Just a bunch of weeds? Birds and bees on the slopes of the Futurist site, Scarborough

This site was created following the demolition of the old Futurist theatre on Scarborough seafront.  Demolition of the building began in June 2018 and was completed in August 2018. A process called ‘slope stabilisation’ created an area of sloping ground (below) which, in this year of lockdown, has filled up with wild flowers. Some might refer to them as weeds, but as I will show below, they are supporting a plethora of wildlife, from bees to goldfinches!

Stabilised slope of the Futurist site, Scarborough. 11 July 2020

Discussions and reviews are, I understand, underway to create a ‘new vision’ of what this site could be used for, including the possibility of a 60m-high roller coaster, and a four-storey building housing restaurants and play areas. Whatever, the outcome, I hope the council which take note of the wildlife which has blossomed, literally and figuratively, on this site, whilst the planners have deliberated over its future! Hopefully, they will build spaces for this wildlife into their plans.

Looking down the slope of the Futurist site, with Mallow flowers. Scarborough. 11 July 2020 2

I first became aware of the flora and fauna on this site whilst walking along King Street, and the path which leads on from it, below the Scarborough Borough Council buildings. First of all, I noticed that there were a lot of Goldfinches feeding on the plants and flowers on the slope, particularly of the flowering thistles (below).

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) on the slopes of the old at Futurist site, Scarborough. 17 July 202.

They were busy feeding on the seeds of thistles, which are supposed to be their favourite food. It’s remarkable how adept they are at fishing out the seeds of the thistle heads!

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) feeding on thistles at Futurist site, Scarborough. 17 July 2020

There are lots of different thistles and teasels on this site, which are also a great draw for bees. You can see some lovely Spear thistles (Cirsium vulgare) in the following photo (below), which also shows the large (32m) observation wheel which is at the bottom of the site.

Looking down the slope of the Futurist site, Scarborough. 11 July 2020

There were lots of different sorts of bees feeding on this site. I managed to see Early bumblebees, Buff-tailed bumblebees, Common carder bees, Red-tailed bumblebees, Mason bees and last, but not least, honey bees! There were lots of honey bees. Here are some that I managed to photograph (below).

Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) on spear thistle. Futurist site, Scarborough.
Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) worker landing on Weld (Reseda luteola). Futurist site, Scarborough.
Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) on mallow flower. 16 July 20. Futurist site, Scarborough.
Honey bee (Apis mellifera) on Weld (Reseda luteola). Futurist site, Scarborough.

There were lots of other insects as well, including butterflies, hoverflies, ladybirds, wasps, aphids and many more besides! Here again, are some that I manage to photograph.

Common Drone Fly (Eristalis nemorum) 16 July 2020. Futurist site, Scarborough.
Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) butterfly. Futurist site, Scarborough.
Two-spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata). Futurist site, Scarborough.
Seven-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) on spear thistle. Futurist site, Scarborough.

There has been a lot in the press recently about the demise of insects: the decline of insects has been called Insect Armageddon. One reason is that insects love these messy, weed-filled sites, but we keep clearing them away, cutting them down and generally tidying them up!. We call them weeds because they get in the way of our tidy green lawns! We are all vaguely familiar with most of these plants even if we don’t know their names. Will will have run our fingers through them as kids; distant memories from a childhood when we wandered about looking at plants and insects with fresh eyes. A weed is just a ‘plant out of place’; out of place in our gardens that is! The trouble is that oftentimes the gardens and colourful flowers we like (below) are not much use to insects, other than a few pollen beetles perhaps. So, as much as I like colourful flowers and well-cut lawns, we need to leave some uncut, undeveloped sites, where insects (that includes butterflies!) can thrive. It is not just a nice thing to do, it is also vital for our own survival!

Lovely colourful flower bed surrounded by cut grass, above North Bay, Scarborough





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