St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 22 May 2013 – At last – Return of a Summer Visitor!

Broom in flower

Broom in flower

Weather: Cloudy at first, sunny intervals later. Light winds. 9 to 12C
Observers: Carrie, Cliff, Ian, Kaye, Janetta

It felt a little more Spring-like today, with more flowers emerging, and bird song strong and vibrant!

We welcomed Cliff to our group today, and being knowledgeable about insects, especially hover flies, his input (and photos) were valuable.

As usual, we followed most of our normal routes round the reserve. Ian, on his usual pre-walk visit neglected his normal trip round Osbaldwick Beck (in search of our scarce Summer visitor – more of which later), so we started going round “Ossie Beck”, and then walked round our normal paths, covering the Bund Path, Tang Hall Beck Path and the Sluice Bridge.

Yet another Song Thrush!

Yet another Song Thrush!

Birds: Once again, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds were dominant in the singing stakes! There were probably at least five singing Song Thrushes. Wrens, too, were in good voice, as were Robins.

But our “target bird” today was one which had been seen on last weekend’s Bioblitz and which was completely (and inexplicably) absent from the reserve last year – Whitethroat. Today, we

A "confiding" Wren

A “confiding” Wren

managed to find two of these summer visitor warblers, one near the Dragon Stones and one along Tang Hall Beck. Both proved to be very flightly and not photographable – yet!

There were at least two Chiffchaffs, another summer visitor warbler, and quite a few Blackcaps, mainly heard, rather than seen. Finches were thin on the ground – one sighting of Bullfinch, a single female Chaffinch and one

A singing Chiffchaff by Tang Hall Beck

A singing Chiffchaff by Tang Hall Beck

Greenfinch, heard, not seen. We saw three members of the Tit family – Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tit. The following day, one of the latter was seen to be using a nest box next to Osbaldwick Beck. Other small birds seen were House Sparrow and Dunnock.

Larger birds included Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie and Wood Pigeon, plus a pair of Mallards in Tang Hall Beck. Overhead,

A Herring Gull, flying over St Nicks

A Herring Gull, flying over St Nicks

we observed two Common Swifts, two Swallows, a single Herring Gull and a Sparrowhawk. A total of 24 species of birds were seen today.

Plants:  The flowering plant list is rapidly reaching the stage where it’s only realistic to pick out trends and highlights.  Among the trees and tall shrubs, Hawthorn is coming out to join the Apple, Rowan and less conspicuous Oak and Sycamore.  The Cowslip patch is still worth a visit, and  Broom is now flowering alongside the Gorse opposite the meadow. Cow Parsley is the predominant flower and scent along many of the woodland paths, and ever-present White Dead-nettle is at the height  of its official flowering season.  Red Dead-nettle is also out though much less prolific.

Among the Bluebells, we found the nearest thing we’ve got to an authentic English variety.  Other blue items to look out for are Green Alkanet in shadier places and Germander Speedwell in more open grassy spots. Garlic Mustard is plentiful, and Cuckoo-flower aka Lady’s-smock is lasting well in the Gorse area. Red Campion near the Melrosegate entrance is getting swamped by more strongly growing vegetation and will probably succumb to scything.

Bluebell (left) and Germander Speedwell (right)

Bluebell (left) and Germander Speedwell (right)

New on this year’s scene are Meadow and Creeping Buttercups, Wood Avens just opening along Osbaldwick Beck, Salad Burnet along the main path, Silverweed at the edge of the meadow, Common Vetch and Bird’s-foot Trefoil.  Along the woodland path towards Tang Hall Beck, Fringed Cups are an unusual garden escape. A new item on the site list is Cuckoo-pint or Lords-and-Ladies, the wild Arum. We found what we thought were its leaves a few weeks ago, but no sign of flower buds. Today’s search revealed several fading flowers, which at least confirmed the identification.  We’re now hoping for a show of berries later in the year, and better management next spring.

Fungi:  Cliff took us to pay our respects to a huge bracket fungus first observed on a “Nature Counts” walk.  Two much smaller “toadstool” types were found on new woodchip and in a woodland verge.  None of them have been definitely identified yet.

Large bracket fungus near the Environment Centre (top) and two unidentified fungi (below)

Large bracket fungus near the Environment Centre (top) and two unidentified fungi (below)

Insects: Butterfly numbers are increasing, and today we recorded Speckled Wood, Large and Small White and Orange-tip. With Cliff’s help, we were able to record at least three species of Hoverfly and a Dung Fly.

Hoverflies and a Dung Fly

Hoverflies and a Dung Fly

Speckled Wood butterfly

Speckled Wood butterfly

Mammals: Two Rabbits were seen near the Rabbit Warren next to Tang Hall Beck, and Ian saw a Water Vole in Osbaldwick Beck in the same place as the one we saw last week. This is good news. Strangely, Grey Squirrel sightings have declined in recent weeks and once more we failed to find any today.

24 May 2013 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: blackcap, Bluebell, Bracket Fungus, Chiffchaff, Germander Speedwell, Hoverfly, Speckled Wood, Whitethroat, wren