Beautiful Brockadale -what a variety of flowers and butterflies! Although we were too early for bee orchid, common spotted orchids were just coming into flower, perhaps a couple of weeks later than usual.. The car park is always a good place for meadow cranesbill, dovesfoot cranesbill, French cranesbill and cut-leaved cranesbill before heading onto the reserve. Moving on down the path passing bladder campion, white campion and white bryony, we turned left for a short distance as we had been told about a large patch of purple milk vetch which we may well have missed. We ended up on the main bank which was a mass of yellow rock rose mingled with hairy rock cress, greater stitchwort and fairy flax.
A glorious morning for a tranquil walk along the wildflower paths of 18th century Bramham Park, for a very small charge we were able to enjoy this peaceful garden awash with swathes of ramsons interspersed by leopards bane and the tilting heads of water avens. Large groups of twayblade were coming into flower amongst sanicle, pignut, common dog violet and tormentil. Milkwort nestled in the short grass with green field speedwell and sticky mouse-ear. Beautiful bugle sat amongst the barren and wild strawberry, while bulbous buttercup had still to reach its peak. In a few weeks time orchids will fill the unmown corners so a return visit would be worthwhile, a truly magical place to spend a morning.
Sunday 6 May was International Dawn Chorus Day, a worldwide celebration of nature’s symphony. It is celebrated annually on the first Sunday of May, and is a great opportunity to get out early and listen to the sounds of birds as they sing to greet the rising sun.
Events took part all around the country, and on Saturday 5 May (albeit a day early) I joined members of the RSPB’s Wakefield District Local Group as they guided a walk around the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The walk started at 7am and there were plenty of birds singing. As we wandered around the park we listened to and viewed many species, and learnt a great deal from Paul and Sarah our expert guides. We encountered blue tit, great tit, blackbird, song thrush, chaffinch, goldfinch, goldcrest (one for my year list), chiffchaff, blackcap, great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, tree creeper and wren.
The park looked stunning in the morning sunlight. The trees were in full blossom and the sunshine made everything look more vibrant. The woodland was carpeted in a haze of blue.
All too soon the walk was over, and we headed to the cafe for a quick drink before heading home. I would encourage everyone to get out there and enjoy what nature has to offer. You don’t have to be an expert, get up too early or travel far to hear bird song – your back garden is a good start.
t was a warm, muggy cloudy morning for our last walk of the season where our aim was to find autumn lady’s tresses, a tiny spiralling flower hiding in low grass. Amongst the damp grass along the main path we passed white, red and bladder campion as well as agrimony, lady’s bedstraw and, as the path widens out to the sunny bank, harebells. Here also we had rock rose, eyebright, fairy flax and quantities of autumn gentian, common centaury amongst field scabious, small scabious. On the bumpy knoll where the leaves of the pasque flower could still be seen, we found devil’s-bit-scabious and plenty of yellow-wort and our target spoecies – autumn lady’s tresses. A number of our walks have been rained off this year so it was good to finish with such a rewarding morning at the flower rich site.
A lovely morning for our wildflower walk with a full range of wonderful colours from white hedge bindweed, sneezewort, wild carrot, white water lily to the yellows of wild honeysuckle, yellow loosestrife, fleabane, ribbed melilot and greater spearwort to the pink hues of purple loosestrife, goat’s rue, common centaury and slender speedwell. This handsome puss moth caterpillar was camouflaged well amongst the willow and we spent a while admiring it.
I’ve just returned from a few days photography in Wiltshire/Dorset where I’ve been photographing firecrest, great bustard and Dartford warbler and, as the spring weather continued, today I went over to Brockadale to see what spring flowers were on offer. The cowslips are not yet in bloom and the highland cattle seem to be making a bit of a mess of the meadow so I’m not sure how well the cowslips will do this year. The wood anemone on the hillside are spreading well but deep in the woods, they somehow looked more at home in the dappled spring light.
Earlier today, Chris Swaine tweeted his sightings of a small flock of waxwings near the former Slipper pub in Crofton. Although there seems to be hundreds of waxwings up and down the country at the moment, these are the first we’ve heard about in the Wakefield district.
The changing and breathtaking colours of some of our magnificent trees, together with flocks of visiting birds on their long migration journeys, and a bounty of fruits and seeds for them to feed on are proof that autumn has arrived. However, thanks to Pauline, on the 27 October we were witness to a less obvious clue if not, indeed, a very spooky sign of the season. We met along the disused railway, now a fantastic public walkway, starting behind the Co-op stores on Leeds Road, Outwood. There, on the timber post and rail fencing we found hundreds of ‘Halloween ladybirds’ as they are known in the USA, because they gather in their overwintering areas during September to November before hibernating, often in buildings. Such large gatherings of insects are known as aggregations.
Here in the UK this beetle is known as the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia spp) and is an unwelcome invader. The adult is very variable in appearance with a range of colours and patterns (see photos). Unlike many of our native ladybirds it produces multiple generations and a single female may lay up to 2,000 eggs in a lifetime leading to large populations. The life cycle then proceeds to a larvae (see attached photo), which can shed their skins several times before forming a pupae, and then after several days the adult emerges. The larvae and adults feast on aphids and when these have been devoured they sadly eat and out-compete our native, treasured ladybirds, bringing a ghostly end to autumn.
It was a warm, clear morning for our last flower walk of the season. The lack of rainfall has taken its toll on the vale which, on first glance looked dry and parched, lacking the lush green and purple haze of scabious present on previous visits at this time of year, but further into the vale we began to see the flowers that we hoped to see. All three scabious were identified, small, field and devil’s-bit although not as abundant as previous years, red bartsia, harebells, fairy flax, betony and restharrow were all plentiful as were yellow-wort and autumn gentian. We failed to find autumn ladies-tresses although one of our group had seen it on the vale in the last few days but just failed to locate it! Corn sowthistle, common rock-rose, milk-wort, ladies bedstraw, agrimony, yarrow, white campion and the wonderfully named traveller’s joy were a delight to see. Large numbers of meadow and common grasshoppers jumped about around our feet and a buzzard soared above the vale, a really beautiful last outing of the season.
The weather was overcast but pleasant for our botany walk at this nature reserve near Kippax which is managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
The group identified over fifty species of wildflower during the walk including clustered bellflowers, wild basil, burnet saxifrage, white bryony, field scabious and masses of knapweed. It was surprising to see a white version of greater knapweed. Harebell and yellow-wort were also seen.