Weather: Cloudy, cold (0 C), slight NW wind, snow starting at the end of the walk
Observers: Ian, Janetta, Kaye, Linda, Steve
Well, we just about beat the snow, which started when we’d nearly finished our morning walk, and continued for the rest of the afternoon. It certainly felt very cold, with a nip in the breeze. Water levels in both becks had dropped significantly over the past two weeks. We noted what a contrast it was between the bare, muddy margins of the becks, and the lush vegetation that will emerge in just two or three months. And it’s just starting to emerge. There are more and more signs that Spring is on its way – despite what the weather is telling us!
It was time, today, for our monthly “Winter Thrush Survey”, which we are carrying out as part of a national survey for the British Trust for Ornithology. So, after a quick visit to Osbaldwick Beck to admire the “Grey Heron” (see below!), we followed the pre-set thrush survey route along the Bund Path, along both sides of Tang Hall Beck and returning to the Environment Centre via the Butterfly Path.
Birds: Typically on these monthly Winter Thrush surveys, thrushes seemed to be a little scarce! Steve, on his way into the Environment Centre, saw two Redwings, but these couldn’t be counted in the survey, because Osbaldwick Beck wasn’t along our survey route. Ian, on his pre-wildwatch walk, recorded a singing Song Thrush, perched on low bushes, just behind the Environment Centre, which was, just about on our survey route. But Blackbirds seemed to be scarcer in numbers than on previous weeks, and we counted about 18 of these birds for our survey.
One bird which did seem plentiful was Bullfinch. There were two pairs around the Environment Centre feeders, and we encountered perhaps three of four other pairs in the reserve. One male, in particular, seemed brighter that most. It really is a stunning British bird!
Bird song was good today, despite the grim weather conditions. Robins were singing in many locations, as were Dunnocks. Wrens, too, were in good numbers; we only saw one, but heard about six singing birds.
We still have winter feeding Tit flocks.. 6 to 8 Blue Tits were in a couple of trees along the Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track, and Great Tits were scattered, and singing around the reserve. But we saw only two Long-tailed Tits.
Greenfinches seem to have recovered in numbers, with a few singing birds along the Tang Hall Beck Path, and at least five in a tree near the Playground. There were just two Goldfinches near Osbaldwick Beck, but the Siskins seem to have deserted us. Have they eaten all the Alder seeds?
There were no Mallards on Osbaldwick Beck this week, but two were on the far end of Tang Hall Beck, along with a single Moorhen, which we haven’t seen for a few weeks. Overhead were a few Black-headed Gulls, about four Herring Gulls (including two immature birds), and a single Carrion Crow. And, of course, we recorded the usual Woodpigeons and a good number of Magpies, one of which was actively feeding on the ground near the Wild Flower Meadow.
And, last, but not least, was the sight that Ian had of a Grey Heron, along Osbaldwick Beck. At least, that’s what he thought! He approached it very carefully, taking a few photographs of it, as it stood by the side of the beck, watching carefully for fish. Then, as he got closer and closer, he was surprised that it never moved. Yes.. Linda had struck again, following up on her triumph with the plastic Kingfisher a couple of months ago with a very realistic plastic Grey Heron! And, on the return visit, Steve was also briefly taken in by it! Sadly, it can’t be included in our modest bird species total of 19 for the day!
Plants: Two new signs of spring are the first Lungwort flowers at the edge of one of the woodland paths, and a few opening flowers on Prunus sp along the Bund. There are a few more Snowdrops along Osbaldwick Beck, but the Tang Hall Beck patch is no further out than last week. Alder, Hazel and Willow catkins continue to be very variable, with some fully open and others barely started. There’s still no sign of those elusive female Hazel flowers, but then with other things to do, we didn’t search very thoroughly. Hawthorn and Elder leaves are no longer restricted to particularly sheltered spots, though as we noticed last year, the younger shrubs seem to start earlier than the mature ones. White Dead Nettle, Gorse and the Centre Primroses complete the flower count. Other emerging leaves include Salad Burnet on the edge of the meadow, and Chives near the culvert.
Mammals: The same as last week – a single sighting of Grey Squirrel