2017 was a remarkable year bird wise in our area. We had the first oystercatchers ever born at Hockenhull, and at least three pairs of lapwing bred after a long period of absence. Willow warblers returned and bred after an absence of perhaps twenty years, and a pair of kingfishers successfully hatched at least two young in the river bank at the Platts near the middle bridge. What was so extraordinary is that they were nesting just centimetres from an area where dogs scrabble down in and out of the river, but we didn’t want to draw attention to the nest by fencing it off. The pair hatched their young despite the bank collapsing just before they were due to fledge. We were really worried about the situation until we returned the following morning to see that the adults had created a new entrance hole to the nest chamber, so enabling them to feed their young. What an amazing parenting instinct!. Kingfishers have also been seen regularly on the canal between Quarry Bridge and Waverton, with four distinct individuals being seen on one memorable afternoon. Beryl and I saw two of these birds on another occasion. One, a male, was seen at Rowton Bridge, and the other, a female, a few minutes later gave wonderful views to watchers by posing several times for minutes at a time on four posts/trees on the Brown Heath Farm side of the canal.
A pair, or perhaps two pairs of stonechats also produced good clutches, and eight youngsters were seen during the autumn. Skylarks were given an undisturbed spring for the first time for many years and several males sang their wonderful trilling song regularly near the bridges. Meadow pipits were also present in good numbers with over 100 counted on one occasion. Pink footed geese have visited us again this winter and daily sightings seen, both in the village and at Hockenhull Platts. A maximum count of 2,500 was the best recorded in the area ever, and many people have expressed delight at hearing their honking calls as they fly over the village. We recorded three sightings of red kite in 2017, whilst buzzards are becoming so unfazed by people that they are appearing closer and closer to people’s houses and gardens. In the last week I’ve seen four on telegraph posts in the village and along the canal, and a male kestrel and little owl were also post watching in the village during this last week.
A common hawker dragonfly was seen on the reserve for the first time, and there were up to 550 banded agrion damselflies on the river. Large red damselflies, common blue, and blue tailed damselflies also could be seen in good numbers, whilst there were up to six brown hawkers and several southern hawkers in flight at the end of August. Common darter dragonflies also produced young. Butterflies did extremely well, and peacock, red admirals, comma and gatekeepers all flourished on the reserve. Small tortoiseshells were not so common, but common blue and holly blues could often be seen in the village, together with bright yellow brimstones.
A pair of otters bred along the Gowy, and three youngsters were seen at the bridges in daylight one morning in July. The dog otter was also spotted one morning at 9.00am and posed for the camera. I regularly saw brown hare along Hockenhull Lane and the fields of Cotton Farm. It’s almost certain that they also bred, and their young, called leverets are really cute to look at. The adult hares will feign injury to take you away from their nest which is usually found on open ground, and very susceptible to predation. It is great to see the brown hare very active and helped to make 2017 a very successful year for wildlife in the Parish.
Pink Feet Geese
Animal Brown Hare
Otters - Joe O'Hanion
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