Weather: Overcast but mild. No rain!
Observers: Ian, Kaye, Linda, Margaret, Tom
There’s been quite a bit of rain recently, and everything at St Nicks is looking refreshingly green. Bird song is getting quieter (normally happens in July / August), but plants, grasses, flowers and trees are flourishing!
We all did the Osbaldwick Beck circuit and then Linda went off to do a solitary Kingfisher watch (results? see below!). Ian, Kaye, Margaret and Tom set off up the Bund Path, where there was a lot of close scrutiny of many different plants and flowers. Ian then went off on his own, visiting both sides of Tang Hall Beck, before joining Linda at the Kingfisher Watch Point.
Birds: Highlight today was a bird that Linda saw on her Kingfisher watch. She described it as a large brown bird (Wood Pigeon size) with a long, straight beak, flying from the right of Tang Hall Beck to the left hand side. It could only, according to Ian, have been a Woodcock. This will have been the first Woodcock sighting this year. She also saw a bird of prey with long, grey wings, zipping over the beck and disappearing into the bushes. Again, Ian did his mind reading act and guessed that she’s seen a Sparrowhawk! Our normal view of this species is one soaring high over the reserve, so it’s good to have records of hunting birds on the reserve. Sadly, no Kingfisher sightings again. We’re hoping that they’ve bred – and are feeding – on the River Foss, just downstream from Tang Hall Beck.
Bird song is quietening down, as is normal at this time of year. But there were possibly three Song Thrushes seen and heard today – a silent individual by Osbaldwick Beck (photo) and singing individuals near the Dragon Stones and on the east side of Tang Hall Beck. The most vocal birds were Wrens, with about a dozen heard all over the reserve. Robins are normally silent in July and August, but there was one singing individual near the Butterfly
Path. Also vocalising were about three Blackcaps, with a silent female seen on the path to the west of Tang Hall Beck. Blackbird song was mainly muted, but there were maybe a dozen seen throughout the reserve.
Blue Tits were heard but not seen, and a Great Tit made frequent visits to a nest box almost opposite the Kingfisher watch point.
Other birds seen and heard included Bullfinch (male on the Bund Path), Greenfinch, Dunnock, Collared Dove, Magpie (the family group near Tang Hall Beck), Chiffchaff(two singing birds on the Bund Path and near the Butterfly Path) House Sparrow (quite elusive) and, of course, Wood Pigeon! Overhead were three solitary Swifts, five noisy Starlings and a few Carrion Crows– a total of 20 bird species.
Insects & Butterflies: Speckled Wood, Large Skipper and Ringlet Butterflies were seen on the Western side of the reserve. Bees were scarce and not seen well enough to be identified. Along the Tang Hall Beck path, Harlequin and 7-Spot Ladybirds were feasting on blackfly. Snails were everywhere. Our list of galls continues to grow: spotted lime leaves indicate Mite Eirophyes limosa; galls on Alder are probably the work of another mite, Eriophyes laevis, while pinkish curls on the edges of Ash leaves were probably formed by Psyllopsis fraxini.
Plants & Fungi: Thanks to the combined expertise of Tom and Margaret, we logged a record 63 species of herbaceous plants in flower, together with three woody shrubs/trees (Lime, Elder and the first Buddleia of the season). New on this year’s list are St John’s Wort on the Bund; Bush Vetch, Ribbed Melilot, Hairy Tare, Hedge Mustard, Broad-leaved and Rosebay Willow-herb and Common Ragwort in more open areas; Meadow Cranesbill and Dove’s Foot Cranesbill in open grassland; Musk Thistle along the Tang Hall Beck path; Common Blue Sow-thistle and Fox-and-cubs near the Centre. The first Hedge Bindweed is also opening. It is an interesting time to study plant families, with at least 9 varieties of Legume, 5 Geraniums and 10 Composites to compare. We also found the first ripe (though not edible!) fruit of the year on a Bird Cherry on the Bund.
Here’s a few photos:
Mammals: A single Grey Squirrel. Even Dogs were in short supply today!
Amphibians: Two female and one male Smooth (Common) Newts were in the Environment Centre pond.