2012 11 - November
In last December’s magazine, I suggested that it would be well worth taking a closer look at any Little Egrets on the Common, and watching out for the much larger and rarer Great White Egret. Well, I’m pleased to say that during this September, several observant villagers actually spotted a visiting Great White Egret. Better still, Liz Cory actually managed to get a photograph of the bird, feeding with a Little Egret in the Purlygig stream. When seen alongside a Little Egret, the Great White is clearly very much larger - or as one villager said, looking like a pure white albino Heron. And they usually have a very obvious bright orange-yellow bill, quite unlike the pure black bill of the Little Egret. As I said last year, Great White Egrets breed in north-west France, and are visiting this country more frequently. In fact, a pair bred in Somerset for the first time this spring, so perhaps the Chilbolton visitor was one of the first British-bred birds.
In mid-October as I’m writing, this year’s generally wet weather seems to be continuing, and we have no sign of an Indian summer. And there are continuing knock-on effects on wildlife. This month would normally be a good time to search for fungi, but there were very few to be found during my yesterday’s walk in the woods. Wasps, and some other late-summer and autumn-flying insects, are very few in number. Shortage of insects, means that Swallows and House Martins are still feeding their young in a few places, and it looks like many will be late to migrate south. Jays seem to be moving about much more than in a normal year, and this is almost certainly a reflection of a very poor acorn crop. Last week, I counted 13 Jays moving south-west in the course of an hour – but some watchers on the coast, even at Southampton, have seen many hundreds moving generally westwards. But as I pointed out last month, all is not gloom and doom, and some species benefit from wetter conditions. I referred to the larger numbers of Chalk-hill Blue butterflies I’d seen on Broughton Down. I guessed that one reason might be that in a normal year, many caterpillars starve to death due to desiccation of the Horseshoe Vetch foodplant. In fact, since I wrote that piece, I’ve heard that the butterfly did unusually well throughout Southern England, and the experts report that this was indeed due to this year’s exceptionally lush growth of Horseshoe Vetch supporting the survival of much larger numbers of Chalk-hill Blue caterpillars.
Glynne Evans (firstname.lastname@example.org)