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Eynsham's Swifts and Cuckoos Return! 21 Apr 2020 First sightings of swifts, Tanners Lane Sparrowhawk, a new Plants for Pollinators group & other nature notes

The Eynsham Swifts are on their way!

Sarah Couch who helped found the Eynsham Swift Project writes:

“I was in the balmy garden enjoying an early evening drink last Thursday 16th April, when I looked up and saw the unmistakable silhouette of a swift in the blue sky.  I thought surely it’s too early?  But I contacted Sally Taylor who checks the Oxon birding blogspot and there were records of a swift seen at Days Lock (near Dorchester) and another two swifts over Farmoor on Saturday 18th.  So I was not hallucinating and it might have been the first Oxfordshire sighting. Hurrah!

It was probably just passing over, but apparently there are masses heading our way from Gibraltar- about four days’ flight for a speedy little swift.  I heard that swifts and swallows had had a real battering by storms over Greece but apparently ‘our’ swifts take the western route, so if the weather stays fine they could be screeching around Eynsham soon.  So start watching the skies!  Last year they arrived in the first week of May. Sally Taylor says if there is one nesting in your house, include it in your garden bird count and mention the number of those flying over in the comments.

Swift numbers are in decline and nest sites are being lost, so inspired by Sue Chapman and with support of the Eynsham Society, some of us have been putting up  swift boxes and recording nest sites around the village. One warm evening last July, a few happy swift enthusiasts did a survey of swift nest sites. We found at least 13 active nest sites as well as around 30 nest boxes. The middle of Acre End Street was a hot spot with around 30 swifts swooping and screeching in joyous groups,  making contact with the colony and prospecting for more nest sites. Let’s hope they take to some of the new nest boxes this year.  Maybe they know how much we love them!

We have mapped the nest sites and boxes but we know people have added more, so do let us know  if you have a nest site or put up a nest box. Happy swift watching.” 

At Long Mead, we heard a cuckoo on the 15th April, to our delight - and relief. Every year we wait in anticipation to see if they have made the long journey from central Africa. In the UK cuckoos have declined 50% in numbers over in the past 20 years and are now red status – most endangered.  They lay their eggs in reed warblers’ nests around Horseshoe Island, but we have not heard a reed warbler’s song yet. We - and the cuckoo - wait in anticipation.

Lucy Stoddart, Eynsham’s own BBOWT mammal officer, recorded a kingfisher at the Fishponds yesterday.

On 7th April, Julia Loken at Tanner’s Lane observed the hunting prowess of a sparrowhawk in her garden. She writes:

"The other day we saw a sparrowhawk catch a pigeon (about the same size as itself) at the bottom of our lawn, and then proceed to pluck it and eat it at its leisure. We watched it for more than 30 minutes, until a neighbour started up a lawnmower and spooked it. It flew off with the remains of the pigeon, leaving only a mass of feathers behind. Nature red in tooth and claw!"

Lucy Dickinson and Jaqueline Mitchell have sent a link to this amazing 1946 film of birdsong and surveying in Oxfordshire Villages

Our multi-talented Parish and District Councillor, Carl Rylett, has created a wonderful bird quiz to test your skills on his own website - naturesite

Growing Plants for Pollinators Group!

Don’t think Eynsham is now interested only in birds. Sue Raikes is establishing a new group to grow plants for pollinators. Sue Raikes writes: “The Allotment Association has kindly offered an allotment to Nature Recovery. We will be sowing garden plants for pollinators soon and wildflowers after July. Our aim will be to create a seed bank so we can give away seed for sowing around the village.” If you have seed to donate or know-how to offer (and eventually labour, post lock-down), contact Sue

Lucy Badger, whose new garden in Thornbury featured in last week’s newsletter, has started creating a diary of life in Eynsham during the coronavirus pandemic. She writes: “We are inviting all Eynsham residents to share their experiences. The diary is currently in the form of a website blog." (No doubt nature will feature boldly! Ed.)

And, finally, Nigel Pearce has shared two thought-provoking pieces on ‘Negotiating with Nature’ which can be found on his blog.

There's till time to join the Eynsham Garden Wildlife Survey (it's here for the long-term!) Please email for details. 

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