St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 30 January 2013 – Water Vole steals the show!

High water levels in Tang Hall Beck

High water levels in Tang Hall Beck

Weather: Sunny intervals, short blustery showers, fresh to strong N wind, 8C (felt colder in wind)
Observers: Doug, Ian, Janetta, Jim, Kaye, Kaj, Steve, Tim

A good turn-out of eight people today, with Doug and Jim coming along for the first time. The recently-melted snow had swollen the two becks, with Tang Hall Beck being particularly full. But that didn’t put off our star performer.. see “Mammals” below!

Long-tailed Tit: one of a flock foraging by Osbaldwick Beck

Long-tailed Tit: one of a flock foraging by Osbaldwick Beck

Ian did his usual pre-wildwatch turn around Osbaldwick Beck, and Steve, also arriving early, had a stroll around. We all did our usual circuit around the reserve.. up to and along the Bund Path, there and back along the Tang Hall Beck Path, and down the other side of the beck, as far as the Sluice Bridge and back, returning to the Centre via the Butterfly Walk.

Birds: The strong wind kept many of the small

Robin, singing, near the Melrosegate end of Osbaldwick Beck

Robin, singing, near the Melrosegate end of Osbaldwick Beck

birds hunkered down in the bushes, and there was less bird activity along Osbaldwick Beck than in the past few weeks. However, it didn’t stop a party of a dozen or so Long-tailed Tits from actively foraging. Robins, too, were singing there, and in other parts of the reserve.

It was also quiet, bird-wise along the Bund Path, apart from a flight of seven Mallards (with two later seen on Tang Hall Beck), and a good, if brief view of a lovely male Sparrowhawk.

Goldfinch and Ash buds

Goldfinch and Ash buds

There were only a few birds along both sides of Tang Hall Beck, but a flock of at least a dozen Woodpigeons, taking off noisily, was notable. But must of the bird activity was concentrated in the small trees and bushes in the general area of the Kingfisher Culvert. In a short space of time, we saw: Bullfinch.. 2 males and a female feeding together; Greenfinch.. one or two; Goldfinch.. a small flock; Wren.. foraging in the undergrowth; both Blue and Great Tits; Siskin.. maybe up to 5 birds. We spent some time in this area, getting good views of most of the birds.

Elsewhere on the reserve we saw plenty of Blackbirds and Magpies, with half a dozen of the latter in a single tree. Flying over were a few Black-headed Gulls, 5 Herring Gulls and a few Carrion Crows. Near the Environment Centre were House Sparrows and Collared Doves.. bringing the total to 19 species.

Bracket fungus on a tree by Tang Hall Beck

Bracket fungus on a tree by Tang Hall Beck

Plants and Fungi:  We found, predictably enough, the January “big four”, White Dead-nettle, Gorse, Hazel and Alder catkins (still only male flowers).  There are Willow catkins (“pussy willow”, probably Sallow) opening in the Tang Hall Beck area. Celandine leaves are at last starting to emerge from beneath the layer of dead grass, but so far there is no sign of flower buds.  Leaves are also beginning to appear on young Elder saplings growing in sheltered areas for example near the Sustrans entrance. A tree overhanging Tang Hall Beck had a spread of a species of bracket fungus several feet long. Another of the Crack Willows at the beck had cracked off a large branch.. the second one we’ve seen in the past few weeks.

Mammals:

Water Vole feeding near the Sluice Bridge on Tang Hall Beck

Water Vole feeding near the Sluice Bridge on Tang Hall Beck

We stood around on the Sluice Bridge, waiting in vain for either Kingfisher or Grey Wagtail to turn up. The wind was strong and we started to leave. Then, one sharp-eyed member of the group spotted a Water Vole feeding on the bank right next to the water. It was only about ten metres away. It seemed completely aware of us standing on the bridge and it munched away continuously on both stalks and leaves of Dock. We watched it for about ten minutes before a sudden squally shower hit us. For some members of the group, it was the first time they had seen one of these endearing mammals.

Elsewhere on the reserve, we had a couple of sightings of Rabbit near the warren, the first we’d seen for some weeks. We re-visited the new Grey Squirrel drey that we’d found last week, and also found nearby another drey possibly still under construction. A single Squirrel was seen nearby

31 January 2013 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: Bullfinch, robin, Siskin, sparrowhawk, water vole