Weather: Cloudy at first, then sunny intervals. 16C to 21C. Light breeze
Observers: Amanda, Claire, Kaj, Kaye, Ian, Nettie, Paul, Rasa, Rosemary, Tracy
A big turnout of ten people this week, with three newcomers. It was a bit of a disjointed walk, partially because Phil wanted some volunteers to help him with a thesis on “Citizen Science”, so some people peeled off, one at a time, to help him. The group fragmented from time to time, with some concentrating on birds and others on botany and insects.
But between us, we covered most of the reserve, but this time leaving out the visit to the Sluice Bridge.
Birds: Ian, on his pre-Wildwatch stroll went to the Dragon Stones to see if he could relocate the Whitethroats. He didn’t, but he had a brief, but clear view of a warbler with pale legs, and a prominent supercillium (eye stripe). Almost certainly a Willow Warbler. In the afternoon, Kaye, leading another group round saw the same bird, also briefly, but noted the bold eye stripe. This is a bit of a mystery because the last sightings this year of this species were in April, but here it is again, in potentially good nesting habitat, and behaving in the way that you’d expect once it had nested. Ian, returning the following day, failed to relocate this bird positively.
Bird song (and sightings) are becoming scarcer as we move deeper into the breeding season. However, Greenfinches remained in good voice all over the reserve, as did Blackbirds. Song Thrushes, too, returned, singing, albeit in smaller numbers than previously. We heard two, maybe three singing Chiffchaffs, and this is possibly the number of breeding records of this summer-visiting warbler. A similar number of Blackcaps were also heard singing, but Robin songs were few and far between. Goldfinches were also scarce, and only recorded because of their twittering calls. Once again, Wrens were frequently heard but, typically, remained elusive. Blue Tits were the only members of the tit family heard today.
Overhead, up to four Swifts were seen hunting insects. In a few weeks time all these birds will have migrated South to Africa.
Breeding bird evidence continues to be accumulated, with a family of Long-tailed Tits, down Osbaldwick Beck, juvenile Dunnocks (photographed by Ian on the following day), Collared Dove carrying nesting material, and still a number of high-pitched calling Carrion Crows, and a few short-tailed juvenile Magpies.
Finally, we must not forget the omni-present Wood Pigeons, and, a reminder of how good the Environment Centre garden can be. The best views of Bullfinches were seen from here.. a male and a female. In total, 18 species of birds wasecorded today.
Plants: Newly in flower this week are Goat’s Rue and Self-Heal along the main path, Field Bindweed, Creeping Cinquefoil and Yellow Loosestrife in the Butterfly Walk, St John’s Wort sp on the Tang Hall Beck path, and Common Knapweed in long grass near the culvert. Dog Roses can still be found, but many bushes have finished flowering. Rosebay Willow Herb, Welted Thistle and Creeping Thistle are now easy to find in flower, and Field Scabious is conspicuous at the corner of the Butterfly Walk. Hogweed and Nettles are still probably the commonest flower. By now we think we’ve got two species of Nettle, but can’t be absolutely certain until Kaye succeeds in stinging herself. We’ll keep you posted. Elder is fully out, smelling gorgeous or a bit heady according to taste, and the Brambles are alive with bees. And in case you thought we’d forgotten them, we’re happy to report that White Dead-nettle is looking as bright and fresh as in spring, and Wood Avens, Hedge Woundwort, Weld and all the early summer Vetches and Trefoils are still going strong. Our total of 46 species is slightly down on the last couple of weeks, but reflects the fact that we spent more time than usual watching insects.
Insects: At last, a few more butterflies were on the wing today, and we recorded Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Skipper, Speckled Wood and a possible Gatekeeper. And a few more Cinnebar Moths were also seen in various locations. A few Azure Damselflies were at the Environment Centre Pond, along with Pond Skater and Water Boatman (the former “skating” on the surface and the latter “paddling” just under the surface).
There was evidence of Alder Gall Mites, Eriophyes inangulis (mite producing galls down central rib of Alder leaves), different from the one we recorded a couple of weeks ago. A few bee species were also noted, but with the species of some not completely certain. From photo evidence, we certainly recorded Tree Bumblebee and Common Carder.
Mammals & Amphibians: We recorded just two sightings of Grey Squirrel (not comletely gone, then). But two Water Vole watches by Osbaldwick Beck failed to any sightings. At least three Common Newts were seen in the Environment Centre Pond and Rosemary found a small newt on the ground at the Environment Centre.