St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 29 February 2012 – Seeing double at Tang Hall Beck

Dragon Stones
Dragon Stones - despite its ancient look, this mini-Stonehenge is a relatively recent addition to St Nicks. It was made out of dumped church stones in 1995 as an open-air community theatre venue.
Lesser Celandine near the playground

Lesser Celandine near the playground

Weather: Dull, overcast, cool, occasional light breeze
Observers: Ian, Kaye, Linda, Phil

A dull, gloomy-looking day wasn’t able to hide the fact that Spring is definitely starting 🙂 Birds were singing (and in one case, displaying), blossom was starting to emerge, and flowers were seen in increasing numbers. And there was double, double delight at Tang Hall Beck!

Song Thrush near Osbaldwick Beck

Song Thrush near Osbaldwick Beck

Birds: A small, noisy flock of about six House Sparrows were in bushes near the Environment Centre as we started our walk. Down Osbaldwick Beck, we encountered small numbers of Blue, Long-tailed and Great Tits, the latter singing their “teacher-teacher” song.. and a few different songs as well! Greenfinches were in good voice (about 3 or 4 of them) as well as two Robins. But the star performer was a Song Thrush, singing well on the right-hand side of the beck. And when we finally got to see it, it had stopped singing, and was in the company of another Song Thrush. Other singing birds along the beck included Dunnock, Wren and Bullfinch. Strangely, although we saw quite a few Blackbirds here, and in other parts of the reserve, none of them were singing yet. Nor were any of the Chaffinches, one of which we saw near the beck, and another near the bund path.

Wood Pigeon near Osbaldwick Beck

Wood Pigeon near Osbaldwick Beck

In the beck, were one, possibly two, pairs of Mallards, and two, possibly three, Moorhens. Adding to this list Magpie (maybe rebuilding a nest), Woodpigeon and a fly-over Herring Gull, we saw 17 species of birds just around the Osbaldwick Beck area.

We then walked along the bund path, recording a few fly-over Black-headed Gulls and just 3 – 4 Goldfinches. Then, in Alders, near the Dragon Stones, we found a small flock of finches – two Siskins and about five Lesser Redpolls. Ian and

Lesser Redpoll feeding on Alder cones on the bund path

Lesser Redpoll feeding on Alder cones on the bund path

Phil thought that one of the Redpolls might have been a Mealy Redpoll, which would have been a new bird for St Nicks. But when photos were circulated round members of the York Ornithological Club, the consensus was that it wasn’t – but there was a little room for doubt.But “Mealy” can’t go on the St Nicks bird list – yet! Ian also noticed a Wood Pigeon displaying – the first, we think, this year.

Kingfisher (taken in December 2011)

Kingfisher (taken in December 2011)

We then moved onto Tang Hall Beck. There was a little disturbance at the culvert because of water being extracted to water some newly-planted trees, so we moved further downstream on the right bank to the spot that Ian had found a couple of weeks ago, which gave us an uninterrupted view of a couple of hundred metres of the beck. Very soon, Phil spotted a Kingfisher, some distance away on the left-hand bank. We then had multiple Kingfisher sightings. At least two of these sightings proved that there were two individuals involved. As far as we know, this is the first time that there has been positive evidence that there is more than one Kingfisher on the beck. The birds were too distant to get clear views of the beak, so we couldn’t see if they were male, female or juvenile.

So that’s the first of our Tang Hall Beck “doubles”! There’s another one to come – see below. Adding in other sightings of Carrion Crow and a Pheasant calling a few times, our total bird list in two hours was a respectable 24 species.

Distant view of Water Vole at Tang Hall Beck

Distant view of Water Vole at Tang Hall Beck

Mammals: We only saw one Grey Squirrel. But down at Tang Hall Beck, we had our second “double” at the beck. Linda spotted a Water Vole on the right hand bank and, over the next 20 minutes or so, we saw two individual animals on a number of occasions, swimming and apparently feeding on the left hand bank. Our impression was that one was noticeably small than the other. They were really too far away to photograph, but Ian managed a rather fuzzy “record” shot.

Clockwise from top left: Lungwort, Prunus sp., Coltsfoot, Dead Nettle

Clockwise from top left: Lungwort, Prunus sp., Coltsfoot, Dead Nettle

Trees, Plants & Flowers: Why do cough remedies grow in spring?  Coltsfoot is just starting to emerge along Osbaldwick Beck and the Bund path.  Its Latin name, tussilago, derives from tussis, cough, and it has been used as a herbal treatment at least since Roman times.  Lungwort or pulmonaria, flowering along one of the wooded tracks near the Story Circle, may well be a garden escape.  Both its names speak for themselves.  We also found Snowdrops dotted about in a number of locations, a single non-wild Daffodil, White Dead-nettle, Daisies on the play area, Lesser Celandine and Gorse as previously reported. A lone Dandelion was seen on Tuesday but not revisited today.  The male Alder catkins are at full length and give off little clouds of pollen if flicked. The accompanying female flowers don’t look far enough developed to be receptive. A Poplar sp near Osbaldwick Beck has particularly beautiful grey catkins, and  Prunus species are coming into blossom further down the beck and in the John Lally Wood.

Turkey Tail fungus near Osbaldwick Beck

Turkey Tail fungus near Osbaldwick Beck

Fungi: We saw a few specimens, only one of which Phil was able to identify: Turkey Tail fungus (Trametes versicolor). This is a very common woodland fungus and, as its scientific name suggests, can be very variable in colour.

29 February 2012 | Categories: Wildwatch