It has been four years since the MNA visited Fairburn Ings. Close to the visitor centre there was a small wildflower and herb area including Viper’s-bugloss Echium vulgare, Goldenrod Solidago virgaurea, Chicory Cichorium intybus and Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris. We wandered along the short section of boardwalk through the reedbed – a dozen or so Common Amber Snails Succinea putris were on the reed stems along with a lone Hawthorn Shieldbug Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale. A shrub bearing bright pink fruits was identified as Spindle Euonymus europaea. I nipped along to one of the pond-dipping platforms where a pair of Mute Swans were begging food from one of the young visitors despite the vast covering of nutritious Duckweed Lemna minuta.
We gazed over Big Hole pond with its flock of Lapwing, a couple of Little Grebes, lone BHG and Starlings.
The group split and along with ChrisB headed along the Lin Dike trail through predominantly Birch woodland and shrubs following the banks of the River Aire with Fungi including Brown Birch Bolete Leccinum scabrum, Scaly Earthball Scleroderma verrucosum, Purple Brittlegill Russula atropurpurea, Sycamore Tar Spot Rhytisma acerinum, Blackberry Rust Phragmidium violaceum and numerous unidentified species.
Brown Birch Bolete Leccinum scabrum
Scaly Earthball Scleroderma verrucosum
A couple of Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta and a Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria were on the wing along with Odonata – Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanaea and Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum. Birdlife was quiet but there were a few Bullfinch, Chiffchaff, various Tits, yaffling Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a bird call that had us puzzled for a while until the grey matter remembered juv Reed Bunting. We took a sharp right and climbed up the Coal Tips trail offering views of the reserve and a couple of the large ponds with gazillions of Coot, a few Tufties, Mallards and insect hoovering House Martins. On a couple of the fence posts were lone Red-legged Shieldbugs Pentatoma rufipes.
Red-legged Shieldbug Pentatoma rufipes
Plenty of wildflowers with Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, Dyer’s Greenweed Genista tinctoria, Selfheal Prunella vulgaris, Common Centaury Centaurium erythraea, Red Bartsia Odontites vernus, Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum, Wild Teasel Dipsacus fullonum, Greater Burdock Arctium lappa, Smooth Sow-thistle Sonchus oleraceus, Yarrow Achillea millefolium, Black Medick Medicago lupulina, Yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata and Eyebright Euphrasia officinalis amongst others. Autumn fruits included Bramble Rubus fruticosus, Dog-rose Rosa canina, Blackthorn a.k.a. Sloe Prunus spinosa, Crab Apple Malus sylvestris, Rowan Sorbus aucuparia, Elder Sambucus nigra, Guelder-rose Viburnum opulus and Dogwood Cornus sp.
Reaching close to Big Hole again the flock of Lapwing took to the air – we bumped into Lynn and Hugh who had just seen the possible cause – a Sparrowhawk overhead. We checked out the Oak trees for galls and had pretty much a full contingent caused by various Gall Wasps with Oak Knopper Gall Andricus quercuscalicis, Oak Marble Gall Andricus kollari, Oak Artichoke Gall Andricus foecundatrix (formerly Andricus fecundator), Oak Common Spangle Gall Neuroterus quercusbaccarum and Oak Silk Button Gall caused by the Gall Wasp Neuroterus numismalis as well as Powdery Oak Mildew Erysiphe alphitoides.
Oak Silk Button Galls
We then bumped into DaveB and co who had taken the Riverbank trail through more mature woodland (evident through the leaves of Sweet Woodruff Galium odoratum and Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa) overlooking the River Aire down a steep bank on the right and Main Bay and Village Bay ponds on the left. They’d had good views of a male Common Hawker Aeshna juncea that obligingly perched so that Ron Crossley could take a few shots. They’d also seen a few Fungi which we also found – Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria, Southern Bracket Ganoderma australe, Birch Polypore Piptoporus betulinus and a few Hoof Fungus Fomes fomentarius.
Hoof Fungus Fomes fomentarius
The ponds held Greylags and Canada Geese, great Crested and Little Grebes, Mute Swans, loafing Cormorants – plus Hugh had mentioned Shoveler and Pochard. As a finale ChriB spotted some nibbled leaves – the culprits Willow Sawfly larvae Nematus pavidus.
Willow Sawfly larvae Nematus pavidus
If you are interested in the wildlife of the north-west of England and would like to join the walks and coach trips run by the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, see the main MNA website for details of our programme and how to join us.