St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Derwenthorpe Wildwatch: April 2017

Meadow cranesbill

Our Volunteer Coordinator Maria summaries April at Derwenthorpe as well as explaining just what was involved in the Hedgehog day at St Nicks, how you can help the hedgehogs and what we hope to see in May…

We had an interesting month at Derwenthorpe, changing the usual format of the sessions for a couple of weeks in order to make the most of the Easter holidays and host some family friendly events. As well as our usual spotting walks, we have also done some pond dipping and we threw a ‘Hedgehog Day’ at St Nicks where we learned about the plight of the hedgehog and found out a few of the ways we can help.


House sparrow by the pond

House Sparrow by the pond

This month, we only carried out two spotting walks as a result of our Easter activities, however we still recorded 25 bird species altogether.  The usual residents including Carrion Crows, Robins, Magpies and Blackbirds were seen on both the 5th and the 26th (with another Blackbird fight breaking out again on the 5th!), and several Jackdaws were seen flying overhead on the 5th. Coal Tits, Great Tits, Long-tailed Tits and Blue Tits were all seen within the hedgerows that run through or around Derwenthorpe but the hedgerows on the cycle path seemed to be the most favorable. There were several Goldfinch sightings on the 26th and on the 5th there was one heard calling, though we didn’t manage to spot it. Both Starling and Chaffinch were also heard from the site but unfortunately not seen either. Bullfinches, both male and female were seen in their usual spot in the hedgerows running along Metcalf lane though weren’t seen on the 26th, possibly as a result of the lower temperatures.

Female Mallard with chicks

Female Mallard with chicks

Looking over the fields behind Metcalf lane on the 5th, we caught a fantastic sighting of a Sparrowhawk flying above the meadow looking for smaller birds on which to prey. The pond activity was very similar to what we saw in March with Herring Gulls, Moorhens, Canada Geese and Mallards seen there on a weekly basic. However, on the 12th, as we set up for our pond dipping session, we saw a family of Mallards with about 6 newly hatched chicks (very fluffy and cute). On the 26th we caught a glimpse of a House Sparrow. Sightings of House Sparrows seem to be increasing around the area so make sure you keep your eyes peeled when you walk by the old trees and hedgerows that Derwenthorpe has to offer and you might see one too.



Meadow cranesbill

Meadow Cranesbill

Towards the start of the month, Lesser Celandine and Daffodils were still to be seen in flower at Derwenthorpe. Daisies have now emerged and you can see them as you walk across the grassland areas around the site.  Green Alkanet and Germander Speedwell can still be seen by the wetland meadow but there is also now a patch of Green Alkanet growing along the cycle path and both Green Alkanet and Germander Speedwell can be found on the bank of Osbaldwick beck as well as the meadow. On the bank, there is also a lovely patch of Meadowsweet, a wetland wildflower. It hasn’t flowered yet and so can be easy to miss but it will look beautiful with its small white petals when it flowers come June-July. At St Nicks, we have planted various areas along both Tang Hall and Osbaldwick beck with Meadowsweet (among other wetland plants) as part of our Water Vole Project. It was great to find that it is further up Osbaldwick beck too as this shows us that there is a food source for Water Voles at both Derwenthorpe and St Nicks which could encourage existing Water Vole populations on either site to extend their range and hopefully form a bigger, stronger population.

Forget-me-nots, Garlic Mustard, White and Red Dead-nettle, and Silverweed are a few other species that we have


Bluebells along the cycle path

seen in a variety of locations so if you would like to take a look at any of these species, they shouldn’t be too hard to find! Thistles have started to grow around the site though we won’t see their purple flower heads until mid-summer as it is still a bit too early in the season. Interestingly, the Meadow Cranesbill near the wetland meadow has yet to flower but there have been some planted in the gardens around Derwenthorpe and these have flowered, as have some further along the cycle path. It might be that those on the wetland meadow are less established and may take longer to flower or perhaps not at all this year but we’ll certainly keep checking on them! Meadow and Creeping Buttercup, Cow Parsley and Tufted Vetch are wide spread across Derwenthorpe and can be seen commonly but they will continue to emerge further into their full glory throughout May.  Horsetail Plantain can now be seen but it is slightly less wide spread, finding it in small patches along the cycle path, beck and wetland meadow.

Another common flower that can be seen are Bluebells however, it would seem that most common at Derwenthorpe are not our native English Bluebells but the invasive Spanish Bluebells or hybrids of the two. You can tell an English Bluebell as all of its flowers will grow on one side of the stem whereas the flowers of the Spanish Bluebells are slightly less uniform and grow all around the stem. Tulips are another non-native flower that can be seen on site. There is a small patch growing on Derwent Way, next to the Bluebells. Non-native species can sometimes cause problems for our native wildlife and have to be very carefully managed however, at the moment the Tulips and Spanish Bluebells are not as damaging or aggressive as some other invasive species and so there is less focus on controlling these species.


Common carder bee on White Dead Nettle

Common Carder bee on White Dead-ettle

As we continue into spring, the number of bees we’re able to see at Derwenthorpe is ever increasing. On our two walks during April, we saw Buff-tailed, Red-tailed, Common Cader, and Tree Bumblebees, and a Tawny Mining Bee burrowing on the hay meadow on the 5th. The weather was slightly warmer on the 5th and we have two additions to our team as both a Ground Beetle and a Weevil (separately) walked along the path of the wetland meadow alongside the group. The flies are beginning to become more active as the temperature rises, we saw several common flies and Bluebottles, some flew through the air whereas other decided to bask in the sunshine. We also got a sighting of a Bee Fly and a Drone Fly (which is actually a type of hover fly). We’ve seen many 7-Spot Ladybirds, usually relaxing on the foliage among the hedgerows and wetland meadow but we also saw several 22-spot and Harlequin Ladybirds as well, generally in similar areas. White-lipped snails are common around the site and can be seen all over Derwenthorpe. Keep an eye out next time you’re wandering around the natural areas of Derwenthorpe and you’re sure to see a few. We also spotted a Nursery Web spider and a Jumping spider on the 5th, both near the wetland meadow, soaking up the sunshine.

14 spot ladybird

Harlequin Ladybird

There were fewer butterflies seen in April than expected but the two afternoons were not ideal for butterflies so I believe there will have been more spotted when we review next month’s sightings. We did however get to see Orange Tip, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and a Speckled Wood butterfly. Most of our sightings were recorded on the cycle path, probably because of the Buddleia that lines the verges there. Buddleia is sometimes referred to as the butterfly bush because it seems to be a magnet for butterflies due to the nectar – their primary food source. Next time you’re walking along the cycle path, have a look at the Buddleia bushes to see how many butterflies you can see on them.


Derwenthorpe Pond Dipping

Pond dipping

Pond dipping at Derwenthorpe

The cool and cloudy weather was no problem for us on the 12th April as we delved into the waters of Derwenthorpe. As the pond is not natural and has only recently established, there were concerns that there may be very little to see in the water but the survey was definitely a triumph and after doing just one pond, we discovered there were loads of exciting species to see! The most common species that we found included Midge larvae and pupae, Mayfly and Damselfly larvae, Freshwater Shrimp and we found a lot of water snails. There were also Lesser and Greater Water Boatman, Water Beetles and Sticklebacks as well as a few other species.

If you would like to see the different aquatic invertebrates that live in the Derwenthorpe ponds, keep an eye out online to find our when our next pond dipping session will be.


Clockwise from top left: Lesser water boatman, tail-less Damselfly larvae, Mayfly larvae, Fresh water snail

Clockwise from top left: Lesser water boatman, tail-less Damselfly larvae, Mayfly larvae, Fresh water snail


Hedgehog Day

In the lead up to ‘Hedgehog Awareness Week’ we held our first ‘Hedgehog Day’ on 19th April at St Nicks as part of the Derwenthorpe project. The day included a talk from local hedgehog rescue and care expert, Toni Bunell, who told us about the plight of hedgehogs and what we can do to help. We then completed a survey, checking mammal surveying tunnels for hedgehog footprints. Although there were no hedgehog prints found on the day, we did find them in one of the tunnels earlier in the week so we can now say for certain we’ve had a least one spiny visitor! Surveying is on-going and we hope to find a few more sets of positive hedgehog prints as the weather continues to warm and they become more active.

We also created some hedgehog homes within our woodland. We did this by using fallen logs and branches that we found on the floor of the woodland and building them up to no more than 1 foot in height but ensuring to put hedgehog sized gaps in at ground level. This will allow the hedgehog to slip in for some rest and a warm place to shelter.

Clockwise from top left: checking mammal tunnels, mammal footprints, hedgehog hand poster, hedgehog home

Clockwise from top left: checking mammal tunnels, mammal footprints, hedgehog hand poster, hedgehog home

It is thought that habitat loss is the main reason for hedgehog decline in the UK and so creating additional habitat and connecting green spaces such as St Nicks and Derwenthorpe, is extremely important. Also, creating hedgehog pathways between our gardens can help with connectivity issues and provide hedgehogs with a wider, more diverse habitat. Why not take a look at your own garden to see if there is anything you can do at home to provide an extra hog shelter or open up a passage way between your garden and your neighbour?  I’m sure there are a few prickly wanderers who would be very grateful!

If you would like to help with identifying and recording the different species that live in the beautiful, natural spaces that make up Derwenthorpe, please feel free to join us on a Wednesday afternoon, 2pm-5pm. Meet at 2pm at the Super Sustainable Centre or call 07542070466 to find out where the group are if you would like to meet later.

For more information, email or call 01904 411 821.


The Derwenthorpe Wildwatch project is funded and supported by Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust.



19 May 2017 | Categories: Derwenthorpe Wildwatch | Tags: bees, birds, counting, Derwenthorpe, environment, fauna, flora, invertebrates, Mallard, nature, plants, pond dipping, project, sightings, sparrow, survey, wildlife, York