It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Pauline Brook who died today in the early hours of the morning. Pauline was a great character at the club, occupying her seat on the front row at every meeting, she always took my ribbing of her in great spirit and she always cointributed sightings and annecdotes as only she could. Pauline was a great friend and very popular amongst the club members and known to us all I think. As her health failed in recent years, she attended less and less but remained a keen naturalist and enjoyed watching the birds coming to her feeders in front of the window at the retirement home. Pauline was a really keen botanist and was a founder member of the Wakefield Flower Group. Her knowledge of flowers and her great personaility will be sorely missed at our club meetings.
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.
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.
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.