May brought us varying temperatures from 12 degrees on a particularly wet afternoon to 23 degrees on a particularly sunny afternoon. Still, there was plenty to see around the site throughout the month with some old, familiar species being spotted along with some new arrivals as well. June was a slightly warmer month with temperatures between 17 and 23 degrees. There was no session on Wednesday 28th June but this was a particularly wet afternoon so hopefully we did not miss too much.
The usual resident breeding birds including Dunnock, Blackbird, Robin, Blue tit, Great tit and Wren were all seen regularly during our spotting walks. Long tailed tits were also seen on five out of our seven afternoons and the Bullfinches seen on six, showing us that they can still be spotted commonly around the site. On the 3rd May, as well as the Bullfinches, we also saw a pair of Greenfinches and a Chaffinch, these were spotted again on 14th June and we had a third Chaffinch sighting on 21st. A Blackcap was heard singing on the 17th however we didn’t get a sighting of one until the following week where we caught a glimpse whilst walking along the hedgerows on Metcalf Lane, also spotted on the 7th and 14th June. There were also a few sightings of Chiffchaffs, at the start of May on the 3rd and again on 24th and on the 14th and 21st June we saw one (maybe two but the second sighting was not confirmed) as we walked along the Wetland Meadow. Another great spot at the wetland meadow was of about 4 Tree sparrows on 24th May, a somewhat elusive bird around St Nicks and Derwenthorpe so it was a real treat to see a few of them sat in an elder tree together. House sparrows however have been seen each week along with Magpies, Carrion crows and Wood Pigeons. House sparrows were another species once thought of to be elusive but it seems there is a thriving population at Derwenthorpe and you can usually see one or two around the pond.
Throughout May and June the usual pond residents could be seen each week including the Mallards, Canada geese and Moorhens however on the 3rd May, along with the usual, fully matured birds, you could also see about 5 Moorhen chicks and about 6 goslings. There was also the arrival of the Coots in the pond in May and on the 10th, we even saw one chase away an adult Moorhen, possibly fighting over food. The Coots have also had their chicks but we did not get our first sightings of these until mid-June, at which point there where 7 newly hatched chicks. At the start of May, the Starlings were still on site and we did get a few sightings of these near to the pond on the 3rd and 10th. At the end of May we saw the arrival of the Swallows, Swifts and House Martins, all seen flying overhead on the 24th and 31st. The House Martins have been seen on a weekly basis during June and the swallows were regular as well, only having not seen them on the 14th. Another bird spotted from afar was a Sparrow hawk which we got a great
sighting of on the 10th May hovering above the grassland area in front of the centre. We were also lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a White Throat on the 24th May; it was chirping away for quite some time before we managed to spot it though! Sightings of the White throat have been fairly infrequent over the last few years around St Nicks and so it is great to know they are now using both the Derwenthorpe site and St Nicks. Another St Nicks rarity we spotted was a Pied Wagtail. We saw the Wagtail first on the 7th June near the Energy Centre and then again the week after by the pond only this week it had a juvenile with it, both shaking their tail feathers frequently. A treat indeed for the Wildwatch group.
At the start of May there were still a few late Bluebells and Lesser Celandines to be seen around the site. The Green Alkanet and Tufted Vetch were still in flower to the pollinator’s delight as well as the very common Meadow and Creeping buttercups. The Germander Speedwells clung on until the end of May but Wood Avens and Silverweed came into flower to replace them so you will still be able to see a few of their lovely yellow flowers in various places around Derwenthorpe. June saw the emergence of hedge woundwort which is also growing commonly across the sight. There is a brilliant patch of Russian comfrey on the cycle path that the bees absolutely love; you can always see a few gleaning the nectar from the white flowers. Red Dead-nettle, Forget-me-nots and Garlic Mustard could still be seen commonly providing a good source of pollen across the site. The Meadow Cranesbills were still out in their full glory both along the wetland meadow and in the front gardens. There was plenty of Horsetail to be seen along the cycle path over May and June. Horsetail is sometimes referred to as a ‘living fossil’ as it is a derivative of much larger plants belonging to the same family, Equisetaceae. Plants from the Equisetaceae family grew up to 30 meters high and dominated the understory of the late Mesozoic period forests. Horsetail the only surviving genus from this family and records of it date back around 150 million years.
Also along the cycle path Thistles, Ribwort plantain and Knapweed have come into flower. The Buddleia flowers emerged and we even spotted an excellent Jelly ear specimen on one of them. We saw Groundsel, Camomile, Poppies, Hedge Mustard and Rosebay Willowherb emerge along the Wetland meadow. Along the side of the meadow there is a Red Hot Poker growing, though this is not a native species and so is most likely a garden escape. The pond was a glorious display as the Flag Iris flowered and we discovered some water mint growing there which smelled absolutely wonderful. There is also a mass of Brooklime growing in the water and some smaller patches of it growing along the beck. Further along the beck we found a patch of Yellow Rocket which looked lovely in the sunshine with its bright yellow flowers. The Meadowsweet came into flower in June but unfortunately, so did plenty of Himalayan Balsam. Balsam is a highly invasive species, that spreads very quickly and easily by seed; a single plant can disperse
up to 800 seeds which can then be carried by people, wildlife and can be washed further downstream in watercourses. Balsam is highly tolerant, grows quickly and can each height of 10 feet, as such it can out-compete other valuable species and can quickly monopolise a bank side or any other habitat. As it holds little wildlife value for our native British wildlife, Balsam is thought of as a problem species and spread needs to be controlled. At St Nicks we hold Balsam Bashing sessions in order to remove as much as we can before it goes to seed towards the middle of summer.
On the other side of Derwenthorpe, near the hay meadow, the wild strawberries had started fruiting and in the meadow we identified Shepherd’s Purse.
We were able to see a variety of butterfly species across May and June with Small and Large White, Green Veined White, Orange Tip, Brimstone, Small Tortoise Shell, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Holly Blue, Comma, Ringlet, Red Admiral and Small Skipper butterflies all being spotted and one volunteer thought she had her first sighting of the year of a Painted Lady on the 21st June. We also saw Mint moths and a variety of Macro moths.
We were successful in our bee findings having seen various bumblebees including the Common Carder, Buff-tailed, Garden and Tree bumblebee. We also spotted Honey bees, Early- mining bees and a Nomad bee.
The rise in the temperature over May and June seemed to increase the number of flies we encountered on our spotting walks. There were many Blue and Green-bottles around the sight and Flesh flies were also commonly seen. Some of our other winged friends spotted include Common and Spotted Crane flies, Azure Damsel flies and several Lacewings. There were also several hoverfly species recorded including the Marmalade hoverfly, Drone flies and, Eristalis pertinax.
The 7-spot, 14-spot, 22-spot, and Harlequin ladybird were all spotted in various places around Derwenthorpe so we had a variety of ladybird colours, shapes and sizes! The Cardinal Beetles were also showing their bright red colours off with many recorded throughout the month along with many other soldier beetles, ground beetles and a weevil too. Along the cycle path we got a good sighting of a Parent bug, a type of Shield bug, on both the 17th and the 24th May and we saw a Green Shield Bug on the 7th June in a very similar area. The group are still brushing up on their spider identification but we successfully identified an Orb spider and a Cucumber spider on the cycle path and the Nursery web spider which seems to be quite common across the site.
Though we haven’t seen any Frog Hoppers, it was clear that they had been on site as they left behind their trademark spit like substance and that could be seen commonly in the hedgerows that run through the site.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01904 411 821.
The Derwenthorpe Wildwatch project is funded and supported by Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust.