Long Tailed tit
White Tailed bumblebee
Small White butterfly
Robins courtship feeding
Great Spotted woodpecker
Robin feeding young
5. Hawthorn flowers
3. Long Tailed Field mouse
4. Elderflower in the hedgerow
Nature Observations: Eastcliff(Mules)Park – April 2020
by Catherine Locke
April 1st 2020
An overcast April Fools Day but the weather was mild. A lot of goldfinches in the
park today, mostly in small flocks. I heard Greenfinches, mainly the "Shwee" calls of
the males. Always a lot of Robins about, but I also heard the 'seesaw' calls of Great
tits, one pair of Coal tits in a fir tree and a couple of pairs of Long-tailed tits. I do
love the little pink, grey and white Long-tailed tits. They are not bothered by people
walking below the tree they tick-tock in, often landing on a low branch to get a better
look at me. I heard a couple of warbling Wrens. A song to fill the heart with
happiness, so beautiful and clear. Their whole little body trembles to produce those
rich notes. I heard the great snoring whistle of a Bullfinch. A rare treat to see a
male in his fine orange/red front and black head. A very chunky bird. Today I
heard quite a few Chiffchaffs. I had heard my first Chiffchaff in the park on the
22nd of March this year. Although in some areas Chiffchaffs are resident all year
the ones that arrived in the park in March and April are probably European birds
that come here to breed, but may have even arrived from North Africa to spend
Spring and Summer in this park.
8th of April 2020
A sunny day with a lot of warmth. I saw and heard a lot of Robins in the park as
usual and some of them will be making nests now for a Spring brood (they often have
two broods of between 4 and 6 eggs from April right up to August). I heard several
pairs of Greenfinches and several single males making their "shwee" calls across the
park. Wild cherry trees are in full blossom now, the flowers being white, and it is of
these trees that A.E. Housman wrote:-
Loveliest of trees the cherry now
is hung with bloom along the bough
and stands about the woodland ride
wearing white for Eastertide
And it is indeed lovely to see the wild cherries in bloom, especially when there is a
stand of them as at the bottom end of Mules Park.
Today I saw queen bumble bees looking for holes in the ground to nest in. They were
the queens of the White-tailed bumblebee species, most common bumblebee in the
park. So many Blackbirds about today, males calling constantly to advertise their
nesting territories and to ward off Intruders. I saw Herb Robert, Primrose,
Celandine, Red Campion all in flower. I saw two pairs of Dunnocks and a group of
I saw a pair of orangey diamond-shaped long-winged bee-like insects in flight, and
they were mating. I looked them up later, at home, and found they were a pair of
Bee-flies. These bee mimics fly from March to June and hover making a high-
pitched whine. Their larvae are parasites in the nests of Mining bees.
Butterflies seen in the park today are;
a Speckled Wood (shady areas), a male Orange Tip (female has black crescents
instead of orange tips to the Wings) 4 Commas, and amazingly 5 Peacock
butterflies. The lovely colours of the Peacock butterfly make it one of my favourites.
It is an exotic looking butterfly and iridescent in sunlight. The 'eyes' on the wings
are to ward off predators and attract mates.
19th of April 2020
Hazy sunshine today and quite warm. I saw quite a few butterflies in the park:
3 Holly Blues, 4 Small Whites, 1 Large White, 2 Speckled Woods, 1 Red
Admiral, 3 Peacocks, one male Orange Tip, and one Tortoiseshell. As I entered
the park there were bluebells growing under the shade of the towering Monterey
Pines, like little blue lanterns in the gloom. A Wood pigeon clapped his wings
loudly at the Zenith of its flight, then glided downwards into the trees. I heard a lot
of Wood pigeons in the park today calling to each other. I also heard lots of
Robins singing or titting to each other. I've also seen them doing courtship feeding.
The female calls like a baby bird and the male brings food to her. As he approaches
she makes a more urgent hissing call. She needs this extra food provided by her mate
for energy to lay eggs and incubate them. Male Blackcaps were establishing
territories and I heard 7 in different areas of the park. Most of the Blackcaps in the
park have arrived from Southern Europe to breed here. Males arrived first, in early
April to establish territory and the females joined them in mid-April. The male has
a very loud garbled song and a sharp 'tak', like two stones banged together. They
make a small nest up of grass and flower stems in a bush and the female lays 4-5
eggs. Blackcaps often have two broods between April and July. I was lucky to see
three male Bullfinches today, one of them with his mate. In winter males often hang
out together in small groups but in spring they find mates and remain very loyal to
them. I heard the 'shwee' calls of a male Greenfinches from the tops of trees. The
male will guard a particular area with his far carrying call, and often if they remain
in one tree it is because their mate is nesting in the branches below them. I saw a
Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Nuthatch both searching for insects in the same
old English Oak tree in the woods above Overdell Path. I heard the gentle
'chipchap, chipchap' call of Chiffchaffs, three of them in different areas of the park.
The Hawthorn or 'May' will soon have to be called the 'April' as it is flowering now.
The scent is said to be like sex and death combined. Very attractive to insects that
lay their eggs in dead animals. The dangling Oak catkins are covered in a fine dust
of yellow pollen. I only had to brush one lightly and a mist of pollen dispersed into
the air. A flock of six twittering Goldfinches heard, then seen in the same English
Oak where I'd seen the Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch earlier, and the
Nuthatch was back, a male making a lot of noise 'hoowit, hoowit' repeated loudly.
26th of April 2020
It's cloudy today with hazy sunshine. The park was ringing with the calls of Wood
pigeons. I also heard a lot of Robins and saw a family of them, the speckled brown
fledglings were calling with high-pitched call from branches, not bothered by my
presence and only moving when the parents called to them. As the parent bird
approaches the fledgling flaps its wings violently and gives a long hissing call until
it is fed. I heard the lovely loud piercing songs of Wrens establishing territories.
The male makes up to 5 nests and the female chooses her favourite. Often use the
others for second broods or for roosting in at night.
Butterflies seen today:
3 Large Whites, 2 male Orange Tips, 2 Speckled Woods, 6 Holly Blues, and
The Sycamore trees now have dangling bunches of yellow-green flowers. The male
flowers at the tip of the bunch eventually fall away and the female flowers at the base
of the bunch remain to become the familiar winged seeds that we see helicoptering to
the ground in late summer and early autumn.
I heard a bird that was mimicking the songs of other birds. I knew it wasn't a Song
thrush as it's mimicking was more rapid, firing off one bird sound after another. It
may well have been a Sedge Warbler, known to use much mimicking in its song.
The Hawthorns are looking lovely in their creamy white flowers by an area I call
Bottom Lower Meadow. Next to the Hawthorns are the fading flowers of the wild
cherry trees or geans. There were Hazel trees there too with dangling 'lambs tails'
catkins. In a long bramble brake running along the edge of the meadow, which was
part of a rabbit warren, a pair of Long-tailed tits were nesting. They came and went
into the brambles with nesting material. The lovely nests are made of lichen and of
mosses stitched together with spiders webs and lined with hundreds of feathers, and
designed to expand as the brood of up to 10 chicks is growing.
A long tailed Field mouse was sitting upright near a hole at the bottom of the
brambles then it very quickly turned tail and disappeared into the the hole in the
dry yellow grass.
Elderflowers are blossoming now and will be ready to pick by mid-May to make my
annual elderflower cordial.
1.chiffchaff. Attribution - Andreas Trepte / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)
3. Field mouse. Attribution - Christian Fischer / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ApodemusSylvaticus.jpg
4.Elderflower. Attribution - Kate Jewell / Elder in the hedgerow
5. Hawthorn - under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License