Although the village is only a mile from the city boundary, the parish has a wide
range of habitats that attracts and abundance of wildlife. We have the parkland
associated with the old Burton Hall, several small woods created in the 19th century
to provide cover for game birds and for foxhunting, grassland that supports one
of the last remaining dairy herds north of the city and arable fields that are managed
in in environmentally friendly manner to provide a highway along the field margins
for birds and small mammals. There is an abundance of water features with the
Fossdyke canal forming the western boundary of the parish, the catchwater drain created
in 1805 to reduce the risk of flooding in Lincoln and the old gravel pits, once a
Lincolnshire Trust nature reserve, that provide a diverse habitat for flora and
On my daily walks there is always something different to see or hear depending upon
the seasons. Birds there are in abundance, sometimes a fox or a deer will be seen
crossing a field or following the line of a hedge, occasionally a stoat or weasel
will playfully leap across the footpath. Butterflies, moths and dragonflies add
to the summer interest while an overturned log or stone will reveal another world
of beetles and creepy crawlies. The eerie sound of a Tawny Owl hunting in Burton
Park, often heard but seldom seen, is an indication that life in the wild is not
just a daytime occupation. Sometimes it is an absence which makes us realise that
the world is fragile and is changing around us; not for the better. For 5 years
I have not heard a cuckoo except in transit and the lapwings which had established
a breeding colony in the fields below the ridge have not returned this year, and
where now are the mad march hares?
As a child I was fascinated by nature and with like minded friends, we had the freedom
to roam the highways and byways of Dorset without restriction. Sustained with a
bottle of Tizer and a loaf of newly baked bread from Ma Bishop’s shop, we could
picnic in the woods, fish for tiddlers in the river and be home by dusk without fear
of being chastised by an over worried parent. Then there were no bogy men, no mobile
phones (a home phone was an unaffordable luxury) no risk assessments, but above all
no speeding cars to knock you off your bike. In those days I used to keep a nature
diary of what I had seen and what I had collected - perhaps this page with its
observations is a return to those halcyon days.
Observations - March
Rooks - March 1st - The rooks in the Lime trees opposite have started to build their
nests. Some days before around the full moon, there was a a big discussion in the
tree tops (a gathering of rooks is called a parliament) and the decision was made
that weather, light and conditions were now suitable for nest building. Within a
couple of day there were upwards of 30 pairs collecting new twigs from nearby trees.
My walnut is a favourite source, and with much bending and twisting they can break
off quite large twigs that are then delivered to the nesting site. With an awkward
load, the aerodynamics are a bit precarious and often a bird requires extra yards
of clear airspace to gain sufficient height. There is much competition for the
best sites so building is done by both male and female birds in relays with one
bird always remaining to guard the nest and deter pilferers. On windy days nest building
is suspended and pairs of rooks may be seen in close formation just floating on
the wind close to the nesting site. Sometimes they are joined by a third smaller
family member, probably a youngster from last year’s brood who has yet to find a
Muntjak deer - Spotted crossing Burton Park into the woods behind Mexborough house.
This little deer is very secretive but one has been resident in the woodlands around
Burton village for several years
Foxes - 2 or 3 foxes have been resident in the fields around Burton over the winter
months. You can often smell the marking scent along Woodcote lane One large dog
fox may have taken a liking to the chickens at Birch Holt farm where 5 disappeared
over a couple of days in January!
Tawny Owl - Most nights can be heard hunting in Burton park. Probably now nesting
somewhere in Burton park where a pair has been resident for many years.
Long Tailed Tits - Seen most days perched on the bird feeder - seemed to have survived
the cold winter unlike the wren whose numbers seemed to have decreased.
Tree Sparrows -A welcome return to the garden but I cannot remember when I last
saw a good old fashioned house sparrow in Burton.
Woodpeckers - both Green and Spotted woodpeckers seen and heard drumming in woodland
Meadow Pippets - 14th March 4 meadow pippets seen rising up over an unploughed
arable field below the ridge. Unusual sighting at this time of the year in this
area and can easily be confused with skylarks.
Missing in Action? - Lapwings. For the past 5 years a breeding colony of lapwings
was established on grassland managed under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.
The birds would arrive in February to establish their territory for the breeding
season, aggressively mobbing intruders such as rooks and crows. Last year numbers
dwindled to a couple of pairs but this year winter has taken its toll and not a
single bird has turned up.
Frog spawn 21st March - The first blob of frog spawn observed in a pond on land managed
under the Countryside Stewardship scheme. The ponds were dug about 5 years ago and
this is the first time I have seen spawn in one of the pools which have been left
to colonised naturally. Visited the pond on 22nd and overnight more eggs had been
laid - possibly by other frogs. Across the other side of the pond I spotted a toad
in the weeds and a hint of a fish darting out into deeper waters - not good news
for the emerging tadpoles!
Red-tailed bumblebee bombus lapidarius -The warm weather has brought a number of
insects out of hibernation. This Queen red-tailed bumblebee was photographed gathering
pollen on a primrose in the garden on 21st March
Have you an observation which you would like to include in the monthly bulletin?
Email your observation to firstname.lastname@example.org
Help in identifying birds, bugs, beetles, butterflies and moths and a whole lot
more? Then visit the web site operated by Horncastle naturalist Alan Dale, “A
Nature Observer’s scrapbook” www.bugsandweeds.co.uk
Dairy Cows - 7th April Always a sight to gladden the eyes when the dairy cows are
first turned out onto the grass pasture after a long winter. The dry cows (they
will calf in the summer) were driven in style from the sheds where they had spent
the winter months and let loose in the Church field by Woodcote lane. Much skipping
for joy for their new found freedom. However, someone left a field gate open and
they all found there way back to the dairy in time for milking!
Lapwings - Good News At the end of March several birds were spotted on set-aside
land and they seem to be establishing their territory driving away unwelcome visitors,
particularly rooks and crows.
Frogspawn - 7th April - The frogspawn has hatched in the pond and there is a black
mass of tadpoles feeding off the remaining jelly. Nearby in the same pond there
are several strings of toad spawn. The bad news is that the pond also contains
2 fish, probably pike, about 6 inches long who are no doubt looking for a good
meal. How did they get there? The pond is 100m from the catchwater drain so perhaps
a duck carried the eggs there on their feet
The Rookery - The rooks are now well established and there are now at least 36 nests
in various stages of construction. All very noisy at first light and in the evening
when the birds seem to have a political debate about the forthcoming election. Some
latecomers are still adding a few twigs to their nests before the tree canopy closes
a veil around the rookery for the duration of the summer.
Swallows 20th April. The first swallows observed flying low over the church field.
Few in number at the moment but last year seemed to be a good breeding season so
hopes that they will return again to the nest in the house eves.
Bumble bees. Many large bumblebees coming out of hibernation and enjoying the
warm spring weather. Buff and orange tailed bees, carder bees and one which I have
struggled to identify. A black bee, rapid flight which converts instantly into
a hover. Identified by the Bumblebee Trust as a female hairy footed flower bee
(Anthopora Plumipipes) - a common species at this time of the year which makes its
nest in old masonry.