Thursday, 31 May 2012

West Park Small Copper update

An evening wander through West Park and the Small Copper appeared more relaxed, at rest on grass seed heads and buttercups.

I looked back through the previous day's photos and can identify 3 seperate individuals. Now I know that the females are larger than the males with less pointed forewings but I found it too tricky to scale them equally by size and angle. So I had to differentiate by markings - the left one is the freshest of the three with boldest markings, and a tiny mark on the right forewing margin, the middle is the most worn with bits missing from both the left hindwing and forewing, the right one has a light mark on the right hindwing and I'd say has the pointiest wings (a male maybe?). I'd welcome any thoughts on the sex of each butterfly.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

West Park Small Coppers

Today I was gifted with a local view of three Small Copper at my new favourite patch on the grassland at West Park near the university campus. I firstly located two seperate butterflies near the path in a sheltered, low lying area of the grassland (to the left in the pic below).

I watched two tussle and shoot off at incredible speed and I lost sight of them for a minute before one reappeared on the path in front of me. Then I noticed another amongst the grasses on a sorrel plant where it crawled its way down the stem, typical behaviour of the female searching for suitable host plants.

A female Green Veined White, more heavily marked than the males, nectaring on Garlic Mustard .

Here's the sheltered path bordered by Hawthorns and other native species where I spotted the Green Veined White and a male Orange Tip.


Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Letchmire Pastures, Allerton Bywater

On our first trip to Letchmire Pastures Local Nature Reserve a wetland and grassland site on a former coal area, we spotted a few firsts of the year, including our first dragonfly sighting. I have to admit that I'm out of practice but we think this is a female Four Spotted Chaser, broad tail,black tip & spots on wings. Below the same dragonfly a little closer.

In a South facing sloped patch of grassland I spotted my first Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) of the year (3 males), not such great pics so this one's just for reference.

And my first Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) of the year.

We also heard our first Cuckoo of the year and saw it briefly perched on a telegraph wire before it flew off into the woodland. Its shape was familiar to me as a result of having viewed cuckoo photos on blog postings, so thank you to everybody who has shared their cuckoo photos recently, its a great way to learn about unfamiliar species. Other bird sightings included Partridge, Lapwing, Jay, Swallow, Cormorant.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Allotment Female Orange Tip

Down on the allotment, I saw the first female Orange Tip of the year nectaring on the flowers of Comfrey and Chive. All of the Orange Tips I've seen so far this year have been male so this little lady was a welcome visitor. It provided a pleasant break from removing bindweed amongst the fruit bushes. 

The males have bold orange patches on the tip of each forewing, whereas the orange colour is lacking in the female which have similar upperwing markings to a Small White. Both male and female have the delicately mottled green and white pattern on the underwing.  

I also glimpsed a male Brimstone zipping around the hawthorn border but it shot off as quick as it appeared, well before I could grab the camera.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Billy Wood - Townclose Hills Nature Reserve

We visited Townclose Hills Local Nature Reserve (AKA Billy Wood) at the weekend, a grassland and woodland reserve on magnesian limestone, its the site with reported sightings of Marbled White last year There was little butterfly action during our visit, although we did catch brief glimpses of Orange Tip and Holly Blue on the wing. The highlight was hearing and spotting Yellowhammer (4) in the trees near the top of the hill, our attention grabbed by the unmistakeable call of 'a little bit of bread and no cheese'.

More information about the reserve via Friends of Billy Wood.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Lunchtime stroll

At lunchtime, in the scorching sunshine, I ventured out beyond the campus, via Queens Wood and across the land adjoining West Park playing fields. On the way I saw Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldfinch, Long Tail Tit, Jay, Robin, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Blue Tit, Wren. The view above is  from the top of the hill with the university sports pitches behind me, looking across to West Park. Its a nice open area of uncut grasses, cow parsley with occasional patches of buttercup and bluebells bordered by an assortment of native deciduous trees.

This is the view at the base of the hill, looking towards Spen Lane, West Park Centre is just visible far right, Norman Towers is visible between the trees, left of centre. The grassland is full of buttercups, dandelions and red clover pictured in more detail below. Strangely I spotted only one butterfly in this area today, a Small Tortoiseshell.

Here's the Small Tortoiseshell nectaring on a buttercup. I had a little more luck on the walk back spotting a Holly Blue, two male Orange Tip, and two whites on the wing at a distance. Its a nice patch and one I'll try to visit more regularly.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Nature assortment

We've had a number of good Great Spotted Woodpecker sightings over the past couple of days. Andrea found this one up at Lawnswood and I saw another this morning in the woodland of Queens Wood next to Beckett Park.

Andrea also spotted this Green Veined White butterfly, the first of the year at Adel churchyard.

I always enjoy my walk into work and on my way in this morning I startled a fox as it crossed over the path near the aptly named Foxcroft's. I also enjoyed today's two Holly Blue sightings on Beckett Park and Queenswood playing fields.  Mustn't forget, on the walk home from work yesterday evening, Joyce and I spotted a Red Kite over Queenswood Drive.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A Holly Blue in our garden

Earlier today, while Andrea sat on the front step she spotted a Holly Blue on the Pyracantha. It came to rest on the unbroken flowers buds and showed no interest in the other plants. She grabbed her camera, waited for it to settle and got a couple of shots to mark the visit. Pretty good going for a tiny front garden. 

As an update to yesterday's sighting, on my way into work this morning I saw one Holly Blue settle 3 metres up on a Beech tree on Beckett Park and then another at lunch time in a dried puddle on the playing fields next to the rail line. With only my phone to hand I managed a couple of ropy shots. Happy Holly Blue week!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Small White in Kirkstall Abbey Walled Garden

During an early evening stroll down to Kirsktall Abbey walled garden I spotted this Small White (Pieris rapae) land on a. Phlomis (fruticosa?) Jerusalem Sage. I think its a slightly worn male The downy grey leaves provide perfect camouflage for the butterfly at rest. Had I not seen it on the wing I doubt I would have spotted it. 

The flowerheads are in place but the majority of the deep yellow flowers, arranged in whorls, are just starting to emerge.

I returned twenty minutes later to find it had barely moved.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Otley Chevin and weather(ing)

Visiting Otley Chevin your attention is drawn to the colours of the dramatic Millstone Grit boulders and outcrops. My geological knowledge is pretty non-existent so West Yorkshire Geology Trust is a good place to information about the geology of the Otley Chevin Trail.

The weathering of stone and vegetation results in a wonderful collection of colours, patterns and shapes and textures, a decomposing weather worn stump covered in mosses and lichens being a good example .

Here's a view over Otley, with a stormy weather front approaching from the left.

A few minures later, heading back to the car, this was the view back across the valley. With the rain clouds heading our way we made a dash for it, brrrrr.

Getting backto the car, this Goldcrest provided a final flash of colour in the trees on the edge of the car park. Chiffchaff, Curlew, Blackbird, Crow, Robin, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit all made an appearance during our walk.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Kirkstall Hill sightings

Wandering past the Cricketers flats and onto Kirkstall Hill I noticed this Speckled Wood busying itself between Hawthorn and Dandelions, the damage to the left hindwing confirmed that its the same butterfly in the two shots.

And then out of the corner of my eye I spotted this Holly Blue, it was gone in a flash but I just managed a quick shot. I checked the young Holly shrub for eggs in case it was a depositing female but couldn't see anything.  First actual Holly Blue of the year for me!

There were 4 Small Tortoiseshell on the wing, this the only one at rest for long enough to get a photo, I watched it move from one Dandelion to another for 5 minutes before it disappeared.


Here's the view up the Aire valley.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Lawnswood columbarium

On a walk around Lawnswood Cemetery we passed by the Columbarium where I was drawn to the fiery hanging leaves of the Copper Beech and the sculptural form of the Magnolia still in bloom against the architectural backdrop. Built in 1933, the Columbarium is where ashes are stored  and has provided accommodation for over 2,000 urns. A couple of years ago we once found Tawny Owl droppings beside the pillars but there's been no sign of it since.

During our walk we spotted Jays, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robin, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Great Tit, Goldfinch and during the Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery Action Day last Saturday Andrea saw a Grey Heron fly overhead.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Lawnswood Cemetery Sightings

During a sunny interval at Lawnswood Cemetery we spotted this Peacock basking graveside, I guess the stone retains some heat as they often perch on the stonework.

A Jay, a bird often seen at the Cemetery, seemed unperturbed by our presence as we stood still to watch it hop from stone to stone for a good few minutes.

Whilst watching the Jay, a Nuthatch flew onto a nearby tree and proceeded to check out gaps in the tree trunk. We watched it remove leaves lodged in the nooks and crannies presumably searching for a tasty snack. Here you can see it tossing aside a leaf removed from the split in the trunk.

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