Public Access Biodiversity Project Selby
Managed by The Woodmeadow Trust
Recorders: Meg Abu Hamdan, Chris Abbott and Nick Hall Length 3140m Walk Time 1-1.25 hour
A former intensively farmed arable field converted for biodiversity in 2013 lies on the south edge of the Escrick glacial moraine on the northern edge of the Humberhead levels. The soil is sandy silt witha wet areain the south of the site, which is not far from Skipwith Common NNR, one of the larger tracts of lowland heath remaining in the Vale of York. The eastern edge of Three Hagges Woodmeadow adjoinsHollicarrsWood, PAWS site with some fine old Oaks and even signs of Elm Coppice.
The woodmeadow was created to build on its local botanical heritage as the area is famous for the rare MG5 damp grassland of the nearby Lower Derwent Valley. The plan was to incorporate meadow with copses of native trees and coppice areas in order to maximise biodiversity. 40% of the area is seeded with meadow mix seed. 1200 invertebrate species had been recorded by 2019with more arrive along with what seems like a new species of butterfly every year. The woodmeadowhas benefitted not only by being close to ancient woodland and Skipwith Common as a source and alsoby being close to the old North Selby Mine abandoned for nearly 20 years. It has abundant invertebrates including scarce butterfly species such as Dingy Skipper, Six-belted Clearwing, Marbled White and Small Heath which have made their way to the woodmeadow.
The transect is damp in the south S1 section with reed and sallow regrowth. The transect route skirts the meadow S2, runs up the east side S3 andturns south between the north-west and north-east copses and across the dry meadow S4. It then enters Bomber wood in S5, an old dispersal area of the airfield still with its oak trees,around the boundary of a intensive agriculture field S6, into an improved hay meadow S7 and then on into the PAWS woodland S8 and returning along a shady dyke side S9 that bounds the meadow. Section counts below
Results: 2022 Numbers down but worryingly the vanessids failing to produce a summer generation in the extreme heat. However Holly Blue, Comma , Brown Argus and Gatekeeper boomed!
Overall numbers were a tad down and drought began to play a factor. Meadow Brown accounted for half the losses but also a devastating loss of the whole summer generations of Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock recording almost zero from July onwards. Other losers were Small Skipper Small Copper and Common Blue while in the heatwave favoured Brown Argus which boomed. Holly Blue also boomed after zero last year they bounced back getting the upper hand temporarily over its parasite in its regular 5-6 year cycle of boom and bust. Comma in contrast with all the other vanessids boomed having its best year at the meadow so far. In common with previous years Marbled White visited and this was a common occurance in the local area with even one in my garden. They certainly had a dispersal year driven on by the heatwaves. It is doubtful it wil establish just yet as it needs an abundance of Red Fescue grasses which needs the grasslandto mature. Still our best hope is Small Heath coming from north selby mine site which should appear in advance as it is less fussy and will take other grasses as well as Red Fescue. Marbled White is certainly breeding on a few select local sites like dry verges and chalk railway enbankments around York. It is rapidly rising in number around Kippax and along the magnesian limestone ridge which may account why it has become such a reguler visitor to the site.
Amongst the brown Speckled Wood did well doubling up on last year. Gatekeeper boomed as it did throughout the county while Ringlet had its best year so far. Dingy Skipper held its ground breeding somewhere near the pond and we might suspect on Birds foot trefoil overhanging bare soil where it gets the most advantageous boost in microclimate temperature. A butterfly bank would greatly assist keeping this rare and special little butterfly and would attract other species like the Small Heath and the Blues and the Brown Argus if some Dove's foot cranesbill was sown.
It was still our best year since 2019 which was a universally a good year for all. numbers recorded did drop off rapidly in teh beginning of august and most species finished early and september was extremely disappointing indeed apart from bomber wood is the most consistant section for a wide range of species. Next year is difficult to judge with the disaster amongst the vanessids and so few going into hibernation. The effects of the drought is also tricky to forecast and the survival rates of eggs and young caterpillars but it was some conselation that after the July heatwave we had significant rainfall at the end of that month which will hopefully save many and greened up the meadow significantly at least till the August heatwave when the herbs and grasses once again suffered. It could have been so much worse!
Numbers down overall after a very bad start but a good recovery. Dingy Skipper now breeding on site
The beginning of the season was atrocious with cold, often wet weather right up to June which resulted in very few butterflies seen but also missed walking weeks. It also created a big delay in the start of the main summer season by up to 2 weeks. Both May and June were almost months without butterflies even with the better June weather. Transect walkers across the country became quite concerned. However when it did start, the bounce back was good!! Also, species recovered well in their second generation. The bad effects of the spring were particularly pronounced on our hibernating species that held out till May but then succumbed before laying an egg. The few that made it through were then a month late.
The standout success of the year was Dingy Skipper appearing now to be breeding just south of the pond and Brown Argus also breeding although this species tends to be migratory . Large Skipper had a bit of a boom year while the trend over Yorkshire was strongly down(-25%) while in contrast Small Skipper was the opposite and had a bad year while in Yorkshire there was little change. The reasons for this are unknown although the weather remains chief suspect although there could be a management element. Brimstone was down as they are elsewhere in Yorkshire and the new generation was a disaster so we should expect next spring to see reduced numbers. The cause we suspect is the poor spring and being heavily predated by hungry birds. The 2 cabbage whites after a bad start had a good finish but Large White was down 5% and Small White well down 40% which follows the Yorkshire trends down 5% and 27% respectively . Green-veined White was average -3% and Yorkshire was also unchanged. Orange Tip had a better than average year even with the weather during its flight season up 8% and in Yorkshire up 25%. Small Copper had a very poor year -45% as did the Common Blue -43% and numbers continue to fall for the third year. However the Yorkshire trends are also down over the same term. Neither Holly Blue or Purple Hairstreak were seen this year although numbers are always very low. In Yorkshire Holy Blue had a disastrous 1st generation but rallied on the second but was down on all transects! The Dark Green Fritillary was not seen this year and although not near as good a year as last its movement north continues and it remains Yorkshire's fastest expanding species using the magnesian limestone ridge's woods and meadows as its pathway.
The Browns boom! Dark -Greeen Fritillary and Marbled White visit!!
The Meadow’s highlight in 2020 was the appearance of the Dark Green Fritillary seen on several occasions but not recorded on the transect. This species was also the highlight of Yorkshire with large numbers recorded and individuals turning up in gardens and appears to going through a migratory phase. In addition the Dingy skipper reappeared on several occasions plus a pair of Marbled Whites were seen by Chris Abbott. The summer downpours in the woodland meant the trees were washed clean of their honeydew, the major food source of some of our canopy dwelling species like the Hairstreaks and they revealed their presence for the first time at low level and occasionally, very unusually, taking nectar. Several Purple Hairstreaks were seen in Bomber wood . The large Wych Elm in the corner of the meadow did not yield any sightings.
Eight species were significantly down even after making some adjustments for the missed weeks. This is likely the effects of 2019 heat on survival of eggs and larvae and the absence of Painted Ladies which were recorded in good numbers in 2019.There was also a significant drop in Red Admirals which are also migratory. Comma and Peacock were down we think due to nectar shortage as this was not the case elsewhere. Small Copper joined Large Skipper with rather low numbers. Common Blue had a disastrous year. Gatekeeper was also down somewhat which could be attributed possibly to 2019 heat or the 2020 spring drought while its caterpillars were feeding up. 6 species showed an increase. Most notable was Small Tortoiseshell numbers were hugely improved returning to much more normal levels after several bad years. Nationally a similar picture was seen with some areas showing large gains but southern England continued with poor figures. This is thought to be much more to do with its parasites. Whites showed similar gains here and elsewhere. It was also better news amongst the Browns (apart from Gatekeeper). Meadow Brown had a super year and made up the numbers lost from the other species plus a lot more and are largely responsible for the larger total of butterflies reported. It achieved 4 weeks of numbers greater than 100 individuals compared to just 2 weeks in 2019. Looking at how individual sections of the transects faired we can see section 3 stands out ( that is the walk along the eastern boundary) and abounded in Browns. The main meadow sections of 1, 2 and 4 were similar but the agricultural field numbers were well down. Bomber wood had sustained nectar and was a solid performer through the season with the richest range of species much like Bishop Wood and numbers were similar in the other sections