The Hull Natural History Society

News > 2021

Flowering Rush - Alkborough

Flowering Rush I went to Alkborough Flats today, I hadn't been since our Hull Nats visit the 20th October 2020. As I went by the path I remembered that botanists noted the dry flower stems of Flowering Rush and I looked for it. I found a single plant, and a single flower was open, what a beautiful marginal plant! I shall remember it.

Other than that, most birds were very distant today and the water very high from the main hide. Still, the place was a veritable heron fest: 20+ Little Egrets, 15+ Grey Heron, 2 Bitterns heard, one flushed, 3 Great White Egrets, plus 6 Spoonbills, a dapper Spotted Redshank and 2 Avocets, Bearded Tits, Marsh Harriers, Cetti's galore and more. A telescope would have been ideal. I had some good odonata too.

Africa Gómez, 14 June 2021

Raincliffe Wood 9 May

A day later than originally planned, five members assembled on a fine spring morning, very pleased that they did not have to endure yesterday’s torrential rain. Raincliffe and Forge valley are always a delight at this time of the year and we were treated to fine display of seasonable flowers, some such as the Moschatel or “Town-hall Clock” (Adoxa moschatellina) scarce or absent from our own vice-county. A pleasant, if occasionally sporting, walk around the wood produced a list of a hundred plant species. The birds were perhaps a little shy or preoccupied but on the limited list we did manage to record Garden Warbler, Nuthatch and Marsh Tit.

The visit was rounded-off for some of the party by a successful foray to a nearby site to see May Lily (Maianthemum bifolium) – a very rare plant - now seen on two Hull Nats Field trips this year!

Richard Middleton, 11 May 2021

Raincliffe Wood - pictures

Flower pictures

Helen Kitson, 11 May 2021

Leucistic crow

Crows As I walked by the Oak Road playing fields yesterday I noticed an odd bird feeding on the grass. I couldn't believe my eyes: it is a silvery crow! I remembered that Andy Gibson messaged me about such a bird on New Years Day. I went to find it the following day and I have been visiting the area regularly, so it has taken me over 4 months to find it. It is likely to be a genetic variant of the usual colour plumage, instead of it being due to poor nutrition (as exemplified by this very tame young bird at West Park). Carrion Crow young being fed on bread appear to suffer from discolouration of their primaries, and are more frequent around public parks. They might grow black feathers in their next moult, but in the meantime, the white feathers fray more easily and sometimes these crows look like they have to make more effort to fly.

Africa Gómez, 14 April 2021

Butterbur, Snuff Mill Lane


Annie Horne, 24 March 2021


Siskin I've been for a long walk to the north limits of the city following the Beverley and Barmston drain. Had a close look at the Mistletoe, and nearby was a little flock of Siskin coming down to drink on a puddle after feeding on the Alders. Also had my first Colt's-foot by Oak Road Lake, and my 2nd picnic of the year!

Africa Gómez, 15 March 2021

A new local patch ...

Cormorant swimming As the lockdown was announced, a strong sense of déjà vu, what to do? how to fill the quota of wildlife I need to stay afloat from the madness of this world. I need a local patch, within walking distance, and diverse enough in habitats that it will keep me busy recording in it. So I decided onto Sculcoates square (TA0930), with a river, a drain, lots of scrubby, brownfield places and three cemeteries. I have planned to visit at least weekly year round and if you want to follow my patch adventures, check my web blog.

Africa Gómez, 9 January 2021

Botanists at work

Botanists working

Valerie Fairhurst, 1 January 2021

BSBI New Year Plant Hunt 2021

The BSBI organised the New Year Plant Hunt again this year, emphasising that participants must comply with any COVID restrictions in their area. For those who have not taken part before, the idea is to record all the flowering wild or naturalised plants that can be found during a 3-hour walk on a day during the New Year period, January 1st to 4th. Three members of the Society turned up for a walk round Beverley on January 1st. This is an area we have surveyed in previous years but, lacking any of our botanical heavyweights in the team, we only managed a total of 27 species compared to 42 in 2020 and 70 in 2019. Looking on the bright side, this is still significantly higher than the national average list length of about 18. The full list can be seen by going to BSBI results page and clicking the marker on the map. The weather turned out to be better than expected and it was a very enjoyable outing. Non-botanic highlights were a good view of a Grey Wagtail on Barmston Drain and the discovery of a group (or should that be a constellation?) of Collared Earthstars (Geastrum triplex).

Andrew Chadwick, 1 January 2021

Toothed Door Snail, Welton

In the interesting visit to Welton Top on Tuesday I found this little door snail on a tree trunk. It is a Toothed Door Snail, Clausilia bidentata. Although a common species in the UK, records appear to be concentrated in the Wolds in East Yorkshire. It lives in woods and hedges and is active at night and in damp weather, when it climbs onto trees or rocks to feed on lichens.

Africa Gómez, 20 May 2021

Allerthorpe 25 April

As a change, we met in Allerthorpe village and walked to the Common from the east through Tank Plantation. There were many fallen or dying birch trees supporting Hoof Fungus (Fomes fomentarius). The one in the photo had started life on an upright trunk before changing direction towards the ground when the trunk fell, to release its spores. Most of the usually dark grey fungi were a ghostly white colour. It looked like mould but this must have been the white spores, still coating the fruiting bodies due to the dry spring. Inside the tough outer layer, the pore material, or trama, is soft and a desiccant. It can spark easily and smoulder for hours. Hence its other name, Tinder Fungus, as carried by Otzi the Iceman. The processed trama, called amadou, is also used as a material for producing felt fabric.

There were plenty of singing warblers, including the Whitethroat photographed, and other summer visitors including Swallows and Cuckoo (heard but not seen). The increasingly common Red Kite was also spotted.

There was a respectable plant list although not much in flower, one exception being the Lousewort in the photo. The leaves of May Lily, one of the specialities of the reserve, were showing and there were signs of a flower on one specimen.

After some searching we eventually found a pair of Adders, one of the other well-known attractions of Allerthorpe. In the photo the female is brown and the male a light grey/green.

Helen Kitson & Andrew Chadwick, 1 May 2021

Wheldrake 10 April

Wheldrake trip pictures Four members attended our first field trip after the latest lockdown. There was a good range of birds, both on the water and in the woodland with the star record being a Great White Egret. Although early for many flowers, we found a patch of Rue-leaved Saxifrage (Saxifraga tridactylites)- top - not far from the car park. In the floodplain meadow were Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) and Marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris) amongst what promises to be a good display of Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis). We were interested to find most of the patches of Broad-leaved Dock crawling with iridescent green beetles which were busy mating and laying eggs - middle. These were identified as Green Dock Beetles (Gastrophysa viridula)! Other finds included the fungus Blushing Bracket (Daedaleopsis confragosa) and a slime mould, the False Puffball (Enteridium lycoperdon) - bottom - about to crack and release its spores.

pictures - Helen Kitson
report - Andrew Chadwick
11 April 2021

"Dirty sand"

Scans of beach sand grains When visiting Easington at the end of last year I was struck by a broad band of brown, dirty-looking, sand at the top of the beach. I collected a sample of this material which proved to be half as heavy again as normal beach sand.

The above image shows ordinary quartz beach sand (left) compared with the dark sand (right). This demonstrated how effective the wave action had been at sorting the heavy garnet (pink and red grains) from the transparent quartz. The black grains were a mixture of magnetite (iron oxide) and ilmenite (iron-titanium oxide), the former of which is highly magnetic. With a fridge-magnet I was able to extract 10% by weight of the grains.

Moral - don't rely on your compass at Easington!

Richard Middleton, 8 April 2021

Stranded whales

Stranded Sperm Whale On the 30th of December I headed to Withernsea to see the stranded Sperm Whales. I've never seen a stranded whale before and I was saddened by their misfortune, but incredibly curious to see these animals up close. Five whales were stranded and a team was carrying out the necropsies. The individual closest to Withernsea is pictured in the photo.

Africa Gómez, 9 January 2021

Wawne - top 20 garden birds 2020

Over 2020 I kept a daily record of all (identifiable) birds seen or heard from our Wawne garden. Travel restrictions and cancelled holidays resulted in an unbroken sequence of 366 lists with 47 observed species. The above chart shows the frequency of occurrence (as a % of days listed) of the twenty most frequent species.

Goldfinch has been the clear winner, with small "charms" being lured by sunflower hearts several times during most days.

The quietness of the lockdown gave 28 days of Skylark song and even the Cuckoo managed to make it onto two lists. The discipline of keeping a constant look-out for something new has been quite rewarding, resulting in both Yellow and Grey Wagtails, Curlew, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Although it was a very simple exercise it has yielded quite an interesting base-line data set which is going to take some time to analyse.

Richard Middleton, 3 January 2020

Red-crested Pochard

Red-crested Pochard Chris Sulston spotted this female Red-crested Pochard on East Park lake at the end of last year. They occur commonly in Europe, but are fairly rare visitors or escapees in the UK. East Park has a good selection of waterfowl and is well worth a visit.[AC]

picture- Chris Sulston

Collared Earthstar - Beverley

Collared Earthstar

Helen Kitson, 1 January 2021

Small Elephant Hawkmoth

A pleasant surprise in my moth trap on Monday - a fine specimen of the relatively diminutive Small Elephant Hawkmoth. Normal service was resumed this morning with two examples of its much larger cousin the Elephant Hawkmoth, as pictured in last year's "News" of exactly the same date.

Richard Middleton, 16 June 2021

Owls in a Hull cemetery

Young Tawny Owls The Friends of the General Cemetery in Hull fitted a number of nest boxes in the cemetery last autumn, including two Tawny Owl boxes. You would think that with so many mature trees there wouldn't be a need. However, Tawny Owls rapidly occupied one of the nests. I was alerted to the presence of owlets at the nest entrance a couple of days ago by a friend. I visited them on May 6th and 7th, when I took photos. A wonderful experience! Despite having a nest in use in front of my house for years I had never seen the owlets. On the 7th one of the owlets had 'branched', where they leave the nest, even if they can't fly. I haven't seen them in the last few days so I presume they are now well camouflaged in nearby trees being fed by their parents.

Africa Gómez, 12 May 2021

Allerthorpe - pictures


  1. Hoof fungus - Helen Kitson
  2. Whitethroat - Mervin Nethercoat
  3. Lousewort - Helen Kitson
  4. Adders - Andrew Chadwick

Barn Owl Pellets - Allerthorpe

Barn Owl Pellets I've spent a couple of hours dissecting the three fresh pellets I collected from under the Pine tree nest box on our trip to Allerthorpe common on the 25th April. They contained a large number of shrews, with other prey being just 2 Field Voles and a couple of bird wing bones

Pellet 1: 4 Common Shrew, 2 Pygmy Shrew, 2 long bird bones (wing probably)
Pellet 2: 5 Common Shrew, 4 Pygmy Shrew (above)
Pellet 3: 2 Field Voles, 3 Common Shrew, 1 Pygmy Shrew.

Africa Gómez, 3 May 2021

Fungi on dead Holly leaves

After seeing a simple pictorial guide for identifying fungi which apparently only grow on the dead leaves of Holly, Ilex aquifolium, I examined some brown holly leaves from under a local hedge. Several leaves had black speckling on both the upper and lower surfaces (see photos). This is a characteristic feature of the Ascomycete fungus Phacidium lauri [Naturespot]; it has no common name according to the British Mycological Society. The small round speckles are pycnidia which release asexual spores (conidia), ie spores produced by mitosis [Assynt Field Club].

Two other species of fungi only found on dead Holly leaves are the Holly Speckle (another Ascomycete) and the Holly Parachute (a Basidiomycete).

The Holly Speckle, Trochila ilicina, can be identified by finer black speckling restricted to the upper surface of the leaf [Naturespot]. These speckles have a lid which ’flips’ open to allow the release of sexual spores [Assynt Field Club].

The Holly Parachute, Marasmius hudsonii, looks completely different. It emerges from a dead leaf as a minute mushroom with a slender stalk. The pale pinkish cream cap, 2-6 cm diameter, has a covering of red-brown hairs [First Nature]. This fungus is reported to be associated with moist Holly leaves. A feature of this genus is that a dried out mushroom can recover if rehydrated.

All three species would appear to have a wide distribution in the UK, with the Holly Parachute being the least recorded species (173 records on NBN). However there are only three entries on iRecord of these fungi from VC61: two for P.lauri and one for T.ilicina. Hence it seems that there is considerable scope to increase the reporting of these easy-to-identify fungi in Hull and the East Riding.

Richard Shillaker, 1 January 2021

Fungi on Holly leaves (2)

Holly leaf with fungi Upper (top) and lower (bottom) leaf surfaces.

Richard Shillaker, 1 January 2021