Wildlife Field Visit group's blog

WFV, Boston Spa River Walk, 15th March 2016

Stinking HelleboreStinking HelleboreThis week's trip to Boston Spa was to be led by Joan and Alice but Joan ably took on full leadership responsibility when Alice dropped out due to illness. A full bus parked up in the centre of Boston Spa. From here we walked along the High Street taking in the very varied and often impressive buildings and pausing to read the blue plaques that outlined the history of the residences. There seemed to be a lot of new construction in the area prompting a discussion about the difference between a town and a village. Apparently a place is a town if it has a regular market.

From the High Street we turned off towards the riverside path. Here we saw goosander and long tailed tits. We stopped for lunch near the weir and the fish pass and then climbed up the slope to the cliff tops before descending again through the wooded area of Deepdale to reach the riverside which afforded views of Jackdaw Crag, a rocky outcrop of limestone cliffs. 

Botanical interest today included winter heliotrope, dog violets and cow parsley which was in flower much earlier than expected. 24 plants in flower were recorded. 28 birds were noted. A green woodpecker was heard but not seen but the highlight was the sighting of several buzzards in flight. A few fungi were seen including ganoderma and turkeytail. 

We made our way back to the High Street where many of the group called in at tea rooms. The day had started on a cool note but it had got brighter and warmer throughout the day making it a very pleasant walk. Thanks to Joan for leading today's trip and to Robert for parking the bus neatly in a parking spot so I didn't get another parking ticket. (The first one was rescinded, thankfully). 

See the photos here. 




WFV, Hodsock Snowdrops, 23rd Feb 2016

SnowdropsSnowdropsAfter losing our designated driver to illness, the group were very grateful to Robert for stepping into the breech. None of the other drivers were available so without Robert the outing would not have been possible. Hopefully Sue will soon recover from her chest infection and be back with us before too long.

Although it was a chilly day it was sunny and cloudless throughout.

The 5 acre gardens were full of the snowdrops for which it is renowned. Hellebores and Cyclamens also abounded. Other plants in flower included; Primroses, Celandines and Irises. Plenty of snowdrops were also in the 12 acres of adjoining woodland. Birds seen were; Kestrel, Starlings, Greenfinches and Nuthatch. The best sighting was of a Small Tortoiseshell in the garden plant area next to the pavilion.

It was the pavilion where most of the group found themselves at one time or another, some of us more than once!  Robert and I both tried out the 'bespoke' pies and very tasty they were too though he was disappointed to learn that chips were not part of the menu! 

Some of the group attended a 15 minute talk in the woodland area about the history of the estate. The house itself,though, is not open to the public and the gardens are only open during the snowdrop and bluebell seasons.

We made good time on the journey there and back and unusually no motorway traffic jams. See photos here

John Gavaghan


WFV Indoor Meeting Unitarian Church Bradford 16 February 2016

15 Bees members attended our Indoor meeting today. Unfortunately several of the group had cancelled due to illness. Julia gave some positive feedback following the survey. We then enjoyed digital presentations by John and Margaret. John showed us images of the orchids he had seen on a holiday to Northumberland in 2009 including the Lindisfarne Helleborine (a distinct sub species) but similar to the Dune helleborine (seen in Ainsdale). Margaret showed us images taken on two Scottish natural history holidays.The first was to the Ardnamurchen peninsula in Scotland(visited in August 2014) which contained mammal as well as floral, birding and geological interest. The second presentation was of images of her visit to the islands of Islay and Jura in June 2015 famed for birdlife and whisky.

Our afternoon concluded with a much anticipated quiz devised by John which we all found thoroughly entertaining. Thanks go to Dania for taking care of the venue on our behalf, Marilyn for tea making and Julia for all her support.




WFV, Eccup Reservoir Bird Safari 2nd February 2016

Willow BracketsWillow BracketsThe Bees group usually obtain some unusual sightings on our Birds Safaris and today's outing was no different. We enjoyed the amazingly colourful sight of five Mandarin drakes and their less colourful partners from the Adel Dam hide. Also the sweeping flight and aerial acrobatics of was it 3,4,or 5 Red Kite at Eccup? The group was somewhat depleted in terms of the original number that had planned to come on the outing however it numbered 14. Our most significant absentee was our photographer Sue. Luckily John produced his camera at the Adel Dam hide.

The group seemed rather reluctant to step outside of the minibus when we arrived at our destination Bank House Farm into the cold blustery conditions outside. We immediately spotted a Red Kite gliding in the sky above. The small birds had taken shelter in the banks and hedgerows however we saw Wood Pigeon and Crow circling around the farm. We travelled along the access road to the water treatment works and on arrival did walks in both directions.The bridle path leading to Harewood House gave us extensive views over the countryside but due to prevailing extremely windy conditions there was little avian life to be seen the exception being a Red Kite.  Conditions were considerably calmer on the downward path to the reservoir. It brightened up on our return and all of a sudden the birds appeared - flocks of Field fare and Redwings in the sky, a pair of Mistle Thrush also Grey Wagtail on the wires and a Heron in the field. Signs of spring were noted including the male and female Hazel catkins.

We departed for Golden Acre Park as promised. Here we lost three of our group who diverted to the cafe while the loyal band of birders followed their leader towards the Adel Dam YWT reserve. Chaffinches and tits were seen, a Jay was heard and then we came upon two red breasted male Bullfinch and a female in a tree. The hide which was full on arrival was an excellent place for lunch. The feeders were fully replaced with nuts and suet attracting a variety of Tits, Nuthatch and Greater Spotted Woodpecker. However the Mandarins were the stars. Three of us ventured to the Lakeside hide to view Heron and Coot. We saw Swan, Mallard, and Tufted duck on the lake on our return to the minibus. The total bird species for the day was 28, plants in flower 6.

By the time we arrived at Caring for Life the enthusiasm for further bird spotting had faded. We had covered considerable ground during the day and were deserving of a treat. Our newest recruits Barbara and Denis appeared to enjoy the Bees experience and people seemed appreciative of the opportunity to have fresh air (in abundance) exercise and company on a rather dreary winter's day. See the photos here.



New Year Social 19th January 2016

20 people gathered at the Unitarian church for our annual social event. Following introductions and food, we enjoyed a review of our year 2015 with presentations from Margaret and Sue. Julia distributed copies of the 2015 Diary. We have Helen to thank for such an attractive and professional document. Some administrative matters were dealt with. Joan concluded by running through suggestions for field visits in the forthcoming year. Unfortunately there was insufficient time for a quiz prepared by John. It was decided to reschedule it to the next indoor meeting on the 16th February. The meeting was enjoyed by those present. Margaret

WFV, Rothwell New Year Walk, 12th January 2016

Rothwell ChurchRothwell Church

For our New Year’s walk this year we ventured to Rothwell in the renowned Rhubarb Triangle for a circular walk of about 4 miles.  The rain in recent weeks had made some of the route quite muddy, especially as we had to cross an open field. A recce on the previous day, however, had resulted in the walk being declared doable and so a party of 14, which included a new member in Maddy's friend Julia, set off in high spirits in dry overhead conditions.

The route took us along an old railway track to the village of Robin Hood before we walked along a short road section and across the open field which brought us to Carlton and a fine lunch spot in the millennium park with bench seats sufficient for all to sit comfortably.  Whilst having our lunch we were treated to a fly-past by a red kite, one of several interesting species of bird that we encountered during the day including sparrowhawk, redwing, bullfinch, mistle trush, and jay amongst more common species.

The way back to our starting point was past rhubarb and brassica fields with the local rhubarb growers preparing for the forthcoming annual rhubarb festival.

Unfortunately illness meant that our botanist presence was significantly reduced and apart from an odd ragwort and a hawthorn in surprisingly early leaf little of botanical interest was noted although we did record a few fungi including jelly ear and blushing bracket.

Morrison’s, who had provided toilet facilities before departure were rewarded with our custom after the walk for cups of tea and buns which rounded off an interesting walk in unusual territory and a successful start to the 2016 BEES season, despite the mud!

Many thanks to driver Sue and good luck with your appeal against the parking ticket!

See more of today's pics here



WFV, Shibden Park (Mystery Outing), 1st Dec 2015

Shibden HallShibden Hall

Our annual mystery trip was not as well attended as usual but health problems had forced the withdrawal of our original leader and then two subsequent proposed leaders. We wish them well. 

Stuart took on the mantle of leadership although Sally became an honorary guide on the day as she had good knowledge of Shibden Park. The original plan for the day was to do a walk of approximately 4 miles through parkland, woodland and fields but heavy prolonged rainfall in recent weeks made this impossible. Besides, the weather on the day was not the most inviting and we opted to just have a stroll around the park. A circuit of the lake gave excellent views of a grey heron which actually stood in one of the paddle boats for a time. Not a sight I've seen before. There was a strange looking duck of uncetain provenance, probably a hybrid. We then headed towards the hall, taking the tunnel under the road to reach Cunnery Wood where we had lunch. Birds were thin on the ground......and in the trees! We did note long-tailed tits, jay, green woodpecker, nuthatch and goldfinch. We saw several interesting fungi including olive oysterling, dead moll's fingers and exidia nucleata. 

By lunchtime the rain had started and the attraction of the cafe was growing. En route to the cafe we passed through an area bordered by dry stone walls with various features and information boards with explanations of these features. There was also a very impressive wooden eagle sculpture close to the entrance road to the park. The majority of the group had hot drinks in the cafe before we left in the early afternoon and were dropped off just in time for me to catch the latest episode of the Archers. Thanks to Robert for driving.  Photos from today can be seen here.


WFV, Roundhay Park 17 November 2015


Storm Barney was on its way. Rain and winds were predicted for the afternoon. As we drove away from the Mansion House car park around 2pm it was raining hard with considerable surface water on the road. I trust everyone got home safely. Not withstanding the Bees group numbering 11 was able to enjoy a late autumnal walk in cloudy conditions with some drizzle. As Mary commented she said she had found the walk "atmospheric".

Our route involved the perimeter of the Upper Lake onto Castle Folly then a gentle ascent/descent of the Gorge followed by a walk around Waterloo Lake onward to our mecca -the Lakeside café. We returned to the minibus via Barren's Fountain. Roundhay Park was originally built as the country estate of Thomas Nicholson between 1811 and 1819. It was sold to the City of Leeds in 1871 and has developed as a well loved public park with a variety of attractions.

The subjects of natural history interest included geological, fungi, ferns,trees and birding interest. On our Gorge walk we saw exposures of the shale deposits where the beck had cut its way through also a spring where the shale and sandstone rocks met. Fungi species were still very much in evidence on account of the lack of a frost to date. Of particular note was the White Saddle fungus also Dead Moll's Fingers. Other species included Stump Puffball, Ganodermas, Oak Milkcap, Smokey Bracket, Blushing Bracket, Hairy Curtain Crust, Birch Bracket, Candlesnuff, Jelly Ear and Turkeytail. The fern species included Hart's Tongue Fern and Hard Fern. The ground was a carpet of the leaves of Oak, Sycamore, Elder and Birch. The birds recorded totalled 22 and varied from woodland birds such as Jay and Robin to a bird of prey -a Buzzard and a varied collection of geese, swans, gulls and ducks on the two lakes. They included Goosander, Tufted Duck, Teal, Pochard and Cormorant.

The venue and walk was a wise choice and appreciated by the group. Thanks go to Vera for her support in leading the walk.

View images from today in the gallery


WFV, Strid Woods, 3rd November 2015

Autumn TintsAutumn Tints

Not a bad day, weather wise; cloudy and still with a damp feel but not particularly cold. A good job we hadn’t gone the day before, otherwise we would have struggled to see much in the fog that covered most of the north and had led to many air flights being cancelled.

The participants of the day were collected along the route at locations such as The Branch car-park, Cottingley and Keighley, the driver of the day being Robert. Toilet facilities are available at the Cavendish Pavilion although Robert decided to make his own arrangements!

Before setting off I decided to treat myself to a bacon barm plus coffee. For only £4.95 you get a large Americano plus as good a bacon barm as you will find anywhere; I consider myself knowledgeable in such matters!  Lichen RhizocarponLichen Rhizocarpon I only managed to eat half of it and gulped down the coffee as I didn’t want to lose track of the group. I soon, however, caught up with those whose interests include botany and mycology; the rest of the group were way out of sight.

A total of 31 plants in flower were recorded by Alice and this included Burnet Saxifrage, Betony and Harebell. The bird count provided by Donald was only 21, as of course all the migrants for which this wood is famous, have long since departed. Best birds seen were Kingfisher, Partridge and Dipper.

Early November is still good for fungi and Joan, Stuart and I remained adrift from the rest of the group till we all met up at the aqueduct for lunch; where I finished off my barm! We three, plus Eric and Alice who were botanising, made slow progress as there were a good number of logs and stumps to investigate alongside the main path. There was far too much leaf litter on the ground to see any boletes, russulas or milkcaps. We did however find a good number of crusts and bracket fungi. Species identified included: Jelly Rot, Lumpy Bracket, Purplepore Bracket, Blackfoot Polypore, Black Bulgar, Rooting Shank,Purple JellydiscPurple Jellydisc

Fly Agaric, Shaggy Parasol, Stump Puffballs, Glistening Inkcaps, Sheathed Woodtuft and several Mycenas including one exquisite tiny white one, possibly one of the Hemimycena family; several others remained unidentified.After afternoon refreshments at the pavilion we headed back. The return journey was uneventful until after we dropped off Janet. She had picked up the wrong rucksack but fortunately we got the request to go back and remedy the matter before we had travelled too far!

Another good trip and thanks to our leaders Maddie and Alice. See pictures in the gallery here. 


John Gavaghan   

WFV, Judy Woods, 20th October 2015

Sunshine Through The MistSunshine Through The MistWe didn’t have to travel very far for today’s outing – only as far as the Bradford/Calderdale boundary and Judy Woods for a day’s fungi hunting.


The recent dry weather has not provided ideal conditions for fungi to thrive but thankfully the many fallen trees in Judy Woods provided us with a good selection of specimens – and two species not previously recorded at this site. A fine bright autumn day saw a party of nine leave Bradford in the minibus to be joined by an additional nine waiting at Station Road in Wyke where we started our walk, led today by Sally, one of a number of BEES members who also belong to the Friends of Judy Woods group.

Deer ShieldDeer ShieldJoan immediately spotted a fallen tree in the beck which tempted half the party down a difficult slope to join her and they spent a good fifteen minutes identifying its offerings. This set the pace for the day – BEES slow. We made our way from fallen tree to fallen tree and by lunchtime, two hours later, we had covered the best part of half a mile. Some of the party had even reached Judy Bridge where we lunched in bright sunshine and where we were lucky to see the only butterfly species of the day – Speckled Wood.

Young BoleteYoung BoleteWe continued after lunch in pursuit of the Old Man of the Woods which occasionally makes its appearance, but 2015 seems not to be a year for this fungus. Making our way at a slightly faster pace we arrived back at the bus having recorded thirteen bird species and thirty two different fungi, the highlights of which were the two new species for the site – Porcelain Fungus and White Domecap - as well as a good selection of Ganodermas, Russulas and Crusts amongst others.

Given the recent dry weather, we were pleasantly surprised by the variety of fungi on display and so it was a contented party that dispersed in mid-afternoon.

Thanks to Sally for her organisation and leadership and to Sue for her driving. See photos from today here. 


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