Weather: heavy cloud breaking to give bright spells; warm and humid.
Observers: Hannah, Ian2, Kaj, Linda, Kaye
In theory it’s mid-summer: the trees are a more uniform green, the grass grows tall, wild flowers flourish, resident birds gradually fall silent. On the other hand, a resolute Greenfinch, a couple of Song Thrushes and several Wrens are carrying on as though it’s still spring. The trees, meanwhile, are gearing up for autumn, with little apples and plums starting to swell, and very noticeable seed wings on Sycamore and Lime.
Birds: At the start of our session, the visible birds were those flying overhead – a small party of Swifts, a few House martins, a lone Herring Gull and a family of Starlings. Song Thrushes, Wrens and the ubiquitous Chiffchaffs sang from cover but didn’t show. At Tang Hall Beck (still no Kingfisher), we saw a Mallard, the occasional Blackbird and a couple of male Bullfinches. A male and female Blackcap gave brief glimpses as they foraged in a nearby tree. A walk round Osbaldwick Beck gave us our only sightings of Blue Tits in a family party, together with Great Tit, an adult and juvenile Robin, a Moorhen skulking in the reeds, a Greenfinch carrying nest materials, and at last a really good view of a Song Thrush. Ian picked out the call of a Goldcrest, but the bird flew between trees without giving us a good view. House Sparrows were seen near the Centre, and the inevitable Wood Pigeons and Magpies brought our list to a very satisfying 20.
Mammals: just one Grey Squirrel used the aerial walkway over Tang Hall Beck.
Invertebrates: Among the usual wayside Snails we noticed quite a lot of very tiny ones – presumably the new season’s hatchlings. 7-spot Ladybirds were quite easy to find, along with a couple of more unusual types that raised the question of what actually counts as a spot? Bees and butterflies were few and far between, with only one Common Carder positively identified.
An interesting find was a group of small galls on a Field Maple, tentatively identified as the work of a Mite, Eriophyes macrochelus.
Plants: The 27 species of flowering plants actually recorded reflect the relatively short time spent on identification rather than the range now in flower. Elder, Dog Rose and Bramble provide a backdrop of flowering shrubs and small trees. Poppies, White Campions and Ox-Eye Daisies make an attractive display at the Melrosegate entrance.
Wood Avens and Woundwort are easy to find along hedges and thickets, and Ground Elder flowers defiantly. Various Speedwell and Geranium sp. take a little more searching for, but where path verges have been mown, Creeping Cinquefoil and Silverweed are easier to find. Goats-Beard, Nipplewort, Lesser Stitchwort and Indian Balsam were recorded in flower for the first time this year. Sadly we couldn’t attempt to sort out the numerous other composite varieties, vetches or flowering grasses on our route.