St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 19 December 2012 – Pre-Christmas Bird Bonanza!

Bullfinch in the snow at St Nicks - February 2012

Bullfinch in the snow at St Nicks - February 2012

Weather: Cool, overcast, poor light, light cold breeze later
Observers: Hannah, Ian, Janetta, Kaye

Well, it was a dull, miserable looking morning when we set out at 10 am, heading out along the Bund Path. And for the first 20 minutes, we saw practically nothing.. a few White Dead Nettle flowers, Woodpigeons and Magpies. Although Ian had clocked up 14 bird species in his one-hour pre-Wildwatch stroll round Osbaldwick Beck, as a group we saw little at first.

Then things started to hot up! On our walk along the Bund Path and the Tang Hall Beck Path, and then along the Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track, we started seeing more and more – mainly bird species, but a few flowers and mammals as well.

We ended up seeing 27 bird species, a possible record number, although we haven’t checked the records yet to confirm this. And some of the birds were really special. Read on… !

Birds: Two of the highlights were a Grey Wagtail, which Ian saw along Osbaldwick Beck, and a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker, which we all had good views of along the Tang Hall Beck Path. These were two species which Ian had previously seen, but never photographed at St Nicks.

(Left & centre) Grey Wagtail by Osbaldwick Beck (Right) Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker

(Left & centre) Grey Wagtail by Osbaldwick Beck (Right) Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker

There was another highlight, but you’ll have to wait until the end of this section to find out what it was!

As we walked along the Tang Hall Beck Path, we started to pick up more and more species, such as Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits. A flock of 20+ of the latter seemed to follow us all along the path as we headed back to the Kingfisher Culvert. Also along the path were quite a few Blackbirds, a Song Thrush, Bullfinches a single Dunnock and Robins (we counted at least 4 singing during our walk)

(Left) Song Thrush (Right) Long-tailed Tit

(Left) Song Thrush (Right) Long-tailed Tit

Sparrowhawk (female) over the Dragon Stones)

Sparrowhawk (female) over the Dragon Stones)

At the Kingfisher Culvert, we picked up a small flock of around 15 Goldfinches and associating with them were a couple of Chaffinches and three female Siskins.

The “usual suspects” that we saw on our walk were, of course, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow and Collared Dove. On the becks were five Mallards (three on Oswbaldwick Beck and two

Moorhen on Tang Hall Beck

Moorhen on Tang Hall Beck

on Tang Hall Beck) and a Moorhen, which Hannah and Ian saw on Tang Hall Beck. Flying over the reserve were both Herring  and Black-headed Gull, three Greylag Geese and a Sparrowhawk, which Ian grabbed a poor flight shot of before the Wildwatch walk.

As we walked back along the Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track, we realised that we had a total of 24 bird species. “Just one more“, we thought, “and we’ll get 25.. ideal for representing 25th December!“. We speculated on what we hadn’t recorded today but might be likely to see or hear. What we had forgotten about, was Wren, which we heard near the Western end of the Butterfly Path! “Right“, we thought, “We don’t want any more birds or it will spoil our ’25’ symbolism“. But we were wrong!

On the Environment Centre feeders we saw a Greenfinch (number 26) and then Kaye spotted an unusual small bird. After seeing it come to the feeders a few times, Ian and Kaye both agreed that it was a Coal Tit. Although not generally a rare bird, it is a site rarity, as recorded in our January post this year, with only half a dozen sightings in the last decade.

So that brought us, on this, the last Wildwatch walk this year, to the fine total of 27 bird species in just two hours. A record? We’ll have to check and report back later!

Plants, Flowers & Trees:  And the winner (of the latest, and most prolific, flowering plant in 2012) is –  White Dead Nettle.  This unassuming but tenacious little plant was found in flower on January 4th 2012, and has been recorded on 41 of 51 possible Wednesdays, including today.  One can only suppose that our minds were elsewhere on the other ten.  Interestingly, the 2009 Collins Flower Guide gives its flowering period as May to December.  This is so out of odds with other sources and our regular experience that it might just be the deliberate mistake that important reference books use as protection against plagiarism. Gorse, with 24 records, started equally early and is in flower now, but took a long break over the summer.  Yarrow (23) and Wood Avens (22) have been noted regularly since their first appearance, but ran with a handicap, starting in July and May respectively.  This morning we found a single Wood Avens flower – or more accurately two-thirds of one – but omitted to visit the most likely place to find Yarrow.  An unhappy looking Ragwort brought the total to four today.

Knopper Gall

Knopper Gall

Invertebrates: The only point of interest was a fallen Knopper Gall. It was elongated and had a hole at each end.. maybe the gall wasp larva had hatched?

Fungi: A final eighteen pictures went into the Fungus file – most of them probably different stages of the same species. Several Willows and an Alder hosted an intriguing flat variety, while Hannah spotted a tiny new variety which might turn out to be Yellow Brain Fungus.

(left) Possible Yellow Brain Fungus (centre and right) Unidentified fungi on Willow

(left) Possible Yellow Brain Fungus (centre and right) Unidentified fungi on Willow

Mammals: There were a few sightings of Grey Squirrel. A Brown Rat was watched for about five minutes near the Sluice Bridge. It was possibly a juvenile; its coat was a paler brown than most rats we have seen, and it seemed quite small.

 

21 December 2012 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: Great spotted woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, knopper gall, record, record bird count, sparrowhawk, white dead nettle, yellow brain fungus