Weather: Mild, cloudy but dry and quite bright, fairly still.
Observers: Linda, Kaye
Birds were singing, spring was in the air, and the very mild weather made it a good day for lingering, so we covered less ground than usual but were amazed at how fast the time passed. Tang Hall Beck was still high, though down on last week’s level and a little clearer.
Birds: Ian does pick his times to be away! Cursorily noting the usual Bullfinches around the feeders, together with a couple of Bluetits and the odd Magpie in the trees near the Centre, we made our way towards the Bund path. In the Alders along the boundary, we came across a fair-sized flock that we estimated at 14 Siskins with a couple of Goldfinches. In among them, one bird drew attention – streaky, black bib, little red cap: if only we could have had a picture of our first recorded Lesser Redpoll, and confirmation that its companion was a juvenile. The flock fed intensively on Alder “cones” for some time, giving us excellent views but a sense of not quite knowing where to look next. Robins were out in force. Along the Tang Hall Beck path, we found two birds singing at one another, with a third watching from a neighbouring territory. A Song Thrush and a Pheasant were heard but not seen, and one or two Blackbirds dodged about in the undergrowth. Two pairs of Mallards were idling about on the beck, which at first was otherwise quiet. Then a Goldfinch came down to take a prolonged bath, and a couple of Siskins and a Bullfinch flew in for a drink. Blue and Great Tits came and went overhead, and Linda spotted what from her description sounded very likely to be a Goldcrest. She also pointed out a male Blackbird with its bill turning yellow in stripes. We had a very brief glimpse of the Kingfisher, which unusually flew up into a bush some way from the beck before taking off downstream. Scott joined us just before Linda had to leave – lucky for Kaye, because he was the one who pointed out the Kingfisher making another brief flight. A pair of long-tailed tits and the inevitable wood pigeons completed a total of 15 species (not including unconfirmed Goldcrest).
Mammals We came across two or three Grey Squirrels, and detoured to have a look at the Rabbit warren – no rabbits but some recent burrowing in evidence. The highlight came down at the culvert. A ripple against the current near the right bank alerted us in time to see a Water Vole climb out on to the bank, where it sat for a while nibbling a bit of vegetation, so well camouflaged against the mud and dead nettle stalks that we could easily have missed it. When it had finished its snack, it swam across the beck, then upstream towards us, climbing out briefly on to the remaining raft before disappearing behind a protrusion in the bank. The lead male Mallard seemed to be taking a keen interest in its progress, and followed it until after it landed.
Plants What plants? Sorry, Ian, but after the first ten minutes I’m afraid we weren’t concentrating. That’s not quite fair – the unseasonal clump of Celandines and the Gorse are still in flower, and in a couple of sheltered woodland spots we found Bluebell shoots well through and new Nettles starting to sprout. Linda found us three interesting fungi, two rich brown varieties and one large, flat white specimen, but we were unable to collect sufficient detail to suggest any identification. Kaye promises to try to do better next week!