Wild West Yorkshire nature diary
yellowhammerhornbeam catkins

Birds of a Feather

Monday 3rd April 2000
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mulberry tree SNOW over the Pennines closes two of the passes for a while. But we get rain all day, some of it falling as sleet. Even the golfers aren't out on the course around the now restored Hatfeild Hall, north of Wakefield.

The ancient spreading tree in front of the hall is a Black Mulberry. There was a fashion for planting them around the beginning of the 19th century, when it was thought they could form the basis of a British silk industry. Unfortunately the caterpillars of the silk moth do not eat this species of mulberry. There is a famous mulberry tree in similar condition to this one in Wakefield Prison, around which women inmates of the House of Correction took their exercise, hence the rhyme.

hornbeam catkinshornbeam bark Short yellow catkins of the male flowers are now showing on Hornbeams behind the hall. These old trees have twisting fissured bark like the skin on the neck of a Galapagos tortoise.

yellowhammersyellowhammerA flock of 50 or 60 Yellowhammers has settled on a newly ploughed strip of grass on the sleet-swept open fields at the edge of the course. I'm surprised that they are still together in such big flocks at this tealtime of year and, for that matter, it seems unusual to me that there are not other finches mixed in amongst them. But every bird I'm able to focus on in this wind and sleet is either a male in bright plumage or a browner female.

As pair of Teal fly up from Stanley Ferry flash.

Walton Hall

Wakefield Museum

There's a celebration this evening to mark the opening of the newly refurbished Wakefield City Museum. Naturalist, explorer and pioneer conservationist Charles Waterton now gets a room of his own. The lively displays bring new life to the story his travels and of the world's first nature reserve at Walton Park. Definitely worth a visit. Don't forget to take a look through the peepholes in the door for a view of two of the rooms in Walton Hall, as they would have been in Waterton's day.

The only problem with going to see an exhibit like this is I feel, 'Wow! I wish I'd done that!' Although I'm pleased that some of my artwork has made it into the show.

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

E-mail; 'richard@daelnet.co.uk'

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