Weather: damp, misty, increasingly chilly
Observers: Kaj, Doug, Kaye
Another dramatic change from the previous week. It was poor weather for plant-spotting and photography, but the birds didn’t seem to mind. Kaj and Kaye started with a tour of Osbaldwick Beck then followed the traditional path along the western edge and over the Bund. After meeting Doug at the Tang Hall Beck junction, we detoured back towards the Centre before returning to the culvert….
Birds: the weather did make a difference to the observers. Last week, a list of 19 species seemed disappointing; this week the identical number felt good. We noted five Carrion Crows perched in one of the large trees beyond the Centre. Several individuals, probably members of this group, were on watch across the reserve later in the morning. Along Osbaldwick Beck, we found a Wren, a lone Collared Dove, and the first of numerous Robins and Wood Pigeons (seven of these assembled in the same tree after the Crows had left). A Magpie appeared to be working on a new nest. We checked out the nest reported last week, and found it a great deal more substantial, with a single bird visiting it.
House Sparrows were as usual kicking up a rumpus in bushes around the Centre, and a male and female Chaffinch were in the same area. There were noticeably more Greenfinches about than usual, including five in a tree along the west path, and Kaj spotted a Coal Tit in nearby bushes – the first we’ve seen for a long time away from the Centre feeders. Great Tits were calling in several locations; Long-tailed Tits and Blue Tits weren’t quite so common. We didn’t see any obvious courtship or nesting activity. At least half a dozen Goldfinches were active in bushes near the Dragon Stones, and two male Bullfinches appeared to be having a stand-off, chasing one another over quite a wide area. Others were seen briefly or heard calling. We remarked on how long it took us to find our first Blackbird, but there were plenty more around the main path at the Sustrans end. Two Song Thrushes were heard but not seen – one possible sighting at the Gorse patch couldn’t be confirmed. Fly-over Black-headed and Herring Gulls completed our list. The unusual detour took us back to a bramble patch near the main path where Doug reported a close sighting of four small birds that he didn’t recognise, and that we couldn’t confidently pin down from his description. Predictably they had moved on by the time we got there, so potential bird number 20 remains a mystery.
Amphibians: the staff report occasional further sightings of Common Newt and Frog, but there was no sign of them this morning. We guess that activity depends on water temperature, which must have been pretty chilly.
Plants: the list remains static, with four varieties of Catkin, Lungwort, White Dead-nettle, garden Primroses and Crocuses, Gorse, Coltsfoots and Snowdrops all in evidence, the last two in several new locations. Prunus blossom along Osbaldwick Beck and near the culvert is more advanced – this is a mixture of Wild Plum, Cherry Plum and possible Damson hybrids, difficult to tell apart at this stage. If there were any Celandines, their buds must have been tightly closed, and we didn’t search. What we didn’t expect to find was Roses in a Willow in March.
More courtship behaviour, a memorial, or possibly Linda wanting to cheer us up in her absence? These definitely weren’t plastic. Another mystery. Finally, there is a marked increase in the variety of new vegetation, including shoots and new leaves of Yarrow, Garlic Mustard, Ox-eye Daisy and Nettle. Anyone for Nettle tea?