Weather: Warm, bright with one brief shower.
Observers: Ian, Linda, Peter, Kaye
Birds: A long Kingfisher watch produced a number of Wood Pigeons, a couple of Magpies, a female Blackbird collecting muddy nest materials, two Mallards, one small fish and a floating triangular item that probably wasn’t the shark of Tang Hall Beck. We are starting to wonder if lack of recent Kingfisher sightings might in fact be a good sign – if “our” birds are breeding successfully on a better stocked section of stream, they won’t have time to visit. Ian walked down to the bridge and was rewarded with a good view of a female Grey Wagtail catching insects. At its rate of progress upstream, he reckoned it might get to the rest of us in a couple of hours, so we decided not to wait. Apart from the ubiquitous Chiffchaffs, most species are presenting a real challenge with short snatches of incomplete song from a lurking place deep in the leaf canopy. Song Thrush, Blackcap, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Great Tit and Wren were all heard but gave at best fleeting glimpses.
Robins are more reliable, particularly the one that comes to investigate visitors to the Dragon Stones.
A male Greenfinch gave us good views, and a calling male Bullfinchnear the culvert was particularly obliging, turning round on his perch to demonstrate all his field marks. Perhaps the most appealing sighting of all was this family pair:
We rarely see Carrion Crows below tree level in summer, and were surprised to notice one near the Dragon Stones. It was extending its wings as though displaying, but there was no sign of another bird. Passing Black-headed and Herring Gulls completed our list of only 19.
Mammals: at least three Grey Squirrels were active in the willows beyond the Tang Hall culvert, using overhanging branches as a walkway, and a Rabbit was seen on the bank.
Amphibians: the Smooth Newts in the pond were less easy to find but are still present.
Invertebrates: Orange Tip and a probable Holly Blue were the only butterflies recorded. Common Carder and Early Bumblebees were identified. 7-Spot Ladybirds are less numerous but still not hard to find. Around the pond, we saw Common Blue Damselflies along with a red variety still to be identified.
Plants: Hawthorn blossom has almost finished, giving place to Elder and Dogwood. Most of the early summer flowers reported in recent weeks are still flourishing, joined by Dog Roses, Ox-eye Daisies and Ragged Robin near the pond. White Bryony is starting to flower in a few shrubby areas, and the slightly sinister grey-green tassels of Stinging Nettles are fully out. Two flower families are worth looking out for: the wild Geraniums, represented by Herb Robert, Meadow Cranesbill and at least two less conspicuous species, and the Speedwells, with Germander, Field and Ivy-leaved varieties all present.
Looking further ahead, the very first Bramble flowers are opening, and tiny keys are starting to form on the Sycamores. Linda fulfilled an ambition by finding a four-leaved clover. For a more easily achievable challenge, try to find forty species of plant in flower.