Weather: Hot and sunny. Clear at first. Some cloud later.
Observers: Ian, Janetta, Kaj, Kaye, Linda
At last, a warm sunny morning for our Wildwatch activities! Kaj and Linda headed out for another prolonged search for Kingfisher, and endured the hot sun for over an hour. The others went round the reserve on another fruitless search for Whitethroats, with Janetta and Kaye also spending time noting the plants and flowers.
Birds: Well into their prolonged, but fruitless, watch for Kingfishers, Kaj and Linda saw and heard what they thought was a Common Buzzard. Ian joined them a bit later and called to the Buzzard (yes he did!) and after a while, the Buzzard called back! This happened three times, and confirmed the ID. This is only the second Buzzard to have been recorded on the reserve, the first being just over a year ago. It’s remarkable that this magnificent bird of prey, usually found in the countryside, has been seen just a mile from the centre of York.
We are puzzled by the absence of Whitethroats. Last year, there were at least five pairs breeding on the reserve, and there has been no major change in habitat since then. We know that this species was late in arriving in the UK this year, but there are plenty of Whitethroats currently around in the York area.
Other warblers were recorded today: Blackcap in 5 locations, and Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler each in single locations. Bullfinches have gone silent – presumably because they are busy raising broods of youngsters; a single male was seen. Kaye saw a pair of juvenile Blue Tits leaving a nest hole, pursued by one of their parents, and Ian saw a Song Thrush repeatedly carrying food into small bushes near Tang Hall Beck. Wrens were everywhere, singing from prominent perches and Dunnocks were playing their threesome chasing games in a few places! A Robin was frequently using one of the Dragon Stones as a song perch and more House Sparrows than usual were along Osbaldwick Beck.
In the skies, a few Swifts and Herring Gulls floated over, along with the usual Carrion Crows and Magpies. Completing our total of 20 bird species were Blackbird, Wood Pigeon, Greenfinch, Collared Dove and Great Tit.
Mammals: Both Grey Squirrel and Rabbit were seen in small numbers.
Amphibians: The Common (or Smooth) Newts seem to be doing well in the Environment Centre pond, with up to a dozen being seen at any one time. The water quality in the pond seems to have improved in recent weeks.
Butterflies and other insects: Orange Tip butterfly was seen in a number of locations and some unidentified Blues and Whites were also seen. A small dragonfly / damselfly was seen too briefly at the Environment Centre to be sure of an ID. Three beetles found on brambles by Osbaldwick Beck were probably a type of Cardinal Beetle.
Plants: The warm weather is likely to bring the late Spring flowers to a rapid end. Most of these flowers don’t have an autumnal second flush, so make the most of Cowslips, Bluebells, Garlic Mustard, Ramsons and Cuckooflower while they last. There are more Dandelion Clocks than Dandelions at the moment, but these will continue in smaller numbers throughout the summer, along with Daisies and White Deadnettles. Meadow
and Creeping Buttercups are joining the Cow Parsley and Red Campions as conspicuous summer flowers, with Common and Bush Vetch just starting to come out. Look more closely in the path-side grass and in the short grass around the Dragon Stones, and you should find three varieties of Speedwell, Black Medick, Ground Ivy and the first flowers of Silverweed. Wood Avens, Winter-cress and at least one variety of Burnet can be found in several locations on woodland edges. Hawthorn and Rowan blossom won’t last long in the heat. Meanwhile they give a heady scent that perhaps accounts for a medieval story that the fairies will take you away if you fall asleep under one!