Weather: Mainly clear and sunny. Cold (-5C to 0C). No wind. 1 to 2 cm of snow lying.
Observers: Carrie, Ian, Kaj, Kaye, Tim
It was a beautiful, frosty morning when we set off. The paths were icy in parts, but there were no difficulties.
Kaye and Ian had previously taken a walk round Osbaldwick Beck, which had proved to be very productive. We set off down the side of the Playground, past the meadow, and made our way down the Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track to the Sluice Bridge. After returning, we then proceeded down the other side of the beck, and returned to the Environment Centre via the Bund Path. A walk around Osbaldwick Beck completed the morning’s walk.
Birds: The first “visitor from the North” was Redwing. Two flew over the Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track, calling and another was glimpsed in a thicket on the other side of the beck. The second Northerly visitor was a male Blackbird seen along Osbaldwick Beck. But it wasn’t recognised as a Scandinavian visitor until photos were examined carefully, showing it to have a dark beak. UK juvenile male Blackbirds have a full yellow beak at this time of year, but Scandinavian youngsters get this colour later. There were good numbers of Blackbirds all over
the reserve. The third thrush seen was Song Thrush, with a pair foraging together, along the Osbaldwick Beck path.
Coal Tits continue to be seen, with at least two near Osbaldwick Beck; one of the birds was in full song. Blue and Great Tits were seen everywhere, and up to five Long-tailed Tits foraged together. Finches were also plentiful. Bullfinches, usually in pairs, were seen in many locations, four or five Siskins were feeding on Alder along Osbaldwick Beck, Chaffinches were present in small numbers, and a single Greenfinch was sighted near Tang Hall Beck.
The big Goldfinch flock seems to have dispersed, but there were a few birds near the Environment Centre. Flying over the reserve were Sparrowhawk (one over Osbaldwick Beck), five Starlings, a similar number of Jackdaws and both Herring and Black-headed Gulls. Mallards were seen on both becks. Robin song was not as noticeable as last week, but they were all over the reserve
Other small birds seen included Wren and Dunnock, and a House Sparrow posed obligingly for us next to Osbaldwick Beck. Completing the morning’s list were Carrion Crow, Magpie, Woodpigeon and Collared Dove. This brought the total to 26 species, only one less than the Wildwatch record set last month!
Plants & Fungi: Apart from the Primroses in a clear area of the Centre garden, small herbaceous flowering things were all hidden under their blanket of snow. We added two more types of Catkin to last week’s Hazel and Alder. The Aspen on Osbaldwick Beck is just starting to break bud, as is an unseasonably early Willow sp. close to the Centre. Even more unexpectedly early is a Hawthorn near the Osbaldwick Beck culvert which is defiantly starting to open its leaf buds. Several fungus species are surviving the frost, including a magnificent bracket specimen and a cluster of what we think might be Velvet Shank – a species known to fruit in winter.
Mammals: Just the usual Grey Squirrels! At least one seemed to be a juvenile.