Not deterred by the unsettled weather at the end of June, I planned to start the new month with a walk using footpaths around the village of West Bretton avoiding the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which remained closed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Come the morning of 1st July with a forecast of grey skies and intermittent drizzle I was beginning to have second thoughts. However, the clouds started to thin, albeit slightly, allowing some weak sunshine to filter through coaxing the temperature to slowly lift. So I was soon more hopeful of seeing some wildlife and set off. The conditions underfoot, indeed almost up to waist level in the tall grass, was very wet. Nevertheless, in places there were clouds of ringlet butterflies fluttering carefully amongst a mass of raindrops delicately balanced on narrow leaves shimmering like precious gems. An ephemeral gift of heavy overnight rain.
Other butterflies included a small number of meadow brown, two small tortoiseshell, a single small skipper and good numbers of the caterpillars of peacock butterfly feeding on nettle. During a brief shower towards the end of the walk I shared the shelter of a tall hedgerow with a bumble bee attracted to the flower and pollen of a field rose (Rosa arvensis). So even on this occasion rain didn’t stop play.
field rose and bumble bee
I’ve been running a moth trap since mid-April after I received one for my birthday and I’ve had some success catching a variety of species of moth which I will probably show at one of the indoor meetings. As well as moths, I usually catch a few other insects such as wasps, flies, and midges, but last night I caught a rather splendid burying beetle – not quite as good as the lesser stag beetles that Francis has caught – but nonetheless a great find in the trap. I have no idea how common these are around Wakefield, probably quite common, but a first for my garden!
Burying Beetle (Silpha vespillo)
Colin sent in these images of the peregrine specimen alongside a mounted specimen of a male sparrowhawk for size comparison. Our peregrine is a juvenile female of course and in all birds of prey, the female is substantially larger than the male. Male sparrowhawks are a small bird in reality and these photos show just how small he is compared to the peregrine and he would, in fact, make a snack sized meal for the peregrine if ever their paths crossed!
peregrine and sparrowhawk size comparison
I went into Wakefield to check on the peregrines this morning. I planned to go in early to catch them feeding but I waited for the mist to clear and I got there at about 8:30. I found two peregrines on the steeple, with one of them feeding on a pigeon. After a few minutes, the other bird took to the air and then swooped in to snatch the pigeon from the other bird. There was some screeching as it did this. Unusually, this bird then went onto the small pinnacle to the left of the nesting platform to feed. It looked as though there was little more than a few bones left of the pigeon.
The two birds sat for a while and the one that had been feeding first looked to have a bulging crop but I guess that they were still hungry because they both flew away and had not returned by 11:30. They headed north and west. I wonder weather the fog of the past two days has prevented them getting as much food as usual.
As an aside, Pauline found the remains of this woodcock at the base of the cathedral so the birds are still feeding well on a variety of birds that we probably weren’t expecting! Are they taking the woodcock as they migrate at night or are the peregrines hunting a woodland at night I wonder?
woodcock remains – Pauline Brook
Yesterday’s fabulous haw frost conditions continued today but this time with a sunrise, albeit a brief one, and Heather managed 5 minutes at Walton Hall with her camera before heading into work. Here is a really nice shot of a large beech tree with Charles Waterton’s old home in the background
Got a call last night to say there was a great northern diver (common loon for the USA visitors) on Cawood’s Pool at Pugneys Country Park and it had still been there at dusk. So, I set off early this morning as the sun was rising and met up with this battle cruiser of a bird as drifted across the lake in the winter sunlight. Cawood’s is a big pool and the bird was a way off, but fortunately just as I arrived it dived beneath the water and I ran to where I thought it might pop up only to find it broke the surface about a yard in front of me!! I was over-geared for the bird at this range but in any case it panicked, dived again and came up about 100yds away to look back at me. I got off a few quick shots before it headed further out into the lake. I always find them hard to photograph because, despite it’s size, they sit low in the water and there is little contrast or definition for the camera to lock onto. Here’s a shot of the bird which will at least serve as record of its visit to Wakefield. On the way back to the car, I came across some carrion crows drinking in a puddle in the car park. I’d already reached my car and taken the 500mm off the tripod when I saw them, but the light was good so I whipped off the 1.4x and stalked them hand held. Here’s a couple of shots I really like and were an unexpected bonus to the short morning session.
John Gardner (President)