The faded and fallen blooms of summer, together with the current abundance of wayside seed and fruit suggests autumn is already upon us. However, on 4th September a visit to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Ledsham Bank revealed an impressive family gathering of a botanical nature adding to an amazing end of season floral spectacular.
Against a purple haze of devil’s bit scabious, the real stars of the show are the following three members of the gentian family. The Autumn gentian has eyelash like ribbons extending across the entrance to the narrow trumpet shaped flowers. Yellow Wort has bright yellow flowers and is a valuable source for pollinators as demonstrated in the image. Common centaury has small pink tubular flowers and a long history of use in traditional medicine. The beauty of these flowers is best seen close-up, see attached images.
Ledsham Bank nature reserve is an area of permanent pasture over a steep bank of magnesian limestone. A rich flora has developed on these grasslands through continuing traditional management and grazing regimes. Sadly, there are few remaining similar areas in this part of the County. Indeed, the Wildlife Trusts say the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s, with every county across the UK continuing to lose familiar and treasured wildflower species. The scale of the loss has left the remaining ancient wildflower rich meadows like Ledsham Bank fragmented, and the associated wildlife isolated at risk. This demonstrates the importance of the work being done at Ledsham Bank by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and other organisations in developing nature recovery networks to restore and conserve our wildlife.
There’s nothing better than a walk with friends on a sunny morning and Ledsham Vale was looking fresh and beautiful with plenty of flowers and birdcall and a shiny new YWT sign by the entrance. Coming along the narrow top path we saw pignut, greater celandine, crosswort, mouse-ear, thyme-leaved sandwort and a bright yellow patch of bulbous buttercup interspersed with rock rose and hawkweed. The best flowers though are on the steep banking which I’m sure has got steeper as we’ve got older. Southern marsh orchids were tucked into the grass alongside large patches of milkwort, scrambling up to the second hillock we found what we hoped for, the pasque flower, only the seed heads but the 5 flower heads indicates it is still very much there. Down onto the bottom path twayblade blended into the vegetation and not easy to photograph. We are hoping for a return visit in late summer early autumn to see the three types of scabious ubiquitous to this ridge of limestone.
For our last visit of the season the wildflower group re-visited Roach Lime Hills at Garforth. We should have been at Ledsham vale to seek three kinds of scabious but decided the five young bullocks on the vale were too curious and distracting to make for a comfortable visit.
Roach is an easy walk from the main road, and we were able to find field scabious, small scabious, agrimony, clustered bellflower, carline thistle (pictured), a few clumps of autumn gentian although only half the size they should have been attributable, we assumed, to the very dry summer.
This picture of a gall in the stem of creeping thistle was spotted by two of our members and is the home of the fly Urophora cardui, which is one of the picture-winged flies. Up to 10cm long, the galls gradually become brown and woody as they mature in late summer. Each contains one or more larval chambers, and the larvae remain in the galls when the plant dies down in the autumn. They pupate in the spring, but new adult flies cannot emerge until the galls start to rot and disintegrate. They normally emerge in mid-summer and lay their eggs in the tips of young shoots.
gall of Urophora cardui on creeping thistle
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.
Our May outing, although a little later in the month than usual, saw a small group of members walking around Wintersett reservoir today. Wintersett is best known for its bird life and is a very well watched patch and it didn’t disappoint. Although things were quietish, we had great views of Cetti’s warbler, blackcap and, in particular, sedge warbler. Plenty of reed buntings along the edges of the oilseed rape fields and small numbers of common terns over the lake were a bonus. There was a big hatching of damselfly, notably common blue and large red, though there were many teneral insects which made identification difficult. High overhead were good numbers of swifts, screaming loudly as they hawked insects, but undoubtedly, the star of the show was a pair of nuthatches that have nested in an old woodpecker nest hole in a crack willow not far from the main car park. They gave brilliant views as they came in to feed the well grown nestlings every few minutes, Tony Renshaw has sent some wonderful images from the walk.
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.
Further to my email giving notice of the cancellation of tonight’s meeting, this is confirmation that the meeting will not take place due to various issues arising from the pandemic.
The booked speaker gave backword due to concerns over the covid situation and. although I did try a couple of other speakers, I was unable to sort anything at short such notice. I am hoping that this will be the last time we cancel due to covid and intend to carry on as normal from now on. I will try and sort out a back-up speaker that is willing to attend at short notice in future to try and avoid these issues if a speaker is suddenly unable to attend.
I look forward to seeing you all at the February meeting when Catherine Artindale will be presenting her talk on ancient British hedgerows.
Roger Gaynor was at Fairburn Ings recently and had a super close encounter with roe deer judging from his photo.
Roger says ” I called into Fairburn Ings early this morning before it was busy which paid off with good views of Roe deer in two separate groups of three. They were between the first part of the Roy Walker trail on the left hand-side walking away from the visitor centre up the hill before the large bittern pond in amongst a young tree plantation towards the river path”.
Roe deer, Fairburn Ings
A great image I’m sure you will all agree and one of which I am jealous!
Thanks to all who replied to my email regarding getting back together, there was a unanimous vote to return to indoor meetings. As I explained, the Quakers have given us a massive headache by letting our meeting room booking go to another group. This means that, in the short term, we will have to meet on a different day and that day, as voted by the members, is a Monday evening. This will be in place until December and then from January 2022 we will be back to our normal second Tuesday of the month.
The following dates should go in your diariesin bold letters; We have booked the second Monday in the month with the exception of the September meeting which will be on the first Monday. This is because I had a commitment to another group on Monday 13th September and it can’t be altered as I am doing a lighting demonstration and the club has organised a buffet to celebrate the first post covid meeting. Please note, we will not be providing a celebratory buffet at WNS but will, in all probability, have tea and biscuits 😊
Monday 6th September – welcome back and President’s night
Monday 11th October – Ray Brown “Cortez to California”
Monday 8th November – Mike Watson “Birding the Rockies ”
Monday 13th December – Ian Newton “2018 BC”
I can now get on with arranging speakers and will publish an update very shortly. The first meeting back will be a welcome meeting with a quick bit of business to bring us up to date and then there will be a slideshow by me featuring a wide variety of NH subjects photographed during the lockdown period. There will be no special measures at the meeting with regards to COVID-19, but if you feel that you would like to wear a mask, then please do so but it is not compulsory and I don’t expect everyone to sport one. You will be responsible for your own safety and the Wakefield Naturalists’ Society will not be held accountable in any way.
I’m looking forward to seeing you all again
Wakefield Express- 31 May 1873
WAKEFIELD NATURALISTS’ SOCIETY
On Saturday last the members of this Society had a field-day at Nostell, Ryhill, and Wintersett. It was a beautiful day, and nature decked in her spring garb of ever-varying green, displayed that wonderful freshness with which no other part of the year can vie. After several hours’ enjoyment in the woods and lanes, the party met at the Angler’s Arms, Wintersett, where, after tea, the president (Mr Alderman Wainwright, F.L.S.) took the chair and subsequently named the plants about fifty species which had been collected during the afternoon. – Mr Taylor named the conchological specimens, of which fourteen species were exhibited, and Mr Sims named the geological specimens and made some interesting remarks on the geological formations of the neighbourhood. – Messrs. Parkin and Lumb, whose attention had been chiefly directed during the day’s excursion to the observation of the spring migrants, reported they had seen fifteen species of them, and that they had also noticed a Heron and a pair of Common Gull besporting themselves upon the reservoir. Messrs. Fogg and Heald exhibited the larvae of several species of geometae. Returning by way of Hawe Park, the party arrived back at Wakefield as the evening closed in, after spending a most enjoyable and delightful day.
Spotted by Lesley Taylor