August was a fairly warm month with temperatures varying between 16 and 21 degrees Celsius. Generally the afternoons were rather overcast but on the 16th we had a particular warm and sunny afternoon. September was slightly cooler, the temperature stayed around 15 degrees each week and like August the afternoons were overcast for the most part. However we did manage to record a large number species despite the dull conditions, some we had not seen before so it was a very exciting two months for the Derwenthorpe Wildwatch volunteers.
We did not see an awful lot of birds over August and September. This could be down to several different factors; summer visitors start to migrate around this time of year yet the foliage of the trees is still quite thick and so it can be tricky to see and identify the birds that are still around. However there were the old familiar species that we saw on the majority of our spotting walks including Robins, Carrion Crows, Magpies, Blackbirds, Dunnocks, Wrens, Great Tits and Blue Tits.
Around the pond, we spotted the resident Mallards on a weekly basis along with the Coots and Moorhens. House Sparrows were seen on the 2nd, 9th and 16th August but we didn’t see any of a Wednesday afternoon throughout September. We saw a Pied Wagtail on the 2nd August, first around the pond and then again later in front of the Super Sustainable Centre and we saw a juvenile on the 9th. We were able to see Canada Geese and Black Headed Gulls most weeks and the less common Herring Gulls were seen on 9th and 23rd August. Also on the 9th we saw Swallows and House Martins flying across the pond and on the 30th August we saw both Swallows and Swifts.
We had a real treat in August and we spotted the elusive Kingfisher two weeks in a row, fishing in Osbaldwick beck- both weeks in the same spot! We also saw several Long-tailed Tits along the beck on 16th August. Long-tailed Tits were also seen in the hedgerows near the back of the wetland meadow on the 13th September just after we spotted something very exciting; a Kestrel, hovering in the distance! Bullfinches were seen on about half of our afternoons in their usual spot near the wetland meadow and on the 16th and 23rd August we spied a Blackcap. Though we did not spot it again in the next 5 weeks, we did hear it singing on the 6th September.
Along the cycle path, we saw a Collard Dove for the first time at Derwenthorpe on 30th August and a Cole Tit was spotted there the following week. We also saw several Chiffchaffs, two on the cycle path on the 6th September and another in the hay meadow on the 20th.
Plants were slightly easier than birds to see over August and September though many have begun to die back as the weather has cooled down. Hedge Mustard could be found in the hay meadow along with Mugwort, Black Medic, Yarrow, Common Sou Thistles, Birds Foot Trefoil, Feverfew and the remainder of that dreaded Himalayan Balsam.
We also found bits of Birds Foot Trefoil in dispersed patches all along the cycle path. The Rose Bay Willow-herb could also still be seen along the cycle path but this had started to die back toward the end of September and though not as common, there were also some Greater Willow-herb plants to be seen. The Common Mallow was still in flower with its distinctive pink petals and though the flowers were few and far between, there were plenty of Creeping Cinquefoil leaves still to be found along the cycle path, noticeable from their five leaved pattern. There were still patches of St John’s Wort that could be seen throughout August but this again started to die back by the end of September. There were a few sparse patches of Tufted Vetch that remained in flower, providing some food for the pollinators that were still around and we also spotted some Meadow Vetchling both on the cycle path and near the pond. August also saw the last of the Common Knapweed, Buddleia and Nipplewort however there was plenty of White Dead Nettle and Red Clover in flower at the end of September. Hedge Woundwort was also found to still be in flower along the cycle path and there were still some great patches of this, even at the end of September. Spear Thistles too were still flowering across the site until the end of September; another food source for the pollinators that could still be found.
Around the pond, Purple Loosestrife could still be seen displaying its lovely purple flowers. Compact Rush and Red Clover were also still to be found flowering in the pond. Flowering Rush could be seen but by the end of September had gone over as had the Water Mint, though its leaves still smelled wonderful.
In the wetland meadow we saw the last of the Wood Avens and Chamomile but the White Dead Nettle, Meadow Buttercup, Common Sou Thistle, Spear Thistles, Mugwort and Herb Robert could still be seen even at the end of September. We also found a patch of Scarlet Pimpernel along the Metcalf Lane that remained in flower which was a beautiful display of red the yellow Sou Thistle it was growing near.
Along Metcalf Lane there was still a large amount of Horse Hair growing and a few patches of Ragwort which the hoverflies seemed to very much appreciate. There were also patches of Ragwort growing along the banks of Osbaldwick beck, along with a small patch of Herb Robert. The leaves of the Colts Foot remained on the banks but it was slightly too late in the season to see their yellow flowers, however the Black Medic was still in flower through September. We also saw what we identified as Cut Leaf Cranesbill growing not far from the bank so there was still colour to be seen along the beck.
We saw fewer butterflies than we anticipated over the two months, particularly throughout August but the occasional Speckled Wood was spotted on our walks and Large Whites were seen on several afternoons. A Small Tortoise Shell was seen one week and a Gatekeeper was spotted by the beck on another. Small Whites however were spotted well into September as were Red Admirals which were seen on most afternoons throughout August and September. Again, there were fewer moths recorded than previous months but there were a few macro moths spotted, particularly around the pond.
Hoverfly numbers also seemed to decrease. We saw the Footballer Hoverfly on several afternoons in August but none were seen as we entered September. Xylota segnis could still be spotted rather frequently having recorded them on quite a few afternoons throughout August and September and Marmalade hoverflies were also commonly found.
Azure damselflies were spotted on a few of our afternoons in both August and September as were Common Darters and we saw a Common Blue damselfly on one of our walks around the pond in August.
We saw a quite a few bee species on our spotting walks during August. Of the bumblebees we saw Buff-tails, Early and Garden bumblebees, and Common Carders and we also spotted quite a few Honey bees. Though numbers dropped in September, Common Carder bees could still be seen regularly and Honey bees we spotted in the first couple of weeks too. There were also an increasing number of wasps recorded throughout August and September. On one afternoon we even saw a Digger wasp praying on a House fly.
We saw Flesh flies in the hay meadow on four of afternoons across the two months and Blue and Green Bottles were both seen regularly. Towards the end of August we started to see Craneflies emerge but as we entered September they came out in full force. On the 6th the hay meadow was so full of Craneflies that it was impossible to take a step without disturbing a few. There were also some great Sawfly sightings during August and September including the Figwort Sawfly and Tenthredo mesomelas.
We saw quite a few Harlequin ladybirds over the two months with numbers particularly high in the last week of August and the first week of September. We also saw 7-Spotted ladybirds on several walks and a Cream Spotted ladybird one afternoon near the wetland meadow. Whirligig beetles could be seen frequently on the surface of the beck and we got a great sighting of a Long Horned beetle one afternoon in September.
It wasn’t a bad couple of months for shield bugs. We saw a young Common Green shield bug one afternoon that was yet to enter adulthood. We also saw not only Woundwort shield bugs, but a large number of Woundwort shield bug nymphs on one of our walks along the cycle path. Parent shield bugs and Hawthorn shield bugs were also spotted.
Grasshoppers were still present in the hay meadow until mid-August. We saw Frog Hoppers on most of our afternoons throughout August and one or two in September and Leaf Hoppers we also recorded in late September.
We saw quite a few spiders over the two months though most of these were Garden spiders building their webs around the pond in September. In fact, it was difficult to move around the pond without walking through a web! We also spotted a few Harvestman spiders and Nursery Web spiders were seen on 5 of our spotting walking over August and September.
When we turned over some of the logs and stones that lay around the site we saw a few Rough and Shiny Woodlice, though not as many as we would have expected- perhaps because the site is still establishing. We also saw a couple of Flat Back Centipedes and a Snake Millipede. Banded snails and Garden snails were very commonly found on sight having been spotted each week.
On the 30th August we did a final pond dipping session and found some really exciting invertebrates. As we did on the previous pond dipping session, we found Water Boatman, Fresh Water Shrimp, Damselfly larvae, Midge larvae, bivalves, Leeches, Pond Skaters, Sticklebacks, Case Caddisfly larvae, Water Hog-lice, pond spiders, pond snails, and a Creeping Water Bug. However this time we found a few additional species as well including a Water Scorpion, a Dragonfly larvae and a Water Stick insect.
Frogs were quite commonly spotted on our walks through the hay meadow and we had several reports of foxes from residents over the two months. We also had the very exciting find of Smooth Newts towards the end of September settled under some stones on site which had the group very giddy indeed.
[Ed: In the excitement of the find the group and an earlier version of the blog misidentified these youngsters as Common Lizards but they are juvenile newts – to see the difference check out this page on Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK. Still, it’s pretty exciting to find newts too!]