St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 13 March 2013 – More “firsts” and mysterious footprints!

First Dandelion of 2013

First Dandelion of 2013

Weather: Sunny intervals, but mainly overcast later on. Light, cool breeze. 0C – 5C
Observers: Cavan, Doug, Eithne, Ian, Janetta, John, Kaye, Kaj, Linda, Steve

A record turn-out (10 people) required us to split into two groups. Eithne, Janetta, John and Linda went round with Kaye, whilst the rest went round with Ian. And the two groups never encountered each other, such is the maze of paths at St Nicks!

More and more signs of spring were noted, although development is possibly a little slower than this time last year. Osbalwick Beck is starting to show signs of vegetation growing in the stream, and water levels in Tang Hall Beck have returned to “normal” levels (whatever that means!) Bird song is increasing, and a few signs of potential breeding were observed. Photos in today’s post were taken by both Ian and John

Male Great Spotted Woodpecker next to Osbaldwick Beck

Male Great Spotted Woodpecker next to Osbaldwick Beck

Birds: “Best” bird of the day was, unfortunately, only seen by Ian on his pre-Wildwatch walk round Osbaldwick Beck – a male Great Spotted Woodpecker calling from a tall tree near Melrosegate. The photo doesn’t clearly show the red nape patch, but it was there, indicating a male.

Goldfinch numbers were good today, with a “charm” of about a dozen birds seen along the

Singing Robin

Singing Robin

Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track. One bird, elsewhere on the reserve, seemed to be carrying nesting material. Robins also exhibited some pre-breeding evidence, with two silent birds along the Tang Hall Beck path in close proximity to each other. If they had been males, they would have been hollering at each other! Dunnocks were also singing in several locations. We’ll be looking out in the coming

Dunnock next to Osbaldwick Beck

Dunnock next to Osbaldwick Beck

weeks for Dunnocks chasing each other during their mating rituals.

The tit family are still roaming round in their winter feeding flocks. Both Blue and Great Tits were seen together in small groups, whilst a single Coal Tit was seen on the Environment Centre feeders. Long-tailed Tits were also seen in small flocks, although not associating with the other tits.

Long-tailed Tit next to Osbaldwick Beck

Long-tailed Tit next to Osbaldwick Beck

Other singing birds included Song Thrush (one near the Dragon Stones), Bullfinches, House Sparrows, Wrens (in several locations) and Greenfinches. As yet, Chaffinches haven’t been singing (seen but not heard on the reserve), but they have been heard in other parts of York.

In the skies were two Greylag Geese, both Black-headed and Herring Gull, two Starlings and Carrion Crows. Linda saw what she thought might have been a Sparrowhawk, but she couldn’t identify it with enough confidence for it to be included on our list. Completing our tally of 23 species were Blackbird (still not singing!), Mallard (a pair on Osbaldwick Beck), Magpie and – of course – Woodpigeon!

(left) Black-headed Gull (right) Herring Gull

(left) Black-headed Gull (right) Herring Gull

Blossom of Prunus species

Blossom of Prunus species

Plants and Fungi:  The only change from last week is that we found our first Dandelion along the Tang Hall Beck path, and remembered to look for possible Daisies in the play area – just one was visible from the path.  Otherwise, it’s the same old list.  Catkins of Alder, Aspen, Hazel and at least two Willow varieties are plentiful, with yet more to come.  There are still lots of Snowdrops, plus small Crocuses and Primroses in the Centre garden.

Some of our lovely Gorse flowers!

Some of our lovely Gorse flowers!

Sunny spells over the past week have brought out just a few more Celandines and Coltsfoots, but neither species is into full flower yet.  The old faithfuls, Lungwort, Gorse, White Dead-nettle and Prunus blossom complete the week’s flower list.  Buds are swelling, more and more Elder and Hawthorn leaves are out in sheltered spots, and the Horse Chestnut buds are very sticky. As soon as the weather turns a bit milder, this section will suddenly change!

An unusual circular fungus was found, but it couldn’t be identified, so it’s been added to our photo portfolio for possible future identification.. although ID from photos can’t always be made.

Unidentified, unusual-looking fungus

Unidentified, unusual-looking fungus

Grey Squirrel near Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track

Grey Squirrel near Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track

Mammals: As usual, we recorded several Grey Squirrels, and a single Rabbit.

Down at the Sluice Bridge, there were some very clear prints of a small mammal. Photos were sent to The Mammals Society, but, since there was no size indicator, it was not possible to determine whether they were Brown Rat or Water Vole, both of which have been recorded at that location in the past few months. The next time we see such prints, we’ll try to put a size indicator, such as a coin, next to the prints. Ian and Kaye are wondering who is going to be lowered down the steep bank to place a coin! Or, maybe, we’ll try to drop one in “wishing well” style!

Small mammal footprints next to the Sluice Bridge. Water Vole? Brown Rat? We can't be sure yet

Small mammal footprints next to the Sluice Bridge. Water Vole? Brown Rat? We can't be sure yet

15 March 2013 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: breeding, first Dandelion of 2013, Great spotted woodpecker, long-tailed tit