Welcome to the Wharfedale Naturalists Society


The New Year and beyond…

February 10 Tuesday Evening Talk
‘Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and its Reserves’ – Ros Lilley ‘African Memories’ – David Alred
Contrasting presentations by two WNS members
February 24 Tuesday Evening Talk
‘Conserving Nature in The Dales – Couldn’t We Do Better?’ – Peter Welsh, Ecologist, N. Trust Dales Estate A thought-provoking look at Dales natural history
March 10 Tuesday Evening Talk
Recorders’ Evening A selection of our Recorders’ highlights from 2014
March 19 Annual Dinner
At Otley Golf Club Details in the January Newsletter Contact: Christine Hobson – 464346
March 24 Tuesday Evening Talk
AGM Interval with Tea/Coffee ‘Three Small Gems of South India – a Natural History and Cultural Tour’ – Sean Radcliffe A fascinating end to our Winter Season

Full programme here

All Tuesday evening talks are held at Christchurch, The Grove, Ilkley starting at 7-30pm.

Nethergill Farm Events 2015

June 13 Wildlife Photography – Simon Phillpotts
August 1 Loosen up your watercolour technique – Rachel McNaughton

Click here for more information.

Butterfly Recording

Since David Howson’s retirement, Diane Morris and Paul Millard have kindly offered to take over as butterfly recorders. We would like to thank them for taking on the role and wish them the very best with the butterfly season approaching. As part of their new recording system, they have a new form, which they would like to encourage Wharfedale Naturalist members to use. This can be downloaded here. If you wish to print out a form and fill it in by hand, a suitable template is available here.

The Cuckoo Project


In the last twenty-five years we have lost over half our breeding Cuckoos in the UK. In order to understand this decline, more information was needed about their annual cycle and a project was set up to study the movements of a series of birds, throughout the seasons, by tracking them with newly developed satellite tags. The one on the left is affectionately known as Chris! Recently, two of the tagged individuals have just started their long journey back from Africa to the UK breeding grounds. Please visit the BTO website, by clicking here, to see these movements for yourself and find out more about this fascinating project.


News-letterFor those of you who have not seen it so far, below is a link to the January Newsletter, along with a booking form for the Annual Dinner and Agenda for our AGM in March:
January Newsletter
Annual Dinner booking form
AGM Agenda

Missing Siskins

SiskinDavid Brear kindly sent me a mail with a link to an interesting article on Siskins. Apparently he had been chatting with Peter and Anne Riley about the lack of Siskins on their bird feeders lately. It occurred to me, we too hadn’t seen this, once frequent visitor to our garden, for some time. This article he sent me could explain why.

Photo by Holly Occhipinti (Siskin Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Winter Fungi

Autumn may be the moJelly_Ear_120x120nth generally associated with Fungi but what about the rest of the year? In an effort to educate myself I did a bit of research and found a useful online resource which has a seasonal fungi calendar. Just because information is on the internet doesn’t necessarily mean it’s accurate so I cross-checked the listings with our mushroom guide and had a chat with my brother over Christmas, who is keen on fungi. Unfortunately a spell of dry weather led to the cancellation of our October fungi foray, because of their apparent absence, but recent rainfall may mean conditions are now more favourable.

Out of the edible varieties, at this time of year, you may see the Deer Shield (Pluteus cervinus) on rotting stumps, trunks and sawdust of deciduous trees; the Jelly Ear (Auricularia aricula-judae) on the branches of deciduous trees, particularly elder; the Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) on fallen or standing trunks of deciduous trees, especially beech; the Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes) on deciduous trees, especially elm; the Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda) in woodland, hedgerows and gardens. Velvet Shanks are reportedly able to survive being frozen solid and can still produce more spores when they eventually thaw out.

Out of the inedible varieties you could see the Birch Polypore or Razorstrop bracket fungus (Piptoporus betulinus), on birch; the Winter Polypore (Polyporus brumalis) on dead wood, usually logs and fallen branches; the Winter Twiglet (Tubaria hiemalis) and Scurfy Twiglet (Tubaria furfuracea) both in twigs and woody debris; the Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) found in dense clusters on stumps of deciduous and coniferous trees.

Please don’t consume any fungi unless you are absolutely sure what they are – the consequences can by deadly and even those with considerable experience have fallen victim. Click here for a link to the Fungi Calendar.

Photo – Jelly Ear, by Phil Howson

Winter hares

Whilst not in Wharfedale, Mountain hares, Lepus Timidus, are not an uncommon sight in many parts of the Peak District National Park and I was surprised to see a few as far East as Thurlstone Moor, not far from Penistone, South Yorkshire. They were once found throughout the country, but died out in all but the most Northerly regions due to the loss of habitat in post-glacial times. The only remaining populations were found in Scotland, until the late 1800s, when new populations were released, in the Northern Peak District, for sporting purposes. They were originally hunted by packs of hounds and shot as game, but the former was eventually made illegal and they are now rarely shot except as a control measure. As a result numbers have increased in the last 30 years.

At this time of year Mountain hares can easily be distinguished from Brown hares by their winter coats, most which turn all white by December and make them quite a majestic sight. They are only found at altitudes greater than 500m, are slightly smaller than the Brown hare and have shorter ears with black tips. Moulting of their winter coats usually starts in March and they generally return to their mostly Brown summer coats between April and May. There is concern that the onset of global warming will further reduce the amount of suitable habitat available to these creatures but we can all hope they continue to hold on.

Photo by John Fielding [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Convert your lawn into a Meadow

Wildflower MeadowHave you ever thought about converting your lawn into a meadow?  If you are keen on attracting more wildlife to your garden it could worth considering.  One couple, who enjoyed the pleasure wildlife brought to their garden, decided to make it more ‘bee friendly’ by digging up their back lawn and doing just that.  With a bit of hard work and patience they were able to enjoy the fruits of their labor by attracting not only bees but previously absent butterflies including Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Small Skipper, several different species of hoverfly and also a 6 spotted burnet moth.

If you wish to embark on such a project the most important thing to do is remove as much grass as you can, either by digging up the turf, using herbicide, or you can cover it with plastic sheeting and wait until all the grass dies off.  This is to prevent the grasses out-competing the wildflowers.  Once you have removed all the grass it is time to plant the wildflower seeds or grass and wildflower mix.  This should be carried out in autumn or spring and you have to prepare the soil by raking.  It is important to keep watering to give the seeds the best chance of germinating.  After that it is a case of making sure the seedlings are not disturbed and slowly your meadow should start to develop.

This is a short summary of the project so if you are serious about trying it please click here for more information and if you wish to view this full article, on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust blog, click here.

The Butterflies leave us

Red AdmiralIt’s Winter, and the Summer flutterings are becoming a distant memory. A few still appear on a sunny day, usually a Red Admiral on ivy flowers, or the wallflower Bowles Mauve. Other plants can attract – we have just had reports on insects on the flowers of the Strawberry Tree arbutus – including a Red Admiral on November 9th.

Some local butterflies have found their winter home in local sheds, or garages, or woodpiles. These species are the Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell, and outside the properties the Comma and Brimstone. All these insects can hibernate, in other words reduce their body temperature and settle down to wait for the Spring and the warmer weather to return. Others, the Painted Lady and the Red Admiral, migrate back to warmer climates we are told. The Painted Lady it is said flies high on its return journey, but in recent years we have had so few that any migration would not be noticed. However, we have had many reports of Red Admirals, and this year two of our members witnessed here in the dales a reverse migration.

On the 12 October Nyree and David Fearnley were walking along the track from Malham Tarn to Arncliffe Cote when they saw every now and then a Red Admiral in flight, always going Southerly, some 10-15 insects in total. There were also one or two on the riverside path between Hawkswick & Arncliffe, and the last one they saw was in the middle of Arncliffe village. If you have seen any butterflies recently, and more particularly anything like a migration, please let either me or the webmaster know.

Dave Howson davehowson@blueyonder.co.uk

Butterfly Conservation’s Autumn Newsletter

Butterfly Conservation

Thank you very much to everyone who has contributed records so far for 2014 in VC64; It has been most helpful to be able to get the bulk of the records in stages throughout the season. To those still to send records in, please don’t leave it too long, please let’s try if you can to get them in by late October, or early November. I don’t have a lot of time in December and odd late sightings (stragglers) can be sent in later.

Dave Hatton – Butterfly Co-ordinator VC64.

To view the full newsletter click here. If you still have records to send in please continue to send them to David Howson, and he will make sure Butterfly Conservation receives them, after adding them to the Society’s database.