Friday, 30 April 2010

Beckett Park Beech leaves

On my route into work I pass by a number of mature Beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) and for the past few weeks I've marvelled at the newly emerging leaves. From the slender, pointed, zig-zagged brown buds the leaves burst forth, folded like fans, alternately arranged on the stem, emerald green, strongly veined their slightly crenate margins edged with silky hairs.

The flowers are small single-sex (monoecious), the female flowers rise upright in pairs near the growing end of the stem with the long stalked drooping clusters of male catkins.

Here you can just make out the female flower above and to the rear of the leaves while the five male catkins hang below.

Not very exciting this one, carpets of husky Beech bud scales scattered on the ground beneath the canopy.

The emerald green, strongly veined leaves catch the light beautifully.

Pictured here are two of the Beech trees, the first pictured this week and the following example back in January.

Take a look at Jessica's Nature Blog where she has captured some great pics of a Copper Beech.

Some of my previous posts on Beech leaves Beckett Park Beech leaves and Beech Leaves.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Adel Dam and Breary Marsh

Visits earlier in the week to Adel Dam and Breary Marsh brought views of Great Spotted Woodecker. On the Breary Marsh side we spotted a couple of males and from the 1st hide at Adel Dam this female, lacking the red on the back of the head.

This was one of two males spotted high in the treetops.

At a distance, a fox in nearby fields, spotted us and continued to the stone wall and leaped over and out of sight.

There were plenty of woodland birds, this Chaffinch, Robin, Wren, Coal Tit, Blackbird, Long Tail Tit, Blue Tit, Wood Pigeon.

From the 1st hide at Adel Dam this Nuthatch enjoys a rather fatty looking snack.

Wildflowers in bloom included Lesser Celandine, Wood Sorrell and Bluebells. These ones grew against a moss topped fallen trunk, the horizontal fissures resembling the lines of a musical stave and the flowers the musical notes.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Askham Bog

This weekend we enjoyed an afternoon jaunt to Askham Bog near York, the weather was warm and cloudy with bursts of intermittent sunshine. During our first visit in September last year we were lucky enough to observe a Water Vole, today's highlight were two Brimstones (Gonepteryx rhamni), a first for me and I was chuffed to come away with a pic of one. My guess is that this one is a female which have more of a greenish yellow tinge than the males which are bright yellow.

To quote Richard South FES in his book The Butterflies of the British Isles “Probably this insect to which the name “butter-coloured fly” contracted into butterfly, was first given.” The Brimstone lays eggs on the developing leaves of buckthorn and alder, leaves the chrysalis at the end of July, hibernates in evergreen shrubs and trees, appears in February to May.

Throughout the walk we encountered six Peacocks (Nymphalis io) on the wing, the first looked very tatty, although the subsequent Peacocks looked a lot fresher. They all displayed a tendency to follow the wooden walkway, landing on the decked surface nearby to bask in the sunshine, very obliging thank you.

A little less obliging but more profuse 8 or so male Orange Tipped butterflies, ever on the go and deftly evading me at every pass.
This flowering grass was a common sight, and very striking, Citybirding helped me to identify it as Mountain Sedge (Carex montana).

The familiar hammering of a Great Spotted Woodpecker drew our attention to the treetops, and although too obscured for a decent pic we could at least identify it as a male by the distinctive red patch on the back of the head.

As I've said before I really struggle to identify warblers and only managed a dodgy pic of this one in flight.......blink and you'll miss it.

A carpet of Lesser Celandine attracted a host of insects and gave the dappled shade of the banks a springtime zing with its bright buttery yellow flowers.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Kirkstall and Adel findings

First port of call today was Weetwood Police Station, not as a result of any wrong-doing but to check out the carpets of Anmone nemorosa in the car park, the masses of beautiful pink tinged petals reach skywards on delicate stems, casting star shaped shadows on the foliage below. The shape and colour reminds me of a Clematis montana flower.

Then over to Adel Churchyard, full of daffodils in bloom, thinking it might be a good spot to spy butterflies the only sightings were two white species on the wing, and they never ever seem to rest. A couple of Song Thrush were feeding, this one had its mouthful while the other continued to pull worms from the grassed paths. Elsewhere we spotted a Nuthatch, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Long Tailed Tit, Blackbird and a female Mallard.

Venturing on, we spotted 8 Lapwing, one with 3 chicks, 7 Curlew, a Kestrel, a Hare, an inconspicuous Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Red Kites and a Skylark that obligingly provided the soundtrack to our wanderings.

We headed home ready for a cup of tea and a Betty's Fat Rascal. On reaching the doorstep something caught my eye, a Speckled Wood butterfly landed on the yellow leaves of Choisya ternata, Mexican Orange Blossom. A wonderful characteristic of a Speckled Wood is that they'll perch and pause just long enough to get a couple of pics and it kindly presented me with my first garden butterfly ID of the year.

Friday, 23 April 2010

St Chad's Churchyard Friday Wander

On a lunchtime stroll to St Chad's churchyard I was rewarded with clearer views of one of the pair of Jay that I glimpsed briefly last week, what a lovely bird it is.

Here's my first decent shot of a Speckled Wood that greeted me as I entered the churchyard and later settled nearby amongst paper thin golden leaves. The Speckled Wood was my most familiar butterfly last year, it prefers the dappled shade of hedgerows and woodland margins, I welcome its return and look forward to many more happy encounters.

Three Blue Tits fed on emerging pinnate leaves (Rowan or Ash perhaps), the spire of St Chad's Church can be seen in the background of the first pic. Note to self: must identify this tree on my next visit.

Field Horsetail Equisetum arvense, growing by a gravestone, Phil Gates (Cabinet of Curiosities) recently blogged about Equisetum telmateia, and as usual its well worth a read.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Willow catkins

Over the past couple of weeks one of my favourite sights of spring has been Willow Catkins. Here are a few pics of the catkins on slender stems. I've recently read a description (although I can't remember where) of willow blossom described as a 'pointillist fuzz' which is spot on (excuse the pun).

I find it difficult to identify the correct species but it doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the flowers which appear before the leaves. Most of the willows around Kirkstall are beginning to lose their flowers as the leaves appear which should make identification a little easier I suppose.

Phil Gates, Cabinet of Curiosities recently blogged about Sallow/Goat Willow/Pussy Willow, how its a dioecious plant, growing as separate male and female trees and its pollination carried out by insects and unusually blue tits, attracted by the nectar.

I think these pics are predominantly Sallow catkins, although I'd appreciate the feedback.

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