Misty morning and glimmers of hope for nature conservation

Today during my regular lockdown walk the early morning mist added another visual permutation to a now very familiar landscape.  A background of electricity pylons and other urban paraphernalia, together with the busy M1 motorway were magically masked away.  Suddenly a mature common ash tree (see attached photo) stood proud of all the urban tangle albeit for a short while only, but perhaps just long enough to give a glimpse back in time to its early life when the future of this species was more assured.  Sadly, this arboreal, landscape and wildlife treasure is threatened by ash-dieback.  This is a highly infectious fungal disease originating in Asia and first recorded in England in 2012, although it may have been in the UK since 2002.  The fungal spores can spread in the wind and also by human transportation, especially by unknowingly moving infected young plants ready for planting elsewhere.  Current estimates suggest we may lose around 50% to 80% of the UK’s ash trees in the next few years.  At the moment scientists are working to discover genes with resistance to ash-dieback and this may offer glimmers of hope for ash trees in the future.

 

ash tree at Brandy Carr

ash tree at Brandy Carr

Much more heartening this week on the same walk has been the sighting of a tree sparrow.  This is a very scarce bird although there has been some signs of a recovery in the UK in recent years.  It has a brown cap and black cheek spots, unlike the house sparrow.  See attached grab photograph taken at Lindale Lane, Wrenthorpe.

tree sparrow at Lindale Lane Wrenthorpe

tree sparrow at Lindale Lane Wrenthorpe

On 24 November 2020  I watched two red kite methodically surveying the fields between Wrenthorpe and Brandy Carr and Kirkhamgate.  This species almost became extinct in the UK, but has now made an incredible comeback thanks to reintroduction programmes and legal protection.  See attached photo taken from my image stock.

Red Kite

Red Kite

Little Egret in Wrenthorpe

At a recent meeting of Wakefield Camera Club, I was asked to identify a bird seen perched in a tree at the bottom of a garden in Wrenthorpe. Expecting a jay, as this is the bird that most often crops up, I was totally suprosed to be shown an image of a little egret perched high in a tree in the middle of Wrenthorpe! The garden likely backs on to Balne Beck whcih flows through the centre of the village and the egret is feeding along the beck and maybe even taking fish from garden ponds. Whateever it’s doing there, it illustrates just how much the bird life of Britain is changing. I remember twitching a little egret in Chesire or somewhene when it was a real rarity for Britain back in the 80s. How far we come and now these beautiful birds are commonplace at most of the waters around Wakefield and even, it seems , in more urban areas too. Thanks to Robert Bilton for sending the images.

Little Egret in Wrenthorpe

Little Egret in Wrenthorpe

Little Egret in Wrenthorpe

Little Egret in Wrenthorpe

 

November meeting cancelled

I’m a bit late in posting this but by now you will be aware thtat we will not be having the November indoor meeting and, worse still, we woun’t be able to have an outdoor meeting either due to the lockdown. The good news is that I have secured Mike Watson for next November so we won’t miss his talk on the Canadian Rockies. It was a lecture I was looking forward to.

I may consider Zooim meetings for next year and certainly for the AGM but I’m hoping that before any of thar, we will bve able to meet up for mince pies andf an outdoor meeting in December after the lockdown. I’ll be back with more on that soon.

 

October meeting replaced with an outdoor meeting

I hope you are all doing well and keeping safe. This is to inform everyone that the October meeting has been cancelled due to the government restrictions during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, we can’t let a little thing like COVID-19 dampen our spirits and with this in mind I would like to propose an outdoor meeting in place of the traditional indoor one.

October is a good month for fungi so I thought it might be a good idea to meet at Brockadale for a fungus foray. There is a ‘rule of six’ in place but generally there are only around 8 or so on a typical field meeting. Do feel free to come along and if there are more than six of us, we can split into groups for the walk round. I am of the opinion that being outdoors and with a bit of common sense with distancing, the likelihood of us spreading anything is minimal. The meeting is, of course, educational which should allow us to have an increased number.

I am trying to reach a local fungi expert to guide us as we don’t have anyone in the Society that feels able to lead us round. I propose we meet at 10:00 in the car park on Ley’s Lane and the date I propose is Sunday 25th October. This is a little later than our normal meeting but it will be a better time for fungus hopefully and allows us to take stock of the situation before committing.

I think it is fair to say that the November meeting will be cancelled too and replaced with an outdoor meet up but I will send notice of any changes at the end of October

Karen Nicklin

It is with great sadness that I have just learned of the untimely passing of one of our members, Karen Nicklin, who has dies sudden;ly and unexpectedly on 24th September 2020.

Karen has been with the Society for at least 10years and has been a popular and active member and was a regular face at our meetings, Karen had a great love for the outdoors and nature, in particular, a passion for ospreys which she dedicated a lot of time to as a volunteer warden at the Loch Garten reserve in Scotland. As a really keen walker and hiker, Karen spent time planning and undertaking walks that combined nature and the landscape and I remember well the talk she gave recently at our members’ evening when she wowed us with views of the spectacular scenery and wild flowers from a recent trek in the Austrian Alps.

Karen was also an active member of the Wakefield RSPB Members’ Group and was regulalry seen on the doorway greeting visitors. Karen also worked as a volunteer warden  at RSPB St Aiden’s where some of us had the pleasure of speaking with her on our recent field trip there in early September, little realising it wouuld be the last time we ever saw her.

Our thoughts are with her family at this sad time.

 

 

Pauline Brook

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Pauline Brook who died today in the early hours of the morning. Pauline was a great character at the club, occupying her seat on the front row at every meeting, she always took my ribbing of her in great spirit and she always cointributed sightings and annecdotes as only she could. Pauline was a great friend and very popular amongst the club members and known to us all I think. As her health failed in recent years, she attended less and less but remained a keen naturalist and enjoyed watching the birds coming to her feeders in front of the window at the retirement home. Pauline was a really keen botanist and was a founder member of the Wakefield Flower Group. Her knowledge of flowers and her great personaility will be sorely missed at our club meetings.

September indoor meeting replaced with outdoor meeting

I hope everyone is safe and well and surviving the current problems. The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted many things including the WNS outdoor meetings of which we only managed the August event and that was changed from the advertised at the last minute. Often, the field meetings didn’t go ahead not because we decided against it, but that the reserves were generally shut and so things were outside our control. Unfortunately, the same fate is set to befall the September indoor meeting as the Quaker Meeting Room is unavailable upstairs due to ongoing decorating and remodelling. We are able to use the lower floor but the Quakers have imposed some strict guidelines regarding sanitizing, hands and surfaces, staying 2m apart, no refreshments and, worst of all, wearing face masks.

At the ,moment. I am unsure how many of the regulars will turn up and due to either the restrictions or due to feeling cautious. I have no issues in our meeting up but not everyone may feel the same. With this in mind, and given the unavailability of the upper room, I have cancelled the speaker for the September meeting. I think in all honesty, I will cancel the October speaker too and then we will see how things have panned out from then. However, I would hate for us not to be able to meet up at all and so at the committee meeting this week, we proposed to have the September and October meetings as outdoor field meetings. This will commence with a walk around St Aiden’s on Sunday September 13th but I would suggest meeting a little earlier to ensure we get parked as it is busy with the general public just now. Those wishing to join us should meet in the car park at 09:45. There have been some excellent birds at the reserve lately, including spoonbill, curlew sandpipers and other waders. The October meeting will take place probably on 25th October and will likely be a fungus foray but I need to finalise the details and will advise once I have things firmed up.

Going forward, it is hard to say when we are likely to meet in the usual place and so I am looking to canvas opinion as to whether we make all the foreseeable meetings  outdoor meetings, have the indoor meetings online via ZOOM or simply cancel the meetings until further notice. I would be very grateful if members could let me have the preferred choice. Many of the camera clubs are running weekly meetings on ZOOM but it may not be for us. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

I look forward to your comments and to seeing those of you who can make it to ST Aiden’s and do keep safe.

Field Meeting; August 9th 2020 Rodley Nature Reserve – Cancelled

Well, I had hoped this meeting would go ahead as we are now getting out of lockdown, but looking at the reserve’s web site, Rodley Reserve is NOT open this weekend. What I am proposing for thiose who do want to meet up on Sunday 9th, is that we meet in the car park at Anglers CP and we will walk around Wintersett reservoir.

Meet: Anglkers CP Car park

Time 10:00

The next big issuue is whether the September indoor meeting will take place but the committee will meet before than and make a decision. We will have to take into account the practices imposed by the Quakers with regard to use of the meeting room. An email will be sent to all members shortlly advising of what is to happen.

Field Meeting July 12th RSPB Blacktoft Sands

Due to COVID-19, the resreve remains closed to the public therefore, today’s field meeting is cancelled. The weather is set fair so I hope you can all get out and enjoy some wildlife after the heavy rains of this past week. I will make sure there is an August field meeting that we can all attend safely as the threat from the pandemic eases while out in the open air.

Brockadale Field Meeting

Although we’re still in a state of lockdown, easing of restrictions meant that it is possible to travel around a bit more. With this in mind, Hreather and I headed off to Brockadale on the day of the proposed meeting as we weren’t too sure if other members might turn up on the off chance too. Although we didn’t bump into any othe WNS members, we did have a great morning, spent mainly on the slope noted for marbled white butterflies. The weather was very warm, muggy and overcast which meant that butterflies were out but not really on the wing. Within moments of arriving at the slope, we found a marbled white with wings outspread on a thistle. This was followed by a dark-green fritillary also wings oustretched and sunning. Both these were quickly photographed before they had time to move on.

In addition to the super butterflies, there were a great many plants to admire including lots of pyramidal orchids, white bryony, black horehound, knapweed, minionete agrimony and lots of others that were beyond my limited plant knowledge.Birds included whitethroat, yellowhammer, blackcap and willow warbler but no cuckoo, a very scarce bird this year. The site was very busy with dog walkers and families by the time we left, way more folks than normal, probably due to other sites still remaining closed to the public.

Here’s hoping we see you all at the next field meeting in July, although the location may have to change as the RSPB reserves may well be still closed to the public. I will send an email if things chnage and update the website where necessaary

marbled white butterffly at Brockodale

marbled white butterffly at Brockodale

dark green fritillary at Brockadale

dark green fritillary at Brockadale