Today, Stanley Ferry Flash produced my first sightings this summer for purple hairstreak and gatekeeper butterflies. The purple hairstreak was sheltering (out of the sun?) high up in a willow bush and surprisingly some distance from the site’s main areas of oak trees where egg laying would normally occur. Other butterfly sightings included large skipper, several small tortoiseshell, numerous ringlet and meadow brown. Dragonflies and damselflies included brown hawker, four-spotted chaser, numerous black-tailed skimmer and common darter, together with emerald damselfly around the new large balancing pond just south of the main Stanley Ferry Flash.
The colour yellow was certainly in fashion today during my walk around the woodland and waterside edges at Stanley Ferry Flash. Most eye-catching was a number of wandering brimstone butterflies often flying too fast to follow and to get a close view. However, during a brief cloudy spell one did settle long enough to manage a photo (below). Happily, this attractive butterfly is becoming more frequent in the district and sometimes visits my own garden on the outskirts of Wakefield where I have planted buckthorn. Buckthorn is one of the two food plants of the caterpillars of the brimstone butterfly. Next on the wildlife fashion boardwalk during my visit was the marsh marigold; this plant is frequent in open damp woodland and often grows into large clumps. Botanically the blooms are without petals, but have 5-8 showy and glossy sepals, which are the outer ring of the flower.
An osprey was recorded flying low over Stanley Ferry Flash today, it was heading north, mobbed by carrion crows, Red kites have also been recorded on several days lately at Wintersett and Anglers CP.
Local walks over the Easter break have revealed some of the usual suspects. No real surprises, but it is just nice to see familiar species and some at more or less the time we might expect to see them. However, the cowslips at the Balk area near to Stanley Flash are perhaps slightly early with some flowers beginning to go over. At the flash itself there are abundant goat willows in flower providing a useful nectar source for insects such as over wintering Peacock butterflies and bees although none where seen on my walks this time.
At Bretton Park, wood anemone are providing a welcome sight in the woodland around the upper lake. This plant can be an indicator of ancient woodland, which is an area that has been treed in some way for around four hundred years and therefore they are an irreplaceable and valuable habitat. Occasionally wood anemone may also be found in some of the district’s meadows or hedge banks and here it is possible they may be ‘ghosts plants’ from a long lost woodland. Also, the upper and lower lakes at Bretton Park have once again attracted frogs to spawn.
Stanley Ferry Flash produced some good records, including lime hawk moth on a metal gatepost early in the evening of 16th May while on 23rd grasshopper warbler and cuckoo were present with a peregrine flying over (cathedral bird?) and four noctule bats were seen over the flash at dusk. Northern marsh orchid is in full flower there now.
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.