Weather: Warm (17C to 21C), overcast, but with sunny intervals. Occasional light SW breeze.
Observers: Amanda, Declan, Ian, Janetta, Kaj, Kaye, Linda, Preeyus
With eight of us on the Wildwatch today, we decided to split into two groups. Ian and Linda took Declan and Preeyus round, aiming to record birds and butterflies, whilst Kaye and Janetta went round with Kaj and Amanda, with a focus on plants and flowers – although that group, too, observed many butterflies and other insects.
We all met up on the Bund Path later in the morning.. and discovered what looked like a mammal track – and an interesting-looking animal dropping! What was it? We’re still not certain, but we had a good guess. Find out what our speculation was later in this post!
Insects (including butterflies): Between us, we managed to record nine species of butterflies. Commas were plentiful, with all of us seeing at least four near the Environment Centre, and others scattered around the reserve. Peacocks favoured the Buddleia bushes, both around the Story Telling Circle and down the Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track. We recorded three Whites: Green-veined, Small and Large Whites, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood, Ringlet and Small Skipper. Unfortunately, no sign of the Small Copper that was seen on Saturday.
Tree Bumblebee, Common Carder, Red-tailed and White-tailed Bumble Bees were all seen, along with Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars, Six-spot Burnet moth, and larva of Large Rose Sawfly Arge pagana. Evidence of activity of Oak Gall Wasp Neuroterus Quercusbaccarum in lots of new Oak Spangle Galls, and Gall Mite Eriophyes inangulis on Alder leaf veins. A new type of Willow gall is still to be identified. Also two female Parent Bugs with eggs, and a Common Darter dragonfly.
Birds: As always, at this time of year, bird activity was muted. On his pre-Wildwatch stroll round Osbaldwick Beck, Ian saw a male Blackcap and a couple of young Blackbirds in an unusual plumage, half way between moulting into adult feathers. A single Mallard was in the beck and in the mud along side Tang Hall Beck, at the Sluice Bridge, there were footprints of what might have been Moorhen – but no sign of the birds. Wrens were seen and heard in several places on the reserve and juveniles of Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits were seen, mainly down Osbaldwick Beck.. which seems to be the most “birdy” area on the reserve at the moment. Another juvenile down Ossie Beck was a Robin, just starting to get its red breast.
A couple of Chaffinches were heard down Ossie Beck (and one seen and photographed), but the only Bullfinch record was a single calling bird at the Southern end of the Bund Path. The only other finch recorded was Greenfinch. Where have the Goldfinches gone this week?
Crow sightings were restricted to a single Carrion Crow flying over and Magpies on the Playground and the roof of the Environment
Centre. Wood Pigeons were everywhere, of course, and a couple of Collared Doves looked as if they were getting friendly down by Ossie Beck! Over lunch in the Environment Centre garden, Linda and Ian saw at least six Swallows and a few Swifts flying over. So we had a total of 17 bird species today.
Plants: The botanists probably spent as much time on butterflies, galls and the occasional bee as on actual botany. Given that we only managed to cover the distance from the centre to about three quarters of the way along the Bund path, it’s hardly surprising that we only recorded 31 flowering plant species. However we did find several new items for the year list. Soapwort is in flower along the main path (we took a leaf back to base to experiment with, but it’s apparently soapier when dried).
Knotgrass and Red Bartsia were found at the bottom of the Bund steps, along with Cut-Leaved Geranium and a possible hybrid. The Purple Loosestrife we found last year in a dry woodland area (“The Dell”, off the Bund Path) has managed to survive, and Hemp Agrimony is in flower outside the Centre. A Campanula is not a native variety and presumably a garden escape.
We were pleased to find Upright Hedge Parsley on the western boundary path, because it’s one of the species we missed last year. It was growing alongside Greater Burnet Saxifrage, which made for interesting comparisons. Among items already reported, Teasels, Burdock and Knapweed are in full flower – the latter two very attractive to bees and butterflies. Rosebay, Great and unidentified smaller Willow Herbs are still looking good, and Tansy seems to be popping up well away from the main stands along the meadow. Rowan and Wild Plum fruits are just starting to colour. Finally Janetta’s close examination of developing seeds confirmed that we’ve got Wood Dock as well as Broad-leaved Dock.
Fungus: Tongue-like galls on female Alder catkins are caused by a fungus, Taphrina alni.
Mammals: None of the usual expected mammals were seen (no Grey Squirrels, Rabbits or Water Voles), but we did find something interesting! In the W1b area, just South West from the Environment Centre, Linda and Ian found a distinct mammal track crossing the main path. And on one side of the path, Linda found an unusual mammal dropping. Other members of Wildwatch caught up with us and, on breaking open the dropping, we could see traces of beetle carcasses. We think that it might have been a Fox dropping – see photo. We are now trying to work out how we can monitor this path at night!