Weather: Snowing and cold. Still at first but with a biting wind picking up later.
Observers: Janetta, Kaj, Linda, Steve, Kaye
Yes, the heading does include your intrepid Wildwatch team. We followed every inch of the winter thrush survey route in defiance of the sometimes quite thick snow. But mainly it’s about nature, which appears to have decided it’s time to stop waiting for decent weather and just get on with it regardless.
Birds: Ian was in self-imposed quarantine, in case he was carrying a virus that has hit members of his family, so we had to undertake the last winter thrush survey of the season without him. Maybe that was why we saw nothing but Blackbirds, though there were eighteen of those across twelve different locations. All but one were male. Do the females have more sense than to come out in this weather? At first, other species were elusive. By the time we got to the cycle path, we had seen House Sparrows, a couple of Bullfinches, five Goldfinches and the odd Wood Pigeon near the Centre, one Mallard and a Herring Gull overhead, plus one or two Great Tits and Blue Tits. Going towards the bridge, we met Steve who reported not seeing a lot. Had it not been for the survey route, we would have turned back and thereby missed a series of treats. First were a couple of brief but good Wren sightings. Then Kaj spotted two Long-tailed Tits, technically outside the reserve but still nice to see. Soon afterwards Linda noticed what turned out to be not just one but two Grey Wagtails on an industrial estate roof. Happily for the records, we watched them fly off over the Beck and into the reserve. We’ve had more sightings than usual of single birds, but this is the first time we’ve ever seen two together, so we’re holding our breath…. Back on the reserve, two male and two female bullfinches were together in bushes near the Culvert, and a little further along, Steve found seven Siskins among a flock of at least a dozen Goldfinches. Robins, Magpies and two flying Greylag Geese made up our total of sixteen species – not bad for the conditions! Kaye did a quick tour of Osbaldwick Beck after lunch, and came across a lone Dunnock, a male Chaffinch, and one of the absentee Song Thrushes.
Unsurprisingly, no mammals or invertebrates were recorded.
Plants: We found Lungwort and White Dead-nettle up the woodland path near the Centre, Snowdrops along the Tang Hall Beck path, and Daffodils just starting to open in the adjacent woodland. There was quite a lot more blossom on Prunus species, especially near the culvert. Gorse was visible from the far side of the meadow, but we didn’t detour to look for Celandines. What we thought for a moment were Blackthorn flowers were just lingering flecks of snow, but the buds look very fat. The most striking feature was the extent to which the shrubs and trees are starting to defy the conditions with a distinct green haze over parts of the reserve. Leaf buds are starting to burst on the aforesaid Prunus sp, a few of the Hazels, a Wild Rose here and there, various Willows, the Larches outside the Centre, and most of the Bird Cherries along Osbaldwick Beck. Hawthorn and Elder, of course, have been in early leaf for weeks and many of them now look very green from a distance. Along the Bund path, one of the Ash saplings is just starting to show its flowers. Spring is definitely sprung.