Wayside Flowers

wild flowers

As today would have been the first of our outdoor meetings, Richard and I decided we would spend our one hour walk to Smithy Brook, between Middlestown and Thornhill, recording the species we saw.
After all the glorious sunny weather over the last six weeks, today was disappointingly overcast, breezy and quite cool, however it actually made it easier to stop and identify the plants as no-one else seemed inclined to be out and about.
We counted 59 plant species but only eight birds, as the cooler weather seemed to have dampened their spirits: we usually get skylark, sparrows and various finches and tits along the lane but today we heard chiff-chaff and yellowhammer and watched a buzzard soaring over the fields.
Because of the cooler weather we didn’t see a single butterfly. We would normally see speckled wood along the sunken lane, then peacock, small tortoiseshell and orange tips along the more open stretch.

Smithy Brook Valley

Smithy Brook Valley

When we looked closer at the wild flowers, we spotted common vetch alongside the more conspicuous bush vetch and we almost missed a patch of ground ivy, nestling among the grass and herbage on the sunken lane. Over the last few weeks we have watched the countryside changing as the hawthorn hedges turn from fresh green leaf to frothy white blossom, giving off that wonderful musky sweet smell of spring.
Bluebells, white and red campion and Herb Robert were just a few of the species along the lane with wild garlic, white comfrey and yellow flag alongside Smithy Brook. A field dotted with meadow buttercups and the bright yellow of a patch of birdsfoot trefoil add a little brightness to the morning.

Barbara Bell

Spring Walk

Jack-by-the-Hedge

Setting out on our morning walk we are surprised by the piping call of three oystercatchers as they skirt the edge of Coxley Woods. 

Our regular one hour walk involves a lot of road walking but is proving enjoyable with plenty of signs of spring in the hedgerows.

We have seen lots of dogs mercury and celandine in scrubby areas and over the last week jack-by-the-hedge has come into flower. Chiff-chaff singing and buzzard mewing are much easier to hear without the distant roar of traffic.

Low Lane is a delight with sweeping views across the Calder Valley, grey partridge bursting from the field and a skylark singing in the spring sunshine.

Barbara Bell

Wakefield Climate Change Group

Jenny Sergeant, a member of the Nats from way back in the 1970s, has asked me to pass on this invitation Wakefield Naturalists’ Society membbers:

All are invited to participate in the Wakefield Just Transition Forum,
Lightwaves, Lower Yorks St WF1 3LJ on
Friday  June 21st 6:00 – 8:00pm
Friday July 19th 6:00 – 8:00pm

What is the Forum? .. well the group doesn’t exist yet… the hope is to create a community forum so that together we can support and realize

Wakefield’s Climate Emergency Declaration which was recently passed unanimously by Wakefield Council
If you are interested – just turn up at Lightwaves at 6pm on Friday 21st June. We can take it from there together.
The next meeting will be 19th July.
These two meetings have been arranged by a partnership of non-party political Wakefield Trades Council and Wakefield Friends of the Earth. It is hoped that the Forum will draw involvement from individuals and groups from across the Wakefield District: Voluntary organisations, community associations, societies, trade unions, businesses and employers, designers, engineers, faith groups etc etc.
Lightwaves at 6pm on Friday June 21st or Friday 19th July.
Any questions, thoughts, please get in touch in the first instance via Wakefield Trades Council   WfandDistrict-TUC@gmx.com

Spotted Redshanks, the Wyke, 1973

spotted redshank

 

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.

Aire Valley Wetlands, 1976

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

A Fitting Tribute

Richard Brook, for many years our Conservation Officer, died, aged 74, a year ago on 20 April, 2017. I showed some of his slides of local wetland habitats on members’ night, including this surprisingly open view of the top end of Newmillerdam, as it was in 1973.

In the 1980s, Richard ran a commercial nursery specialising in daffodils and developed the award-winning ‘Tripartite Narcissus’. It has three flowers on each stem and is still available globally. Last year it was exhibited at The North of England Horticultural Society’s Spring Flower Show at Harrogate.

Richard’s Tripartite Narcissus on the Order of Service from his funeral.

A friend of Richard’s from the Daffodil Society laid some on his coffin at the end of his funeral service.

Richard’s cousin, Philippa Coultish, tells me that the family has now sold Richard’s house at Crigglestone and cut back the jungle that had grown up around it over the past ten or twenty years: “All the daffs are coming up in the garden. The people who have bought it are excited to have the garden…I dont think they realise how fast it will all grow in the summer!”

By coincidence in yesterday’s Gardener’s World, on BBC2, Nick Bailey did a piece on daffodil breeding, interviewing Johnny Walkers, Honorary Vice-President of the Daffodil Society at Hever Castle, Kent, so, as I’d been in touch with him via Twitter, I told him of the coincidence of it being the anniversary of Richard’s death.

“I hope it was a fitting tribute,” he tweeted in reply.

Richard was a pioneer in habitat mapping; this method of recording habitats wasn’t adopted by Natural England (then the Nature Conservancy Council) until some years after he had first used it to record local wetlands.

Leventhorpe Lagoon, 1973

I’ve been making a start on archiving the colour slides taken by Richard Brook (1943-2017), for many years the Conservation Officer of the Society. He photographed the East Ash Lagoon at Leventhorpe from the lagoon’s northwest corner on Sunday, 2 September, 1973.

He could see the potential of these lagoons as nature reserves and he documented every one of them – along with subsidence flashes and sand quarries -within five or six miles radius of Wakefield, so his collection of slides form a unique record of post-industrial West Yorkshire. I’m putting together a small selection of his slides for members’ night.

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.

Richard Brook

Richard giving the conservation officer’s report at a meeting in the Unity Hall, February, 1981. Sketch by Richard Bell.

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.

Sandal Brickworks, 9 September, 1973.

Richard’s observations taken from diaries of 2010

Heard nuthatch in Wakefield Park.
Cloudy, cool, drizzle after dark.

Song thrush…
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.

Half Moon and Ashfields

flora

A leafy stemmed hawkweed, common valerian, ribbed melilot and hare’s-foot clover.

Field meeting, 14 August 2016: The Ashfields, between Heath village and the River Calder (OS ref. SE 353 206), were settlement lagoons for the pulverised fuel ash from Wakefield power station which was decommissioned in 1991. In the past thirty or forty years the process of natural succession has transformed them from silty open ground to orchid meadow and then from scrub to woodland.

longhornTwo longhorn beetles, Stranglia maculata, rest on umbels of hogweed and in a sheltered clearings and there are a few speckled wood butterflies but the most common and persistent insect is the mosquito.

halfmoon

The Half Moon (SE 358 208) between Heath and Kirkthorpe is a cut-off meander of the Calder. A hundred or more whirligig beetles gyrate in a group on the surface close to the bank. Branched bur-reed grows amongst sweet-flag.

snail

Amber snail, probably Succinea putris.

Amber snails graze on the sweet-flag. These snails are unable to fully retract into their shells. Their lower tentacles are much reduced.