Cuddington | Buckinghamshire

Greener Cuddington

Update on Cuddington Meadows and Waddesdon Estates   Doug Kennedy should be meeting with the Waddesdon scientist who will be planning action in Cuddington Meadows, and also with the farms manager by mid July and action will follow to remove the weeds and move towards re-sowing and planting.

Greener Cuddington is a long term project whose objectives are:

We live in a lovely place and look after it so well that the village regularly wins awards, but it is becoming increasingly important that we address environmental sustainability.  This is because through our consumption of goods, our use of cars, heating, electrical appliances, agricultural technology and our production of waste, our impact on the environment is much bigger than ever before.

We can all do something about it as individuals, and we can do much more as a community. Areas of interest include:

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A Meadow Brown butterfly 

Local Insects – Correction to Village Voice Article

In the Village Voice July issue I wrote an article saying that the butterflies and dragonflies seemed to have largely disappeared from our local countryside.  That was following a series of outings during May and June and was true at the time.  Then I did my route on Saturday June 30th, and there were lots and lots of butterflies and some dragonflies. 

The butterflies were mainly meadow browns and small whites – there were dozens of them on a muddy patch in a cattle pasture below the village.  Recently I saw a big group of garden tiger moths in Holly Tree Lane and those have been around the village for a couple of weeks.

In a pond on Ridgebarn Farm, I was delighted to find lots of blue damselflies (at last!), one or two emerald damselflies and a couple of common darters.  Lots more banded demoiselles on the river and a brown hawker on the Thame.

Nature is very unpredictable, and all this was very good to see.  Hopefully more will turn up in the coming days.  We could do with some rain though!

Doug Kennedy

A Chiff-chaff at Cuddington 

Vertebrate Watch Results 2018

14 watchers returned their forms spread across the entire village.  For the numerical report for all 8 years, click here.

The House Sparrows have the prize once more – 69 sightings from 11 watchers, but the pigeons were close runners-up at 63 from all 14 watchers.  This year I combined feral- and wood-pigeons into a single ‘pigeons’ species because of uncertainty about identification.  Last year there were 51 pigeon sightings, and they are much bigger animals, so represent a lot more biomass which has increased by 15%.  As I roam the countryside, especially locally, pigeons seem ubiquitous, which is an extraordinary success story for the species.  House sparrow numbers have remained strong.

The Corvids have done well, with blackbirds increasing from 34 to 42 sightings and jackdaws increasing from 31 to 39, with a couple more sightings than last year.

Bluetit sightings are down a little on average while great tits are the best since 2012.  Coal tit sightings are back on track following last year when they were missing.

Finches are down somewhat.  Chaffinches are solid at 14 from 5 watchers and goldfinch numbers were up from 13 to 27 and greenfinches have returned after being absent last year.  All but 6 of the 32 goldfinches were seen on the north-east side of the village, where they seem to gravitate particularly to Karen Haining’s garden in Frog Lane, which possibly has something to do with the fact that she is very generous with high-quality bird food and several feeders.  She had a charm of 20 goldfinches on the day!  The only problem is that this is also highly attractive to predators, so a sparrowhawk was watching out for a meal: something that she is quite used to.

House martin numbers and sightings are well up while swift and swallow sightings remain fairly constant.

Only 2 thrushes spotted this year against 4 last year.

Overall, bird numbers are up, which is nice, although we may be a bit over-supplied with pigeons and jackdaws.

Other sightings of note are the many round newts in the Sanderson’s pond, and the existence of a flock of goldcrests in a garden off Frog Lane.

Among the notes provided by watchers, there are 2 barn owls around the allotments (in addition to the, possibly, 2 in trees around the marsh below the ‘tractor’ field).  Badgers, mice and rabbits have also been seen in open spaces around the village: there is a large badger sett in the nettle-strewn area below Tibby’s Lane.  Several people report bats being seen in the evening.

Have Your Say on Water – Important Consultation!

Making Your Voice Heard With Thames Water:

Our water and sewage supplier, Thames Water, has published its draft 25-year resourcing plan which you can read and offer your opinion on at https://haveyoursay.thameswater.co.uk/engagement/shape-your-water-future/

The Plan itself is rather long: there is a summary, but many related documents which are a lot of reading, however it is available for those prepared to really understand what is being proposed. The summary will give most of us a broader understanding, and it really is in everyone’s interests to understand what is being planned as it will affect everyone. We take clean water in our taps for granted, but it is not guaranteed if resource planning isn’t good! One concern is that the company says it is not going ahead with a new reservoir in Oxfordshire, in which case there is no spare capacity in the event of a serious drought.

And as for dealing with our liquid waste, in 2013, the company managed to complete pollute the River Thame which is still far from recovering: it could happen again – again, there are no guarantees.

To respond to the resource plan consultation, you can complete the response questionnaire, but again, this takes quite a lot of time and work. Thames Water and the Secretary of State have to ensure that all responses to the consultation are read and responded to, so you can email consultations@thameswater.co.uk with your own personal response: refer to the Draft Water Resources Management Plan 2019.

Some of the issues that do not seem to be well covered are:

  • Leakage repair – the company keeps missing targets, is fined but continues to miss them. This is serious – if they were fixed, the pressure on water supply would ease.
  • Badly connected or mis-connected drains are not being dealt with sufficiently and Thames Water is the worst performer.
  • Investment in infrastructure: far more is needed than proposed to create a resilient water and sewage system.

(NB. Currently the deadline is April 29th, which will have gone, but there may be an extension.)

 

Vertebrate Watch Results 2017

This is the seventh year that people around Cuddington have spent an hour watching their gardens or a piece of ground around the village and recorded the birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles that they see.  The aims are:

  • To get a small insight into the wildlife in Cuddington, and
  • To track any changes between years and over time

Eleven people took part this year, spread around the entire village, and the full results, along with those of the past six years, are on the PDF report here.  Any queries address to doug@doug-kennedy.com.

A greenfinch and a bluetit on sunflower kernal feeder 

Cuddington Vertebrate Watch Results 2016

The results of the 6th Cuddington Vertebrate Watch Results 2016 are now in, so here is an outline.  If you want to see the full results, please email doug@doug-kennedy.com and I will send you them in pdf format.

8 people took part, spread across the northern half of the village (on and below the Aylesbury Road), but I am still looking for people around Dadbrook – if interested please do get in touch with me.

Overall, this is a better year than last year, when April and early May were much colder: it hasn't been warm this year, but there has been a nice mix of rain and sunshine so vegetation is doing very well.  There is a contrast between houses on the edge of the village and those in the middle, the former getting more farmland birds, and the latter the finches and tits.  27 species of  birds were recorded this year as well as grey squirrels, a muntjac, mice and common newts.

We are seeing a lot of consistency over the years and some trends are becoming fairly clear that echo national trends.  Corbids (crow, raven, jackdaw, magpie) are becoming more numerous, as are red kites and woodpigeons (everywhere!!).  Starlings are back this year and sparrows seem to be doing better than recent years.  We have good numbers of Greenfinches and goldfinches whereas chaffinches numbers are down.  Finches love the sunflower kernels which some of us use in feeders.

Only one thrush and no dunnocks, although I do see a pair of dunnocks in my garden on a daily  basis.  Bluetit numbers are down, but great tits are up a lot.

The lack of thrushes and cuckoos is very sad and reflects a national trend. On May Day at the church, we sang about the cuckoo, whose song seems to have been everywhere in the countryside in past centuries.  Of course, many cuckoos is hard on warblers and other host birds, but the lack of these is partially responsible for the cuckoo’s decline.

Bird feeders do a lot to help garden birds, especially through the winter, and I believe that they are instrumental in the good numbers of sparrows, tits and finches in Cuddington.

I hope that you found this interesting and am interested in any feedback.  If you would like to take part next May, please let me know, especially if you live anywhere around Dadbrook.

Doug Kennedy

Will you stand against current housing policy?

In our corner of England today, what is the easiest way to make a lot of money, if you are lucky? Turn a green space into housing. In-filling has been going on for a long time, but the scale of building has been taken to a new level with central government’s requirement that Aylesbury Vale builds thousands of new houses; and in-filling doesn’t even count towards that total! It is a golden opportunity for people who own land and property developers to make a great deal of money as villages and towns expand over the countryside like rot on an apple. It is changing the character of places and putting stress on infrastructure and services, as well as diminishing the quality of life of existing residents. It also puts yet more stress on our already badly depleted wildlife.

The driver is, of course, a lack of housing. The government’s selling point is that there is not enough housing for ‘ordinary working people’, but much of what is going up is priced a long way beyond what an average wage-earner can afford. This is because higher priced homes enable the developers make more money, so they have to be coerced into including any lower priced units. Then there is the question of why Aylesbury Vale and other Home Counties localities have been required to add so much housing: have employment opportunities suddenly increased dramatically outside London? Probably not. A significant proportion of the new homes will be occupied by people who work in London and who will have to commute, unless they find work locally.

In the past, Lord Leverhume, the Cadbury brothers and other enlightened industrialists realised that people need good housing close to where they work: this is in the interests of all concerned as workers who are part of a community and happy with their home are healthier and work better, and it certainly seems to have worked for Unilever and Cadbury’s! However the people who work in businesses, hospitals, schools and so on in London do not have that luxury and are being forced by property prices further out because housing in the capital is not geared to the needs of the society, but to the greed of the wealthy. This is not intended to be a socialist statement, but one of fact that is not only an evil for London, but for the countryside that surrounds it.

The draft Vale Of Aylesbury Plan has completely changed the framework for housing development, undermining the entire concept of not allowing towns and villages to join up through ribbon and creeping development. Our village, along with many others, has been redefined as a ‘medium-sized village’, a bureaucratic change at the strike of a computer key that forces the building of more houses on it. We are watching the transformation of the outskirts of Thame and Long Crendon and Haddenham are following on, whilst green fields disappear under concrete.

Combined with HS2 and the apparent lack of concern for environmental issues within our government, what remains of our lovely Buckinghamshire countryside seems to be very much under threat, and the momentum of destruction seems far too great for our puny voices to make any difference. And how much do we care? Are we prepared to stand up and scream ‘No!’? 

 

Vertebrate Watch 2015 – Take Part!

In May of the past four years we have carried out a successful Garden Vertebrate Watch during which people spent an hour looking out for mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians in their gardens, or on a piece of open ground nearby.  We are building up a picture of Cuddington wildlife over the years and the results from this and previous years are available on this web site.

This year’s event will be during the weekend of May 16th to 17th.

This year we are not distributing leaflets to everyone but are looking for volunteers to take part.  If you would like to be part of this year’s Vertebrate Watch, please contact Doug on doug@doug-kennedy.com, or 01844 290602.

We particularly need new people from the Dadbrook end of the village.

A kingfisher I photographed 

River Thame – Things are Happening!

Yesterday afternoon I was on the banks of the Thame at around 5pm on the look out for dragonflies (saw a few hawkers) and spotted a kingfisher shooting along the river near Winchendon Mill.  A few minutes afterwards, a barn owl flew out from a nearby tree – I got a really good look at it as it flew, but there wasn’t time to get my camera into action unfortunately. These are important sightings, as the Kingfisher indicates the river is returning to health, and the barn owl hasn’t been seen for some time, but seems to live at this spot.

I’ve seen small fry and little fish occasionally under the bridges, but I’m told that there are quite a few fish in the river now, for instance at Eyethrope.  This is all good news, and we can hope that wildlife will start increasing again from here. 

What we DON’T want is yet another pollution incident that kills everything on ANY of the river, now nor in 10 years time, and that is what Save The River Thame is about.  We have held our seminar (see http://www.doug-kennedy.com/ and select the heading) and now the working group team is forming and will have its first meeting later this month.

If you are interested in joining us, or just being kept informed, please send an email to doug@doug-kennedy.com.

Doug Kennedy

Cuddington Vertebrate Watch Results

Click here for the accumulative results for the four Vertebrate Watch events since the first in 2011. The results show the number of each species recorded, and the number of sightings (forms) on which they were recorded that year.

There will be a number of inaccuracies, such as:

*Some people did not put the quantity of individuals seen, so there is some under-recording where more than one bird appeared in the hour.

*It is difficult to tell the precise type of sparrow, pigeon or thrush which means that these results are rather lumped together. I have recorded all pigeon results this year as wood pigeon as that's what the great majority are in the village.

However, what is important is the trend and new sightings or missing species. The broad range of birds remains consistent with wood pigeons and sparrows at the top.

I haven't included kites this year as we know that there are a few, but they fly all over.

No cuckoo recorded this year, though I'm sure that I've heard at least one.

We have a greater spotted woodpecker for the first time, but no great green woodpecker, though I saw one in the tractor field a couple of months ago.

Doug Kennedy

The Greener Team: Doug, Amanda, Grace, Jessica, Sarah 

Greener Cuddington Gains Award

The Greener Cuddington Project (previously called Sustainable Cuddington) has been recognised by AVDC for working within the community to raise awareness and promote action with regard to the environment. The project has been given a SAVE Award (Support Aylesbury Vale Environment) following January’s thermal imaging work, and the current Greener Cuddington Energy Challenge project.

 

Garden Watch Results!

Many thanks to the 16 households who completed and returned their Garden Watch forms in May. The results have now been collated and can be downloaded from here – the report is in PDF format .

The report divides the results into postcode areas and shows the number of sightings of each bird in each area, with the total on the right hand side.

We are also delighted that the Cuddington & Dinton C of E School took part, and 25 enthusiastic children submitted their forms completed in and around the churchyard.  Their results have not been included in the main report as they were not gathered on the same day, but it is wonderful that young children are being inspired by their teacher in this way and I hope that we can build on this.

Farming Around Cuddington - The Waddesdon Approach

Alistair Brookes, Farms Manager of Waddesdon Estat and two of his advisers, gave an excellent illustrated talk about what they do and how they manage local farm land.  Waddesdon Estates farm arable on many of the fields surrounding Cuddington. 

A write-up of the talk will be made available later, but suffice to say that it was quite inspiring: we are VERY fortunate to have Waddesdon farming land around us as it will result in more birds, wild flowers and a healthier countryside than would have been the case with normal intensive farming.

We are very grateful to Alistair, Laura and Ollie for their time and their dedication.