The days of grey skies, ice packed ponds and blankets of snow, together with storm Christoph during this January have been enough to make us all shiver and seek refuge. However, this coming weekend 29th to 31st January there is an opportunity to brighten our spirits particularly during these difficult times by taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. It is the world’s largest garden wildlife survey and it has been helping us to understand the changes occurring to the wildlife on our own doorstep especially for our more common garden birds since it started in 1979.
It only takes one hour, anyone can take part and best of all it can all be done in the comfort of our own homes or local green spaces while respecting current Covid-19 advice. Last year the UK top ten were as follows 1. house sparrow 2. starling 3. blue tit 4. woodpigeon 5. Blackbird 6. goldfinch 7. great tit 8. robin 9. long-tailed tit 10 magpie. However, at this time of year when natural food is scarce our bird tables can attract surprise visitors. Indeed, every bird counts to the survey and adds to our appreciation and enjoyment of wildlife. I am hopeful the robin photographed at home on 14 January2021 will visit again to keep its place in the top ten. More details about the Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 are available at the following link www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/
Robin searching for food. 14 January 2021
There was a good turn out of Society members at our field meeting on Sunday 10 June at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve at Thorpe Marsh. We were well rewarded with a wide variety of interesting bird, plant and insect species as we walked around flower filled meadows, woodland, becks and lagoons. A check list with images attached included a recently emerged black-tailed skimmer dragonfly, caterpillar of the yellow-tail moth feeding on sallow, yellow barred long horn moth, wasp beetle and common cudweed, a low growing annual plant growing in a clinker track (a former railway). Other sightings included adult garden chafer beetle, adult cinnabar moth, caterpillar of vapourer moth, male and female forester moths, banded agrion damselfly various hybrid orchids, buzzard, together with whitethroat, oystercatcher and cuckoo all calling in the background. Thorpe Marsh extends to 77 hectares and is packed with a variety of habitats and as we discovered it is developing into a very valuable home for a wide range of wildlife.
The next field meeting is on July 15 at Epworth Turbary Nature Reserve and further details are available by checking the Outdoor Meetings on this website.
Yellow tail moth caterpillar
Yellow barred long horn moth
Black tailed skimmer
Beautiful Brockadale -what a variety of flowers and butterflies! Although we were too early for bee orchid, common spotted orchids were just coming into flower, perhaps a couple of weeks later than usual.. The car park is always a good place for meadow cranesbill, dovesfoot cranesbill, French cranesbill and cut-leaved cranesbill before heading onto the reserve. Moving on down the path passing bladder campion, white campion and white bryony, we turned left for a short distance as we had been told about a large patch of purple milk vetch which we may well have missed. We ended up on the main bank which was a mass of yellow rock rose mingled with hairy rock cress, greater stitchwort and fairy flax.
purple milk vetch
common spotted orchid
Today, braving the cold wintery showers with occasional sunshine, a walk around the lakes and woodland at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park was rewarded with some wonderful wildlife sightings, including two stoats at first oblivious to my presence whilst chasing each other along a woodland path. Birds included kestrel, goosander and grey heron high up in their nests feeding their fast developing young. Just like me, a male tufted duck had no alternative but to sit out a passing heavy shower of sleet. In contrast, and only a start time afterwards, the sun appeared attracting orange tip and green-veined white butterflies to the woodland glades. I managed a photo of green-veined white on bluebells while other woodland flowers included wood-sorrel and yellow archangel.
tufted duck in the rain
green-veined white on bluebell
I went into Wakefield to check on the peregrines this morning. I planned to go in early to catch them feeding but I waited for the mist to clear and I got there at about 8:30. I found two peregrines on the steeple, with one of them feeding on a pigeon. After a few minutes, the other bird took to the air and then swooped in to snatch the pigeon from the other bird. There was some screeching as it did this. Unusually, this bird then went onto the small pinnacle to the left of the nesting platform to feed. It looked as though there was little more than a few bones left of the pigeon.
The two birds sat for a while and the one that had been feeding first looked to have a bulging crop but I guess that they were still hungry because they both flew away and had not returned by 11:30. They headed north and west. I wonder weather the fog of the past two days has prevented them getting as much food as usual.
As an aside, Pauline found the remains of this woodcock at the base of the cathedral so the birds are still feeding well on a variety of birds that we probably weren’t expecting! Are they taking the woodcock as they migrate at night or are the peregrines hunting a woodland at night I wonder?
woodcock remains – Pauline Brook
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.
Lime hawk moth on metal gatepost, Stanley Ferry Flash
northern marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza purpurella)
A scorcher of a day and a good turnout for the first of the summer field meetings at Hetchell Woods today. This is a YWT reserve near Thorner and first for the society as a field trip, though some of our members have been here before.
We had a good selection of things to look at, mostly plants, but with some other good records including marsh harrier, red kite and hornet. The plant list was good and I am sure we will have a list from the botanists soon but my favourite species of the day was this Mother Shipton moth. This is a common species but not one that I have photographed before and this one posed well. I’ve posted a few flower pictures too.
mother shipton moth
Update: Here is a list of the flowers we recorded on the trip sent in by Sue Gaynor
thyme leaved speedwell
Wakefield Naturalists field meeting
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.
Francis has been putting in the hours over the last three days looking for signs of the peregrine using the newly erected nestbox. However, over the last three days there have been no sightings of our bird on the cathedral! Maybe he’s away looking for a mate to bring back to the fabulous ‘des res’ that we put up for him.
On the plus side, the observations have resulted in Francis clocking up red kite, buzzard and sparrowhawk over the cathedral.
I guess most of us are agreed that so far this January it has either been too wet or too windy to really enjoy getting out to enjoy our local wildlife. However, a brief sunny spell on Monday 20 January 2014 tempted me out to have a look around Nostell Prior gardens and parkland, not to mention the cafe. The walk in front of the house and around the lake is on good paths, unlike others elsewhere in the district, which are under water or deep mud due to the bad weather. The effort was worthwhile with good numbers of teal and other water birds on the lake including two goosanders, although there was thirty one of this species here earlier in January along with a buzzard and a sparrowhawk. Perhaps, the highlight of the day was some snowdrops suggesting that, whilst we have had some fairly wild, weather it is been relatively mild. Winter aconites were also out in flower close by.