Weather: 7 to 9 C, Cool and cloudy at first; later cool, cloudy – and wet!
Observers: Carrie, Ian, Kaj
Ian, rained off (by the forecast) from his Blacktoft guided walk joined the Wildwatch Group. At this important time for flowering plants, we were sadly missing inputs from Janetta and Kaye, but Carrie filled the breach admirably, identifying Ian’s photos with (we hope) stunning accuracy!
It was cool and cloudy when we did the loop round Osbaldwick Beck, and fortunately, it stayed dry all the way down the the Sluice Bridge, past the meadow and the Kingfisher Culvert and Kingfisher Watch Point (Kingfishers.. ha!), when the rain set in. We ended up walking back to the Environment Centre via the Bund Path, getting pretty wet, and glad of a hot drink at the end of the morning.
Both Osbaldwick and Tang Hall Becks were in moderate flood conditions, but nothing like as bad as they were Autumn.
Birds: Star performer of the day just had to be Song Thrush. We didn’t do an accurate count, but there were possibly 6 singing birds. Robins, Wrens and Blackbirds were close contenders, with good numbers of all those species all over the reserve.
Warbler species counts were low compared with previous weeks. We heard just one Chiffchaff – there might have been more, but their call is far-carrying, so it’s difficult to be certain if we were hearing more than one bird – and a single Blackcap, heard and glimpsed down the Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track.
Finches were also thin on the ground. We saw a small number of Bullfinches, including a male apparently collecting nesting material, heard a single Greenfinch, and Ian saw just one Goldfinch as he was preparing to leave the site.
Mallards were present on both becks (a pair on Tang Hall Beck) and the Tit family were represented by sightings of Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits. Fly-overs included 4 Starlings, 2 or 3 Herring Gulls and just one Carrion Crow. Magpies and Wood Pigeons were, of course, everywhere, but we only recorded a single House Sparrow.
A modest count of just 19 bird species.
Plants & Flowers: St Nicks is certainly blooming! Without the expert input from Janetta and Kaye, we were struggling a bit, but Carrie rose to the occasion and helped with flower ID. White Dead-Nettles were no problem for us, and they were everywhere! Cow Parsley, one of the earliest flowering of the umbelliferous plants, were scattered throughout the reserve, as were the Bluebells (of dubious origin). The Cowslips in the Meadow are still putting on a fine display, and isolated specimens are still scattered around the reserve.
Some of the smaller flowers, such as Bird Cherry and Herb Robert, seem to be fairly uninteresting at first glance, but, when you look at them closely, they are truly beautiful flowers. We’ve tried to show this beauty in some in the insets to our flower pictures this week. Rowan is in flower now, as are Forget-Me-Nots. Other flowers identified included Common Comfrey and Garlic Mustard.
Mammals: A highlight this week was a single Water Vole in Osbaldwick Beck, swimming upstream in the direction of Hull Road Park. Sadly, it was too quick for any photos. We saw, in one location, a couple of Grey Squirrels, and Carrie saw a Rabbit when she was walking out from the Environment Centre at the end of the Wildwatch walk.
Amphibians: An inspection of the Environment Centre pond produced no sightings of Frogspawn. Has it all been eaten by predators? Also, no sightings of Common Newts (ditto??)