Weather: Overcast, dull, no wind, cool.
Observers: Ian, Kaye, Kaj, Kirsty, Linda, Janetta, Phil
Yes, a typical November day! But, with a good number of observers today, we found a wide range of bird and flower species, as well as the “aggressive, carnivorous predator”, more of which later!
The autumn colours are fading now, and many leaves have come off the trees, but the vegetation remains lush.
Birds: Ian, out on the reserve before the group assembled, was lucky enough to flush a Woodcock from the Bund Path, just to the South of the Dragon Stones. Large numbers of
Woodcocks come in from Scandinavia in October and November,boosting the small resident population, and there have been several recent reports of Woodcock in the York area. Ian also heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker near Tang Hall Beck.
As the group assembled outside the Environment Centre, a fine male Pheasant was feeding under the seed feeder, and a House Sparrow watched from a nearby roof.
Out on the reserve, some of the group saw two or three Redwings along the Butterfly Path. These winter visitors are likely to remain until the berry supply runs out – and, with large numbers of Blackbirds on the reserve, this supply is dwindling rapidly. Several of the dark-beaked male Blackbirds, possibly of Scandinavian origin, were seen today.
We spent a quarter of an hour at the “Kingfisher Culvert”, but, sadly, no Kingfisher! Along Osbaldwick Beck, however, we encountered a flock of about a dozen Long-tailed Tits, one of which seemed to have no tail! Also, in the Beck, were three pairs of Mallards, a species not seen since early June. A noisy Canada Goose flew over whilst we were watching the Long-tailed Tits.
Round the rest of the reserve, we found most of our regular species: Robin (a few singing), a single male Chaffinch, Greenfinches (about 4) Bullfinches and Goldfinches (both in smaller numbers than usual), Great and Blue Tits, Wren, Dunnock, Starling, Magpie, Carrion Crow and a few Black-headed Gulls flying over – a total of 22 species.
Plants, Fungi and Galls: We spent longer than usual looking for flowers. Those still hanging on in there include white dead nettle, red clover, hedge bindweed, tansy, great mullein, yarrow, red and white campions, dandelion, vetch (probably tufted), knapweed, nipplewort and cat’s ear. Also tentative identifications: prickly (aka rough) sow-thistle, perennial sow-thistle, common cow-parsnip (aka hogweed), and upright hedge parsley.
It seems that there are at least 16 specialised oak gall wasps. We found evidence of two of them: a particularly nice example of a knopper gall produced by andricus quercus-calicis, and common spangle galls produced on the underside of leaves by neuroterus quercus-baccarum. These little wasps don’t seem to be sufficiently well-known to qualify for English names.
There were still quite a few fungi around, some of them very attractive, but, without a fungus expert, we couldn’t name them. Here’s some photos of a few of them, so if anyone can come up with IDs for any, please email St Nicks.
You can see some of the above photos in a larger size on the St Nicks Camera Club Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/groups/stnickscameraclub/
Mammals: Ian saw one Rabbit before the group assembled. It was being chased by a dog. The Rabbit won! There seemed to be Grey Squirrels all over the reserve – at least 6 or 7 sightings.
Insects: At last.. drum roll..! The “aggressive carnivorous predator”! That’s how the Buglife website describes the Devil’s Coach Horse beetle. A member of the Eco-Active team captured this normally-nocturnal beetle as it strolled across a path and brought it over to show the Wildwatch Group. We were suitably impressed! Phil, before he released it into a suitable woodland habitat, warned us that some members of this beetle family, the Rove beetles (Staphylinidae), can deliver a nasty nip if you get your finger near the powerful mouth pincers. You have been warned!