Weather: fairly warm, cloudy
Observers: Hannah, Matt, Richard, Tom (Kaye part-time)
As the warm and damp weather continues, the reserve looks lush and may strike some people as a bit overgrown. “Balsam bashing” has begun, but the Rangers’ teams are leaving as much as possible to grow and mature.
It has been a difficult summer for wildlife, and many species of insects will have a last chance to feed and breed if we eventually have a settled spell.
Birds: this must be an all time record. The “midsummer silence” has descended at last, and with observers intent on insects rather than scouring the thickets for birds that much prefer not to be seen, we achieved a total of six – one Collared Dove, one Blackbird, a couple of Magpies and the odd Wood Pigeon actually seen, and a Chiffchaff and distant Bullfinch heard. For once, our advice to readers wanting to watch birds is to by-pass St Nicks and focus on local wetland reserves where numbers of passage migrants are starting to build up.
Mammals: there was a brief glimpse of a grey squirrel.
Insects and other invertebrates: the weather is not ideal for butterflies, so we considered ourselves lucky to come across several Ringlets, a couple of unidentified Whites and one Blue, a Comma and our first Gatekeeper of the season, together with a Six-Spot Burnet Moth. Sadly none of them would pose for a picture. Richard pointed out a Common Flower Bug, alerting us to the potential of a small insect to give a sharp bite, a Common Soldier Beetle, a parasitic Wasp species, Harvestmen and a Garden Spider. Ant nests along the Bund path proved to belong to Black Ants.
Hannan found tiny Cinnebar Moth caterpillars, and after much searching of Ragwort we eventually found more mature ones.
Matt heard something buzzing from the depths of a wild rose bush, which Richard managed to trace to a Hoverfly sp. trapped in a spider-web.
Another web contained a cocoon, and Richard told us to look out for spiders actually carrying their eggs. Finally, as we were returning to the Centre, the recycling team pointed us to what turned out to be a mating swarm of tiny flies on the lamp-post at the entrance. Richard neatly summed up this experience as “Humans on the wall at a fly orgy”. Unfortunately we don’t know what they were.
Plants: With the main focus on insects, but flowers all around us, it was interesting to see what caught our attention. Flowering and by now seeding grasses still make an impressive display in most of the more open areas.
Rosebay Willow-herb is spectacular, as are other rather aggressive species such as Hedge-Bindweed. Tansy, Teasels and Burdocks are still opening, while Common Poppies and Ox-eye Daisies can still be found in grassy areas. Tom led an experiment to discover whether anyone actually liked the smell of Hedge Woundwort – result one instantly repelled, four very much in two minds. The tiny path-side plants such as Geraniums are still flowering but becoming less easy to find as the mown grass grows back, while in the meadow the Mallows and Lady’s Bedstraw are coming to the end of their season. At the other end of the cycle, the first Blackberries are starting to ripen, “keys” are very obvious on Sycamore and Ash, and Rowan berries are colouring. It won’t be long before there is plenty to lure those birds out from cover.
Stop Press: This juvenile Robin came into the Centre on Monday, appearing a bit out of sorts.
After a rest and a drink, it perked up and hopped back out into the garden. Photo from Ivana.