March saw not only the arrival of spring but the beginning of our regular Wildwatch sessions at Derwenthorpe. Although the sessions will be led by myself for the most part, I would like to say a huge thank you to our Nature Reserve Manager, Jonathan Dent, who has done all the hard work to get such an exciting project up and running and to everyone who has joined us since in order to collect those wildlife records -because really, that’s what it is all about!
The weather was as fickle and unpredictable as ever during March, we had everything from gloriously bright and clear afternoons to raining, grey ones. Even so we have still managed to record a very reasonable number of species over the last month.
Despite unstable weather conditions our feathered friends were still to be found around Derwenthorpe. There were a few regulars spotted each week including Robins, Wood Pigeons, Carrion Crows and Blackbirds. On two separate afternoons we bore witness to a pair of male Blackbirds having a full scale fight near the cycle path!
In the pond we seem to have some resident Mallards, Canada Geese, and Moorhens with both Black-headed and Herring Gulls spotted each week too. Dunnocks and Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tail Tits have all been seen on a regular basis amongst the scrub and the hedgerows. On two afternoons we caught sight of a Goldfinch. The first sighting (on the first!), we saw about 5 on an old Elder tree off the cycle track as you enter Derwenthorpe. The second sighting was of just one Goldfinch in the hedgerow along Derwent Mews and Metcalf Lane on the 29th. Further along Metcalf Lane in the hedgerow leading to the wetland meadow, a male and female Bullfinch were seen on the 1st, 8th and 15th. If you would like to see bullfinches this hedgerow seems to be the place to do it.
We also got a fantastic glimpse of a Treecreeper on the 1st and although this was the only sighting in March (and admittedly it was on a bird feeder) there were several seen in February on the Derwenthorpe Wildwatch taster sessions, perhaps in order to show everyone what delights you can expect to see on a Wednesday afternoon at Derwenthorpe!
Though spring was just settling in during March there is already promise of some beautiful displays of flowers and foliage across Derwenthorpe this year. Towards the end of February to mid-March, the Snowdrops emerged in full force, providing an important food source for early pollinators in many areas across the site. The Daffodils were not far to follow. Arrays of Daffodils can still be seen commonly around the site now and will probably be there until well into April.
The path edges with Cow Parsley leaves, some of which started to flower towards the end of March and it will continue to do so as we move further into April. There was also a lot of Garlic Mustard, Creeping and Meadow Buttercup and White and Red Dead Nettle to be found along the paths and hedgerows which also began to flower in the later weeks though I expect we may have to wait until April to see these plants in their full glory. Earlier on in the month we spotted Butterburs along Osbaldwick beck. This plant produces clusters of pale pink flowers in late winter or early spring, before it even produces its leaves! You can still see these along the beck now.
Lining the hedgerows of Metcalf Lane you can see Lords-and-Ladies, these plants have yet to flower as it is still a little early in the season. The edge of the Wetland meadow has provided us with some lovely views over March as we were able to see the brilliant blue flowers of both Germander Speedwells and Green Alkanet.
Though not quite in flower yet, you can see Vetch, Silverweed and Meadow Cranesbill leaves along the meadow but we will not see their flowers emerge until early summer. For-get-me-nots have also been recorded this month though less commonly than some of the other plants and flowers around Derwenthorpe. If you would like to see this lovely little flower, you can still spot them along the hedgerow on Derwent Mews. Lesser Celandine however can still be spotted all around Derwenthorpe. It is growing abundantly along the beck and the hedgerows of Metcalf Lane and along various other paths across the site. It has a lovely yellow flower that you will be able to see perhaps even as late as May.
The cooler, wetter afternoons may have put off many invertebrates this month but there were still a few that decided to present themselves to us and you can always find them if you know where to look. As there was not much to be seen from the path, we took to looking in the more over-grown areas, turning a few stones and logs in order to see what lay beneath. This often reveals a utopia for invertebrates and it was no different at Derwenthorpe.
Under just one stone, just off of the Cycle Path near the Super Sustainable Centre on the 1st, there were several species of slugs and snails, rough and shiny woodlice, a centipede, three snake millipedes, and two harvestmen. Under another we also revealed a rather disgruntled Harlequin ladybird and a Ground Beetle as well as the usual frequenters of logs and stones. Along with Harlequin Ladybirds we also saw 7 Spotted Ladybirds this month with most of these being found on the vegetation growing along the cycle path. We did see a Striped Woodlouse but only as it fell out of a discarded bottle at the end of the cycle path. Only one species of butterfly was recorded over March as we caught a glimpse of a Small Tortoiseshell on the 15th and again on the 29th though there should be plenty on our records for April as the weather continues to warm up. We did only slightly better with Bees having recorded three different species of Bumblebee, Buff-tail, White-tail and the Common Carder Bee, but again, numbers should increase as the weather gets warmer!
We saw both Grey Squirrels and a Rabbit on two afternoons in March however Rabbit droppings were seen each week, particularly abundant on the hay meadow (but that is no surprise as Rabbit burrows are also visible in the meadow). There have also been possible mole hills spotted on the meadow and near to the beck. Though not seen on our Wednesday afternoon sessions there have been various reports of Foxes and Frogs around the site and even several Deer sightings in the meadows beyond Metcalf Lane!
If you would like to help with identifying and recording the different species that live in the beautiful, natural spaces of Derwenthorpe, please feel free to join us there of 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01904 411 821.
The Derwenthorpe Wildwatch project is funded and supported by Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust.