St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 19th October – Wagtail and pincushion!

Autumn colours at St Nicks

Autumn colours along the "top path" at St Nicks

Weather: Sunny, cool breeze, beautiful light!
Observers: Kaye, Jonathan, Ian

A complete contrast to last Wednesday’s wet Wildwatch, with sunshine, beautiful light and lovely autumn colours. Water levels in both becks were still quite high, but not as high as last week.

Birds: We conducted a slightly more formal survey of Robin territories, mapping the locations where Robins were heard singing i.e. defending territories. This survey will be on-going over the coming weeks, after which we hope to have a clearer picture of how many potential breeding Robins we have at St Nicks.

Grey Wagtail (photographed in Upper Teessdale)

Grey Wagtail (photographed in Upper Teesdale)

Perhaps the “bird of the day” was a Grey Wagtail, found hopping along the path at the side of Osbaldwick Beck. These birds often put in an October appearance in the York area, having moved down from their higher breeding grounds by upland streams and rivers, although a few are still thought to be breeding along the rivers Ouse and Foss. The bird moved too quickly to be photographed, so here’s a photo of one of these birds in an upland breeding area.

Male Bullfinch

A "skulking" male Bullfinch near Tang Hall Beck

Goldfinches seemed to be all over the reserve, as did Bullfinches. In one tree, at the far end of Tang Hall Beck we saw possibly five of these birds – two males, a female and maybe a couple of juveniles. Magpies and Blackbirds were also plentiful, the latter no doubt being supplemented by an influx of continental over-wintering birds.

Making up a total of 16 species recorded were, additionally, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, a single Song Thrush in flight, Pheasant (heard), Wren, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Black-headed Gull in flight and a female Chaffinch (with the group of Bullfinches).

Flowers & Plants: Tufted vetch seems to be making a late comeback.  Other herbaceous plants are visibly dying back, but flowers can still be found on red clover, field scabious, sow thistle, tansy, yarrow and hedge bindweed.

Robin's Pincushion gall

Robin's Pincushion gall, on a Dog Rose near the play area, St Nicks.

We also found two specimens of “Robin’s Pincushion” (also known as “Moss gall” and “Rose bedeguar gall”). This is caused by a tiny “gall wasp” (Diplolepis rosae – about 4mm in length) laying up to 60 eggs in buds of either Field Rose or Dog Rose. The specimens we found were both on Dog Roses. These galls can be up to 10 cm in diameter, but the examples we found were about 3 – 4 cm in diameter. If you want the detail on these striking galls, there’s a Wikipedia article here.

Mammals: Grey Squirrels were seen (and heard!) in a few locations, and there was a single Rabbit near the Tang Hall Beck culvert.

Insects: Two late Red Admiral butterflies were sunning themselves on the side of the centre building just after opening time.

19 October 2011 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: Autumn colours, Bullfinch, Grey Wagtail, Robin's Pincushion