August field meeting at Nostell Priory

The Society’s final outdoor meeting of a full summer programme for this year attracted a very good attendance on 13 August 2017.  Members were greeted with a fine sunny morning and treated to some special wildlife sightings as we walked around part of the Nostell Priory parkland, which is managed by the National Trust.

comma butterfly caterpillar

comma butterfly caterpillar

purple hairstreak butterfly

purple hairstreak butterfly

The bottom lake provided good views of various dragonflies and damselflies, including brown hawker and common blue damselfly patrolling around a large area of fringed water-lily with its attractive yellow flowers.  Large bracket fungal fruiting bodies of Ganoderma spp on old oak trees and a giant polypore (Meripilus giganteus) at the base of a mature beech tree were also noted.  Eagled eyed members spotted a couple of caterpillars of the comma butterfly feeding on nettles at a woodland edge.  The white markings on their backs are thought to resemble a bird dropping, perhaps a good defence mechanism. See attached image.  Possibly, the highlight of the morning was the appearance of a purple hairstreak butterfly high in the canopy of an oak tree, which is the food plant of its caterpillars.  Although the adult butterfly may sometimes be seen at lower levels it spends much of its time searching high in the tops of oak trees and occasionally other species for honeydew from aphids.  For this reason it is easily overlooked and under recorded and certainly it was difficult to photograph on the day.  Other butterflies seen, included red admiral, speckled wood and meadow brown. Other interesting wildlife included a hornet’s nest in an old veteran tree and knopper gall on oak.

The knopper gall is caused by a small wasp (Andricus quercuscalicis) laying its eggs in the young acorns of pedunculate oak.  This tiny insect forms a second generation in the spring when it lays its eggs and forms small galls on the male catkins of turkey oak (Quercus cerris), which can be found in small numbers at Nostell Priory.  At this time of year the acorns become increasingly wrinkled as they develop.  In some years this can reduce the number of viable acorns produced.  However, many may remain unaffected and perhaps this insect may not be the threat to our native oak that it once feared to have been.

4.meripulus giganteus

4.meripulus giganteus

Encouraged by the visit I returned to Nostell on the 17 August to photograph the giant polypore, which was by then much larger.  I also noted a further three purple hairstreak butterflies in the same area, together with a brown hawker and migrant hawkers.  Images of the brown hawker, which rested for a matter of seconds on a fence post, together with the migrant are attached.

migrant hawker

migrant hawker

brown hawker

brown hawker

The indoor meetings resume on Tuesday September 12th at 7.30 p.m. at the Quaker Meeting House, Thornhill Street, Wakefield WF1 1NQ with a presentation by Steve Rutherford when he will take us on a journey around the islands of the UK.

Potteric Carr

Banded demoiselle (male)

Highlights of our July field meeting at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Potteric Carr reserve included a female marsh harrier hunting over Huxter Well Marsh; such a regular sight that it did little to disturb the herons, little egrets, lapwings, little grebes and great-crested grebes on the lagoon.

Small skipper

We spent most of our morning in Loversall Field where the dragonfly ponds attracted banded demoiselle, emerald, common blue and blue-tailed damselflies and four-spotted chaser and common darter dragonflies but the star of the show was a male emperor dragonfly, Britain’s largest species.

Brimstone butterfly (female)

Skippers and ringlets were the most frequently seen butterflies but we also recorded commas, meadow browns, single male and female brimstones and a red admiral.

Four-banded longhorn beetles (Leptura quadrifasciata)

In addition to four-banded longhorn beetles we saw soldier beetles, Rhagonycha fulva and click beetle. Whirligigs were gyrating on the surface of the ponds, with great-crested newts coming to the surface amongst the pondweed.

Large-flowered hemp-nettle

Wild flowers included yellow-wort and this large-flowered hemp-nettle growing in the wild flower meadow area by the visitor centre.

February meeting: Extra-ordinary AGM

This is an advance notification that at February’s meeting we will be calling an extra-ordinary AGM to re-present the WNS accounts. The reason for this is to comply with the Charities Commission rules which states that we should present the accounts to the members 14 days in advance of our AGM. As we were unable to do this due to the original AGM being too soon after Christmas to get in all the bank statements from the peregrine account, our auditors have suggested we make the AGM null and void. However, the Society doesn”t wish to have to repeat the AGM business, hence an extra-ordinary AGM to present the fully audited accounts. This should only take five minutes and we would advise thta the accounts are now online for anyone to look at ahead of the meeting.

After the business, we will be heading off to Spain to have a look at some of the iconic species of birds that this vast country has to offer, such as this beautiful pin-tailed sandgrouse.

Pin-taiked Sandgrouse

November meeting change of speaker

Due to an error on my part, the November meeting will now be local photographer Ron Marshall giving his talk entitled – “Alaska – the final frotier”. The talk covers his trip to the very north of Alsaka to the remote town of Barrow and will cover the unique wading birds and mammals of the region. This is going to be a highlight talk so do come along on Tueasday 8th at the usual venue.

 

Half Moon and Ashfields

flora

A leafy stemmed hawkweed, common valerian, ribbed melilot and hare’s-foot clover.

Field meeting, 14 August 2016: The Ashfields, between Heath village and the River Calder (OS ref. SE 353 206), were settlement lagoons for the pulverised fuel ash from Wakefield power station which was decommissioned in 1991. In the past thirty or forty years the process of natural succession has transformed them from silty open ground to orchid meadow and then from scrub to woodland.

longhornTwo longhorn beetles, Stranglia maculata, rest on umbels of hogweed and in a sheltered clearings and there are a few speckled wood butterflies but the most common and persistent insect is the mosquito.

halfmoon

The Half Moon (SE 358 208) between Heath and Kirkthorpe is a cut-off meander of the Calder. A hundred or more whirligig beetles gyrate in a group on the surface close to the bank. Branched bur-reed grows amongst sweet-flag.

snail

Amber snail, probably Succinea putris.

Amber snails graze on the sweet-flag. These snails are unable to fully retract into their shells. Their lower tentacles are much reduced.

Askham Bog field meeting

There was a good turn out for the Askham, Bog walk today and the weather wasn’t too bad with bright skies and some sunny intervals. There was enough warmth to have a few insects on the wing including orange tip, green-veined white, large red damselfy and the hoverflies such as the footballer. The water violets were superb in both the pond and the damp woodland, while things like slender tufted sedge gave the botanists some identification challenges. As well as the dog violets, there were marsh violets to be seen and we did see the royal fern, a reserve speciality,  but it was still a long way from its showy best.

marsh violet

Marsh violet leaf and flower – Barbara Murray

Water violet

Water violet

large red damselfy | the footballer

large red damselfy | the footballer

Annual General Meeting 12th January 2016

The next meting is the AGM and so I thought I would post the agenda here in case anyone would like to print it or peruse it. There will be a bit more business than usual as the Society is applying for charitable status. However, we aim to be as brief as possible and to break for tea t the usual time followed by Colin’s presentation on Africa, so please do come along for a great evening.

Here is a PDF version of the agenda Agm2015

Haw Park & Anglers CP field meeting

Our group of about 12 were pleasantly surprised to be met by Pete Smith, with a collection of moths he had trapped on Saturday night, identified and put into magnifying boxes for us to see, including the beautiful carpet moth, snout moth, barred red moth, gold spangle moth and rarer muslin footman moth. Thanks Pete, for such an interesting start to our morning, thanks also to Paul Andrews, from the Butterfly Conservation Society who led, and shared his expert knowledge of Haw Park Wood on an interesting walk through the wood.

All the common species of butterfly were seen along the track to the cornfield, small skipper, speckled wood, gatekeeper, red admiral, small tortoiseshell and meadow brown with ringlets in abundance as we came under the canopy of the wood.  Along the main path the bracken and foliage were covered in common blue damselfly. Wildflowers noted were slender St John’s wort, broad leaved helleborine (not quite inflower) and heath speedwell

Paul pointed out a colony of wild honey bees’ busy making honey in a hole halfway up a tree, not easy to see and becoming more of a rarity in recent years.

Heath speedwell

Heath speedwell – Lesley Taylor

Meadow bron

meadow brown – Roger Gaynor

slender St John's-wort

slender St John’s-wort -Lesley Taylor

Woolley Colliery special site visit 15th July 2015

Colin Booker has been in contact with The Coal Authority and has managed to arrange a special one-off visit to the minewater treatment plant at Woolley Colliery, Haigh. The visit will take place at 1:00pm on Wednesday 15th July and will involve minimal walking as I think we will be taken or allowed to drive close to the site. H&S require that all members attending should wear stout boots,  gloves and a hi-vis vest. Colin has a number of hi-viz vests but if you have one, do bring it.

Those members attending the June field meeting to this site will know just how abundant in wildflowers this site is and so it will be a very interesting walk around this private section of the reserve. Just a week ago we had an abundance of bee orchids and common spotted orchid and I’m sure, if this hot weather continues, there will be good numbers and varieties of butterflies.

A map indicating where to meet will be posted here as soon as we receive it and members wishing to visit should contact Colin to let him know colin_booker25@yahoo.co.uk