Sambourne Village


Mid December 2019 to Early January 2020

We saw the first signs that winter will be coming to an end before too long when we noticed quite prominent catkins in the hedgerow beside the Evesham Bypass a few days ago. Also, snowdrops and primroses are flowering in gardens around the village and shoots of spring bulbs are appearing.

The only report I received this month was of a Woodcock having been seen close to Coughton Woods – presumably flushed by shooters as they are normally crepuscular.

Our own observations have included:

13th Dec. On a walk along Wike Lane we noticed good numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings in the trees, but we were captivated by the antics of a Raven. We frequently see and hear one perched on a pylon, but this one was in the field and appeared to be jumping up and down in a sort of bouncing action. I can only imagine it was in some way trying to reveal something to eat, but it seemed a strange way to set about it.

21st & 22nd Dec. On both days it was a treat to see a Bullfinch – the first in Sambourne Lane and the second in Wike Lane.

22nd Dec. Two Muntjacs were at the top of Perrymill Lane and disappeared into the paddock opposite “Four Ways”.

19th & 26th Dec. A Red Kite was spotted flying overhead near Hillers Farm Shop and from the Evesham bypass near the town.

7th Jan. It’s many years since we last visited the Slimbridge Wetlands Centre on the Severn estuary in Gloucestershire, so we decided to pay a visit. After a fortifying coffee and teacake in the on-site restaurant we set off through the grounds. We really wanted to walk out to the hides overlooking the pools and meadows where the wild birds congregate, but the walk through the pens of captive birds gives an excellent opportunity to see the ducks, geese and swans close up, some to be found in the UK and others from around the world. It’s amusing to see how friendly many are, thinking that you’re one of the kind visitors who has invested in a bag of seed (we weren’t!). From the first hide we visited, a flock of Black-tailed Godwits with their impressively long bills were visible. From the next hide we viewed a very large flotilla of ducks, mostly Wigeon, but with a few Pintails and Teal mixed in. Some groups of wading birds, specifically Golden Plover and Dunlin were also present. From our last couple of stops, at the farthest hides, we could see a few Bewick’s Swans, wintering here after breeding in Siberia, and 100+ Curlew. There were also several Redshanks and a couple of Ruff. I often struggle to identify waders, but I could manage these. There’s something for everyone at Slimbridge and with the drive taking little more than an hour, there’s every reason to give it a try. Binoculars (and ideally a telescope) are essential for the hides and are available for hire.

Black-tailed Godwit

Golden Plover

Dunlin




Mid November to Mid December 2019

The weather has been so unpleasant over the past few weeks and the field footpaths so sodden that it’s been difficult to summon up the enthusiasm to get out and about. However, a few items have found their way into my notebook.

29th Nov. A welcome spell of sunshine after so much rain tempted us out for a walk along Wike Lane to Coughton. Our attention was drawn to a pair of Ravens that seemed to be enjoying themselves by calling loudly and performing their trick of inverted flying.

30th Nov. A very frosty morning brought plenty of birds to our garden feeders, but it was also pleasing to see several Blue Tits foraging in the dead flower heads of verbena and buddleia. Advice from the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust on managing the garden to help wildlife includes not cutting back or tidying flower borders until springtime. This provides shelter for invertebrates and food for birds and small mammals (I recently spotted a vole peeping out from leaf litter in one of our borders). A small party of Long-tailed Tits continued to feed on our sunflower hearts as we worked in the garden just a few feet away.

1st Dec. Our neighbour noticed a Peacock butterfly on a hebe in a patio planter. Sunshine had lured it out despite the cold conditions.

4th Dec (and subsequent days). A Buzzard now seems omnipresent in the trees in Wike Lane just a short distance from the village green.

5th Dec. We spent part of the morning at the Upton Warren nature reserve. As soon as we entered the hide overlooking The Flashes our attention was drawn to a pair of Snipe close to the hide. These birds seem to be quite boldly marked, but the patterning is such that they quickly become invisible when they move into dry grasses and reeds. They are always a joy to see with their impossibly long bills. Moorhens, Lapwing, Teal and a couple of Linnets were also noted. From here we moved on to the other part of the reserve, known as the Moors. This part tends to have a greater concentration of ducks and here we found Gadwall, Shoveller, Tufted Ducks, Shelduck, Mallard, Little Grebes, a Great Crested Grebe and a Heron. Also, a couple of Curlew appeared in front of the hide and gave us good views for a while.

6th Dec. A Little Owl could be heard calling not far from our back garden.

7th Dec. Just in time for this month’s notes we spotted a flock of 10 or so Lesser Redpolls feeding in a birch tree behind Station house in Coughton – the first of the winter for us.

Early October to Mid November 2019

The most astonishing news this month came from Peter who lives in Coughton and frequently cycles the lanes between Coughton, Sambourne and Studley. On October 23rd around 6:15 am he was cycling along Wike Lane from Coughton near the start of the woods and was amazed to see an Otter loping along the road towards him. He was in no doubt about what it was because he had such a good view of it. Some years ago, one was killed on the road at Haydon Way and they have been seen nearby on the River Arrow, but it’s difficult to imagine quite what it was doing this far from water.

The change to the chillier days of autumn has resulted in an increase in small birds visiting the garden feeders. Coal Tits and Nuthatches have been among the regulars.

21st Oct. I noticed the large flock of gulls referred to in last month’s notes. There were at least 100 birds – all Black-headed Gulls as far as I could see.

20th Oct. Chris informed me that in the previous week he had a close encounter with a Polecat in his garden. He was able to get a very good look at it before it sauntered away – apparently unperturbed by Chris’s presence.

29th Oct. I received a lovely email from Rachel with an update on the wildlife activity in and around her Oak Tree Lane garden. The family have continued to enjoy the presence of Hedgehogs, Tawny Owls, Pipistrelle Bats and all the regular garden birds.

4th Oct. Natasha took her young son Harrison for a walk to the bottom of Perrymill Lane where they spotted two Grey Wagtails enjoying the surface water following the recent heavy rain. Harrison was equally interested in testing his wellies by jumping in a large puddle. The wellies performed well, but the rest of him was soaked to the skin!

6th Nov. Elizabeth had the pleasure of close view of a Goldcrest below a window in her Sambourne Lane home. The golden stripe on its crown that gives the species its name was clearly visible.

A Mistle Thrush was an unusual visitor to our garden, joining a Blackbird eating pyracantha berries. For the first time this autumn I spotted a mixed flock of Fieldfares and Redwings in the field to the rear of our garden. I’m not a lover of the colder weather, but these birds brighten a gloomy day.

We spent the first two weeks of October in France, occupying a farmhouse about 15 miles east of Bordeaux. The wildlife highlight was a visit to Le Teich nature reserve on the Bay of Arcachon where we found good numbers of shorebirds and exotic-looking Spoonbills.

The flower border by the front door of our home provided another treat in the form of a population of Convolvulus Hawk-moth caterpillars feeding (perhaps not surprisingly) on convolvulus growing in the border. These spectacular creatures (up to about 10 centimetres long) pupate underground then emerge as beautiful moths to feed on nectar from flowers such as nicotiana by hovering in front of them like hummingbirds.

Mid September to early October 2019

15th Sept. Still plenty of butterflies in the garden, but the Painted Ladies are looking faded and ragged. Pristine Red Admirals are feeding on the buddleia and verbena. Chris reported that he’s again seen a Weasel in his Middletown Lane garden.

18th Sept. As we walked in the grounds of Hanbury Hall we noticed a large flock of House Martins overhead. I haven’t seen many of this species this year. A Chiffchaff was calling in nearby woodland.

19th Sept. Sue heard a Chiffchaff calling in Perrymill Lane. Unfortunately, my high frequency hearing is nowhere near as good as hers and it wasn’t loud enough for me to hear. Although Chiffchaffs are largely summer visitors, the RSPB estimates that up to 1000 birds overwinter in the UK.

20th Sept. We watched a Kestrel hovering near the footpath to Coughton.

21st Sept. Our walk to the surgery in Astwood Bank to receive our flu jabs was brightened by the site of a Small Copper butterfly feeding on a flower in the Sambourne Lane verge. Later, on this warm, sunny evening, a dozen or more Swallows were zooming around over our garden at little more than head height.

22nd Sept. Early in the day a Chiffchaff was hunting for insects in our apple tree. Later, after rain had passed, more than 20 Swallows were overhead. A Kestrel and 8 Fallow Deer were seen from the footpath to Coughton.

23rd Sept. During an early afternoon walk we saw a Red Kite flying over Sambourne Hall Farm.

28th Sept. We noticed a perfect Red Admiral feeding on ivy flowers. Although ivy can be rather invasive, its flowers are an important source of nectar for insects at a time of year when such food sources are scarce.

Our neighbour Ann mentioned having seen upwards of 60 gulls in a field behind us. It was difficult to tell from her photograph, but I think they were Herring Gulls rather than the Lesser Black-backed Gulls that I’ve also seen around here. The number of them wintering inland has increased in recent years, and some are known to breed on roof tops in Birmingham.

1st Oct. I’ve received an email from Pete who has just returned home to Middletown Lane from a holiday in the Algarve. He enjoyed views of two special bird species – Hoopoes and Azure-winged Magpies. They are worth the trip in their own right – never mind the sunshine, sandy beaches, beautiful scenery, wine and culinary delights!

If anyone would like to see the location of all the footpaths in our parish, a link to a detailed map has now been provided in the parish council website.

Mid August to Early September 2019

12th Aug. This month got off to a great start with an influx of Painted Lady butterflies. The buddleia and verbena flowers were the main attraction, but most of the flowering plants in the garden were being visited. Bees were also plentiful, particularly on ice plants which were barely in flower.

13th Aug. Chris mentioned having a volery of Long-tailed Tits in his Middletown Lane garden. (Did you know “volery” is a collective noun for a flock of birds? No? Neither did I!) He also noticed lots of Cinnabar Moth caterpillars. These are yellow and black banded caterpillars that feed on groundsel and ragwort – abundant when I was boy, but I rarely see them these days.

15th Aug. A sizeable number of Swallows were zooming around over and behind our garden in pursuit of insects. I do like to watch their aerobatics.

17th Aug. We spotted two Kestrels flying over the village green early in the afternoon.

18th Aug. Although they wouldn’t stay still for an accurate count, I’m sure that the number of Painted Ladies in the garden at one time had now risen to more than thirty. They were joined by a couple of Commas and a few Small Tortoiseshells.

21st Aug. It was good to see that the patches of harebells growing beside the footpath to Coughton are expanding. Patches of flowering heather are brightening up Coughton Park wood and attracting Small Copper and Gatekeeper butterflies.

25th Aug. We were surprised to see a Pipistrelle bat flying over the garden at 3pm. The last time we saw one flying over during the day it was taken by a Sparrowhawk.

31st Aug. The Painted Ladies in the garden are starting to look faded, but a perfect Red Admiral appeared.

Small Tortoiseshell

Painted Lady

Red Admiral

4th Sept. At different points on a walk along Wike Lane and through Coughton Park wood we noted two Hares and three Fallow Deer.

7th Sept. As we walked a footpath home from Studley we saw a Fox running across the field.

8th Sept. A Brimstone and a Comma, both in pristine condition joined the selection of butterflies in the garden.

Rachel, Rob and family have been busy spotting wildlife. On a visit to Snowshill Manor they spotted a Hummingbird Hawk-moth - a fascinating insect to watch as it hovers in front of a flower with its long proboscis extracting nectar from the flower. They also have two resident Hedgehogs in the garden, sometimes joined by a third. “Assertive” behaviour has been recorded by their wildlife camera.

Finally, for Dave and Jackie. I think your black and white butterflies will have been Marbled Whites. Take a look on Google.

Mid July to early August 2019

Last month I had no space to mention a visit to Worcs Wildlife Trust’s Upton Warren reserve on July 5th. We were pleased to see many adult and young Avocets there – the logbook in the hide showed that 40 young had been counted. We also saw 7 Curlew, a couple of Little-ringed Plover and a Green Sandpiper.

My wildlife spotting this month has largely been of butterflies. The spells of hot and sunny weather have brought them out in good numbers and we even had a Marbled White visit begonias in our garden. Species noted over the past month in the garden and surrounding countryside were Peacock, Comma, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Large and Small Skipper, Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Large and Small White, Silver-washed Fritillary, Meadow Brown, Small Heath and Marbled White.

Away from wildlife, did anyone manage to see the partial lunar eclipse on July 16th? I looked at about 9.30pm but there was enough thin cloud cover to prevent a clear view. It was just possible to see the reddish colouration of the moon. I tried a last look before heading for bed and was rewarded with a brief hole in the clouds through which the moon could be clearly seen with the part in the earth’s shadow showing red and quite spectacular.

Other items of note this month:
15th July. Phil saw two red kites flying past his Middletown Lane garden.

16th July. Tawny Owl calls were audible from home just before midnight.

20th July. On a walk along Wike Lane and through the woods we saw three hares and both Fallow and Roe deer. I spotted a female Blackcap in the woods.

2nd August. Our garden has many ant nests around the lawn, and we watched a Green Woodpecker taking advantage of this ready supply of food. The cackling call of these birds has been audible all around the village of late.

5th August. A male and a female Roe Deer were feeding close to the bridleway through Coughton Park wood. They seemed to be aware of us but unconcerned until we got within just a few metres of them when they eventually bounded off. We heard several Nuthatches calling while we were on this walk.

6th August. As we drove home from Flyford Flavell in darkness we had two sightings of Hedgehogs scuttling along the roadside – on of them near the centre of the village. With Hedgehog numbers having fallen so dramatically in recent years, it’s slightly encouraging whenever one sees them around. I really must get around to making that Hedgehog house to give one a home for the winter.

Mid June to mid July 2019

13th June. We suspect the Wren’s nest that I mentioned last month has been predated by a Magpie. We heard the alarm call of a Wren and saw a Magpie flying away from the vicinity of the nest with something fluffy in it’s bill. We’ve seen no Wren activity since.

15th June. I found a distinctive caterpillar feeding on an azalea. I subsequently identified it as the larva of the Copper Underwing moth – I’ve not seen one before, but the internet informs me that it’s fairly common in southern Britain.

16th June. As I drove out of the village along Middletown Lane a male Roe Deer appeared in front of me and trotted ahead for perhaps 100 metres before veering off through a gap in the hedgerow.

A Common Spotted Orchid has appeared in our neighbour’s lawn. The one that has flowered in our lawn for the previous three years was absent this year.

We watched a female Blackcap picking insects off plants in our border.

18th June. On a walk along Wike Lane and past Coughton Lodge Farm we saw a flock of Linnets and some House Martins, which seem to have been scarce around here.

19th June. We saw Swifts for the first time in our area this year – four of them flying around houses in Toms Town Lane, Studley.

20th June. A Barn Owl was flying near Sambourne Hall Farm at 4:30pm. Fallow Deer, Roe Deer, a Garden Warbler and Whitethroats were also seen during this walk.

23rd June. On a walk along the footpath behind “Botany Bay” nursery towards Cookhill we noticed three Common Spotted Orchids in flower, and several butterflies including our first Ringlet of the year and a Large Skipper.

24th June. A Red Kite was circling over our garden. One was seen again from our lounge window next morning.

27th June. A Red Admiral and several Painted Ladies were feeding at flowers in our garden.

6th June. Chris spotted a Wolf Spider carrying a large egg sac in his Middletown Lane garden.

7th June. On this sunny afternoon we walked footpaths along the Ridgeway and through Coughton Park wood. Near “Botany Bay there is a lovely area of flower meadow with Common Knapweed in flower. This attracted many butterflies including at least 10 Marbled Whites, Ringlets, Meadow Browns and Large Skippers. There were also a couple of 6-Spot Burnet Moths and we’d also seen a Cinnibar Moth earlier in the walk. In the woodland there were more Marbled Whites and several Silver-washed Fritillaries.

Marbled White

Ringlet

LargeSkipper

What a lovely area we live in!

Mid May to mid June 2019

Perhaps the most noteworthy item this month was an encounter with a small party of people on the bridleway through Coughton Park Wood. They were volunteers working with Heart of England Forest charity studying the ecology of the woods. Their work helps to guide the way the wood is managed, and involves surveying all aspects of the natural history of the woods. I will endeavour to maintain contact with the team as I’m sure their work will be of great interest to us all.

These have been a memorable few weeks for the almost continuous call of a Cuckoo around the village. Our favourite memory is of one calling not far from the village green as we sat in the Green Dragon garden enjoying a lunchtime drink.

We’ve been very pleased to have a few sightings of Hares in various places around the village, and Ann also saw one off Wike Lane, where she also noticed a couple of Lapwings performing their display flight.

Our neighbours have been aware of a Sparrowhawk feeding well in their garden – at least two Wood Pigeons and one Magpie having been consumed.

The Clarke family have been enjoying the wildlife in and around their garden. They’ve had Tawny Owls, three Hedgehogs and a number of bats.

At least two Tawny Owls have fledged from the Capilano nest box.

19th May. We saw 6 Fallow Deer outside Coughton Park Wood.

24th May. Carrying a phone loaded with the Collins bird field guide paid dividends on a woodland walk. We could hear bird song that we thought was a Garden Warbler. The guide includes bird song and playing this confirmed our identification.

25th May. As we sat quietly enjoying a cup of tea on our patio we notices a Wren slip unobtrusively into a pyracantha bush. We’ve seen them several times since carrying food, so they clearly have a nest there.

30th. I now know why the sunflower seeds are disappearing so quickly. A Carrion Crow has realised that, although it can’t manage to feed directly from the feeder, if it hangs on to the feeding station and flaps its wings to shake the feeder, the seed showers down. It then vacuums up the seed from the grass below.

1st June. By the path to Coughton we noticed a Small Heath butterfly near an area of Birds-foot trefoil that’s now in flower. On the 10th we saw two in the same place.

3rd June. A good day for birds today. A male Bullfinch visited our black sunflower seeds, a Red Kite was hunting over the fields around Glebe Farm and Skylarks were singing over the fields near Sambourne Warren.

6th June. A pristine Painted Lady butterfly was visiting a variety of flowers in our garden.

Early April To mid May 2019

Having spent two weeks of the last month in South Africa I was expecting to have to major on the delights of Cape Sugarbirds and the rare Taita Falcon, or close encounters with Lions, Hyenas and Elephants in Kruger National Park. However, my notebook is bulging with local items so I’ll stay with those.

5th April. Pete J noticed his first Swallows over Hillers garden centre.

15th April. Pete had a Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard and a Tawny Owl visit his garden.

21st April. From his home Pete heard a Cuckoo calling from 6am onwards.

21st April. On a walk to and from Coughton we heard and saw Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and a Whitethroat. Also a Kestrel appeared to be feeding young in a nest. Many butterflies were seen including Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Brimstone.

22nd April. We heard a Cuckoo calling for the first time and a number of other people have mentioned hearing one around the village.

23rd April. Nick mentioned hearing a Cuckoo for several days from his Perrymill Lane garden, and also having seen two Pied Wagtails harassing a dog!

23rd April. We walked through Rough Hill Wood for the first time for many years and were impressed by its tranquillity and a profusion of wild flowers including wood anemones, violets, primroses and bluebells.

25th April. We could hear Blackcaps singing from the trees beside Tesco’s car park.

30th April. We saw our first Swifts flying over the Goblin Combe nature reserve in North Somerset.

26th April. Elizabeth and Graham reported having seen a Red Kite over Weethley and also mentioned that Tawny Owls are nesting in a nest box in Capilano’s garden. Owner Mike confirmed that there were two chicks in residence.

29th April. On a walk through Coughton Woods we heard and saw Willow Warblers. Many Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were also singing. A Tawny Owl hooted at 2pm.

5th May. Pete saw a Small Copper butterfly in his Middletown Lane garden.

9th/10th May. We visited a favourite part of mid-Wales to enjoy the scenery and the visiting Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts and Warblers. A highlight was watching a calling male Cuckoo being harassed by three Tree Pipits.

11th May. On an evening footpath walk to Coughton we were pleased to identify two Lesser Whitethroats darting around some bushes. They kept disappearing into one dense patch which could well have been their nest site. We couldn’t recall having previously seen this species around here.

Mid-March To early April 2019

Just after completing last month’s jotting, I received news of a most interesting sighting. Paul, from Sambourne Lane, reported (via mum Ann) that he was fairly sure that, as he was driving along Whitemoor Lane at 6 am, he had seen a Polecat trotting along the lane. I’m aware that in recent years their range has spread considerably from their former stronghold in Wales. I’ve just done an internet search and found a July 2018 report from someone who saw one in Kings Coughton. Since this is only a couple of miles away I’d like to think that this confirms Paul’s sighting.

Felicity has mentioned on a number of occasions the pleasure of seeing a Bullfinch in her garden. Most recently she was sad to report that she’d found it in the garden in poor condition and taken it in for protection, but it unfortunately didn’t survive the night.

More and more people have been reporting pheasants in their gardens including 9 from Chris in Middletown Lane and 3 from Margaret in Sambourne Park. She has also seen a Buzzard flying from an oak tree down to the ground, and has been entertained by Blue and Great Tits enjoying swinging on a chain in front of a mirror in the garden. John has observed a Moorhen in his Perrymill Lane garden.

Some lovely signs of spring have included hearing the calls and seeing Chiffchaffs all around the village since March 19th. Many butterflies have appeared in the spells of fine weather, including Brimstones, Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Commas and a very early male Orange Tip on March 30th. On April 1st Shirley noticed the first Cowslips beside the Evesham Bypass. Violets, wild garlic and celandines are evident on the verges. Blue tits are busy in nest boxes in our neighbour’s garden and I think Nuthatches are nesting in a hole in their oak tree.

A few other items of interest:

March 27th. From the footpath to Coughton we saw a flock of 12 Meadow Pipits and heard a Tawny Owl hoot loudly at 3pm. We had heard it in the same place a few days earlier at 10 am. Several skylarks were also in fine voice.

March 28th. On a visit to Upton Warren we found Avocets are arriving and we counted 9. There were 3 Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Oystercatchers and a variety of the more common duck species.

March 31st. Pete J saw a Red Kite over Cookhill.

This morning I noticed a Great Spotted Woodpecker apparently asleep while clinging on to the trunk of our apple tree. It eventually roused itself and proceeded to breakfast on the peanut feeder.

Mid-February To Mid-March 2019

A number of people have commented to me on how bold Buzzards are becoming in and around the village. The best example of this has been illustrated by Amanda’s photograph of one perched on top of the war memorial on the village green.

The exceptional spell of warm weather in February brought out the first butterflies – we saw Small Tortoiseshells and Brimstones. There have also been real signs of spring with wild garlic showing, pussy willow turning yellow and daffodils and primroses in abundance. Last week we noticed blackthorn in flower 50 miles south of here.

Other items of note:
19th Feb. Two Siskins, one male and one female, were feeding on sunflower hearts in the garden. Siskins are now a daily occurrence on either sunflower or nyger seeds.

As we walked the footpath to Coughton we were delighted to see two male Stonechats in the hedgerow near Sambourne Hall Farm. Also on this walk we saw a Kestrel, good numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings and a couple each of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Buzzards.

20th Feb. Walking the same path at dusk we heard a Little Owl calling and saw a Yellowhammer. A number of Song Thrushes were singing from the nearby hedgerows and woodland.

Justin reported having seen a Little Egret in the field opposite his Sambourne Lane House on February 11th. We’ve seen them at Upton Warren, but never so close to home.

22nd Feb. My attention was attracted by loud buzzing from a tree in our neighbour’s garden. It was in full blossom in the warm sunshine and alive with bees.

25th Feb. A first for us was a drake and a duck Mallard in our garden. They waddled around the lawn then hopped into a border before eventually flying off.

23rd Feb. Roy has seen frogspawn in his Whitemoor Lane garden. We were pleased to see that the “Toad Crossing” warning signs have again been installed in Wike Lane. I hope we still have a good population of Toads as I gather numbers are declining through disease and habitat loss.

1st March. Adam described where he’s seen Snipe in fields close to Sambourne Lane. He also mentioned having seen Jack Snipe back in the winter. I’m impressed, as Jack Snipe are very difficult birds to see.

10th March. We still regularly have pheasants in the garden – three females today.

Mid-January To Mid-February 2019

12th Jan. On a walk along Middletown Lane back into Sambourne we stopped to watch a couple of Long-tailed tits, just a metre or so away from us and quite unconcerned about our presence. Enchanting!

20th Jan. We walked to the ford by Coughton Court and, as is our normal practice, we stopped on the footbridge to look through binoculars up and down the River Arrow for anything of interest. On this occasion we were rewarded with a prolonged view of a Kingfisher perched on a branch above the river. As we walked back into the village Ann, from next door to the Green Dragon, told us that she’d witnessed a Buzzard catching a pigeon or dove in her garden.

22nd Jan. Our neighbour, Ann, informed us that she’d seen a Barn Owl fly over as she drove along Whitemoor Lane from Alcester Heath. This is good news as we haven’t seen one in the area this winter.

23rd Jan. I noticed a male Lesser Redpoll on our nyger seed feeder.

24th Jan. We watched a pair of Nuthatches checking out a hole in the oak tree at the front of our neighbours’ garden.

25th Jan. I conducted our “Big Garden Birdwatch” and was rather disappointed by the results. Nothing out of the ordinary showed up and even some of the regular species were absent. I know it’s not a competition, but I do derive extra satisfaction from the exercise if I see a good number of species and individuals.

30th Jan. A gentleman from the Spernal end of Bromsgrove Road phoned to say he’d seen a pair of Ravens feeding on his mossy lawn. I’ve commented before on the fact that in years gone by we would have to travel as far as the Cambrian Mountains in mid-Wales to find Ravens, so it’s remarkable that they are now regulars in our area.

Siskins

3rd Feb. Roy photographed a Buzzard perched in the tree in front of the church room.

6th Feb. I think Chris in Middletown Lane can claim the record for most Robins in the garden at one time. He saw five when the most I’ve seen was three.

9th Feb. Two Siskins were feeding on sunflower hearts – the first we’ve seen in our garden this winter.

10th A walk along Wike Lane was rewarded with the sight of a large mixed flock of Siskins, Lesser Redpolls, Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits feeding in a larch tree. A Brown Hare ran across a field towards us, had second thoughts and ran off in the opposite direction. This was the first Hare we’ve seen for many months.

Catkins in the hedgerows and the first daffodils showing around the village are telling us that spring is not too far away!

January 2019

Undoubtedly the subject of the most interesting nature news over the past month was to be found just 3 or 4 miles from Sambourne, on Arrow Valley Lake in Redditch. A few days before Christmas we stopped for a few words with another village resident who takes an interest in local wildlife and she mentioned having heard that a Black-throated Diver had been spotted in Arrow Valley.

Black-throated Diver
It had previously been seen on Bittell reservoir south of Birmingham. These smart, large waterbirds spend summer on Scottish Highland lochs and generally spend winter around the coast, but occasionally on inland reservoirs. We decided to visit Arrow Valley on Christmas Eve and were well rewarded with wonderful close views of this juvenile bird. We even saw it surface from a dive holding a large fish which disappeared in one gulp. We returned a few days ago to try to get a photograph. The bird was still present, but poor light meant less than prefect results. Also seen were a female Goldeneye, Shoveler and Tufted Ducks.
If you’d like to see YouTube video of the Diver, try the link.

Other items of interest:
Jan 6th. Sue was surprised to see the sulphur-yellow breast of a Grey Wagtail as it fluttered at our bedroom window. Since they’re normally found close to water I don’t know why it was there, but it seemed to be attracted by its own reflection.

10th Jan. I noticed a flock of Chaffinches on our lawn beneath the sunflower seed feeders and had a look at them through binoculars to make sure there were no Bramblings present. There were not, but there was a pair of Lesser Redpolls – the male looking particularly attractive with his bright pink breast and red crown. This species is easily overlooked with the naked eye, appearing to be small, nondescript brown birds. Binoculars make all the difference.

We watched a Sparrowhawk on top of our garden hedge pursuing a Robin just a few inches below. As the Robin hopped through the hedge trying to get away, the Sparrowhawk followed each movement. I know Sparrowhawks have to eat, but I decided to save the Robin and went into the garden. I had to get quite close before the Sparrowhawk decided to give up and fly off.