Category Archives: wildlife

Heron on Stratton Way

Tony says
Heron
Out for a walk one evening we saw a heron sitting on the roof of South Lodge at the bottom of Bath Street by the Stratton Way pedestrian crossing. Surely not, we thought!
Heron
Going closer it looked like a heron but we still thought it might be ornamental, but
Heron
Closer still and we alarmed it so that it flew up onto the roof of Stratton Lodge behind.

Abingdon Swifts – Here until late July

Thank you to Catherine for this piece. Catherine is part of Abingdon Swifts Group
Abingdon Swift
You may have seen (and heard) the joyful antics of these birds over the past couple of weeks as they return from their long migration from Africa. A good map of their migration path is available here (https://www.hampshireswifts.co.uk/). Happily there are 4 extra nesting sites for them to inhabit this year, thanks to Churchill Retirement Homes. It is so good to be able to say ‘thank you’ to a developer that has made an effort to make a new building more beneficial to local wildlife.

If you are out on walks over the next few weeks, do look up to try to spot Abingdon’s swift population – they like to catch flying insects, with Abingdon’s tree-lined rivers and in its leafy parks being particularly good places to spot them. With a recognisable call, it may be that you hear many more than you see. The swifts will disappear to warmer climes at the end of July; they really are a sign of summer.

Swifts are like homing pigeons with their ability to find their way back. Each year they return to the same nest site, meeting their partner (they mate for life) ready to set up house. They are also long-lived, with luck, living to around 20 years. Only landing to breed, these birds clock up an extraordinary 14,000 miles (or so) in the air each year.

Traditionally, their nests have been in draughty gaps in the walls, and roof-tiles of our homes and out-buildings. As we become more energy conscious and insulate or re-roof our buildings with increasing effectiveness, the swifts can return to find that their ancestral nest is no longer available. This has contributed to swift numbers in the UK declining by 50% over the past 23 years. Increasingly, builders and developers are aware of this problem and are working, often with some ingenuity, to make buildings fit for habitation for both humans and swifts.
Abingdon Swift
The Museum of Natural History in Oxford is closed, but their webcams are showing pictures of young swifts. (https://www.oumnh.ox.ac.uk/swifts-in-the-tower-0). (Pictures from webcam on 22nd June at 20:20)

The Abingdon Swifts Group are also always happy to advise regarding the installation of swift nesting boxes.

Swift Awareness Week (27th June-5th July) would usually be celebrated with talks and meetings. Watch this (https://swift-conservation.org/) space for details about virtual seminars and meetings to find out more about these fascinating birds.
Abingdon Swift
P.S If anybody gets a good swift picture during Swift Awareness Week then please sent it to backstreet60@gmail.com and I will replace this final picture. St Helen’s Churchyard is a good place to watch swifts but they are very difficult to photograph.

Ducklings and Cygnets

Ugly Duckling
We went for a quiet walk this evening in Abingdon and saw some swans and cygnets.
Ugly Duckling
A little further along were some ducklings with mum and dad not in sight.
Ugly Duckling
A cygnet became the hero of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy story Ugly Duckling. It was seen by the other birds and animals on the farm as an ugly little creature and suffered abuse as a result.
Ugly Duckling
Then at the end of the story the duckling is shocked when the beautiful swans welcome and accept him, only to realize by looking at his reflection in the water that he had been, not a duckling, but a swan all this time.
Ugly Duckling
Reading the Abingdon Taxi driver’s column in the Abingdon Herald this week, cygnets have suffered at the hands of humans who took pot shots at them with air guns.
Ugly Duckling
The ducklings will eventually find their dad and mum. Dad has started to moult and loose his fine colours.

Barton Fields in June

Barton Fields in June
Barton Fields, cared for by the Abingdon Naturalists, has lots of flowers during June – particularly on the side near the cycle path.

There was a light rain today as we walked round, and meandered a little. The weather has cooled since the blue skies of April and May.
Barton Fields in June
Bramble flowers are a good food source for honey bees and bumble bees.
Barton Fields in June
There is one area in particular where the soil has been prepared for wild flowers and where the colours are vibrant.
Barton Fields in June
Elsewhere wild flowers grow in the grass.
Barton Fields in June
There are so many different sorts of grasses and other plants.
Barton Fields in June
In among the ground cover and hidden by the bushes are butterflies and birds. Some birds can be heard but not seen. Then occasionally you are rewarded with a clear view of a bird – in this case a pheasant.

Why no Ducklings?

Why no Ducklings
One thing has been puzzling us on our lockdown walks. Why have we not seen any ducklings on the River Ock and the millstream

Somebody tonight told us that in the last two years mink have become so rife that they are eating the ducklings, and the young of other native species.