This autumn we had arranged an eight-day holiday to the Shetland Isles hoping to see rare birds. For this to happen you need gale force winds and inclement weather, and we got both of these!
First gales from the west brought our first Yankee bird: Tennessee Warbler.
This was followed by two days of North Easterly gales, which brought two little gems from the East, Pallas Grasshopper Warbler and Lanceolated Warbler. These three birds were all new to me, and these were backed up with a full cast of semi rarities: Little Bunting, Lapland Bunting, Arctic Warbler and Olive Backed Pipit. As well as gales we had the wettest day on record! Here are images of all the birds:
Pallas Grasshopper Warbler
Olive Backed Pipit
The final indignation came from the weather with our return ferry from Lerwick to Aberdeen being delayed. It sails every night at 7 o’clock arriving in Aberdeen at 7 o’clock the next morning. We departed at 10-30pm arriving in Aberdeen 1-00pm in the afternoon. We were certainly rocked to sleep that night.
This delay cost us a new bird on our way home: Siberian Thrush in Fife. Ah well you can’t win them all. Keep safe while we meet up again. Ron and Joyce
Here are my observations from Barnsley Main Heritage Site. Perhaps we could have a visit there with Barnsley Nats when it is safe. There is plenty to observe and we need help identifying some of them, so that we can record what’s on site. Andy.
I thought you all might be interested in some ‘tails’ from my garden recently.
A first tail – forget White-tailed Sea Eagle or even Rose-coloured Starling – here is a picture of a Starling with a ‘Leucistic’ white tail. It didn’t affect its performance in any way but it looked quite individualistic and a bit dapper, amongst its mates and juveniles.
A second tail: A big fluffy moggy came into my garden (all teeth and claws). It clobbered one of my adult Robins, which managed to escape the cat’s sneaky attack, albeit with the loss of its tail. Once again, this didn’t seem to affect its performance and it now continues to live a normal life, recovering from its near-death fright.
Third tails: A trio of juvenile Long-tailed Tits have spent the best part of a week in my garden (still present today). No adults in sight but they make a merry band, in their immature plumage of mainly brown and white and no pink, except their eyelids, as yet. With their ruffled plumage and reddened eyes, they look a bit like they are recovering from a heavy night at the pub.
Plucky little fellas, they were initially intimidated by the aggressive, noisy and squabbling Starlings on the fat ball feeder, not to mention the numerous House Sparrows flying about constantly feeding their young… They soon learnt to play to their strengths, as only they could (and perhaps Blue Tits can do) and found that they could feed quite happily by hanging upside down, on their backs, pecking calmly at the lowest fat ball, at the base of the feeder, unfazed by three or four noisy Starlings flapping wildly only inches above.
A great joy to see! Co-existence but not exactly peaceful. Best Wishes, Alwyn
These images are from some of the highlights over the last two or three weeks.
My recent visits to local grassland sites have been rewarded with very pleasing numbers of grassland butterflies. In particular, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Small Skipper, Small Heath and the whites have been quite abundant. I almost felt like I’d been transported to the Victorian age!
Former Wentworth Railway Station Site [This is now a Barnsley council brownfield site, to the west of Skiers Spring Wood.] A total of 86 Meadow Brown. Good numbers of Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Large, Small and Green-veined Whites, and Small Skipper, along with several Six-spot Burnet Moth, Small Tortoiseshell, and numerous Meadow Grasshoppers. A total of 189 butterflies.
Koyo Bearings Meadow and track on Dodworth Muckstack A total of 63 Meadow Brown. Pleasing numbers of Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Small Heath, Small Skipper, Small and Green-veined White, Six-spot Burnet Moth, along with Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Shaded Broad Bar Moth and a few Meadow Grasshoppers. A total of 216 butterflies.
Hugset Wood /Silkstone Golf Course boundary path 11 Comma, four White-letter Hairstreak and several Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Peacock, Small Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell, Small & Green-veined White, Ringlet and possible Essex Skipper. A total of 49 butterflies
Some Barnsley Nats members gathered on Wednesday evening at the Strafford mine water treatment scheme near Stainborough for a socially-distanced field visit. Mainly looking at and admiring the matrix of flowering plants in this former industrial site. Images to follow.
A Broad Leaved Helleborine SE 321039 found by Kent and Doug that Wednesday in a wooded area near Boylins.
I have never seen a Six-belted Clearwing, Bembecia ichneumoniformis, before, let alone in the Barnsley area. Apparently they are considered nationally scarce and usually found in Southern England on chalk hills and downs, at the occasional quarries and southern rough grassland/ground. Very rarely seen, they are under-recorded generally. They inhabit similar locations to Common Blues, Small Blues and Dingy Skippers.
Their larvae are ‘miners’ and burrow into and eat the roots of Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Kidney Vetch and sometimes Horseshoe Vetch.
This one came out into the open, and kept flying fast and low but briefly settled for just a second or two.Fortunately, I managed to capture this record shot before it flew out of sight.
I had gone to check for a second brood of Small Blues in the Darton – Woolley area and found only three on this site and sadly, none on other sites. Even so, this is evidence of a partial second brood.
I also recorded 18 Small Skippers and 3 Essex Skippers, along with 7 Marbled Whites, several Large, Small and Green-veined Whites, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Ringlets, a Small Tortoiseshell, an old Common Blue and a Shaded Broad Bar moth, Scotopteryx chenopodiata. The weather was warmish, dry, with gathering clouds and sunny intervals, no wind. Alwyn.
Yesterday I spotted two White-letter Hairsteak butterflies between Silkstone and Barnsley when on our dog walk from home yesterday. There were nine different species of butterfly on one tiny clump of thistles. The photo with the Ringlet shows their different sizes. Julia
The caterpillar became a moth. From Kent. You will remember that when Doug and I visited Gypsy Marsh a few weeks ago we found a couple of moth caterpillars which I took home to rear. The one feeding on bramble pupated and this female Vapourer has now emerged. The female Vapourer is an example of an almost wingless moth, whereas the males are fully winged.
And in answer to Rick’s request last time whether someone could identify the caterpillar (moth?) on his next door neighbour’s garage: David S says that it’s the caterpillar of the Vapourer Moth (Orgyia antiqua). So two sightings!
From Doug. Hello All. A few weeks ago (27 May) Paul B was querying an Ichneumon Wasp found in his moth trap. I have since found a site on the internet which may be of some help in the future – it’s the Natural History Museum’s “Beginners Guide to Identifying British Ichneumonids” https://www.nhm.ac.uk/content/dam/nhmwww/take-part/identify-nature/british-ichneumonid-wasps-id-guide.pdf. Although it only covers 22 commonly encountered species (less than one hundredth of Britain’s Ichneumon Wasp species) it’s nonetheless a useful introduction to a fascinating group for which records are needed.
The glowworm transect continues with 19 glowworms glowing on the last two visits. Stay safe and well, Doug and Jill.
From Colin and Linda. After all the recent bad weather we were getting worried about ‘our’ Barn Owls. So this evening, July 6th, our 71st, we were not very hopeful, but as we sat silently we were treated to a fly past right over our heads! For more on Colin and Linda’s barn owls go to: http://www.barnsleynats.org.uk/barn-owls/
An opportunity – Conker trees are under attack – by a small leaf-mining moth. Infected trees are weakened and produce smaller conkers. You can help by taking part in the new Citizen Science project at http://conkertreescience.org.uk. Good to join in – we saw some the other day.
And a message: We are hoping that we can be back in the Town Hall for our Autumn programme of talks and presentations, starting on Wednesday October 7th. More news when we know.
In the meantime, enjoy getting out and about and continue sending us information about sightings and wildlife Always good to hear from you. Keep well and safe. Barnsley Nats
From Catherine. One of the short walks I have managed was down to the river. The huge stands of nettles were covered with an eruption of ladybird larvae! Literally dozens of them, so although only a short walk it was so rewarding. Mark and I spent a happy time identifying the species.
These were mainly 7-spot. These have four yellow/orange spots on their abdomen and the same coloured spots on their thorax/head. The smaller grey one is the third instar and the larger black one the fourth instar.
We also saw a 14 spot, with the large pale stripe down its thorax and abdomen, and finally the wonderfully spiky 24 spot, though not the best photos!
I also managed to attend the online FSC course on ladybird larvae identification. It was an excellent free course, just over an hour and can be viewed on YouTube: https://youtu.be/bcUrBmZ-DS4
Mark is now delighted that he has rat-tailed maggots in his hoverfly lagoons! Many hoverfly larvae live on plants eating aphids etc, but the rat-tails are the larvae of some species that are semi-aquatic, breathing through long air tubes. Hoverflies are important pollinators of plants but some species need stagnant water to breed, lay eggs, and for the larvae to develop. You can make your own hoverfly haven by using a small container of water and adding fallen leaves or organic matter. [Warning: it smells!]
Watch Professor Dave Goulson, the leading national expert in pollinator ecology, show you how to attract hoverflies into your garden with your own hoverfly lagoon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ujFpW8U1t4 > o/�Lt
From Annefie. Last Sunday we walked from Darton to Haigh along the Dearne, then on to Woolley Edge and back through the fields, an area we had not explored before. The river meanders and runs quite clear with the banks covered in a variety of vegetation.
Although it was a rather windy day, we saw a good number of butterflies, especially lots of Tortoiseshells and Ringlets, but also Small Whites, Red Admiral, Comma, Small Skippers and a Gatekeeper.
On our way back we searched for the Small Blues and found some patches of seeding kidney vetch with a few grasshoppers, but alas, no Small Blues. We may have to wait for the next brood! We also encountered a number of Burnet moths (Narrow-bordered Five-spots).
From Michele and Phillip. A group of Dryads Saddle fungi, Polyporus squamous, located on a dead tree stump on a footpath close near where I live. Five in total, this is the largest. Phil’s hand is in the picture to give you some idea of the size. We were only out walking the dog when Phil spotted them.
From Doug. Hello Everyone. Last Saturday Kent, Jill and I went to Gypsy Marsh to admire the Orchids (over a 100 spikes!). Well worth a visit. While there we also saw Painted Lady, Ringlet, Common Blue and a longhorn beetle Strangala maculata.
In the evening I met Annefie and Peter to count glowworms at Thurgoland, fifteen in total; all done with social distancing! While writing this I have just spotted a Siskin on the feeders in the backyard. Stay well and safe. Cheers, Doug and Jill
From Howard. A neighbour once said ‘your garden is like Jurassic park’. I took it as a compliment. Here is my jungle. No dinosaurs seen yet but plenty of other life.
From Rick – a question. I was taking a break from the heavy schedule and noticed this. Maybe someone can identify this caterpillar (moth?) on my next door neighbour’s garage. 12mm long, with red dots and whitish tufts. June 23rd 4pm bright sunshine.
From Stuart. As I write this it is the longest day; when I wrote the first of these reports spring was just getting going – now it is summer. It has all been very odd.
Lynn and I went to Worsbrough Country Park last week (between the rain showers), it was like Blackpool promenade! But, the wildlife was getting on as normal and it made a nice change to see some ducks and other waterfowl. I also did a bit of fish spotting. The carp, that are now common in the reservoir, were competing very well with the ducks for bread being thrown into the water by some children out with their mum.
Back at the mill I was looking into the mill pond and could see a shoal of small roach just under the surface, they were feeding on tiny midges trapped in the surface film, as they sipped these off the surface they never made a ripple. Some of the midges that did escape were getting caught by beautiful blue damselflies or a grey wagtail that was hunting the margins.
Just goes to show how important these tiny midges are. I am sure at some point a kingfisher would be taking the small roach and maybe a sparrowhawk would have a pop at the wagtail.
An ecosystem ticking away like a well-oiled machine, like the Mill behind me that was milling flour. A mill with over 400 years of history and yet on the first day the mill turned a wheel, all those years ago, tiny midges would have been emerging from the mill pond and no doubt small roach would have been taking them. I will leave you with that thought. Best wishes Lynn and Stuart, Penistone.