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Nature Notes - April-May 2018

A rare vagrant turned up in gardens along Woodhouse Lane out along the Bellaport Road at the end of April. Ken and Trish, at Mere Farm, reported a Hoopoe feeding in their garden and in that of a neighbour. This is a special sighting as not many of these birds are seen in the country each year. The Hoopoe (with a similarly interesting scientific name – Upupa epops) migrates north in spring from Africa and heads for Europe but not breed as north as the UK. The bird seen in the area would have overshot its destination (they are not uncommon in France) and was probably blown of course by the storm we experienced days earlier. The Hoopoe favours grassland so it can forage for insects and this is why lawns are favoured as the shorter grass allows for more effective gathering of their favoured food using its long curved bill. Most striking though is this birds plumage! It has a pink-brown body with black and white wings and a crest that it raises when alarmed. Ken also reports stock doves being resident – on first glance these birds could be mistaken for a woodpigeon or feral pigeon but they are more delicate in appearance and don’t have a white rump.

There is an abundance of wildflowers along the hedgerows and verges. If you look closely amongst the cow parsley you will see red campion, common vetch and yellow archangel.

Carol spotted a red kite in the village on the afternoon of the 6th May. It came to her attention because of the noise from crows as they sensed the danger of the predator enter their territory. Cam M also saw a red kite and a kestrel along the Adderley Road on 10th May. Malcolm M reports that nuthatch are nesting in a bird box in his garden – when the young appear I am sure this will be quite a sight.

During the first week of May on a fine bright day I took a walk down to Partons Pool and within a few minutes had seen a jay, a male blackcap, a pair of long-tailed tits busy nest building, a willow warbler and a chiffchaff, a great spotted woodpecker fly directly to a tree along the River Tern in which I would expect there to be a nest, and a nuthatch calling. Passing through were a small blue and an orange tip butterfly. The orange tip butterfly has been numerous in the village since the start of May – the male has the orange tip to the wing and the female has a black tip. Curly reported a possible wood warbler at the end of April and has also seen shelduck in the area – these wildfowl have a superb plumage. Flynn H also reports a sighting of a hen teal with 14 ducklings on the River Tern towards Oakley Hall on 20th May.

I have had many reports of a sparrowhawk or two seen in and around the village. I happened to see one this morning being chased by swallows. It was a female (a larger bird than the male and with brown bars under the wing) and it held a young sparrow in its talons. Even though it was being mobbed it showed no sign of worry and was clearly not going to drop its prey which it may well have been taking to its nest.

Many of our summer migrants have now arrived and you will hear the pleasant warble of the whitethroat if you take a walk along the hedgerows – I have seen several pairs. The bird is more difficult to spot though now that everything is in leaf. I have yet to see a swift in the village and this mirrors the general decline of this species in the country. If you have seen one please let me know.

Thanks to everyone who has spoken to me or made contact with nature sightings over the month.

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