Wildlife on Osney

Sparrowhawk in action

At the end of August 2020 a resident of Bridge Street extension witnessed a a female sparrowhawk attacking and devouring a wood pigeon in her garden.

You can download the video below (video courtesy of Julia and Tobias).


Big Butterfly Count

Each year the UK Butterfly Conservation Trust organises a national butterfly count to track what is happening to our butterfly populations. Anyone can contribute, using a free phone app. Seven Osney residents took part in the Big Butterfly Count 2020, which ran from Friday 17 July to Sunday 9 August.

A comma in Wytham Woods

The most commonly observed species in Osney gardens was the small white (cabbage white). Large whites, peacocks, red admirals, commas, gatekeepers and a holly blue were also spotted.

The national survey is backed by Sir David Attenborough and used to assess wildlife losses.

Results from 2020 show a 34% decline on 2019 in the number of butterflies observed, despite a 25% increase in counts submitted. The fall in numbers may be due to the warm spring, which meant that butterflies emerged earlier in the season. But it does also reflect the ‘perilous state of wildlife in the UK.’

Observations are reported through a free app you download to your phone, which comes with a simple identification guide. If you want to join in the next survey you can sign up for a free newsletter from the charity: https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org/ The site also has an intereactive map of the observations.

Reflections on sparrows

From Jude Carroll: For me, ‘nature’ on Osney is a cloud of sparrows. I used to get a variety of birds at the feeder, but now, it’s just sparrows (plus pigeons hoovering up whatever falls).  Since lockdown, I watch them, on and off, all day long.  They line up on the fence, sometimes 15 or 20 at a time, waiting their turn and all facing the same way.  Newcomers to the feeder push off whoever is taking too long, involving lots of chatter and wing action. Back in the summer, clumsy babies took weeks to learn to navigate the feeder and probably, to understand the pecking order.

Yesterday, it was drama: a red kite flew low overhead at the same time as a local cat crept closer (oh, I wish people would put bells on them). There was a scattered whoosh then, 10 minutes later, back they came for a feeding frenzy before decamping again.  I hope it was to another islander who is enjoying them as much as I do.

River birds

More than one resident has reported sightings of a kingfisher on the Osney stream at the back of West Street. And the heron is a regular visitor at the weir and on the main towpath. Photo courtesy of Veronica Strang.




Frogs and toads

Commonly seen in Osney gardens, even where there is no standing water, as in this photo from South Street. Photo by Fiona McFarlane.