Weather: Overcast, dry, calm
Observers: Hannah, Ian, Janetta, Kaye, Kaj, Linda, Nicole, Tom
A big contrast to last week’s Wildwatch – more observers, gloomier weather! Is there a correlation here? Although the light was poor, the autumn colours seemed to glow through the dismal light!
It was time to do our monthly “Winter Thrush Survey” for the British Trust for Ornithology (“BTO”), so we followed the same route round, as required by the BTO’s survey methodology. But this didn’t stop us from looking at other things.. which was just as well, as you can read below.
Birds: The thrush survey seemed to get off to a slow start. There seem to be, at this time of the year, fewer thrushes in the South and West of the reserve than in other parts. But eventually, we counted a total of 19 Blackbirds, mainly not actively feeding. Near the end of the morning, we had a small flock of thrushes fly over, which Tom identified as about a dozen Redwings with a single Fieldfare – the latter being identified by Tom by its “chack chack” call.
The bird highlight of the walk, however, was along the Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track, as we headed towards the Sluice Bridge. Two tiny birds were seen flitting around a low bush at eye level, and we quickly identified them as Goldcrests, Britain’s 1st= smallest bird (the other being Firecrest). We’ve seen single birds of this species occasionally on the reserve, but seldom two together. We all had good, prolonged views of the birds, but Ian struggled to get a photo as they flitted rapidly, often hidden by twigs and leaves! So, that’s the “little gold” – the bright yellow head stripe being clearly seen by us. Thousands of Goldcrests have been coming from Scandanavia over the past few days, mainly arriving at coastal sites, so it’s possible that these tiny birds are part of the main influx who have managed to make it further inland.
Elsewhere at St Nicks, there were Mallards in both becks, small tit feeding flocks, mainly Blue and Great Tits, but there was a group of 3 or 4 Long-tailed Tits seen by Ian near the Environment Centre. Wrens seemed more numerous than in recent weeks, with 4 or 5 being heard. Robins were also singing their territorial defence songs throughout the reserve and several “charms” of Goldfinches were noted. A pair of Bullfinches down the Tang Hall Beck path were the only sightings of this species today.
Overhead, we saw both Herring and Black-headed Gulls, the latter not being as regularly recorded as the former. Carrion Crows in the air seemed to be more numerous than in recent weeks. Rounding off our tally of 18 bird species were Woodpigeons, Magpies and House Sparrows.
Plants & Flowers: Most of today’s list were one-off specimens, some of them looking water-logged, frost-bitten or both. They included Field Scabious, a lone Buttercup and a couple of Red Clovers in the Butterfly Walk, Great Mullein and White Campion at the end of the Tang Hall Beck path, plus Herb Robert, Welted Thistle and Wood Avens in a couple of locations. Janetta made the most interesting find of the day – Blue Fleabane not yet recorded on the reserve, growing just outside the industrial estate entrance – the 1st “first” of the day! Nearby were a very perky looking Groundsel and a relatively flourishing patch of Mayweed sp. Rather sorry looking Hedge Bindweed, Indian Balsam, Tansy and Ragwort are more widespread, and there are still a few Bramble flowers, though most of the berries are over. Our two main contenders for last flower of the year, White Deadnettle and Yarrow, are still in good condition. We noted several Oak Galls along the Bund Path (see photograph)
Insects: We saw no butterflies in today’s dank and gloomy conditions. Down at “Ladybird Corner”, at the end of the Tang Hall Beck path there were fewer ladybirds than in the past few weeks – maybe they’ve started to hibernate for the winter. However, near the end of the Butterfly Path, we found a dark red ladybird which, when examining the photographs, appeared to be an Eyed Ladybird our 2nd potential “first” for the reserve today! Several long-legged spiders with striking body patterns were seen, but not identified at Ladybird Corner.
Fungi: Now is a prime time in the year for fungi. But we were focusing more above ground level, so we weren’t really trying to find fungi. However, Kaye found a striking bracket fungus near the Butterfly Path, which she added to her photographic record (see at the top of this post).
Mammals: A few athletic Grey Squirrels were seen during our walk. “Ginger”, the feline member of our group, did not put in an appearance today!