Newsletter 11

November 2002

This web version contains the articles originally published in the printed form, with the exception of the analyses of Owl Pellet collected by Tim Pickles and those at Bamforth Farm by Rob Atkinson. This omission is a result of technical difficulties involved in presenting these detailed data sets. The minutes of the AGMs for 1999, 200 & 2001 have also been omitted.

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Editorial: Richard Middleton
Life beyond Atlas-2000: Peter J Cook
Millennium Project, Many Thanks Dick: Rob Atkinson
Mute Swans on Pocklington Canal: Craig Ralston
House Sparrows eating seeds of Pyracantha: Ray A Eades
The Wild Side of North Bransholme: Richard Broughton
Harvest Mice: Rob Atkinson
Mammals and amphibians at North Bransholme, 1988-1998: a changing scene: Richard Broughton
Spurn Moths and Butterflies: Peter Crowther
Moths captured at Bamforth Farm, Wawne: Andrew Ashworth
Some Plants of interest found in 2001: Rob Atkinson
The Hull Biodiversity Partnership & Local Biodiversity Action Plan: Richard Middleton
For the record: some interesting local plant finds


Richard Middleton

Several years have now passes since the last issue of the Hull Natural History Society’s Newsletter. This is not an indication of a lack of activity by members, in fact quite the reverse. Last year the results from a three year project to document the flora of Hull at the turn of the Millennium were completed and published in the form of a Newsletter Supplement, CD and as an internet web site. Although copies of the printed version are now in short supply, the CD can be produced as required and the web site attracts many visitors from all over the world. The Tuesday evening field group has continued to meet in the spring and summer, attracting members with a wide range of interests, and producing several interesting and important records.

The Society has also been closely involved with the preparation and publication of the Hull Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP), an important document which it is hoped will shape the way in which Hull’s urban wildlife is viewed, valued and protected. We were among the founder members of the Hull Biodiversity Partnership and, through this group, played an important role in the content and shape of the final document. A fuller review of the LBAP is included in this issue of the Newsletter.

I am delighted to report that this issue of the Newsletter is a varied as ever with contributions by members on a wide range of topics. I apologise to contributors who’s articles have lost their topical edge – the fault for the long delay in preparing this issue is entirely mine and I hope that it will not deter them from submitting material for future issues. I have also taken the opportunity to print the minutes of the AGMs held in 1999, 2000, 2001. I am holding the 2002 minutes over for the next issue – it is possible to have too much of a good thing …

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Life beyond Atlas-2000

Peter J Cook

First, I should thank all readers of this Newsletter who took part in collecting data for Atlas 2000. Your help was invaluable and very much appreciated by the BSBI. I did not have the time in the later stages of data collation to correspond with any of you on an individual basis but I am sure that you will understand the pressure I was under. This was only one of several projects all coming to head in the last quarter of 1999 and I am now taking a rest!

Unfortunately, circumstances prevented me from computerizing the data from the start so that in the later stages of updating, the checking processes were very tedious, tiresome and time-consuming. Consequently I was effectively in cognito from August to Christmas as I waded, night after night, through reams of check-lists. The most regrettable aspect of the project is that I cannot use the power of the computer and logic processes to analyse the data. I have two box files crammed full of field cards, envelopes and fag packets with no ready way of determining which species have apparently gone extinct or, better still, feeling excited that we have more records for a rare species than expected.

Nationally, Atlas 2000 has added 4.5 million new plant records to the Biological Records Centre databank. Some 10 km squares scored more than 1300 species. However, I am not impressed by such high numbers because once the total exceeds about 400 in a square of this size the additional species are usually agricultural and garden escapes, and planted species i.e. 'weeds' or indicators of ecological deterioration. For VC 61 I cannot say how many new records we added but the average total per 10 km square was 380 and one or two of the Hull area squares achieved 600+ species over the full period of recording experience.

I can only estimate the total volume of work. There was an average of 27 datum handling/checking processes for 42 squares containing an average of 380 species. This tots up to about 431,000 actions, taking an average of about 20 seconds each, which is equivalent to about 300 8 hr days, i.e. not far short of a complete working year! Of course, Eva Crackles did a fantastic amount of work splitting the records into the time frames of pre 1970, 1971-1987 and post 1987, completing some of the Mastercards and final checking 20-odd of them before they were despatched to BRC. Eva's unfortunate change of circumstances just before Christmas 1998 robbed her of the excitement of wading through stacks of computer printouts, looking for errors and omissions and verifying thousands of records added directly to the BRC computer from other sources!

Despite the chaos it has been possible to get some ideas about 'where we are at'. First, despite the fantastic efforts of so few I had to recruit some 'outsiders' and beg lists from ecological consultant firms in order to upgrade several squares showing an apparently remarkable degradation since 1987. One square, at the extreme north west of the VC, had only 4 species of grass and no daisies!. Another, nearer home, had a record for rhubarb but not for annual meadow grass! These instances indicate problems. The VC has very few botanists recording the commonplace native species and/or what are commonly regarded the more difficult/less attractive plants such as grasses, sedges, rushes and ferns. It really is important to record everything, not just the plants that are challenging to identify or noteworthy to report.

However, the most important research possible from the data (though practically difficult) is to project possible extinctions. A paper by C D Preston (Watsonia 2000;23:59-81) gives a very detailed analysis of the extinction of native species in Middlesex and Cambridgeshire. This analysis shows that for Cambridgeshire, a County topographically and geologically similar to our own, species have become extinct at a rate of 2 per annum since 1750. Preston concludes, with very technical support, that for Cambridgeshire, agricultural intensification has been the most damaging.

Brief examination of the list of extinct species in Cambridgeshire for species still extant in VC61 shows Bugloss, Stinking Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Field Woundwort, Moonwort, Hard Fern, Hard Shield-fern, Toothwort, Common Rock-rose, Green-ribbed Sedge, Star Sedge, Meadow Thistle, Round-leaved Sundew, Shepherd's Cress, Parsley Water-dropwort, Marsh Willowherb, Marsh St.John's-wort, Heath Rush, Dittander, Blinks and Heath Milkwort. Anyone knowing the flora of Allerthorpe Common will recognise many of the above and realise just how important the reserve is to the VC!

Agricultural intensification is less of a problem now but perhaps the reverse - de-intensification' - could be equally damaging! Tree planting on poor agricultural land, replacing deciduous trees with conifers in old woodland and digging ponds in marshy areas may be increasing the pressure on some of our tiny hard-pressed habitats. Valuable plant habitats are being 'hi-jacked' and managed for charismatic macrofauna (dragonflies, newts, birds and mammals) without respect for established plant associations. It is infuriating to find a favourite marsh dried out by an excavated pond choked out with Lagarosiphon and Elodea introduced for 'oxygenation', an anthropogenic concept hitherto unheard of over 400M years of existence of newts!

Back to Atlas 2000, early analysis of the data nationally has shown that the Red Data Book species, Red-tipped Cudweed, is so common in the South of England that it has had to be removed from even the scarce plant category. Similarly, the scarce Pillwort is no longer on the scarce plant list.

So there is, potentially, some life after Atlas 2000. Given time it should be possible to analyse the data and identify which plants in the VC are on their way out and suggest Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) to protect them. BAPs have been proposed for all the (very few) nationally rare species but, surely, BAPs are equally important for endangered species on a local basis?

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Millennium Project, Many Thanks Dick

Rob Atkinson

As past president of the Hull Natural History Society I would like to thank, on behalf of the Society, Dick Middleton for his immense contribution to this mammoth project.

The Millennium Atlas was initially Dick’s idea after which he conducted a feasibility study by surveying 2x2 km squares. Dick next took on the onerous task of convincing the rest of us that not only could we tackle this as a millennium project, giving ourselves just three seasons to get a reasonably accurate record of the flora of Hull but publish the results before the end of the year 2000. I think the rest of us were sceptical to say the least! During the survey, Dick covered many of the squares himself. He also acted as recorder on Tuesday evenings, fielding plant names from all directions at times.

Then he put his excellent computing skills into practice by devising the program to record the information forming the maps and by coming up with the dot scheme to position plant occurrences. The next task he undertook was to create a web site and put all the information on a CD ROM which, as planned, was launched in the year 2000. (During this time Kath and Dick also managed to move house). To put the icing on the cake Dick wrote the excellent supplement outlining plant survivors and extinctions of remnant habitats and colonisers of new ones.

Thank you Dick for your tireless effort, I know some of the tasks must have been a veritable bus-man’s holiday.

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Mute Swans on Pocklington Canal

Craig Ralston

On the Society’s field trip to the Pocklington Canal last year, remembered mainly by the intensity of the thunder-shower, we noticed a pair of colour-ringed Mute Swans. Shirley Pashby took the trouble to send the details to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. The following is an extract from the reply received from Craig Ralston, Assistant Manager, Lower Derwent Valley NNR:-(ed.)

Thank you for your sightings of two colour-ringed Swans, B9V and 217 on the Pocklington canal at Melbourne on 19 August 2000. I suspect your card has done the rounds, via the WWT, Jon Coleman and the chair of the Swan Study group and finally myself as the co-ordinator of this particular scheme. Should you see any other colour-ringed Mute Swans with red rings and three white numbers they will be birds ringed by us so you could contact us directly so gaining a faster response. Red rings with three white letters will have been ringed by Jon Coleman.

Please find below details of the birds you reported.

RED 217 Ringed as a female cygnet at St Andrews University Pond, Scotland on 7 August 1992. Appeared in the Lower Derwent Valley NNR on 1 April 1994 when red ring 217 was added. Has since remained, paired to B9V since 1996 and breeding at Wheldrake Ings annually before moving onto the Pocklington Canal with their cygnets.
BLUE B9V Ringed as a male cygnet on 1 August 1992 at Melbourne on the Pocklington Canal. Has remained ever since, paired to 217 since 1996.

Thank you for your sightings of these birds. These are part of an intensive long term colour-ringing scheme in the Lower Derwent Valley NNR. We of course rely heavily on sightings such as yours.

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House Sparrows eating seeds of Pyracantha

Ray A Eades

On the afternoon of 17th September 2000, at St Andrew’s Dock, Hull, whilst counting wading birds I noticed a group of twelve House Sparrows in an amenity shrubbery of Pyracantha coccinea outside Mr Chu’s Chinese Restaurant. These shrubs were planted three years ago in a very exposed site next to the Humber Estuary as part of landscaping the former dock, which has mostly been filled in and redeveloped as an out of town shopping area. A small population of House Sparrows has colonised this site and appears to be thriving. This is in sharp contrast to other urban House Sparrows in the city of Kingston upon Hull, which have declined dramatically in recent years.

The Sparrows were eating the ripe fruits of this shrub, perching on the outermost twigs and eating the seeds in the pulp, leaving the base of the eaten fruit attached as a husk. The fruit were rather small for this species of shrub, 5 – 6mm in diameter compared to the 8.8mm quoted by Snow & Snow (1988), a diameter that is exceeded by the shrubs of that species in my suburban garden. Probably the exposed location and poor soil caused the small fruit size.

This observation is not especially original, being in line with Snow and Snow’s (1988) work who recorded House sparrows as

“…true seed predators only at ornamental plants, with 53 records at Pyracanta coccinea and one at Cotoneaster cornubia.”

However, with the decline in urban House Sparrows I feel that any positive factors are worthy of note. It seems possible that the introduced shrubberies of Pyracantha are one factor helping this small population of House Sparrows to thrive by offering shelter and food. Other factors could be food discarded from the fast food outlets nearby and the presence of a saltmarsh in the unfilled portion of the dock, which could yield seeds and insects as food, especially for chicks.

Reference :

Snow, B. and Snow, D. 1988. Birds and Berries. Poyser. Calton.

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The Wild Side of North Bransholme

Richard Broughton

On the doorstep of North Bransholme lies one of the most valuable places for wildlife within the Hull city boundary. Look out from any house on the east of that housing estate and you will see an unbroken vista of hedgerow, copse, farmstead, arable fields and rough grassland, dissected only by the Old Main Drain, Foredyke Stream and Holderness Drain. On the horizon are Swine, Skirlaugh, Coniston and, beyond them, the Holderness plain.

Old Main Drain hedgerow and its flanking scrub, separated from acres of housing only by a minor road, holds a wealth of life. Once comparable to the Barmston Drain in depth and width, Old Main Drain has mostly silted up since the Bransholme drainage system was built over twenty years ago. The clear water once held roach, pike and even bream according to the first residents. As a boy in the 1980s I used to go ‘tiddling’ in the drain for Nine-spined and Three-spined Sticklebacks, the former always more numerous, and there was often a by-catch of Smooth Newts too. Kingfishers also fished here and were a regular sight, as were Water Voles, just yards from the Bransholme closes. Kingfishers are still regularly seen in the neighbourhood as they fish along the Foredyke Stream, at the southern terminus of Old Main Drain, and they sometimes nest along the Holderness Drain just half a mile over the fields. The thick hedgerow of Old Main Drain, made up of Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Ash, Sycamore, Rose, Elder and Willow, holds numerous breeding birds: Pheasant, Grey Partridge, Moorhen, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, occasional Spotted Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Starlings in the tree holes, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Linnet. In addition, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Tawny Owl, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, House Sparrow, Redwing, Fieldfare and Goldcrest are regular visitors. Less common species include Barn Owl, Willow Tit, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Waxwing, Woodcock, Water Rail and Long-eared Owl, while Mealy Redpoll, Redstart, Great Grey Shrike and even Red-breasted Flycatcher have also been seen. In May the Starling hordes of chicks, reared in the roof cavities of the Bransholme houses, leave their nests and gather in flocks of up to 200 in the thick bushes to wait for their parents to bring food. The recent decline in Starlings means this ritual is becoming quieter each year. The August flocks of hundreds of House Sparrows that raided the crops, darting into the safety of Old Main Drain hedgerow at the first sign of danger, are also down to their last few dozen.

Though the once booming population of Water Voles has now disappeared, as they have from all of the local drains and ditches, other mammals still abound here. Field and Bank Voles, Wood Mice, Pigmy, Common and Water Shrews, Weasels, Hedgehogs, Moles and Red Foxes are all regular. Stoats are also seen, though rarely. Harvest Mice have been recorded along the Old Main Drain hedgerow, the neighbouring scrub and fields since I was a boy, and no doubt beyond. Back then, in the mid 1980s, I remember watching a pair of Harvest Mice cavorting in the Reedmace on the drain bank as I was fishing for tiddlers. In other years I found nests in the adjoining cereal fields and picked up dead specimens along the drain. Other mammals have had mixed fortunes, with Brown Hares now virtually banished to beyond the Holderness Drain though Rabbits are making a slow comeback. I did not see a wild Rabbit along Old Main Drain for the whole of my childhood and knew them only from the empty warrens that littered the banks of the ditches. In the late 1990s, however, I began to see the odd Rabbit along the drain now and again, and in 2000 I was able to walk right up to one poor animal that was huddled, waiting for death, stricken with Myxamatosis. Grey Squirrels, which have made such inroads into East Hull over the last few years, have only been seen a few times though they look set to become more common. Roe Deer, too, are increasing and their hoof prints in the mud and snow show that they browse on both the Bransholme and farmland sides of Old Main Drain. I have occasionally seen the odd pair of Roe Deer in nearby fields, and in the summer of 1999 I was lucky enough to see a doe and her young fawn browsing at the edge of a copse less than 300 metres from the houses of North Bransholme. Pipistrelle Bats are a common summer sight along the drain, and appear to roost in the roofs of the nearby houses. There are also amphibians to be found here, with Smooth Newts, Common Frogs and Toads still breeding in the more open stretches when water levels allow.

The arable land between Old Main Drain and Holderness Drain holds more life. Hull’s last remaining Lapwings breed here, just south of Carlam Hill Farm, with up to six pairs tumbling over the fields in spring. Skylarks, Kestrels, Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings, Yellowhammers and Red-legged Partridges also breed, in addition to most of the species found along Old Main Drain. These fields occasionally flood in winter and attract huge numbers of waders; up to 1,000 each of Lapwing and Golden Plover have been counted in recent years, along with over 100 Dunlin, up to 25 Curlew and even Turnstone and Pintail. Shelduck are regular if the floodwaters last for any length of time. These birds appear to make the journey from Saltend to feed and roost when high tide covers the Humber mudflats. Peregrine, Osprey, Merlin, Hobby, Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier have been seen over these fields and Redshank and Little Ringed Plover bred alongside the Lapwings when the floodwaters lasted all year in the 1980s. Passage waders have included Temminck’s and Little Stints, Green, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Whimbrel and Ruff. Even if the fields dry out by spring, which they invariably do these days, they can attract good birds, such as the couple of calling Quail that have been heard over the years. American Mink have been seen on the Holderness Drain, and Mute Swans, Little Grebes and Cormorants occasionally stop off in winter. Goosander and Smew have also turned up.

Further south and across the Foredyke Stream, with its Stone Loach, Sticklebacks, Kingfishers, Frogs and Toads, lies an area of rough grassland and marshy pools that has been earmarked for a golf course for over a decade. The fields are abandoned farmland, once part of High Bransholme Farm, that still retain some of their hedgerows but the farm buildings were demolished in the 1990s and the old farmyard is now occupied by Travellers’ caravans. The Bransholme Fishing Lake was recently created in the southeast corner, off Bransholme Road, and is already attracting waterfowl; Mallard, Coot and Mute Swan are resident while Gadwall and Goosander have also been seen. The more natural ponds dotted around the fields hold Great-crested Newts in addition to all the amphibians already mentioned. While they are not as common as the Smooth Newt local children still catch a few every year and I often used to find them hiding under bricks and debris. Brown Hares may still occur here, along with Roe Deer, but sightings of both have decreased since the arrival of the Travellers at High Bransholme. Snipe are common in the marshy spots in winter and wild bands of Teal also drop by, while breeding birds include Meadow Pipit, Mallard, Coot, Stock Dove, Reed Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler in addition to most of those from the other areas mentioned. Whinchat, Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Turtle Dove and Yellow Wagtail appear on passage, while Stonechats, Jack Snipe and Grey Wagtails have passed through in winter. A Marsh Harrier hunted over these fields in July 1996 and several Merlins and Hobbies have been seen, in addition to the ubiquitous Sparrowhawks and Kestrels. Short-eared, Long-eared and Little Owls have also occurred, while Barn Owls are regularly seen throughout the year but particularly on summer evenings as they hunt for voles. On one day alone a few years ago I saw three individual Barn Owls carry voles off in three different directions from these fields. I watched them through binoculars as they made their way back to their nests, one of which was half a mile away, the other a mile and the third almost two miles. This clearly shows the value of this rough grassland to these rare birds, that they fly in from miles around to hunt here. Indeed, I was watching a Barn Owl still hunting at this spot at Christmas 2000.

These three areas - Old Main Drain, the arable fields up to Holderness Drain and the rough grassland south of Foredyke Stream - are locally important in their own way but they all combine to create a very special corner nestling within the city boundary. The value to local people of this varied piece of countryside on their doorsteps should not be underestimated, for how many Hull residents wake to the sound of Cuckoos and Skylarks in spring or can marvel at the beauty of a hunting Barn Owl or Kingfisher just a stone-throw from their homes? North Bransholme people can, and they know how lucky they are.

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Harvest Mice

Rob Atkinson

For some time now I have been getting local records of harvest mice, recovered from owl pellets by Mr. R.A. Love of the British Mammal Society. I have searched in vain for the Summer nests, to try to find were they occur. However, on the 12th October 2000 I discovered a dead harvest mouse. It was on top of a fence post [TA 086 373] along side a hedge and dike. Unfortunately, it could have been caught elsewhere and dropped by a bird of prey. The search continues…

Update, October 2002 – Rob informs me that he recently found a live specimen in his milking-parlour! (ed.)

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Mammals and amphibians at North Bransholme, 1988-1998: a changing scene

Richard Broughton

Further to my article on the birds of Bransholme in Newsletter 9, I felt it would be useful to provide an overview of other vertebrate life in the area compiled from observations throughout the past decade. The area discussed lies within the city boundary and ranges west to east from North Bransholme to the Holderness Drain, which marks the city boundary, and north to south from Carlam Hill Farm [TA 107366] to Bransholme Dairy Farm [TA 112348]. The habitat is arable farmland, rough grassland, scrub, marshy ponds and drains with thick hedgerows and isolated copses. Twenty three species of mammal and 4 species of amphibian have been positively identified since 1988, with several more possible records or unidentified species.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) This species has been recorded on numerous occasions, though it is heavily hunted by shooters and occasionally the Holderness Hunt. It is not believed to breed in the area discussed, but probably does so in woods to the north of Carlam Hill. It has occasionally been recorded in gardens on North Bransholme.

Polecat-ferret (Mustela sp.) Though not believed to be true polecats, mustelids recalling this species were seen in the early 1990s along the Old Main Drain which runs north to south just east of North Bransholme. The sightings probably concerned released/escaped domestic polecat-ferrets.

Mink (Mustela vison) After an unconfirmed sighting in 1989, a mink was finally seen on the Holderness Drain in late 1992. It is possible that the species breeds in the area, but this is, as yet, unconfirmed.

Stoat (Mustela erminea) This species has been seen on many occasions, though does not appear to be common. The Holderness Drain appears to be a favoured haunt.

Weasel (Mustela nivalis) This small carnivore is both common and widespread, especially in the rough grassland areas where it preys on voles. It has even been recorded from a Bransholme garden.

Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) An increasing species, roe deer tend to be winter wanderers to the area from the more remote woods where they breed (e.g. Clayhill Plantation, TA119385). Usually seen in pairs in October-March, they are becoming increasingly bold and venturing up to just 20 metres from the housing estate.

Mole (Talpa europaea) A generally distributed species, particularly along drain banks, from where they radiate into the crop fields after ploughing.

Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) This species breeds in hedgerows along the drain banks, particularly Old Main Drain, but does not appear to stray onto North Bransholme. Rarely seen, it is probably under-recorded.

Common Shrew (Sorex araneus) This species is very common on the rough grassland and drain banks.

Pygmy Shrew (Sorex minutus) Dead specimens have been discovered on many occasions. It is thought to be widespread but not common throughout the area.

Water Shrew (Neomys fodiens) Both live and dead specimens of this species have been discovered, with the marshy ponds and drains having yielded sightings four times since 1992.

Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) Not a common species, the brown rat has only been seen six times this decade, usually along the Old Main Drain close to the housing estate.

Black Rat (Rattus rattus) A most unexpected find was the corpse of an individual of this species at an occupied kestrel nest in 1988. While the adult birds where known to hunt locally, no sign of the species has been seen before or since.

Harvest Mouse (Micromys minutus) This species is a local speciality of North Bransholme. Judging by the number of sightings of live and dead animals, and the annual discovery of nests, a significant population is tentatively believed to be present in the area, particularly along the Old Main Drain. This is where nearly all of the almost annual sightings have been centred, with nests being found in adjacent barley fields.

House Mouse (Mus musculus) Only the occasional invasion of homes betrays the presence of the House Mouse at North Bransholme. It has sporadically been seen among houses and gardens adjacent to the farmland, but not on the farmland itself.

Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) Widespread, though not particularly common, throughout the area, particularly among the thick hedgerows and copses.

Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris) In the 1980s this was a very common mammal along all the drains in the area. However, a rapid decline has since taken place and now the species has virtually disappeared, with just a single sighting since 1994.

Bank Vole (Clethrionomys glareolus) Abundant and widespread, possibly the most common mammal in the area.

Field Vole (Microtus agrestis) Relatively common in the areas of rough grassland.

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) Another newcomer. First seen using pylons to cross the Holderness Drain in 1990, two more sightings have occurred, the most recent in 1997. These latter sightings were made among the houses of North Bransholme.

Brown Hare (Lepus capensis) A declining species. Formerly quite common, hunting and disturbance has gradually led to a decrease in sightings, usually in winter on the rough grassland. Sightings are still at least annual, and breeding may occur.

Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) Formerly abundant, empty warrens now litter the area as a result of hunting pressure. However, a new colony has recently become established on an area of rough grassland opposite the Perronet Thompson School, with wandering individuals seen elsewhere.

Pipistrelle Bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) Frequently seen in summer, tiny bats believed to be this species hawk over the whole area, including the housing estate. They are known to roost in the loft cavities of the houses.

Common Frog (Rana temporaria) Though not common, breeding occurs annually in the Foredyke Stream.

Common Toad (Bufo bufo) Much more widespread than the frog, the toad breeds in the Holderness Drain and some of the cleaner ditches.

Smooth Newt (Triturus vulgaris) The silting up of Old Main Drain has deprived this species of a local stronghold, but breeding still occurs in the marshy ponds. The population is thought to be quite large, but local children collect many.

Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) One of the most exciting discoveries on the site, a colony has been known to breed in the marshy pools since 1990. Though outnumbered by Smooth Newts, double figures have been recorded during pond dipping. Local children exploit their habit of hiding under debris in damp areas, and many are collected each year.

Unconfirmed records Badgers have been reported infrequently from nearby throughout the 1990s, though I am unable to confirm this. In addition, several types of bat have been seen which I am unable to identify, most notably along the drain at Bransholme Dairy Farm.

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Spurn Moths and Butterflies

Peter Crowther

Spurn is one of the most important sites in Yorkshire for the recording of moths and butterflies. Several factors contribute to this importance: firstly its geographical position at the extreme south-east corner of the county makes it a natural entry point where those species which are extending their range northwards into Yorkshire and beyond as a result of climatic warming are able to gain a foothold prior to further expansion; secondly its exposed coastline makes it a natural landing place not only for bird migrants and vagrants but also for moths and butterflies flying in from across the sea; thirdly the peninsula combines a blend of habitats—including sand dunes and saltmarsh—that is unique in Yorkshire; and finally, the area has been particularly fortunate in attracting the interest of naturalists, including entomologists and lepidopterists, from as far back as the late nineteenth century whilst detailed moth and butterfly recording has been carried out in the area on a regular and systematic basis over the last three decades.

Up to the end of 1999, the total number of macrolepidoptera (larger moths and butterflies), recorded at Spurn was 420 with a further 328 species of microlepidoptera (micro-moths). This total increases almost every year as new species continue to be recorded. Although detailed surveys of the insect fauna of Spurn had been carried out from time to time by members of the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union in the 1940s and 1950s, it was not until 1969 that regular systematic recording began. In that year, the present warden of the Spurn National Nature Reserve, Barry Spence, began to fully count and record the nightly catches made in the Rothamsted Insect Survey light trap newly installed as part of a nationwide insect survey that continues to this day. In the following year a Mercury Vapour light trap was set up at the Warren. This trap has been in operation on most suitable nights (that is nights without heavy rain or strong winds) throughout the year from early spring to late autumn until the present. A second MV light trap at the Spurn Bird Observatory’s newly acquired property near the church in Kilnsea was installed last year (1999) and is also now in operation. The moths caught in these traps are carefully recorded, both identity of species and number of individuals, and the records are reported to the county moth recorders. After being recorded, the moths themselves are released back into the wild.

Most of the moths taken at Spurn are resident species that live on the peninsula, their caterpillars feeding on the plants that grow there. The bulk of these moths are relatively common and may be found elsewhere in Yorkshire. However since Spurn is the only area in Yorkshire where reasonably large areas of sand dunes and saltmarsh are found in close proximity, many species of moth which are dependent on these habitats and their plants, are restricted to Spurn (or at least found only in large numbers there) in their Yorkshire distribution pattern. Such ‘Spurn specials’ are the Sharp-angled Peacock (Semiothisa alternata), Star-wort (Cucullia asteris), Sand Dart (Agrotis ripae), Crescent Striped (Apamea oblonga), Lyme Grass (Chortodes elymi), and Saltern Ear (Amphipoea fucosa paludis), to name some of the more well known ones.

Spurn is a notable site for immigrant species. Among the more common species of macro-moth, Silver Y (Autographa gamma), Dark Sword-grass (Agrotis ipsilon), and Pearly Underwing (Peridroma saucia), are recorded regularly every year. The Silver Y, especially, can sometimes be taken at light or seen feeding on flowers during the day in very large numbers. As with birds, large influxes of immigrant moths and butterflies of one or more species may occur when the conditions are right. For example, on 10th August 1988, some 200 butterflies comprising nine species were recorded as moving down the peninsula in one hour. In years of high immigrant activity, common species such as Silver Y and the micro-moths, Diamond-back Moth (Plutella xylostella) and Rush Veneer (Nomophila noctuella), have been recorded flying or resting during the daytime in their thousands. Even the less common migrants such as Bordered Straw (Heliothis peltigera) are occasionally recorded by day in good numbers; for example on 24th August 1996, 16 Bordered Straw were seen feeding on flowers along the peninsula with Silver Ys. Other less common macro-moth immigrants recorded regularly if only in single figures are Gem (Orthonama obstipata), Vestal (Rhodometra sacraria), Humming-bird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum), Convolvulus Hawk-moth (Agrius convolvuli), Delicate (Mythimna vitellina), and Great Brocade (Eurois occulta). Also on the list are such comparative rarities as White-speck (Mythimna unipuncta), White-point (M. albipuncta), Spotted Clover (Schinia scutosa), Pine Hawk-moth (Hyloicus pinastri), Bedstraw Hawk-moth (Hyles gallii), Death’s Head Hawk-moth (Acherontia atropos), Scarce Bordered Straw (Helicoverpa armigera), and even greater rarities such as Golden Twin-spot (Chrysodeixis chalcites), Ni Moth (Trichoplusia ni), Clifden Nonpareil (Catocala fraxini), and Blackneck (Lygephila pastinum). Among immigrant species of butterfly, Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and Large White (Pieris brassicae) are of course regular and sometimes in very large numbers. Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) occurs regularly, too, but usually in smaller numbers except for those years when the species invades the country with large influxes. Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus) is a similar species—normally very low numbers but occasional record years when it comes across in very high numbers. Camberwell Beauty (Aglais antiopa) has been recorded on only two occasions, both times in 1976.

In all 25 species of butterfly have been recorded at Spurn. These include occasional vagrants such as Swallow-tail (Papilio machaon) and Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria tircis) but apart from the immigrants already mentioned, the remainder are resident. There are fairly substantial colonies of Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus icarus), Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus britanniae), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus pamphilus), Wall (Lasiommata megera), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina insularis), and Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus). In addition, Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) has been recorded regularly in recent years in small numbers on the Point and near the Lighthouse. Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) has also been reported in very small numbers at the Point in the last two or three years and may be struggling to establish itself as a resident breeding species. The sudden dramatic appearance of Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus britanna) and its establishment as a resident breeding species in Yorkshire over the last few years was recorded at Spurn as elsewhere in the county, but only two individuals have been sighted on the peninsula in 2000—a decline as dramatic and abrupt as the rise, and again mirrored throughout the county. Another species, which has become notably more common in recent years, as a result of range expansion northwards, is the Comma (Polygonia c-album).

Perhaps one of the most surprising moths ever to be caught at Spurn was the Maori (Graphania dives), a New Zealand moth, not previously recorded in Britain, which was caught at Spurn by day in July 1950. This was almost certainly an accidental introduction and may have come off a ship passing in the Humber. Such shipborne introductions are always possible, if unlikely, for a maritime site such as Spurn, and it is interesting to conjecture what other exotica might be forthcoming.

It is impossible in such a short space to do justice to the rich variety of Lepidoptera, which have been recorded over the years at Spurn. Visitors who might wish to explore further are directed to the book written by the Spurn YWT warden and moth recorder, Barry Spence, The Moths and Butterflies of Spurn (Kilnsea: SBO, 1991)—price 3.50 (including p. & p.) available from the author, Mr. B.R. Spence, The Warren, Spurn National Nature Reserve, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire, HU12 OUG.

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Moths captured at Bamforth Farm, Wawne

Andrew Ashworth

On two evenings in 2002 Dr Andrew Ashworth set a mercury vapour moth trap at Bamforth Farm Wawne. On each occasion the Tuesday evening field group was invited to inspect the catch. Thanks to Andrew for supplying the following lists of the moths taken.

25th June 2002
Lesser Swallow Prominent
Buff Ermine
Brimstone Moth
Heart and Dart
Barred Straw
Light Arches
Dark Arches
Flame Shoulder
Silver Y
Plain Golden Y
Burnished Brass
Marbled Miner
Small Angle Shades
The Uncertain
Mottled Rustic
Double Square-spot
Setaceous Hebrew Character
Rustic Shoulder Knot
Peppered Moth
Bright-line Brown-eye
Poplar Grey
Grey Dagger
Silver-ground Carpet
Smoky Wainscott
Common Footman
Large Yellow Underwing
Riband Wave
Dusky Brocade
Small Magpie
Myelois cribrella
Clepis spectrana
Croesia forsskaleana

Common Wasp
(Vespula vulgaris)
Scorpion Fly
(Panorpa communi)

Torrential overnight rain on the night of 30th June meant that some of the smaller moths were lost. The following list is of those species that avoided the “moth soup”.

30th June 2002
Lesser Swallow Prominent
Poplar Hawk (3)
Elephant Hawk
Dark Arches
Light Arches
Grey Dagger
Poplar Grey
Knot Grass
Common Rustic
Burnished Brass
Marbled Beauty
Lesser Yellow Underwing
Large Yellow Underwing
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
East Yellow Underwing
Heart and Dart
Riband Wave
Smoky Wainscott
Common Wainscott
Flame Shoulder
Rustic Shoulder Knot
Brimstone Moth Small Blood-vein
Common Footman
Garden Carpet
Ruby Tiger
Dark-barrel Twin-spot Carpet
Pale-mottled Willow
Bright-line Brown-eye
Mouse Moth
Early Thorn
Small Phoenix
The Rustic
Dot Moth
Shuttle-shaped Dart
Ghost Moth
Mother of Pearl
Agapeta hamana
Archips podana
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Some Plants of interest found in 2001

Rob Atkinson

During the Summer I have found some species of plants which were rare or absent in the zone covered by the millennium plant survey. I found the Ivy-leaved Duckweed (Lemna trisulca), which during the period of the survey was only found in one kilometre square, in Pickering Park wildlife pond. I found it in the wilderness area at Bransholme, north of the recently constructed fishing lakes [TA 11 35]. It occurred in abundance in various scrapes, ponds and blocked up dikes. Just outside the zone covered by the survey, Dick Middleton and I found Field Woundwort (Stachys arvensis). It was growing down Fairholme Lane between Wawne and Benningholme [TA 106 376]. This plant was not found during the survey, although it is locally frequent on the chalk Wolds.

Inside the zone covered by the survey, but not discovered during the survey period, I found the casual alien, Gold-of-Pleasure (Camelina sativa). It was growing in a row of Swedes in my vegetable garden [TA 085 372]. I speculate whether it was among the Swede seeds or from seed from the bird table a short distance away. Another alien was found during one of our Tuesday night field trips, in a gateway on the disused railway track, near Hatfield [TA 184 438]. It was obviously some type of canary grass, but not one we knew. I sent a sample to Peter Cook who kindly identified it as Awned Canary-grass (Phalaris paradoxa). Peter had only seen it once before, on the river bank at North Ferriby.

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The Hull Biodiversity Partnership & Local Biodiversity Action Plan

Richard Middleton

In June of 2000, the Hull Natural History Society was invited to become a member of the Hull Biodiversity Partnership (HBP), the first task of which was to be the production of a Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) for the City of Hull. The partnership would be open to public bodies, national organisations and local groups but not individuals. With only a day’s notice of the inaugural meeting, Kath Middleton (for the Hull Natural History Society) and myself (for the Hull Millennium Flora Project) attended the first meeting. Jon Capel, the City Ecologist, outlined the need for a LBAP to update Hull’s NaturePlan, published in 1995.

The LBAP would review the biodiversity of the city in terms of important habitats and key species and, more importantly, also provide a framework of action for the protection and development of this resource. It would expect partners to make some commitment to the delivery of positive action in monitoring species or developing suitable habitats within the City. The concept of LBAPs arose primarily as a Government response to the Rio Environmental Summit (Agenda 21), which devolves some of the responsibility to local authorities to deliver a Local Agenda 21 (LA21). Unfortunately the process attracts no statutory funding.

After the initial meeting delegates were invited to consult with their organisations and submit information about important wildlife habitats within Hull. A hastily arranged meeting of members of the Hull Natural History Society produced a detailed response stressing the importance of identifying important local habitat types and making suggestions for a framework. In addition it was proposed that the LBAP should meet the following criteria :

At the next meeting I had the dubious honour of being elected as Chairman of the HBP and John Capel became its secretary. It is a credit to the Society that the suggested habitats formed a basic framework on which the final document was built and that, without exception, all of the suggested criteria were met.

Over the next year there were many meetings during which the expertise and views of the partners was brought together to form a database from which the LBAP could be built. Key habitats were refined and target species were identified. It was considered important that whenever possible the target species should be well known and could be easily identified by the non-specialist. It would then make monitoring a much more inclusive process that could be participated in by schools, community groups and interested individuals.

By late 2001 it became clear that although we knew what we wanted the final document to look like, we did not have the necessary time or skills to produce it ourselves and that a technical author was needed. Welcome funding by English Nature and Hull City Council provided enough money to advertise this post on a six month contract. We were extremely fortunate to secure the services of Bethany Marshall to collate our material, research the legislative framework, cajole people for more information and generally convert everything into a LBAP. She made a magnificent job of this and the quality of the final product is a testament to her skill and dedication.

By April 2002 the LBAP was complete and ready for printing. The final product will appear in two flavours. The full, detailed version for the partners and libraries will take the form of a loose-leaf folder of habitat and species action plans. A shorter executive summary will be produced as an A4 booklet. The full version is also available for downloading over the internet and a project web site will soon be developed.

Looking forward there are several things that remain to be done. The partnership organisations will be asked to adopt the document formally, this includes the public and national organisations as well as the local groups. It is hoped that formal adoption by the City Council will give weight to its aims and that much of its content will become part of the planning guidelines. As a Society our main role will be in the monitoring of its success. We have committed ourselves to surveys of Cowslips, Bee Orchids and wall ferns on a biannual basis.

Although the LBAP is now complete, the Biodiversity Partnership will continue to meet with a changed emphasis. The chair has passed to Sean Clough and Rob Atkinson will formally represent the Hull Natural History Society. The regular monthly meetings are presently alternating between formal indoor sessions and informal field meetings, enabling the group to see the work that others are doing at first hand. The whole process has taken close to two years to complete but I hope that the document will be viewed as a milestone in wildlife conservation within Hull. It is the first time that conservation targets have been established together with mechanisms for monitoring their success.

Appendix : Members of the Partnership in 2002
Kingston upon Hull City Council
East Riding of Yorkshire County Council
English Nature
Environment Agency
Hull Museums
University of Hull

Butterfly Conservation (Yorkshire)
City of Hull Environment Forum
Friends of the Earth
North & East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Wildlife Watch
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Bransholme Green Enterprise & Environment Project
East Yorkshire Bat Group
East Yorkshire Bird Club
Ella Street Residents Association
Hull and East Riding Organic Gardeners Association
Hull Natural History Society
Hull Valley Wildlife Group
Kingston Environment Group
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For the record: some interesting local plant finds :

2002 : Ranunculus arvensis (Corn Crowfoot) in a damp Rape field, Wheel. (A Ashworth)

2002 : Valerianella dentata (Narrow-fruited Corn Salad) field entrance, Wawne. (R. Middleton)

2002: Chenopodium pumilio (Clammy Goosefoot) Hull (R. Atkinson)

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