St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 7 March 2012 – Tang Hall Beck Revealed!

A nest under construction

A nest under construction

Weather: Overcast at first, then sunny intervals. Cool breeze at times.
Observers: Barbara, Ian, Kaye, Kaj

Spring is unstoppable! Despite a wet weekend and overcast skies, there are more flowers and blossoms emerging on the reserve. Both becks had subsided after the rain and, although flowing well, there was little water over the small flood plains.

Birds are singing in increasing numbers, and there is some early nest building going on. Without scrolling down, guess which bird was building / renovating the nest above!

Female Kingfisher: 1st March 2012

Female Kingfisher: 1st March 2012

Birds: Our focus today was to have a close look at Tang Hall Beck to see how it would be possible to place observers along the beck to try to monitor Kingfishers as the breeding season approaches. Last week, we confirmed that there were at least two Kingfishers visiting St. Nicks and the following afternoon, Ian managed to get a photograph of one confirming that it was a female (see the red lower mandible on the rather blurred photo here.). We didn’t see any Kingfishers today, but at least we have a strategy in place which will maximise our chances of seeing the birds in a systematic way.

Female House Sparrow near Tang Hall Beck

Female House Sparrow near Tang Hall Beck

On our walk round the reserve this morning, we noted many birds singing, including Blue and Great Tits, Dunnocks (in at least three locations), Song Thrushes (two locations), Greenfinches (three or four locations), Robins and Wrens. But there were still no singing Blackbirds, although there were plenty around the reserve, including a black-billed male, presumably of Scandinavian origin. Kaj saw a Goldcrest on the path down the right-hand side of Tang Hall Beck and Kaye saw a single Redwing on the other side of the beck. House Sparrows were also seen in the same area. Once more, we saw good numbers of Bullfinches around the reserve, with two pairs in the same tree on one occasion.

Magpie near nest site

Magpie near nest site

So, what about the mystery nest mentioned earlier? It was a Magpie’s nest, and one bird seemed to be busily building or renovating it. There were quite a few Magpies around, and near the playground, we counted nine birds. A Carrion Crow was also seen carrying nesting material, so it looks as though the corvids are getting ready for their usual early nesting season. Fly-over birds included 17 Greylag Geese, a Sparrowhawk zipping over the meadow near the playground and just a single Black-headed Gull. Other birds noted were Chaffinch, Pheasant (a female apparently flying from an adjacent garden – does someone feed them?), Collared Dove and a Moorhen and a pair of Mallards on Osbaldwick Beck. Oh – mustn’t forget Woodpigeon! That brought our total count of bird species to 23.

Mammals: A number of athletic Grey Squirrels were seen around the reserve, with one drinking from Tang Hall Beck.

Left: Grey Squirrel at Tang Hall Beck. Right: Coltsfoot on the Bund path

Left: Grey Squirrel at Tang Hall Beck. Right: Coltsfoot on the Bund path

Plants & Flowers: More Coltsfoots are coming up along the Bund path. The Gorse and the Celandine patch are doing well, the Snowdrops along the industrial estate path are lasting well, and there are a couple of stray Crocuses in the play area.  More Prunus species are in blossom, and catkins on Willow (probably Osier and Sallow) are fully open. Those on Hazel and Alder are past their peak, but red catkins are starting to open on the mature Poplar opposite Tang Hall Beck. We found a Hazel bush with leaves beginning to emerge,  and buds are starting to burst on Ash.

Insects: One Bumble Bee species was seen low on the ground, possibly a female, possibly prospecting a nest site, but we didn’t get a close enough look to positively identify it. A Seven-spot Ladybird was seen on the left-hand Tang Hall Beck path, and in the Environment Centre pond there were two Water Boatmen.

Amphibians: A Common Frog was “detected” (but not seen!) in the Environment Centre pond.

7 March 2012 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: goldcrest, kingfisher, magpie, redwing, Song Thrush, sparrowhawk