Insects at Hemsworth

After a train journey from the south of England, I stretched my legs by walking back to Hemsworth, from Fitzwilliam, using the scenic route.

Lucilia sericata

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.

Grypocorus stysi

 

 

A Visit to Brockadale

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.

Marbled white

We saw a few marbled white and a single dark green fritillary.

 

Green-veined white

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.

 

Musk thistle

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.

Common lizard

Peregrine Casualty

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.

Carlton Marsh

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.

Cheilosia illustrata

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)

 

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.

Fledging of the Peregrines

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.

Juvenile peregrines

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.

Ringlet butterflies at Nostell Priory

Last week Wakefield enjoyed a mini heat wave, which was encouraging for our local butterflies.  This week we have seen an abrupt and very wet change in our weather with any sunshine in short supply; a real dampener for any butterfly activity. However, today just after 3p.m. after the main showers, I called into Nostell Priory. It was still gloomy with occasional spots of rain as I walked around the wildflower meadow and orchard in the gardens. Despite the weather there were several ringlet butterflies flying amongst the tall grasses and occasionally some would rest to open their wings to bask (see attached photo) even though there was no direct sunshine. However, this behaviour is not unusual for this species which is not deterred by overcast drizzly days. Happily, ringlets appear to have extended their range throughout much of the Wakefield district over recent years.

ringlet butterfly Nostell Priory

ringlet butterfly at Nostell Priory

Wild flowers at Anglers Country Park

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

northern marsh orchid

Peregrine Ringing, 2017

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.

Peregrine chicks

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.