September meeting: Madagascar by Pete Williamson

It’s always good to hear a lecture from one of our own members and tonight’s talk by Pete on his birding trip to Madagascar was no exception. Pete gave us a lively and entertaining talk about his visit to this beautiful island that is home to some amazing wildlife, including the famous lemurs. He covered landscapes and people as well as the wildlife and highlighted just how much deforestation is underway creating a massive threat to the island’s wildlife. Despite the continual threat and destruction of Madagascar at the hand of man, the island still has some incredible species and Pete certainly had lots of images to show us including endemic bird species, chameleons, lemurs, insects, butterflies and flowers. A great talk to kick off the season of indoor lectures.

Madagascar Wildlife

Madagascar wildlife by Pete Williamson

Members’ sightings at the call over included Osprey at Wintersett, grayling butterflies at Horbury Bridge (good to know they are still there) and other butterfly sightings in the warm September sun included comma, painted ladies, speckled wood, red admiral and holly blue. A grass snake was reported from Stanley Ferry Flash which is a new area for this uncommon local species.

There was an exhibit brought in of orange balsam which was found just outside our recording area but members were asked to be on the lookout for it and to report any sightings.Orange balsam (Impatiens capensis) is a North American species which appears to be colonising the UK, usually in low lying areas along river banks and canals and it grows to around 1m tall and is covered in orange flowers in late summer/early autumn.

Wildflowers at Walton Colliery

The ground was very dry underfoot as we headed straight ahead out of the car park onto a well used path bordered by purple loosestrife and great willowherb mingling with the bright yellow of perennial sow-thistle. Gatekeeper and meadow brown butterflies clung to swaying patches of wild carrot amongst the upright hedge parsley.  Coming out onto the main path there were still plenty of flowers to see – the ladies bedstraw was coming to an end but common centaury, meadow vetchling, common fleabane, red bartsia and field scabious were still flourishing.  Two species of heather, common and cross leaved were thriving in the rough ground and St John’s wort, ribbed melilot, viper’s bugloss, black medick and teasel edged the path as we turned left back onto the main path towards the car park.  Broad-leaved helleborine was found in the same vicinity as previous years and along the path speckled wood butterflies were enjoying the bramble as woody nightshade crept upwards through the tufted vetch, next to three common species of willowherb –  hoary, broad-leaved and great willowherb.

broad-leaved heliborine

broad-leaved heliborine

Field meeting: Hetchell Woods

A scorcher of a day and a good turnout for the first of the summer field meetings at Hetchell Woods today. This is a YWT reserve near Thorner and first for the society as a field trip, though some of our members have been here before.

We had a good selection of things to look at, mostly plants, but with some other good records including marsh harrier, red kite and hornet. The plant list was good and I am sure we will have a list from the botanists soon but my favourite species of the day was this Mother Shipton moth. This is a common species but not one that I have photographed before and this one posed well. I’ve posted a few flower pictures too.

mother shipton moth

mother shipton moth

yellow pimpernell

yellow pimpernell

common stitchwort

common stitchwort

Update: Here is a list of the flowers we recorded on the trip sent in by Sue Gaynor

green alkanet
herb Bennett
wood speedwell
dog violet
germander speedwell
burnet rose
yellow archangel
pig nut
greater stitchwort
gelder rose
bugle (prolific)
golden saxifrage
yellow pimpernel
thyme leaved speedwell
creeping buttercup
wood sedge

Wakefield Naturalists field meeting

Wakefield Naturalists field meeting


AGM report

This evening’s meeting was the society’s AGM and our president John Gardner breezed through this formality with his usual speed and good humour. There was some discussion about increasing the annual subscriptions due to the speakers fees and there was general agreement by the members that there should be an increase from next year. Also discussed was the peregrine nestbox that was attached to the tower on Wakefield Cathedral by seven of our own members bringing the project to a successful  conclusion. More details will follow on the website. We hope that the single peregrine, which has been using the spire as a perch for many months, can attract a mate. The box can easily be seen on the east side of the tower from the Kirkgate precinct. Thanks go to Sheffield University for all their help and advice and donation of the nestbox.

Following the AGM, one of our own members Francis Hickenbottom very kindly stepped in to replace the advertised speaker, who had to pull out due to ill health. Francis is a keen and very knowledgeable astronomer, and gave us an interesting talk based on his own photographs of the stars and planets taken while on holiday in Wales. It was very much an audience participation evening, where everyone had to work out where the various constellations were, and identify some of the brightest stars in the night sky .

October meeting: Manitoba by Ron Marshall

 Thanks to Ron Marshall from Barnsley for standing in at short notice at the October meeting. As always,  Ron gave us a most interesting talk illustrated with his professional grade photos of a trip he took with his wife to Manitoba in June. He flew to Winnipeg and visited the Ridings National Park, a huge reserve covering 1148 sq. miles of unspoilt forests, lakes and streams. The park is famous for its black bears, and holds one of the  largest concentrations in North America. Ron took some excellent shots while being careful not to get too close, as black bears can run extremely fast if they feel threatened. Also seen in the park, were nesting great northern divers in their beautiful summer plumage, Bonaparte’s gull, and perhaps most spectacular of all, the scarce great grey owl, a huge bird with bright yellow eyes set in large feathered facial discs.

Wanting to visit Churchill near the Arctic circle, Ron had to take the two day journey on the sleeper train as there are no roads to this remote town. Churchill grew from a remote outpost to a bustling seaport with the construction of the Hudson Bay railroad and port in the 1920s, but its now a world renowned hotspot for bird and wildlife watching in spring and autumn. In June many of the breeding birds are in full summer plumage particularly the black throated diver and red necked phalarope both photographed with a stunning backdrop of wildflower blossom.


Badgerlands by Patrick Barkham

Memebers may be interested to hear Patrick Barkham speak at the Morley Literature Festival, here are the details that were emailed to me:

Patrick Barkham: Badgerlands – a Talk
Sunday 13th October at 11.30am
Morley Town Hall, south Leeds
Part of Morley Literature Festival

Britain is the home of the badger, with more per square kilometre than in any other country, and 2013 has seen badger culling brought to the nation’s attention by Brian May and thousands of protestors. Yet many of us have never seen one alive and in the wild. Nocturnal creatures, badgers vanish into their labyrinthine underground setts at the first hint of a human.

The Guardian’s Patrick Barkham follows in the footsteps of his badger-loving grandmother to meet the feeders, farmers and scientsts who know their way around Badgerlands: a mysterious world in which these distinctively striped creatures snuffle, dig and live out their complex social lives.

Tickets: £4 available in advance via 0844 848 2706 or on the door.

July Field Meeting: Dunnignton Nature Reserve York

UPDATE: Richard Bell has just sent in his underwater video recorded on the day. Scroll down to watch it.

DSCF6571.Wakey NatsYork based nature photographer Terry Weston acts as warden for the small nature reserve at Dunnington, near York. After Terry came and gave us a talk about the reserve, we decided to hold a field meeting there and today was the day. Although I couldn’t make it due to work commitments, eight of our members enjoyed a super day there including indulging in a spot of pond dipping, catching leeches and snails. Terry also pointed out a family of sparrowhawks and the adult birds were watched feeding the chicks. A big thank you to Terry and also to Roger for sending in the report and photos.

Four spotted Chaser (Lubulula quadrimaculata)

Four spotted Chaser (Lubulula quadrimaculata

Musk Mallow (Malva moschata)

Musk Mallow (Malva moschata)

Townhills Close field meeting

A good session at this new location for our field meeting though many of the orchids we’d expected were hardly out due to the very late spring.

Bush Vetch
Red Clover
White Clover
Meadow Buttercup
Ribwort Plantain
Yellow Rattle
Goat’s Beard
Ox-eye Daisy
Bird’s Foot Trefoil
Eye Bright
Fairy Flax
Common Mouse Ear
Black Medic
Dew Berry
Black Bryony
Common Gromwell
Ragwort (NIF)
Self Heal
Hairy Rock Cress
Yellow Archangel
Herb Bennett
Common Spotted Orchid (NIF)
Hoary Plantain
Quaking Grass
St John’s Wort (NIF)
Winter Cress
Germander Speedwell
Meadow Cranesbill (NIF)
Common Sorrell
whitethroat, bullfinch, chiffchaff, goldfinch, great tit, blue tit, robin, magpie

common blue, peacock

Outdoor meeting: Ox-close Woods

A good turn out for the first of the summer field meetings this morning, great to see everyone. We had a really good guided walk around Ox-close Woods at East Keswick where we had some superb botanical finds, including goldilocks, early purple orchid, wood sedge, herb Paris, old man’s beard, wood sorrel, bluebell and a vast spread of ramsons. Butterflies were scarce due to the cool weather but we picked up roosting small white and green-veined white and also a comatose tawny mining bee.

nature images from Ox-close woods, East Keswick