Monday, 27 February 2012

Bryophytes in the garden

After Saturdays field trip with the British Bryological Society, yesterday was mainly spent trying to put what I learnt into practice. The field trip was very enjoyable, and with there being only five attendees there was plenty of time to learn quite a bit about the commoner urban mosses and liverworts. The plan was to survey the 1km square (now called a monad) around Ilford road Metro station. It included a corner of Newcastle town moor, South Gosforth Park and many, many walls. An hour after we started we still hadn't progressed beyond the confines of the station, and were on our hands and knees looking through magnifying glasses at mosses, much to the amazement of commuters I may add. One was even taking photographs us.  Like I said, very enjoyable and we managed to find & identify 32 species, all common urban ones but excellent learning for a beginner like me.
So yesterday saw me in the garden most of the day slowly identifying the bryophytes on the lawn, on stones,  fence-posts and in the greenhouse guttering. Eventually I was happy after checking them through the microscope and field guide to fairly confidently claim the following.
Rough-stalked Feather-moss (Brachythecium rutabulum)
Common Feather-moss (Kindbergia praelonga)
Redshank Moss (Ceratodon purpureus)
Grey-cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata)
Common Liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha)
Crescent-cup Liverwort (Lunularia cruciata).

Six species, took me quite some time to wade through but it's a start.

Three Mosses (top to bottom)

Grey-cushioned Grimmia
Crescent-cup Liverwort
Rough-stalked Feather-moss

I did have a short walk in the afternoon through South Burn Wood but I generally left the mosses there for another day. Several Willow Tit and a Nuthatch were the best birds of the day with the now seemingly ubiquitous flock of Long-tailed Tit. My first Lesser Celandine flower of the year here at Waldridge (its been in flower since early January in Sunderland) was present, as was the small group of naturalised, for 10+ years at least, Winter Aconite.

The most unusual sight was a group of 7 male Greenfinch perched in a 2 metre tall Sycamore. They were all singing and doing short song-flighting despite the lack of a female and there was no sign of any territorial behaviour. They reminded me of a group of lads on a street corner, just hanging about and showing off to each other.

The Wood Mouse in the garden continues to perform well on the  lawn under the bird table. I say the, this morning there were two of them feeding and chasing each other, and completely ignoring the Blackbirds, Robin, Dunnock and Chaffinch feeding on the ground nearby.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

One Mouse, one Bee

I have been a bit poorly, but now a good bit better, just as the weather is starting to warm up. It was 12C overnight so I had to put the moth trap out. I switched it off at midnight but it was still empty by then.
This morning I had just returned indoors having put some food out for the birds when our regular  Wood Mouse appeared and started to scoff the seeds on the ground and put on a fine show.

Our Wood Mouse 

A Song Thrush was also an early visitor as it was still dark at this point.  I know some butterflies have been seen in the county this week and hoped one might put in an appearance at some point today but apparently I am going to have to wait. I will not have to wait for my first Bumblebee however as a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee was seen feeding on the garden Daffodils.

Song Thrush  in the garden

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Running about all over the place

Not much on my walk around the fell today but not surprising as there was a  meeting of the Northern Navigators Orienteering Club with all the car parks full and people running all over the place. The paths are very muddy and thats before they start doing what they do and despite it being 6C all the pools are still frozen so no chance of any Snipe.
Several Great spotted Woodpeckers were drumming but rather worrying I have still to get Green Woodpecker here this year. They have been rapidly declining the past few years in the area. A Tree-creeper in Felledge wood was new for the year however. Willow Tits were also very vocal with birds at 3 different spots in the Daisy Hill area alone. 32 Common Gull along Beaney Lane may well be already on the move back north.

One of today's Great spotted Woodpeckers

Back in the garden, one male Blackbird has included the garden in his territory and is currently seeing off any rivals and not only other male Blackbirds. He is also getting bolder coming right up to the patio door.

The Boss 

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Unconfirmed reports and swan mauling

I just don't like Februarys, I don't really know why, I just don't. It would certainly go into my Room 101. I just can't seem to get any enthusiasm going and with the weather being so windy/cold/wet it seems to be an easy excuse to not bother. January and the start of new lists is fine and by March spring is in the air, but February .... not really. But today I made the effort and went out.
A flock of 80 or so Siskin flew over the house as I was getting my things together and it was just below freezing, so things looked promising. What also got me going were a couple of 'unconfirmed reports' of a female Mandarin and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker down the riverside. Both had been looked for subsequently but to no avail.

Salix fragilis aka Crack Willow for an obvious reason
Anyway I went to the river to look for myself, and also failed to see either. I must be honest, where the woodpecker was reported does look spot on for them, and it would be a patch tick for me.
The trees did have quite a few birds in them including a flock of 30 Lesser Redpoll and a small tit flock including Long-tailed Tit and Nuthatch. A Dipper was singing here on the Lumley Park Burn and a Grey Wagtail flew over.

Song Thrush in the woods

I walked back to the Riverside Park just in time to see a Redshank flying up river. A good bird for here, I did not see one on my patch at all last year and so new for the Blog too. At the Riverside Park there was a mass of waterfowl
Waterfowl at the riverside

and gulls including 91 Tufted Duck, 5 Goosander and the winter resident Pink-footed Goose and Yorkshire Whooper Swan.

Pink-footed Goose

Gulls included a high count of 76 Herring Gull and nearly 400 Black-headed Gull.

Black-headed Gulls

A Kingfisher flew up river, then it all went a bit horrid.

A dog ran off from it's owner and attacked one, then another of the Mute Swans. Pandemonium broke out as everything scattered and the dog charged into the river to attack a third swan. Shouts of 'Bruno, Bruno' had no effect as it grabbed the wing of a Mute Swan which managed to escape leaving a mouthful of flight feathers in the mad dog's mouth.  Kiddie's who had been watching and feeding the swans were now screaming and being whisked away by their parents before they were traumatised anymore. Bruno then swam towards the Whooper Swan which turned around to face it and raised it's wings in anger but it was no match for a savage dog. Fortunately our swan from Yorkshire got away with the loss of only a few feathers. The dog continued to paddle after the swans until it was presumably too exhaused and swam back to it's owner and they made a hasty retreat.

Bruno about to attack it's third swan

Yorkshire Whooper attempts to fend offthe mad dog

Nothing new on the flowers but some nice groups of Snowdrops in the riverside woods and a few small patches of naturalised Winter Aconite were just coming into flower in the park.

During the week I did manage to get one interesting record. I was tidying up in the greenhouse and lifted up a some pots that were lying under the staging when out flew a Peacock butterfly. Obviously I had just disturbed it's hibernation. It flapped around a bit but I managed to get it back in a pot and put it back where it came from. It was only later that I remembered exactly the same thing happened in November, presumably with this same individual. The poor thing is not getting much in
the way of a winter rest.
Winter Aconite

Flowering plants    27
Birds            65
Butterflies        1