A new St Nicks hoverfly and new St Nicks moths.. “Woody” is a new plant record.. and a hunter along the Bund Path!
Mainly dry with sunshine and sunny intervals, with the warmer weather (up to 25C) in the early part of the month, and down to 18C on the 27th
July’s weather on Wildwatch days was a clear improvement on June’s, and by the end of the month butterflies (14 species) and hoverflies (12 species) were being seen in greater numbers.
Of the butterflies, Ringlets increased through the month until they were seen frequently in most open areas of the reserve by the end of July, the most abundant butterfly on the reserve. Speckled Wood continued to show in smaller but still significant numbers, while in addition to Large and Small Whites, Green-veined Whites were seen in most weeks. Large Skippers were on the reserve from early July but it was the end of the month before Small Skippers were seen, with Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns from mid-month. Commas continued to be seen most weeks but in small numbers, while Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Red Admiral were only occasional. Finally a possibly new-brood Brimstone was spotted at the end of the month. We are hoping that Painted Lady will appear in August. This migrant butterfly, which in some years (as last year) arrives in large numbers while in other years hardly at all, has been seen recently in the York area.
Most moths are nocturnal flyers but day-flying species occur in enough numbers to have a recent WildGuide book published about them. At St Nicks during July we expected to see the first adult Six-spotted Burnets on the knapweed and thistle heads. We did, but in much-reduced numbers from previous years. A nice meadow find on 13th, and not recorded at St Nicks before, was a Blood-vein Timandra comae. Other moths seen during the month were several Common Marble Celypha lacunana, Shaded Broad-bar Scotopteryx chenopodiata and micro-moths Grapholyta compositella (new for the reserve) and Pale Straw Pearl Udea lutealis. At the end of the month some striking larvae of the Vapourer Moth Orgyia antiqua appeared on a Dogwood tree near the Environment Centre.
The first Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum dragonflies appeared around the Centre pond late in the month, and a Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans. Otherwise there were no new additions of dragonflies or damselflies to the list in the blog for June. For an overview of St Nicks Odonata, take a look at the Spotlight on Dragonflies which appeared on the blog during July.
Shieldbugs included the four species seen in June, plus Birch Shieldbug Elasmostethus interstinctus and in the same tree a female Parent Bug Elasmucha grisea protecting a large colony of her tiny young nymphs. This brings to eight the number of shieldbug species seen this year at St Nicks. Among many other bugs found during July were grassbugs Leptoterna dolobrata, Nettle Groundbug Heterogaster urticae, both red and black colour forms of the Mirid bug Deraeocoris ruber, a striking black bug with green legs and very large flattened antennae Heterotoma planicornis, and abundant black and yellow Grypocoris stysi.
Longhorn Beetles are not often seen at St Nicks, but following last month’s striking Golden-bloomed Longhorn Beetle, four examples of Black-and-yellow Longhorn Rutpela maculata were seen during July. Other beetles included the Darkling Beetle Lagria hirta looking like a miniature kiwi fruit, many different colour forms of Harlequin Ladybird and smaller numbers of 7-Spot, 14-Spot and 22-Spot Ladybirds.
Hoverflies increased in frequency on sunny days, and in addition to those listed for June we added these in July: Sericomyia silentis, Sphaerophora scripta, Chrysotoxum festivum, Chrysotoxum bicinctum and Pipiza noctiluca. We have re-identified last month’s Pipiza luteitarsis as Pipiza austriaca. These three: C. bicinctum, P. noctiluca and C. austriaca are all newly recorded species for St Nicks. So far this year we have identified 24 species of hoverfly on the reserve.
Statistics for July, varying from 52 to 62 herbaceous species in flower, are more than ever a record of other activities rather than just plants. Wildwatchers have been on holiday; things settle on plants and need to be looked at; gall-hunting time reaches its peak – systematic plant hunting suffers. We are also horribly aware of needing much greater expertise as well as more time to check out difficult species, particularly the yellow asteraceae with hawk in their name.
The last of the native trees, the Limes, flowered briefly at the start of July. Because of weather conditions, most of us missed their glorious scent at its best. Right now, the Buddleias are putting on a good show, with a conspicuous lack of Peacock butterflies to feed on them. Meanwhile Rowan berries are ripening, to the delight of the reserve Blackbirds. The first Hazelnuts have been spotted, and the Alders are showing not only this year’s seed heads, but next year’s tiny catkins. Sadly it doesn’t look to be a good season for Elderberries and Sloes.
Eight of our dozen legume species brightened the meadow and nearby grassland areas throughout the month, and on a good morning the buzzing from bees among the Ribbed Melilot could be heard from yards away. Goat’s Rue is always the last of this group to flower but only has a short season. Look for it now, along the main path.
Around the Dragon Stones, Field Scabious is well established, and along with Common Knapweed seems to attract day-flying moths as well as bees and butterflies. In scrubbier areas, Great Willow-herb and Rosebay Willow-herb make vivid patches of colour, with much less conspicuous Red Bartsia among the grass. The strange green spikes of Greater Plantain are easily overlooked and just as easily not recognised as flowers at all. Look for the little clusters of stamens around the stiff green spikes. Most of the later-flowering plants were out by the end of the month: pretty pink Field Bindweed in the Butterfly Walk, Great Burnet near the Dragon Stones, Tansy, Teasel , Lesser Burdock and Yarrow dotted about all over the reserve. Chicory has reappeared on the seeded patch outside the Centre, and Evening Primrose has turned up along one of the meadow paths. Soapwort came into flower at the end of the month, in its usual spot alongside the main path, and Water-lilies and Purple Loosestrife are at their best on or near the Centre pond.
A new reserve record this month is Woody Nightshade. We have often wondered why this fairly common plant wasn’t present, but can perhaps be forgiven for failing to find this specimen. The rangers came across it on the edge of Osbaldwick Beck while Balsam-bashing a steep bank – a rather tricky location for getting a decent archive picture.
Finally, where rangers and volunteers have been busy trying to keep the paths clear, second flowerings of earlier species are likely, so during August we will be trying to catch up with small geraniums and speedwells that we missed in early summer.
As usual, July, along with August, is a quiet time on the reserve for birds. Many species have finished breeding, and are feeding / fledging juveniles. Our summer visitors, Chiffchaffs (up to three) and Blackcaps (maybe four) were calling throughout the month, and are likely to have bred on the reserve.
Song Thrushes were, unusually, singing on the first three Wildwatch Wednesdays, with three heard on the 6th. Normally, they have finished singing by the end of June. A Greenfinch remained loyal to the trees in front of the Environment Centre, but only one other was heard near the Dragon Stones on the 27th. Wrens were very vocal everywhere, with up to seven located on the 20th. It seems very likely that they bred, at least along Osbaldwick Beck, but almost certainly in other parts of the reserve.
Bullfinches, St Nicks iconic bird, remained mainly invisible, but were heard in various locations on all four Wildwatch Wednesday. Goldfinches were also mainly invisible, but their twittering was heard on the first two Wednesdays. Blackbirds were everywhere on the reserve, and have now started to feed on the Rowan berries near the Environment centre. Robins have gone fairly silent, but a juvenile was seen near Ladybird Corner (far end of the Tang Hall Beck path) on the 20th. Juvenile Blue and Great Tits were occasionally recorded, but the roving Long-tailed Tit flock(s?) proved mainly elusive.
Overhead, three House Martins were seen on the 27th, and on the same morning, a female Sparrowhawk was seen zipping low down through the trees on the Bund Path – after juvenile birds, perhaps? We normally only see these birds flying high over the reserve.
Rabbits were seen on all four Wildwatch Wednesdays, mainly juveniles, but Grey Squirrels were only seen on the 20th and 27th, the latter a juvenile by the Kingfisher Culvert. A Brown Rat was by Osbaldwick Beck on the 13th.
It is of some concern that no Water Voles have been seen by anyone over the past six weeks or so.
All photos were taken at St Nicks during July 2016