St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 25th April 2012 – It might have been a Blackcap

Weather: Overcast, turning to rain. Strengthening wind. Chilly.

Observers: Janetta, Lindsay, Philip, Vicky, Kaye

The forecast rain luckily held off until the end of the morning. Tang Hall Beck, which was almost at flood level on Saturday, had dropped considerably but was still higher than usual and running fast between very muddy banks. The paths remain remarkably good. The wet spell seems to have intensified the spring growth spurt, and  from now till early autumn our plant reports will concentrate on things that have recently come into flower or fruit, with reminders of other flowering species when space permits. We apologise for the continued lack of photos – we hope to resume normal service when Ian and Kaj return.

Birds: A real virtuoso of a Song Thrush is singing regularly from tall trees around the Centre, but can be difficult to see. Not that anything but singing Robins and the ever-present Wood Pigeons were making life particularly easy. Even Magpies were harder than usual to find and watching from more sheltered positions, as was a single Carrion Crow. Blue Tits were the most active species, seen across a range of locations, as often as not in pairs. Blackbirds, Wrens and Chiffchaffs were all seen but more often heard. Two Long-Tailed Tits were flitting around Tang Hall Beck, and it may well have been the same birds that gave us a longer and closer view on the beckside path. A pair of Dunnocks skittered round a bush before disappearing underneath it. After finding just one Greenfinch and Great Tit, we were starting to despair of Bullfinch until two males on the Bund drew attention to themselves by engaging in a brief and fairly restrained skirmish. A big disappointment was a warbler carrying nest material – initial impression was that it was our first female Blackcap of the year, but we couldn’t get a good enough view to confirm.  (Ivana reports seeing one from the cycle track earlier in the week, so at least we know they’ve arrived.) A Pheasant was heard but not seen, and flyover Herring Gull, Starling and Mallard completed a rather disappointing list of 18.

Mammals: we saw just one Grey Squirrel and a distant Rabbit.

Amphibians: we didn’t have time for a pond watch, but a school group doing pond-dipping confirmed that Newts are still present, and that a few Tadpoles have survived.

Invertebrates: Seven-spot Ladybirds were all over the place, along with the occasional Two-spot and a couple of tentatively identified Harlequins. While checking them out, we came across a single Green Shield Bug. A few Bumblebees were foraging regardless of the weather, including a Tree Bumblebee and a probable White-tailed Bumblebee.

Plants:  With early trees like Hawthorn more or less in full leaf, most of the later varieties well past bud-burst, and increasing numbers of herbaceous plants putting up shoots, the impression of greenness intensifies. One or two of the aforementioned Hawthorns are already opening blossom.  Sycamore, Bird Cherry and several Apple trees are in full flower. On the ground, the highlights were Fritillaries planted last season by Bearing Fruit volunteers, and a clump of White Comfrey found near the Beck.  The Cowslips, including a couple of red specimens, continue to draw the eye at the end of the meadow and are being recorded in a number of other locations. A less welcome spectacle is in preparation – the first emerging shoots of Indian Balsam.  We dutifully pulled up a few. It looks so very like its garden relation Busy Lizzie while it’s young…  Additions to the season’s list include Ribwort Plantain, Salad Burnet and Ivy-leaved Speedwell.

27 April 2012 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: blackcap, Bullfinch, Bumblebee, Chiffchaff, Comfrey, cowslip, Hawthorn, Shield Bug