St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 15 February 2012 – Early signs of Spring

Tang Hall Beck in flood

Tang Hall Beck in flood

Weather: Mild, sunny intervals, light NW breeze
Observers: Carrie, Ian, Janetta, Kaj, Kaye, Linda, Phil, Rachel

The snow has now all melted, but the pond at the Environment Centre remained frozen. Melt water resulted in high levels in both becks. Although only mid-February, there were some early signs of Spring.

With so many observers, we split into two groups, with Carrie, Ian and Linda covering the bund path and Tang Hall Beck, and the others looking round the rest of the reserve.

Lesser Redpoll. Yes, the photo is the right way up. It's the bird which isn't!

Lesser Redpoll. Yes, the photo is the right way up. It's the bird which isn't!

Birds: Carrie, Ian and Linda soon located two Lesser Redpolls on the bund path at the same location where Ian had seen a flock of ten last Saturday (when this photo was taken). The birds were actively feeding on Alder cones. We were looking out for a very similar species, Mealy Redpoll, but couldn’t find any.

Kaye, Phil & co had good views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the thicket to the west of the Environment Centre. This species is more often heard than seen on the reserve. Both groups noted singing Robins in good numbers all over the reserve, setting up and defending their territories, and Bullfinches were also very numerous.

Carrie, Ian and Linda had a productive time at the Tang Hall Beck culvert, recording both of the beck’s “specialities”: Kingfisher (the usual two second flypast view) and Water Vole (see below). Unusually, they also saw a female Siskin at the water’s edge and one, maybe two Redpolls feeding on the ground near the culvert. A Song Thrush was in full song close by.

Down at Osbaldwick Beck, the other group saw two pairs of Mallards, two Moorhens, Dunnock, Collared Dove and Chaffinch. Elsewhere, they also had good views of a Sparrowhawk zipping over the site.

Great Tits were giving their “teacher teacher” call in several places, and there were also small numbers of Blue and Long-tailed Tits. Greenfinches were also vocalising in several areas and a Pheasant was heard calling. Completing the count of 25 bird species were Blackbird (more seen than last week), a small flock of Goldfinches,  a single Wren, Magpies (numerous), Carrion Crow, with five Herring Gulls and a Black-headed Gull flying over. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the Wood Pigeons 🙂

Water Vole feeding by Tang Hall Beck

Water Vole feeding by Tang Hall Beck

Mammals: In previous weeks, when Tang Hall Beck was in spate, we wondered what happened to the Water Voles when both levels of their burrow entrances were under water. We needn’t have worried, because we had reasonable views of one feeding on the left-hand bank. Most of the time it was obscured by vegetation, but Ian managed to get this photo.

The only other mammals we saw were Rabbit and Grey Squirrel near the culvert and a couple of Brown Rats, crossing the main path near the Environment Centre.

A very early Comma Butterfly

A very early Comma Butterfly

Butterflies: Yes, surprisingly, there was an entry in this category today. Close to the Environment Centre, eagle-eyed Carrie found a ragged-wing butterfly next to the path. We only saw its under-wing before it flew off giving a flash of the orange and brown on its upper wing, but the distinctive white mark on the underwing, which gives the butterfly its name, revealed it as a Comma. This is a hibernating butterfly which normally doesn’t come out until mid-March at the earliest. We will be submitting this very early record to the appropriate Butterfly Recorder for the area.

Later note: this was the first Yorkshire sighting of this species for 2012, but not for the UK. One was seen in Norfolk on 8th January!
 

Plants & Flowers: A week of snow seemed to have held up everything but trees, with Hazel leaf buds starting to break on just one shrub, Sycamore buds looking very green, and Horse Chestnut shining with stickiness.  Milder weather and sunny spells have revived the Celandine patch, and Cowslip leaves are coming up on the edge of the meadow.

15 February 2012 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: comma butterfly, kingfisher, lesser redpoll, water vole