Barn owl in December 2020

As you know due to the current lockdown restrictions and travel allowed only in our local area, we’ve all had to spend a lot more time in the Barnsley area. Not least Ron Marshall. ‘Any sunny, fine evening [of which there’s not been many] I have spent with this glorious Barn Owl.

Hope to see you in the New Year! Stay safe and well. Ron and Joyce. 

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. 🦗 🐞

2020 Glowworm site report

The glowworm season started earlier this year at our site near Thurgoland with the first glowworm being recorded glowing on the 30 May, after a few weeks of hot dry weather. On the following three visits, the weather was wet with low glowworm counts.

The counts and the weather started to improve towards the end of June with a count of 11 on midsummer day (they usually peak around the 21st ). I was now expecting numbers to drop, but they kept increasing with 19 on the 1st July dropping to 7 on the 8th July; it was heavy rain which they do not seem to like!

Ten days later 48 were counted in the better weather. The numbers kept up throughout July/August with a peak of 55 on the 13th September (with a possible high percentage of juveniles).

Numbers slowly fell for the next two visits to the end of September – at this stage I thought I would be counting until Christmas – but then at the start of October numbers reduced dramatically and the 2020 glowworm season finished on the 21st October.

The length of the season has been 144 days compared to 132 days in 2019. Why this is, is unclear at the moment. Records compiled by Doug Brown.

[Congratulations Doug on your persistence and stamina! Thanks to Pete Riley for the images]

An ID request from a beekeeper

Is anyone able to identify the larvae in these photos? We wonder if they are greater wax moths but they seem to have a black head and our understanding is that greater wax moths have a brown head.

This example was found attached to the outside of a polystyrene hive between the roof and the hive strap (holding the lid down).

There was a slight grove under the silk case which appeared to be where the larvae had chewed the polystyrene!

Thanks, Barnsley Beekeepers Association.

Brown Shrike


The Brown Shrike is a very rare visitor to our shores from Eastern Europe and most of the few records are on the east coast of Great Britain. So when one turned up in West Yorkshire (so near to Barnsley) this was a major bird watching event. This was a first ever record for West Yorkshire.

The bird was discovered on Sunday 18th October and stayed until Thursday 22nd October. In that time most Barnsley birdwatchers made the short journey to South Kirby to see the bird, many wishing that the bird could fly another couple of miles into the Barnsley recording area.
Keep safe and hope to see you all soon. Ron and Joyce

A visit to the dentist …

I had a wonderful visit to dentist last week as you do and I was amazed at what I saw. I was waiting to go inside and I noticed on the black handrail at the front there were some ladybirds and larvae, sunning themselves in warm sunshine.

The first one was a Harlequin -Harmonia axyiridis f.succinea with larva. This lady bird has a distinctive white spot on its head. The larva on right looks as though it has been feasting on aphids.

As I was coming out of the dentist, I noticed another Harlequin a bit further along the handrail.

This was a Harmonia axyridis f.spectabilis with larva as well.

I think the larva on the right is moving into the pupa stage.

For my hat trick of ladybirds, I have a 22 spot Psyllobora vigintduopunctata discovered in under growth at Barnsley Main Heritage site in the Timber Yard whilst digging out.

This is one of only three yellow ladybirds in the UK.

The other two are both 14 spot black on yellow and yellow on black.

I shall endeavour to find the other two!

Oh the joys of nature keeping us sane!
Cheers from Andy, keep safe and well. 👍🐞🌿🍄

Wildlife in Cleethorpes

We spent a very happy few days at the beginning of October in Cleethorpes. This is not a place most of us think about in terms of wildlife but it is surprisingly good. After all it is on the Humber Estuary opposite Spurn, and much of the southern end of the town’s coastline is designated as either a local or national nature reserve.

We particularly enjoyed watching the huge flocks of waders coming in on the early morning tides. We found the best view to be from the beach just south of the leisure centre, by the edge of the saltmarsh. We watched the birds gather and then come in off the sand bars as the tide receded. Mainly knot and oystercatcher but also dunlin, sanderling, bar tailed godwit, curlew, redshank and ringed plover.

One quite surprising view was of a small group of knot that seemed to have adapted completely to a busy shoreline. They happily continued feeding nearby until we were within just a few feet of them – when they would move away a short distance and continue feeding! If a runaway dog was chasing birds they would stand stock still until it went away and for the most part weren’t noticed. It felt a bit more like watching robins in the garden than knot.

We also saw a late colletes bee.

I find these bees very hard to identify, especially in the field, but it is possible it is the sea aster bee, Colletes halophilus.

This is highly specialised, feeding mainly on sea aster – but making do with hogweed in this photo as the sea aster had all gone to seed.

Finally, we thoroughly enjoyed identifying the saltmarsh and coastal specialist plants.

Here is sea sandwort,
Honckenya peploides.

And we generally had a grand time on the beach especially hanging out in the ‘pirates hut’! Catherine and Mark.

Fungi at Wortley, October 2020

Kent and Doug have recently enjoyed a visit to Wortley Hall parkland looking for fungi. Here are a few fungi they found: Clavulinopsis leuteo-alba, Clitocybe nebularis, Laccaria lacata, Stereum hirsutum with Hypnum cupressiforme, and Tricholoma terreum.

Have a look at their images and tell us their English names!

Doug and Jill’s Norfolk insects

Doug and Jill visited the Norfolk coast and spent some of the time identifying some insects:


Kent thought that the Brown Tailed Moth caterpillar could be a Yellow Tail so could perhaps anyone can confirm this?
Doug and Jill

Diplolepis mayri – a new gall in Barnsley

Annefie spotted an unusual gall when Peter, Annefie and Catherine were enjoying a walk on Barnsley Main Colliery Pit Stack in August.

It was on a dog rose bush and, at first glance, looked like Robin’s Pincushion (Diplolepis rosae). On closer inspection it is a related gall, being caused by a different member of the same family of gall wasps, Diplolepis mayri.

The gall first appears as a small red pimple, growing into green and/or red tiny spheres, 2-3mm in diameter, and covered with short sharp spines.

The short spines of the Diplolepis mayri contrast with the longer, branched hairs of the Diplolepis rosea – Robin’s Pincushion, distinguishing the two galls. In addition, the small galls of Diplolepis mayri cluster together to form a larger mass, the biggest so far found here being 60mm in diameter.

It is usually a species of southern England, and even quite rare there, so it is well out of its usual range. British Plant Gall Society members have provisionally confirmed the sighting – they have taken a sample for hatching which they expect will lead to absolute confirmation.

Catherine and Mark returned to the site and found the gall on several dog rose plants. There appear to be two main areas of galled plants, all confined within an area about 200m long and to a few yards either side of the public footpath.

There are several dried up, brown remains of some galls clearly showing the insect exit holes. These are mainly on the western edge; so the colony must have overwintered and now appears to be spreading slightly east this season.

Cutting a section across an old gall shows the vacated larval chambers, very similar to that formed by the gall wasp in Robin’s Pincushion, and demonstrating their close affinity.
Notes from Catherine.

Scilly Isles’ Stick Insects

On Colin and Linda’s visit to the Scilly Isles they too saw many birds but also spotted … stick insects!

Amazingly Linda says that there are four stick insect species on the Isles of Scilly and this species was from New Zealand originally, 150 years ago. They were accidentally brought in with plants for Tresco Abbey Gardens and have survived in the milder climate on the Scillies.

Ron’s Shetlands birding visit

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.

Tennessee Warbler
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:


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

Galls at Worsbrough

On September 1st , Pat and I found a gall at Worsbrough near Barnsley, which an I-spot user has since identified as the mite Aceria fraxinivora. We have never observed this gall previously, anywhere.

On the same occasion, we spotted a leaf on a Rosa shrub which was infected with either orange galls or a rust fungus. I would be interested for any comments on the cause of this. Arthur