Weather: Early snow shower cleared to lead to sunny intervals. Cold, Northerly breeze. 2 to 3C.
Observers: Ian, Kaye, Kaj
Ian went for his usual pre-Wildwatch stroll round Osbaldwick Beck, but was soon driven back to the Environment Centre by a short, heavy snow shower. Then he and Kaye set off early, and covered the North-Eastern part of the reserve, which probably isn’t observed as much as it should be. Coming back from the Sluice Bridge, they met up with Kaj, and continued the normal route round, anti-clockwise, also taking in Osbaldwick Beck, and a quick look at the plants near the Playgound.
There were definite early signs of Spring, although probably not as advanced as in 2012. But it was good to see more new growth emerging.. and some birds possibly pairing up.
Birds: Ian had a brief “blue flash” view of a Kingfisher along Osbaldwick Beck. It is heartening to know that this beautiful bird is still around, even though sightings as not as frequent as last year. Bird song was a little muted in the early part of the walk, until the weather softened a little, but a Song Thrush was heard briefly singing near the Environment Centre early on.
Bullfinches seemed to be everywhere today. We must have seen four, possibly five, pairs, and in one bush alone we had two males and four females. Once more, they seemed to be feeding on Hawthorn buds. Robins, too, seemed to be in good voice in many places. Other birds, though, were in smaller numbers than in recent weeks – only a few sightings of Goldfinch, just 3 Long-tailed Tits, at first along Melrosegate, then down Osbaldwick Beck, and no sign at all of Siskins. Even Blackbirds seemed scarcer than in recent weeks!
Wrens were heard in a few places, but there was a good, prolonged view of one foraging along the muddy bank of Tang Hall Beck. Other small birds seen included Dunnock, Blue and Great Tits, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Greenfinch. Larger birds were represented by Woodpigeon (of course!), Collared Dove, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Mallards (on both becks) and a couple of Black-headed Gulls flying over the reserve.
The catkin season continues, with a lot more Willow, Alder and Hazel opening, though still no female flowers to be found on the Hazels. The Osbaldwick Beck Aspen is putting out catkins warily – it was a lot further advanced this time last year. There are new leaves
showing on Hawthorn and Elder in several locations, along with growing Bramble shoots and very green buds on Prunus species. There are one or two clumps of Snowdrops along Osbaldwick Beck. Those on the Tang Hall Beck path are only just starting to show white buds. Two more Gorse bushes are coming into flower opposite the play area, and the Primroses in the Centre garden have survived the snow. We checked carefully for two or three other early species but found nothing else.
Mammals: Just one sighting of Grey Squirrel.