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!
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.
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.
On the edge of a large nettle bed close to Engine Wood I watched a male small tortoiseshell butterfly establish a courtship territory. It was basking in the morning sunshine and suddenly taking flight high into the sky to investigate every passing small tortoiseshell butterfly. Other males were chased away before eventually, a female was attracted back to the nettle bed where I managed to take the image below. It appears mating takes place well inside the nettle bed and afterwards the female goes off in search of suitable nettles to lay her eggs. Sadly, nettles are often cleared away as part of clean ups in the garden and countryside. My encounter shows how valuable nettles are to wildlife. Indeed, they are vital food plants for the caterpillars of small tortoiseshell, peacock, comma and red admiral butterflies. The other image is of a roosting male orange tip butterfly that I found earlier in the morning
Today, braving the cold wintery showers with occasional sunshine, a walk around the lakes and woodland at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park was rewarded with some wonderful wildlife sightings, including two stoats at first oblivious to my presence whilst chasing each other along a woodland path. Birds included kestrel, goosander and grey heron high up in their nests feeding their fast developing young. Just like me, a male tufted duck had no alternative but to sit out a passing heavy shower of sleet. In contrast, and only a start time afterwards, the sun appeared attracting orange tip and green-veined white butterflies to the woodland glades. I managed a photo of green-veined white on bluebells while other woodland flowers included wood-sorrel and yellow archangel.
A chill wind caught us as we walked up the sloping track brightened by dog’s-mercury, cuckoo pint, white dead-nettle and a clump of hairy violet. We stopped to admire clumps of goldilocks buttercups amongst the celandine, up in the woodland we began to focus on tiny common dog violets with their pale, notched spur nestling amongst the dried autumn leaves.
Climbing up the path further into the woodland early dog violet, with its dark unnotched spur became more prevalent among large patches of anemone, their flowers closed waiting for the sun to come through. Early purple orchid was well in flower alongside sanicle and bluebells. Bushes of spurge laurel had finished flowering. We carried on through the wood until we came to a stile to take us back down onto the footpath through the meadow, the sun was out by this time and orange-tip, peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies enjoyed the ground ivy, red dead-nettle and celandine on the edge of the woodland, with a variety of bees including bee fly. Walking back towards the track we saw butterbur, shepherd’s purse, slender speedwell, germander speedwell, wood speedwell and crosswort……a good morning’s walk.
As the sun was warming up nicely we decided to take a look on the other side of the road at Ledsham vale and were well rewarded by the beautiful pasque flower in full bloom, the best we had seen it for many a year.
We had a walk from our house in Ryhill to Newmillerdam in the superb spring sunshine going via Haw Park and the Walton Canal. Grass snakes have been seen regularly along the canal of late but we weren’t lucky enough to come across one thought there were plenty of butterflies such as orange tip, brimstone and speckled wood.
The bluebells at Newmillerdam were really just coming into bloom and are looking excellent at the top end of the country park. It’s interesting to see the rangers have completely cleared Newmillerdam of all rhodedenrons so there are some large bare areas but, given a couple of years, these will revert to the natural understorey.
During a walk at Howell Wood, South Kirby, I found masses of opposite-leaved golden saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium) in flower along the banks of a stream.
This is an attractive and common plant but it isn’t as well known as some of the other spring flowers.
Lots of chiffchaffs are now singing in local woods. I heard blackcaps in Seckar Wood at the weekend and they have been singing at Stanley Ferry Flash today. An interesting sighting reported today by Mark Archer is a little ringed plover on the new balancing pond at Stanley Ferry.