Sunday 11 April 2021

Wildflowers at Hetchell Wood - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Earlier in the week, we took advantage of a sunny day, albeit not that warm, to take a walk in Hetchell Wood, a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust site a few miles away from where we live. We visited briefly a few weeks ago and it was really muddy but after a week of dry weather all the paths were clear and passable. 

Theres areas of old quarrying now with impressive beech trees growing, some of which are growing on the edge of the workings with roots descending down the cliff face. 

At this time of year though, there's carpets of Spring flowers all over the wood. I must say at this point that under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to uproot any wild plant without landowner's permission and indeed on many nature reserves and SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) there are byelaws prohibiting picking of leaves or any other items from wild plants. Leave the flowers in nature where they are meant to be! Many cultivated wildflower varieties can be bought for gardens from nurseries and garden centres so there is no need to uproot them from the wild. 

These are Wood Anemones (Anemone nemerosa), found all over the wood and also in other woods and copses in the area. These are related to Buttercups (Ranunculus acris), also flowering on roadsides at the moment. Like most woodland flowers they are tolerant of the dappled shade found in amongst the trees. Lesser Celadines (Ficaria verna - they look like big buttercups) are also to be found on roadsides at the edge of woodland in the area. 

Along one of the lesser used paths there was this solitary Primrose (Primula vulgaris), the only one we saw in the wood. 

The banks of streams through woodland are often good places to see wildflowers, often these are carpeted with bluebells and wild garlic. The bluebells around us are only just coming into flower and although the aroma of wild garlic is on the wind, the flowers have yet to appear. 

However, these Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris) were along one bank of the stream in the valley and formed quite a carpet in one area. 

Although the video I have of them was a bit blurred, this still photograph is of one of the Clarke's Mining Bees (Andrena clarkella) that came back to their home under a tree root. Using its front legs, it excavated a tunnel and disappeared completely! They do need to hide as their tunnels can be invaded by cuckoo bees which lay their eggs in the same nest and the offspring parasitise the mining bee's own brood. 

Friday 2 April 2021

Spring Walk - Bramham Park Estate, West Yorkshire

Tuesday and Wednesday this week were warm for the time of year, in fact it was short skirt and summer top weather! We explored a woodland that we've never been to before even though it is a short drive from where we live, part of the Bramham Park Estate with a mixture of public and permissive footpaths around a lake and stream. 

On one of the bankings many Dog Violets (Viola riviniana) were out in bloom.

Having walked through the main part of the woods, listening to chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) and watching a nuthatch (Sitta europaea), we walked down through some farmland dotted with beef cattle and came to the stream in a very pleasant woodland glade. A red kite (Milvus milvus) patrolled over the fields. 

Quite a number of these Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) were growing in the shafts of sunlight coming down through the trees. 

We perhaps should have brought a towel with us in order to paddle in the stream, it was warm enough outside to do so, although I expect the water would have been pretty chilly!

The wild garlic (Allium ursinum) along the banks of the stream, whilst not yet flowering, was still quite noticeably pungent. Too early for bluebells but I expect in two or three weeks this area will be carpeted with them.

As we walked back, a chiffchaff popped down onto a branch near me and took off again in surprise - these warblers are back from their African wintering areas although a few do now stay all year round in England. 

Back at the lake we noticed two ducks swimming around and dabbling. Although distant they didn't quite look like Mallard or other 'regular' ducks. Looking through the binoculars we found they were Mandarin Ducks (Aix galericulata). Although wild living now, ancestors of these ducks were introduced as ornamental ducks from China many years ago and there are now two to three thousand pairs of these ducks living wild in the UK. First time I had ever seen this species though - and I have seen a lot of ducks in my lifetime!

Although the male is the most striking in terms of plumage, both the male and female are very pretty ducks and you can see why they were brought back as decorative ducks for parks and estates. They nest in trees and like the sort of habitat around this lake, with trees dipping into the water and plenty of cover, in fact a couple of minutes later they were nowhere to be seen.