In contrast to last month, the Wildwatch group was blessed with dry Wednesdays! November’s first Wildwatch meeting had overcast skies, but for the other three Wednesdays we enjoyed sunshine or, at least sunny intervals. Temperatures ranged from 3C to 11C.
There were fewer of us during November, compared with last month – between five or six of us on each of the four Wednesday mornings.
Highlights were: Siskin: a possible one on 6th, and a small flock of 8+ on 13th, with a male clearly seen by Linda and others on 13th near the Environment Centre; Redwing: our first of the winter, with two at the end of the Tang Hall Beck path (“Ladybird Corner”); Woodcock: one flushed by Ian from near the Bund Path (near “The Dell”) on 20th; Grey Heron: one flying over the reserve seen by Cliff on 20th; Grey Wagtail: one on Osbaldwick Beck on 27th; Kingfisher: one seen briefly on 27th from the Kingfisher Culvert by Kaye and two others (after the Wildwatch walk).
After a gap of several months, a Pheasant was heard calling near Tang Hall Beck on 27th, with a distant Mistle Thrush heard from the Kingfisher Culvert on the same date.
Winter Tit feeding flocks continued to be seen, with Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits being regularly seen feeding together. A Coal Tit (once a St Nicks rarity) was seen on 27th. Finch flocks, too, seem to be building, with up to a dozen Goldfinches being seen, along with the regular Bullfinches and the occasional Chaffinch and Greenfinch. The bushes to the East of the Dragon Stones seem to be a good finch location.
All the rest of the regular birds.. Carrion Crows, Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens – and yes, Wood Pigeons, of course – continue to be recorded and entered on our database of sightings.
At the start of the month, we were still able to record 17 species. By the end, after a series of fairly hard frosts with intermittent rain, we were down to 7 fully alive and identifiable items. Late summer plants like Ragwort, Tansy and Field Scabious hung on for the first couple of weeks, alongside one-off late flowers. White Campion, Tufted Vetch, Feverfew, Dandelion, Groundsel, Field Pansy, Wood Avens, Herb Robert, Smooth Sow Thistle, Greater Burnet Saxifrage, Hedge Woundwort and Teasel were all found on at least one occasion. Only White Dead-nettle and Yarrow flowered convincingly in a number of locations throughout the month. Hedge Bindweed and the small Hollyhock alongside the top meadow path were recorded in all four weeks, but latterly with the slightly translucent appearance of something that has been frozen and doesn’t like it. These last four, along with Hogweed, a single Bramble flower and new season’s Gorse were still flowering on 27th. There are a couple of Brassica sp. in the planters outside the Centre, but these have resisted firm identification and are likely to be the remains of bolted vegetable plants. Of course an observant visitor is quite likely to find the occasional flower that we have missed.
Only a few trees and shrubs are entirely dormant, and there are still rich autumn colours, particularly during some of the spectacular sunsets of the last couple of weeks. Alder seed catkins are ripening at last, and there are plenty of apples and berries, particularly Hawthorn, left to feed the resident birds and tempt in winter visitors. Coppicing and woodland thinning work has begun in accordance with the reserve management plan. Detailed information can be found in the Reserve Manager’s blog post, 14th November.
The autumn fungus season is drawing to an end, but an estimated 20 species have been photographed. Jelly Ear, Candlesnuff, Turkey Tail and “Purple Jelly Drops” are the only ones we have tentatively identified. We are hoping for an expert opinion on a cup species previously unrecorded.
A single Lime Nail Gall, produced by one of two possible mites, is a first record for the reserve. Oak Marble Galls, caused by a tiny wasp, Andricus kollari, bring our tally of identified Oak galls to six.
Harlequin ladybirds, abundant in some parts of the reserve at the beginning of the month, gradually dwindled until no more were seen at the month’s end. More than 10 different colour morphs were observed. Of the native ladybird species, only 7-spot was at all frequent, and still being seen at the end of November.
No hoverflies were spotted in November, but Shieldbugs stay late in the year before hibernating and were seen every week: notably Common Green and Gorse Shieldbugs, both in winter plumage. The Gorse shieldbug was seen on every Wildwatch Walk in November. On 27th November a new shieldbug for the reserve was found: Picromerus bidens notable for its spiked shoulders. This makes nine species of shieldbug seen on the reserve this year.
Late Capsid and Mirid bugs were seen, and a Tree Damsel Bug, Himacerus apterus, spotted and photographed on 30th October, was finally identified and found to be a species not so far mapped north of Lincolnshire. Its name belies its behaviour: it is a fierce predator of other small insects.
Flies were still abundant in the early part of the month, including Blowflies, Flesh flies, Bluebottles, Greenbottles and a Face Fly, Phaonia subventa. On 6th November a Snail-killing Fly, possibly Tetanocera elata was seen: hardly surprising in view of the abundant small snails to be seen on the reserve foliage, especially in damp weather.
A very small green beetle, resembling a tiny Tansy Beetle (itself a River Ouse British extreme rarity) seen on 6th November was believed to be a Green Dock Beetle; while a week later a small flower fly, Sepsis fulgens, with a diagnostic black spot on each of its wings, was seen in a woodland area of the reserve.
Spittlebugs were still being seen in the early part of the month: both the Common Froghopper and the Alder Spittlebug.
Spider identification continues to be a challange. Webs of various kinds can be seen throughout the reserve: both the beautiful orb webs, and sheets and constructions of other species. Positive identifications included the Nursery Web spider, which is abundant around the reserve and has a fascinating lifestyle. Also seen were several species of long-legged Harvestman spiders
Grey Squirrel: Recorded on three out of the four visits.
Rabbit: Recorded on two out of the four visits.
Fox: Droppings found on top of a fallen log near Tang Hall Beck on 20th (below “Ladybird Corner”) was a strong indicator that this animal has visited the reserve.
Homo Sapiens: Cliff attacking tree (trying to dislodge an alien object thrown up into it).