St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 10 April 2013 – At Last.. Signs Of Spring!

Small Tortoiseshell - one of our first butterflies of the year

Small Tortoiseshell – one of our first butterflies of the year

Weather: Cloudy at first, then sunny. Little wind. 5C to 11C
Observers: Eithne, Ian, Kaye, Kaj, Linda

Last week, our blog headline was “Has Spring Been Cancelled?”. What a change this week! It felt pleasantly warm, especially when the sun was shining. And there were signs of Spring everywhere. This resulted in several “firsts” for the year.. details below.

Preening Bullfinch (male)

Preening Bullfinch (male)

We decided this week to do a small survey of three of our regular breeding birds, to map where potential breeding sites might be. We can then repeat the survey in a few weeks time to see if there have been any changes. We covered most of the reserve in detail, except the central, grassy area. And we were, of course, not just looking for these three species, but noting everything that we saw or heard.

Birds: “Bird of the day” was undoubtedly Chiffchaff – our first returning summer visitor. We all heard the bird in various locations near the Kingfisher Culvert, but later, three of us saw and heard Chiffchaff by Osbaldwick Beck. It’s possible that there were two individuals, but we can’t be certain.. birds have wings!

Singing Robin - near the Environment Centre

Singing Robin – near the Environment Centre

Our survey covered three of our regular breeding birds: Robin, Wren and Bullfinch. In all, we counted Robins in 12 places, Wrens in 7 places and Bullfinches in 4 places. Later this year, when we’ve done more survey work, we’ll publish a map of the locations on this blog.

Blackbirds have, at last, started to sing, and there were at least two, possibly three Song Thrushes on the reserve. Dunnocks were also very vocal, and three birds were seen chasing each other around the Environment Centre

Song Thrush - by Osbaldwick Beck

Song Thrush – by Osbaldwick Beck

garden. Members of the tit family are now only being see in ones or twos, and we recorded Great, Blue, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, with two of the latter in full song by Osbaldwick Beck.

One surprising find was two Starlings, perched near the Butterfly Path. Normally, sightings of this species are restricted to fly-over birds. Other small birds seen or heard today included Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch (a pair)

Woodpigeons - near the Environment Centre

Woodpigeons – near the Environment Centre

and House Sparrow. There were, of course, plenty of Magpies and Wood Pigeons with a few Carrion Crows and a single Collared Dove. A single Mallard was on Tang Hall Beck, where there was also a single Sparrowhawk, flying very high. Other fly-over birds were Black-headed and Herring Gulls (the latter calling continuously and a single Greylag Goose. In all, a total of 25 species were recorded this morning by some or all of the Wildwatch Group.

Chionodoxa in grass near the Bund Path Steps

Chionodoxa in grass near the Bund Path Steps

Plants:  There is just a little progress in the form of one or two Daffodils out along Osbaldwick Beck in a couple of woodland areas, and Chionodoxa in grass opposite the Bund steps. Both are cultivated varieties. Dandelions are starting to come out in the Tang Hall Beck area, though cautiously with never more than one flower per plant. Coltsfoots and Lesser Celandines are at last fully out – the former particularly good along the Bund path; the latter easiest to see just outside the Centre gates.

Willow catkins by Osbaldwick Beck

Willow catkins by Osbaldwick Beck

The Snowdrops still linger, Lungwort is probably at its best, and male Willow catkins have put out their stamens.  The Gorse patch continues in bloom, and the absence of White Dead-nettle from the list  has more to do with Kaye failing to check all sites than with the actual occurrence of the plant. Bud-burst on deciduous trees and shrubs continues, though the impression of intensifying greenness is still more to do with fattening and colouring buds rather than actual leaves.

Common Newt in the Environment Centre Pond

Common Newt in the Environment Centre Pond

Mammals & Amphibians: Grey Squirrel was seen in a number of places, but, back at the Environment Centre, we were pleased to see at least four Common Newts. But no sign yet of any frogs or frogspawn.

Insects: At last we have some insects to report! Several Bumble Bees were seen, although, due to the small number of flowers, they were not landing, so we couldn’t tell which species they were.

And we saw our first butterflies! Just outside the Environment Centre we saw a Speckled Wood and, just as Ian was leaving, he saw a Brimstone. Sunning itself on the Environment Centre lawn was a Small Tortoiseshell.

Coltsfoots along the Bund Path

Coltsfoots along the Bund Path

11 April 2013 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: Brimstone, Bullfinch, butterflies, Coal Tit, Lesser Celendine, robin, small tortoiseshell, sparrowhawk, Speckled Wood.Chiffchaff, wren