Weather: Wet, windy, cold!
Observers: Kaye, Ian
We have to count ourselves lucky, we suppose! Whilst upland areas were having snow dumped on them, here at St Nicks we simply had to endure rain and cold winds.
But the birds were still singing (well, some of them), and flowers and leaves were still coming out quickly.
Both becks were flowing well, and the paths were not too muddy, thanks to the work over recent months by other volunteers in providing good, well-drained surfaces.
Birds: Down Osbaldwick Beck a Chiffchaff was singling lustily; this was a new location for this species this Spring. We also heard Chiffchaffs in one, maybe two other locations. Robins, Great Tits, Wrens, Greenfinches and Dunnocks were singing and calling from many parts of the reserve, but Bullfinches seemed quieter than normal.
A slightly unusual sighting was a single Starling, feeding on the meadow North of the playground, alongside a Blackbird. Normally, Starlings are seen flying over the reserve, but this one gave us good views of its lovely spotted breeding plumage. No photos, though; Ian had wisely left his big camera behind!
Three drake “batchelor” Mallards were on Osbaldwick Beck, and another one on Tang Hall Beck. Other birds noted were Blue Tit, Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Magpie and three Black-headed Gulls flying over. Total species counted: 15.. lower than normal, but not surprising considering the eather conditions, and the fact that we didn’t spend the normal full two hours going round the site.
Mammals: Only a couple of Grey Squirrels, their tails looking decidedly bedraggled in the rain! We didn’t see any Water Voles today, but we noted that both the upper and lower entrances seemed to be above the current water levels in Tang Hall Beck.
Plants & Flowers: In today’s weather some of the small spring flowers were closed up tight to protect their supply of nectar and pollen. As soon as the sun comes out, so will the Dandelions, Daisies, Celandines and Coltsfoots – but not today. The Gorse is still making a brilliant splash of colour opposite the play area, more Cowslips are out, and in the thickets the first Apple blossom is showing along with Blackthorn. Among the less conspicuous trees, Ash is still in full flower, and flower buds are starting to show on Sycamore, Maple and Sorbusspecies. If you walk past the Environment Centre on the main path, you may catch the musky scent of Balsam Poplar. Further along the path, past the Dragon Stones, look out for the strange almost fungus-like shoots of Horsetails.
Invertebrates: A small collection of snail shells near the Cowslip patch in the flower meadow puzzled us. There were several different species. Some of them appeared to have been cracked open (by Song Thrushes?), but others were intact. We wondered how there came to be such a concentration of shells in one place.