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Getting ready for Big Garden Birdwatch

Getting ready for Big Garden Birdwatch

The start of 2017 has seen a mixed bag of wildlife in the Abbey grounds. The weather has either mostly been of two distinct types, with some days being quite mild temperatures of 10c or higher and very damp or cold with night time temperatures well below 0c and beautiful sunny days whilst remaining cold. This has affected the wildlife and how it behaves in such conditions.

The new year got off to a bang with a female black redstart turning up on new year's eve and remaining for roughly a couple of weeks often to be seen on the lime trees near the marquees where she would feed on small insects from the trees and ground, often hovering before descending on some hapless fly or beetle etc. Black redstarts are mainly winter visitors to the UK, and whilst not a rare visitor and the Abbey seems to get one most winter's, it is still a good bird to note.

Blackbirds, wrens, robins and dunnocks have all started setting up territories for the coming breeding season and quarrels often break out amongst the males which can make for some rather humorous and interesting viewing.

The above mentioned along with great tit, blue tit, song thrush nuthatch and tree creeper are all now in full song in the wildlife area and mornings are the best time to catch them both visually and audibly, especially as there are no leaves on the trees yet. Great-spotted woodpeckers can be heard drumming in the wildlife area and the copse as well as over the way in Abbey park. Green woodpecker has also been seen flying over and making their distinctive “yaffling” call from the same vicinity. The most dominant bird in the grounds remain our winter visiting redwings and fieldfares however.

Snowdrops are now more numerous as January progresses and can be seen in small clumps all over the grounds, but they are not at their maximum just yet. Winter aconite is now starting to show itself at various spots and is well worth keeping an eye out for with it's small yellow flower growing very close to the ground, being no more than a few centimetres tall. Crocus and daffodils are starting to make their presence shown but are still a few weeks away from blooming. Many of the trees have buds on them and are showing signs of new leaf growth in anticipation of the spring explosion

On 18th January, I recorded my first (and only) hoverfly of the year so far, a male Eristalis pertinax which was basking in the sunshine on the wall next to the Abbot's Kitchen close to some ivy. Hopefully some more species will emerge if the sunny conditions prevail into the next week or two and even a few butterflies might be tempted out of hibernation.

On Sunday 29th January, myself and Jenny (from the wildlife team) will be running an event as part of the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch between 2-3pm, we will be based in the wildlife hut (the brick building in the centre of the grounds with the picnic benches) and handing out recording sheets and will be on hand to help with any ID queries or anything else avian, or for that matter anything else wildlife related. So why not pop along!

That's it for this time.

Mark Huntington.

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Added: 22nd January 2017