St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 17 July 2013 – Plants and butterflies rule!

Brown Hawker dragonfly

Brown Hawker dragonfly

Weather: Hot, with sunny intervals: 20C to 28 C. Occasional calm and cooling breeze
Observers: Amanda, Carrie, Declan, Ian, Linda, Natasha, Sarah, Tracey

Well, at the height of the plant flowering season, we were without our plant and flower experts, Janetta and Kaye. But Linda and Carrie stepped nobly up to the line, and with both of them equipped with a flower ID book, we headed on out. We’d had a task set for us by Kaye.. which of the five “target” species of plants / trees could we find in flower? Did we succeed? Read on..!

We were in the middle of a heatwave, and there were times when we just longed for shade. The water level in both becks was low, and elsewhere it was clear that the heat was taking its toll. The bird activity was, not surprisingly, very subdued, so recording of plants and insects was a definite priority for us. Birds, once again, take back place in this blog post!

 Plants: Ian, on his pre-Wildwatch stroll round Osbaldwick Beck, found the first of Kaye’s “target” species – a small patch of flowering Yarrow. And all of us managed to find the other four “targets”.. Common (or Lesser) Knapweed was widely distributed. Tansy was just coming into flower next to the meadow, close to where we found Mugwort, barely in flower. The big Lime trees near the story telling circle were just beginning to sprout their clusters of delicate small flowers. Mission accomplished, Kaye!

Clockwise from top left: Common Knapweed, Mugwort, Yarrow and Tansy

Clockwise from top left: Common Knapweed, Mugwort, Yarrow and Tansy

We continued to surprise ourselves with the ability to fairly confidently identify a good number of flowering plants. These included Common Groundsel, Woundwort, Common Melilot, Hedge Columbine (everywhere!), Nipplewort, both Rosebay and Great Hairy Willowherb, Great Burdock, Common Mallow, Goat’s-beard, Evening Primrose, Tufted Vetch and Yellow Loosestrife.

We were both surprised and disappointed to find that all of the Great Mullein plants at the end of the Tang Hall Beck path seem to be dead.

Down Osbaldwick Beck, later, Linda and Ian found a small patch of Meadowsweet – and a Common Poppy!

Insects: We didn’t try too hard to identify the numerous flies, bees and hoverflies that we encountered, but Linda did find a delicate Harvestman spider.

But butterflies were everywhere! Ringlets and Meadow Browns were too numerous to count accurately, as were Speckled Woods. We saw just one Comma butterfly and about three Small Skippers. Both Large and Small Whites were scattered around the reserve.

Clockwise from top left: Comma butterfly, underwing of Comma, showing the small white mark which gives it its name, Speckled Wood, Small Skipper

Clockwise from top left: Comma butterfly, underwing of Comma, showing the small white mark which gives it its name, Speckled Wood, Small Skipper

At the Environment Centre pond, the Azure Damselflies, seen in previous weeks, were joined by a single Brown Hawker dragonfly.

Goldfinch, by Osbaldwick Beck

Goldfinch, by Osbaldwick Beck

Birds: In the heat, bird activity was subdued! Ian managed to record ten species on his pre-Wildwatch stroll round Osbaldwick Beck. A small flock of Goldfinches was very vocal, but not easily seen. Two drake Mallards were in the beck (now in their drab “eclipse” plumage). Other birds he saw or heard were Blue Tit (many juveniles), Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Wren and a single Swift flying overhead.

During the main Wildwatch walk, we only managed to add another four species: Song Thrush, House Martin, Chiffchaff and Magpie. But in a post-lunch stroll round Ossie Beck, Ian and Linda added another four species: Long-tailed and Great Tit and Carrion Crow. But the most notable addition was Blackcap; Linda had a clear view of a male and Ian was fairly sure that, in the same area, he saw a juvenile. So, a total of 18 species, 14 of which were in the cool and shady Osbaldwick Beck area!

Mammals: A single Grey Squirrel was our only mammal record.

 

19 July 2013 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: blackcap, breeding, Brown Hawker, comma butterfly, Great Mullein, Knapweed, Mugwort, ringlet, small skipper, Tansy, Yarrow