Rose and blue

From Ron. I think every birder in the Barnsley area will have made the pilgrimage to Cudworth to see Barnsley’s first ever Rose Coloured Starling. Well worth the trip.

We also managed to get up to the Small Blue site, before the sunny weather broke. I think we saw more Small Blues than ever this year, the colony seems to be thriving. Regards Ron and Joyce.

Camping out in our garden

From David S. My long-suffering other half Esther has really missed going camping this year, so last weekend with the weather being so fine (seems like a distant memory now), we decided to spend it camping in the garden.

With the tent set up, fire-pit in place, camping chairs ready, a good book and a beer to hand we spent the next two days in the glorious British countryside (imagination required at this point). Thankfully our garden has high fences around it and I keep the borders full of lovely flowers to attract my beloved bees, so it does feel away from the world and you soon forget you are surrounded by other houses.

Esther was comfy with her nose buried in a book and I was scampering around the garden with an ID book, hand lens and capture pot on a bug hunt.

There was a good number of common bumblebee species on the flowers and a selection of solitary bees which I had no hope of identifying apart from two, an Ashy Mining Bee and a Red Mason Bee. The only other thing of note was a cluster of Black Bean Aphids being farmed by some Common Black Ants for the sticky honeydew that they produce. I got a blade of grass and tried to move an aphid to see how the ants would react and I was not disappointed, in a flash a gang of ants were savaging the grass blade.

Later in the afternoon we saw something very unusual, there was a Kestrel doing its trademark hovering right above us at about 60/70 feet, checking out the garden. Not seeing anything it fancied it moved on, and I watched as it systematically worked down the street doing the same thing over each garden before peeling off. In all the years we have lived here we have never seen this before and it made me wonder what had forced it to look for new hunting opportunities.

Finally, I had wrestled into my sleeping bag, got comfy and was just dropping off when we were both brought sharply back to awake by the shrill yelping alarm call of a Little Owl, which sounded really loud in the dead of night. This too was a first for us, we have never heard an owl of any species before in the garden – strange times indeed. Happy camping everyone. Regards, David.

Bistort, pignut …

From Adam. Last week I was out walking around Silkstone Common/ Hood Green.

The highlights were spotting a clump of Common Bistort (Bistorta officinalis on the road verge of House Carr Lane, (although I have read that sometimes the more vigorous cultivated version Suberba can escape nearby gardens) and coming across Pignut (Conopodium majus) for the first time this year in the fields below Hood Green

On the topic of insects I have attached a couple of pictures of something that caught my eye in my garden today. After a scan of my insect book it looks to me like Arge pagana – it has an obvious orange abdomen and black stripes on leading edges of wings. I wondered whether anybody in the group had any thoughts?

In search of caddis and stoneflies

From Stuart and Lynn. The warm weather of spring appears to have left us for a while here in Penistone and we are back to the normal British mix of wind and rain. But, of course we would probably all agree that we did need some of the wet stuff if only to give the gardens a drink.

With the last of the warm weather I had a walk to look around Wigan Spring near Hartcliffe (on open access land). [It’s in Brockholes Local Wildlife Site]

I was on the hunt for adult stoneflies and caddis however the long dry spell has all but dried the area out. Eventually I did find some water and it was long before I netted some stoneflies and the odd caddis. The adult stoneflies were Leuctra nigra and the adult caddis were Wormaldia occipitalis (archive photo attached). Both would be expected from that habitat but it is always nice to find them.

Damsels and dragons at Highstone Farm

– breaking out of lockdown

’Twas the Glorious First of June. I decided to take up David Allen’s kind invitation and had a most enjoyable afternoon in the fresh air, pottering and looking around to see the beautiful wildlife at Highstone Farm. Sunny, warm, 25 degC, no breeze -ideal!

Notable sightings included Azure, Blue-tailed and Large Red Damselflies, 4-Spotted Chasers and Broad-bodied Chasers galore!


The Broad-bodied Chasers kept landing close to me, one almost perched on my foot as I sat by the pond – a thrilling and memorable encounter. I wasn’t able to photograph the Emperor Dragonfly (recently emerged that afternoon) and 4-spotted Chasers that were about around the large pond.

However I photographed a mating pair of Hoverfly, Helophilus pendulus (one of the ‘footballers’) – not witnessed this before.

Small Tortoiseshells, Speckled Woods and Small Whites were about. Lots of Bees everywhere.

The Early Purple Orchids skirted by daisies were also a joy to see. In fact there were lots of flowers in bloom everywhere, both horticultural and wild.

Surprisingly no photographs of birds but many seen and heard: Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Nuthatch, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Goldfinch, Grey Heron,Magpie, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Swallow, Canada Geese with 3 young and more were all present.

There was however a lovely specimen of Dryad’s Saddle Bracket Fungus Cerioporus squamosus- sometimes known as Pheasant’s Back mushroom.

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.

An unusual mayfly visitor

The unusual record was a mayfly called Ecdyonurus torrentis, this individual was trying to lay eggs on our wet patio (see photo BUT this is not the actual insect I saw, this one is a male of the species).

Male Brook Dun Spinner – Ecdyonurus torrentis

How it got to our garden I can only guess, the river is only about half a mile away as the mayfly flies but it is certainly not in line of sight and mayflies are not the strongest of flyers. Having said that who am I to try and second guess one the most successful types of flying insect that this planet has ever seen, having been around for over 300 million years. Bye for now, Lynn and Stuart

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 …