Weather: Mainly sunny, chilly breeze, beautiful light again
Observers: Jonathan, Kaye, Rachel, Ian
Another delightful morning, if a little cool. Autumn is definitely under way! And the autumn colours are getting stronger. Recent rain has raised water levels in the two becks, and Osbaldwick Beck is now flowing, instead of being a tangled mass of vegetation!
Birds: A couple of weeks ago we said that Jonathan, the Volunteer Co-ordinator reported seeing a yellow bird that might have been a Yellowhammer. Today, Nicola, an Environment Centre staff member also saw, near the Dragon Stones, a very yellow bird which, after looking at a field guide, she identified as Yellowhammer. And a little later, Jonathan in the Wildwatch Group (a different Jonathan!) managed to get this photo of the bird, which confirmed its identification.
This is the first time that this species has been recorded on the reserve since records began in 2001. Yellowhammers are normally found on farmland, and numbers have declined sharply in recent years.
Another bird infrequently seen at St Nicks was recorded this morning – a Redwing. These thrushes breed north of the UK and, along with Fieldfares, spend the winter in the UK. This morning’s bird was feeding on Hawthorn berries, which are abundant this year. We couldn’t get a photo of the bird, so here’s one taken on the breeding grounds in Iceland! Winter colours are duller than the breeding plumage.
Goldfinches seemed to be all over the reserve in good numbers and colourful Bullfinches were seen in a number of places, with two males and a female occupying one bush. Blackbirds were also plentiful, enjoying the crop of Hawthorn berries.
In total, we recorded 18 bird species today which included a noisy flock of House Sparrows just beyond the playground (and which stayed out of sight, sheltering from the chilly breeze), Greenfinch, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Carrion Crow, Magpie (plenty of these!) Chaffinch, Starling, Black-headed Gull (a few flying over) Collared Dove and, of course, Wood Pigeon. We saw quite a few Robins, but they weren’t singing as much as last week when we started the Robin survey.
Insects: One or two late-flying Red Admiral butterflies and a few Seven-spot Ladybirds.
Mammals: Quite a few Grey Squirrels, but these were the only mammals we saw in the morning. They seemed to be enjoying the bright sunshine! However, another Wildwatch group in the afternoon saw Water Vole and Wood Mouse at the Kingfisher Culvert.
Plants, Flowers and Fungi: After the first real frost of autumn, flowering plants are definitely closing down for the winter, but it’s still possible to find Red Clover, Spear Thistle, Field Scabious, and even a Buttercup producing one last defiant flourish. Hedge Bindweed, Ragwort, Tufted Vetch and Yarrow are still there, but flowering
much less prolifically. Gorse is a law unto itself, and the few remaining healthy shrubs opposite the meadow are full of flowers.
A dense clump of fungi found not far from the Environment Centre was later tentatively identified as Changeable Agaric. Since none of us were fungi experts, this ID might be altered!