A summer visitor, virtually missing for the past two years, returns.. a spectacular flower display along the Tang Hall Beck path (see below).. Butterfly numbers low, but a spectacular hoverfly brightens a dull month.. more breeding evidence of a nationally endangered species
Generally a cool month, with temperatures ranging from 12 – 16C at the beginning of the month, but getting up to 22C on the last Wildwatch Wednesday. We generally stayed dry, apart from a light shower on the 17th.
A particularly intensive morning mid-month notched up 61 species in flower; more routinely we are recording just over 40. Among trees and shrubs, Hawthorn lasted well into June, with Dogwood, Elder and Bramble following on. The Dog Roses have had a longer than average season, helped by cool weather for most of June, and the Laburnum on the Tang Hall Beck path gave a magnificent display.
In the meadow and adjacent grassland, the legume family predominated, with Red and White Clover, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Black Medick and Bush Vetch attracting a range of insects. Meadow Buttercups and Meadow and Cut-leaved Cranesbills varied the mix, along with an occasional flower on the Horseradish (though this plant is more noticeable for the scent rising from its leaves on warm days). Creeping Buttercups, Ox-eye Daisies, Ribwort Plantain, Salad Burnet together with lower-growing Silverweed, Creeping Cinquefoil and Germander Speedwell brightened the more open path edges.
Dock species, Stinging Nettle, Hedge Woundwort, Hogweed and Wood Avens predominated in more shady areas. Common Poppy, White Campion, Lesser Stitchwort. Goatsbeard and Common Mallow also came into flower but are much less widespread. Thistle species were starting to open by the end of the month. A new record was a single specimen of Dame’s Violet , almost certainly a garden escape. At this time of year, an entire spectacular family of flowers tends to be completely overlooked, and sadly we don’t have the expertise to identify most of them: if you visit the reserve during July, make a point of noticing the beautiful shapes and subtle colours of the Grasses.
Common Whitethroat, a summer visitor which spends the winter in Africa, bred on the reserve in 2011, disappeared in 2012 and there were just three sightings in 2013 and four in 2014. However, on was heard on 17th June along the Tang Hall Beck path, and seen and photographed in the same location on the 24th, when it was also seen doing its display flight. We will be monitoring this bird (hopefully there’s more than one!) over the coming weeks. Other summer visiting warblers were Blackcap, with up to six heard on the 3rd, and Chiffchaff, with two seen / heard on every Wildwatch Wednesday.
St Nick’s iconic bird, the Bullfinch, was recorded every Wednesday, with 6 on the 10th; Bullfinch song, not often encountered (as opposed to its single note contact call) was heard on the 24th. Kingfisher was briefly (of course!) seen from the Kingfisher Culvert on the 3rd and 24th.
Juvenile birds were seen in increasing numbers, and included Long-tailed Tit (12 on the 10th), Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Robin.. an adult of the latter species was seen feeding a speckled youngster in the Environment Centre garden on the 24th. But we are still trying to see juvenile Goldfinches; they were heard frequently, but were very difficult to see. Hopefully, when the Teasels come fully out, we’ll see these birds feeding on them.
Overhead, Swifts were seen on every Wildwatch Wednesday, but no Swallows. An unusual record was three Mute Swans flying over the Environment Centre on the 24th.
As an experiment, on the 10th we decided to split into three small groups and do a half-hour sit in different locations, just recording what birds and butterflies we saw or heard. Between us in that half hour, we recorded 16 bird species, which was 80 per cent of the total that was recorded during the whole morning. We intend repeating that experiment, perhaps with a little more structure next time.
Until the end of the month June’s weather was not much warmer than May’s chill, and butterfly numbers continued to be low. There were occasional sightings of Brimstone, Orange Tip, Large, Small and Green–veined Whites and Holly Blue. Large Skipper was being seen from mid-month, four weeks earlier than last year, but so far the (usually earlier) Small Skipper has eluded us. Meadow Brown was seen only once or twice, as was Peacock. Comma and Small Tortoiseshell do not appear to have been recorded during the month, and the only butterfly to show in good numbers was Speckled Wood, with over a dozen counted on the 24th.
Moths: several Straw Dot were seen in the grassland, and Nettle Tap in some numbers on their food plants. A few Dichrorampha petiverella micro-moths appeared, with characteristic pale U-shape on their folded wings. Last month’s Green Longhorn and Cock’s Foot continued to be seen in some numbers around the reserve.
Damselflies: only the Azure was seen during the month. It was present in some numbers, not only around the environment centre pond but on foliage in a number of places on the reserve.
Beetles of several kinds were found. Ladybirds included a few each of 2-spot, 7-spot, 10-spot, 14-spot and Cream-Spot. Large numbers of Harlequins in several different adult colour variations as well as larvae and pupae were seen in all weeks. This year looks to be a more abundant year for Harlequins than last year. For an overview of St Nicks ladybirds, see the Spotlight recently published on the St Nicks blog. A striking Wasp Beetle Clytus arietis and a Malachite Beetle Malachius bipustulatus were also found – both pictured. A tiny but pretty leaf beetle with green body and red head, Gastrophysa polygoni, was seen most weeks on a number of plants on the reserve, and the bright red Cardinal Beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis was frequently observed.
Of the large insect order of Hemiptera (‘True Bugs’ – 1800 species in UK) the Shieldbugs are the best-known members. In recent years nine species of this aptly-named family have been seen, some in large numbers. They have been slow to appear this year, but small numbers are beginning to be seen now. The emergence of the Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvatica plants, particularly just outside the Environment Centre, encouraged large numbers of the small and attractive bronze-and-maroon Woundwort Shieldbugs to appear and mate, while smaller numbers of Common Green, Hairy (Sloe), Parent, Hawthorn and Gorse shieldbugs were present. The delightfully-named Fine-streaked Bugkin Miris striatus was seen early in the month and another black-and-yellow species, Grypocoris stysi, began to emerge in some numbers on Common Nettle and nearby plants.
Flies were well-represented in June, notably by Bluebottles, Greenbottles and Flesh Flies, and the tiny wing-waving Ensign Fly Sepsis fulgens. Bramble Sawfly Arge cyanocrocea was seen on several occasions around its host plant, but in spite of wild roses on the reserve, the Rose Sawfly wasn’t found. Some of our most attractive species are the Hoverflies, which are well-represented at St Nicks with about 30 species recorded. A spectacular find was made on June 10th – Hornet Hoverfly Volucella zonaria (pictured), the largest of the British hoverflies, up to 2cm long. First established in England in 1940 this species is rarely seen as far north as Yorkshire. Other hoverflies seen during June were: Dasysyrphus albostriatus, Episyrphus balteatus, Eupeodes luniger, Helophilus pendulus, Melanostoma scalare, Myathropea florea, Syritta pipiens, Syrphus ribesii and Volucella pellucens.
Some small Gall Flies have attractively patterned wings, and are often called picture-winged flies. Several species are seen on the reserve each year, usually on their host plant. Several stands of the Mugwort plant Artemisia vulgaris attract the Mugwort Gall Fly Campiglossa misella – see photo above – while the Lesser Burdock plant Arctium minus attracts two different gall flies: Tephritis bardanae and Terellia tussilaginis both of which appeared during the month. They are fascinating to watch on the Burdock flower heads, congregating with much waving of their beautifully-patterned wings.
Water Voles, for whom we are actively managing the beckside habitats, were seen regularly on Tang Hall Beck, with an adult and three juveniles seen on the 10th, and single sightings on the 17th and 24th, all from the Kingfisher Culvert. Rabbits were seen on the 10th, 17th and 24th, but there was just a single Grey Squirrel sighting on the 24th. There was a similar low number of Squirrel sightings in June 2014.
All the photos on this page were taken at St Nicks during June 2015