More breeding bird evidence, and a bad hair day for a scarce bird by Tang Hall Beck.. Warmer July weather brings out more butterflies and dragonflies, plus two more new hoverflies for the reserve.. “Butterfly bush” now in full bloom, and there’s Bindweed everywhere!
July started off hot and sunny, with temperatures reaching 22-23 C on the first Wildwatch Wednesday on the 29th. We had cooler temperatures and light rain on the 8th, but back to warmth (22 C) and sunny intervals on the 15th. Then back to cloudy and cooler (16 C) on the 22nd and about the same temperatures, but with sunny intervals on the 5th Wildwatch Wednesday on the 29th. So.. a bit of a see-saw month!
The Common Whitethroat, first located near “Ladybird Corner” at the far end of the Tang Hall Beck path on 17th June, continued to be seen and heard at the same place on every Wildwatch Wednesday up to and including the 22nd July – but not thereafter. It’s just possible that there was a second bird present, but it couldn’t be proved. Other warblers on the reserve, Chiffchaff and Blackcap continued to be heard throughout the month, but were mainly invisible (but see breeding records below)
A Goldcrest, a scarce bird at St Nicks, gave excellent views at the Kingfisher Culvert on the 9th, where it spent some time preening after bathing in Tang Hall Beck. Kingfisher was also seen twice from the Culvert, on the 15th and the 29th. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming from Osbaldwick Beck on the 15th – although it might have been in the nearby Hull Road Park.
We continue to add evidence of breeding birds at St Nicks in 2015, with the first juvenile Bullfinch on the 1st, (with a juvenile being fed by an adult male near the Tang Hall Beck Path on the 29th), Dunnock on the 9th, Blackcap on the 15th (female feeding two young) and a female / juvenile on the compost heaps on the 29th .. and (at last!) juvenile Goldfinches on the 29th, with two or three, lacking the red head markings, by the compost heaps. Two juvenile Magpies were at the Environment Centre prior to the Summer Nature Walk on the 25th.
In the skies above St Nicks, Swifts were seen on the 1st, 9th and 15th, but not after that, House Martins (a strangely scarce bird at St Nicks) on the 22nd and Swallow only on the 22nd.
On the 15th, we repeated last month’s exercise of splitting into groups and just sitting in one location for half an hour. Between them, the four groups recorded 13 species, 62% of the total for the morning.
July’s weather was mixed, but a little sunshine encouraged butterflies out, though mostly in smaller numbers than in recent summers. Large Skippers had been seen from mid-June, but it was July before Small Skippers joined them and soon greatly outnumbered them. Ringlets appeared for the first time, and ended the month in large numbers as usual over most parts of the reserve. Large, Small and Green-veined Whites were fairly small in number all month, Commas and Small Tortoiseshells were by no means numerous, and there were single sightings only of Peacock and Red Admiral. Meadow Brown numbers were better, especially from mid-month, but were soon overtaken by a good spread of Gatekeepers. Speckled Woods were seen all month, and we expect these attractive butterflies to be with us until October. Altogether four fewer species than July last year. We hear that this is a good year for the migrant Painted Lady, so we’ll keep a keen eye out for these during August.
Moths included a good number of Six-Spotted Burnets and Nettle Taps, single Shaded Broadbar and White Plume, several Common Marble Celypha lacunana and a fine Elephant Hawk Moth.
Dragonflies put on a reasonably good show, with Azure Damselflies resting in many sunny places on the reserve all month, and a single Common Blue Damselfly was seen plus a possible Beautiful Demoiselle. Common Darter Dragonflies were seen around the pond, while on the Saturday nature walk at the end of the month two fine immature Southern Hawker dragonflies were found resting and gaining strength in the Dragon Stones area, providing a moment of wonder for the eighteen participants.
True Bugs put on a good show, though Shieldbug numbers are down this year, and the only species seen during the month were Gorse, Common Green, Hawthorn, Pied and Woundwort. The Mirid bug Deraeocoris ruber was seen in both red and black colour forms, Tree Damsel Bugs were found in several places, as were Common Green Capsids on the Ox-eye Daisy heads and striking black-white-and-yellow Capsid Bugs Grypocoris stysi in abundance especially on Nettle and Burdock plants. Several other bugs were recorded for the first time at St Nicks: a long-legged grass bug Megaloceroea recticornis, several rather plain grey Mirid bugs Plagiognathus arbustorum, a Potato Leafhopper, a striking yellow-and-black leafhopper Evacanthus interruptus, and a remarkable-looking Mirid Bug Heterotoma planicornis, with black body, green legs, and huge flattened waving antennae.
Beetles included just four species of Ladybird: small numbers of 7-Spot, 14-Spot and 22-Spot, and numerous Harlequins. The Common Red Soldier Beetle arrived in numbers as expected on flower-heads all round the reserve, and many Darkling beetles of the species Lagria Hirta were seen, which we have dubbed the Kiwi Fruit Beetle (see picture). False Blister Beetles Oedemera lurida were recorded in some numbers, and Green Nettle Weevils were seen.
Flies included two species of hoverfly not recorded before at St Nicks, both pictured here and both large and beautiful: Chrysotoxum festivum and the migrant Scaeva pyrastri. Other identified hoverflies seen were the abundant Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus with a liking for Bindweed flowers, Eupeodes luniger, Helophilus pendulus, Melanostoma scalare, Sphaerophora scripta, Syrphus ribesii, Volucella pellucens and several Eristalis species.
The first record at St Nicks of the Marsh Snipefly Rhagio tringarius was made, as were a strange Thick-Headed Fly Sicus ferrugineus and Crane Fly Tipula fascipennis. A striking large yellow Sawfly of the Tenthredo species was seen on several occasions.
Bees and Wasps comprised several species of Bumble Bee, and a number of solitary and Ichneumon wasps, many of which are hard to identify to species. We’ll keep trying!
Trees coming into flower this month were Lime, Sweet Chestnut and Buddleia. At the other end of the cycle, Rowan berries and the first of the little Plum sp. are starting to colour, and Silver Birch seed catkins are expanding.
1st July was a Wednesday this year, so the chances are that late-summer species first recorded on that date actually came into flower before the end of June. They included Large Bindweed, Common Ragwort, Ribbed Melilot, Common Knapweed, Common Blue Sow Thistle and the dreaded Indian Balsam, back in strength along Tang Hall Beck but significantly reduced by intensive work on Osbaldwick Beck.
White Bryony, Yellow and unrelated Purple Loosestrife, Great Burnet, Goat’s Rue, Great Willow-herb, Rosebay Willow-herb, Field and Hedge Bindweed, Self Heal, Great Mullein, Hedge Bedstraw, Field Scabious, Wild Teasel, Lesser Burdock and Spear and Creeping Thistles were in flower by the following week, with Tansy, Soapwort and Yarrow just a little later still.
The flowers of Red Bartsia are easy to miss, but it was surprising not to notice them till the very end of the month. Equally late Enchanter’s Nightshade is more easily explained – it must have taken it a while to recover from work on the Osbaldwick Beck paths. A survey of the meadow confirmed our impression that Vetches and Clovers still predominate, but it was good to find that Ladies’ Bedstraw, Meadowsweet and Field Scabious have moved in, while Yellow Rattle has popped up in a new location some way from the only other known clump.
Sowings of wild flower seed mix at the Rawdon Avenue and Cycle Path entrances gave good displays of Cornflowers, Corn Marigold and a Camomile sp.
Tiny Spangle Galls are just visible on the undersides of Oak leaves. Two new galls were found on Lime, provisionally identified as a midge gall, Contarinia tiliarum, on leaf axes and flower buds, and a mite gall, Eriophyes leiosoma. A member of the recycling team pointed out an intriguing formation on Ribwort Plantain, which is still awaiting firm identification.
Water Voles were seen on all Wildwatch Wednesdays, always from the Kingfisher Culvert – maybe we should rename it the Water Vole Culvert! On the Summer Nature Walk on the 25th, one group spent twenty minutes at the Culvert, and had about ten sightings of three individuals. Some youngsters (much darker than the adults) were seen, and it’s almost certain that this nationally-endangered species is breeding at St Nicks.
Rabbits were seen on all Wildwatch Wednesdays except the 1st. A juvenile was seen with two adults on the 29th along the Tang Hall Beck path.
There was just one sighting of Grey Squirrel – a very reddish one in the Environment Centre Garden on the 9th.
All photos were taken at St Nicks during July 2015