October meeting replaced with an outdoor meeting

I hope you are all doing well and keeping safe. This is to inform everyone that the October meeting has been cancelled due to the government restrictions during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, we can’t let a little thing like COVID-19 dampen our spirits and with this in mind I would like to propose an outdoor meeting in place of the traditional indoor one.

October is a good month for fungi so I thought it might be a good idea to meet at Brockadale for a fungus foray. There is a ‘rule of six’ in place but generally there are only around 8 or so on a typical field meeting. Do feel free to come along and if there are more than six of us, we can split into groups for the walk round. I am of the opinion that being outdoors and with a bit of common sense with distancing, the likelihood of us spreading anything is minimal. The meeting is, of course, educational which should allow us to have an increased number.

I am trying to reach a local fungi expert to guide us as we don’t have anyone in the Society that feels able to lead us round. I propose we meet at 10:00 in the car park on Ley’s Lane and the date I propose is Sunday 25th October. This is a little later than our normal meeting but it will be a better time for fungus hopefully and allows us to take stock of the situation before committing.

I think it is fair to say that the November meeting will be cancelled too and replaced with an outdoor meet up but I will send notice of any changes at the end of October

Karen Nicklin

It is with great sadness that I have just learned of the untimely passing of one of our members, Karen Nicklin, who has dies sudden;ly and unexpectedly on 24th September 2020.

Karen has been with the Society for at least 10years and has been a popular and active member and was a regular face at our meetings, Karen had a great love for the outdoors and nature, in particular, a passion for ospreys which she dedicated a lot of time to as a volunteer warden at the Loch Garten reserve in Scotland. As a really keen walker and hiker, Karen spent time planning and undertaking walks that combined nature and the landscape and I remember well the talk she gave recently at our members’ evening when she wowed us with views of the spectacular scenery and wild flowers from a recent trek in the Austrian Alps.

Karen was also an active member of the Wakefield RSPB Members’ Group and was regulalry seen on the doorway greeting visitors. Karen also worked as a volunteer warden  at RSPB St Aiden’s where some of us had the pleasure of speaking with her on our recent field trip there in early September, little realising it wouuld be the last time we ever saw her.

Our thoughts are with her family at this sad time.

 

 

When is Autumn?

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.

.hedge bindweed

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

comma on ivy

red admiral

red admiral

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?

Wildlife Under the Garden Radar

How can one of the UK’s largest and most distinctive moth caterpillars go under the garden radar at home for so long without being seen until Sue found it feeding on her prize fuchsia.  This is one of Britain’s largest caterpillars growing up to nearly 9cm long with an eye popping front end and a punk rock style spike at the rear.  See attached photo.  This is the caterpillar of the elephant hawk moth.  The adult is one of our most elegant moths and beautifully photographed by our president, John Gardner. in his post on 27 May 2020.   The caterpillars also feed on rosebay and bedstraws before settling down in the autumn to pupate as a cocoon in leaf litter and soil.  The adults emerge and are on the wing during summer feeding on the nectar of night scented flowers such as honey suckle, which by coincidence is growing just next to the fuchsia in the garden.

elephant hawkmoth caterpillar

elephant hawkmoth caterpillar

Also going unnoticed under the garden radar until this summer have been some grasshoppers.  Quite a surprise in such an urban area and particularly as I have now been looking after the garden for over forty years!

A more obvious insect seen in the garden in the past two weeks has been the silver Y moth.  This is a regular migrant often seen flying fast and somewhat erratically during the day searching flowers for nectar and in the attached photo can be seen on heather.

silver y moth

silver y moth

September indoor meeting replaced with outdoor meeting

I hope everyone is safe and well and surviving the current problems. The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted many things including the WNS outdoor meetings of which we only managed the August event and that was changed from the advertised at the last minute. Often, the field meetings didn’t go ahead not because we decided against it, but that the reserves were generally shut and so things were outside our control. Unfortunately, the same fate is set to befall the September indoor meeting as the Quaker Meeting Room is unavailable upstairs due to ongoing decorating and remodelling. We are able to use the lower floor but the Quakers have imposed some strict guidelines regarding sanitizing, hands and surfaces, staying 2m apart, no refreshments and, worst of all, wearing face masks.

At the ,moment. I am unsure how many of the regulars will turn up and due to either the restrictions or due to feeling cautious. I have no issues in our meeting up but not everyone may feel the same. With this in mind, and given the unavailability of the upper room, I have cancelled the speaker for the September meeting. I think in all honesty, I will cancel the October speaker too and then we will see how things have panned out from then. However, I would hate for us not to be able to meet up at all and so at the committee meeting this week, we proposed to have the September and October meetings as outdoor field meetings. This will commence with a walk around St Aiden’s on Sunday September 13th but I would suggest meeting a little earlier to ensure we get parked as it is busy with the general public just now. Those wishing to join us should meet in the car park at 09:45. There have been some excellent birds at the reserve lately, including spoonbill, curlew sandpipers and other waders. The October meeting will take place probably on 25th October and will likely be a fungus foray but I need to finalise the details and will advise once I have things firmed up.

Going forward, it is hard to say when we are likely to meet in the usual place and so I am looking to canvas opinion as to whether we make all the foreseeable meetings  outdoor meetings, have the indoor meetings online via ZOOM or simply cancel the meetings until further notice. I would be very grateful if members could let me have the preferred choice. Many of the camera clubs are running weekly meetings on ZOOM but it may not be for us. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

I look forward to your comments and to seeing those of you who can make it to ST Aiden’s and do keep safe.

Field Meeting; August 9th 2020 Rodley Nature Reserve – Cancelled

Well, I had hoped this meeting would go ahead as we are now getting out of lockdown, but looking at the reserve’s web site, Rodley Reserve is NOT open this weekend. What I am proposing for thiose who do want to meet up on Sunday 9th, is that we meet in the car park at Anglers CP and we will walk around Wintersett reservoir.

Meet: Anglkers CP Car park

Time 10:00

The next big issuue is whether the September indoor meeting will take place but the committee will meet before than and make a decision. We will have to take into account the practices imposed by the Quakers with regard to use of the meeting room. An email will be sent to all members shortlly advising of what is to happen.

Field Meeting July 12th RSPB Blacktoft Sands

Due to COVID-19, the resreve remains closed to the public therefore, today’s field meeting is cancelled. The weather is set fair so I hope you can all get out and enjoy some wildlife after the heavy rains of this past week. I will make sure there is an August field meeting that we can all attend safely as the threat from the pandemic eases while out in the open air.

Getting into the Groove

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

arge skipper near Brandy Carr Road

dog rose

dog rose

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

Ossett church from Carr Gate

poppy and scented mayweed

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

4.hybrid marsh orchid

A distinct lack of moths!

I have been putting the moth trap out quite regularly over the past couple of weeks but each time I go to empty it I find it quite devoid of trappoed moths! Whether it’s the clear cool nights that are causing me bother I just don’t know, but compared to the past couple of years at this time, it’s incredibly quiet. This morning the trap contained only two moths which is about the norm just now; a small magpie and a really beautiful elephant hawk moth, my first for the year. I stuck this handsome lad on a yellow flag iris growing in my small water feature, totally unnatural of course, and done just for art’s sake 🙂

elephant hawk moth on yellow flag iris

elephant hawk moth on yellow flag iris

Getting Ready for Summer

The Corvid-19 outbreak lockdown rules have recently been relaxed.  Even so at the moment I continue to be loyal to my local walks all taken within one and half or so miles from home rather than travelling further away.  This has now become a very familiar landscape to me, but it is beginning to show signs it is ready to change and leave spring behind.  The pristine fresh green tree leaves are now more sombre with many sycamore covered with ‘honeydew’ a sticky substance excreted by feeding aphids.  The tiny caterpillars of moths blown in the wind abseil down from the tops of oak trees on fragile silken threads like miniature SAS commandos.  All these insects are a timely food source for hungry young birds and their exhausted parents.  Similarly, the yellow fields of oil seed rape are fading fast turning their energy to the job of seed production.  Even so their narrow field margins remain a refuge for some wildflowers to shine especially flaming red poppies.  Photo attached.  Elsewhere yellow is intensifying around paddocks full of buttercups and young rabbits.

poppy and oil seed rape

poppy and oil seed rape

9.rabbit and buttercups

9.rabbit and buttercups

On the 11 May I reported the progress of the small tortoiseshell butterflies caterpillars that have transformed the garden patch of nettles into their dining room.  They continue to devour their host plant leaving only a skeleton.  It is a reminder they will soon start to pupate and then emerge to announce a changing of the guards and summer has arrived.

small tortoiseshell caterpillars

small tortoiseshell caterpillars