Sambourne Village

late December 2010/January 2011

28th December. The winter weather has brought the winter thrushes into the garden – redwings in the apple tree and a fieldfare feeding on an apple on the ground.

4th January. We watched a small flock of redpolls feeding in birch trees along Wyke Lane.

4th January. A male brambling was in the garden feeding on the sunflower heart feeder and behaving very aggressively to any other small birds that approached.

7th January. For the first time that we can recall, we saw a bullfinch (female) on the sunflower heart feeder.

8th January. We had the first sighting this winter of a siskin (male) on the sunflower heart feeder.

11th January. In the early hours of the morning at least two tawny owls could be heard calling to the west of Perrymill Lane.

As we’ve been walking around the village we’ve seen many jays, including several in a flock.

January/February 2011

Never having tried them before, I was recently given some nyger seeds for the birds. I bought a basic feeder, but for the first couple of days there were no visitors. Then a couple of goldfinches showed some interest. Next day, having only once before seen redpolls in the garden I was delighted to see two feeding on the nyger seeds (how does word get around?) A couple of days later there were 4 redpolls and since then ther has been a peak of 12 on the seeds or waiting their turn, also joined by two siskins.

17th January. Two ravens were perched on a pylon beside Wyke Lane.

19th January. On a very frosty morning two mistle thrushes came to the garden to feed on apples.

22nd January onwards. One siskin now a regular visitor to the sunflower hearts. 24th January. I was given some niger seeds to try, so bought a basic feeder. No interest for the first couple of days, then some interest from a couple of goldfinches. A resident of Sambourne Lane reported a blue tit in his garden as “going mental” – zooming too and from a nest box. Early prospecting for a nest site perhaps?

27th January. Having only once before seen redpolls in the garden I was delighted to see two feeding on the niger seeds (how does word get around?)

29th January. 16 species turned up in the garden when we took part in the RSPB “Big Garden Birdwatch”.

31st January. Now up to four redpolls at a time on the niger seeds.

31st January. We watched a flock of at least 50 ravens over farmland on the far side of the Ridgeway between Astwood Bank and New End. Some were display flying, including rolls and inverted flight.

1st February. Eight redpolls in the garden feeding or waiting their turn at the niger seeds, also joined by two siskins.

2nd February. Cock pheasant in the garden clearing up fall-out from the sunflower see feeders.

Although we still have more weeks of winter to get through, it is encouraging to see the catkins forming in the hedgerows and buds starting to swell.

February/March 2011

February 14th to 21st was National Nest Box week, so I made five nest boxes and, together with a fellow Parish Councillor, attached them to trees in the recreation ground. I hope these will be a useful contribution to local biodiversity. Incidentally, someone mentioned that they leave a flower pot full of moss, small feathers, bits of wool etc near to their nest box and the tits gratefully come and help themselves to this nesting material.

1st March. The number of siskins seen on and around the sunflower hearts at one time has now risen to seven. There was a veritable feeding frenzy in the garden as they were accompanied by many goldfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches, redpolls and a very handsome male brambling nearing breeding plumage.

2nd March. Richard the postman pointed out a treecreeper feeding in a tree opposite Thatchbrook – as close a view as one could wish for.

7th March. Siskins and redpolls so intent on feeding that they completely ignored human presence as washing was being hung just a few yards away.

12th March. On a walk through Coughton Park wood we noticed frogspawn in water-filled wheel ruts beside the bridleway. I can’t help fearing that the puddles will have dried before the frogs have had chance to develop. Other signs of spring are shooting wild garlic and cuckoo-pint, and flowering pussy willow in Wyke Lane.

March/April 2011

In mid-March a neighbour reported Blue Tits nesting in a box by the kitchen window and one with a habit of perching on the kitchen door handle and tapping the glass, perhaps seeing its own reflection. She also reported having just seen a couple of early spring bumble bees in the garden.

17th March. A sunny day brought out the first butterflies I’ve seen around the village this year – two Brimstones and one Tortoiseshell.

6th April. The lovely spring day was enhanced by a couple of Swallows flying over our garden and a Pipistrelle bat in the evening.

7th April. The warm sunny weather has brought out more butterflies – we saw Orange Tips, Peacocks, Tortoiseshells, Brimstones and a Holly Blue.

10th April. As we drove along Wyke Lane towards the village late in the evening we saw a young Badger on the verge. Shortly afterwards a Tawny Owl was heard calling near Perrymill Lane.

11th April. There were many sights and sounds of spring during a morning walk – two Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff seen and heard singing in Wyke Lane, and along the bridleway through the woods were Speckled Wood, Orange Tip and Peacock butterflies, many violets and primroses, bluebells just starting to flower (they looked like English, not the invasive Spanish variety), and many tadpoles are still managing to survive in a water-filled wheel rut. To complete the day, a Yellowhammer came to forage in our lawn in the afternoon.

April/May 2011

Towards the end of April a Coughton resident mentioned that he had had a couple of sightings of a Stoat in Wike Lane, but Roy and Dee get the nature-watching gold star for spotting a Stoat dragging a small rabbit across Wike Lane. What a thrill – although the rabbit probably had a different perspective on this.

16th April. During an evening walk we saw 4 Hares and heard a Cuckoo for the first time this year.

19th April. Another evening walk with 2 more Hares, much Cuckoo calling and a Tawny Owl in Perrymill Lane.

20th April. Highlight of this evening walk along the footpath below The Ridgeway was a pair of Wheatears – presumably en route to their summer moorland or mountain home. Also good views of a female Kestrel.

24th April. We saw a Skylark perched on top of a hedge and then in flight, singing.

27th April. A Bullfinch was perched on the front fence of the Old Post Office.

30th April. A Whitethroat was heard singing and seen in a tree in Sambourne Lane.

5th May. A heron looked quite incongruous perched on the pergola next door. It was also seen a couple of days previoulsy flying low over our garden and landing two gardens away.

6th May. We took a walk around the recreation ground to check on the new nest boxes. We saw birds leaving and entering all five (3 Blue Tits and 2 Great Tits). Very pleasing to have them all occupied.

8th May. As we drove into the village late in the evening we saw a Fox cub trotting across Wike Lane close to the village green.

May/June 2011

Bullfinches have now become more regular visitors to the garden to feed on sunflower hearts. Parties of young Blue and Great Tits, Starlings and Blackbirds have been observed regularly being fed in the garden over the past month, and a couple of gardens away young Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen being fed by parents. They’ve also been nesting in a garden on the Village Green. A Green Woodpecker has been a regular garden visitor hoovering up ants.

11th May. Fallow Deer and a Roe Deer (I think) were seen in the woods off Wike Lane. A tufted duck was present on a pond beside one of the new footpaths.

17th May. A Blackcap was heard singing from the bushes along Wike Lane.

31st May. A Hare was spotted running ahead of us along the footpath from Coughton past Sambourne Hall Farm.

2nd June. We visited the Worcs Wildlife Trust reserve at Upton warren and were rewarded with views of the breeding Avocets (8 pairs, we were informed), a Cuckoo flying close to the hide and a very unusual visitor – a Red-Necked Phalarope. Bee Orchids were seen growing alongside an access road.

3rd June. We heard a Cuckoo near the village, but we haven’t heard one here since then.

8th June. A young Great Spotted Woodpecker enjoyed a dip in the bird bath.

I must briefly mention a recent visit to central Spain. A stay in the plains of Extremadura, then in the Gredos Mountains west of Madrid gave memorable sightings of more than 125 species of birds including displaying Great Bustards, towns alive with nesting White Storks, soaring Griffon and Black Vultures, and many Ibex posing characteristically on rocks. These are two lovely parts of this fascinating and varied country.

June/July 2011

So much has been going on in the past month that I’ll have a problem distilling these notes into the space available.

Butterflies have really come to the fore, especially along the bridleway off Wike Lane.

17th June onwards. The garden seems to have filled with young tits and Goldfinches and Greenfinches. The feeders are emptying as fast as in mid-winter.

18th June. As we stood on the footbridge by the ford at Coughton a Kingfisher flew along the Arrow past us. The first time we’ve seen one there.

20th June. We heard a Skylark singing near the new paths across Glebe Farm land.

21st June. A Hornet was spotted in our neighbour’s garden.

25th June. A Chiffchaff visited the garden briefly, but decided against the feeders.

2nd July. At last a sunny day for a walk through the woods brought out many butterflies including Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood, Large and Small Skipper, and the highlight - Silver-washed Fritillary. We spotted one Marbled White on a weedy patch near Glebe Farm.

4th July. Another walk along Wike Lane and the bridleway found even more butterflies. Firstly a Purple Hairstreak on the road beneath an oak tree (freshly emerged but with a forewing not properly formed) then the same list as before augmented by Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone.

7th July. Two juvenile Green Woodpeckers regularly seen feeding in the garden. Judging by the numbers I’ve seen around the village it seems to have been a very successful breeding season.

9th July. Two lovely evening sightings of hares from the footpath between Coughton and Sambourne, including one resting about 20 metres away and not inclined to run!

A Little Owl flew by and perched in a tree by Sambourne Hall Farm.

11th July. On this warm sunny morning a White Admiral has joined the list of butterflies seen on the bridleway, together with several Silver-washed Fritillaries. In the afternoon a Holly Blue flitted around then landed on my drive. Has anyone seen any Grass Snakes or Slow worms lately? I haven’t for several years.

July/August 2011

My query about reptile sightings has resulted in some welcome responses.

A lady from Green Lane reported at least one Slow Worm in residence under a piece of carpet in her garden, and a Grass Snake has also been seen there. A flattened Slow Worm was pointed out to me in Wike Lane – sad, but at least indicating their presence in the area. A local resident who visited the woods in his youth mentioned that Grass Snakes seemed abundant there at that time, but they’re not obvious now.

17th July. A Badger was trotting along the verge at the Coughton end of Wike Lane around 10pm.

19th July. A Coughton resident mentioned two sightings of Peregrines in the Coughton area and I understand there are regular sightings between Coughton Cross Farm and the river.

25th July. Another gold star for Roy and Dee who spotted a Hummingbird Hawk Moth visiting flowers in their garden. The day they mentioned it one appeared briefly in our garden. As we walked a footpath near Glebe Farm in the late afternoon we flushed two Quail – the first time we’ve seen any of these summer visitors in the area.

30th July. Two Fallow Deer seen from the bridle way through the woods off Wike Lane and one hare seen in a field on Wike Lane.

31st July. Tawny Owl heard from home calling at 7am.

1st August. A Roe Deer was seen in the middle of a field near Glebe Farm.

5th August. A number of Swallows have appeared flying low over the garden and perched on power cables in front of the house – 20 counted at one time. Some were also seen perched on cables outside our neighbour’s kitchen door! We saw four young perched on the house guttering being fed by adults. A few days later the numbers were augmented by House Martins. Presumably broods have now all fledged and family parties are hunting insects to build themselves up in readiness for their long flights south.

August 2011

Another Grass Snake sighting has been reported. It was seen near the stables in Wike Lane.

11th August. I noticed a Carrion Crow on a neighbour’s pergola performing the trick I’ve only previously seen on TV – it was using its beak to haul up a fat-filled coconut on a string and using its claw to secure the string while it reached down for the next portion of string.

12th August. A good day for birds today. During a pre-lunch walk along Wike Lane we watched a Spotted Flycatcher, a Chiffchaff and a Nuthatch busy feeding in the trees. Later in the walk we found a Lesser Whitethroat in bushes in the paddock off Sambourne Lane.

13th August. A Sparrowhawk scatterd the small birds in our garden, but was unsuccessful in finding a meal. It sat in the hedge for a while then departed.

15th August. I noticed a Grass Snake on Wike Lane near the bridleway entrance – road-kill unfortunately.

16th August. A Whitethroat was in bushes in the paddock off Sambourne Lane.

17th August. A Hummingbird Hawk Moth was spotted in the garden feeding on verbena and buddleia flowers. Several freshly emerged Small Tortoisehells and a Comma were also present.

23rd August. A Fallow Deer and fawn were on the bridleway in the woods off Wike Lane.

25th August. Two Roe Deer were in a field beside Wike Lane and two more crossed the lane.

31st August. Most people will have seen Green Woodpeckers in their garden at some time. However, a very reliable spot for them at the moment is a field near the Coughton end of the footpath from the village green. The field has many anthills, and today three Woodpeckers were feasting on their occupants. We noticed a Small Heath butterfly on the village green. They are supposedly very common, but I hadn’t seen one for several years.

October 2011

I managed little in the way of local nature observations in September due to holidays. However, a visit to Madagascar more than made up for this. We hoped we might manage at least a glimpse of a Lemur, but our hopes were greatly exceeded and we had many encounters with at least 16 species of Lemur, including a troop of Ring-tailed – probably the best known member of the family. We also saw 6 species of Chameleon and 155 bird species, not to mention the snakes (all non-poisonous), geckos, iguanas, astonishing insects and huge butterflies. We visited tropical rainforest, dry forest, spiny forest, rocky highlands, mangrove-fringed coasts and islands, and marshland. Brief visits to towns and villages gave a flavour of daily life for the very friendly people in this fascinating country.

Following our return home we were still very pleased to see a small flock of Skylarks and a larger flock of Yellowhammers on our first walk in early October.

November 2011

As a reminder of one of the joys of our rural location in Sambourne, a new resident in Middletown Lane tells me that in his 15 years of living in Headless Cross he counted 26 different species of bird visiting his garden while in his 6 months in Sambourne he has already counted 29 species.

At the start of November a Coughton resident reported having heard a rutting stag in Coughton Park wood.

I was amused to watch a couple of Magpies standing on the backs of sheep lying in the field behind us. The sheep seemed unconcerned, but it was hard to tell how the Magpies were benefitting from their slightly elevated viewpoint.

From time to time Adam Quinney has lost cattle due to bovine TB. Badgers are to be found in a number of locations around Sambourne and it is interesting to learn that he has begun a programme of badger vaccination which is due to run for 3 to 4 years and will hopefully prove the success of this approach to managing the disease.

The transition into autumn has been marked by the arrival of the Redwings and Fieldfares, and the first Brambling (female) has visited the garden to feed on sunflower hearts. However, the spells of mild weather have kept butterflies on the wing – a Comma at the end of October and a Small Tortoiseshell in the garden today.

December 2011

The nature highlight of the past month has been a visit to the RSPB’s Newport Wetlands reserve beside the Severn Estuary and only a short distance from the city centre. It was a very manageable day out with a drive of about an hour and three-quarters each way. The reserve has several miles of easy walking trails through a variety of habitats including reedbeds, woodland, lagoons and views across the mudflats. We’d hoped to see Bearded Tits which live in the reeds, but were out of luck. However, we did see wintering ducks, including a Goldeneye, a Marsh Harrier, Dunlin, Knot and Curlew on the mudflats and, when dusk arrived, thousands of Starlings arriving to swirl around before finally coming in to roost. The wildlife, the picturesque surroundings and the very warm welcome from the staff in the reception centre made it a very pleasant visit.

Back at home, we’ve continued to hear occasional morning and evening Tawny Owl calls and the numbers of Great and Blue Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and especially Goldfinches have reached epic levels to empty two large sunflower seed feeders in less than a day. I think I glimpsed the first redpoll of the winter on a feeder a couple of days ago, but before I could train the binoculars on it, it flew away. If I was right I’m sure it will return soon.