Weather: sunny, warm in the sun, breezy
Observers: Doug, Janetta, Kaj, Kaye
For weeks we’ve been predicting a sudden surge. At last it’s happening! It’s brilliant but induces a sense of panic in our record-keepers – far too much to do in one short session even when we can remember perfectly what we learnt last year, and far too much to get into a short blog post! Help!
Birds: overall, we’re seeing (and hearing) more warblers but scarcely any finches. Either we’re spending too long watching the ground for plants or there’s much less going on overhead. The birds are now active much earlier than we are, and it feels as though our observation period coincides with a bit of a lull. Or are we just making excuses for doing less well without Ian? Whatever the case, we saw and heard plenty of Blue Tits and Great Tits, a couple of Long-tails in each of two locations, and several Wrens. A pair of Coal Tits were active along Osbaldwick Beck outside the morning observation period. Blackbirds and Robins were less conspicuous than usual, with only one really good view of each, and less song. Bullfinch and Chiffchaff were heard only, though Kaye saw a pair of Bullfinches near the culvert on her way home. Kaj recognised his first Blackcap song of the year, and got us a good view of a singing male near the Story Circle; another beyond the meadow appeared to be having a brief spat with a rival. Three breeding territories would be good! A singing Song Thrush, House Sparrows near the Centre, a couple of Carrion Crows overhead and the usual Magpies and Wood Pigeons completed a slightly disappointing total of fifteen species.
Invertebrates: Brimstone butterflies are still around in good numbers, with the occasional Peacock and a Comma in two locations.
We also saw our first Orange Tip and Small Whites of the season. We commented that we hadn’t found Small Tortoiseshell, but two were along Osbaldwick Beck after lunch. A Garden Bumblebee, Common Carders and a probable Buff-tailed Bumblebee sat still long enough to be identified. A Tree Bumblebee found later near the Dragon Stones suggests that this new species is established. We are still trying to identify a small all-black bee with laden pollen baskets seen in the Centre garden. Seven-spot ladybirds are about but in nothing like such large numbers as last year. Caddis larvae are a first for the records, spotted in the pond by volunteer Jim. Caddis Flies lay eggs in or near water, and the larvae live under water making cases for themselves out of available materials. Ours are probably Limnephilus flavicornis, which makes cases out of little sections of twig and reed-stalk. The recycling team should adopt one as a mascot.
Amphibians: The Frog-spawn has started wriggling energetically, and there are already some tiny free-swimming tadpoles. Smooth Newts were giving good close views – very likely because they were more interested in the tads than in observers.
Plants: There are now at least 21 species in flower.
Ash, Sycamore, Bird Cherry and Balsam Poplar are in flower, the latter giving off its characteristic slightly musky scent.
The Cowslip patch is beautiful, and so are the less romantic Dandelions when allowed to grow to their full size. Newly out are Yellow Archangel, Forget-me-not sp (both probably garden escapes), Ribwort Plantain, Garlic Mustard and Fritillaries (planted last year by Bearing Fruit Project members). Lesser Celandines and Blackthorn are still plentiful but won’t last much longer. The Coltsfoots are almost over, but this is a good time to spot their seed-heads and newly emerging hoof-shaped leaves.