almost identical warbler, do over winter in small numbers). Tom has also seen some birds of prey, a hunting Kestrel and a Red Kite active over a field next to Beswicks Lane in late March – this is an infrequent visitor but a very welcome one as they are a pleasure to watch. Alastair N was surprised to see a total of eleven Buzzards circling high above the village together, with two more not far off. This is Alastair's highest count of this raptor.
On the 16th April at around 10pm I heard a Little Owl calling. The bird moved along the hedgerow to the back of Main Road towards the church. It has a repitive ‘kiew, kiew’ call that is quite distinctive. If you are lucky you may see this small owl during the day. Graham N watched a Barn Owl hunting across his field at dusk in early April and so was able to study the bird in detail – a fantastic sight.
Richard J and Alastair N both report seeing a Stoat in the village (larger than a Weasel and a black tip to the tail). Richard saw it on the 31st March and it is perhaps only the 5th he has ever seen in his garden.
And finally to our youngest nature watcher Darcey, who has been keeping a superb diary of the birds visiting her bird table. Darcey has kindly shared the diary with me which you can find below. The most frequent visitors to Darcey's bird feeders have been Starling, Woodpigeon and Great Tit, with Goldfinch and Fieldfare also taking food.
Apologies if I have missed any report – it has been great to speak to so many local people about their sightings. Please keep them coming.