Sambourne Village

Mid-April to mid-May 2022

I’ve received some interesting reports from Oak Tree Lane residents this month.

Ken mentioned that a Ring Ouzel spent a few minutes in his garden. They are summer visitors to Britain’s uplands, so presumably this one was seeking a snack while on its migration journey.

He has also seen 40 or more Lesser Redpolls in the trees around his garden.

Rachel and family have been aware of several of the regular garden bird species nesting around their property. A parent Song Thrush was feeding four young, and a pair of Goldcrests are thought to be nesting in leylandii. Wrens have chosen a nest site above their back door, causing the minor inconvenience of not using that door to avoid disturbing them. Disappointingly the previously regular visiting Tawny Owls and Hedgehogs have been conspicuous by their absence from the garden.

As we’ve moved further into springtime, more of our summer birds have arrived.

On any walk along Wike Lane one is treated to almost continuous song from Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, but to date I have not heard or received any reports of Cuckoo calling.

We’ve also seen very few Swallows so far and no House Martins. I have read that poor weather in southern Europe has been a possible factor in slowing migration.

13th April. We heard our first Blackcaps singing in Wike Lane.

14th April. A Red-legged Partridge spent a few minutes on our patio wall.

24th April. Near Coughton Park farm we spotted two Lapwings and a Cormorant. In Coughton Park wood we noticed Speckled Wood butterflies enjoying the sunny spots and the usual carpet of bluebells was appearing. Ravens and Buzzards flew overhead.

27th April. A pair of Greylag Geese led a family of seven goslings on the pool at Coughton Lodge Farm.

29th April. As we walked along a footpath near Glebe Farm, we heard a Skylark singing. Nearby we noticed dog-walkers with their dogs running free.

GWOrchid
Green-winged Orchid
It would be good if people would consider the risk of their dogs disturbing ground-nesting birds and thus causing nests to be abandoned.

30th April. Our walk took us along the “Monarch’s Way” between Astwood Bank and Cookhill. A Hare ran across the path near Botany Bay nursery. A little further on we stopped to look at a colourful meadow that contained many wild flowers including cowslips and vetch. I noticed a flower spike standing above the other plants, went for a closer look and found it to be a Green-winged Orchid. I have not seen one before and, although quite widespread, they are not common, so we were quite pleased with this find.

8th May. We spotted a Holly Blue butterfly on a footpath off Sambourne Lane.

10th May. We were amused to watch an altercation between a Carrion Crow and a Squirrel over fall-out from sunflower seed feeders in our garden. The battle swayed with attack and counterattack, the Crow ending up the victor when the squirrel fled up a tree. We have learned that two Tawny owlets are being raised in a box in the village.

Mid-March to mid-April 2022
The past month has brought more welcome signs of spring with a few more butterflies, flowers in the verges and woodland, and bird migration.

15th March. A Brimstone butterfly visited our garden. As we walked along Coughton Fields Lane beyond the ford we noticed Butterbur flower spikes showing in the verge, a Skylark was singing, and several Chiffchaffs could be heard. Patches of violets are now showing in the verges

18th March. A pair of Siskins visited our garden to feed on sunflower hearts. A Nuthatch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker also took advantage of our catering service.

22nd March. Near the ford at Coughton we paused to watch a selection of birds in the trees. We noted Long-tailed Tits, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and a Treecreeper. In the early afternoon, as we waited in the grounds of Redditch Crematorium, we were surprised to see a bat (Pipistrelle?) hunting insects overhead.

23rd March. A Small White butterfly visited our garden.

24th March. On this fine sunny day Brimstone, Comma, Peacock, and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were seen in our garden.

29th March. Three Dunnocks were posturing and displaying in our back hedge. A party of Fieldfares and Redwings landed in trees in Wike Lane.

31st March. There was a bit of excitement at breakfast time this morning when a male Brambling made a guest appearance in the garden. Later in the day as we walked the footpath from Astwood Bank to Sambourne we watched and listened to a singing Skylark.

5th April. A flock of six or so Meadow Pipits was feeding in a field by Coughton Lodge Farm.

8th April. We spotted our first Swallow of this year, perched on a power cable in Sambourne Lane.

10th April. An Orange Tip butterfly spent some time in our garden this morning – the first I’ve seen this spring. Two pristine Brimstones visited dandelion flowers in Wike Lane. We also had a close encounter with a Buzzard that flew low over us and perched in a tree close by.

11th April. In the early afternoon we paused on the railway bridge in Coughton Lane to listen to a Nuthatch calling and were surprised to see another Pipistrelle bat hunting for insects in bright sunshine.

Mid-February to mid-March 2022

As we’ve moved from winter into spring, signs of the season changes have begun. Wild garlic is shooting up in the verges and blackthorn is now in flower to brighten the hedgerows. We’ve also noticed the start of the switch between winter and summer bird migrants.

18th Feb. I was pleased to see a Great Tit investigating a new nest box that I’d fitted just a few days earlier.

26th Feb. We paused in Wike Lane to listen to a flock of Siskins twittering in the trees and as we looked up, we noticed a Red Kite circling overhead.

27th Feb. After an absence of many weeks, it was good to see a Greenfinch in the garden feeding on sunflower hearts. Presumably their numbers are still being reduced by the trichomonosis disease. A Peacock butterfly settled in a sunny spot in the garden.

1st Mar. A Collared Dove spent some time in the garden – the first I’ve seen here for some months. Four Greenfinches were feeding on the sunflower hearts. Later, four Siskins fed from the same feeder, but departed when a Great Spotted Woodpecker swooped onto the feeder.

4th Mar. Recent rains have caused a small pool to form in the corner of the field behind our garden and we were amused to see two Mallards take up residence there for a while. The residents of the rookery by the ford at Coughton were very active and noisy as the breeding season approaches.

5th Mar. Peter (Coughton resident) mentioned that he has seen two Little Egrets near the ford.

7th Mar. Viewing from the footbridge over the river at Coughton we spotted three or four Chiffchaffs chasing around in the trees overhanging the river. We presume these are the first of our summer visitors. A Grey Wagtail was on the riverbank.

10th Mar. My attention was attracted by much bird chattering in an oak tree in a neighbour’s garden. Looking through my telescope I saw that it was a flock of Redwings, perhaps gathering in preparation for their return north to their breeding area.

11th Mar. A male Siskin visited our sunflower heart feeder.

12th Mar. Chiffchaffs were calling by the ford.

13th Mar. The flock of Redwings was back in the neighbour’s oak tree, chattering away.

Mid January 2022 to mid-February 2022

13th Jan. We decided to have a change of scenery, so paid our first visit for a couple of years to the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s Upton Warren nature reserve. It was very cold and misty when we arrived, but the sun soon began to break though. The shallow water of the Flashes was partially frozen, so a lot of birds were just standing around, mostly Lapwings, Coots and Moorhens, and one Meadow Pipit. The deeper water of the Moors was ice-free and contained many ducks including Teal, Tufted Ducks, Pochard, Shoveler and Mallard. While we were watching from a hide, we were pleased to see a female Goosander fly in and land in front of us. On the lake surround we noticed a Heron, Cormorants, and four each of Common Snipe and Curlew.

15th Jan. A Lesser Redpoll visited our garden to feed on sunflower hearts.

16th Jan. The Harris Hawk is still in the area having been seen by Christine and David as it consumed a pigeon in their Sambourne Lane garden.

17th Jan. A Fox crossed the field behind our garden.

18th Jan. Two Nuthatches visited the black sunflower seed feeder in the garden.

21st Jan. As is our normal practice, we didn’t remove the seed heads from the various perennials in our borders and were rewarded by the sight of a small flock of Goldfinches feeding on them.

25th Jan. As we walked along Wike Lane quite loud bird “chattering” attracted our attention. A large flock of Siskins was feeding in the trees alongside the lane with much contact-calling.

27th Jan. Unusually, a Dunnock fed from our sunflower heart feeder.

30th Jan. We watched the Siskin flock again in the same area. Jeannie mentioned having seen a Red Kite over Astwood Bank. I did the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and was rather disappointed by recording only thirteen species. Not many years ago there were eighteen.

3rd Feb. Adam managed to capture some video of a Jack Snipe caught in his tractor’s headlights near Studley Common. He had recently seen another locally. These are winter visitors, far from common and difficult to see.

11th Feb. Back in Wike Lane a number Lesser Redpolls had joined the flock of Siskins. We had better views of them as they flew down and drank from the ditch at the roadside. They are usually silhouettes high in the trees.

Mid December 2021 to mid January 2022

A hard overnight frost last night reminded us that we are in the depths of winter, but there are encouraging signs of the approach of spring in the form of very obvious catkins in the hedgerows and wild arum sprouting in verges and in our garden.

16th Dec. We had a good view of a Muntjac crossing Wike Lane into the woods.

17th Dec. We heard that the Harris Hawk is still being seen around Middletown.

18th Dec. A female Great Spotted Woodpecker showed a preference for sunflower seeds rather than peanuts in our garden feeders. The remains of a Woodpigeon on our lawn suggested that a Sparrowhawk had dined there recently. Around midday a Sparrowhawk flew low over a garden and shortly afterwards we watched a Fox trotting up our drive.

22nd Dec. A Jay spent a short time in our apple tree. We’ve seen one or two Jays each time we’ve walked along Wike Lane in recent weeks.

29th Dec. Bob told us that he has been noticing Buzzards and one Red Kite over Middletown Lane.

4th Jan. A variety of strange calls attracted us to a Starling using a drainpipe on our roof as a song post. The calls included a knocking sound which the Collins field guide suggests is used by the male in the vicinity of a proposed nest site. I have a feeling it might have its eye on a gap under a roof tile.

6th Jan. A large flock of Redwings flew into a large oak tree in our neighbour’s garden. 9th Jan. As we walked towards the ford at Coughton a Little Egret flew overhead. On our walk back home, we had a fine view of a female kestrel near Station House. Chris mentioned having seen a Heron perplexed by the ice covering the pond in his Middletown Lane garden.

11th Dec. We spotted two Lesser Redpolls feeding in a birch tree in the Booking Office garden. Nearby we had another prolonged view of a female Kestrel – presumably the same one as on the 9th since it was in the same location.

12th Dec. A male Sparrowhawk perched on our fence for a couple of minutes.

Mid November 2021 to mid December 2021

Last month I mentioned that we had not yet seen the first winter thrush visitors. Just a few days after writing that we had our first sightings.

fare
Fieldfare courtesy of P. Garrity.
14th Nov. From the field footpath to Coughton we noticed a flock of Fieldfares moving from tree to tree. Mixed in with the flock were a few Redwings, with a male Yellowhammer looking rather out of place. Autumn colours seemed to be at their most vibrant on this day as evidenced by the vermilion glow of an acer in Martin and Sue’s Perrymill Lane garden.

22nd Nov. A Fieldfare visited our garden on this very cold but sunny day. It posed on the top of the back hedge, perfectly lit up by the low sun to highlight just how spectacular these birds are.

24th Nov. On an afternoon walk along the bridlepath through the woodland we came across a mixed flock of birds feeding in the birch trees. Looking through binoculars we found that the majority were Redpolls, with a smaller number of Siskins, the first we have seen of either species this autumn. We also spotted three Treecreepers and at least two Goldcrests amongst the same party. Long-tailed and Blue Tits also put in an appearance.

25th Nov. A Dunnock and a Robin found something of interest on our patio. They are common garden birds, but still nice to observe at close quarters.

9th Dec. From the field footpath to Coughton we watched a male Kestrel hovering in search of a meal – the technique that earned the species the old country name of “Windhover”. On the topic of birds of prey, I am reminded that Jeannie noticed one in her Perrymill Lane garden. From her description I think it was a male Sparrowhawk.

10th Dec. We spent several minutes watching a flock of nine Redpolls feeding in a birch tree in the garden of “Booking Office” in Sambourne Lane, Coughton.

It seems very early to be thinking about the end of January, but don’t forget the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch on the 28th-30th January 2022.

Mid October 2021 to mid November 2021

We have entered what can be a rather gloomy time of year, but nature can brighten our days.

13th Oct. Although most leaves are still green, I look from an upstairs window and see the first autumn golden glow in neighbours’ trees.

23rd Oct. Gail informed me that Middletown has received a surprise, and perhaps unwelcome, visitor over recent days. First there was an unexplained disappearance of a chicken from a garden. Then there were reports of a chicken-stealing Harris Hawk in Astwood Bank. Finally, it was spotted perched on a pole in Wayne and Jenny’s garden. The Harris Hawk is a native of southern United States and parts of Central and South America, but is popular in Falconry in this country.

24th Oct. As we walked along Wike Lane and into the woods we noticed a number of Jays in flight. They become quite obvious at this time of year as they seek out acorns. We were entranced by the feature on MacGregor’s Bower Bird in David Attenborough’s “Mating Game” programme. Its mimicry of sounds including human voices was amazing and worth seeking out if you missed it.

27th Oct. Most years we have a Lawyer’s Wig fungus (Coprinus comatus) appear in our gravel drive and we spotted one today. The family is known as Ink Caps and a few days later it lived up to its name when we saw it had auto-digested into a black mess.

5th Nov. One pleasure at this time of year is encountering mixed flocks of small birds, mostly of the Tit family, feeding in the trees in Wike Lane. We stopped to watch such a party today. Later, we noticed a Nuthatch spending some time on our garden feeders.

7th Nov. We spotted a Red Admiral feeding on flowers in our garden.

9th Nov. We hear from the residents of Station House, Coughton, that their garden and pool are quite a nature reserve with visitors including a Cormorant, five pairs of Mallard, Herons, Greylag and Canada Geese, a Kingfisher, and a passing Barn Owl. They have also noticed the arrival of Fieldfares, which we have yet to see this autumn.

10th Nov. I had recently noticed that pyracantha shrubs in our garden were covered in berries, and had hopes for a visit from winter thrushes to feed. Today I realised that the berries were fast disappearing and soon saw a Blackbird wolfing them down.

11th Nov. From our back garden a Tawny Owl could be heard calling from the direction of Oak Tree Lane at dusk.

Mid September 2021 to mid October 2021

We now assume that all the summer migrant birds have headed off to their winter quarters, but we can look forward to the arrival of our winter visitors, which might include some surprises. I’ll never forget my mother telling me she could see a red bird in our back hedgerow. I dubiously scanned through binoculars and to my astonishment saw a male Crossbill. Let’s hope!

18th Sept. As we walked through the woods on this warm, sunny afternoon we were treated to a cacophony of Raven calls and the sight of a pair of them in flight. Speckled Wood and Red Admiral butterflies were on the wing. When we returned into Perrymill Lane a neighbour pointed to a Roe Deer that was trotting down the lane and across front gardens.

19th Sept. Keeping this log ensures that I’m more observant than I otherwise would be, so I had a browse around the garden borders on this sunny morning. Sedum flowers were alive with bees and tiny hover flies – none did I manage to identify. I photographed a Shield Bug and was amazed by the markings when viewed up close.

21st Sept. A Great Spotted Woodpecker drew my attention to the fact that the peanut feeder was empty by trying unsuccessfully to land on the sunflower hearts.

22nd Sept. A Devil’s Coach Horse beetle was an unexpected house guest this morning. On an afternoon walk along Wike Lane we came across a mixed flock of feeding birds including several Goldcrests with Coal, Great and Blue Tits.

4th Oct. We were surprised to see a Grey Wagtail perched on a gate at the roadside in Wike Lane, the brightness of the lemon-yellow underside suggesting it was a male. We then had a brief glimpse across the field of a wading birds. From the overall shape and the distinct white rump, we concluded that it must have been a Redshank – not a place I would expect to see one, so we assume it was just breaking its journey to more appropriate habitat.

9th Oct. The sunny afternoon brought a Brimstone butterfly into the garden. 10th Oct. I had perhaps the last run of our moth trap this autumn. Not many were attracted this time, but I did find our first Dark Chestnut moth and a first Caddis Fly.

Mid August 2021 to mid September 2021

A problem knee curtailed my activities in the early part of August, but we did manage to start walking again later in the month.

23rd Aug. In the evening a stag and a doe Roe Deer were standing in a field of wheat by the footpath to Coughton. On our return walk I noticed a deceased, but externally undamaged, rodent on the path. I tried the “Seek” app on our smartphone and that confirmed it to be a Bank Vole. These common animals form a significant part of the diet of Owls and Kestrels.

21st Aug. On this warm day there was an irruption of flying ants, which did not go unnoticed by a Green Woodpecker that used our neighbour’s pergola as a perch from which to observe our garden for the best source of ants.

25th Aug. I tried another run of the moth trap and caught many Large Yellow Underwings, Common Wainscots and a Setaceous Hebrew Character. The last named sounds exotic, but as with the others is a common moth. On a walk through the woods, we noticed two pairs of Fallow Deer and some attractive patches of Common Heather in flower.

28th Aug. An afternoon walk in the woods started well with a Fallow Deer then a multitude of Speckled Wood and Gatekeeper butterflies. We were then quite surprised to see a couple of Willow Warblers seeking their insect prey at ground level instead of in the tree canopy as usual. As we watched them our attention was attracted by movement above, which we found to be a party of four Spotted Flycatchers performing their graceful aerial feeding manoeuvres.

2nd Sept. We noticed a rather attractive patch of greenish fungi which the app “Seek” identified as a member of the Boletus family.

5th Sept. Many Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies were visiting the buddleia flowers and a Brimstone also appeared in the garden.

10th Sept. Three Nuthatches appeared on our patio – a family group perhaps. They then took it in turns to feed on black sunflower seeds. It was a treat to see such attractive little birds at close quarters.

Mid July 2021 to mid August 2021

The weather has continued to be rather mixed, but there have been enough sunny days to ensure that plenty of butterflies have been on the wing.

19th July. A pristine Comma butterfly visited our garden.

23rd July. A sunny day with many butterflies in the garden. These included Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Meadow Browns. Gatekeepers and freshly emerged Brimstone.

25th July. I read that Greenfinch numbers have fallen significantly in recent years, so it was pleasing to see at least eight queueing for access to sunflower seeds early in the day.

27th July. Our neighbour witnessed a confrontation between a Magpie and a Green Woodpecker in his garden. He has also seen the first Hedgehog in the garden for several years.

1st Aug. Buzzards were very noisy in the field behind us. I gather that at this time of year parents are trying to persuade juveniles to move on, so that could be the cause.

4th Aug. Three Wrens spent a long time exploring the pot plants on our patio. One seemed to be begging for food, so presumably it was a family party.

Buddleia bushes are now well in flower and today have attracted good numbers of Peacocks and Red Admirals. Several Gatekeepers were feeding on marjoram and solidago flowers.

7th Aug. A large party of Greenfinches were back to feed on sunflower seeds, and bird numbers were augmented by Blue & Great Tits, Chaffinches and Goldfinches. Unfortunately, the number of small birds attracted the attention of a Sparrowhawk, although we didn’t see which species it caught. At least it flew off with its meal so that we were spared the sight of it plucking and consuming its prey.

9th Aug. We had our first walk through the woods for a couple of weeks and noticed a few Silver-washed Fritillaries and some rather worn looking Speckled Woods. The warblers have at last fallen silent as the breeding season has ended.

Mid June 2021 to mid July 2021

The past four weeks have delivered rather variable weather, but the field and woodland footpaths have dried sufficiently for safe walks, and sunshine has brought out butterflies in good numbers.

18th June. Our evening walk through Coughton Park wood was enhanced by the fragrance of honeysuckle blossom and a view of a couple of Hares.

20th June. On an afternoon footpath walk to Coughton we found ourselves surrounded by low-flying House Martins. We had previously seen very few of this species this summer.

21st June. We had in the garden a pair of Carrion Crows feeding a juvenile with fallout from the seed feeders and whatever else they were able to find in the grass.

22nd June. Pristine Small Tortoiseshell butterflies appeared in our garden today.

24th June. I spotted my first Ringlet butterfly of the summer in the woodland.

25th June. Ringlets are now on the wing on the Monarch’s Way, and we saw our first Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly from the woodland bridleway. Chiffchaff singing was heard quite frequently.

27th June. A Muntjac was on the bridleway and the songs of Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were audible.

2nd July. As we walked the footpath near Sambourne Hall Farm, a Barn Owl appeared and set off on a hunt across the fields.

3rd July. Our neighbour Paul mentioned having seen a Marbled White butterfly on the footpath to Coughton. We then walked the path and counted about a dozen of the species – the first we had seen this year. We went on to see a Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshells, Small Skippers, Small Heaths, Meadow Browns and Ringlets. One Six-spot Burnet Moth was also present. During the afternoon, a flock of Swifts were zooming around above our house. We were pleased to see them as they are now becoming quite a rare sight.

7th July. Our morning walk through the woodland was rewarded with our first sighting this year of a White Admiral butterfly. Silver-washed Fritillaries were also present, and I was pleased to be able to identify a female Broad-bodied Chaser (dragonfly).

9th July. In the woodland I had another sighting of a White Admiral.

13th July. By the footpath to Coughton up to twelve Marbled Whites were visible in one small area, and a Comma butterfly was nearby.

16th July. We stood with a couple of friends in our back garden watching a flock of Swallows hunting overhead when I noticed a couple of larger, dark birds, like giant Swifts, appear above them. I recognised these as Hobbys – a species of falcon that visits us in summer and feeds on large insects and birds such as Swallows and Martins. Quite a thrill and great for impressing our friends!

Mid May 2021 to mid June 2021

I would like to start these notes with a plea to dog-walkers. If you watched the recent “Springwatch” programmes you might have heard Chris Packham urging people to keep dogs on leads and not allow them to run through crops or across fields, particularly at this time of year, to prevent them from disturbing ground-nesting birds. Species such as Skylarks and Lapwings are very vulnerable to this.

17th May. Over a field beside Coughton Lane we noticed Lapwings chasing gulls, then spotted several Lapwings sitting on the ground, presumably on nests.

18th May. A Kestrel was hovering above a ditch in Wike Lane.

23rd May. Pete saw a Red Kite flying above Astwood Bank cricket club.

27th May. On an evening walk over the fields to Coughton we saw a fine Fox, a Hare, four Herons in flight, three Linnets, a Green Woodpecker, and a Roe Deer.

30th May. Peter, from Coughton, has seen a Great Crested Grebe with chicks near Coughton Court. We spotted three Hares near Coughton Park woods.

1st June. On an evening walk to Coughton we glimpsed a Fox, saw two Roe Deer, heard a Yellowhammer, and had fine views of two Whitethroats.

2nd June. A morning walk to Coughton delivered many damselflies, particularly Beautiful Demoiselles, and a Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly. Butterflies, including Orange Tip and Small Heath were also active. We noticed a Roe Deer watching us suspiciously.

3rd June. While we sat in the garden of the Green Dragon having our first post-lockdown beers, the pleasure was enhanced by a Swift and a House Martin flying overhead. This was the first time we had seen either species this year.

6th June. Roy sent a photograph of a young Fox standing on top of a fence and sniffing at a nest box in a neighbour’s garden. Chris reported having seen a Blackbird attacking a Jay that it presumably saw as a potential predator on its eggs or chicks. In the evening, as we stood by the woods watching and listening to a couple of aircraft from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, we noticed two Hares feeding in the field in front.

7th June. We had good, long views of a Red Kite soaring over the trees as we walked to Coughton. A Painted Lady butterfly visited aubretia flowers in our garden.

11th June. The Monarch’s Way footpath passes through a flower meadow to the south of Astwood Bank. Several Common Spotted Orchids are in flower there.

13th June. Two adult and two juvenile Carrion Crows spent more than an hour and a half probing our lawn for food.

17th June. David described some encounters on his dog walks not far from the Village Green, which included a fine Fox, some Hares, and a Mallard with her family of ducklings.

During the period of fine, warm weather this month I have had the first runs of my moth trap with reasonable success. Top prize would have to go to the Elephant Hawk, being so large and colourful, but just as interesting have been the Buff Tip moths that so resemble twigs, and the subtly marked Pale Tussocks. I’m still trying to identify some of the species, but so far they have all be quite common. Naturally, all have been released the following day.

Mid April 2021 to mid May 2021

The weather for the period covered by these notes included the cold and very dry end to April and the wet and still quite cold first half of May. Fortunately, the joys of spring have still managed to arrive.

18th April. An Orange-tip butterfly visited the garden and Speckled Wood butterflies were now in good numbers in the woods. Coal Tits were feeding in the birch trees.

19th April. A Yellowhammer and three Linnets were in the hedgerow beside the field footpath to Astwood Bank.

22nd April. Two Lesser Redpolls visited our frosty garden to feed on the lawn then sunflower hearts. Two Whitethroats were on the hedge by the driveway to Sambourne Warren.

29th April. Cowslips were in flower in a field beside the Monarch’s Way. Nearby a Lesser Whitethroat was singing. We had clear views of a couple of Whitethroats by Astwood Bank cricket ground.

30th April. The verges of the Evesham Bypass had its annual display of cowslips to brighten a journey.

1st May. A Garden warbler was singing in Coughton Park Woods. The “Seek” ap on our phone identified Greater Stitchwort flowers for us – a common plant now flowering in the woodland and verges.

2nd May. Two Swallows flew over our garden – the first we have seen this spring. I spotted a Blackcap that was singing in the garden of Perrymill Farm.

5th May. We saw more Swallows over Coughton Lane and perched on wires over our garden.

7th May. I was surprised to see a Hummingbird Hawkmoth feeding on aubretia flowers in our garden. We have rarely seen one in our garden and I read that they don’t normally appear on the wing until June.

9th May. I was amused by a male Chaffinch attacking its own reflection in a neighbour’s car door mirror.

10th May. Nick reported that at 6am he watched a Muntjac trotting down Perrymill Lane and exploring each garden. He went on to say that at 7.30am, from his garden, he heard a Cuckoo calling – the first report this spring. A few minutes later we heard a Cuckoo call near Sambourne Hall Farm. Heather reported hearing (presumably) the same bird a short time after. Later in our walk we spotted a pair of Bullfinches in Oak Tree Lane.

11th May. From our back garden we heard a Cuckoo calling nearby.

14th May. A rare sight in our garden these days, a small flock of young Starlings sought a meal in our lawn.

Mid March 2021 to mid April 2021

Although the weather this month has been unseasonably chilly, there have been some beautiful calm spring days to coax out the butterflies and encourage the birdsong.

22nd March. From the footbridge across the River Arrow at Coughton we noticed a couple of ducks in the water some distance upstream. One was distinctly black and white. Before I could get binoculars on them they took off, but Sue was quicker and could see the other bird had a distinctly brown head. The only conclusion then was that it was a pair of Goosanders – not a species we’ve ever seen before in the area. I contacted the county bird recorder who told me he was not surprised to hear this as birds have recently been seen between Bidford and Welford on the River Avon.

24th March. As we walked along Coughton Fields Lane beyond the ford we spotted an interesting plant growing in the verge. I used the “Seek” app on our phone and it informed me that the plant was Butterbur. I read that its name comes from the fact that in the past its large heart-shaped leaves were used to wrap butter in warm weather. The song of Chiffchaffs could be heard for most of our walk to and from Coughton. A Brimstone butterfly was present in our garden.

25th March. We noticed many white and purple violets in Dark Lane, Astwood Bank.

27th March. We spotted two male Yellowhammers in Coughton Lane, Coughton.

29th March. A Peacock butterfly was on the bridleway in Coughton Park wood.

30th March. Primroses seemed to be at their peak in the woodland. We were delighted to see a Hare in a field beside the wood. Peacock butterflies appeared in our garden today.

2nd April. On our walk along The Monarch’s Way and through the woods we saw and stopped to listen to three Blackcaps singing in the bushes. Many Chiffchaffs were singing, and we watched one foraging amongst blackthorn blossom. We also had our first Orange Tip Butterfly sighting of the year. Many tadpoles were swimming in a large puddle in the woods.

3rd April. Two Siskins visited the sunflower hearts feeder in our garden. We spotted two Linnets in the hedgerow beside the footpath to Astwood Bank.

7th April. I noticed Cowslips in flower at the edge of the recreation ground. It would be interesting to know if these were self-seeded or part of recent plantings by parents and children.

13th April. We heard a Whitethroat singing near the ford at Coughton.

14th April. A Willow Warbler was singing in the woodland. Pete reported having seen House Martins over his Middletown Lane garden and Buzzards nesting in a tree nearby.

17th April. The early morning sunshine brought more butterflies out on the wing and we saw several Speckled Woods and a Green-veined White on our walk through the woods. A party of four Fallow Deer crossed the path ahead of us.

Mid February 2021 to mid March 2021

This has been the month when the transition from winter to spring has become apparent to bring us much cheer from the gloom of the pandemic.

21st Feb. Several Song Thrushes were singing and were audible from Perrymill Lane almost to Coughton along Wike Lane. A field off Wike Lane had 30+ Greylag and Canada Geese grazing. Adam mentioned having seen a Kingfisher by the brook below the end of Perrymill Lane – the first he’s seen there since he was a boy (only yesterday!)

22nd Feb. In Coughton Lane, at the start of the drive to Coughton Lodge Farm, we spotted a flock of around six Yellowhammers, and a Cormorant was perched in a tree near the farmhouse.

23rd Feb. Justin mentioned having seen four Little Egrets in a field off Sambourne Lane. Frances later reported the same.

24th Feb. Celandines are adding some colour to the verges in Wike Lane.

25th Feb. A mixed flock of Siskins and Redpolls were feeding in birch trees in Wike Lane. A flock of Fieldfares and Redwings were feeding in a field off Coughton Lane, Coughton.

4th March. After a lengthy absence from our garden, Greenfinches and Goldfinches, three of each, have visited the sunflower seed feeders today.

7th March. As I pottered in the garden my attention was attracted by the mewing call of a Buzzard. Five were circling overhead at a variety of altitudes – one quite low and the highest hardly visible.

8th March. A Kestrel was perched in a tree at the Alcester Heath end of Coughton Lane.

9th March. Pussy willow is now becoming apparent in the hedgerows.

13th March. More Greenfinches and Goldfinches were visiting the garden feeders and a Great Spotted Woodpecker visited the peanuts.

14th March. In Wike Lane Sue heard the first Chiffchaff of the spring, but unfortunately my inferior hearing couldn’t pick it up. A Muntjac crossed the road in front of us. We watched a Skylark preforming its song flight by Coughton Lane.

15th March. Blackthorn is now coming into blossom in the hedgerows.

16th March. Although still not audible to me, Sue could hear more Chiffchaff singing beyond the ford at Coughton.

17th March. Having presumably been temporarily woken from hibernation, a Peacock butterfly has now settled in a very vulnerable location by our utility room door.

18th March. Eight Lapwings were feeding in a field off Coughton Lane. These birds are no longer a common sight around us having suffered a significant decline in numbers. Pussy willow is now starting to develop it’s lovely yellow display of pollen. A brief spell of sunshine this afternoon raised the temperature a little and resulted in the welcome sight of a pristine Brimstone butterfly in our garden.

Mid January 2021 to mid February 2021

I have read recently how numbers of our common garden birds have been dwindling and this was really brought home to me when I carried out a count for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. One benefit of keeping these jottings is that I can now look back over several years and I see that in the 2018 birdwatch I recorded 16 species in the garden. This year I managed just 10 and those were in much smaller numbers than 2018. It is a worry.

19th Jan. As we walked into Coughton along Sambourne Lane a Fox emerged from the hedgerow and trotted down the lane before disappearing by the cemetery.

20th Jan. A Sparrowhawk surveyed the garden from our fence before flying off in search of a meal elsewhere

27th Jan. A walk along Wike Lane often provides a variety of birdlife in the line of trees and bushes. Today in one spot we found Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, a Treecreeper, and a Nuthatch.

5th Feb. Peter reported having seen three Cormorants near Coughton Court and Matt mentioned having seen a Red Kite over his Coughton Lane home. A couple of other Coughton residents have mentioned seeing a Red Kite overhead recently. Catkins are becoming more obvious in the hedgerows and we spotted the first signs of wild garlic in the verges.

6th Feb. A fellow walker in Wike Lane mentioned having had her attention attracted by distinctive bird song farther down the lane. From her description I’m sure it was a Song Thrush, and it was in an area where we have often heard one singing. We spotted five Yellowhammers on a hedgerow in Coughton Lane. We arrived home from our walk to find a male Sparrowhawk perched comfortably on our garden fence. It stayed for at least half an hour before moving on.

9th Feb. A small flock of Siskins was active in the stand of larch trees by the entrance to Coughton Lodge Farm.

10th Feb. The cold weather brought a Redwing into our garden where it spent a few minutes feeding on the lawn.

14th Feb. We were pleased to see a Song Thrush in our back garden hedge, from where it moved into the flower border to search for food. Sadly, they are now quite rare visitors to our garden.

Mid December 2020 to mid January 2021

Our involvement with the natural world has inevitably continued to be limited to the lanes around Sambourne and Coughton, and our own garden. However, there is still great pleasure to be obtained from observing the more “everyday” species.

22nd Dec. Several Yellowhammers occupied trees by a barn in Coughton Lane.

31st dec. A mixed flock of more than 100 corvids (Jackdaws, Crows and Rooks) were feeding in a field beside the footpath to Coughton. We stopped to watch a Dunnock in the hedgerow. Easily dismissed as “little brown jobs” they are most attractive birds when viewed in good light that shows off the contrasting grey and brown plumage.

2nd Jan. For the first time this winter I noticed two Siskins visiting our sunflower heart feeder. They soon departed and were replaced by a party of Long-tailed Tits.

5th Jan. We had another Yellowhammer sighting in Coughton Lane.

9th Jan. A Song Thrush flew from a tree in Sambourne Lane and a Great Tit was calling clearly in Wike Lane.
Chris described the technique of a Blackbird in his Middletown Lane garden using a fatball as a pendulum, taking a peck each time the fatball swung towards it.

13th Jan. A flock of about 10 Starlings were feeding in the field behind our garden. To my mind this is worthy of comment because Starlings are no longer a common sight for us.

15th Jan. A sad occasion caused us to head south to Somerset on an essential journey. The journey was slightly brightened in both directions by the sight of a Red Kite flying overhead near Beckford.

17th Jan. A few Meadow Pipits and Yellowhammers were visible in the trees by the barn in Coughton Lane.

18th Jan. After a period of intermittent visits to the garden by a Great Spotted Woodpecker, today we had a male and a female feeding on the sunflower hearts and peanuts, and having a peck at the bark of our old apple tree.

19th Jan. We had a good view of a Mistle Thrush and a Song Thrush close together in a tree in Wike Lane. This gave a great opportunity to compare the size and the markings of the two species.

Although the time for the Big Garden Birdwatch will have passed by the time you read this, I hope anyone interested will have taken part. What better way to spend the enforced time at home than taking an hour to see what visits your garden?