Friday, 28 May 2010

Blacktoft Sands

A recent evening trip to Blacktoft Sands offered some wonderful Barn Owl sightings as the bird flew overhead with a freshly caught rodent in its grasp, heading off in the direction of its nest box.

The bank sides were covered in the delicate branched flowering heads of Cow Parsley.
We also enjoyed sightings of Avocets on the water.

Bathed in golden sunlight, a striking male Reed Bunting sang from the top of a nearby bush, in feathery resplendence.
As the sun dipped the surrounding foliage glowed, emphasising the cobweb covered bristly seed heads of this clump of Teasels.

A view of the sunset as we made our way out of the Reserve.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

St Chad's Churchyard, Headingley

Wandering through St Chad's Churchyard you can't help but notice the flowering clumps of Ribwort Plaintain (Ribwort lanceolata) at the moment. A familiar perennial wildflower, its brown flower heads sit on top of tall unleafed stalks, with dark green, deeply veined lanceolate leaves.

Here's a fine description of the flowerheads from "The sepals are brown and paper-like in texture and give the head its peculiar rusty look. The corolla is very small and inconspicuous, tubed and having four spreading lobes. The stamens, four in number, are the most noticeable feature, their slender white filaments and pale yellow anthers forming a conspicuous ring around the flower-head. "

I seem unable to walk past these flowering grasses without lifting the camera, I'm certainly drawn to the near abstract qualities of the views they provide as they sway in the breeze.

Walking back through the campus this Crow was perched on a tree stump beak ajar and wings held open, similar to pose adopted by the Crow we saw at Rodley on Saturday. Couldn't help but think that it might have been more beneficial to pick a more shady spot....

Monday, 24 May 2010

Adel Churchyard

We visited St John the Baptist Churchyard in Adel on Sunday. Its part of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Living Churchyard Project, a tranquil, picturesque spot and within close proximity of the wonderful one-acre garden that is Yorkgate. The churchyard is currently full of bluebells, buttercups and flowering grasses.

The previous day, at Rodley I noted with interest that recent sightings included a Small Copper butterfly, I've never knowingly seen one, and had recalled Warren's pic at Pittswood Birds last week so it was up there on my list of ones to watch out for. So today I was so delighted to see not one but two Small Coppers at Adel. Whoop whoop!

As if that wasn't enough we spotted this small green beauty as it settled on a wilted daffodil flower, not the best pic but good enough for an identification, and I think this is a Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi). I was interested to see that Emma, Northumberland Naturalist and Frank, Early Birder both enjoyed sightings of the Green Hairstreak this weekend and managed better pics.

There were over 15 Speckled Wood's, along the perimeter hedgerows and in amongst the dappled shady areas, tirelessly seeing off all-comers whenever they strayed into their patch. A range of 20 White's on the wing, none obliging enough to pause for a picture, amongst them Small White, Green Veined White and Orange Tip.

Feathered inhabitants included, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Nuthatch, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Magpie, Mistle Thrush, a female Mallard settled in the grass, and a Buzzard flew overhead mobbed by Crows.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Rodley Nature Reserve

On Saturday we enjoyed a gloriously warm afternoon jaunt to Rodley Nature Reserve. The grasses that had just started to flower last week were fully flowering today, and looked striking against a clear blue sky.

We stopped off for a cold drink at the Vistors Centre and marvelled at the webcam stream from the Blue Tit box. I think there were eight or nine babies, an adult appearing every few minutes, the volunteers reckon they'll have fledged by mid next week. From inside the Visitors Cente we could see this Crow sat on a gatepost open beaked in an attempt to cool down.

By the Dragonfly Ponds Large Red Damselflies were busily going about their business.

And here a ropey pic of a blue damselfly, perhaps a male Azure Damselfly? Slightly different to a Common Blue in which abdominal segments 8 and 9 are all blue. Any thoughts appreciated.

Butterfly sightings included 3 Green Veined White, 3 Small Tortoiseshell, 4 Speckled Wood, 3 Orange Tip, 2 Peacock, this one here sat close winged on a fence post, plus 8 unidentified Whites on the wing.

From the lookout point overlooking the Wet Grassland we could see this Roe Deer on the opposite bank, it stood for a minute before bounding over the verge towards the riverbank, providing us with our first sighting of a Roe Deer at Rodley, thank you very much.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Local Leeds sightings

One of our regular haunts is currently home to Lapwing chicks, about 6 of them with more on the way I reckon. We stop by every week to observe from a distance, its great to see them develop, although they're too far away to get a decent pic. The field often yields new surprises. A recent trip brought a couple of Brown Hare, more golden than brown, and a glimpse of two Red Legged Partridge.

Scanning the dry stone wall behind us I paused to take a second look at a rounded shape resembling the grey brown colour of the stone and was delighted when it turned out to be a Little Owl. We haven't seen one around here for over a year, really chuffed to get a glimpse if only for a minute or two before it slipped away undetected.

Slightly closer but awful quality, just to confirm the sighting really.

A good excuse to bring out this pic, here's the Little Owl that we first saw in wintery conditions in the area over a year ago, perched on a fence post. You really can't tire of a Little Owl can you?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Rodley Nature Reserve

A highlight of a weekend trip out to Rodley Nature Reserve were the Common Whitethroat, a summer visitor to the reserve. A first positive sighting for me, id'd with the help of friendly fellow visitors. Armed with the ability to put a name to a feathery face, it became easier to spot them due to their habit of perching conspciuously on the tops of bushes and tall weeds. These two hung around by the Dragonfly ponds.

This Great Tit popped its head out of the bird box situated in the Dragonfly ponds area.

Butterfly action consisted of four Small Torstoishell, two by the pools and a couple in the Meadow.

On the way to the Visitors Centre for a cuppa and to pick up a copy of the Annual Report for 2009 another Common Whitethroat appeared in the vegetation on the edge of Tim's Field.

Refreshes and refuelled I made my way up to the meadow, I followed the mown path up to the far end of the field and sat for a while to admire the view. I became engrossed in the thin stemmed flowering perennial grasses with densely packed spikelets Common Timothy (Phleum pratense) or Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) perhaps?

Looking down over the reserve I couldn't help but hear these three Mute Swans raise themselves from the wetland and head off downstream together.

Here you can see the stamens more clearly, grey at first, turning brown with time, maturing from the top of the spikelet to the bottom.

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