As we set off the morning was coolish but promised warmth later and, heading along the tow path, we saw ribwort plantain, shepherd’s purse, creeping buttercup, sticky mouse-ear, germander speedwell and a lovely patch of common stork’s-bill by the lock gate. Turning right onto the marsh we heard lots of birdsong, including chiffchaff, willow warbler and great tit.
Just over the wooden bridge at the edge of the meadow we came across some fine red campion, the meadow was full of lady’s smock, marsh horsetail, common vetch and meadow buttercup (just coming out). The cowslips were coming to an end but great burnet and meadowsweet were in leaf. Coming onto the path we spotted a clump of bulbous buttercup then emerging into the field a beautiful display of sun spurge, field speedwell, ground ivy and a few greater stitchwort.
At this time last year marsh marigold was easy to find but this year we had to search along the water edges but eventually found a clump coming to its end on the far side of the lake, with a patch of bush vetch nearby. At the end of another enjoyable walk the warmth had brought out a number of orange tip butterflies.
I came across this nice patch of meadow saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata) growing below trees on the edge of the Went in Ackworth. The delicate, snow-white, five petalled flowers and long stalked, kidney shaped leaves are distinctive features of the meadow saxifrage.
meadow saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata)
Today, I had only half an hour for some butterfly watching and decided to visit Stanley Ferry Flash. Without going too far I had counted large numbers of orange tips and speckled wood. Also, I watched comma and peacock feeding on dandelions and just managed to keep my eyes on a brimstone flying past at high speed. Slightly easier to see, but slightly camouflaged was a green veined white feeding high up on some hawthorn flowers.
green veined white butterfly
I have attached a couple of pictures of some mining bees that I photographed in the centre of the school, on the edge of The Green. The bees were coming and going from holes in the gaps at the edges of some stone slabs. They look quite different in the two pictures but I think they are probably of the same species and I am trying to get an ID. In the first picture, the bee was hesitating a bit because it was coming face-to-face with an ant that you can just see.
I believe that the bees are of the species Halictus rubicundus. This is a sweat bee and this kind of bee gets its name because it is attracted to the salt in human sweat. It is especially interesting because it is a solitary species in northern areas, or at large altitudes, but it is social at low levels in the south. These different behaviours are observed within Britain.
bluebells in Stoneycliffe wood
Stoneycliffe Wood is an ancient woodland close to Middlestown and Netherton. Ancient woodland has had tree cover in some way for around four hundred years or more. It is one of our most precious natural habitats and home to many plants and other wildlife that may find it hard to colonise and survive elsewhere. Sadly, over the years we have lost many of our ancient woodland often for development. Therefore, many of our once common plants such as bluebell are increasingly at serious risk. In particular, our own native species of bluebell is globally rare and for this reason we are the world’s guardian of this beautiful flower. Fortunately, Stoneycliffe Wood is cared for by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and now is good time to visit and see the Bluebells.
We walked from Haigh to Darton today, lots of warblers and good numbers of butterflies. The highlight was a pair of Log tailed tits building a nest in the fork of a large willow, overlooking the river.
long-tailed tit nest
Arctic terns were on the move through Yorkshire today helped by easterly winds with 12 non stop over Pugneys going NE. at mid day. Also there were 4 white wagtails on the north grass bank until dog walkers arrived.
Recent sightings at Stanley Ferry Flash sent by Mark Archer
Sunday 13.4.14 – First two lesser whitethroats of the year. Tuesday 15.4.14 – First orange tip of the year: Wednesday 16.4.14 – First cuckoo calling just before dusk and four noctule bats feeding over the water at dusk with a sparrowhawk chasing them, This seems to be a regular habit as the sparrowhawk was seen last week chasing pipistrelle bats.
It appears many of our native butterflies that over winter as adults have survived in good numbers. Their awakening has also coincided with a wonderful flourish of spring flowers for them to feed on, particularly dandelions. This plant, often the target of garden weed killers, is actually a vital lifeline for many early emerging butterflies and other insects. Strangely, if the dandelion was a rare alpine flower we would all want one!
Indeed, during a recent walk around Lofthouse Colliery Nature Park, there were sightings of three of our native butterfly species that overwinter as adults, including brimstone. Also, there were plenty of small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies feeding on dandelion flowers, with the latter also feeding on blackthorn (see image taken during the visit).. Other butterfly sightings on the day included holly blue (see image) and orange tip, which both overwinter as chrysalis.
Lofthouse Colliery Nature Park is well worth a visit with a rich mixture of habitats all in a relatively small area, including ponds and areas of heather, grassland and woodland supporting a wide range of wildlife. In addition, there is a very good heritage trail with information boards reflecting the interesting history of the site from the 1870s to the present date. Also, there is a memorial to Lofthouse Colliery and all those that worked there, together with the men who lost their lives at the coal face. The site is cared for by the Lofthouse Colliery Action Group and Wakefield MDC.
holly blue butterfly
peacock on blackthorn
A good few days for butterflies visiting my Wrenthorpe garden with a brimstone and peacock on 9th April, both in good condition. A nice surprise on the 11th April was a speckled wood, basking in some early morning sunshine.