Wheldrake Ings YWT

Lower derwent Valley


Site Description

Recorders:  Emily Clarke,  Fiona Bruce,  Terry Ram,  Richard Leathley              Distance:  2689m                Walk Time Approx:  1hour 30mins

Part of the lower Derwent valley reserve and its treasured MG5  grassland the site is  often flooded  in winter. 

In summer its meadows are awash with  Great burnet, Meadowsweet, and Meadow vetchling. 


S1, relatively low counts of  common species

S2  generally has  one of the highest counts and along  with S4 tends to be the favourite area for Orange Tip  and Small White S2-S3 is also teh area favoured by occasional Dingy Skipper, Common Blue,  Gatekeeper and Wall, Small Copper and Small Heath

S3 along with S4 tend to be the favoured area for the Vanessids

S4  in more shady areas with Speckled Wood appearing and is also favoured by Meadow Brown and Ringlet

S5 Meadow Brown can be  most numerous 

S7 has a low count 

Results 2022:

County wide 2023 results reflect  the 2022 Heat and drought  with Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock nearly halved for the second year against their 5 year average. Red Admiral arrived in force in July and took advantage of soft nettle growth of the rains and had their best year ever. Drought sensitive species on thin soils were badly hit,  particularly Dark -green Fritillary and Northern Brown Argus but also Ringlet, Green-viened White and Small Heath.  Less drought affected species along with the hottest June on record built even more on gains last year leading to Comma, Brimstone, Holly Blue and most Browns  having a fantastic year reaching all time highs. A increase of 9% overall was mostly due to sheer numbers of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers ment 2023 nearly pipped 2014 as best year in modern times.  Most noticeable was the large differeces between moisiture retaining mineral soils of the valleys and thin, dry limestone or sandy soils. A large number of damp grassland, hedgerow and woodland  dominated sites benefitted hugely with 3 sites seeing more than 50% increase . A smaller number of thin, chalky, sandy or craggy sites did badly some down up to 25%.

At Wheldrake Ings overall numbers were down on the average  largely due to the very poor performance of Peacock and Small Tortoiseshells  which are often the two most abundant species on this site.  Even so they were marginally up on last year and the first signs of recovery after big fall in 2022.  Across the other species there is a good deal in common with county trends with  Ringlet dropping back on last year universally. The big winners were Comma, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper Speckled Wood and Brimstone all of which had record breaking numbers across the county.  It could have so easily been a record breaking year here only held back by the vanessids!

Transect reports

Results 2022:

A big increase on the last two years but still quite a way behind the good summers of 2018/19 which stand out at a modern day highpoint and 11% behind teh 5 year average there were lost of ups and down in common with most sites as a consuence of the heat and drought.  There is a surprising big difference between years at this site which seems to be not unusual on floodplain habitats .. every species either does extrememly well or extrememly poorly .  This is certainly true amongst the whites however this year as with most localities both the Brimstone and Orange Tip are up average . Small Skipper counts are always very low which is a surprise for such a grassalnd  site but  the majority of the site is cut for hay.  Dingy Skipper is likely visiting occasionally from surrounding sites like the North Selby mine close by.  Holly Blue returned after a absence of two years but not quite back to average and this species has been seen returning to many sites in the spring generation.  Small Tortoiseshell was well down on the recent years boom but no nearly as much as other sites  with good numbers in June  and then zero in August and the second generation failed completely.  Similarly with peacock just low numbers seen in  July and then nothing and was responsible for much of the losses for teh year. In contrast Comma boomed almost everwhere  and a very strong showing here  but then again nothing later.  Similar to other sites speckled wood had an excellent year particularly in September. Gatekeeper also thrived as with other sites and was almsot universally up . Meadow brown was a tad down on average buit stil way up on teh previous two years nearly doubling as did Ringlet.

Results 2021:

This riverside route is subject to much annual variations  of water levels but also of butterfly species with  ocassional explosions of some in good years like 2017-2019  foloowed by crashs.

There were  huge peaks of Peacocks and Meadow Browns  in 2019; then  Whites in 2018 so the regular floods do seem to be the key factor. For example Meadow Brown 448 in 2019 and just 15 in 2020 but there was extensive floods in February 2020 and you can guess the larvae were drowned

 Following the riverbank and  does mean there is often good quantities  food plants  for Orange tip  and Small White both of which are occasionally in very high numbers.   Comparison with the  5 year shows 2021 in a bad light  of almost eveything down  but there are exceptions which fit very well with Yorkshire trends. Small Tortoiseshell continues to boom  and Small Heath is showing a strong upwards trend.  Biggest loosers are Comma and Peacock.  Also missing in 2021  are the occasional visitors/breeders  of Small Skipper, Dingy Skipper, Holy Blue, Brown Argus, Painted Lady, Common Blue, Wall and Gatekeeper.