Star sighting for the month of July was the appearance of a common tern along the canal at Rowton. These sleek silvery –grey and white birds with black caps on their heads and a slightly curved red bill with black tips, have long forked tails, which have earned them the nickname “sea swallows”. They have a sometimes jerky, but mainly graceful flight, and frequently hover over water before plunging down for fish. They do live mainly on the coast but sometimes come inland on migration or having been blown off course by gales. They are known to breed on the Dee Estuary near Shotton on pools surrounding the old steelworks site. A previous sighting of a common tern in Christleton was at The Pit in the 1970’s where it fished for a morning, and occasionally perched on a post marked “Private Fishing”, which seemed very appropriate at the time.
I also had some amazing sightings of owls during the month, the most memorable when after watching three barn owls hunting at Hockenhull, I came across what I thought was an injured tawny owlet on the road at Birch Heath. After safely stopping the car, I attempted to move it from the road, but by the time I reached it, the bird had scampered to safety into the nearby hedge. As I looked up towards the trees on the common, two adult owls flew directly over my head following the direction the youngster had taken.
By coincidence this was almost the same spot where I released an injured little owl many years ago. This little owl had been found stunned on the road by Will Edwards and we think it had flown into a car on Birch Heath Lane. It had then been brought into the Primary School for to me to care for. It was a very hard winter, and the ground was frozen, so impossible to dig for worms, so I resorted to feed it on Jim Partington’s best lambs liver, when Christleton had its own Butchers Shop, and a mouse from Margaret Croston’s garden. Two weeks later we felt it had recovered well enough to release it back onto the common, not before it had performed its toilet all over me during a school assembly much to the delight and amusement of the children.
Jackdaws are breeding well in the churchyard, and can regularly be seen feeding on the lawn in front of the church. A green woodpecker was also seen feeding there, and several greater spotted woodpeckers have appeared in village gardens. Butterflies have really done really well this year and can be seen in gardens, the churchyard and wildflower meadow.
Holly and common blues have been seen in good numbers, and the meadow has had up to 4o meadow browns on several counts. I also had similar numbers of small tortoishells in the churchyard and along the hedgerow between the village and Birch Heath Common. Speckled woods have been emerging in the hedgerows, and similar coloured ringlets and gatekeepers have also been recorded. I was also fortunate to spot a second rare Emperor dragonfly, this time on the Legion meadow, together with a male banded damselfly and several blue-tailed damselflies near Little Heath Road.
Beryl and I had a delightful and unexpected close encounter with a magnificent chough at South Stack on Anglesey on our first venture into Wales after lockdown. These large “black birds” with unique curved red bills, red legs and splayed wing feathers are now quite common in the area of South Stack, and if you are unsure of identifying them, you might get a big clue from the unique “chough” “chough” call from the skies above your heads.
Several sightings of foxes, brown hare and hedgehogs have been reported from the village, and sad to say I’ve seen more dead badgers lying along the roadsides than for many years. Perhaps they became used to quieter roads during lockdown, and began taking risks crossing almost silent roads.
PS. Thanks to Joe O’Hanlon for his recent picture of the fox, taken at Hockenhull Platts.
This month I thought I’d share with you some images of the village from the air, taken by my good friend Phil Hirst, and from a collection of images given to me by Christleton High School taken when the new Sports facility had been completed. They give a good view of many aspects of the village, and I particularly like the images of Pit and St James’ and the Churchyard. You can also see the influence of the Farming Community, especially arable farming, and how green the Parish is despite all the new development in the area.
All photographs are from the Village Archive Collection