Comma returns to garden egg laying site for another year

Yesterday I watched several peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies making their now regular visits to the garden.  Most are just passing through, but yesterday I noticed a comma circling around a sheltered corner containing a small, well established patch of stinging nettles currently only about one foot high.  It alternated between settling on the nettles and then resting on a small nearby log left as deadwood habitat (photo attached).  When the butterfly had finally left the garden I noticed it had laid several single eggs on the upper side of the leaf.  The egg is tiny and the attached photo shows it resting against a sting spine/hair.  Another spine/hair in the top left of the photo helps to give some sense of scale.  This patch of nettles has been used by commas in the past and it is good to know it remains a suitable egg laying site for them.

comma butterfly

comma butterfly

comma butterfly egg on nettle leaf

comma butterfly egg on nettle leaf

Today a brimstone butterfly paid another fleeting visit, but a peacock stayed much longer nectaring on a flowering currant.

peacock nectaring on ribes

peacock nectaring on ribes

Flowers before foliage in spring

Over the last week my permitted outdoor exercise with some variations has been based on a walk from Wrenthorpe via the nearby Wakefield Junction 41 Industrial Estate, Lawns Lane, Brandy Carr Road and along Troughwell Lane back home.  The industrial estate is busy with large haulage vehicles and not an obvious place to see wildlife, but it has been extensively landscaped.  In amongst the mixture of plants there are a number of native tree and shrub species.  In particular, some maturing wild cherry trees sometimes known as gean look very spectacular at the moment with masses of  white flowers. Together with its good looks it is a superb tree for wildlife, the flowers are an early source of nectar and pollen for bees and the cherries are eaten by many birds in the autumn.

In between the many warehouses there are small areas of rough and disturbed land.  These habitats  can sometimes be hostile places for plant growth, but not for coltsfoot.  This is one of our first plants to flower in spring.  Producing a mass of yellow blooms early in the year may help to attract insects before they are obscured by their large leaves, which are silver-white on the undersides.  During spring coltsfoot is one of several species which flower before their leaves unfold.  Some are much less noticeable and, therefore, more easily missed on my walks like the flowers of the common ash tree.  Ash trees are wind pollinated and perhaps it may help their pollen to travel further if their flowers are not obscured by the leaves.  See photo.  Also, at this time of year there is still the opportunity to spot birds singing high in the trees before they too are obscured by their leaves. See photo of song thrush taken near Lawns Lane.



common ash flowers

common ash

song thrush Wakefield wildlife

song thrush


Spring Walk


Setting out on our morning walk we are surprised by the piping call of three oystercatchers as they skirt the edge of Coxley Woods. 

Our regular one hour walk involves a lot of road walking but is proving enjoyable with plenty of signs of spring in the hedgerows.

We have seen lots of dogs mercury and celandine in scrubby areas and over the last week jack-by-the-hedge has come into flower. Chiff-chaff singing and buzzard mewing are much easier to hear without the distant roar of traffic.

Low Lane is a delight with sweeping views across the Calder Valley, grey partridge bursting from the field and a skylark singing in the spring sunshine.

Barbara Bell

Spring butterflies

While in the garden on Tuesday 24 March I spent some time watching two buzzards soaring higher and higher above me in a beautiful clear blue sky.  Only when I looked down I noticed three very mobile butterflies – peacock, brimstone and comma.  No doubt these butterflies have recently emerged from hibernation and are now busy searching for early flowering plants for nectar, which can be in very short supply at this time of year.  In spring brimstone are said to nectar on dandelion, primrose, cowslip, bugle and bluebell.  Comma may be seen looking for nectar on sallow and blackthorn flowers. Peacock may search blackthorn, cuckooflower and dandelions for early sources of nectar. I attached photos of the peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies taking a short break to bask in a sunny sheltered corner of the garden on 26 and 27 March respectively.

April indoor meeting and coronavirus

Well folks, it looks as if the April indoor meeting is going to have to be cancelled given the current predicament with coronavirus. Members’ night is one of my favourite meetinsg of the indoor meetings calendar so I will bve disappointed to see it go. However, we are being encouraged to avoid gatherings and I suspect there will be a very low turnout even if we go ahead. Therefore, unless you hear differntly from the Society, assume that the meeting is cancelled.

On the ortherhand, there is no reason for us not to have the first of the field meetings in May which will be a local one, most likely Brockadale, as a follow up to the excellent presentation by Joyce and Paul Simmonds last month. We are currently working on the new programme and the meetings pages will be updated very shortly so keep checking back.

There is no reason not to be out and enjoying nature, esoecially in our own gardens, so here’s a shot I took this morning of a male tawny mining bee emerging from it’s burrow. I presume this is the larvae that has overwinterred and is now emerging as an adult.

tawny mining bee west yorkshire

Indoor meeting Tuesday 11th Feb

Just to let everyone know that the speaker fo rthe February meeting will be Mike Pilsworth, RSPB Humber Conservation officer talking about the wildlife of the Humber with an emphasis on Blacktoft Sands. After a bit of uncertainty, Mike has now confirmed he will be with us and we look forward to the talk


Wildlfower walk, Rodley Nature Reserve

Rodley is a beautiful site for birds, flowers, butterflies and dragonflies and although just on the outskirts of Leeds on the ring road, it is well worth a visit, particularly as it is well maintained and has an interesting small, visitor centre

As we try and restrict our walks to a couple of hours we walked up the ramp onto the ‘butterfly bank’ which lived up to its name with a mass of bees and butterflies covering a large clump of crown vetch.  The purples and pink of hemp agrimony, marjoram, field scabious, small scabious, nettle bellflower and musk mallow contrasted with the strong yellow of dark mullein.  Turning right and arriving at the three well cared for ponds what a feast of different damp loving plants including corn marigolds, marsh woundwort, marsh cinquefoil, water plantain, water forget-me-not, amphibious bistort, gypsy wort, greater and lesser spearwort. A magical place to sit in the shade and enjoy the numerous damsel flies and dragonflies.

Small Scabious

Small Scabious

Crown Vetch

Crown Vetch

Wakefield Climate Change Group

Jenny Sergeant, a member of the Nats from way back in the 1970s, has asked me to pass on this invitation Wakefield Naturalists’ Society membbers:

All are invited to participate in the Wakefield Just Transition Forum,
Lightwaves, Lower Yorks St WF1 3LJ on
Friday  June 21st 6:00 – 8:00pm
Friday July 19th 6:00 – 8:00pm

What is the Forum? .. well the group doesn’t exist yet… the hope is to create a community forum so that together we can support and realize

Wakefield’s Climate Emergency Declaration which was recently passed unanimously by Wakefield Council
If you are interested – just turn up at Lightwaves at 6pm on Friday 21st June. We can take it from there together.
The next meeting will be 19th July.
These two meetings have been arranged by a partnership of non-party political Wakefield Trades Council and Wakefield Friends of the Earth. It is hoped that the Forum will draw involvement from individuals and groups from across the Wakefield District: Voluntary organisations, community associations, societies, trade unions, businesses and employers, designers, engineers, faith groups etc etc.
Lightwaves at 6pm on Friday June 21st or Friday 19th July.
Any questions, thoughts, please get in touch in the first instance via Wakefield Trades Council

Michael Wilkinson

Members will be saddened to hear of the sudden and unexpected passing of Michael Wilkinson while out walking with his wife Janet. Michael has been a regular member at the Wakefield Naturalists’ Society meetings for many years as well as a regular member at the RSPB local group and our thoughts are with Janet and his family at this time. Anyone wishing to attend Michael’s funeral is welcome to do so and the service will take place at Pontefract Crematorium at 1pm on Tuesday June 4th followed by refreshments at the nearby Kings Croft Hotel.

Wildflowers of St Aiden’s RSPB reserve

Instead of ‘birding’ our group were looking at the huge variety of wildflowers now establishing in this relatively new RSPB nature park. Just looking around the edge of car park area we saw bristly ox-tongue, cut leaved cranesbill, spotted medick, water figwort, wood forget-me-not and in the fenced area clumps of weld and celery leaved buttercup. Coming down the hill the grassland glowed golden with meadow and creeping buttercups interspersed with the bright white of ox-eye daisy, to the right of the path yellow rattle grew amongst the crosswort, hairy tare, red campion, a clump of hemlock water dropwort and our last pause was to admire a single stem of salsify, a garden escape but still a pleasure to see.

St Aidens RSPB reserve

A view of RSPB St Aiden’s