St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 30 November – Osbaldwick Beck alive with birds!

Autumn colours near Tang Hall Beck

Autumn colours near Tang Hall Beck

Weather: Clear, sunny, bright – but cool.
Observers:
Ian, Janetta, Kaye, Linda

It’s surprising, isn’t it, how sunshine brings the Autumn colours back again! Last week we reported that the autumn colours were fading fast, but today they seemed as beautiful as ever. One particularly striking area was Tang Hall Beck, near the Dragon Stones, where the

Willows are still green! (near the Environment Centre)

Willows are still green! (near the Environment Centre)

sunshine and shade produced a very pleasing contrast.

And, although many trees have now lost their leaves, some Willows still had plenty of green in them.

Birds: Before the Group assembled, Kaye and Ian had a very satisfactory stroll along Osbaldwick Beck, so that’s where we started off.

In this one small part of the reserve alone, we recorded a total of 21 species of birds. The stars of the show were undoubtedly the Siskins. Having had, last week, only a poor view of a single bird, today we had excellent views of at least five Siskins today, feeding, in bright sunlight, on the Alders, along with our resident flock of Goldfinches.

Siskins, feeding on Alders along Osbaldwick Beck

Siskins, feeding on Alders along Osbaldwick Beck

Blue skies and bare trees at the Environment Centre

Blue skies and bare trees at the Environment Centre

In the Beck itself were three Mallards and a very secretive Moorhen. A flurry of alarm calls heralded the swift arrival of a Sparrowhawk, zipping across the beck and out of the reserve. We didn’t see if its hunt was a success or not. What was successful was the mugging of a Black-headed Gull by an immature Herring Gull, which flew off with a large chunk of bread in its beak, pursued by four very angry Black-headed Gulls!

Earlier, Kaye and Ian had heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling from a tall tree near Melrosegate, but there was no sign of it when we returned.

Other birds recorded along the beck were Blue and Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Robin, Blackbird, Dunnock, Starling, Chaffinch, Bullfinch and House Sparrow. And, of course – how could we forget: Wood Pigeon! On the rest of the walk around the reserve, the only bird added to today’s tally was Mistle Thrush flying over, bringing the morning’s total to 22 species. A late addition was Kingfisher, of which Kaye and Jonathan, St Nicks Volunteer Co-ordinator, glimpsed later on. Linda will continue to be disappointed. Despite hours of watching, she has yet to see her first St Nicks Kingfisher. She accuses us of having mass hallucinations 🙂

Nipplewort in flower along Tang Hall Beck

Nipplewort in flower along Tang Hall Beck

Flowers: Hanging on in there but with noticeably fewer blooms are White Dead-nettle, Cow Parsley, Red Campion, Red Clover, Sow Thistle sp., Hedge Bindweed, Nipplewort, Hogweed, Red Clover, Cat’s-ear, Hawkweed sp., Yarrow, and “Titch” the very small, but possible, Black Nightshade.  Alongside the fading autumn flowers, preparations for spring are getting into gear.  Well-developed new catkins (the male flowers of Alder, Birch and Hazel) are very easy to spot now that most of the leaves have gone.

Mammals: Janetta, Kaye and Linda had a good view of a Water Vole at the Kingfisher (sorry, Linda!) Culvert and later, Ian and Linda saw Rabbit at that location. Previously, Kaye showed us all the St Nicks Rabbit warren, not far from the culvert. And, of course, Grey Squirrels were all over the reserve.

Insects & Amphibians: We saw just one Ladybird sp. along Tang Hall Beck. We learnt that, during routine clearance of the pond at the Environment Centre, dragonfly lavae had been found, and there was also one large Common Frog in the pond.

The bright red colours of Dogwood, near the playground

The bright red colours of Dogwood, near the playground

You can see larger versions of some of these images on the St Nicks Flickr pages.

30 November 2011 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: kingfisher, Siskin, water vole