Weather: Thin cloud, calm, cold (-2C)
Observers: Ian, Kaye, Roger
It was certainly a bit nippy today! But the persisting frost added a new dimension to St Nicks, with everything glistening white and shining, despite the dull light. The calm air encouraged the birds to come out and show themselves, and the plants and trees looked magnificent in the frost. Surprisingly, quite a few trees and shrubs still had green leaves; we’re not quite sure why this was – and, no, they weren’t just coniferous trees!
We initially did a circuit of Osbaldwick Beck, and then headed out, past the Kingfisher Culvert, went down to the Kingfisher Watch Point and then headed out to the Sluice Bridge. No Kingfishers in the first two “named” locations, but read on..!
Birds: There was a record number of ten Mallards on “Ossie” Beck – 6 drakes and 4 ducks. Bullfinches were seen down there, as they were in a number of other locations on the reserve. Also along the beck were Wren, Moorhen, Blackbird, House Sparrow (also near the Environment Centre), Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits (12 of the latter), Chaffinch, Robin and Dunnock. Quite a few of these species we saw elsewhere on the reserve – especially, Bullfinch, whose numbers seem to be building in weeks.
Down near the Dragon Stones, we observed a sizeable (20+?) flock of Goldfinches, which were associating with a flock of about 12 Siskins. A Song Thrush was briefly seen from the path between the Kingfisher Culvert and the Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track.
We stopped a few places along the Cycle Track, and at one of them, not far from the Sluice Bridge, Roger glimpsed a blue flash flying upstream.. Kingfisher! A passing cyclist also stopped to tell us that he’d seen this bird. This was very good news, because, although there had been a couple of sightings on Osbaldwick Beck in recent weeks, this was the first sighting of this species on Tang Hall Beck since early May this year. We know that Kingfishers have bred on the River Foss, so this is possibly one of the juveniles from a brood that has been forced out by its parents to find new fishing grounds. There is a chance that we’ll get more sightings of this lovely species in the coming months.
Crows.. who can get excited by them? Yet, in recent weeks, we’ve seen very few Carrion Crows actually on the reserve! But they were more numerous this week, with two feeding on the frosty Wild Flower Meadow (no flowers!), with Magpies contesting the feeding area. Flying over the reserve were about 7 Herring Gulls and a single Black-headed Gull. And not’s let forget the humble and ever-present Wood Pigeon! 21 bird species today.. not a bad count for a cold and frosty morning!
Plants and Fungi: The vegetation this morning provided a different kind of interest – dead umbellifer stalks still standing tall but turned into natural Christmas decorations by the frost; fallen leaves massed into hollows but with each individual leaf edged in white; surviving greenery at ground level with its detail beautifully highlighted with frost patterns. As for flowers, true to prediction we found one single iced-up White Dead Nettle. We hope to announce the formal winners next week!
Despite the cold conditions, some fungi still persisted, with a fine collection on a tree along Osbaldwick Beck.
Mammals: Just the usual suspect.. Grey Squirrel!