Milton Keynes wildlife summary: Winter 2022-23 – Tony Wood

Otter at Wolverton Mill in January (Photo©Julian Lambley)

Winter locally was generally mild with East Anglia having the third warmest November on record. In December, however, we experienced icy weather for half the month, similar to January. In March we suffered one day of snow which changed to rain and created floods. Varied weather conditions throughout – so how did it affect our wildlife locally?

Mammals:  There were records received for otters at a variety of sites around Milton Keynes including one photographed walking on ice during December at Willen Lake.

Oher sites during winter where otters were recorded included the Floodplain Forest, Caldecotte, Stony Stratford Reserve, Linford Lakes Reserve, Stony Stratford Mill and Loughton Brook. A Chinese Water Deer was noted at Magna Park.

Insects The first butterfly recorded in 2023 was a brimstone observed in a member`s garden at Stony Stratford. One interesting record was from a lady living in Wolverton who discovered a caterpillar in a cauliflower she purchased in February from a supermarket. She placed it in a jar and fed it cabbage until it changed into a chrysalis. Mid-March it emerged as a moth, dark brown with black spots. Any ideas?

PlantsThe first signs of spring were records of snowdrops early February beside Little Linford Wood and at the same site in March there were signs of primrose and celandine in flower. At the end of March cowslips were noted at Caldecotte.

BirdsThroughout the UK birds have been affected with the avian flu and the RSPB have reported that over200 million birds, and at least 60 species, have died from the infection. There have been reports of three mute swans found dead at Caldecotte Lake and several geese at Furzton.

There was a large murmuration of starlings performing over the `Mutual Fields` at New Bradwell from mid-February to mid-March at 5 pm to 6 pm, and enjoyed by many of my neighbours

Whilst there has been an understandable lack of items to report on insects and plants during the winter months there has been an abundance of sightings of unusual bird species locally. Here are a few:

November – Floodplain Forest: pair of Egyptian goose, Willen Lake a pintail duck and two ringneck parrakeet, Linford Lake Reserve a long-tailed duck, and Tattenhoe Park a great northern diver in flight.

December – Linford Lakes Reserve:  a bitten; Flood Plain Forest: great white egret, goosander, and pintail duck; Tongwell Lake: a short-eared owl, and 8 goosander; Emerson Valley: a willow warbler and 2 chiffchaff;  Willen Lakes: a hawfinch and black swan; Mount Farm: Mediterranean Gull; Furzton Lake: a Caspian Gull; Linford Manor: 2 ring-necked parrakeets – and the highlight, a Siberian chiffchaff at Tattenhoe.

January – Floodplain Forest: a little owl, great white egret, goosander, 17 snipe, and a garganey; Willen Lake a Mediterranean gull and woodcock Furzton Lake and Blue Lagoon a Caspian gull and Magna Park a peregrine falcon.

February – Floodplain Forest : a Caspian Gull, peregrine falcon, little owl, great white egret, pintail duck and oystercatcher; Linford Lakes Reserve: a barnacle goose; Furzton: Cetti’s warbler; Little Linford Wood: 5 marsh tits: and Tattenhoe: 2 common cranes in flight.

March – Linford Lakes Reserve: goldeneye, a ruddy duck and a shelduck; Caldecotte: scaup and a pair of mandarin ducks; Howe Park Wood: a Firecrest; Tattenhoe Park: a chiffchaff and stonechat, and at Willen Lake: sand martin.

Just outside the Milton Keynes boundary two waxwings were photographed at Cranfield and a wheatear was recorded at Great Brickhill during March.

The sounds and signs of spring are now upon us so, as a task, try and observe the 6 most common bumble bees locally. They are buff-tailed, white-tailed, red-tailed, early, common carder and, the once rare but now very common, tree bumble bee. But as usual, look out for all forms of wildlife and observe, record but most of all, enjoy.

Tony Wood
April 2023