Weather: Overcast. Calm at first, increasing breeze later. Coolish!
Observers: Hannah, Ian, Janetta, Kaye, Linda
We had a very leisurely stroll round the reserve, spending quite a bit of time looking closely at very small things – such as galls! We strolled along the Bund Path and followed our normal route from there along the Tang Hall Beck Path and back down past the Playground.
Ian had fun playing with his new camera, which can focus on objects less than 1 cm away up to a huge 50x magnification to capture his beloved bird subjects. Well, let him have his fun!
Despite it being mid-November, the autumn colours of many of the trees still seemed to glow, despite the dull light. The three Larch trees outside the Environment Centre were particularly magnificent (see photo on the right).
OK, there were no outstanding sightings this morning, but, as we found, “normal” isn’t “boring”. If one looks closely at what you see at St Nicks, there’s always something to enjoy!
Birds: One of the highlights of the morning was the flock of 15+ Siskins found in trees near the Kingfisher Culvert. They were not easy to see, being mainly silhouetted, but when they flew, we were able to count them. This was a big increase on the three birds we saw last week at Osbaldwick Beck. Close to where we saw the Siskins, we also saw one, possibly two, Goldcrests.. maybe the same ones we saw a week or so ago along the Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track.
More mundanely, but just as interesting, were the large numbers of Robins singing all over the reserve, defending their winter feeding territories. Blackbirds, too, were widely spread. Although we looked for signs of Scandinavian visitors (males with dark beaks) we didn’t find any. Goldfinch numbers seem to be increasing, and we saw Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits in their winter feeding flocks. Other small birds recorded this morning included House Sparrow, Bullfinch, Dunnock and Wren (one down Osbaldwick Beck).
Flying over the reserve were both Black-headed and Herring Gull, and 10 Starlings. Completing our modest tally of 18 species were Carrion Crow, Magpie and Woodpigeon.
Plants: White Dead-nettle and Herb Robert are still flowering normally in several locations, along with low-growing new Teasels and battered-looking specimens of Ragwort. In the Centre garden, Primroses are either very late or very early depending on your reckoning, and a Fox-and-Cubs plant actually opened its flowers a fraction in the course of the morning. We recorded the following in single locations: Welted Thistle, White Campion, Sedum sp., Geranium sp., Bramble, Great Mullein, Smooth Hawkbeard, Hedge Bindweed, Hedge Mustard, Smooth and Prickly Sow Thistles, Dandelion, Buttercup, Tansy
and Wood Avens. We spent a while inspecting Rose Hips for signs that anything had been eating them, but with inconclusive results. Berries nibbled in situ could possibly indicate Wood Mice.
Mammals: Just a single Grey Squirrel, trying to hide from us!
Insects and Galls: We found our first Robin’s Pincushions of the year – two of them just outside of the Environment Centre. Hannah showed the nut location skills of a Jay or a Grey Squirrel when she re-located a Knopper Gall which she hid under a leaf a few weeks ago. Sadly, something had damaged it and exposed the tiny gall wasp larva inside the growth. It was only a couple of millimeteres in size. We don’t think the poor little chap’s going to make it!
We found a couple of Ladybirds at the end of the Tang Hall Beck path, where in previous weeks there have been plenty of these insects. They should have hibernated by now, but these two individuals (we couldn’t positively identify them) had survived outside.