Wildlife Field Visit group's blog

WFV Oxenber and Wharfe Woods, Austwick near Settle, 3rd May 2016

Early Purple OrchidsEarly Purple OrchidsWhilst waiting at the Branch, Shipley for the minibus a short,sharp shower didn't auger well for the day to come. As our group of 11 travelled towards Austwick (the toilet stop and start of the walk) the leaden clouds looked very threatening. However, during the day, we were treated to dry weather and plenty of sunshine. Quite glorious,although there was a chilly breeze and jackets were needed.

The temperatures were not high enough to tempt out any butterflies or moths. The flowers were in abundance however.

A total of 32 flowering plants were recorded by Alice; the stars of the show were the Wood Anenomes which festooned the hillsides. I have never seen so many. Early Purple Orchids were just starting to emerge, none were seen larger than 4 inches. Sweet Violets, Common Dogs, Primroses, Bluebells and False Oxlips also were in good numbers.

Only a few birds were seen though Willow Warblers were plentiful.

Our meander through these renowned limestone pasture woodlands led us first through Oxenber and then into Wharfe Wood and onwards towards the village of Feizor and 'Elaine's Tea Rooms' for our afternoon repast. The itinerary did make mention of Feizor Wood but I was not aware of entering said wood. 

Julia, our driver, rather selflessly walked back to Austwick to collect the bus to save the group a further mile and a bit of walking. Elaine's cakes are particularly good and their teas are served in proper teapots!

A splendid day, all in all. 

See the photos here. 

John Gavaghan

WFV, Thorp Perrow Arboretum, 26th April 2016

Unidentified TreeUnidentified Tree

Rain, hail and snow were forecast for our trip to Thorp Perrow Arboretum and the meteorologists were not wrong!  There were, however, plenty of sunny periods in between although the temperature never got to anywhere near seasonal expectations and the visitor centre and cafe became a welcome refuge at different times of the day.

BEES previous visits to the Arboretum have been in Autumn so it was a different scene on this visit with swathes of bluebells, daffodils and wood anemones dotted amongst the trees although some of the colours in the acers were very autumnal and attractive. The early blossom trees added contrast to the colours and proved attractive to the few bees that braved the weather.

Of the birds in the Birds of Prey section, only the snowy owls looked at home although the laughing kookaburras lived up to their name. Hail was falling quite intensely at the designated time for flying  but some of the group did manage to see some action a little later.

36 plants were recorded in flower of which few-flowered leek and toothwort were the highlights, the eagle-eyed Lorna spotting the latter which excited the botanists.  The bird total for the day was 30 with goldcrest, buzzard, linnet and nuthatch being the pick although it was also good to see a mallard with the first three ducklings of the season.  Two lovely rainbow trout were spotted in the lake and an occasional fungus was noted.

Thanks to Sue and Robert for driving and to Vera who co-ordinated the day very efficiently.

See the photos here.  


WFV, Staveley YWT Nature Reserve, 19th April 2016

Staveley Poplars and ChurchStaveley Poplars and Church

The weather atoned for last week although in spite of the sunshine jackets were welcome at the start of our walk. John, as leader, stated that perhaps the only hazard was that we may get lost on the large site. Fortunately some members knew the site well as disappointingly no new direction signs had been added since our last visit.

We set off together heading for the East Lagoon but soon the group had separated as we each made our observations. It was good to see the tree buds breaking and to renew acquaintance with last week's discovery of Norway Maple in flower! We identified Goat and Crack Willow noting the dioecious arrangement of the male and female flowers on separate trees.Other willows, particularly hybrids, were undoubtedly there but insufficient knowledge renders them nameless. Blackthorn and Wild Cherry provided patches of brilliant white; just three individual Hawthorn flowers were spotted. Herbaceous plants in flower numbered 33 on the site including our first sighting for the year of Common Mouse-ear.

Was it my imagination or were the yellows brighter and the blues deeper? Green Alkanet certainly supported my view. In wetter areas Greater Pond Sedge and Water Horsetail were seen. The total flower list was 48, the additions being made by Joan and Eric on a visit to the village. Goldilocks, found in the church yard, was the star here. Coltsfoot in fruit was to be expected and Dandelion clocks in early Spring undoubtedly give the seeds a chance to colonize areas before other plants even flower.

The lagoons looked magnificent reflecting the deep blue sky and if the increasing temperature had encouraged the plants it had had a similar effect on bird life. Birdsong accompanied us for most of the day; principal soloists were willow warbler, chiffchaff, blackcap, blackbird and sedge warbler whilst robins, tits, reed buntings and wrens formed the bulk of the chorus. Not all members recognized the singers but all enjoyed the music! Water birds and wader numbers were disappointingly low although it was a privilege to watch a swan building her nest. A grand total of 51 birds were recorded by Donald who we are delighted to have back with us. (NB. Bird count higher than Flower numbers) For many members it was the first sighting of the year for swallow, sand martin, sedge warbler and reed warbler.

Brimston, Peacock, Small Tortoishell and Small White butterflies were, like us, relishing the blooming of Spring.

Ten members had a most enjoyable and interesting day. Thanks to Robert for our safe journey to Staveley and home again and to Stuart for helping to get the correct version of this to the web site!


WFV, Hooton Pagnell/Hampole Woods, 12th April 2016

Wild Daffodil DisplayWild Daffodil Display

The main purpose of this visit was to see the renowned display of Wild native daffodils. We had originally planned to go in 2013 with Lorna and her husband Andrew leading the walk; however this had to be cancelled owing to Andrew's ill health. The rearranged trip the following year also had to be cancelled for the same reason. A decision was taken not to include this on the 2015 programme.

This bedevilled outing finally went ahead after Stuart, Gillian and Lorna kindly recc'ed the walk. Stuart informed the group that conditions underfoot were'nt too muddy as the soil was mostly sandy. Much of the evidence for this sandy soil was mostly hidden by the mud!  It had rained quite a lot since his visit.

We are often blessed by dry weather for our Tuesday outings, but not on this occasion. It was raining as soon as the party of 11 left the minibus, lightly at first but became incessant as the day wore on. We were only spared rain for a brief period whilst we were in the heart of this large ancient woodland. Far too wet to have our lunches outside so we had to wait till we were back in the bus, shortly after 13:00, before we could eat.  I did wonder if our 4 late cancellees had seen the weather forecast and decided not to risk it?   

They did however miss a treat as the wood contains many thousands of these daffodils, many of which were seen in large swathes. Wild Garlic (not yet in flower, but with its unmistakeable scent) also abounded as did Bluebells. Several of the latter were in bloom.  Plenty of Greater Stitchwort and Wood Anemones also. A total of 31 (or was it 33?) plants in flower were recorded; this included a number of trees such as Blacktorn and Norway Maple. The latter was a new one for me.

On the path leading to the wood we were treated to the sight of several Yellowhammers. One female was on the same bush for several minutes till I arrived with my big umbrella and frightened it off!  Four species of fungi were spotted (Dryad's Saddle, Birch Polypore, Inkcaps and Yellow/Hairy Curtain Crust).

Obviously no chance of any moths or butterflies though Stuart did find on taking his hat off for lunch (ever the gentleman!) that a small looper (geometrid) caterpillar had hitched a ride. This was passed back to me for identification. Not an easy task but preliminary studies indicate Mottled Beauty as a strong possibility. I have given it a new home; a box with bramble leaves and honeysuckle as a foodsource. I reckon it has a better chance of survival than out there in Hampole Wood with all those hungry birds!

Alice saw a weasel and Robert, our joint driver with Sue spotted a fox. 

Our toilet stop on the way back also turned into an opportunity for a hot drink at Costa. This was at the Ferrybridge Services where a year ago we had called in after our never to be forgotten five hour journey back from North Cave Wetlands.

It was still raining when we arrived back in Bradford!  

John Gavaghan

WFV, Penyghent and Stainforth, 29th March 2016

Snow Topped Pen-Y-GhentSnow Topped Pen-Y-Ghent

Snow was forecast for high ground as we departed for a trip to Ribblesdale but it was not long after we left Bradford that we hit a storm and as the landscape became white at low level we wondered what awaited us higher up.  Fortunately the storm proved to be short-lived and before we reached Settle all signs of snow had disappeared.

Our first stop was at Stainforth where a small party of five disembarked for a walk in that area (of which more later) whilst the remaining nine proceeded to Horton for an expedition to see the purple saxifrage, an alpine plant which grows on the flanks on Penyghent – one of the few places in England where it can be found.

We started our walk in light rain but the clouds soon lifted to reveal an attractive snow-covered Penyghent. As we climbed higher the weather changed again and we encountered showers of snow and hail and by the time we had reached our destination at around 2000ft snow was lying on the ground.  Our efforts, though, were rewarded with the sight of the saxifrage in flower and for Amanda and Sally a special treat as this was their first sighting of the rare plant.

Further dark clouds threatened as we ate our lunch under the limestone outcrop on which the plant grows and we were soon enveloped in another snowstorm but after that the weather brightened and as we made our way back to Horton we watched as the snow almost disappeared from Penyghent in the sunshine.

Bird life was sparse on the fell with only a few meadow pipits and no wheatear seen but a diversion to Hull Pot produced a brief sighting of a dipper near a previously recorded nesting place. Twenty one other birds, including raven, were recorded by Donald who also noted six plants in flower.

Purple SaxifragePurple SaxifrageThis was a tough walk by BEES standards and although one or two found their fitness levels severely tested, all agreed that the effort had been worthwhile and we had enjoyed a very interesting day.

Thanks to Robert for driving in sometimes demanding conditions.


The five strollers left at Stainforth were ably led by Marilyn who stepped in in Margaret's absence. We ambled through some of the village before taking the route towards the Foss. The stone walls bordering the path were covered with a superb display of lichens. Many species had reproductive structures clearly visible eg.prominent apothecia like mini jam tarts on crustose lichens and clusters of funnel shaped podetia on Cladonia species. As always it was difficult to believe that some were living organisms and not daubs of paint. The Foss was pronounced impressive but not visitor friendly.

Nostalgia set in while watching a farrier working with modern technology out in the field rather than in a smithy as in our youth! 

A visit to The Craven Heifer for an excellent lunch recharged our batteries after which we explored the churchyard, more lichens, and sauntered along paths and village streets before returning to the pub to await the minibus.

Plants in flower were sparse; finally twenty were recorded with Butterbur, Creeping Comfrey (most likely a garden escape) Danish Scurvygrass and Common Whitlowgrass being the most interesting. Five ferns were seen with Polypodies causing puzzlement as to species or was the second one a hybrid? Many opening buds and young leaves promise much to come.

A collared dove and a blackbird are all I recollect for the bird count! 

The new venture of offering an alternative walk to the main more strenous one was appreciated.


PS. This is my first blog. Constructive criticism will be welcomed!

See the photos here. 

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
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