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.

Townclose Hills Field Meeting 10 July 2016

Pyramidal, common spotted and a hybrid orchid were in flower on the plateau at Townclose Hills Nature Reserve, also known as Billy Woods.

Townclose Hill

Townclose Hill

Despite the breeze we saw ringlet, meadow brown, small tortoiseshell, small skipper and a few marbled white butterflies. Six-spot burnet moths were also active and a hebrew character moth lurked amongst the grasses.

Hybrid orchid, pyramidal orchid, grater knapweed, hoary plantain.

Hybrid orchid, pyramidal orchid, grater knapweed, hoary plantain.

One of the smallest orb-web spiders, Araniella curcurbitina, was making its way across a grassy path. It’s Latin name, curcurbitina, means ‘a little member of the gourd family’;  its bright green and yellow striped abdomen looks like a water melon or gourd. It has a scarlet patch on its underside.

Restharrow, clustered bellflower, wild marjoram.

Restharrow, clustered bellflower, wild marjoram.

We spotted a brown hare in a field in the valley of Kippax Brook to the west of the reserve.

Townclose Hills, Kippax, is a Leeds City Council Local Nature Reserve managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

More newts fall prey to blackbird

It’s a wonder that we’ve got any newts left! I didn’t see her catch it but by the time I got my camera she’d finished despatching it. My 40 second movie has a soundtrack of me cursing as she flies to the centre of the lawn and I chase around to the kitchen to get a better view, but at least I caught a frame of her before she disappeared into the hedge.

blackbird eating a newt

blackbird eating a newt

blackbird eating a newt

The female blackbird has caught another smooth newt and is dealing with it in a corner of the lawn

Blackbird catching newts

On Saturday 16 May this female blackbird caught five smooth newts in our garden pond. She either waits in the centre of the pond, perching on the blanket of duckweed, or stalks along the edge. As soon as she catches one she takes it to a grassy spot or to the raised bed behind the pond and dispatches it then eats it herself. We’ve never seen her taking one away to feed her young. We had already spotted her doing this a few times during the week but now that she’s become so adept I’ve now raked away the duckweed to give the newts a chance of survival.

blackbird catching newts

blackbird catching newts

blackbird catching newts

blackbird catching newts (sketch by Richard Bell)