Meteorological autumn was on 1st September and astronomical autumn has entered the calendar this week. However, the natural world around us has already started to spirit away our memorable summer into the four seasons departure lounge.
Surrounding hedgerows are laden with hawthorn berries and rose hips; hopefully these will attract flocks of winter visitors such as fieldfares and redwings provided the local blackbirds remember to leave them some. At this time of year necklaces of hedge bindweed bugle the close of this plant’s beauty and the beast’s summer season (see photo). In the wild the flowers are visited by insect pollinators, but elsewhere, especially in gardens, it may be difficult to control and quickly grow to the exclusion of other plants. Local oaks appear to have produced a bumper crop of acorns – a bounty for seed eating animals and birds such as squirrels and jays during the winter.
Elsewhere on my walks around Wrenthorpe, Brandy Carr and Carr Gate there is a further changing of the guard in the species of butterflies. Small numbers of speckled wood and small white still hold on faithfully to shortening days of fading sunlight albeit in reducing numbers. In the garden a red admiral has been a regular visitor to the flowers of the buddleia x weyeriana during the recent warm spell, together with a comma nectaring on ivy flowers in readiness for hibernation.
comma on ivy
Now I wonder if the single swallow I saw flying over Jerry Clay Lane on Sunday will be the last one I see until next spring?
These days I am doing the same local walk so often I can imagine I am cutting a groove in the tarmac along Jerry Clay Lane, Wrenthorpe. This lane is my gateway to a small island of surviving countryside around Brandy Carr and Carr Gate. I guess due to the Covid-19 outbreak the verges along the lane have not been cut back allowing many plants the opportunity and freedom to flower and hopefully seed. In particular the hedges are entwined together with flowering bramble and dog rose (photo attached). In turn they are attracting a wide range of pollinating insects. I wonder if giving wildlife a chance like this will catch on. My first meadow brown and large skipper butterflies of 2020 were seen here on the 31 May. A photo of a large skipper nectaring on an elder bush close to Brandy Carr Road is attached. Also, there appears to be a good emergence of small tortoiseshell butterflies probably resulting from eggs laid this April and early May by the overwintering adults. Certainly the caterpillars feeding on the garden nettle patch at home dispersed some time ago. Astonishingly researchers have found them to travel up to 55 metres from the nearest nettles looking for sites to pupate. Bird sightings along Jerry Clay Lane this week include buzzard, kestrel, great spotted woodpecker, blackcap, whitethroat, yellowhammer, chaffinch and a lapwing has returned after an absence of two weeks.
arge skipper near Brandy Carr Road
Further into the walk looking towards Ossett church the yellow sea of oil seed rape has ebbed away exposing ribbons of scented mayweed and poppies around the field edges. The attached photos show the changing landscape on 2 May 2020 and scented mayweed and poppies on 2 June.
Ossett church from Carr Gate
poppy and scented mayweed
Elsewhere in our local park the marsh orchids are flowering. Photo attached. They are most likely to be hybrids. Wakefield is close to the southern limit of the northern marsh orchid and close to the northern limit of the southern marsh orchid and offspring showing characteristics from each species may be expected. Similarly, both species may also hybridise with common spotted orchids. So the jury remains out for another year on trying to positively identify them.
4.hybrid marsh orchid
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