Weather: Overcast, a few sunny intervals, light breeze, one light shower
Observers: Ian, Janetta, Kaye, Kaj, Nicky
After two days of very heavy rain, causing local flooding, this morning was, mercifully, mainly dry. Both Osbaldwick and Tang Hall Becks were very high, with the scenes reminding Ian of flooded Amazonian forests – minus the exotic birds!
We visited part of the reserve we don’t often visit – the South-West corner, near the Story Telling Circles – to see if we could find galls on the Lime trees in that area. We then headed North along the Bund Path and then over to the North-East corner of the reserve. Ian and Kaj concentrated on trying to find the few birds around, whilst Janetta and Kaye focused on the botany and other things closer to the ground. Nicky, a newcomer to the group, floated between the two.
Birds: As they say in birdwatching circles “not a lot around”! But we kept on picking up different species for the group list as the morning progressed. Most notable was the build-up in Goldfinch numbers, with a flock of about a dozen seen near the Dragon Stones. Close views of some, feeding on Teazels near the Story Telling Circles, showed that at least some were juveniles, just starting to moult into their adult plumage.
Another bird highlight of the morning was a good view of a Sparrowhawk (possibly a female), passing not once, but twice over the Dragon Stones, allowing Ian to grab a few flight shots of the bird. Robins were scattered throughout the reserve, their songs marking out their winter feeding territories. We intend to try to map some of these territories over the coming weeks. Magpies were also seen in most parts of the reserve. Ironically, we probably saw more Blackbirds this week than last week, when we carried out the Winter Thrush survey for the British Trust for Ornithology!
Both Blue and Great Tits were seen, but not in the feeding flocks we’ve noticed in the past two weeks. Overhead, six juvenile Herring Gulls circles around, with a single Swallow passing through them. We still have a singing Chiffchaff on the reserve, but no sign of the juveniles seen recently. Bullfinches were scarce, with sightings limited to a single female. Surprisingly, Carrion Crows are also scarce, with just one calling near Osbaldwick Beck. A single Collared Dove was near the Environment Centre – and, of course, Woodpigeons were everywhere! Just one singing Wren near Tang Hall Beck brought our total species count to 15.
Plants, Flowers & Fungi: The heavy rain has speeded up the collapse of tall vegetation, re-opening the vistas along Osbaldwick Beck and widening some of the paths. As the Nettles, Willow-herbs, Ragwort and so on die back, they make space where Red and White Clover, Black Medick, Buttercups and Dandelions can produce a few late flowers – or is it just that it’s easier to find them? The very localised patches of Soapwort and Goat’s Rue still have a few flowers, and there are a few new ones among the seeding Tansy and Meadow Vetchling. The Hedge Bindweed is starting to look sorry for itself, but Yarrow and White Dead-nettle carry on regardless. It’s fungus time, and we easily spotted six as yet unidentified species alongside the paths, but the soggy undergrowth put us off searching further afield.
Insects: Surprisingly, given the recent heavy rain, there were still a few butterflies around. Speckled Woods were seen in a number of places and Red Admiral and Small White were near the Dragon Stones. Just off the Bund Path, Kaye and Janetta found a pair of rather small Robin’s Pincushions aka Bedeguar Galls (diplolepis rosae) and Janetta found a small, pale spider with a blue egg case in a cocoon under a leaf. A bee sp. that Ian photographed was almost certainly a Tree Bumblebee, a relatively new arrival, but which has been recorded at St Nicks in the past.
Mammals: a magnificent count of.. zero! Not even a Grey Squirrel!