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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Richard Brook, conservationist, plant breeder and 60s music fanatic, who joined the Society in the 1960s and served as excursion secretary and later conservation officer, died on 20 April, aged 74. Extracts from his diary (below) were compiled by Richard’s second cousin, Ann Brook and read at his funeral on 8 May by her sister Philippa.
The ‘Tripartite’ mentioned in the May entry refers to his award-winning ‘Tripartite’ narcissus, which he developed in the 1980s when he ran a commercial nursery specialising in daffodils. The Tripartite has three flowers on each stem and is still available globally. Last month it was exhibited at The North of England Horticultural Society’s Spring Flower Show at Harrogate.
Aire Valley Wetlands
In the 1970s, he compiled the Society’s bird reports and a survey of the Aire Valley Wetlands. Thanks to Richard’s family, we now have a limited number of copies of Birds Around Wakefield 1974-1979 and Aire Valley Wetlands available. The habitat maps, which Richard compiled by studying aerial views and making numerous field visits, were ahead of their time.
We’d also like to thank Richard’s family for passing on his photographs, which form a unique record of the post-industrial landscape of the Aire and Calder Valleys around Wakefield.
Richard’s observations taken from diaries of 2010
Heard nuthatch in Wakefield Park.
Cloudy, cool, drizzle after dark.
Sitting in a laurel bush.
Saw orange tip butterfly.
Killed one large fly.
19th of May. Blossom out!
Tripartite faded in the heat and drought.
Young Goldfinch came to the seed feeder.
…saw the first gatekeeper
Robin singing an autumn song.
First picking of Victoria plums.
Cloudy, cool, slight North breeze.
Sparrow hawk, hiding in the pear tree.
Evening dull, with light rain.
Buzzard over the garden again.
Warm sun and cloud in the morning,
sweet blackberries ripening,
Green woodpecker laughing.
Pair of jays came to the water bowl.
White frost, sunny, calm and cold.
Happily, this spring appears to have been kind to many baby birds with good numbers of fledglings of various species seen during my local wanderings. At home, noisy queues of starlings and house sparrows jostle for position at the garden feeding stations. The photo shows a female house sparrow feeding one of her young.
Elsewhere in the garden young blackbirds appear to be somewhat vulnerable as they are unable to fly at first when leaving the nest. However, they continue to be well cared for by their own parents who are busy finding food and watching over them. The parents are never far away and seldom abandon their young. Fortunately, the garden has good foraging areas, together with a solid shrub layer of mixed native species such as hazel and hawthorn to provide food and cover from predators. Blackbirds and robins appear to have had two broods and young dunnocks are also regular visitors searching for leftovers beneath the feeding table.
A walk around Haigh provided me with good views of yellowhammer and dingy skipper, while Billy’s Wood produced small yellow underwing moth. At both Billy’s Wood and Haigh, the leaves of common spotted orchid were showing so it wont be long before these beautiful flowers are in full bloom
The peregrines on Wakefield Cathedral have been incubating four eggs for almost five weeks. The first hatching was expected on Tuesday, 2nd May, 34 days after the laying of the third egg.
On Tuesday afternoon, it was clear that something was happening because the female fidgeted a lot and looked down towards the eggs frequently. She also refused to take anything when the male tried, several times, to make a food delivery. Eventually, she shifted position and we could see that at least one egg was hatching.
Our first sighting of a chick came later on Tuesday evening, when the female left the chick and eggs briefly to relieve herself by reversing up to the edge of the nestbox. Judging by internet comments, a lots of people, including at least one in Australia, were glued to their screens as they waited to see how many eggs would hatch. For peregrines, it’s normal for most of the eggs to hatch almost simultaneously, whilst the remaining egg hatches a couple of days later.
It was the following morning when we saw that three eggs had hatched. The female fed the chicks and then, for the first time, allowed the male to go near them so that he could sit on them whilst she took a short break.
Unfortunately, one egg was damaged at some point during the incubation period. The damage was first noticed a few days before the hatching. It looks like a puncture caused by a talon. In the picture, you can see that the female has relaxed the toes of her left foot so that they curl up. This is what the birds do instinctively as they approach the eggs to avoid causing damage. However, accidents do happen and it isn’t unusual for an egg to be damaged. As three chicks hatched together, the damaged egg must have been the last one to be laid.
The colour yellow was certainly in fashion today during my walk around the woodland and waterside edges at Stanley Ferry Flash. Most eye-catching was a number of wandering brimstone butterflies often flying too fast to follow and to get a close view. However, during a brief cloudy spell one did settle long enough to manage a photo (below). Happily, this attractive butterfly is becoming more frequent in the district and sometimes visits my own garden on the outskirts of Wakefield where I have planted buckthorn. Buckthorn is one of the two food plants of the caterpillars of the brimstone butterfly. Next on the wildlife fashion boardwalk during my visit was the marsh marigold; this plant is frequent in open damp woodland and often grows into large clumps. Botanically the blooms are without petals, but have 5-8 showy and glossy sepals, which are the outer ring of the flower.