Weather: Overcast, dry, slight breeze, cool.
Observers: Kaye, Linda, Phil, Ian
The paths on the reserve are now well covered with leaves, and the autumn colours are now fading fast, leaving a greyer, bare-branched landscape. But, far from being dull, St Nicks today was a fascinating place!
Birds: A nice sight, as we left the Environment Centre, was a flight of a dozen Greylag Geese, flying in a straight line formation.
For some weeks now, we have been watching the Alder trees, trying to find our first Siskins of the winter. Today we were successful, but we didn’t know it at the time! Kaye and Ian spent half an hour on the reserve before the Group assembled and saw a small bird with a streaky back, associating with Goldfinches. The light was poor, the bird was silhouetted, it had its back to them and it was preening. They had a guess at what it might be – and they were wrong. It wasn’t until photos were examined (after being greatly enhanced) that the bird revealed itself as a female Siskin – our first for the winter.
The Blackbirds are benefiting from windfalls from our many apple trees and, under one tree, at least seven of them were feeding together. Two other species of thrush were seen today: Mistle Thrush, not often recorded on the reserve, and Song Thrush, which has scarcely been seen since they stopped singing. No sign today, though, of the Redwings.
The Goldfinches, mentioned above, were a very mobile flock of 30 – 40 birds, feeding mainly on Alder cones, as in previous weeks. Also very mobile was the flock of Long-tailed Tits, seen first on the Bund Path and then along Tang Hall Beck. The tail-less bird (which we saw last week and which we have now named “Stumpy”!) was still with them – although this photo shows a bird with a normal tail.
Bullfinches were present in good numbers along Tang Hall Beck, suggesting that this was a successful brood. Probably 4 – 5 birds were seen, with Wren (which Linda was very pleased to see!), Robin and Blue Tit also seen here.The final total of 22 bird species also included House Sparrow, Dunnock, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Greenfinch, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon (of course!) Great Tit, Pheasant, Chaffinch and Black-headed Gull.
Flowers & Fungi: There are still flowers, though with that slightly transparent, anaemic look that comes from surviving a touch of frost. We noted Ragwort, Hedge Bindweed, Yarrow, Red Clover, White Deadnettle, White Campion, Sow Thistle, a purple Vetch (probably tufted), and a few remaining flowers on Great Mullein stalks. The healthiest-looking was a cluster of blossom on a Bramble. A completely new find had white solanum-type flowers and little round black berries – very tentatively identified as Black Nightshade, though an extremely stunted specimen.
There are still a number of attractive fungi around, including the one at the top of this post. Along Tang Hall Beck we found a large prominent bracket fungus – no ID of course! Suggestions would be welcomed.
Insects: Not many around at this time of year, but we did find a Hoverfly species on a white umbelliferous flower. It seemed to be in a fairly torpid state, and you can just about make out the drops of water on its back in this photo.