The June field meeting took us to the members only nature reserve, High Batts near Ripon. 12 of us convened for an amble round this amazing reserve, a new sight for all of us, and we meandered through woodland, meadow, damp areas and used hides overlooking ponds and rivers. Amongst the birds, we had multiple views of kingfisher, blackcap, whitethroat feeding young, grey heron and a female Mandarin duck with young. Common spotted orchids, yellow flag iris, vipers’ bugloss. burnet rose and scarlet pimpernel lined the paths and, despite the cool, overcast conditions, the insects were plentiful; banded demoiselle, common and blue-tailed damselfly, speckled wood, red cardinal beetle, and various species of hoverfly, including Volucella pucellens, were all recorded.
Wakefield Naturalists’ members
Burnet Rose and common spotted orchid
Studying the wetland area
Whitethroat with ghost moth
High Batts is an exceptional reserve, tucked away off the beaten track and run privately, it really is a first-class place to visit and I can only imagine how many more species we would have seen had the weather been a little warmer and brighter. I can highly recommend the site and it is well worth the £11 (£15 for a family) membership fee for those wanting to experience the reserve.
As an urban park, Middleton is surprisingly well looked after and on Tuesday the wildflower group enjoyed a wonderful woodland walk through acres of native bluebells. It wasn’t our first choice as we were hoping to go to Bretton woods, but the complicated booking system was off-putting.
Bluebells at Middleton Woods
Middleton is the largest ancient woodland site in West Yorkshire – mainly oak, beech, hazel, and willow and birdsong fills the air although we were only able to distinguish great tit and blackcap. A return visit was made today as I wanted to see the lower woods which were even more spectacular than the upper woods. Alongside the small, natural lake in the middle of the park is the visitor centre and cafe; the lake has been tarmacked round for public use but is full of roach, tench and rudd with frogs, newts and toads; a real little oasis. Urban parks have their benefits as the bluebell woods are very accessible for all abilities and best of all it was reasonably quiet.
A warm, dullish morning for our first spring wildflower walk of the season; after two years of lockdown we really appreciated the companionship. The path into the woods was dry and well-trod and our first treat was this delightful clump of goldilocks buttercups. Much more profuse than remembered and obligingly alongside the path. Harder to see was this lords and ladies amongst the grass.
Coming into the woodland the early dog violet and common dog violet were hard to spot as already the dried leaf litter was covered in grass and emerging greenery but we did manage to find quite a few, the bluebells were well advanced for mid April.
Along the path we saw clumps of wood anemones and a spurge laurel, neither spurge or laurel but a member of the Daphne family and highly poisonous particularly the berries.
Going through the gate and onto the banking there were a few red-tailed bumblebees nectaring on the ground ivy and celandine, the mix of blue and yellow beautiful in the late morning sunshine.
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.
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