There was a cold, biting wind for our walk around Walton Pit and we stood gratefully in the occasional patches of sunshine admiring the swathes of cowslips. Colts-foot was finishing but king cup, marsh marigold, red campion, bulbous buttercup and creeping buttercup were intermingled with delicately coloured lilac cuckoo flower or lady’s smock. Coming down to the first pond we had a lovely view of a grey heron with plenty of other bird call from wrens, blackcap, chiffchaff, chaffinch, reed warbler and willow warbler. Yellow broom brightened a corner not far from what will be a large patch of lupins when they eventually flower.
At Crigglestone on 15th April, a treecreeper was clinging to a fat ball feeder hanging against the tree trunk and feeding on the fat balls. When it had finished feeding, if flew down to the bottom of the trunk and climbed up before flying off.
Correction: The peak of 11 tree sparrow pairs was in 1966, not 1968. They were down to a single pair in 1968!
A pair of tree sparrows came to my feeders in Crigglestone from 26-29 March 2015, but they moved on. I used to have a breeding colony in my nest boxes from 1958-1968, which peaked at 10 pairs in 1964 and 11 in 1968.Corn bunting, cuckoo, green woodpecker, grey partridge, kestrel, linnet, skylark, spotted flycatcher, tawny owl, yellowhammer, whitethroat and willow tit were also heard and seen here in the breeding season in those days.Male and female sparrowhawks now follow birds into the feeder tree from time to time.Greenfinches were absent during the winter, but a male and two females have been coming to the feeders since 6 April and 2 peacock butterflies were in the garden on 7 April.
It was a cold, windy morning as we set off up the track to the woods but masses of celandine soon cheered us as we passed the first clump of sweet violets. Goldilocks edged the path and as we reached the wood, bluebells and early dog violet mingled together. Up into the woods the wood anemone was at its finest, however the early purple orchids were a long way off flowering. Around the corner the warm banking was carpeted with celandine, ground ivy and common dog violet interspersed by a few barren strawberries. Abundant tiny cowslips were just emerging on Ledsham vale with hairy violets dotted amongst them. The pasque flower was fully formed and should be in flower in a couple of week’s time.
I was just having a mosey round the garden in the warm spring sunshine when I noticed a rapidly flying insect that, every so often, seemed to suddenly hang stationary in the air. I guessed it was going to be Eristalus tenax, a large hoverfly that we see regularly in the garden, but I was surprised to see it was dark-edged bee-fly (Bombylius major) which was definitely a garden tick for me. I’ve only seen these in France but I think at the last indoor meeting Pete ‘Wicker’s World’ Williamson mentioned they’d been seen at Wintersett.
No photos yet but I am hoping to get one as soon as I see it again :¬) Anyone have any info on this insect? Is it common and I’ve been missing them or is it a newly arrived species?
Encouraged by the good spell of weather over the Easter Bank Holiday period I had a walk around Stanley Ferry Flash on 9 April 2015. There were good numbers of peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies and several brimstone butterflies. These species overwinter as adults and this year their main emergence appears to have coincided very nicely with an explosion of dandelion and willow flowers for them to feed on. An image of a peacock butterfly feeding high on a willow tree is attached. Also, shown are images of blackthorn and coltsfoot seen in flower on the same day.
I haven’t been into Wakefield many times in recent weeks but I visited earlier today. I didn’t have my binoculars with me and I didn’t worry about this because it is some time since I last saw a peregrine. My assumption has been that the overwintering pair have left Wakefield to breed elsewhere.
As I walked around the cathedral, I was surprised to see a peregrine sitting on the perch of the nestbox. This is the first time that I have seen a peregrine on the box, though Eddie’s contact at the flats did see an immature bird on the box a week or two ago. I contacted Colin and he headed for the cathedral with his telescope.
I was a bit disappointed when the peregrine flew away, towards Calder Wetlands, just after the phone call. However, the peregrine returned about fifteen minutes later, carrying prey, and it disappeared into the box. For the next half an hour, all that could be seen were feathers flying from the box. When the peregrine finished eating, it moved onto the edge of the box, where it became clear that it was an immature bird, not one of the overwintering birds. It then flew up onto the steeple with the remains of the prey and it stashed this high on the northern side of the steeple.
It was interesting to see this bird because @johnnybirder contacted me via Twitter recently to report regular sightings of a peregrine at Pugneys and to enquire about the cathedral peregrines.
Before leaving, Colin and I had a chat with one of the people at the cathedral and he told us that he continues to see a peregrine – presumably this one – regularly. He has seen it perching on the box and he has observed it as it took a pigeon.
The attached pictures are of low quality but they were taken by phonescoping.
On Monday 30 March I noticed a large patch of what appears to white butterbur (Petasites albus) growing in damp shady woodland close to the gate and Dam Head Bridge and old quarry at Bretton Hall Parkland (image attached). I understand this perennial is a garden escape beginning to naturalise itself in places spreading by underground runners or rhizomes. Similar to other butterbur species, the male and female flowers are found on separate plants and this is probably a male plant. Also the flowers emerge well in advance of the foliage which makes them especially noticeable at this time of year.