The highlight of the past week has been the two records of cuckoo heard and seen in the Parish, one at Hockenhull and the other at Walk Mill. Really encouraging as it’s the one bird that people always ask me about these days. “Have you heard the cuckoo yet?” It must be ten years since a pair bred at Hockenhull, but lots of things are changing in the bird world. The national wildlife magazines are all recording a great influx of birds from Spain and France where there has been a drought. Black winged kites, black crowned night herons, purple herons, Alpine swifts, Golden Oriole and as many as 50 black winged stilts. Earlier in spring I reported seeing a pair of Mandarin duck come from a tree next hole. A week ago, I saw a female with 9 ducklings swimming along the Gowy. Sadly, she was seen later with 2 ducklings, and the last time I saw her she was flying up and down the river looking for any remaining ducklings. There is clearly predation going on, but I can’t identify that as the river is so overgrown with vegetation. There are several young otters about in the river, but I’m not sure they would be the predators.
Good news is that I have seen and heard 2 pairs of yellowhammers, as well as several pairs of common whitethroats, lots of chiff chaff and cettis warblers. Three friends and myself, have recorded grasshopper warbler this spring which is another good happening. Although swallow numbers are depressingly low, there are several pair of house martins now nest building, and swift numbers around the parish have increased dramatically. A colony of perhaps ten can be seen over the village, but I had a count of 25 plus over the reservoir at Cotton Farm last weekend. I’ve also heard and seen several oystercatchers flying around the reservoir, so it’s possible they are breeding there, but I’ve not seen any sign of breeding lapwing this season, although there are several in the area. A marsh harrier was recorded over the Platts, and the Walk Mill pair of swans, have 5 healthy cygnets.
I suggest it’s quite unusual to have so many common songbirds still singing loudly, as we’ve heard during these last few weeks. Blackbirds, robins, wrens and recently song thrushes all seem to be proclaiming territory, although I suppose as it’s been so dry and their first broods have hatched, they are all starting to nest build and breed again.
An unusual occurrence which I witnessed first hand was a swarm of bees in Home Close. Very frightening if you happened to have them around your car. I’m grateful to Gerry Lockley for his picture capturing them on the side of a house when they had settled. I’ve been delighted to see so many butterflies this spring and have my best records yet. I have also been able to capture some of the first dragonflies, emerging, including the blue male broad bodied chaser and the four spotted chaser at Hockenhull, followed by the black tailed skimmer and a large bright blue Emperor dragonfly at Christleton Pit. This is the fourth year we’ve recorded them at the Pit. They are really spectacular fliers and can be usually be seen flying over and around the stand of pink, amphibious-bistort flowers, floating on the top of the water, adjacent to the dipping platform.
Despite the dry conditions due to the very dry May and early June wild orchids have suddenly emerged in good numbers, although not yet on the Legion Meadow. Burton Meres had a good display of Western Marsh and hybrid orchids, and in several spots common spotted orchids have been growing well. I have seen many more clumps of wild arum this spring, and interestingly seen male orange tip butterflies around them, although their favourite food source is still the May or cuckoo flower.
IF YOU LIKE YOU CAN LISTEN TO RYAN READING THE JUNE ARTICLE