The Dene through the Seasons
Red Squirrel – road death on the Avenue
Mature Grey Squirrel caught
Swallows and House Martins depart
Willow Tit - good sightings
Goosander continues to visit the estuary
First Pink-footed Geese seen
Although nothing out of the ordinary was reported this month, there were a good number of butterflies still to be seen during the first 3 weeks but then the weather changed and sightings came to an end. The Large White was the most often seen in 1s and 2s but this was closely followed by Red Admirals in groupings up to 3. The third species reported was Speckled Wood, seen on 4 occasions with groups of 2, 3, and 4.
Mention must be made of the numerous reports of both Frogs and Toads seen, both by the working party and individuals, from all the damp and pond areas of the Dene. Usually the report has been of singles but the overall number has been far greater than previous years, so it seems these amphibians have had a really good year.
Hedgehogs only come out to feed at night so reporting normally only comes from houses with gardens adjacent to the Dene. If the number of reports from this source is to be trusted then Hedgehogs have had a wonderful year. I am pleased to say there have been no reports of road deaths this month. As we approach October it should be remembered that this is the usual month for Hedgehog hibernation and so if a Hedgehog is seen out in daylight it is probably in trouble, could be under-weight for hibernation, and its presence should be reported.
There has only been 1 report of Roe Deer this month. Early on the morning of 14th a pair of females was seen in a field adjacent to Hartley West Farm, from their sizes probably a mother and daughter.
A single Red Fox has been seen on 3 occasions this month from widely differing locations and all at around dusk. One was seen near the oxbow lake on the 6th, the second sighting was on 12th near the pipe pond and the third was on the 20th half way between the pipe pond and Hartley Lane Car Park.
Our wonderful band of volunteers who check the Squirrel feeding boxes on a weekly basis have continued their good work throughout the month. On 19th the box near the upstream wooden bridge was found visited by a grey and the next day that box and the one near Crow Hall Farm were found visited and a Grey Squirrel was seen near the Oxbow Lake. On the 21st traps were set and the following morning a mature male Grey Squirrel had been caught. After that all went quiet again right through to the end of the month.
The worst news of the month was that on 27th a dead Red Squirrel was found on the side of the Avenue road having been hit by a car.
September has never been the most exciting month for seeing birds in the Dene and this month lived up to that reputation. The estuary has been perhaps the most interesting area with not only the NCC carrying out very necessary path repairs on the west side but birds illustrating that September is the month for migration in and out.
The last sightings of Swallows and House Martins were in the middle of the month with Swallows lining up on wires (so easily counted) with 20 seen in the estuary area on the 6th and 25 on the 8th. The final report was on 13th with 17 on their favourite wire just west of Hartley West Farm. House Martins tend to gather in evening flying groups and these were seen between Hartley Lane Car Park and the estuary with 20 on 3rd, 15 on the 8th and finally on the 13th a massive group of in excess of 50 birds.
The Goosander, seen in the estuary for the first time at the end of last month, did not desert us. There was 1 seen on 4th and 2 the next day and then a long gap until 27th when 1 came back and on the penultimate day of the month we were back to 2. The one on the 27th was interesting because it was seen at the top end of the estuary and when disturbed flew upstream and landed on the area of the river below the heronry well out of sight of walkers on the path. It was a similar story with the Little Egret which returned to the estuary and was seen on 3rd, 4th, 17th, and 28th, each time a single bird. There was only 1 sighting of Mallard this month with 2 being on the river near the pipe pond on 3rd The first Redshank of the autumn was seen in the estuary on the 18th but then was seen regularly with varying numbers from 1 to 7.
Grey Herons were regularly seen in the estuary and on all other stretches of the river, normally a single bird but on 19th 6 were seen sitting in the trees of the heronry – got their dates wrong? A Kingfisher was seen along the meadow stretch of the river on 3rd and then 1 was reported from the estuary on the morning of 19th and later the same day 1 was reported in the area of the upstream bridge: probably the same bird. A Dipper was reported from the tunnel area on 2nd and 4th and a Grey Wagtail downstream from the tunnel on 13th and 27th. Wrens were seen as usual throughout the waterway but are very rarely reported.
Moving upward and away from the water, 3 reports of Buzzards seen overhead were received and in the last 10 days of the month there were a number of reports of 2 Sparrowhawks seen at the east end of the Dene. Some of the reports commented that they did not seem to be hunting but were just having a game of chase through the trees. Interestingly there were similar reports this time last year; one wonders if they are young birds? A roosting Tawny Owl was identified on 3 occasions in the centre part of the Dene on each occasion the reporter was drawn to the owl by agitated birds nearby. No Pink-footed Geese were seen in the adjacent fields but on 27th a flock of around 50 birds flew low over the Dene and 3 days later a similar number were seen landing on Holywell Pond.
The woodlands have been very quiet with very few Blackbirds being seen and numbers of Blue and Great Tits on the low side. A single Coal Tit was only reported on 6 occasions and was actually beaten by Willow Tit reports which numbered 8, again all single birds. Long-tailed Tits followed their usual pattern with 2 being seen on 1st and then from the 15th flocks were seen regularly of 8 and 9 birds. The number of Dunnock sightings increased as the month went on but the monthly total was only 7, each of a single bird. Bullfinch and Chaffinch were well reported throughout the month but always between 1 and 3 birds except for the report on the last day of 6 Bullfinch seen along the old railway line. A single Goldfinch was seen on just 3 occasions. It is hard to believe but there was only 1 report all month of a single Great Spotted Woodpecker.
A Nuthatch was seen on 8th and 14th and a Greenfinch just once on 15th while a single Robin was only reported on 5 occasions. A Pheasant was seen or heard just 4 times, whereas 1 or 2 Jays were reported on 7 occasions but interestingly all the reports came from the centre to east of the Dene, whereas a few years ago all reports came from the west end. The winning bird this month was the Tree Sparrow, concentrated at the east end of the Dene and seen many times with numbers between 3 and 11.
The large flocks of Corvids have returned to the adjacent fields and they, together with the flocks of well over a hundred Woodpigeon, make an impressive sight as they take off and land among the cows that totally ignore them.
Hedgehogs have had a good year
Goosander seen in estuary
Little Egret back in the estuary all month
3 Buzzards seen together above the Dene
No Grey Squirrels were seen this month.
October 2019 will probably go down as one of the quietest months ever for wildlife in Holywell Dene. The rain, mud, soggy leaves underfoot and puddles everywhere plus plenty of natural food have kept humans and wildlife away and as the water level in the river has been high and coloured for most of the month this has not helped. Reports have continued to come in but in essence most of them have being saying ‘very little or nothing to report’. However, one comment has been made a number of times illustrating people’s love of animals and that was about how sorry people were that the cows have had to endure these conditions out in the open day and night.
On the few days when the sun appeared butterflies were quickly on the wing but not in great numbers. The last Large White was seen on 11th and the next day was to prove to be the best in the month with 3 Red Admirals and 3 Commas reported and a Small Tortoiseshell and a Peacock seen. As the month came towards its end a Painted Lady was seen on 17th, a Red Admiral on 23rd and the last sighting was of a Comma on 30th.
The weather might not have suited humans but for Frogs and Toads it was close to perfection. There were plenty to see in all their usual areas in the Dene but there was also a good number of reports coming from areas not good for their welfare, like along paths and farm roads.
Without doubt I got more reports this month about Hedgehogs still feeding at night in adjacent gardens to the Dene than all the other mammal reports put together. From these wide ranging reports I have concluded that Hedgehogs have had a very successful breeding season as a good few of these reports are people saying that they have a Hedgehog in their garden for the first time in years. With the abundance of natural food still available plus human feeding I think obesity might be a problem and I wonder if overweight Hedgehogs can hibernate normally? An interesting thought! There has been no report of a Hedgehog out in daylight so far.
There have been no reports of Roe Deer in the Dene and no Squirrels have either been seen or have visited feeding boxes this month. Red Fox, although obviously still around, have not been sighted.
On occasions this month it has been possible to walk the length of the Dene and see or hear no birds except for small flocks of Woodpigeon in the woodland and large flocks of Jackdaw, Crows and a few Magpies in the adjoining fields.
The estuary has produced some interest, with a Goosander seen and photographed on the 5th and a Little Egret seen all through the month and, on the last 2 days, there was a pair. The occasional Grey Heron was also seen together with a number of Redshanks up to small flocks of 8 birds. On the 21st 2 Pheasants were seen on the grass adjacent to the river – an odd sighting.
In the air a single Buzzard was reported on 4 occasions in the first 2 weeks then on 18th 2 were seen together and then the following day there were 3. After that excitement they were not seen again in October. A number of varying sized flocks of Pink-footed Geese were seen flying above the Dene, however, none were reported as landing on the Dene’s adjacent fields.
On to the woodland where the normally well reported Blackbird only generated 3 reports all month of 1, 2 and 4 birds. Blue and Great Tits were reported all through the month but only in numbers of 1 to 3 and 1 to 2 birds respectively. A single Coal Tit was only reported twice but amazingly a Willow Tit was seen on 6 occasions with 2 birds being seen on 17th. There was no sighting of a Willow Tit during the last week. Winter flocks of 6 to 8 Long-tailed Tits were seen in the first 2 weeks, the last being seen on 17th.
A single Bullfinch was sighted on 12th and 22nd with 2 seen on 28th while a Chaffinch was seen numerous times throughout the month but always just 1 or 2 birds. A single Dunnock was seen on the 13th and 25th while a single Robin was seen on 13th and 28th.
The only sighting of a Great Spotted Woodpecker was on 28th near the meadow. A Jay was seen on 6th a little to the west of Hartley West Farm and again on 20th in the area of the upstream wooden bridge, while 2 Pied Wagtails were seen near the lay-by in the Crow Hall Farm area on 20th.
At the east end of the Dene the bird seen most often this month was the Tree Sparrow, which was seen throughout the month in groups of between 1 and 5. This is a bird whose numbers in the Dene have increased dramatically over the last few years but always towards the east end. However, there was a first this month when one was seen at the west end in the Holywell area. I wonder if this is the start of a trend.
Hedgehogs hibernated mid-month
No Grey Squirrels have been seen or visited a feeding box
A Little Egret seen in the estuary
A party of 5 Roe Deer was seen near Hartley West Farm
A good number of Pheasants seen
Butterflies and Mammals
Not surprisingly there were no reports of butterflies.
All the indications from the reports received from people feeding Hedgehogs on a daily basis were that they went into hibernation in the middle of the month, just before the start of the really cold spell. It is pleasing to report that so far there has been no report of a Hedgehog out in daylight looking for food – the real danger sign at this time of the year.
There has been no report of a Grey Squirrel sighting this month and the feeding box volunteers have found no boxes visited by a Squirrel. A few boxes have lost their peanuts (not other food like maize or black seeds) but all the indications are that this has been the work of a rodent, possibly a rat, which would be strong enough to lift the lid of the box.
Red Fox have been out and about, often in mid-afternoon on darker days, resulting in a number of surprise encounters especially along the Holywell Road Bridge path and the path from Hartley Car Park to the harbour. A resident living close to the latter path reported a Red Fox in her garden at 4pm!
Roe Deer have been few and far between. On the 4th a male and mother and her 2 siblings were seen in a field adjacent to Hartley West Farm. 2 days later the same party, except that this time there were 2 males, were seen in the same field. However, it was obvious the 2 males were not friends and it took a good 10 minutes before 1 of the males departed by jumping the hedge line and disappearing into the next field, after which calm returned. A single male Roe Deer was seen very occasionally throughout the month mainly in 2 areas, along The Avenue and between the Holywell Road Bridge and the old railway line. Towards the end of the month 2 or possibly 3 Roe Deer were seen in the oxbow area but in the bad light details were sketchy.
November usually brings a surge in the number of reports of bird sightings sent in by Dene visitors resulting from the leaves falling and hence better viewing possibilities and the resurrection of the bird feeders throughout the Dene. It hasn’t happened this year and I am not sure whether it is due to lack of birds or humans!
In the adjacent fields the large flocks of Rooks, Jackdaws, Crows, Woodpigeons and Magpies have reassembled but what has been missing at this time of the year is the Geese. There have been many flocks, large and small, flying over the Dene but none have been seen to land, except in the Holywell Pond area.
Although there hasn’t been the usual surge of birds and reports this month, as I mentioned earlier, there has definitely been an increase between the first and second halves of the month. The Blackbird is a good example with very few seen in the first half of the month but as the berries disappeared off the bushes so they returned in good numbers.
The same can be said for many of our other common birds Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch and Coal Tit, although reports of the latter is still mainly of only a single bird. Dunnock have only generated 3 reports all month, always of a single bird while Bullfinch has been similar with only 5 reports of 1 or 2 birds but the reports of both of these birds have been spread evenly over the month. Into this category can be placed Willow Tits, seen 4 times and a Robin seen 8 times but once again always just a single bird. Surprisingly, there has been not a single report of a Goldfinch.
Long-tailed Tits seem to have disappeared after a good October, with a single bird seen on 14th, 7 on the 19th and then in the estuary 9 birds were seen on 24th. A single Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen near Hartley Car Park on 9th but not again. Tree Sparrows, as is becoming the norm, were the most seen birds with many reports of feeding flocks of between 5 and 10 birds. Two unusual events was the reporting of 3 House Sparrows in the Dene on 19th with the same number again on the 25th and 2 Collard Doves seen on 17th and a single bird on 26th. Unusually at this time of the year, 2 Stock Doves were seen on 19th while a single Nuthatch was seen on 17th and 2 on 22nd.
Whether the start of the shooting season has anything to do with it is not known but there have been plenty of reports of Pheasants this month, both in the Dene and on the adjoining fields, with numbers between 1 and 4. On the 19th a pair was seen on the wild grass right on the edge of the river in the estuary, a very unusual and surprising sight.
A Kingfisher was seen twice during the month. On the 14th it was flying along the river in the area of the Pipe Bridge at the head of the estuary and then on the 25th it was seen flying across Old Hartley pond towards the river. A Moorhen was seen only once on the 14th just a little downstream of the Stone Bridge and in the same area on 2nd a pair of Mallard was seen – the only sighting of this bird all month. A Little Egret was seen in the estuary on 14th and again on the 19th with, on that occasion, 2 Redshanks to keep it company. A single Grey Heron was occasionally seen in all parts of the river but nowhere near the usual number of sightings. Finally, along the river, mention must be made of the numerous silent single Wrens going about their business at great speed and consequently hardly ever being reported.
In the air a Sparrowhawk was seen on 28th and again 2 days later, while there have only been 3 reports all month of a Buzzard circling above the area but then with the weather we have had it would have been difficult to see it in the clouds or mist.
This monthly Fauna Report is based on sightings submitted by people, expert and amateur, interested in birds and wildlife. The more reports we get the better and more interesting the Fauna Report will be. If you visit any part of the Dene or adjacent fields and you see birds or animals you recognise we would love to hear from you. Ideally, what you saw, how many, the rough location and date/time are the details we want.
You can let us know by: Text to 07958640903 or email to www.friendsofholywelldene.org.uk
We really do look forward to hearing from you.