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.

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.

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

‘Tails’ from my garden

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

Recent sightings in July 2020

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

Plus I had my first ever Six-belted Clearwing Moth and more -worth a separate post!

Six-belted Clearwing sighting

Six-belted Clearwing

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.

Larvae -on leaves and in the hoverfly lagoon

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

Along another stretch of the Dearne

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.

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).

Narrow bordered five-spot burnet moth

Midges and an entire ecosystem

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.

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

Goldfinches harvesting seeds

From David Sw. While sitting in the front room reading, I spotted something which piqued my interest; a couple of Goldfinches landed on the fence then dropped down onto the lawn, and I wondered what they were up to. I edged across the room so as to observe without disturbing them and I found they were hopping around inspecting the wildflowers (some would say weeds) growing in my lawn.

I have quite a relaxed attitude to gardening and my lawn is awash with all manner of wildflowers (no green stripes here), but the Goldfinches were interested in the Cat’s-ear (Hypochaeris radicata) which grows in abundance amongst the grass. Each bird picked a plant then started to inspect it, ignoring the open flowers and unopened buds, instead seeking out the old closed flower heads. Once selected, the bird hopped onto the base of the flower stalk then worked its way along it, using its own body weight to bend the stalk down to the ground, securing the flower head.

With everything set it pecked furiously at the old flower head, showering the cotton wool like seed fluff everywhere and leaving the nice, new, succulent seeds behind, which it then ate at its leisure. Flower head spent, it moved on to inspect the next plant, repeating the process.

This was a lovely piece of behaviour to witness, and something I have never seen before and it just goes to show how important weeds can be – happy relaxed gardening everyone. David