The first butterflies emerged earlier than usual and in good numbers. Male and female brimstones were followed by small tortoishell, comma, holly blue, common blue, peacock and speckled wood. On days when the sun was warm, butterflies were very active, and by the end of the month good numbers of orange tip butterflies were on the wing at Hockenhull with several peacock and holly blues.
The 8th April was a red letter day in some respects as a group of 150-200 swallows, sand and house martins were observed flying across the reserve and the new lake at Hockenhull. Then there was a complete absence for three weeks before the next group arrived. The initial group were very clearly migrants just stopping off for a feed on route, but its the second group that have returned to their old hunting grounds and nest sites in the parish. The Village Walking Group met at Walk Mill on Tuesday 25th when at least ten house martins arrived that morning to stake their claim on previous next sites under the eves of the mill.
Several people have told me about parties of delightful yellow and green siskins visiting their bird tables, and other friends have been watching broods of great and blue tits through cameras in nest boxes. Several have been very successful, and numbers of these members of the titmouse family are as good as ever after such a comparatively mild winter.
Kingfishers have also benefited from the milder winter weather and we saw three kingfishers on the wing on the river Gowy, together with two common sandpipers, a rare visitor these days a couple of weeks ago. Even more unusual was the sighting of four oystercatchers, a pair of goosanders, several shelduck, and two mandarin ducks which were seen prospecting for nest sites in trees on Hockenhull Lane and in the poplar plantation on the reserve.
Grey herons are also very visible these days flying over the village and no doubt spending time feeding on the Pit. I hope you enjoy seeing the images of a mature grey heron that I took earlier in the month on the weir by the Groves in Chester.
Sadly no swans have arrived back this spring following the demise of our old cob last Autumn, and I’ve also heard from a friend that one of last years cygnets CJC1 was killed flying into a power line near Brassey Green.
At the Pit, mallards have been very successful and at least three broods of 8, 6, and 5 ducklings have been seen. Reports of over 16 ducklings with a single mum have been seen on the canal, but predation is very likely, so numbers will often drop dramatically overnight. We’ve also seen the extraordinary pairing of a Canada with a greylag goose at the Pit. They were clearly doing a mating display when I last saw them, but at the time of writing they have disappeared, to be replaced by a pair of Canada Geese. A baby moorhen was seen being fed by mum, but no sign of any baby coots yet.
Sandmartins and Swallows
Mallards on the Pit
Canada and Greylag Goose
During the last month Christleton Pit Group have been busy repairing the banks of the Pit on the Bricky Lane and Little Heath road side, with pre prepared coir rolls containing native British plants. This work is well under way as I write, and two new fishing platforms made from re cycled materials will be appearing on the Bricky Lane side in the near future. The Parish Council has written a very complimentary letter thanking the group for their continuing efforts to conserve the area for the benefit of the community, and many individual members of the village have also expressed their thanks. The Pit Group would be delighted to see any prospective new members at any of their sessions. The next three being on;