St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 2 May 2012 – Blackcaps 4, Kingfishers 0!

Weather: Sunny intervals, light, cool breeze, warmer through morning
Observers: Carrie, Ian, Linda, Lindsay, Kaj, Kaye

Tang Hall "River" in flood: 27 April 2012

Tang Hall "River" in flood: 27 April 2012

Nice to feel the sun on our faces! Despite the heavy rain and flooding over the past week, the reserve has dried out nicely. Last Friday, Tang Hall Beck was about 50 feet wide and even the culvert was completely covered. Osbaldwick Beck, then, was impassable on the right-hand bank (from the Environment Centre), and Tang Hall Beck was completely unapproachable.

Today, however, everything seemed to have settled down back to normal, and the Wildwatch Group was able to go about its business unimpeded by water levels. Initially, we split into two parties – Linda and Kaj to go on what proved to be an epic search for Kingfishers, and the rest of the group going on a prolonged watch near the Dragon Stones to look for warblers.. and anything else which happened by. Later, Ian and Carrie joined the Kingfisher patrol, whilst Lindsay and Kaye went down to Osbaldwick Beck to see how Richard, a new recruit to St Nicks, was faring with with his invertebrate study.

Willow Warbler - near the Environment Centre

Willow Warbler - near the Environment Centre

Birds: As usual, Ian and Kaye did a swift canter around the reserve before the Group assembled, to see “what was about”. Ian notched up about 20 species in 45 minutes, to which Kaye added Swallow and Long-tailed Tit. The rest of the Group soon caught up with most of these sightings! The “Warbler Watch” team struggled hard to actually see the Blackcaps they could hear, but eventually had good views of a female, with a male singing nearby. A Willow Warbler also started to call from the top of a nearby tree. Chiffchaffs were heard in about three parts of the reserve, but were not positively seen.

Blackcap (male) by Tang Hall Beck

Blackcap (male) by Tang Hall Beck

Meanwhile, down at the side of Tang Hall Beck, Linda and Kaj, joined later by Carrie and Ian, put in a massive hour and three quarters stint, trying to find Kingfishers – but sadly without success. It’s possible that, with the recent flood conditions, the birds had relocated down to the River Ouse, where the relative clarity of the water might have made the fishing a little easier. On the plus side, the four of them had good sightings of both male and female Blackcap in the same tree, a potential breeding record. Typically, as the photo above shows, the birds were hard to pin down, with their habit of hiding behind the smallest leaf!

Overall, the Group recorded about four potential Blackcap territories, two or three Chiffchaff territories and probably two Willow Warbler territories. But still no sign of Whitethroats!

Wren seen today

Wren seen today

The rest of the birds.. most of the Group saw a Sparrowhawk drifting overhead. Other “fly-bys” included Herring Gull (1 adult, 1 immature), 4 Greylag Geese and a single Starling. Down at Osbaldwick Beck, Richard, together with Kaye and Lindsay, saw a Wren apparently taking food to a recently fledged juvenile. Was that our first “chick tick” on the reserve this year?

Completing our total of 26 bird species today were Goldfinch, Blackbird (singing nicely all over the reserve), Great and Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Greenfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Pheasant, Bullfinch, House Sparrow, Mallard (2 on Osbaldwick Beck and a lone male on Tang Hall Beck), and Collared Dove. Oh, and let’s not forget.. Wood Pigeon!

Mammals: Just a single Grey Squirrel.

Plants & Flowers: there was little time to look for plants this week, though we are starting to add taken-for-granted items like Groundsel and Hairy Bitter-Cress to the official list. This week’s new flowers are Red Campion, near the Melrosegate entrance, and a Broom variety near the Dragon Stones.  Sycamore, Apple and Bird Cherry are still in flower and easy to find in several locations, as are Garlic Mustard, White Dead-Nettle and Cowslips.

Speckled Wood butterfly - on the 'Butterfly Path' last Friday

Speckled Wood butterfly - on the 'Butterfly Path' last Friday

Butterflies: Several Orange-Tips were seen around the reserve. Other butterflies recorded were Brimstone, Speckled Wood, one of the Blues (Common or Holly?) and a White, possibly Large White.

Other Insects: Richard’s survey turned up a variety of invertebrates ranging from woodlice to parasitic wasps, and including a fine Centipede and a probable Speckled Wood caterpillar that he potted up to show us. 7-Spot Ladybirds were everywhere, and two 22-Spot Ladybirds (little yellow ones) were also seen.

Wildwatch in action! Left: looking for Blackcaps Right: looking for Kingfishers

Wildwatch in action! Left: looking for Blackcaps Right: looking for Kingfishers

3 May 2012 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: blackcap, fledgling, sparrowhawk, wren