I heard on the grapevine that two peregrines, male and female, were seen on Wakefield cathedral today and they were there for at least an hour. Let’s hope this is a sign that our male has finally found a mate. However, there’s no time for romance, they need to get down to business as it seems that most other peregrine projects that are being monitored show that eggs are already laid!
At Ackworth School, the long-tailed tits that were building a nest have now completed the task. This morning, nuthatches were carrying mud to a beech tree, where they are modifying an old woodpecker nest-hole. Nearby, treecreepers chased each other at high speed round and round the trunk of a tree, only centimetres from the trunk. Whilst there were winter visitors – redwings – in some trees, a summer visitor – a chiffchaff – was singing nearby. Kingfishers were busy on the River Went and a hare was feeding in an uncultivated field.
long-tailed tit nest building at Ackwoerth School (©John Gardner)
Several people have asked me about ladybirds in the past week because harlequin ladybirds that found shelter in buildings in the autumn have been brought out of hibernation by the recent warm weather. I found these harlequins in their natural habitat, on a mature tree. They were clustering beneath a loose piece of bark on a sycamore.
The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) is also known as the multi-coloured Asian ladybird and the Halloween ladybird. It has a very variable appearance, which can make it difficult to tell apart from our native ladybirds. For more information go to www.harlequin-survey.org and you can log your ladybird sightings at www.ladybird-survey.org.
Long-tailed tits might be able to build well camouflaged nests but they aren’t good at doing this discretely. I spotted two noisy birds building this nest among the tangled stems of a dog rose. The finished nest, made using cobwebs, lichens and moss, will be shaped like a rugby ball but these birds have only reached the halfway stage.
A good walk along the network of disused railway tracks around Ryhill brought plenty of spring sightings on this warm and balmy day. With temperatures soaring to 17dg the butterflies were out in force with an abundance of comma, a few small tortoiseshell and around 8 sightings of brimstone all being notched up. The first chiffchaff of the year for us was recorded just on the edge of the village and for the botanists, there were small numbers of coltsfoot in flower. With mild weather set for all week, there’s likely to be many more migrants arriving in the next few days
I found this dead fly stuck to a classroom window at Ackworth School. Looking closely, I could see what looked like fungal hyphae extending from its feet, attaching it to the window. I believe that it has been killed by an Entomophthora fungus – possibly Entomophthora muscae..
The Entomophthora fungus affects the nervous system of a fly and forces it to climb upwards to a prominent position to die in order that that the spores are more easily carried away by the wind. Here it is possible to see that the fly is surrounded by fungal spores that are ready to infect other flies.