St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 28 March 2012 – Spring! But more like a Summer’s day

Blue Tit in Spring sunshine

Blue Tit in Spring sunshine

Weather: Sunny with clear skies. Cool early morning but warm later
Observers: Ian, Kaye, Linda, Lindsay

There were sights and sounds of Spring everywhere, but the warmth, sunshine and light made it seem more like a summer’s morning!

With the recent dry weather, the water levels in both becks had fallen since last week, but there was still a good, steady flow in both of them. St Nicks volunteers had, since last week, erected a “kingfisher pole” on Tang Hall Beck, replacing the one which had been washed away last Winter.

Blue Tit in Spring sunshine

Chiffchaff, singing

Birds: Ian spent an hour and a half on the reserve before the Wildwatch Group assembled, so these notes include some of his sightings.

Everywhere, birds were singing. Based on location, we thought that we had identified at least three, possibly four Chiffchaff territories: one to the East of the Environment Centre, one further along the Bund Path, and one, possible two near Tang Hall Beck.

Wren - one of a pair by Tang Hall Beck

Wren - one of a pair by Tang Hall Beck

Singing birds included Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Great Tit (everywhere!), Greenfinch, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Wren. Wrens were seen in pairs in a couple of locations, and we thought that we’d identified two possible Wren nest sites along the Tang Hall Beck path. But, like the Great Tits, Wrens were all over the reserve.

Long-tailed Tit gathering nesting material

Long-tailed Tit gathering nesting material

Long-tailed Tits were collecting nesting materials in the Gorse area to the East of the playground and a Great-Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming near Osbaldwick Beck. Even a male Pheasant was displaying near Tang Hall Beck, and the ever-present Wood Pigeons were occasionally displaying.

Encouraged by Ian’s earlier sighting of two Kingfishers on the new Kingfisher Pole, we decided to carry out a half-hour Kingfisher watch. With the four of us placed in different locations along Tang Hall Beck we managed maybe a 90 per cent coverage of the beck. Sadly, though, no Kingfisher sightings, although Vicki from the St Nicks team, saw one later in Willows near the culvert. Now that we’ve done one such survey, we’ll have the confidence to repeat it, maybe for a longer period of time. It would be good if we can establish (a) that the two birds are a male and a female (seems likely) and (b) if there are any signs of potential breeding, such as courtship feeding or vociferous aerial chasing. It is possible that the beckside nearer to the sluice has suitable waterside banks for nest tunnels.

Overhead, two Greylag Geese, two Canada Geese and a single Herring Gull flew over the reserve. Other birds included Bullfinch (not counted, but good numbers throughout the reserve), Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Goldfinch (just a couple) and a single drake Mallard on Tang Hall Beck. A total of 23 birds species recorded.

Grey Squirrel in nest box

Grey Squirrel in nest box

Mammals: A few Grey Squirrels were seen, including this cheeky individual, occupying a nest box! It was completely at ease with our presence, not wanting to leave its cosy shelter from the sun! A single Brown Rat was by Tang Hall Beck, near the sluice.

Plants and Flowers: Dandelion, Coltsfoot, Daisy, Lesser Celandine, White Dead-nettle, Red Dead-nettle, Primrose, Cowslip, Gorse and Blackthorn can all be found in flower on the reserve, with increasing numbers of Dandelions and Dead-nettles. Marsh Marigolds (Kingcups) are opening in the Environment Centre pond.  The warm weather is likely to bring the late-winter flowers to a rapid end, but has encouraged more trees into leaf.  Larch, Crack Willow and Hawthorn are all noticeably greener, and a few Dogwood, Horse Chestnut, Alder and Sycamore saplings are putting out leaves.  The flowers of deciduous trees are often overlooked.  If you visit the reserve this week, look out for Ash flowers, showing as dark hazy clusters around the leaf buds.  You can get a close look at flowers on low-growing branches, for example along the Tang Hall Beck path.

Clockwise from top left: Horse Chestnut leaves, Horse Chestnut bud, Dandelion, Primrose, Ash flowers, Blackthorne flowers

Clockwise from top left: Horse Chestnut leaves, Horse Chestnut bud, Dandelion, Primrose, Ash flowers, Blackthorne flowers

Insects: 7-spot Ladybird, Red-Tailed Bumblebee, Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly and two Peacock Butterflies were noted.

Amphibians: A number of small Tadpoles have emerged from the frog spawn in the Environment Centre Pond.

28 March 2012 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: Chiffchaff, kingfisher, long-tailed tit, nesting material, wren