The Whitley Pump

The view from Katesgrove Hill

Category: Wildlife (page 1 of 2)

Whitley garden wildlife in July and August

Fox vixen with a rat. Picture (c) David Turner

The late summer weather in my Whitley garden varied from warm to very hot indeed, with the occasional very wet day. The sun helped increase the numbers of butterflies, bees, insects and moths, of course. One of my photograph highlights for July was the vixen fox with a huge rat, striking a superb pose.

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Two years on, what has changed on the scenic route to the Madejski Stadium?

Sustrans signpost on Waterloo Meadows

Reading were at home to Sheffield Wednesday for their first game of the 2018/19 season. It was a fine day, so we decided to see what had changed since 2017 on the scenic cross-country route from the Whitley Pump to the Madejski Stadium.

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Whitley garden wildlife in June

Jay with a monkeynut. Photo (c) David Turner

June was a very warm month; during the rainy days of mid-month the temperatures still held at a warm 20°C. On 1 June, the temperature reached 28°C and was the hottest day of the year so far.

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Wild about south Reading!

You can celebrate Reading’s nature, as well as the people and groups who contribute to it, at a series of events across town starting in late July.

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Whitley garden wildlife in May

Lucky escape for the squirrel. Photo: David Turner

May was a very bad month for predation in my garden, with cats catching blackbirds, pigeons, starlings and squirrels. I do get annoyed, but I would never harm a cat; it’s just a natural instinct on their part, and there is very little I can do to stop it.

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Whitley garden wildlife in April

A Whitley fox. Photo :David Turner

April temperatures in my Whitley garden reached as high as 30ºC and as low as -5ºC, the hottest and coldest ever recorded for that month; the average temperature for the month was 17ºC. We also experienced an afternoon hail storm at the beginning of the month that briefly covered the garden in what looked like snow.

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Whitley garden wildlife in March

Male sparrowhawk. Photo: David Turner

March weather was a mix of every type of condition we could experience. We endured storm Freya for the first three days of the month, which consisted of extremely strong winds and rain, although the temperature stayed reasonably mild throughout.

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California (Katesgrove) Dreaming…

Hidden behind an ornate brick frontage on Milman Road stands a quietly growing giant. This giant is a tree, and not just any tree, but a Californian Redwood. It is the only tree on the street with a preservation order, thanks to efforts by local legends John and Edna Tuggey.

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Whitley garden wildlife in February

Bumblebee in crocus. Photo: David Turner

Who would have guessed, on the first day of February, when snow appeared for a few hours, that by the end of that same month we would enjoy summer conditions with temperatures reaching 20ºC most afternoons?

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Whitley urban wildlife in January

Male sparrowhawk. Photo (c) David Turner

Wildlife activity in my Whitley garden during January was good, despite the cold. There were no great surprises but there was a lot of activity. At the beginning of the year, I saw a female green woodpecker and a pair of great spotted woodpeckers, as well as a squirrel with mouthfuls of dry leaves clearly intended as nesting material.

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Winter flocks on Coley meadows

A murmuration of starlings at Gretna. Photo: Walter Baxter via Wikimedia Commons

Flocks of birds are a phenomenon that have always intrigued me. Watching how different birds go about it has fascinated me all my life. There are those obscure little flocks of twittering tits that flit about the hedgerows in winter, and there are those massive and spectacular starling murmurations that fill the dusk skies with choreographed magic.

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Whitethroats and I

Whitethroat. Photo: Nikola Middlemast

If you see me at this time of year, I am usually not walking very fast – I am scanning the fields and bushes on my regular walks looking for the common whitethroat. From spring and through the summer there are quite a few of them scattered around Reading, skulking in bushes or patches of bramble, and singing their curious scratchy little song.

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A rooftop Eden at RISC

The first of this year’s public open days at the amazing rooftop garden above the Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC) was on Saturday 7 April. There may be people in the RISC café on London Street totally unaware of the 200 square metres of Eden above their heads, and that many of the herbs and flowers from the garden are used in the café. They are missing out on something quite remarkable.

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The natural and social pictorial history of a house in Whitley

In the autumn of 1973 David Turner was told by a friend that there was a derelict detached house on the Basingstoke Road that had been empty for a few years and was up for sale.

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Hartland Road Tree Transformation

A newly planted evergreen oak

Reading Tree Wardens, volunteers from Investec Asset Finance and Reading Borough Council (RBC) trees team all took part in a tree planting day on Hartland Road in Whitley on Thursday 8 March.

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1962 air crash wreckage found at Kennet Meadows

Coley Meadows (c) Adrian Lawson

I met the owner of part of Coley meadows many years ago, and he told me a fascinating tale of two aeroplanes colliding there. He described the area where he thought they had crashed, and for many years I kept my eyes open for any sign. When the Fobney Island nature reserve was being dug I had hoped to find some evidence, but there was none. I looked it up and found a news report; the crash happened on 4 November 1962. There was no detail on the actual location, so I asked a few of the more senior residents, but strangely nobody knew much.

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Redbrick blackbird

When you hear a very loud, varied, flutey birdsong from your roof or TV aerial at sunset or sunrise in these early months of the year, then you will be most likely listening to a male blackbird. The juvenile first-year males sing in January and February and the older ones follow from around March. Quite why these sentinels of the natural world have such a boring name in English is hard to understand; there are plenty of other black-plumed avians. They are lovingly called merle in French and merl in the old Scottish dialect.

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Katesgrove’s bountiful river valley

Sadly, there are few good places on Katesgrove hill to enjoy the westward view. The steep west-facing scarp of Katesgrove hill is the edge of a river valley, and at the bottom flows the river Kennet. The river carved the valley into Reading before it became a canal, and used to run riot over a vast area of low lying land between Southcote and Whitley. The valley south and west of Katesgrove is a couple of miles wide, suddenly narrowing as it passes through two hills, Katesgrove and Coley. From the top of Katesgrove hill the view over the valley should be cherished, especially when the valley is full of floodwater and the sun sets beyond.

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The church of the shining fields

If you are out on the local roadway or on the pavements grey and you are looking for an interesting walk or a peaceful place to visit, then just over the old Whitley borders across the M4 there is a beautiful church that is almost a thousand years old.

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Oily muntjac terror strikes Katesgrove

About once a year I get awoken at the crack of dawn by the most spectacular howling outside my bedroom window. This horrific, terrified noise comes from a muntjac deer who has got itself trapped in railings on neighbouring property.

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