Weather: Overcast, cool, slight S. breeze
Observers: Alex, German, Ian, Janetta, Kaye, Linda, Lindsay
Three new people swelled the Wildwatch group to seven people today, so, after a walk round Osbaldwick Beck, we split into two parties. Ian, Alex, German and Lindsay went off to concentrate on bird life, whilst Kaye, Linda and Janetta focused their attention on plants.
There was a lot of Spring activity around the reserve today – both bird and plant life. Leaves are sprouting on many bushes and trees, and there was plenty of bird song.
Birds: The pair of Magpies were still busy building their large nest along Osbaldwick Beck, and at the far end of Tang Hall Beck, a pair of Long-tailed Tits were collecting feathers and other nest materials, and flying into a low bush. Bullfinches seemed to be establishing territories, and we saw two pairs in one tree, with the males chasing each other. Dunnocks were flitting round in threes and fours, playing their complicated mating games! Great Tits were also flying round in what looked like chases, but whether it was courtship or male rivalry we weren’t certain.
Robins were also singing well today, with their songs having a piercing quality when you were close to them. Other woodland birds seen today included Blue Tit, Wren (in at least three locations), House Sparrow (in their usual location North of the playground and, unusually, at the far end of the Tang Hall Beck path) and a single female Chaffinch. Wood Pigeons were, of course, everywhere, but we didn’t see any signs of courtship.
Surprisingly, there was still no Blackbird song, although there were plenty of them around. None of the males seemed to have the dark beaks, suggesting birds of Scandinavian origin, so maybe they’ve departed. Some Winter visitors still remained, however. A flock of four Lesser Redpolls were feeding on Willow catkins along the Tang Hall Beck path, ignoring their usual diet of Alder cones, and four Fieldfares flew over the playground. In addition to the Fieldfares, Carrion Crow and six Herring Gulls were other “fly-over” birds.
Water birds were thin on the ground (or should that be water!), with a single Moorhen on Osbaldwick Beck, and an unwelcome drake Mallard on the Environment Centre pond. It was quickly shooed away, because it was almost certainly after the frogspawn (see below).
Saving the best to the last, we all met up at the now-favourite Tang Hall Beck viewing point, and had views of two Kingfishers in the same field of view. They were very distant, as this fuzzy photo shows, so we were not able to tell if they were a male and female, but it’s looking encouraging.
A total of 19 species of birds was seen today.
Mammals: Linda saw a single Water Vole crossing Tang Hall Beck whilst we were watching the Kingfishers, and we saw a single Rabbit near the Bund Path.
Plants & Flowers: Hazel and Alder have more or less completed their flowering period but are starting to put out leaves. Prunus species and Gorse continue in full flower, most of the Hawthorns are green, and one or two sheltered Blackthorns are coming into blossom. Male and female Willow catkins are at full size, and proving attractive to early unidentified bumble bees.
In the Osbaldwick Beck area, Lesser Celandines are coming into flower, along with White and Red Dead-nettle and a few garden varieties – Daffodils and Chionodoxa, but the Snowdrops are over. More and more Coltsfoots are visible, particularly at the top of the steps past the Dragon Stones. The highlight was finding the first Cowslip flowers of the season. As a foretaste of things to come, leaves of Yarrow, Plantain sp and various Umbellifers are emerging to join the well-established Goosegrass, Ground Elder and Nettle shoots.
Insects: Bumble-bee numbers seem to be increasing. We weren’t able to see closely enough to positively identify species, but Ian thought one of them, at least, might have been Buff-tailed Bumble-bee.
Amphibians: As reported on 10th March, more Common Frogs have been arriving at the Environment Centre pond, and over the past week, a large quantity of frogspawn was deposited.