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WFV West Tanfield and Nosterfield Local Nature Reserve 4th April 2017

Yellow Star Of BethlehemYellow Star Of Bethlehem

A perfect day out. We visited two very special sites. The southern bank of the River Ure at West Tanfield and the Lower Ure Conservation Trust at Nosterfield. Following a cloudy start the weather brightened as we sped on our way to West Tanfield where we were greeted with blue skies and warm sunshine on arrival. We followed the riverside path along the banks of the Ure through sandy soils and woodland. Once we got our eye in we saw a great number of spikes of the rare Yellow Star of Bethlehem. I think everyone would be able to identify the flower if we visited again. As well as its pale yellow flower it had an upright spade like leaf. There were spring flowers around also shrubs in flower or fruit from Ground Ivy, Wood Anemone, White Deadnettle, Moschatel, Wood Stichwort to Sweet and Dog Violets, Butterbur and Wych Elm. Alice identified a total of 36 species in flower for the site. The spring migrants Chiffchaff and Blackcap were heard, a Swallow seen, a Tree Creeper was nest building. Nuthatch and Grey Wagtail were also spotted.

      On arrival at Nosterfield LNR some of us enjoyed lunch in the hide overlooking the Main Lake with the added comfort of sheepskin covered seats. Others sat on the grass outside. One of the characteristics of Nosterfield is the fluctuation in the water level from small ponds to huge sheets of water. On our visit the Main Lake was relatively small and surrounded by a vast area of grassland, prospective nesting ground for Lapwing and other waders. The bird list for the day was a phenomenal 50 bird species. There was a good variety of birds seen -Shoveler, Shelduck, Wigeon, Black-headed gulls, Redshank, Lapwing and Oystercatcher on the Main Lake. A kestrel hovered over the car park. A pair of Little Egrets were seen in the West Silt Lagoon and a pair of Great Crested Grebe were present on the East Silt Lagoon. A pair of Buzzards were seen circling the woodland. A Yellowhammer was seen on the fence by John.

 Simon Warwick who was involved in the foundation of the reserve in 1997 gave us an introduction following which the group took a stroll according to their own pace and inclination around the half circumference of the reserve. The spring flora was superb and of great interest to Alice who recorded 35 species in flower for Nosterfield including a special plant Yellow Figwort, not seen there for many years and new to Alice. There was a long bank including Sweet Violets, Dog Violets and hybrids. The Cowslips were showing their yellow heads. Spurge Laurel was seen at the woodland edge.

Before our departure around 4pm  we were treated to delicious cake provided by Sue in recognition of her birthday. We then sped along the road trailing Simon to take a look at the Stinking Hellebore and Green Hellebore growing on the banks above the road. This was an excellent day enjoyed by a party of 15. Thanks to Stuart for driving also Alice for co-leading.

See the photos here. 

  Margaret

WFV, Old Moor RSPB reserve, 21st March 2017

Male BullfinchMale Bullfinch

With snow showers in the forecast for the Pennine area, today’s foray to Old Moor RSPB reserve near Barnsley looked to be a propitious destination, and so it proved to be with fine sunny weather the order of the day. We got off to a disappointing start when Joan hit heavy traffic and couldn’t get to Bradford before the minibus left so it was not quite a full bus that arrived at Old Moor with high expectations as there had been sightings of quite a few interesting birds in recent days, including a very early swallow.

Although the weather was fine it was cold and quite windy but Old Moor is a very user-friendly reserve with lots of hides in which to shelter from the wind and we made good use of these throughout the day. We were told that water levels had been held at a higher level than usual because of restrictions on water being discharged into the river and this makes nesting difficult for the many black-headed gulls, resplendent in their breeding plumage, who voiced their disapproval throughout the day.

Many other species showed off their breeding plumage with especially fine views of snipe, shoveler, shelduck, gadwall, little grebe, pochard, wigeon, yellowhammer and bullfinch. The bird with which many people associate with Old Moor, the tree sparrow, did not disappoint and we were sorry not to hear the bittern which had been reported to be booming in recent days but nevertheless we recorded 42 species.

It was of course the day of the Spring equinox and trees were showing signs of life with leaves starting to appear on many of the shrubs and the blossom of blackthorn decorating the hedges. Flowering plants were few but included coltsfoot, cowslip and comfrey. Although it seemed too cold for any butterflies to make an appearance a brimstone was spotted but the day’s fine outing was rounded off with one very unusual sighting, that of Donald in the cafe, which goes to show that you can change the habits of a lifetime!

Thanks to John for his leadership and to Sue for her driving.

See the photos here. 

Stuart

WFV Yorkshire Sculpture Park 7th March

Culture And NatureCulture And Nature

Fourteen members enjoyed a day of sunshine and blue skies at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  A few opted to concentrate on the sculptures and the galleries while most set off on a walk led by Sally and John. Some areas were out of bounds due to waterlogging. There was mud on paths near water features and we squelched in some grassy areas but no problems arose.

Buds were breaking on a variety of trees and flowers showing on Alder, Hazel and Wild Cherry while pollen fell in drifts from the male Yew catkins. The silhouettes of bare mature trees were magnificent.

Only white and yellow flowers were seen; fifteen species in total. The White Butterbur (Petasites albus) was the star of the show and a first sighting for most of the group. More common but equally welcome to see were Wood anemones, Barren strawberry, Golden Saxifrage, Celandines and the male flowers of Dog's mercury.

Of the fungi observed the most interesting were deemed to be Lumpy bracket and Willow bracket.   

We lunched watching herons flying to and from the impressive heronry. Water birds recorded were great crested grebe, shoveller and goosander as well as many tufted duck and mallard. After the break three of us continued walking by the lake and were rewarded by the appearance of goldcrests, a song thrush and long tailed tits. Previously we had enjoyed watching a nuthatch sifting through the leaf litter.  The bird total was twenty plus. 

The permanent exhibits with their diversity of form and materials provided animals ranging in simplicity from Amoebae (Prozoans) to rabbits as well as man (men). It was good to be among the first to visit the recently acquired exhibits by Tony Cragg.  A single grey squirrel was the only wild four legged animal seen.

Unsurprisingly the day concluded in the cafe where we re-met Margaret and Joan. They had opted for a less strenuous day and after short walks had used their energy working on programmes for the coming months. We also learned that Alan had joined the party but that there being two carparks had, again, caused confusion for car drivers.

Yet again Robert went beyond the call of duty by retrieving a walking pole left in the ladies cloakroom! The tired owner appreciated  conservation of  her energy.  Thanks Robert, for this and for our safe journeys and thanks to Sally and John who took over the leadership for the day.

Today nature and man-made features were side by side and both were appreciated.

See the photos here. 

Alice

 

Indoor Meeting 21st February 2017

13 people attended our Indoor Meeting today. We enjoyed digital image presentations given by Alice and John. Alice's presentation was entitled "A few more ticks" - a double meaning with reference to both the little arachnid that can become embedded in the skin and cause extreme health problems, also the flowers she had looked for in the Cambridge area on visits to her daughter and grandson. The flora was unfamiliar to ourselves and therefore of considerable interest. A very knowledgable presentation which we all enjoyed.

John took us to Lanzorote one of the Canary Islands. This volcanic island has a lunar landcape which is extremely arid and devoid of vegetation. However there were some interesting birds to spot. His second presentation was of the varied orchid species of the Chilterns including the Lady orchid, Military orchid and Fly orchid. Well done both of you.

Following feedback from Julia and some discussion we enjoyed a cup of tea and Brian's birthday cake. Our final item was a quiz enjoyed by fewer members 8 in total. However although the performance of both teams left the quiz master somewhat bemused, it was all good fun!

Margaret

Wildlife Field Visit, Swinsty Reservoir-Bird Safari, 14th Feb 2017

Velvet ShankVelvet Shank

Our annual visit to this neck of the woods almost didn't take place owing to the large number of cancellations due to ill health. Apart from myself only three other members were fit and well enough to attend; Sue, who did the driving, Marilyn and June. Several other regular attendees were either away on foreign jaunts or had other places to be. Maybe the fact it was Valentine's Day was a factor?

If it had been raining or very windy I don't think we would have gone ahead. Fortunately, however, the weather looked very promising and so off we went. Although there was a chill in the air, particularly along the reservoir, there was sunshine for most of the day which raised our spirits considerably.

I was designated the leader in Margaret's absence and was also tasked with writing this blog! Our route took us in a southerly direction from the car park (the one between Swinsty and Fewston) along the western shore. Very little was seen apart from a small flock of LTTit's and and some withered Pestle Puffballs.  Shortly after we had turned northwards Sue sat on a bench and declared it was now lunchtime. As it was noon there were no objections and the entire group fitted comfortaby beside her.  Sue had very kindly baked a wonderful lemon drizzle cake (enough for a full bus load!). Mind you by the day's end there wasn't too much left over. That did however entail eating cake at the start of the walk, at lunch and at the finish! No doubt Marilyn and June are spending Wednesday recovering from this surfeit!

After lunch we started to see quite a lot of bracket and crust fungi on fallen branches, logs and tree stumps. These included: Turkeytail, Lumpy and Smoky Brackets, Hairy Curtain Crust (Stereum hirsutum) and a group of blackened brackets that were too out of reach to ID. Also seen were Velvet Shank, Stump Puffball and on a coniferous log; Purplepore Bracket (Trichaptum abietinum).

Whilst I was wrestling with brambles etc, trying to get close and personal with the fungi, June and Sue went on ahead to look for a woodpecker they had heard drumming. After ten minutes or so I rejoined them and we all stood together searching for the elusive bird. Although it never did show up we were delighted to observe Blue and Great Tits, Nuthatches, Treecreeper, Wren, a male Bullfinch, a couple of Siskin and the stars of the show a pair of Brambling!  Other birds seen during the day were Red Kite, Heron, Great Crested Grebe, Geese and Mallards. Buzzard and Curlews were heard but not seen. The only plants in flower were some low growing white petalled nodding flowers but without our botanists what could we do? (Only joking!)

We left the site at 15:10 and were back at Culture Fusion before 16:30. All agreed it had been a splendid day and we had also enjoyed putting the world to rights!. Hopefully our absent colleagues will all soon be back with us.

Thank you Sue for driving the bus and for baking the cake.

See the photos here. 

John Gavaghan

WFV, St Ives Estate, Bingley 7th February, 2017

Looking At The Plaque Under Lady Blanytre's RockLooking At The Plaque Under Lady Blanytre's Rock

A fine morning saw a group of 7 of us arrive at St Ives to meet up with Sue, Alan and Marje, who had arrived by car.  Unfortunately Joan, our leader for the day, had been taken ill and so it fell to myself to lead our group around the varied habitats of the estate.  Our start was delayed slightly as we waited for Lorna to arrive but a decision was eventually made to set off and trust we would meet her later, which I am delighted to say we did.  However whilst waiting, we did hear our first bird of the day - a woodpecker drumming in the trees just below the car park.

We headed first for Baxter's Pond.  On our way John identified the first of our fungus sightings for the day - smoky bracket.  It proved, as the day unfolded, to be a very productive site as a whole for fungi as we identified also ganoderma, pestle puffball, candle snuff, turkey tail, jelly ear, birch polypore and hairy curtain crust as we progressed on our walk.

After Baxter's Pond we headed for Coppice Pond where we saw coot, mute swan, female goosander, black headed gulls and numerous mallard.  Further along the path we stopped at the bird hide where there were good sightings of treecreeper, nuthatch, dunnock, robin, blue and great tits, blackbird, wood pigeon and some very acrobatic squirrels rifling the bird feeders!  Hunger got the better of us at this point and we doubled back to the picnic tables where we lunched in the sunshine.

Our walk then took us past Coppice Pond and up towards Lady Blantyre's statue, which sadly seems to have been removed from her usual look-out.  We continued up the slope, past the golf course, where Robert spotted a song thrush, to the top of Altar Lane.  Here we stopped to admire the view across the valley.  A gentle stroll then took us back down to the car park via Blind Lane, where Robert caught sight of a kestrel sitting high on a tree top.

Flower sightings consisted of snowdrops and hazel catkins but Alice was particularly impressed with the quantity and variety of lichens and mosses she encountered as we went round.  A lovely day enjoyed by all.  Thanks to Robert for driving. See photos here.  

Sally Tetlow

24th January 2017 New Year Social

We gathered at the Unitarian Church Hall for our annual New Year Social. Following a short introduction Sue entertained us with digital images taken in 2016 which brought back fond memories. This was followed by a short presentation by Alice of special flowers seen on Bees outings. Having enjoyed an excellent buffet lunch we reassembled for a discussion on the way forward for Bees in the light that Joan and Margaret would be stepping down from their respective roles and duties with the group. This matter would be taken forward by the group at the next planning meeting on the 28th March. Joan gave us some of the suggestions that had been made in respect of the spring and summer programme 2017. The excellent Diary prepared by Julia was distributed. We went away having enjoyed an interesting and sociable afternoon together. Margaret

WFV Harewood New Year Walk, 10th January 2017

Hymenochaete spHymenochaete spSeveral people had dropped out of this week's trip leaving a very small number of participants. When I was picked up at Greengates there were only 5 on the minibus. I was rather surprised when one of the passengers hopped off as I got on, having decided the planned walk may be too lengthy. This must be the smallest ever BEES trip.

We proceeded to Harewood where Donald led a walk of about 5 miles. It was dry but grey as we set off. We have done similar walks in the past but this time we took the route in a reverse direction. The first section was through a wooded area where Stuart indulged his passion for tree identification. Our flower spotters were missing this week so the focus was mainly on birds and fungi. Treecreeper and Goldcrest were spotted in the plantation and John found some interesting fungi including Yellowing Curtain Crust. Others are yet to be identified. On leaving the wood we were subject to the moderately strong, cold wind. There were numerous red kites flying and one was also spotted perched at the top of a tree. A few buzzard were also seen.

We sat on a bridge wall to have our lunch as the sun finally broke through and a grey heron was spotted in a field alongside the stream. As we continued walking after lunch we saw red deer and fallow deer in the distance. Another Goldcrest put in an appearance along with a nuthatch and several long-tailed tits. We arrived back at the minibus early afternoon. Thanks to Donald for leading this pleasant winter walk and to Stuart for driving.

See the photos here. 

Sue

WFV Mystery Trip Rodley Nature Reserve 22nd November 2016

Purple Polypore BracketPurple Polypore BracketBees luck has returned! Torrential rain on Monday, calm conditions on Tuesday. Our mystery trip brought the Bees party of 11 by minibus to the familiar surroundings of Rodley nature reserve. Margaret, Marilyn and June had made their own way there. Following a cup of tea and mince pie in the visitors centre Graham gave us an overview of what we might look out for on the reserve. Water levels have been lowered in the reed bed area and this had encouraged the water rail to show itself. Otters were now regularly seen in the river by the bridge. He told us the harvest mice introduction programme was continuing despite the devastation of last year's flooding with a view to their introduction into a more sheltered corner of the reserve. "Weasel" shouted Joan and people gathered to look through the widows of the visitor centre. Also on view were the many little birds attracted to the feeders in the Bee garden. They included goldfinch, chaffinch, bullfinch, blue tit, great tit, robin and dunnock.   

We proceeded to complete a circular walk mainly on gravel paths around the reserve calling at the ponds, gazebo and hides. The birds flying overhead in a flock over the fields were later identified as linnet. In and around the reed beds were heron, grey wagtail, moorhen, coot, carrion crow, reed bunting and pheasant. In the lagoons were gadwall in good numbers, teal, wigeon, great crested grebe, two little grebes, mute swan and cygnets. A greenfinch was seen in the manager's garden. Greylag geese, Canada geese, gulls and several jays were seen in the fields. Unusually no birds of prey were sighted. Again strangely tufted duck were not seen. A bank vole was seen disappearing into the coppice woodland. The main interest from a botanical perspective was a spindle tree with attractive pink berries and glowing red leaves on the butterfly bank also a single cowslip alongside the visitor centre. There was a lot of colour in the landscape, not all the trees had shed leaves. John and Joan took especial interest in the fungi species which included honey fungus, willow bracket, purple pore bracket and jelly ear. We were impressed with the condition of the reserve, hedges had been restored leaving gaps for water to run through, the children's pond dipping area had been rebuilt with an additional shelter, there was now ramp access to the first hide.  We settled down for lunch and another cuppa in the visitor centre. June had brought several Rodley calendars for 2017 which were available for purchase.

Wood OysterlingWood OysterlingOur afternoon was spent visiting the special area set aside for the Rodley robins. Sally and Denise have established this group for younger children which meets monthly on a Saturday with the aim of developing a children's love and understanding for the natural world as well as having fun. The group have their own small nature reserve in an area that was originally a pheasant coup. Sally explained that they had developed a number of mini habitats within the area for the children to observe wildlife.  

I think everyone agreed that it had been a splendid day out from both the wildlife and social perspective, with some added suspense

Thanks go to Graham for his generosity to the group also leaders Sally and Margaret not forgetting Marilyn for running the cafe.

See the photos here. 

Margaret

Wildlife Field Visit, Cunnery Wood Shibden, Ist November 2016.

Purple Jelly DiscPurple Jelly DiscIt was almost like a personal taxi service as Sue drove three of us to Shibden Hall to meet the six members who had travelled there independently. It was good to see Brian who joined us fleetingly before the walk began. Conditions were unbelievably good. Bright sunshine and blue skies lasted all day and the paths were dry. Just an occasional nip in the air and a squelch underfoot beneath the leaf litter reminded us that it was November.

Armed with pocket guides published by the British Mycological Society and acquired by Lorna, we headed towards the lake. It was deja view here; a grey heron was again perched in a paddle boat and the gulls and swans were posing nicely. Except for a few woodland species few other birds were seen. Sally's recce then enabled us to be led to tree stumps displaying good numbers of fruiting bodies while others were among the leaf litter. Nineteen genera were identified by Joan and John in our annual foray, including three Coprinus species, Purple jelly disc, Shaggy scaly cap and a somewhat 'going over' favourite of Joan's, the Blackfoot polypore. Two special discoveries, Wood pinkgill, (a first for Joan) and Coniferous blueing bracket compensated for the smaller than anticipated number of 'finds'. In a chiefly deciduous wood it was interesting to see the bracket spores had chosen wisely as it was growing on a path edging plank highly unlikely to be hard wood. Homework for the mycologists was provided by also-rans from the stables of Mycena and Crusts! It is most likely that in spite of diligent searching by everyone the litter concealed some secrets effectively.

The contrast between the various hollies and the deciduous foliage was magnificent in places. Fern leaved Beech, Fagus sylvatica Asplenifolia, certainly did look splendid with its narrow pointed leaves yet typical beech buds. Stuart's expertise helped here and, after later study, confirmed our other unknown to be Turkish Hazel, a new species for everyone. Fifteen wild plants were recorded with flowers. Nettles were flowerless but their stings as sharp as ever! There was an assortment of ferns both wild and cultivated, hardly surprising as Cunnery wood was originally planted. Nearer to the ground expanses of liverworts and mosses carpeted the soil and clothed the stumps: the occasional lichen was seen.

Grey Heron On A Boat Again ( or does it just stay there?)Grey Heron On A Boat Again ( or does it just stay there?)Other than one grey squirrel, mammalian life was represented by cleverly executed wood carvings on tree stumps around the estate. Evidence of invertebrate life was seen by the galls on various species of oak leaves. The presence of the larvae of the gall wasp Biorrhiza pallida is responsible for the oak apples found, while those of Neuroterus quercusbaccarum cause the formation of spangle galls.

Sally's leadership, Sue's driving, the expertise of Joan and John, and the contributions of all present resulted in an excellent day completed in appropriate style with tea and cakes in the cafe. Later reading of further B.M.S. leaflets provided interest. The results from planting the mushroom spawn remain to be seen! Watch this space!

See the photos here. 

Alice