February brought with it a hint of spring and our wonderful Wildwatch team were out to spot all the tell-tale signs.
Week on week the changing season was a source of pleasure and delight as our team were able to observe the buds emerging on trees, cherry blossom out in its delicately dazzling display, shoots turning in to full blown flowers, and the birdsong exploding into a symphony. We got our first daffodil emerging in February and it has since been followed by many more.
Several of the group were also lucky enough to observe several treecreepers around the site. One team member got a really up close encounter when they noticed one around waist height on a tree. Luckily, the treecreeper failed to notice our Wildwatcher who froze on the path and was able to take in the sight for a little while. Another of our team saw a couple of these little birds near our Dragonstones. Hopefully they were making a cosy little nest for themselves somewhere on site.
One week, a Wildwatcher was lucky enough to spy a sparrowhawk landing on a fallen tree across Tang Hall beck. It was still very alert after a failed chase. Of course, it’s not only those flashy, exciting birds that we all love to see, some of our regulars can be just as wonderful. Redwings have been spotted in increasing numbers throughout February with groups of 12 or more and song thrushes have been heard singing regularly. Earlier in the month, one of our talented team managed to capture a goldfinch feasting merrily on a teasel head, despite the cold and snowy conditions!
Teasel heads brought us more than just goldfinch fodder in February. When one Wildwatcher opened a teasel head up last month, they were pleased to find a plump caterpillar of the micro-moth teasel marble (Endothenia gentianaeana) nestled inside. New to the reserve (but likely to be common in the teasel) and only the fifth record for the vice county according to the Yorkshire Naturalists Union. Very exciting.
And speaking of creatures in the early stages of life, another team member found a false ladybird beetle larvae under a leaf in the woodland. These little black and orange critter are quite different from their very bright and vibrant adult forms.
Earlier in the year, one Wildwatcher took home some Balkan threeband slug eggs (Ambigolimax nyctelius) which hatched in February! The intention is to grow the babies up to adults to create a record of the development from newly laid egg to adult. Though this particular wonderful team member isn’t able to make it in to St Nicks at the moment, we have had positive reports that the babies are doing well, and seem very partial to courgette and grass – mainly courgette. They are also extremely good at hiding, but since they are barely 5mm long at full stretch at the moment, that’s not surprising. The sluglings will be returned to St Nicks once they are grown (probably around 5cm). Our Wildwatcher, and current slug guardian, says she classes these as a friendly slug – when you pick them up, they come out to see you whereas some slugs just stay contracted. Who wouldn’t like to see more of these friendly molluscs around the site?!
I’d once again like to thank our wildwatch team for their continued help in our monitoring and recording and I will wrap up with a direct quote from one of our fantastic team:
“I can’t help thinking that February’s main highlight for me has been having Wednesday’s Wildwatch in the diary every week and sharing – obviously singly and at a safe distance- all the delights with other enthusiasts. It’s been amazing how we never planned to meet up but would inevitably ‘spot’ one or other.”
This Wildwatch summary was put together by our Volunteer Coordinator Maria. Members of Wildwatch are currently assessing the flora and fauna on site in an unofficial capacity as part of their daily exercise when they can, rather than at set sessions and in a socially distanced way. To be notified when sessions resume in full on a regular basis please email Maria on Volunteer@stnicks.org.uk