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Wildlife in Kingston

Tuesday 02 November 2010

The last few months have been absolutely wonderful: wall-to-wall sunshine throughout June and July, followed by a so-so August and then some glorious autumn weather, with long periods of warm sunshine interspersed with necessary - and not unpleasant – rain.
The summer brought out the butterflies in huge numbers, with, for example, hundreds of blues (chalkhill, common and Adonis) on the Castle Hill National Nature Reserve at the top of Juggs Way (which, as I have mentioned before, is all within our parish: do visit it soon before the Government arranges for it to be sold off to a responsible private corporation – BP perhaps). It was a good year, too, for dark green fritillaries, large, fast-flying and spectacular with their orange wings flecked with black (the green colour is on the underside only).

It’s been a positively great year also for wild fruits, with huge crops of elderberries, haws and rosehips and these – the elderberries especially – attracted large number of warblers. The thick hedgerow beyond the copse at the top of The Street, for example, was sometimes alive with small birds from late August onwards, although a little patience was needed to see the whitethroats and a little later, the blackcaps, moving systematically through the bushes and as they did so scoffing the berries that would help them build up their reserves of fat for the imminent long journey south. Most of them (this is written on 14 October) are now on their way as are the swallows and house martins but a few linger still.

Talking of martins, weather conditions on 22 September – it was warm and the air was very still - seemed to be responsible for the spectacular sight of at least 400 of these birds passing over Kingston Hill, feeding frantically as they did so. There may have been many more - have you ever tried counting house martins? – as I watched them for nearly 30 minutes and they were still emerging from the north when I left. A huge group of swallows (at least 150) flew by on 4 October and there have been parties going over every day for a month or more, in greater numbers than I have ever recorded here before.

Even closer to home, our small garden has seen its own minor dramas with a sparrowhawk perched for quite a while on 18th July on the wing mirror of my car (which, alas, is no more – farewell my rare and beautiful – but absurdly impractical – Vauxhall Calibra) and another crashing into a front window just this morning.
Other highlights have included a rare (for our garden) visit by a coal tit to our new bird feeder and the appearance in the back garden on 4th October of no fewer than seven chiffchaffs – more in one go than I had seen in aggregate in the previous sixteen years! Several stayed for a few days, hunting for small insects among the apple trees and around the ivy and elderberry

What have you seen in your garden and round about? Do keep me posted.

- Steve Berry