Animals and Insects

You might see some grass snakes basking in the sun (in the Millennium Country Park, especially), but they’re pretty hard to spot as they move fast. The Callow mounds are bursting with butterflies - you’ll see dingy skippers basking in the sun on the floor and, though we haven’t seen any grizzled skippers yet, they have been spotted locally:

3rd - 9th May is Hedgehog week, organised annually by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS). This year ,the aim is to get neighbours to come together (figuratively speaking) to keep things hedgehog friendly in our gardens, and ensure we have corridors for them to travel between spaces. I happen to have 3 regular visitors in my garden (the slightly blurry photo above is one of them!) so I definitely have a soft spot for our spiky friends. Their website has lots of helpful advice, but in simple terms you can easily create a log pile for them to shelter in; reduce your use of pesticides and make sure that you check compost/rubbish before shoving a trowel in or burning it.


Bittersweet news but the egyptian goose we've been watching for the past few weeks still has 4 juveniles - very sad about the other two but in the natural world it's obviously very normal.

A red kite was spotted flying by the wind turbine this week - obviously they are more commonplace now but 25 years ago they were very rare, and confined to Wales. They were gradually re-introduced by bringing chicks countries with well established populations (like Spain and Sweden) and hand rearing them (with minimal contact) before letting them loose into the wild. This worked incredibly well and they have a thriving population now - we are lucky enough to have some breeding locally.

The whitethroats and lesser whitethroats have arrived! They are sub-saharan, summer migrants and pretty common in the Millennium Country Park these days but again, they used to have a terribly low population. They’re currently breeding (and warbling!) over on the Pillinge.

The Turtle Doves are back. We heard one purring around Stewartby Lake this weekend - we’re hoping that they breed this year, as they didn’t last year, so fingers crossed! They are very sadly nearing extinction in the UK - a tragedy considering in 2000 we had up to 20 pairs in the Park. Their population has dropped 94% since 1995, which is horrific - make sure you check out the Operation Turtle Dove website for more information on how they’re trying to save them.

A particular favourite of mine is the great crested grebe’s weed dance (make sure you watch it, below - it’s amazing). We have two pairs on the Pillinge currently - one is breeding, and hopefully the other will too. They are actually the species that led to the creation of the RSPB, after being hunted nearly to extinction for their beautiful feathers, ‘fur’ and eggs in the late 19th century. Fun fact - they’re like something off the Strictly final on water but on land they’re very clumsy due to the placement of their legs (bless them!)

We have Pochard displaying over on the Pillinge - they’re a red listed species and their population is declining globally, so to have a few pairs breeding in the Park each year is pretty impressive.


St John’s Wort should be flowering soon, though we haven’t seen any just yet. We have seen cow parsley however - a member of the carrot family, interestingly. When crushed, it’s leaves smell like aniseed but we really don’t recommend trying this unless you’re an expert as it looks very similar to hemlock (which is incredibly poisonous!) We’ve also got flowering oak, which is very understated but still looks lovely. You’ll notice that the male flowers appearing as slender, pale green catkins and the female flowers on spiked stalks behind them.

Oak flowering and cow parsley

Oak flowering and cow parsley

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All bird videos credit to Bob Hook