Friends, this has been yet another extraordinary month for wildlife watchers in the Parish. The star bird of the month is a yellow wagtail, spotted on power lines in Plough Lane by Hems de Winter. I confirmed the sighting, seeing perhaps the same bird near Hollows Farm. This very bright yellow wagtail was once common in the Parish, but like another once common bird the Golden Plover, now very rare indeed. Cettis warblers continue to promote themselves at Hockenhull, together with blackcaps, chiff chaff and more recently reed buntings. Song thrushes too are more numerous than usual, and their song can be heard louder than ever with the lack of overhead sounds from aircraft. The blackcaps are still singing all around the parish and frustratingly can be "heard but not seen". Kestrels can be seen most days hovering in the skies hunting for prey, and peregrine falcons and sparrow hawks have been spotted regularly in the area. Tawny and barn owls can be heard and seen, the latter often seen hunting in the early morning dawn light. Water birds such as coots on the Pit and moorhens on the Pit & canal have had good numbers of young, and it's very noticeable that coot chicks are much more demanding than other small birds, still calling for food from parents despite being big enough to fend for themselves. Mallards have had broods of as many as thirteen ducklings, and I think that some are already on their second brood. House martins, swallows and swifts can be seen, but nothing like the usual numbers. It is possible that our groups of these long distance migrants were caught out by dreadful un-seasonal weather of high winds and low freezing temperatures on 9th April in Greece, when tens of thousands of these three species were found dead in the streets of Athens and other areas of that country.
A number of villagers have been very excited to see two mute swans on the canal for almost all of May. They appear to be a non breeding pair that have just flown in, but are obviously used to being around people. The pen has a BTO leg ring which is not from our region, so I am trying to find out where she was ringed, to give us some more details. I hope they might stay around as they are very friendly, and I know that people are looking forward to seeing a pair of swans in the village again.
May is one of the most exciting times for me as a photographer when I begin to see newly emerged damsel and dragonflies along the canal or on the wet meadows at Hockenhull. This year has been no exception, and my first major sighting was a female broad bodied chaser dragonfly, looking rather like a large hornet sitting on reeds near the main gate. This is a relatively new species to the area, and was followed by the sighting of a rare "beautiful damselfly" which was seen twice on the same day along the canal. This species is distinct from the very common "banded damselfly" which appears in profusion along the Gowy, with upwards of 500 specimens counted on some warm still sunny days. A newly emerged male dragonfly a “four spotted chaser” appeared on the 30th May along the banks of the Gowy, and hunted along the big meadow and river bank for food. Tens of common blue and blue tailed damselflies are now flying around together with several large red damselflies, no doubt feeding on the huge numbers of small insects and midges, that have appeared during this spell of amazing sunny weather. All over our garden mini spiders webs are covered by thousands of these entrapped insects. I'm also sure that we have more bumble bees than usual, and they are foraging all day long for nectar in the wonderful display of flowers we have. It's noticeable that they, like many species of butterflies, always feed on any blue flowers or flowering bushes.
PS The swan (pen) was hatched in 2011 and ringed at Westport Lake Stoke in Trent in 2014. Also thanks to Phil Hirst from Quarry Lane for his excellent recent image of Christleton Pit.