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.
While in the garden on Tuesday 24 March I spent some time watching two buzzards soaring higher and higher above me in a beautiful clear blue sky. Only when I looked down I noticed three very mobile butterflies – peacock, brimstone and comma. No doubt these butterflies have recently emerged from hibernation and are now busy searching for early flowering plants for nectar, which can be in very short supply at this time of year. In spring brimstone are said to nectar on dandelion, primrose, cowslip, bugle and bluebell. Comma may be seen looking for nectar on sallow and blackthorn flowers. Peacock may search blackthorn, cuckooflower and dandelions for early sources of nectar. I attached photos of the peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies taking a short break to bask in a sunny sheltered corner of the garden on 26 and 27 March respectively.
Beautiful Brockadale -what a variety of flowers and butterflies! Although we were too early for bee orchid, common spotted orchids were just coming into flower, perhaps a couple of weeks later than usual.. The car park is always a good place for meadow cranesbill, dovesfoot cranesbill, French cranesbill and cut-leaved cranesbill before heading onto the reserve. Moving on down the path passing bladder campion, white campion and white bryony, we turned left for a short distance as we had been told about a large patch of purple milk vetch which we may well have missed. We ended up on the main bank which was a mass of yellow rock rose mingled with hairy rock cress, greater stitchwort and fairy flax.
purple milk vetch
common spotted orchid
A glorious morning for a tranquil walk along the wildflower paths of 18th century Bramham Park, for a very small charge we were able to enjoy this peaceful garden awash with swathes of ramsons interspersed by leopards bane and the tilting heads of water avens. Large groups of twayblade were coming into flower amongst sanicle, pignut, common dog violet and tormentil. Milkwort nestled in the short grass with green field speedwell and sticky mouse-ear. Beautiful bugle sat amongst the barren and wild strawberry, while bulbous buttercup had still to reach its peak. In a few weeks time orchids will fill the unmown corners so a return visit would be worthwhile, a truly magical place to spend a morning.
Sunday 6 May was International Dawn Chorus Day, a worldwide celebration of nature’s symphony. It is celebrated annually on the first Sunday of May, and is a great opportunity to get out early and listen to the sounds of birds as they sing to greet the rising sun.
Events took part all around the country, and on Saturday 5 May (albeit a day early) I joined members of the RSPB’s Wakefield District Local Group as they guided a walk around the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The walk started at 7am and there were plenty of birds singing. As we wandered around the park we listened to and viewed many species, and learnt a great deal from Paul and Sarah our expert guides. We encountered blue tit, great tit, blackbird, song thrush, chaffinch, goldfinch, goldcrest (one for my year list), chiffchaff, blackcap, great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, tree creeper and wren.
The park looked stunning in the morning sunlight. The trees were in full blossom and the sunshine made everything look more vibrant. The woodland was carpeted in a haze of blue.
Bluebells at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park
All too soon the walk was over, and we headed to the cafe for a quick drink before heading home. I would encourage everyone to get out there and enjoy what nature has to offer. You don’t have to be an expert, get up too early or travel far to hear bird song – your back garden is a good start.
t was a warm, muggy cloudy morning for our last walk of the season where our aim was to find autumn lady’s tresses, a tiny spiralling flower hiding in low grass. Amongst the damp grass along the main path we passed white, red and bladder campion as well as agrimony, lady’s bedstraw and, as the path widens out to the sunny bank, harebells. Here also we had rock rose, eyebright, fairy flax and quantities of autumn gentian, common centaury amongst field scabious, small scabious. On the bumpy knoll where the leaves of the pasque flower could still be seen, we found devil’s-bit-scabious and plenty of yellow-wort and our target spoecies – autumn lady’s tresses. A number of our walks have been rained off this year so it was good to finish with such a rewarding morning at the flower rich site.
autumn lady’s tresses
A lovely morning for our wildflower walk with a full range of wonderful colours from white hedge bindweed, sneezewort, wild carrot, white water lily to the yellows of wild honeysuckle, yellow loosestrife, fleabane, ribbed melilot and greater spearwort to the pink hues of purple loosestrife, goat’s rue, common centaury and slender speedwell. This handsome puss moth caterpillar was camouflaged well amongst the willow and we spent a while admiring it.
Puss moth caterpillar
I’ve just returned from a few days photography in Wiltshire/Dorset where I’ve been photographing firecrest, great bustard and Dartford warbler and, as the spring weather continued, today I went over to Brockadale to see what spring flowers were on offer. The cowslips are not yet in bloom and the highland cattle seem to be making a bit of a mess of the meadow so I’m not sure how well the cowslips will do this year. The wood anemone on the hillside are spreading well but deep in the woods, they somehow looked more at home in the dappled spring light.
Spring migrant birds included blackcap and chiffchaff but no willow warbler yet, There were plenty of song thrushes singing which was a welcome sound
Earlier today, Chris Swaine tweeted his sightings of a small flock of waxwings near the former Slipper pub in Crofton. Although there seems to be hundreds of waxwings up and down the country at the moment, these are the first we’ve heard about in the Wakefield district.
Waxwings in Crofton
The changing and breathtaking colours of some of our magnificent trees, together with flocks of visiting birds on their long migration journeys, and a bounty of fruits and seeds for them to feed on are proof that autumn has arrived. However, thanks to Pauline, on the 27 October we were witness to a less obvious clue if not, indeed, a very spooky sign of the season. We met along the disused railway, now a fantastic public walkway, starting behind the Co-op stores on Leeds Road, Outwood. There, on the timber post and rail fencing we found hundreds of ‘Halloween ladybirds’ as they are known in the USA, because they gather in their overwintering areas during September to November before hibernating, often in buildings. Such large gatherings of insects are known as aggregations.
Here in the UK this beetle is known as the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia spp) and is an unwelcome invader. The adult is very variable in appearance with a range of colours and patterns (see photos). Unlike many of our native ladybirds it produces multiple generations and a single female may lay up to 2,000 eggs in a lifetime leading to large populations. The life cycle then proceeds to a larvae (see attached photo), which can shed their skins several times before forming a pupae, and then after several days the adult emerges. The larvae and adults feast on aphids and when these have been devoured they sadly eat and out-compete our native, treasured ladybirds, bringing a ghostly end to autumn.
harlequin ladybird larvae
harlequin ladybird adult