Newsletter 12

March 2007

This is the first "virtual" Newsletter of the Hull Natural History Society. It is hoped that articles can be added as they are submitted rather than waiting until there is a magazine-full.

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Editorial: Richard Middleton
Sturgeon in the Humber Colin Howes
Dragonflies and Damselflies (Odonta) of the Bransholme Fishing Ponds Andrew Ashworth
Return of the Water Vole Rob Atkinson
Pam Gardam's Road Verge Flora Bryan Mallison
Tibthorpe verge plants : 1985 Richard Middleton
Field visit: Paull Holme 24th March 2007


Richard Middleton

It is almost becoming traditional to start the Newsletter with an apology for the length of time it has taken to bring out a new edition. As I noted in the last issue, it is by no means an indication of a lack of activity within the Society. The Hull Natural History Society is now an active member of the Hull Biodiversity Partnership and is formally represented at it's steering group meetings by Rob Atkinson, with three other Society members attending in other capacities.

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Sturgeon in the Humber

Colin Howes

According to research currently being assembled by the Yorkshire Naturalists' Union, of all the numerous sturgeons that seasonally (from May to August) ascended the Yorkshire (Hull and Ouse) and Midland (Trent) river systems, the following report in the Doncaster Chronicle for the 10th May 1844 provides a fascinating and probably unique record of a sturgeon being caught alive in the Humber.

A Royal Sturgeon -

On Tuesday afternoon week, the crew of the Don - Thorne Packet, coming down the Humber, described something foundering in the shallow water on Whitton Middlesand, and getting the boat out proceeded to the spot, where they found the object of their attention to be a fine sturgeon, which having leaped on the shoal, they had no difficulty in capturing. The fish on being got into the boat was found to measure nearly seven feet in length and in ventral girth thirty-three inches. Returning to the packet, the boat containing the captive was suspended from the stern, and a plentiful supply of the aqueous element being furnished, the prize was brought in safety to Hull and has since been purchased by the Zoological Society as a rare addition to the natural collection in the gardens and where the stranger is now snugly located in the lake.

Investigations at the Zoological Society of London (i.e. Regent's Park Zoo, London) failed to come up with evidence that they were the recipients of the live fish but research by Tracey Booth of the Local Studies Librarian at Hull City Libraries, has shown that the'Zoological Society' referred to in the press article could well have been in Hull.

The Hull Zoological gardens, which opened in 1840, were situated on Spring Bank, extended over about seven acres and contained an aviary and two ornamental ponds, possibly where the sturgeon 'snugly' resided.

The gardens were finally closed around 1862 and the land developed for housing. What happened to the captive sturgeon isn't recorded, but residents in the Spring Bank area of Hull may have got more than just frogspawn in their garden ponds in spring!

Other allusions to Sturgeon in the Humber and on sale in Hull Market The earliest allusion to sturgeon in the Humber has been traced in the 'Lay of Havelock the Dane' as follows 'He tok ye sturgeum and ye qual and ye turbut'. This work of fiction, the earliest version of which dates from 1150, is set initially in or around Grimsby, thus the allusion is likely to refer to the Humber or Humber mouth region (Darbyshire 1884).

In 1578 Hull was described as having the best market for fish in England and sturgeon were listed amongst the species that could be purchased (VCH of Yorkshire, East Riding 1969).

In 1633 the Magistrates of Hull sent two casks of sturgeon with a butt of sac to the Archbishop of York (Malet Lambert Local History Reprints No. 80 1985)

In June 1843 a 7ft, 120lb specimen was netted in the Trent at Dunham and sold at Gainsborough and Hull (Doncaster Chronicle 2nd June 1843; Doncaster, Notts. & Lincs Gazette, 2nd June 1843) and one caught at Howdendyke in August 1901 was sold in Hull Market (Goole Times 30th August 1901).

In 1881 sturgeon was noted as a species occurring in 'the Humber and the tidal reaches of its tributary rivers' (Clarke & Roebuck 1881) but by 1922, it's perceived status had been reduces to that of a 'straggler' which 'from time to time ascended the river Humber' (Procter 1922). Today, the species is all but extinct in the North Sea and Yorkshire waters.

Very few specimens are even in museum collections but at Doncaster Museum there are two 19th century Yorkshire specimens, one from Stutton Mill on the Cock Beck, a tributary of the river Wharfe near Tadcaster, and a mighty 9ft specimen caught at Barnby Dun on the river Don below Doncaster.


Clarke, W.D. and Roebuck, W.E. 1881. A Handbook of the Vertebrate Fauna of Yorkshire. Lovell Reeve, London.

Darbyshire, R.D. 1884. Notes on the fishes of Grimsby about 1300. The Naturalist, 10: 61.

Malet Lambert Local History Library 1985. Reprint No. 80

Procter, C.F. 1922. Fishes of East Yorkshire pp.352-6 in Sheppard, T. (ed.) Handbook to Hull and the East Riding. Brown, London.

C.A. Howes,
Museum and Art Gallery,
Doncaster DN1 2AE

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Dragonflies and Damselflies (Odonta)
of the Bransholme Fishing Ponds [TA 111 348]

Andrew Ashworth

Essentially there are two ponds of different character.

  1. The large pond - fairly deep with an island, much marginal vegetation, a mixture of emergent Typha, Phragmites, Juncus and Carex with a little floating vegetation.
  2. The small pond – very shallow with much pondweed.

These do complement each other and provide opportunities for most dragonfly species one could expect to find in fairly neutral, still water in East Yorkshire. The Emerald Damselfly has a preference for Juncus/Eleocharis dominated shallow margins and may not be found. The surrounding grassland is significant and should provide a variety of sheltering and feeding areas for maturing tenerals and adults. It also acts as a buffer against the agricultural pollution responsible for the paucity of dragonflies in the county e.g. most drainage channels and large water bodies such as Hornsea Mere.

The Monitoring commenced quite late in the year and only a few visits were made. Some species may have been overlooked and others the peak emergence missed.

19th June 2002 Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)
Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella)
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)
Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator)


19th July 2002 Common Blue Damselfly
Blue-tailed Damselfly
Four-spotted Chaser
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) – all teneral


6th August 2002 Common Blue Damselfly
Blue-tailed Damselfly
Common Darter
Four-spotted Chaser
Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis)
Emperor Dragonfly


14th August 2002 Common Darter
Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum)
Common Blue Damselfly
Blue-tailed Damselfly
Brown Hawker – 2 ovipositing in small pond


2nd October 2002 Common Darter
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)


2nd November 2002

(Larval sampling)

Blue-tailed Damselfly
Azure Damselfly
Emperor Dragonfly
Also Water Stick Insects (Ranatra linearis)


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Return of the Water Vole

Rob Atkinson

I am pleased to report that Water Voles (Arvicola terrestris) have returned to Engine Drain, Wawne. They occurred there 30 years ago or so then disappeared, as in many parts of the country, for no obvious reason. In 2002 I spotted likely looking holes in the bank and decided to watch for them this Spring before vegetation made it impossible to see the water. On 28th April 2003 I was looking at a hole for droppings when a large Water Vole swam up to the hole and disappeared. I also saw voles on the 4th and 10th May in a different place. I was able to stand and watch one eating meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) leaves for several minutes.

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Pam Gardam’s Road Verge Flora

Bryan Mallison

Editor's note: Pam Gardam was a long serving member of the Society, enthusiastic local botanist and friend, who died in 2004.

An examination of Pam’s correspondence, field notes, records and assessments produced the following points of interest which still have relevance to the present conditions.

Correspondence showed that in 1997 The Hull Natural History Society offered to provide information and assistance on the sites which the new authority had inherited from the Humberside County Council (HCC). Planning, Environment and Technical Services (PETS) approved a request to contribute towards the expenses of volunteers who undertook survey work. The Environmental Manager was "closely monitoring the mowing contracts". Plug planting of wildflowers in areas of little intrinsic value was being actively considered.

However Pam was soon writing to PETS on behalf of the Society about damage on the B1248 verge near Fimber – had they made an assessment before road widening? – what safeguards had been put in place? – had original soil been put back?

In 1998 it was arranged that Pam would lead the Tuesday evening field meetings to be held on grass verges. She began to review the surveys which had been carried out for HCC in 1995 by Maslen Assoiates. Her concerns were with the suitability of their grading system, based on chalk grassland indicators, and also with the accuracy of its implementation. She was asking if local experienced botanists had been invited to contribute, conjectured on the depth of experience of the professionals and complained that HCC had agreed that they needed to make only a single visit to each site. She noted that she had seen "high-value" species both before and after the professional’s survey. Her subsequent visits in the following years repeatedly noted deterioration, scrub invasion, unsuitable cutting times, lack of identification posts, unsuitable moving heights, etc.

She devised her own three part grading system of the chalk indicators and was recording their percentage presence in each 10km square of The Wolds and Holderness. This intricate, refined approach demanded much travel and time consuming recording of hand-written data. Her mapping had official Verge Nature Reserves (VNRs) marked in orange and many of her own were located with green. Additional cryptic descriptions such as “rank”, “deteriorated”, “too overgrown”, “tall aggressive” became all too frequent during her last available records in the year 2000 and she continued to reassess and recommended modification to her grades. Her work notes also contained recommendations for the removal of sites from the list of maintained VNRs.

Her correspondence also contained the list of verges of wildlife interest that had been contributed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in July 1975. This contained references to species which formerly appeared on specific sites but which could no longer be found, e.g. Moonwort at Allerthorpe and Giant Bellflower at Leman Corner.

The correspondence from the earlier, more optimistic, era also revealed thet English Nature were involved in the evaluation of the original Humberside VNR criteria. This is in stark contrast to present day transactions in which they are at pains to make clear that road reserves are definitely not within their statutory remit. They are “... unable to inspect and report on these sites again or recommend palliative measures…” but they do agree that “… location maps and species lists for all East Riding VNRs would be useful for future consultations”.

Examination of 49 VNRs in 2003 confirmed that the deterioration first noted by Maslen and amplified by Pam was continuing unabated. Correspondence continues to accumulate, with current concerns focussed on the ever increasing threats by service providers who excavate verges, total lack of scrub control, desultory ill-timed mowing, refusal to divulge mowing records, refusal to pursue alternative funding opportunities, unfulfilled assurances about new marker posts, Gypsy encampments, new road grips, tree planting on VNRs plus comparison with the neighbouring county’s excellent record. Pam’s field notes would be a useful reference prior to visiting sites to confirm species loss.

The final solution may have to wait until the laggardly SINCs process is completed. Pam had attended the inaugural meeting with Baker Shepherd Gillespie in 2001 and had privately noted concerns about the way forward.

2006 may be a suitable time for the Society to enquire into current progress with the SINCs process. One scenario could be that the Highway Services will continue to claim that they are managing the reserves until a few can be adopted as SINCs. The forty or so that remain may then be quietly deleted from the maintenance list and abandoned. Perhaps the Society should consider whether it wishes to be involved with any of the forthcoming examination of SINC sites, without compromising our independent status by resuming any form of “partnership” with the local authority. Many prospective sites will be out of reach on private land but VNRs are, of course, always accessible, though many are now indistinguishable from the general configuration of coarse grass, scrub and overshadowing trees.

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A list of plants found on the roadside verge near Tibthorpe Wood by the Hull Natural History Society Botany Group on 9th July 1985.

Richard Middleton

Ranunculus acris
Ranunculus repens
Cerastium fontanum
Silene dioica
Hypericum perforatum
Hypericum hirsutum
Viola odorata
Viola hirta
Viola arvensis
Salix caprea
Reseda luteola
Primula veris
Potentilla anserina
Potentilla reptans
Fragaria vesca
Geum urbanum
Agrimonia eupatoria
Sanguisorba minor
Rosa canina
Lotus corniculatus
Vicia cracca
Vicia sepium
Vicia sativa
Lathyrus pratensis
Ononis repens
Medicago lupulina
Trifolium repens
Trifolium pratense
Chamerion angustifolium
Circaea lutetiana
Linum catharticum
Acer pseudoplatanus
Geranium pratense
Geranium robertianum
Sanicula europaea
Heracleum sphondylium
Torilis japonica
Myosotis arvensis
Stachys sylvatica
Glechoma hederacea
Prunella vulgaris
Plantago major
Plantago lanceolata
Fraxinus excelsior
Scrophularia auriculata
Veronica officinalis
Veronica chamaedrys
Veronica arvensis
Euphrasia officinalis agg.
Odontites vernus
Rhinanthus minor
Campanula rotundifolia
Sherardia arvensis
Galium aparine
Cruciata laevipes
Sambucus nigra
Arctium minus
Cirsium vulgare
Cirsium palustre
Cirsium arvense
Centaurea nigra
Lapsana communis
Sonchus arvensis
Sonchus asper
Mycelis muralis
Taraxacum aggregate
Bellis perennis
Achillea millefolium
Senecio jacobaea
Senecio erucifolius
Carex flacca
Festuca rubra
Lolium perenne
Dactylis glomerata
Arrhenatherum elatius
Deschampsia cespitosa
Holcus lanatus
Phleum bertolonii
Bromopsis ramosa
Brachypodium sylvaticum
Listera ovata
Platanthera chlorantha
Dactylorhiza fuchsii
Meadow Buttercup
Creeping Buttercup
Common Mouse-ear
Red Campion
Perforate St John's-wort
Hairy St John's-wort
Sweet Violet
Hairy Violet
Field Pansy
Goat Willow
Creeping Cinquefoil
Wild Strawberry
Wood Avens
Salad Burnet
Dog Rose
Common Bird's-foot Trefoil
Tufted Vetch
Bush Vetch
Common Vetch
Meadow Vetchling
Black Medick
White Clover
Red Clover
Rosebay Willowherb
Fairy Flax
Meadow Crane's-bill
Upright Hedge-parsley
Field Forget-me-not
Hedge Woundwort
Ground Ivy
Greater Plantain
Ribwort Plantain
Water Figwort
Heath Speedwell
Germander Speedwell
Wall Speedwell
Red Bartsia
Yellow Rattle
Field Madder
Lesser Burdock
Spear Thistle
Marsh Thistle
Creeping Thistle
Common Knapweed
Perennial Sow-thistle
Prickly Sow-thistle
Wall Lettuce
Common Ragwort
Hoary Ragwort
Glaucous Sedge
Red Fescue
Perennial Rye-grass
False Oat-grass
Tufted Hair-grass
Smaller Cat's-tail
False Brome
Common Twayblade
Greater Butterfly Orchid
Common Spotted Orchid

A view of the same, but now neglected, verge in April 2002

Roadside verge on the B1248 at Tibthorpe

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Field Visit to Paull Holme
24th March 2007

Combined bird list
Golden Plover
Grey Plover
Black-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Black-headed Gull
Common Gull
Wood Pigeon
Meadow Pipit
Pied Wagtail
Song Thrush
Carrion Crow
Reed Bunting
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