This has been an outstanding breeding season for birds at Hockenhull. A wide range of small birds, including blackcaps, chiff chaff, willow, reed and sedge warblers, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat and reed buntings have done brilliantly, and many are now starting second clutches. Lapwing have bred for the first time for many years, and even two noisy pairs of oystercatchers have had a successful breeding season, with four young being seen. Quite extraordinary was the sound of a song thrush mimicking the call of the oystercatcher, with a distinct “kleep, kleep, kleep” sound being heard from the top of a song post.
The highlight which can now be told, was the successful breeding by a pair of kingfishers, who built a nest hole in a precarious bank site downstream of the middle bridge. Lots of people saw them, but didn’t witness the drama of the bank below the nest site collapsing, leaving the adults lost as just how to get food to their nestlings. Several times we watched as they tried to get to the hole, and were very relieved the next morning to find they had burrowed a new entrance into the nest chamber. Brilliant! Although no one witnessed their emergence, two young were seen a few days later close to the spot, and the adults have since been seen up river towards Walk Mill.
It has also been a very successful season for damselflies, with large numbers of common, and blue tailed damselflies, large red, and hundreds of the colourful banded agrion damselflies as seen in the accompanying pictures. A four spotted chaser was the first dragonfly seen, flying out and hunting over the big meadow, and several southern and brown hawkers have now emerged. Last Sunday 1st July saw the best show of butterflies there for many years with at least 10 commas, several red admirals, small tortoishells, gatekeepers, meadow browns and a ringlet all being seen in the same area of brambles on the Christleton side of the middle bridge. It was a wonderful sight to see, and I was able to take a number of pictures to add to our collection. The picture of the marbled white is the image of my butterfly summer to date, the first I’ve seen for many years, however, it was not taken in Christleton.
Bullfinches are back. These colourful finches have been seen in several gardens in the village and at Littleton. The accompanying picture shows the distinct difference between the sexes, the male with his very colourful appearance, all deep pink and black, the female a more sedate brown and black. Several noisy great spotted woodpeckers have graced bird tables, and I spotted a little owl on two occasions flying across Birch Heath Lane. Following the heavy rain in the last week of June, warm sunshine brought out a bright yellow brimstone butterfly, and several small tortoishell, holly blue, red admiral and comma butterflies near the Alms Houses. Work on the Pit continues and we were surprised on several occasions by the leaping of what appeared to be a huge gold coloured carp from under the water. Could these sightings be of the cross breeding goldfish/grass carp which we know exists, as specimens were caught but escaped on the two occasions that the Pit was dredged, and hundreds of large fish, all varieties of carp, removed. A mature grey heron has also made his home there, and can be seen most days fishing towards the Bricky Lane side, so there are clearly lots of small fish too. Chiff chaff are calling very loudly again in Plough Lane, and a song thrush was heard exercising his lungs near the Children’s Play Area at Little Heath. Willow warblers which have been absent from the parish for a number of years are still being heard along the canal towpath, an indication that perhaps they have bred this season. Buzzards are calling and flying over the village every day now, and are even coming down into gardens, looking for their prey. At least one holly blue has emerged, and the beautiful red valerian in the churchyard is attracting lots of small tortoishell butterflies.
Large Red Damselflies Mating Mating
Banded Damselfly Male
Branded Damselfly Female
Meadow Brown Butterfly
Red Admiral Butterfly
Marbled White Butterfly
Common Blue Damselfly
Common Blues Mating