Weather: Sunny, warm, still!
Observers: Doug, Janetta, John, Linda, Steve, Kaye
Last week, woolly hats, mitts and frozen fingers. This week, basking in the sun and everything starting to happen. The slightly sad note for an otherwise delightful morning was that some of the most exciting things happened after most of the group had left. And of course, there’s no justice for Ian, who sets off to watch wildlife in milder parts just as it warms up back home. Thanks to John for supplying most of this week’s pictures.
Birds: Steve reported Dunnock and Song Thrush from his walk in along Osbaldwick Beck. Great tits, Blue tits and Robins were all over the place, singing their heads off, with the occasional Wren chiming in. House Sparrows were heard and occasionally seen around the Centre and near the Sustrans path. Bullfinches were less obvious than usual, but two females in the John Lally wood seemed to be settling which of them would attract the accompanying male. Perhaps it was just the unaccustomed sunlight highlighting the colours, but his plumage was brilliant. Down one of the side paths, we watched a pair of Magpies hard at work on a nest – one bird sitting inside sorting things out, while the other brought sticks and appeared to make comments on the work in progress.
Goldfinches were glimpsed in several locations; Long-tailed tits seemed busiest around the Sustrans path. We’re only seeing these in small groups now, presumably as birds break away from their winter flocks to form pairs and establish breeding territories. Greenfinches, a Chaffinch, Blackbirds, Wood Pigeons (seven in one tree) and flyover Herring Gull and Carrion Crow rounded off the group sightings. Linda and Kaye decided to do a final tour of Osbaldwick Beck before lunch. After a morning of might-have-beens, they got a definitive sighting of Collared Dove, then struck lucky under the alders. Two Siskins, first seen feeding in a tree, came down to pick up fallen seeds on the path, where they stayed for some time giving excellent views. Unfortunately Kaye’s pictures provide evidence but aren’t good enough to post. There was no sign of Mallards, Moorhens or flyover Geese, leaving us with a slightly disappointing total of 19 species.
Mammals and amphibians: there seemed to be more Grey Squirrels around than usual, including this one which allowed John to take photos from several angles while it clung motionless to a tree-trunk.
Back at the centre, Kaye and Pat broke off conversation to listen to a rhythmic sound from the pond. Nobody actually saw our first Frog, but several people heard it. Once we started looking, we did see one or two Common Newts. The newts should be around till autumn, but the frog-spotting season is short, so we advise frequent visits over the next couple of weeks if you want to see them.
Plants: There are more and more Willow catkins (the familiar “pussy willows”) alongside Hazel, Alder and the single Aspen at the top of Osbaldwick Beck. Female flowers are now visible on both Hazel and Alder.
The very first Lesser Celandine is opening, to join Gorse, White Dead-nettle, Lungwort, Coltsfoots, Snowdrops and a scatter of Prunus blossoms around the reserve. Primroses, more Snowdrops and small species Crocuses are out in the Centre garden.
The widening range of flowers turns out to be particularly welcome, because…
Invertebrates: … the mid-day sun was warm enough to bring a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly out of hibernation. It was seen at the bottom of Osbaldwick Beck, too restless for a picture, and flying off towards the reserve. Let’s hope it found enough nectar to be able to hole up again safely.
Along the Beck path, we also found a couple of Seven-spot Ladybirds basking on young Nettle shoots.