Weather: Clear, sunny, cool (4C), occasional cold, light breeze
Observers: Claire, Ian, Janetta, Kaye
Well, after the rain and the dark, overcast skies, we deserved a bright morning.. and that’s what we got today! Cloudless skies, beautiful light, and some lovely sights!
Ian was out early for his usual walk around Osbaldwick Beck (getting 16 bird species in 20 minutes), before returning, late, for a meeting at the Environment Centre (he hates meetings!). After the meeting, he, Claire and Kaye had enough time for another perambulation round the beck before the Wildwatch Group assembled at 10 am.
It was time for another Winter Thrush Survey for the British Trust for Ornithology (“BTO”), so we followed the pre-set route around the reserve.. but recording, not just Winter thrushes, but everything else we could find. And we still had time later to go and look at the progress of the mature Lime trees in the South-West corner of the reserve.
Birds: Bird song was magnificent for this time of the year! We counted at least a dozen singing Robins (with some possible pairing up going on), along with 18 Blackbirds and a single Song Thrush for our BTO survey. Another singing Song Thrush by Osbaldwick Beck couldn’t be counted because it wasn’t on our BTO survey route. Two Dunnocks were showing courtship behaviour along Osbaldwick Beck, with a Sparrowhawk zipping over.
Bullfinches were sighted frequently, with one male feeding on Hawthorn buds (see below), and there were about five Siskins along Osbaldwick Beck, feeding on Alder cones. Chaffinch, Goldfinch and two Greenfinches on the Environment Centre feeders completed our finch “collection”.
We found Long-tailed Tits in a number of locations, with a feeding flock of about 15 birds along Osbaldwick Beck, with Blue and Great Tits seen in small numbers throughout the reserve. Other passerines (“perching birds”) recorded were Wren and House Sparrow.
Up at the Northern end of the reserve, at the Sluice Bridge, sharp-eyed Claire spotted a Kingfisher perched on concrete by one of the exit culverts for Tang Hall Beck. The rest of the group didn’t see it until it flew, but then we all had a good view of the “blue flash”. It probably flew to the River Foss, over the road next to the Morrisons store. This could prove to be a good location to monitor for this species; that’s the 2nd time it’s been seen here in 3 weeks. It might well be a juvenile bird, prospecting a new territory.
Fly-over birds included Black-headed and Herring Gull and a gaggle of about 20 Greylag Geese, which Ian saw, sitting bored, in the Environment Centre meeting! Wrapping up the good total of 24 bird species seen this morning were Magpie (plenty of them!), Woodpigeon (ditto!), Carrion Crow, Collared Dove and Mallard (two males on Osbaldwick Beck).
Plants: The unusually early Alder reported last week looked fantastic in bright sunlight. There are lengthening male catkins on Hazel bushes down the adjacent path and along Osbaldwick Beck, but no sign of female flowers yet. We used binoculars on high Willow twigs shining white in the sun, but couldn’t persuade ourselves that there was any actual bud burst.
Along the Tang Hall Beck Cycle Track we saw a Bullfinch feeding off early Hawthorn buds. This species has a liking for buds, and is regarded as a pest amongst some Southern apple growers for the damage that it can cause to apple crops. But we don’t mind it eating our Hawthorn buds!
A sprinkle of Gorse flowers, the Primroses in the Centre garden, and the inevitable White Dead-Nettle completed this week’s tally.
Mammals: Just the one “usual suspect”.. Grey Squirrel! One was quite vociferous. Squirrel calls can sometimes be confusing to people who don’t realise that this mammal can be very noisy at times. Want to know what one sounds like? Click here!
Fungi: There are still a few around. Kaye and Ian each recorded a different one, but neither had much idea about what they were! Photos below: