Growing the mighty oak

The mighty oak is a symbol of strength, morale, resistance, and knowledge, supporting a complex ecosystem with many species.

This is the oak I started growing over 10 years ago. I just put one in a pot and it germinated. That was in 2010 and it should be over 15 foot now.

However it’s only three foot – I cultivated a kind of ‘bonsai’, but it produced acorns in 2018 and 2020.

Then I found out you can grow them in a bottle! 

Put the acorns in a bowl of water and discard those that float. Place an acorn on top of a bottle filled with water, and away you go. The one in the photo was placed on the bottle on 28th Oct 2020 and is 10cm tall. They build up a strong root system first then the top growth follows.

Here’s my new forest of oaks, grown from the acorns from 2018.

I have planted out the 32 acorns I got from 2020, so I will have a humongous forest to look after soon.

And some of these oaks have galls already.

Recording wildlife sightings- some questions

Some questions for everyone: Do sightings need to be out of the ordinary to be worth recording? What makes sightings worth recording?

And how do you record what you see? Do you make a list on paper or on a computer? Do you send in your records? Perhaps you use online recording and do you recommend iNaturalist, iRecord, iSpot or get online another way?

Let’s hear what you think!

The cricket and the ladybird

I’ve got a cricket and a ladybird to share with you. I was washing the car one morning and noticed this insect just sitting there on the alloy wheel!

I think it’s a male Oak Bush Cricket- Meconema thalassinum. Males have two short rounded claspers as in the picture, whereas females have a long ovipositor at the end of their body. More

I think it’s there because I have about a dozen oak trees in my garden that might have attracted it, albeit they are miniatures. It looked as if it was still forming as it was so fresh and green. Such a beautiful creature!

I thought crickets sang (stridulate) with rubbing their legs together, this is not the case. It’s grasshoppers that do this. Apparently both the male and female cricket have a ridged vein at the base of their forewings that acts as a scraper. To sing they pull this ridge vein against the upper surface of the opposite wing, causing a vibration amplified by the thin membrane of the wing. More

We have all tried at times to locate crickets when we could hear them chirping in the grass. But their hearing is so acute that they can sense the vibrations of your feet so stop singing. A great defence from predators with their hearing.

And then, whilst cutting some shrubs back in my garden, I acquired this ladybird on my blue fleece. It hitched a ride into the house, where I supposed it was trying to get somewhere warm for winter.

I think it is a Two-spot Adalia bipunctata f. quadrimaculata red-on-black four spotted form. The black versions are more common in the north as this “melanism” helps them to absorb heat from the sun. These are much smaller than the harlequin, at about 5mm, and as you can see the underside is black and has black legs. Harlequins have reddish-brown legs, and orange abdomen.
Cheers Andy, keep safe and well. 🦗 🐞

AutumnWatch galls

AutumnWatch Galls. Looking back to AutumnWatch you may remember a sequence of images of galls including this impressive example …

They are the galls of the Yellow Flat-footed Fly (Agathomyia wankowiczii) on the Artist’s Bracket fungus (Ganoderma applanatum). The only recorded example in Barnsley, it was found by Geoff Jackson in 2016 on a felled Horse Chestnut tree in Woolley Bank woods.

The galls start as small warts, growing up to 1cm in height and caused by the fly depositing its eggs in the fungus. Inside each wart is the grub of the fly. Once the grub is fully grown it bores a hole into the top of the gall and falls to the ground where it buries itself into the soil before it pupates to turn into the adult fly. The holes in this example show that the larvae have left the galls. The fly needs this fungus to survive.

Another local gall seen on AutumnWatch was the Diplolepis mayri, another first for Barnsley. [See earlier post]

Catherine tells us that her article about the galls on Barnsley Main has now been published in the British Naturalist Association magazine. Congratulations Catherine!

Bees’ Needs Champion Award

Congratulations to Barnsley Museums and Cannon Hall on their latest award: they have received a “Bees’ Needs Champion Award” for their work in creating a welcoming habitat for bees and insects.

The awards are run by Defra with a number of charities to recognise and celebrate examples of exemplary initiatives undertaken by local authorities, community groups, farmers and businesses to support pollinators. 32 winners were chosen in the parks and greenspaces category across England, and Cannon Hall was one. The council press release said they were ‘buzzing’ about it!

Major work has taken place across the parklands which included planting of a superb wildflower-seeded area below the ha-ha (just below the hall). Trevor, who alerted us to this news, saw lots of pollinators there this summer.

AutumnWatch with Gillian Burke at RSPB Old Moor

AutumnWatch from Old Moor this time -as well as other places around the UK- has made us watch the tv a bit more often than usual. The seals and badgers were getting most of the attention but it was good to hear Gillian mentioning “Barnsley” from time to time.

Maybe the general perception of this area still being covered in coal dust may gradually be replaced by visions of wetlands and reedbeds and by stories of nature reclaiming the area with bitterns, willow tits and tree sparrows being seen here as well as ducks and waders in abundance.

It was also good to see peregrine falcons and kingfishers using a Barnsley industrial site (Ardagh Glass) to breed and feed.

13th week of Lockdown

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.

In a garden pond and garden

From Andy. Hope you all are keeping safe and well. I wanted to let you know about my ‘little garden pond’ that is just coming to life. It is a small sandbox that used to belong to my grandson in which I have created the pond.

Observations over last month: I have seen a damsel fly nymph resting on the bottom. This was confirmed by Pam at the British Dragonfly Society as a Large Red Damselfly larva, although she stated that they don’t start to colour up till they emerge from larval case. It scores a 10 in Pond Health so I must be doing something right.

You can see the three caudal gills at the rear of the abdomen. Also there are midge larvae, water lice, and pond snails. And other things in there which I will keep you posted on.

On the bird nesting front the usual Blue Tits have fledged last month,a wren has built a nest but not moved in. A Robin keeps stalking me when gardening to get worms for young. Two Wood Pigeons’ nests, one at front and one at back. Blackbirds’ nests two, sadly one of females was killed by a magpie nesting at the back of our house.

One morning in May, Anne and I witnessed and filmed the Magpie kill and devour the female on our front lawn. The photo was all that was left of it. Although my grandson would say “It’s only nature”. Keep safe and well, Thanks Andy

Great Yorkshire Creature Count

The Great Yorkshire Creature Count: 24 hours in search of the wildlife on our doorsteps took place on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st June.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is on a mission to count all the plants and animals that are hiding in our gardens, yards and window boxes in just 24 hours – and they need our help! https://www.ywt.org.uk/great-yorkshire-creature-count

A number of Barnsley naturalists took up this worthwhile challenge.

River Don fishpass

Trevor has alerted us to the good news this last week for the river Don with the completion of the Masbrough Weir fish pass at Forge Island in Rotherham.

With Sheffield City Council also finishing the fish pass on Sanderson’s weir, this opens the entire migratory route from the North Sea to spawning grounds in and upstream of Sheffield.

Perhaps soon there will be a sustainable salmon population in the River Don after an absence of around 200 years. An adult salmon was found in the river Don in Sheffield last year so they are on their way.

Rearing Orange Tip butterflies

– quite a challenge!

Rearing Orange Tip butterflies. This week, I have started rearing four Orange Tip caterpillars, found on the seed pods of the Garlic Mustard plants in my garden.

The caterpillars are now indoors, in the gauze cage that I had used originally to rear my Painted Ladies a few years ago. They are still on the same plants (in a small vase) and they are munching away, day and night, at the long seed pods and are hopefully free from parasitic flies, birds etc.

Currently about 12mm long, they will develop (hopefully) to about 3.5cm.

Difficult to see and photograph because of their very small size (short and thin). They are well camouflaged, mimicking the seed pods along which they are resting.

You might notice the presence of small clear beads of liquid topping the black hairs on each caterpillar’s back. No one really knows their purpose, perhaps a guard against predators?

The caterpillars will eventually pupate at the 5th (and final) Instar into a Gondola boat-shaped Chrysalis, fastened to a stem with a silken girdle around its waist and a silk pad at its tail end.

Then it’s a long wait until next Spring when they will metamorphose into beautiful adult (Imago) butterflies.

These caterpillars are cannibalistic and the female Orange Tip usually only lays one egg per plant.

I’m hoping to photo-document their progress if I can, that is if they don’t eat each other! Lots of fun! Alwyn.

Barnsley Butterfly Atlas

A request for help with the Barnsley Butterfly Atlas … 

Following a suggestion from Alwyn, a trustee of the Barnsley Biodiversity Trust, the Barnsley Butterfly Atlas project was launched in May 2017 by Sorby Natural History Society and Barnsley Biological Record Centre, with support from the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership. The project aims to map the distribution of all the butterfly species found across the area of the borough of Barnsley in the 20 year period from 2000 to 2020. [Perhaps with the lockdown we need an extra year?]

So now we are asked to contribute our records of butterfly sightings … from our usual patch or perhaps somewhere different that has not been recorded so much before.

How far have we got: There are distribution maps from data held by BBRC at 07 January 2020 on this Sorby NHS webpage; they show where more recording is needed. http://www.sorby.org.uk/groups/sorby-invertebrate-group/barnsley-butterfly-atlas/

For further information from the start of the project:  https://discoverdearne.org.uk/barnsley-butterfly-atlas/
For information about local butterflies: http://www.barnsleybiodiversity.org.uk/butterflies.html
For tips on identifying butterflies: http://butterfly-conservation.org/50/identify-a-butterfly.html

To get the ball rolling, here are some butterfly records from Peter and Annefie’s walk on Saturday …
Date: Saturday 2 May 2020
Location: Falthwaite & Lowe Wood LWS
Comment: On Wild Garlic and other flowering plants near Stainborough Dike
Grid Reference: 4-figure /1km square: SE3103 [Six-figure reference: from SE318039 to SE314039]
Observer: Peter and Annefie Roberts
Species: Brimstone (2), Comma (1), Holly Blue (1), Orange-tip (Males & Females, numerous), Small White (numerous), Speckled wood (1).

We will send them to Barnsley Biological Record Centre (BBRC): barnsleybrc@btinternet.com.
[Note the change of email address during the lockdown]

Social media …

Barnsley Nats posts on both twitter [and more occasionally facebook]. You can see what we post, ‘retweet’ and ‘like’ on our social media page.

A twitter post tagged @Barnsley_Nats with an image to identify recently had us thinking. Kent and Doug agreed it was a type of ichneumon wasp. However these are notoriously difficult to id at species level without using a microscope …

Photo competition

Later this year, the exhibition ‘International Garden Photographer of the Year’, is due at Cannon Hall. Hopefully all open by late August when it arrives here!

The photo competition ‘Beautiful Barnsley’ is a good opportunity to celebrate the landscapes, green spaces and biodiversity of Barnsley, from the moors to the Dearne valley. The competition is now closed so we will now wait to see the results.