Buttercups on Marsh meadow


In the March update, I expressed concern about a repeat of the poor weather experienced in April/May the last two seasons, but we have made it into early May with a far more balmy setting. And this has certainly had a beneficial affect on our wildlife. As the hints of sporadic green sheen in our trees-capes evolved into an explosion of every shade of green one can imagine, so the emergence of larvae, caterpillars and flying insects followed, just in time for arriving migrant birds.


Not that even in early May they had all arrived; with only one report of a Cuckoo calling (thanks to Pam Knight), and just a handful of Swifts and House Martins so far, it seems the main bulk of aerial arrivals is yet to hit us. However, ‘our’ Hobbies have been back a short while now, commencing their patient wait for the first Crows to finish with their nests. Despite all the hard work undertaken to get to us every year, Hobbies seem lazy when it comes to nest building and far prefer to wait for a suitable home to be vacated, and a Crow’s nest is ideal, being just the right size and invariably high up in a tree and away from other large bird’s nests.


Text Box: Kingfisher – JL-PSeveral warbler species could be heard by end of April, with Blackcaps and Chichaffs most prominent, followed later by a few Whitethroats, whose scratchy renderings could be hard around Cockmarsh and Strand Water in the last week of the month. But it was early May before good numbers of Sedge and Reed Warblers were noted, mostly on nearby waters such as Jubilee River as, due to essential dredging of some of our local streams, reeds are yet not established enough to attract these two skulking species. One small area of reeds at the CIM end of Strand Water however has hosted a singing male for the last few days, his grasshopper-like calls aimed at attracting a female to join him. Already on this water, the three or four Coots nests had provided the first chicks of the season by May 1st. John Lloyd-Parry has been observing a pair of Kingfishers around the Widbrook/White Place Farm area so hopefully they too have a nest nearby. He had seen both Greylag and Canada Geese with young and also found a Long-tailed Tit nest. Often these birds have young by April but I found 2 other pairs still building nests in the first few days of May, so they seem later this season.


Text Box: Kite – Martin GloverBuzzards had finished their dramatic diving displays by end of April as females settled on nests, there being at least two, and possibly three around the village. I’m not too sure what is happening on the Kite breeding front however as there is so much continued tussling and play going on in the skies above, it is hard to separate genuine courtship behaviour from the ‘play’ of the many young birds which have remained to summer in the Cookhams, 41 still soaring together on May 2nd. Martin Glover’s fine shot shows a sub-adult bird far from in its breeding prime, with several damaged primary feathers and one or two still being replaced.


It is often plants which give the first indication of spring of course, and both Quarry and Bisham Woods were displaying fine patches of heady-scented Bluebells by the end of April, whilst the leaves at least of Wood Sorrel and Dog’s Mercury were in profusion. Emphasising the importance of the ‘scruffiness’ of our way-side vegetation, the dainty flowers of Forget-me-nots and Speedwells deserve far more appreciation than our oft-hurried walks past them afford. Meanwhile, the whole area surrounding the village turned yellow this month with Widbrook bathed in Buttercups, Dandelions and Daisy centres, whilst adjacent fields held Rape, Field Mustard and variety of Hawkweeds. Hedges on the other hand were turning white as Hawthorn blossom, with its distinctive aroma, came into its own. There have been some white splashes in some hedges a few weeks ago, but these will have been the flowers of Blackthorn, which bloom prior to the budding of their leaves, unlike Hawthorn which reverses this process.


This profusion of cover tempted early reptiles out of hiding and I found 3 separate Grass Snakes and a beautiful Slow Worm on my ramblings recently.


Grass Snake BDC

Slow Worm BDC


Mint Beetle – Linda BuckellIn turn, the leaves and flowers tempted many insects out of hibernation. During a 2-hour May-day amble around The Moor and the immediate surrounds of Moor Hall, I found a number of creepy crawlies in full swing. Nursery Web spiders had already constructed their sealed pockets of silk where the imprisoned females will rear their numerous young. A few ladybird species were abroad, including the common 7-spot, the notorious Harlequin, and my first 14-spot Ladybird. Then there were incredibly iridescent Mint Beetles, and several species which have never even been given an English name, a great pity in my view and highlights the general decline in entomology in our nation. I found Hister unicolor, which should be named ‘Shiny Black Hump Beetle’ (or something like that), and a weevil Phylobious pomaceus (Chameleon Weevil?) which is a different colour depending on what way the sun is shining on it. Then there was Melachius bipustulatus (which someone at last has named ‘Malachete Beetle), with its sheen of green on its upper parts truncated by a rich, matt salmon patch at the rear. It is difficult to emphasis just how small some of these insects are and without a slow, purposeful gait, and some optical aids, most will escape notice. And I would also stress I know next to nothing about insects, but pure curiosity ensures I have to know what each new bug is, if I can find out through books and internet. A bit time-consuming, but great fun, and gives each creature discovered the proper respect of identification.

Text Box: Cochlodina laminate - BDC            

 I hope folk are already getting into the great ‘snail chase’ recommended on the Cookham Wildlife page of the village web site. Even this early in the ‘slime season’, 3, 4 and 5-banded snails of both the white-lipped and brown-lipped form could be found on stinger beds all round the village; another reason to leave these wilder corners strictly strimmer-free! There were also the delightful all-yellow ‘plain-banded’ snail (bit of a daft name that one!). But not all snails are at ground level. Half way up the supporting wall of the railway bridge at the end of the golf course I found a tiny, thin shell about 8mm long, with an ear-shaped sucker secured to a small moss growing between two bricks. This turned out to be Cochlodina laminate after a bit of research and I had not seen one like it before.


Of the flying insects, a few Damselflies had emerged on the warmer days (they generally need at least 17 degrees before they bother), and as expected, Large Reds were the most prominent, with a few Common and Azure Blues to accompany them. These two can only be safely separated with a clear look at the thickness of the blue line across the top of the thorax, and the shape of the small black patch on the 2nd segment of the abdomen; I said you need optical aids! I am determined to find one of our region’s scarcer species, the White Legged Damselfly this year, as they have been found not too far away and some of our quieter waters ought to be ideal for them. Again, do check the village web site for more details of these dainty insects.


Pyrausta aurata – Keith EdkinsButterflies were restricted to Large and Small Whites, Peacocks and early Commas for a while, but the delightful Holly Blue was on the wing by end April, its deep, rich blue upper-wing contrasting with its pale, grey-blue under-wing with a smattering of tine black dots. The more colourful under-wing of the Common Blue is not seen until a few weeks after the Holly is abroad. Moths have been slow to get going this spring, but my actinic and MV lights in the garden have attracted a beautiful Herald, a Scorched Carpet, a few Waved Umbers and lots of bright yellow Brimstones (smaller and more patterned than the Brimstone Butterfly). Many moths are day-flyers and I found the tiny Pyrausta aurata (or Mint Moth) on the wing yesterday. An excellent resource to see the incredible range of moths is, the web site of the Hampshire Moth group, where clicking on the blue species number brings up a photograph of the insect. You will be amazed at what goes unseen whilst we are sleeping! To emphasise this point, a friend (Les Finch) has been studying the moths around Beechingrove Wood, Cannon Court Farm, (both within our parish boundary) and his home near Furze Platt, for 5 years and has caught over 57,000 individuals of 320 species!


So, as spring leads us into summer, with increasing temperatures and day-length, I wonder what else might be found around our fascinating village. Do keep an eye out and let us know. 

Brian Clews

May 2009.


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Mid Spring May 2009

False Spring Update

Pre-Spring Update - February 2009

Pre-Christmas Update December 2008

Autumn Update - November 2008

Late Summer - September 2008

Mid-somer Murder July 2008