Sambourne Village

Late November 2015 to early January 2016

The most interesting news for this month relates to Otters. I understand that there is a population residing in the River Arrow by Coughton Court. Unfortunately in mid-December one was killed by a vehicle on Haden Way. I often cast an eye along the river hoping to glimpse a Kingfisher, but an Otter would be quite something!
Last month I speculated on whether Redpolls would soon appear in the garden. On January 3rd I noticed one feeding on the sunflower hearts. I’ve not seen one since, but the forecast colder weather could well bring about a re-appearance.
The number of Goldfinches coming to the sunflower hearts has increased greatly and they now empty the feeder in a day, while Great, Blue and Coal Tits do the same for the black sunflower seeds. The occasional Nuthatch seems content with either. Phil has reported seeing up to eight Pheasants at a time in his Middletown Lane garden, perhaps seeking a safe haven while the shooting has been going on.
Kate commented on frequently seeing a Heron in a field at the Coughton end of Wike Lane. On a 4th of January walk along the lane we watched two Herons appearing to stand to attention in the field, and we were also able to enjoy being serenaded by a Song Thrush at the same time. Which reminds me – on a walk along Wike Lane we will nearly always hear a Song Thrush singing, which is gratifying given that the species has suffered a serious decline in numbers in recent years.
Finally, we’re now all quite used to seeing Buzzards flying over the village or perched on telegraph poles. However, Sharon was very surprised by just how large they are when she had a close encounter with one feeding on the ground. To remind you they can be 56cm (22”) tall with a 130cm (51”) wingspan.

Early November 2015 to late November 2015

I needed to produce these notes rather early this month, but looking over my notes I think enough has been happening to manage the task.
On November 19th we paid a visit to the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s Upton Warren reserve, unsure as to what we might find having seen a report on Midlands Today about changes taking place due to subsidence and water levels. I can’t really comment on that, but it was pleasing to see at least 8 Snipe, a Dunlin (a small shore bird) and quite a few ducks, mostly Teal and Shoveler. We also found a large flock of Redpolls – I wonder how long before they begin to visit our garden feeders as they have regularly in recent winters?
I’m sure that if I kept chickens I would have a different point of view, but since I don’t, I always like to see Foxes. Earlier this week we had quite an amazing encounter with one near to the point where the brook passes under Wike Lane by the village boundary. In the middle of the day it was reclining in a gateway and took no notice of us as we stood about 15 metres away. After a couple of minutes it got up and slowly walked around as if looking for something. It then walked straight towards us, and then turned away and slowly made its way off across the field apparently unconcerned by our presence.
There is a large holly tree with lots of berries in our neighbour’s garden. There’s a good chance that by Christmas there will be no berries left! Yesterday morning we watched a large flock of Redwings carrying out frequent raids on the tree. Later, as we walked along Wike Lane to Coughton we were aware of large numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings feeding hungrily on the berries in the hedgerow beside the lane. There looks to be a healthy population of these winter thrushes here now.
Finally, I’ve read several reports of Goldfinch numbers increasing and this is certainly reflected in numbers visiting our garden. Unfortunately this presumably means that they more frequently fall prey to Sparrowhawks, as was indicated by a lot of Goldfinch feathers on and beneath a feeder in our garden recently.

Early October 2015 to early November 2015

The weather has been quite mild over the past month, but on October 23rd we saw the first winter migrants here in the form of a flock of mostly Fieldfares with a few Redwings. It could be that the numbers of Starlings that Chris has mentioned seeing in his Middletown Lane garden are also winter visitors as our resident Starling population is boosted annually, mostly from Scandinavia. Also in Middletown Lane, Phil has been hearing Tawny Owls calling loudly and has a Kestrel regularly visiting his garden. He also spotted a Stoat or a Weasel in the field behind.
Neighbour David has had several night time fox sightings in Jill Lane.

I have lots of notes for the past month, but the highlights are:
13th Oct. We witnessed a Raven and a Buzzard having an aerial sparring match in Coughton Park woods.
17th & 18th Oct. Two Hares and several young Fallow Deer seen from the footpath to Coughton.
19th Oct. Neighbour Kate called for help having become aware of a bird stuck in a drain pipe at ground level where it stopped at a grill. It had presumably been feeding in the guttering above, slipped down the pipe and in the constricted space couldn’t fly back up. An amount of dismantling released a Blue Tit looking rather sorry for itself and only able to flutter around. I released it in a hawthorn hedge where it hopefully recovered. Earlier in the day we had our best ever views of a female Kestrel taking advantage of a recently ploughed field to feed on invertebrates. It seemed quite oblivious to us watching from only two or three yards away.
1st Nov. We watched a flock of around 15 Yellowhammers in bushes near Glebe Farm.
5th Nov. We stood beneath our apple tree watching a couple of Goldcrests hunting around the branches and twigs. They were soon joined by a Nuthatch and then Coal, Great and Blue Tits. They all completely ignored us just a couple of yards away.

Early September 2015 to early October 2015

Autumn is upon us and it seems to be a bumper year for berries in the hedgerows. Blackberries have been abundant since the middle of August and just today we noticed bushes red with haws and hips. Is this any indication of the winter ahead? I don’t really believe so.

The weather over the past four weeks has been reasonably mild and dry, so we were still seeing Swallows and other summer birds right up to the end of September.

Noteworthy this month:
16th Sept. Swallows were feeding over the fields around the village.
19th Sept. We briefly watched a small bird on a fence by Sambourne Hall Farm. It was either a Stonechat or a juvenile Whinchat, but lighting conditions made identification difficult.
20th Sept. During a productive walk near Glebe Farm on this sunny afternoon we found a large number of Swallows, quite a few Meadow Pipits, several Yellowhammers, a Chiffchaff and a variety of Tits.
27th Sept. A Little Owl could be heard calling from a hedgerow across the field behind our garden.
28th Sept. Although we often see them around the village, we were surprised to see a Heron perched on the roof of a neighbour’s garage.
29th Sept. We set off on a walk over Bredon Hill and the first bird we saw was a Red Kite. Later in the walk we saw a Stonechat, a Blackcap, a Willow Warbler and Meadow Pipits.
4th Oct. As we walked the path between Coughton and Sambourne we met a couple who had just been surprised to encounter a party of seven Green Woodpeckers. Pete reported having seen two Ravens in his Middletown Lane garden – a “first” for him.
5th Oct. Chris reported many visiting birds including voracious Starlings feasting on fat balls in his Middletown Lane garden and an increasingly bold cock Pheasant.
8th Oct. At Coughton ford we watched a Grey Wagtail preening and at home in the evening we heard Tawny Owls calling loudly from nearby trees.

Early August 2015 to early September 2015

Dragonflies have come to the fore over the past month. Roy photographed in his Whitemore Lane garden a large black and green specimen which he identified as a Southern Hawker. He had previously seen a number of nymphs in his pond. Chris saw what was probably the same species in his Middletown Lane garden and also an unidentified golden –orange one hovering over his pond. I must treat myself to a field guide as they are just “big ‘uns” and “little ‘uns” to me at the moment.

Chris also noticed 14 Swallows perched on a power line presumably getting ready for the long journey to sub-Saharan Africa. Pete has reported a good selection of birds in his Middletown Lane garden including three juvenile Green Woodpeckers and he managed to stalk a feeding Nuthatch in order to get a photograph. Phil has also been enjoying bird sightings in and behind his Middletown Lane garden, including a Buzzard catching a young rabbit which was then taken off to feed to its own young, four Green Woodpeckers and daily Herons and Kestrels. He has also had the good fortune to have a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker return to his garden.

Another interesting report was from Chris and Alan who spotted a White Admiral in their Sambourne Lane garden. These are really woodland butterflies that we have seen in past years in Coughton Park woods, but not for some time, so it’s good to know that they’re still in the area. The recent spells of sunny weather have brought good butterfly numbers to flowers in our garden and have included the occasional Painted Lady, some freshly emerged Brimstones and a Holly Blue. A Wren has been a welcome regular visitor to our patio where it has scuttled among the pots hunting for insects. Re-stocking our sunflower seed feeders after a summer “rest” brought an instant surge in bird numbers in the garden including regular Coal Tits and Nuthatches as well as the more usual tits and finches.

early July to early August 2015

I seem to mention Hare sightings most months and make no apology for doing so as they are such a joy to see and watch. Again over the past month we have consistently seen them as we’ve walked the field footpaths between Sambourne and Coughton. Other observations over the month included:
20th July. A Little Owl was calling from the hedgerow across the field behind our garden.
21st July. On a morning walk over footpaths near Glebe Farm we did a butterfly count and, in 15 minutes, found eight different species on or close to a bush of bramble flowers.
23rd July. Tracy pointed out a Buzzard nest beside Wike Lane, with an adult “standing guard” close by.
27th July. Roy spotted and managed to get a photograph of a Hummingbird Hawk Moth in his garden.
2nd August. On this sunny day (hurrah!) butterfly numbers were building up in the garden, including a freshly emerged Brimstone which was particularly attracted to runner bean flowers.
10th August. We were spending a few days in Luxembourg and we noticed that the most numerous bird species in the hotel grounds was Nuthatch. Since we frequently see and hear them locally I was prompted to see what Google had to say about their status. I found that their numbers have greatly increased since the 1970’s and they have spread north to Scotland. The reason for the population growth is not known, but the attractive little birds are welcome in my garden!

early June to early July 2015

We mourn the loss of Nightingales from Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s Trench Wood reserve, but we spent two weeks in the middle of June in the south of France in the vicinity of the Canal du Midi and the mountainous Haut Languedoc nature park. Here we were treated to their lovely song every day, wherever we were walking. With colourful migrant birds and numerous butterflies this is a lovely area in which to enjoy nature.
Consequently the local information is largely as a result of observations that I’ve been pleased to receive from other residents.
For example, early summer has provided Chris and Anna with a Middletown Lane garden full of adult and young birds, including Long-tailed Tits, Goldfinches, Sparrows, Starlings and Jackdaws, while numerous Swallows zoomed overhead. They also noticed that bumble bees had taken over a nest box. They were identified as tree bumble bees – a species that only arrived in England from mainland Europe in 2001 and have been spreading across the country ever since. A Muntjac and a Badger have also been visitors to their garden.
John and Maureen discovered that a Red-legged Partridge had raised a brood of twelve beneath a pampas grass in their Coughton garden.
Next-door neighbour David went to inspect his garden pond and found a young Heron standing beside it. The Heron was reluctant to go and simply moved to the other side of the pond when approached. Unusually bold!
Our own observations have been:
30th June. One group of trees at the Coughton end of the footpath had a singing Blackcap, a Treecreeper and several Long-tailed Tits.
2nd July. A Little Owl could be heard across the field from our back garden. Three Hares and a Whitethroat were seen on a walk across the fields to Coughton.
3rd July. A Clouded Yellow butterfly, an uncommon migrant, spent a short time in the garden.
6th July. A Chiffchaff visited the garden for a few minutes. On an evening walk to Coughton we had a brief view of a Barn Owl as it flew along a hedgerow then disappeared into the cemetery – the first we’ve seen locally for several years.

mid-May to early June 2015

Comments on the “Springwatch” programme and an item in the news today have highlighted the plight of the Hedgehog –
their numbers having declined dramatically. They used to be quite regular visitors to our garden, but I realise now that many years have past since I last saw one here.
Has anyone been fortunate enough to see them in the garden recently?

I’ve now received five reports of Cuckoo calling around the village, the first on 16th May and mostly from the general direction of Whitemoor Lane quite close to the village. We’ve still not heard one locally, but during a short stay in the Cambrian Mountains we heard very frequent calling and even watched one calling from its perch in a tree. Our stay involved a walk through the oak woods of the RSPB’s Dinas reserve and other walks in the surrounding valleys and moorland. The birdlife there is wonderful at this time of year including many warblers, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers in the woodland and Whinchats and Wheatears in the more open areas.

Other items of interest over the past month have been:
25th May. Chris is still seeing Siskins in his Middletown Lane garden.
26th May. On an evening walk along the Coughton to Sambourne footpath we saw two Hares.
30th May. Same walk, same place we watched a party of five Hares, including some young.
31st May. Phil B. mentioned having become aware of Nuthatches nesting in the vicinity of Green Dragon Cottage. We’ve also seen one gathering food in our garden to take to nearby nestlings.
2nd June. After such a chilly May, the first hint of the weather warming up has brought out butterflies and we saw our first Small Heath of the year by the footpath to Coughton.

mid-April to mid-May 2015

April has been declared the sunniest since records began and nature has responded with carpets of wild flowers and good numbers of butterflies.

This month our nature-watching got off to a good start with a couple of walks in the Wyre Forest.

Highlights through the month have been:
10th April. The first walk in the Wyre Forest area was alongside the River Severn to Trimpley reservoir where we saw a male Goosander on the water.
14th April. During a longer walk in the Forest which took in the path following Dowles Brook we had several sightings of Grey Wagtails and Dippers, and many Nuthatches were heard and seen.
15th April. We noticed in the garden the first Orange Tip butterfly of the spring.
17th April. As we were walking past Capilano the song of a Willow Warbler in the garden caught our attention and it soon came into view. There are plenty of the closely-related Chiffchaffs around, but we haven’t seen a Willow Warbler around here for several years.
22nd April. For our first sighting of Swallows in the area we saw 8 skimming above the fields close to the village.
23rd April. The first Holly Blue butterfly in the garden.
24th April. More Swallows around and Speckled Wood butterflies now on the wing in Coughton Park wood.
29th April. Maureen reported a Moorhen with 12(!) chicks visiting her Coughton garden. They must have kept mum busy!
2nd May. Chris was delighted to see Swallows over Middletown Lane.
4th May. First sighting of a Swift near Sambourne Hall Farm.

I’ve heard no positive reports of Cuckoo calls yet this spring. Nick thought he might have heard one whilst on his morning run, but was unable to convince himself.

Our neighbours were unimpressed by the industrious crows that squeezed through a gap in their chimney pot to nest and managed to fill the entire chimney down to the fireplace with twigs!

mid-March to mid-April 2015

The nature-watching highlight this month was a visit to the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s Upton Warren reserve near Webb’s Garden Centre on March 23rd. We were delighted to see that Avocets had already returned and, although we counted 15, records showed that 23 had been seen. There were wonderful views of these elegant wading birds right in front of the hide overlooking the Flashes. We moved on to “The Moors” part of the reserve where there is deeper water and we had views of several species of duck including Shoveler and Gadwall. In front of the hide were seed feeders that were attracting several Reed Buntings and a pair of Bullfinches. A Chiffchaff and a Cetti’s Warbler were audible in the vicinity. To complete the visit we walked part of the track around the lakes and were rewarded by the appearance of a Water Rail emerging from a reed bed and meandering for a minute or two on the mud right in front of us. This was a rare treat from a normally shy bird.

Earlier in March Chris had Siskins in his Middletown Lane garden almost as soon as he’d put out niger seed. Pete continues to have Pheasants feeding in his garden. Early butterflies have been on the wing on sunny days through the month, but the few days of warm sunshine after Easter brought into the garden good numbers of Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks and Brimstones. During walks along local footpaths we’ve enjoyed the singing of up to three Skylarks and regular sightings of Yellowhammers. Goldcrests have been more apparent than usual in the woods and hedgerows and on one occasion we saw three Meadow Pipits. I don’t recall having seen this species before in our area.

mid-February to mid-March 2015

Not much in the way of local nature notes this month as most of the time was spent in Sri Lanka.
The main focus was the bird life of the island, although we did experience a little of the culture including a visit to an important Buddhist temple where (supposedly) a tooth recovered from Buddha’s funeral ashes is stored.
Our tour included time spent in lowland dry forest where, in addition to the birds, we came across mammals including a Leopard. The scenery became increasingly spectacular as we moved on to the central highlands and high plateau, before dropping to the tropical rainforest. At each new location there were more species of birds, large colourful butterflies, monkeys and land and water monitor lizards. In total we saw over 200 species of birds (including a good number of the species endemic to Sri Lanka) and about 20 mammal species. The one creature that none of our small party was happy to see was the leech. On one visit to the rainforest they were very apparent and a few of us unwittingly donated blood. The only thing to be said in their favour is that they cause no discomfort during or after their feast!
Our trip concluded with two boat rides south into the Indian Ocean with the hope of seeing whales. We were fortunate on both occasions to have good views of Blue Whales, including a mother and calf. One can’t fail to be impressed by an animal 70 or 80 feet long. On the second trip we were also accompanied by pods of dolphins having fun around the boat. Some of these were Spinner Dolphins which leap out of the water and gyrate before splashing back.

Since our return home it’s been great to see the first signs of spring with a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly in the garden and wild garlic and bluebell plants showing in Wyke Lane and the woods. This afternoon a Little Owl was calling from a nearby hedgerow.

early January to mid-February 2015
Foxes have been visibly active this month. Julie noticed two strolling along at the bottom of their Perrymill Lane garden and another in the field behind. This was the day after the huntsmen were out and about, so perhaps the foxes felt able to relax! Yesterday we paid a visit to the Upton Warren nature reserve and from a hide overlooking The Flashes (shallow pools) we watched a dog fox and a vixen trotting across the field ahead. We gathered they were male and female as they stopped several times to “do what comes naturally”. Although the reserve had nothing unusual it was nice to see large numbers of Lapwing, three Little Egrets, an Oystercatcher and several species of duck including Pochard, Teal, Shoveler, Shelduck and Tufted Duck. We were impressed by the amount of work that has been carried out with the help of volunteers to make Upton Warren attractive to more species and more accessible to visitors. Bitterns visit, perhaps they will breed.

We did our RSPB “Big Garden Birdwatch” on the morning of January 24th. We’re normally disappointed that some of the regular visitors don’t turn up, but this time most did and we even had a Song Thrush, which is now quite a rarity in our garden. We counted 20 different species in total. With the field footpaths so muddy we’ve been walking the lanes in preference and were rewarded in Wike Lane with a Common Snipe that was flushed from the field margin and flew over the road. From the lanes we’ve seen large flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings feeding in the fields and the trees and hedges have been full of busy mixed flocks of Tits, while in the trees overhead Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been feeding and drumming regularly. Julie commented on hearing this in January and Chris’s “fat snax” balls have proved to be a great attraction to a Woodpecker.

The light covering of snow on January 31st boosted numbers of birds in the garden with six Lesser Redpolls feeding on the nyger seeds.

early December 2014 to early January 2015
We seem to have had an awful lot of rain since I last reported and this was confirmed when, for the first time, we had a Moorhen visit the garden. It investigated our patio for a short time before moving on to inspect the borders. I know it’s quite a common species around the village, but it still came as a surprise to see it in the garden. More of the regular winter visitors are now in evidence as my jottings show.
8th December. We saw Redpolls, Siskins, Fieldfares and Redwings on a walk along Wike Lane.
9th December. Two Hares, a Kestrel, a Reed Bunting, and many Fieldfares and Redwings were spotted from the footpath to Coughton.
14th December. We watched a mixed flock of Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits in the trees along Wike Lane.
20th December. Garden birds seem to have reached a peak with Goldfinches, a Great Tit and a Nuthatch feeding together on sunflower hearts while a fat block cage was “stuffed” with Long-tailed Tits.
23rd December. We watched two Grey Wagtails where Thundering Brook passes under the A435 at Coughton.
25th December. A nice Christmas gift was the sight of the first two Redpolls of the winter feeding on the nyger seeds.
30th December. Our walk through Coughton Park woods was delayed by several good sightings of Goldcrests. Later, a male Bullfinch appeared in the garden.
9th January. A bit of a “raptorfest” from the footpath to Coughton with views of at least two Kestrels (a male and a female together in a tree), several Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk.
I was hoping to be able to report having seen Comet Lovejoy, but so far overcast skies have defeated me. I hope we all have a garden full of birds for the RSPB Birdwatch on the 24th/25th January.