Weather: Some cloud, some sunshine, a warm 19C – 23C
Observers: Cliff, Kaj, Ian, Linda, Tim, Tracey
With Kaye tied up with St Nicks admin duties, we were heavily reliant on Cliff for some botany expertise, as well as his excellent spotting and photography of insects. Kaye did manage a trip round the reserve on her own in the afternoon, adding some of her plant photos to those of Cliff. With the breeding season now well underway, birds were mainly keeping a low profile, although there were lots of signs of young birds.
Our route this morning took us along the Bund Path and down both sides of Tang Hall Beck, concluding with a trip round Osbaldwick Beck.
The many insects found today included the ones pictured above: Flesh Fly, Tree Bumblebee, Picture-winged Fly, and Soldier Beetle, with its long antennae. The colourful Cinnabar Moth, which we found in the Environment Centre garden, is filled with alkaloid poisons and is one of the most poisonous moths in Britain. It is inedible to most other creatures.
The tiny Common Froghopper nymph, also shown above, surrounds itself with a foamy white substance which is commonly called “cuckoo spit” – although it’s got nothing to do with either cuckoos or spit! Other insects seen included the alien Harlequin Ladybird, Common Flower Bug and Alder Leaf Gall.
There are still very few butterflies flying. We saw several Speckled Woods, and a white butterfly, which might have been a Large White.
Plants & Flowers:
A very quick afternoon tour of the reserve logged 55 assorted trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants in flower. Tufted Vetch is opening, for comparison with Bush Vetch, Common Vetch and Meadow Vetchling. Their close relation Common Bird’s-Foot Trefoil is looking spectacular in several locations. One or two Common Poppies are out, looking particularly good where they contrast with Ox-eye Daisies. Corncockle is flowering in the planters outside the Centre, and Fox-and-Cubs has reappeared inside the gate. The first Willow-herb (provisionally identified as Broad-leaved) was found in a rather unlikely shady spot along the Bund. Weld is back along the Tang Hall Beck path, and Hedge Woundwort is easy to find along the more wooded verges. Roses are particularly beautiful along the western path beyond the Lime trees. Will this be the year when we find time to identify sub-species? Probably not… Field Scabious was a surprising find – we associate it with late summer. Assorted Brassica sp. and a newly-opened Composite will be submitted to Janetta for an expert opinion next week.
Meanwhile after photographing Goat’s Beard in the morning, Cliff was pleased to find it tightly closed by the time he left, living up to its country name of “Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon” – a lazy flower. Looking forward to foraging time, more and more Elders are in flower, and the very first Brambles are opening, while tiny fruits are already swelling on the Apple trees, and the female Oak flowers we found only a few weeks ago are starting to look like potential acorns. It’s a good time to observe the pollen-laden stamens of various grass species. At the moment we struggle to identify more than a few of them, but Guy is working on it!
Birds: One of the less frequently seen birds at St Nicks, Great Spotted Woodpecker, was seen briefly in flight, and calling, over Tang Hall Beck. Juvenile birds seen or heard included about four families of Great Tits, a number of young Magpies (with squeakier voices than the adults, Carrion Crow (ditto), Wrens (along Ossie Beck) and Long-tailed Tits.
Down at the Sluice Bridge a couple of soggy House Sparrows and a Greenfinch were bathing in Tang Hall Beck, and in Osbaldwick Beck there were two female Mallards; it’s unusual to see two females on their own at this time of year. At least four Blackcaps were heard, and one, maybe two Chiffchaffs – but no sign today of a Whitethroat. Song Thrushes were also notable for their absence today – not a single singing bird.
A few Goldfinches were flitting around in the trees near the Environment Centre, but were not seen well enough to identify any young birds. There seemed to be more Bullfinches around than in recent weeks, and one juvenile might have been seen at the Environment Centre. Rounding off this morning’s tally of 19 species were Blackbird, Wood Pigeon, Dunnock, Robin, Jackdaw and Blue Tit.
Mammals: Ian, before the group assembled, went down Osbaldwick Beck to try to find the Water Voles. However, he was thwarted by the presence of a hunting cat by the beck, right in the middle of the Water Voles’ territory.
Grey Squirrel made a welcome return after several weeks of not seeing any. One was by Tang Hall Beck, near the Kingfisher Culvert. The only other mammal was Rabbit, along the Bund Path.