St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 7 November 2012 – “Siskin Season” not “Silly Season”!

Autumn colours near the wild flower meadow

Autumn colours near the wild flower meadow

Weather: Cloudy, fresh cool breeze
Obesrvers: Diana, Ian, Janetta, Kaye, Kaj, Linda, Tom – and “Chairman Meow” (aka “Ginger the Cat”)!

OK, not as silly a session as we reported on last week – except that, thanks to some local people, we found out that Ginger the cat, is actually called “Chairman Meow” – if we can believe it. We were also delighted to welcome back, for her 2nd visit, Diana, who celebrates her 91st birthday in a few days time.

Diana was particularly keen to see Long-tailed Tits, so our meanderings today were partially aimed at finding this species for her. Sadly, we didn’t locate any flocks until after she’d left the Group.

Autumn colours are still strong, but the leaves are disappearing quickly, enabling us to find a few nests from this year’s breeding season.

Birds: It seemed very quiet at first, although Ian had picked up 9 species in his pre-Group wander down Osbaldwick Beck. The rest of the Group caught up with all of his sightings, except for Moorhen, only see by him.. and an unusual visiting bird which he located later in the morning  – see below!

Siskin - just outside the Environment Centre fence

Siskin - just outside the Environment Centre fence

The “bird of the day” award must undoubtably be Siskin. We’ve been looking for these winter visitors for the last couple of weeks, and today we found three of them along Osbaldwick Beck – all of them females. Last winter, we didn’t find them until 23 November, so this is an early record. We couldn’t manage to get a photo (too many leaves!) so here’s one which was taken last winter.

Another species which we haven’t seen since August was Greenfinch, a single bird seen today near the Dragon Stones. Other finches recorded were Goldfinch (several seen perched, and flocks of 10+ in flight), Chaffinch, and Bullfinch (male and female near Tang Hall Beck).

Robin by Osbaldwick Beck

Robin by Osbaldwick Beck

Our first winter tit flock today was near Tang Hall Beck, and included both Great and Blue Tit. But it wasn’t until later in the morning, after Diana had left us, that we found a flock of 6+ Long-tailed Tits along Osbaldwick Beck. Robins were not numerous this morning, although we heard a “singing battle” between two males (or two females?) at one location on the reserve. But have a look here for a lovely video of a singing and preening Robin, captured by a member of the Eco-Active team earlier this month. Wrens are starting to become a little more visible. Apart from a few heard, one was glimpsed along Tang Hall Beck.

Drake Mallard in Osbaldwick Beck

Drake Mallard in Osbaldwick Beck

Three Mallards (2 males, 1 female) were in Osbaldwick Beck, the males looking very fine now that they’ve got back their breeding plumage. Three other Mallards also flew over the reserve. Also seen in the air were both Black-headed and Herring Gulls, a flock of 60+ Starlings, and the usual Woodpigeons, Carrion Crows and Magpies and just a single Jackdaw. Blackbirds were everywhere – although we’ve yet to see for sure a visitor from Scandinavia, as we saw last winter. Two Collared Doves were seen along Osbaldwick Beck, where Ian, making his third foray along the beck, after the Group had disbanded, saw a Grey Wagtail – a regular, but seldom-seen visitor to the reserve. This made a total of 22 bird species today, not bad for a cloudy, windy November day!

Nest found by Osbaldwick Beck. (left) the nest in situ (right) the nest on the ground, with a 2p coin for size comparison.

Nest found by Osbaldwick Beck. (left) the nest in situ (right) the nest on the ground, with a 2p coin for size comparison.

Finally, also along Osbaldwick Beck, Linda found a small nest about 3 metres above ground, which we carefully removed (it was no longer capable of being used by any birds). We’re not absolutely sure which bird built it, but it might have been Goldfinch – and it seemed to incorporate insulation material from the roof of the Environment Centre. Makes sense, doesn’t it!

Mallow sp. along Osbaldwick Beck

Mallow sp. along Osbaldwick Beck

Plants and Flowers: At first glance, the latest round of keen frosts appears to have finished off the flowers.  But the increasingly limp vegetation still repays careful inspection, and we ended up with a list of 23 items.  In literally ones and twos, you can still find Dandelion, White Campion, Wood Avens, Black Medick,  Hedge Mustard, Hogweed, Field Scabious, Herb Robert, Teasel, a Sedum (probably a garden variety), and two small Geranium sp.  A Creeping Buttercup flower had to be tracked to its leaves because something had eaten its petals.  We couldn’t be absolutely certain about a Welted Thistle, because its two quite fresh looking flowers and a bud were managing to survive on an absolutely dead looking stem. Along the Tang Hall Beck path, we found Smooth and Prickly Sow Thistle, Ragwort, a Hawksbeard sp and Great Mullein, while a Mallow sp is still flourishing near Osbaldwick Beck.  Tansy and Yarrow flowers can still be found in a range of locations, and White Deadnettle is still easy to find in flower.

Other Wildlife: Only two entries under this category, so it didn’t seem necessary to separate them! Two Grey Squirrels were seen and Kaye and Janetta found what was a probable Harlequin Ladybird, whilst investigating a Sow Thistle (as you do!!)

8 November 2012 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: Autumn colours, Grey Wagtail, long-tailed tit, Siskin, tit feeding flock