During a walk at Fitzwilliam Country Park, I came across some common puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum). They were just pushing up through the moss and I thought they looked very striking.
There were quite a few Russulas growing beneath silver birches and young oaks. I identified one of these as green Russula (Russula aeruginea).
At Ackworth, I found a clump of fungi which seemed to be a species of Agaricus. For these, I needed the help of the experts at the British Mycological Society. Agaricus bohusii was suggested initially but Geoffrey Kibby, who has published a number of authoritative guides to fungi, suggested that this fungus was a particularly scaly example of Agaricus subperonatus.
Agaricus subperonatus isn’t a common species, so this was an interesting find.
I was walking by the River Calder, near the Hepworth Gallery, when I spotted a mass of fungi on a pile of woodchips.
Wrinkled Fieldcap (Agrocybe rivulosa)
I did my best to identify them using books but again needed the help of the British Mycological Society and I found that they are Agrocybe rivulosa.
Wrinkled Fieldcap (Agrocybe rivulosa)
This species arrived in the UK just over a decade ago and has probably been encouraged to spread by the increasing use of bark and woodchip mulches. It is now common and widespread in Britain.
Wrinkled Fieldcap (Agrocybe rivulosa)
A common name used for this species is wrinkled fieldcap.
After a train journey from the south of England, I stretched my legs by walking back to Hemsworth, from Fitzwilliam, using the scenic route.
By the path, I found common green bottles feeding on hogweed and they were very striking when looked at closely. This species is one whose maggots can be used to clean wounds very effectively. They will eat dead tissue whilst leaving living tissue alone.
Graphomya maculata (female)
I identified another very striking fly that I saw as Graphomya maculata, also feeding on hogweed. It’s said to be found in damp areas and these were photographed on the edge of marshy ground.
Graphomya maculate (male)
Also on the hogweed, I found a true bug that I believe to be Grypocorus stysi. This species is said to feed on both flowers and small invertebrates such as aphids.
Colin Booker and I took a trip to Brockadale yesterday, with the expectation of seeing lots of butterflies. However, we found very few flowers on the knapweed and this was one reason why butterfly numbers were low.
We saw a few marbled white and a single dark green fritillary.
A highlight was the sight of banded demoiselles flitting around by the river.
Banded demoiselle (male
Banded demoiselle (female)
The demoiselles are found at the foot of the field in which musk thistle is often to be found.
Although it wasn’t especially sunny, we saw at least five common lizards basking on logs.
Common lizard (pregnant?)
One lizard looked quite plump. Common lizards(Zootoca vivipara) are viviparous, i.e. they give birth to live young. This typically happens in July, so there is a good chance that the plump lizard was pregnant.
Unfortunately, one of this year’s young peregrines died earlier this week following a collision with a building. The female PCA was found near Sainsburys, Ings Road and was cared for by Jean Thorpe, of Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation.
PCA being X-rayed
PCA was examined by Mark Naguib, a vet who has lots of experience in dealing with raptors. Mark found that the bird had dislocated an elbow joint at least 24 hours earlier. He tried to put the bones back into place but this proved to be impossible and the decision was taken to end the bird’s life whilst it was still under the anaesthetic.
The decision was not an easy one but it was based on the fact that peregrines rely so heavily on the use of their wings to hunt their prey. PCA would never again have been able to live freely and to hunt as a peregrine should.
Dislocated elbow joint
We are grateful to Jean and Mark for the time and effort that they have given to caring for PCA.
It’s always sad to hear of the death of a peregrine but we must stand back and look at the whole picture. The Wakefield peregrines have now fledged ten young. We know of four deaths, all caused by collisions, and this means that there are, potentially, six new peregrines out there somewhere. If fifty percent of young peregrines survive the first year, that should be considered to be a good result. In their lifetimes, our two adults need to produce only two new peregrines that go on to breed successfully to replace themselves. I think there is a good chance that they have succeeded in that task.
Colin Booker and I visited Carlton Marsh nature reserve today. It was my first visit and I was impressed by the range of things to be seen.
Golden bloomed grey longhorn beetle (Agapanthia villosoviridescens)
Early in the walk, we found a golden-bloomed grey longhorn beetle – minus one horn (antenna) – on hogweed. This is the second species of longhorn beetle that I have seen in one week and it may be an indication of how these species are expanding their ranges northwards.
Another insect seen was a large hoverfly, for which my suggested identification is Cheilosia illustrata.
Fly killed by Entomophthora fungus
We also spotted a fly, on the underside of a leaf, which had been infected by an Entomophthora fungus. This fungus causes the fly to change its behaviour so that it walks up a plant. It then dies but it doesn’t fall from the plant because fungal hyphae grow from its feet to attach it to the plant. Spores of the fungus are then carried away on the breeze.
Mignonette (Roseda lutea) & musk mallow (Malva moschata)
There was a wide range of plant species to be seen.
Wild carrot (Daucus carota)
Wild carrot is a common plant but the flower head is very attractive when viewed closely.
Greater knapweed (Centauria scabiosa)
The 2017 season has been another successful one for the Wakefield peregrines. The same two adults have now bred on the cathedral in three successive years. This year, they had four eggs, with the female laying the first egg within two hours of the time when the first egg appeared last year. We believe that one egg was accidentally punctured by a talon and, as a result, only three of the four eggs hatched. The three young peregrines have been given orange rings with the codes PAA, PBA and PCA. PBA is the only male.
As usual, the adults did a good job of raising the youngsters. They fledged on a very windy weekend and ,as a result, there were a couple of mishaps. Instead of being able to spend time jumping up onto the wall above the box and running along the wall flapping their wings, the youngsters tended to get whisked away by the breeze and a couple found themselves down on the ground. The young male, PBA, was returned to the tower almost immediately but a female, PCA, landed late in the evening and was returned the next day, after a medical check organised by the people at Wise Owl Bird of Prey Rescue. PCA had a limp but no broken bones.
Juveniles PBA & PCA
All three of the youngster are now flying freely, putting on some good displays as they chase each other in the skies above Wakefield. As usual, they have chosen the roofs of the tower blocks as their favourite base.
These three youngster bring the total fledge since breeding began in Wakefield to ten. We look forward to hearing news of sightings of Wakefield birds in other cities at some time in the future.
Anglers CP has always been a favourite for bird watching but the wildflowers are also improving year by year: dog roses, guelder rose and dogwood are in full splendour at the moment edging the path as we passed the right hand field, full of meadow buttercup, lady’s smock and red clover. Interspersed amongst these flowers were northern marsh orchid, although possibly these have hybridised with southern marsh orchid, and also a few common spotted orchid. Yellow flag, lesser stitchwort and mouse- ear grew by the water’s edge as we turned right towards the bird hide. Hundreds of orchids can be seen along this path, still coming into flower, a real feast for the eyes. As we turned back onto the main path, broad-leaved willow-herb and cut-leaved cranesbill were coming into flower alongside clumps of creeping buttercup, red campion and hemlock.
northern marsh orchid
A big event on the peregrine calendar is the ringing of the peregrine chicks. This year’s ringing took place on Saturday, 27th May, when the youngsters were three weeks and four days old.
The youngsters were collected from the nestbox and ringing was carried out inside the spire, out of sight of the parents. This was done by members of the Sorby Breck Ringing Group. The ringers are licensed to ring birds such as peregrines, which are given special protection as “Schedule 1” birds.
Ringing a peregrine
The young birds were fitted with metal BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) rings. This type of ring carries a number which can be reported to the Natural History Museum if a bird is found dead or injured. Each peregrine was also given a plastic ring carrying just three letters. These letters can be read on live birds using binoculars or telescopes. The plastic rings provide the opportunity for receiving information about the movements of the peregrines in the future. The three rings used were orange and carried the letters PAA, PBA and PCA. PAA and PCA are females, whilst PBA is a male.
Taking measurements of a peregrine chick
The chicks were weighed and this was the key to deciding the sex of each youngster. Females are larger than males and the largest of the Wakefield chicks weighed 1.1 kg. The smallest chick, the male, weighed only 750g. As you can see form the picture, other measurements were taken.
Barn owl chick
Whilst they were in the area, the ringers arranged to ring four barn owl chicks which are growing well in a nestbox maintained by Danny Kirmond.
Little owl chicks
Danny also has a little owl box containing a brood of young little owls. The ringers were able to ring those. When they went to do this, they found an adult in the box, so they took the opportunity to ring that too.
Adult little owl
It was quite a productive day for the ringers and we are grateful to them for taking the time to deal with our peregrines.
For those who like to observe wildlife close to home, here are a few sightings from Chantry Bridge.
My first visit at the end of April found a male goosander alongside the
common species such as 20+ mallard, which included six tiny ducklings. A
pair of swans had a nest with seven eggs, five of which hatched on or
around the 9th May. The pen Y567 has attempted breeding here before and
the BTO tell me that she was ringed as a cygnet at Lemonroyd Lock, Methley. Her
mate in the past was Y127 but the present male has only a metal BTO ring so
there are no informative numbers to be seen.
Regular species that can be seen or heard on most visits are blackbirds,
pied and grey wagtail [both of these I believe to be breeding], sand
martins, grey heron (just one) wren, robin, goldfinch, chaffinch, willow
warbler and titmice.
An unusual sight last week was a jay (a first here for me) being mobbed
by a pair of carrion crows. Then, as I raised my head above the parapet,
a kingfisher appeared below me and flew at great speed downstream and
out of sight. Urban birdwatching at its best!