St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 28 August 2013 – The fruitful season has started!

Water Lily in the Environment Centre pond

Water Lily in the Environment Centre pond

Weather: Cloudy, with occasional sunny intervals. Light breeze. 15 to 21 C
Observers: Amanda, Cliff, Declan, Ian, Janetta, Kaye, Linda, Paul, Preeyus

The run of dry weather continues, although the downpour a week ago has refreshed the flow of water in both becks. Although the weather remains warm, there are signs of the approaching Autumn, as the berries and other fruits start to ripen.

There were nine of us going round the reserve this morning, so we split into two groups, and tried to get a balance of experienced and less-experienced observers in each group. Kaye, Linda, Cliff, Amanda and Preeyus formed the “slow group”, and didn’t cover much more than Osbaldwick Beck at a snail’s pace (or should that be at a hoverfly’s pace?). Ian, Janetta, Declan and Paul covered more of the reserve, starting off at the Kingfisher Culvert, where kingfisher sightings had been reported the previous week.

Insects & invertebrates: The group which included invertebrates in its focus confined itself this week to a slow walk along the Oswaldwick Beck, and to the St Nick’s centre area. Orb web spiders seem much more visible now than previous weeks, but butterflies less plentiful. Only Large and Small Whites, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Red Admiral were seen in the small area we covered, and a Common Blue outside the Centre.

Clockwise from top left: Common Darters mating, Hoverflies: Sphaerophoria scripta above with Episyrphus balteatus below, Mirid bug, Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, Seven-Spot Ladybird, Drone Fly Eristalis pertinax

Clockwise from top left: Common Darters mating, Hoverflies: Sphaerophoria scripta above with Episyrphus balteatus below, Mirid bug, Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, Seven-Spot Ladybird, Drone Fly Eristalis pertinax

It was hoverflies which surprised us both by the number of individuals seen, and the number of species. Ten species were identified, five of them in one small raised bed just outside the Centre gate, feeding on the nectar of crucifer flowers, including the attractive pair shown pictured on one flower: Sphaerophoria scripta and Episyrphus balteatus. In that same raised bed there were sawflies, and a beautiful orange mirid bug (pictured): Deraeocoris ruberHoneybees and bumble bees were present in abundance in and around the Centre, and along the beck many bugs, flies and hoppers were seen. The thick herbage of late summer attracts a large number of insects, spiders and harvestmen. The mating pair of Common Darter dragonflies were seen by the Centre car park and a Southern Hawker dragonfly was on the wing by the Environment Centre pond.

Juvenile Bullfinch

Juvenile Bullfinch

Birds:  Prior to the start of the Wildwatch walk, Ian saw a juvenile Bullfinch by the Kingfisher Culvert, along with both adult and juvenile male Blackcaps, the latter just acquiring its adult plumage.

In trees near the Playground, Great and Long-tailed Tits were feeding together. Is this the start of the build up of the mixed winter feeding flocks? Nearby, a Chiffchaff was singing.

Adult male Blackcap

Adult male Blackcap

A 20-minute watch by the Kingfisher Culvert failed to produce any sightings of Kingfisher, although Ian, on a solo visit the following day, had two sightings of this species. A juvenile Song Thrush was by Tang Hall Beck. Robins have started to sing after their month-long “quiet period”, and Wrens were heard (and glimpsed) in several parts of the reserve.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen by the “slow group” along Ossie Beck, and a Sparrowhawk flew over the reserve. Completing the total of 16 bird species were Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow and Magpie – some very noisy juveniles of the last species!

Great Mullein, Tang Hall Beck path

Great Mullein, Tang Hall Beck path

Plants: both groups reported Welted Thistle, Yarrow, Ragwort, Smooth Sow-thistle, Himalayan Balsam, Mugwort, Great aka Hedge Bindweed, and White Dead-nettle – lots of it, looking very fresh and perky.  Janetta also found Creeping Thistle, Smooth Hawksbeard, Canadian Golden Rod, Goats-rue, Greater Burnet Saxifrage, Tansy and Soapwort – the latter nearly over, but setting seed.  She also noted undersized Great Mullein plants bearing normal sized flowers, and Chicory along the Sustrans path on the reserve boundary.

Cuckoo Pint berries

Cuckoo Pint berries

In the Osbaldwick Beck area, the other group found a single Spear Thistle, a Mallow sp., Great Willow-herb, and just one or two late flowers on Red Campion, White Campion, Dandelion and Wood Avens.  We also watched in amazement as a group of Nettles regularly gave off what looked like little puffs of smoke.  This turns out to be the way that male Nettles release their air-born pollen.  The beckside vegetation is already starting to thin out, possibly flattened a bit by recent heavy rain.  Across the reserve the Blackberry season is well under way. Elder and Hawthorn berries, Rosehips and a variety of small stone fruits are starting to ripen.  Rowan berries look ripe but don’t seem to be attracting birds yet.

Fungi: These are starting to appear, challenging our ID skills! Small groups are dotted around the reserve, including a couple in the Environment Centre garden.

Unidentified fungi

Unidentified fungi

Mammals: None were seen, but we found an old hazel nut shell with a neat hole in it and lots of hawthorn berries on the ground, split open with the seeds eaten.  The totally inconclusive evidence suggests Wood (Long-tailed) Mice or Bank Voles.

31 August 2013 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: blackcap, common darter, dragonfly, Hoverfly, juvenile bullfinch