Weather: Mainly sunny, cloudier later, occasional light breeze, 13C to 21 C
Observers: Amanda, Cliff, Declan, Ian, Kaye, Linda, Megan, Mike, Nicole, Paul, Preeyus
Another good turn-out of Wildwatchers. Ian took newcomers, Megan, Mike & Nicole round, to be joined later by Declan and Preeyus, with an emphasis on birds and butterflies. Kaye led the rest of the group, focussing on plants and insects. Ian’s group spent 20 unsuccessful minutes near the Dragon Stones, trying and failing to find a suspected Willow Warbler. They then went down the Tang Hall Beck path and met up with the other group, who had progressed at a very leisurely pace, near the Butterfly Path.
The focus today was definitely on insects, including butterflies, with so many flowering plants being visited by a wide variety of insects. The vegetation at St Nicks can only be described as “lush”!
Plants: On a warm day, there is a heady scent from the Buddleia flowers, but they’re not going to last much longer. Teasels, Burdock, Tansy and Field Scabious are among other plants that attract insects, and Golden Rod is opening to provide an alternative source of nectar.
We had despaired of finding Wild Carrot this year, but the white umbels with their characteristic central red flower have popped up in one of the planters outside the Centre. Nicole spotted the seed heads of Great Burnet along a path near the Dragon Stones. Unfortunately we missed its flowering period, but have now found the plant in two locations. Red Clover, Tufted Vetch, Common or Ribbed Melilot and Ox-Eye Daisy are among plants that can be found with searching – probably attempting a second flush after path maintenance. Soapwort, Blue Sow Thistle, Creeping Cinquefoil and Field Bindweed are still flowering, as are Rosebay and Great Willow Herb. White Dead-nettle hasn’t had a mention for several weeks, but it’s still there.
Blackberries and Rowan berries are starting to ripen, along with what we first took to be Sloes but realised must be some variety of Wild Plum. There are also ripening berries on something new that we must have overlooked in flower. Hopefully Janetta will be able to confirm a very tentative identification next week. Immature nuts can be found hidden under the Hazel leaves, and in among them tiny catkins are just starting to form ready for next Spring. Nature doesn’t do holidays!
Butterflies: We’ve separated these from the other insects, because they deserve, this week, a separate category. Butterflies were everywhere! Possibly the most common species were the Whites.. Large, Small and Green-veined Whites. But Peacock Butterflies were also prolific, as were Speckled Woods and Commas. It was good to catch up with an earlier single-individual sighting of Small Copper. Other “smalls” included Small Skipper and Small Tortoiseshell. Cliff found two “blues” – Common and Holly Blue, whilst Kaye, on her afternoon walk with a group finally saw Red Admiral. Gatekeeper rounded off our total of 13 butterfly species today.
Other Insects: A Common Darter was at the Environment Centre pond, and Ian, on his pre-Wildwatch walk round Ossie Beck, saw what he thought was a female Emperor Dragonfly, green down the front of the abdomen, blue down the rear. This dragonfly has the largest wingspan of any British Dragonfly!
With Cliff’s expert help – and his excellent photos – our tally of “other” insects increased dramatically this week. Sightings included: Empid Fly, Harvestman, Sercomyia silentis hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus hoverfly, Syrphus ribesii hoverfly, Marmalade hoverfly, Ichneumon Wasp (probably Amblyteles armatorious), Mason Wasp, Mirid Bug, Tree Bumble Bee, Tree Wasp, White-tailed Bumble Bee.. and quite a few more!
Birds: Not surprisingly, bird sightings were well down compared with earlier months. Once of the highlights was a juvenile Blackcap, which Ian saw (and photographed badly!) on his pre-Wildwatch walk round Osbaldwick Beck. An unusual fly-over was Grey Heron, and also in the skies were a couple of Swifts (they’ve not gone yet!) and a few Swallows. Greenfinches were vocal in a few places, and one perched on a tree near the Environment Centre. Bullfinches were heard in several locations, but not seen, as were Wrens. A juvenile Dunnock was near the Playground, and Blue and Great Tits were “heards” only. Blackbirds (including a few young birds), Magpies, Carrion Crow (one at the Playground) and the inevitable Wood Pigeon brought the species total to a modest 14.
Fungi: We are starting to find a few. Two species were by the Butterfly Path. Fungi are very difficult to identify, sometimes needing to be examined under a microscope to get a positive ID. However, one of the two species seen today was probably Coprinus plicatilis.
Mammals: None seen today.