Members will be saddened to hear of the sudden and unexpected passing of Michael Wilkinson while out walking with his wife Janet. Michael has been a regular member at the Wakefield Naturalists’ Society meetings for many years as well as a regular member at the RSPB local group and our thoughts are with Janet and his family at this time. Anyone wishing to attend Michael’s funeral is welcome to do so and the service will take place at Pontefract Crematorium at 1pm on Tuesday June 4th followed by refreshments at the nearby Kings Croft Hotel.
Instead of ‘birding’ our group were looking at the huge variety of wildflowers now establishing in this relatively new RSPB nature park. Just looking around the edge of car park area we saw bristly ox-tongue, cut leaved cranesbill, spotted medick, water figwort, wood forget-me-not and in the fenced area clumps of weld and celery leaved buttercup. Coming down the hill the grassland glowed golden with meadow and creeping buttercups interspersed with the bright white of ox-eye daisy, to the right of the path yellow rattle grew amongst the crosswort, hairy tare, red campion, a clump of hemlock water dropwort and our last pause was to admire a single stem of salsify, a garden escape but still a pleasure to see.
These spotted redshanks appear on the cover of The Aire Valley Wetlands, compiled and published by Richard L. Brook and the Wakefield Naturalists’ Society in 1976. I’d originally drawn them for a much-delayed 1973 Bird Report, to show autumn migrants at Horbury Wyke but Richard retained the drawing because of the Wyke’s remarkable likeness to Mickletown Ings, which he considered a key wetland in the Aire Valley.
Richard and I had recorded four spotted redshanks at the Wyke between the 14th and 18th September, 1973. This was Yorkshire’s only inland record of more than two together during the year, which saw an exceptionally good autumn passage for this wader, although Richard suspected that increased coverage might account for this, with reports coming in from Wintersett Reservoir, and from the sewage farms at Stanley, Knostrop and Heckmondwike.
Also shown are three ruffs in autumn plumage, the male still displaying, and a curlew sandpiper which, at that time at least, had not been recorded at the Wyke.
The original cover also included, in flight, two redshanks (with white wing-bars) and one spotted redshank (trailing legs).
Coloured version drawn on an iPad for Wild Yorkshire Blog
Once again, the Quakers have decided to schedule an annual meeting on the same night as Wakefield naturalists’ Society meeting despite our having booked the room in January and used the venue on the second Tuesday of the month for the past 20yrs. This means that we have had to postpone our September meeting by one week and it will now take place on September18th 2018 at the usual time of 7.30pm.
I apologise for the inconvenience and hope that as many of you as possible can still make it to the meeting
It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of Barbara Murray who lost a very short battle with cancer and died recently. Barbara was well known in the RSPB local members’ group where she had helped run the group for many years including serving as group leader. In more recent times Barbara, along with husband Len, joined the WNS and became firm friends with all of us and was regarded as being a very good botanist. Barbara entertained us with her images of flowers at members’ night and gave us a super lecture on the alpine flowers of Austria last year. Barbara will be sadly missed and our thoughts are with Len at this sad time.
Barbara’s funeral will take place at Wakefield Crematorium on 28th August 2018 at 11:40 followed by refreshments at Sandal Rugby Club. Afterwards, close friends and WNS members Karen and Sarah will be walking around either Anglers or Pugneys to remember Barbara and they have asked that anyone wishing to join them is welcome to do so and should bring a change of footwear for the walk,
In the centre of Hemsworth, I spotted some black berries on a plant growing in a car-park. I then noticed the small white flowers, which were obviously those of a Solanum – the group of plants that includes potatoes and tomatoes.
The commonest Solanum is woody nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) and I am very familiar with the purple flowers and red berries of that plant but this plant was obviously something new to me. Checking a field guide later, I found that this plant was black nightshade (Solanum nigrum). This particular Solanum occurs in many countries throughout the world and the chemicals that it contains lead to the plant having many medicinal uses.
I can’t recall seeing black nightshade previously. By looking at a distribution map, I found that our part of Yorkshire is at the top end of its main English range, so I wouldn’t expect it to be as uniformly distributed and common here as it is in some parts of the south and east. Also, one article that I found suggested that the berries ripen only if there is suffcient sunshine, as there has been this year. Perhaps our usual weather does not allow this plant to fruit well in our area in normal years.
I like finding new things in this way: in a built-up area, close to home. This shows that you don’t need to travel to nature reserves to make discoveries.
In these continuing dry conditions, there are still relatively few fungi around but it is still worth spending some time searching.
A week ago, I spotted a large and conspicuous white fungus on a tree-stump at Nostell Priory. On closer examination, I found it to be Volvariella bombycina, which goes by the common name of silky rosegill. This is an uncommon species, so it was pleasing to find it growing in our area.
The scientific name of this species refers to the bag-like volva from which the fungus emerges. The remnats of this can be seen at the base of the stem. The common name refers to the texture of the cap.
The very dry conditions created by this summer’s hot weather don’t give much promise for a strong start to the fungus season. However, two of us went out to search several local sites last week in the hope of finding one or two species on trees, for which moisture would not be the problem that it is for those species that grow on the gound.
We were searching a pile of rotting timber, on which there is usually something to be found, when we spotted some bright orange caps beneath a covering of dried grass. The mushrooms were growing on a well rotted sycamore stump.
There aren’t many mushrooms that are such a bright orange colour and this one took a little while to identify. The splitting of the cap, caused by the dry conditions, almost led us in the wrong direction but the mushroom was found to be Pluteus aurantiorugosus.
This species is not common and the CATE databse, operated by the Fungus Conservation Trust, contains no previous records for Yorkshire.
The big butterfly count 2018 is now well underway with records from all parts of the UK being invited. The count is organised by Butterfly Conservation and runs until the end of August and is open to everyone and is easy to take part in. It only takes 15 minutes during bright weather and full details are available at www.bigbutterflycount.org. The count is an annual check on changes in butterfly numbers, which is important in helping to identify how various butterfly species are reacting to changes to their environment and potentially may flag up early warnings for other wildlife losses.
The garden is proving to be an ideal place to sit each day with a cup of tea for 15 minutes and watch visiting butterflies. So far small white butterflies occupy top spot with holly blue holding onto second place, which is surprising for a species once uncommon in the Wakefield district. Some of the same individuals appear to stay in the garden for several days patrolling a long hedge, which contains plenty of ivy looking for suitable egg laying sites. Images of a female holly blue feeding on common fleabane and a tiny egg placed just below a developing ivy flower bud are attached. There are generally two broods each year. The holly blue overwinter has a chrysalis with the adults emerging in early spring when the first eggs are generally laid on holly. These form the second brood of adults at this time of year, which lay eggs on ivy although other shrub species may be used.
Other species continue to visit the garden, but not necessarily in the 15 minute recording time. These include large white, green veined white, speckled wood, ringlet, meadow brown, gatekeeper, comma, small tortoiseshell and a single small copper.
I’ve been running a moth trap since mid-April after I received one for my birthday and I’ve had some success catching a variety of species of moth which I will probably show at one of the indoor meetings. As well as moths, I usually catch a few other insects such as wasps, flies, and midges, but last night I caught a rather splendid burying beetle – not quite as good as the lesser stag beetles that Francis has caught – but nonetheless a great find in the trap. I have no idea how common these are around Wakefield, probably quite common, but a first for my garden!