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WFV, Denso Marston Nature Reserve, Shipley, 24th April 2018

By the River AireBy the River AireWe were a small party of 9 plus 2 guests (Sue and Jean who had met Alice previously on the reserve). It was nice to have Robert's company again after a period of absence. The weather was fine but cool. We were met at the gate by Steve Warrilow the warden. Steve established the reserve twenty years ago on land belonging to the Denso Marston factory and which is adjacent to the River Aire. He was initially brought in as a landscape gardener but soon realized its potential as a haven for birds, his life time passion; and he started to create a habitat to their liking. 

The reserve which is entirely man made consisting of mixed woodland, ponds, hedgerows and grassland areas was looking picturesque with a profusion of blossom, fresh green leaves and pristine flora. A tremendous amount of work has been completed – tree planting, hedge laying, pond creation and dry stone walling in the creation of a habitat for all to enjoy. The reserve has developed a strong educational role with visiting groups of children and adults.

The reserve supports a great variety species of fauna and flora. Fifteen bird species were recorded on the day; on the river Goosander (male and female), Jay and Mallard. A heron was seen flying over the reserve. In the woodland we saw and heard great tit, Blue tit, Coal tit and Blackcap. On the ponds a Moorhen was viewed. The several of the shrubs and trees were in leaf and flower, notably blackthorn and cherry. Our highlight species of the day was Field Maple with its upright clusters of small green flowers and leaves cut into five lobes.  The ground flora was very varied consisting of primrose, cowslip, false oxlip, wood anemone, dog violet, white dead-nettle, ramsons, bluebell, yellow archangel, water avens and cuckoo flower.

The reserve,since its inception, has recorded 25 species of butterfly including the White-letter Hairstreak. Numerous bumble bees were seen feeding on nectar. There are an abundance of small mammals to be found under the boards scattered around the reserve. Another innovative feature was the use of dog hair (in particular the hair of a volunteer’s husky dog) which was placed inside a milk carton which was hung on the bird feeder stand and used by a blue tit. Numerous nest boxes were in situ and the birds are building nests for their eggs at present.

We made use of the facilities of the education centre for lunch. Subsequently some members departed whilst a group of 6 led by Vera made a short walk over the river and canal into Buck Wood returning before the rain increased.

Thanks go to Steve for showing us the reserve and for his enthusiastic and informative account. Also to Vera and Alice for making the arrangements for our visit and leadership on the day. 

See photos here. 

Margaret

 

WFV, Tophill Low, 17th April 2018

CowslipsCowslips

A fine day greeted our departure to Tophill Low.  This reserve has 180 hectares of woodland, grassland and historic River Hull wetlands with 12 bird hides and a magnificent viewing gallery overlooking one of the reservoirs.  On arrival we were given an introductory talk by Jane, one of the volunteers, in the gallery from where we could see the returning summer migrants of martins, both sand and house, as well as swallows, swooping low over the water.  Numerous tufted duck were in evidence as well as gadwall and great crested grebes.

Our group then walked through the adjacent woodland where we were treated to the delights of birdsong from a range of species, notably blackcap, willow warbler and chiffchaff.  Roe deer were also seen by some.  

Lunch was eaten in the first hide where we were treated to sightings of goldeneye, both male and female, these being seen briefly displaying by Stuart.  At this point we separated, the site being so vast it afforded endless opportunities for exploration.  Trees were bursting into leaf and flower all over the reserve, the most notable of these being the black poplar and also a European larch, which looked spectacular with its male and female flowers showing well.  An absolute delight and my personal spot of the day.  23 plants in flower were recorded by Alice with an interesting find of a woody growth on a Cirsium arvensis.  Apparently this was caused by a gall fly,  Urophora cardi, and on later dissection at home by Alice, the larva was found.  

Bird sightings numbered 52 with the chaffinch in particular looking resplendent in their breeding plumage.  Alice spotted a couple of yellow wagtails bathing in a puddle and Stuart and Julia were privy to a pair of little ringed plover mating.  Alison had to avert her eyes at this point!

A thoroughly enjoyable day with plenty to see and to crown it all, on departure, a hare was spotted in a field as we drove out of the reserve. Magic!  Many thanks to Stuart and Julia for driving and Alice for her co-leadership.

See photos here. 

Sally

WFV, Great Northern Trail, Thornton,10th April 2018

Marcescence On BeechMarcescence On BeechA very wet morning did not deter Stuart from driving four other stalwarts to Thornton. On arrival the lure of the cafe was too great to ignore and an ideal place to meet Lorna, our leader, who then escorted us along the Sustrans Route.

 

Spring had visited but was not in attendance today. Fortunately the walk was on metalled paths although there was standing water on the verges. Only twelve plants were seen in flower. All year round flowerers were joined by Butterbur (male), Lesser Celandine and, surprisingly, Creeping Corydalis which was spotted by Maddie. Trees with flowers were Goat Willows showing both male and female catkins, and tufts of red stamens on Elm. Shrubs were represented by Gorse giving our brightest splashes of colour and Blackthorn in varying stages of opening.

Moss covered walls relieved the monochrome grey vistas and Maiden Hair Spleenwort was abundant on one bridge while absent on others. Fungi seen were Jelly Ear and the remains of what must previously have been an enormous puffball.

Birds were reclusive with sound being the trigger for most sightings. Eighteen species were recorded ranging from the diminutive wren to members of the crow family. A nuthatch and a green woodpecker may have been lurking but were not seen. The highlight of the day was the welcome sound of the chiff chaffs back here for the summer, 

Young rabbits were the only mammal seen although we suspected that damage to tree bark may have been caused by deer.

It was a pity that because of the conditions the planned route had to be shortened.  Lorna's wealth of knowledge of the history and development of the area was much appreciated . We arrived back at Culture Fusion in the early afternoon. Thanks to both Lorna and Stuart.

 See photos here. 

Alice

 

 

WFV, Potteric Carr YWT, 20th March 2018

Tree ReflectionsTree ReflectionsThere were twelve of us today, and we started our tour of the reserve on the loop around the Beeston Plantation in the hope that we could get a glance of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker than has been seen on few occasions. We weren’t to be so lucky but did get good views of a couple of Treecreepers. The plantation is mainly birch trees, and they were covered in Hoof Fungus. 

The next stop were the hides near Willow Marsh. Again, we weren’t lucky enough to see the Bittern which had been seen here over the past few days. The man we spoke to in the hide had been sitting there since 7am to get a view (he had had 4 sightings), but considering we choose to take a broader view of the reserve, it’s not surprising we didn’t see the bittern on this visit.

After lunch, and a view of c.50 Siskin feeding in a alder tree near the education centre, we passed under the railway and to Huxter Well Marsh. Here there are areas of open water separated by reeds. On the water we saw Shoveler, Pochard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, a pair of Shelduck, a few Teal and quite a number of Black-headed Gulls. There were several Little and Great Crested Grebes and, amidst a wintery shower, we felt confident in the identification of the resident Black-necked Grebe. We saw a couple of Egyptian Geese feeding as they waded through standing water. 

In total we saw 39 bird species on the reserve, As we arrived there was a Kestrel over the new visitor centre and Goldcrest, Bullfinch and Tit species were seen along the tree-lined pathways. We could add buzzard to the count as we passed 4 on the A1 on our return home.

There were a few plants in flower, but only a few. The Coltsfoot shone brightly in the wintery vegetation. By the afternoon we could actually feel some warmth in the sun. Today is the spring equinox, let’s hope from now on we see an improvement in the weather. 

More photos in the gallery

Julia

 

WFV, Austwick Hall, 20th Feb 2018

In The WoodIn The WoodAfter an uneventful journey through the beautiful dales countryside the full mini bus of 15 Bees enthusiasts arrived in the Village of Austwick. Then complications struck, the bus stopped and refused to start again. As we were only a short distance from our destination of Austwick Hall our trusty driver, Julia, suggested we walk through the village leaving her to use her phone to summon some kind of help.

The day was warm and sunny, the village houses and gardens pretty and we soon arrived at Austwick Hall where we were welcomed by our hosts who ushered us into a lovely drawing room  and offered us tea, coffee and delicious home baked cakes and scones, as we enjoyed our refreshments the owners of the Hall gave us some information as to the best way to walk up through the wood behind the Hall to see the Snowdrops and any other plants, fungi and trees of interest.

Refreshed we meandered  steadily up through the wood enjoying  the dappled sunlight which in places lit up drifts of snowdrops nestled in mossy hollows giving our party the feeling that, yes, Spring really was at last coming to chilly Yorkshire.

At intervals throughout the wood sculptures had been placed to give extra interest, one of the figures gave rise to much discussion, was it a dog? a lion?, no  according to our garden map it was a baboon.

Some other plants of interest, apart from the snowdrops, noticed by Alice and Joan were Dog’s Mercury and wild Arum pushing through the cold ground, a growth of puffballs on a tree and among the many unusual trees were some Redwoods. Also a song thrush was heard singing its enjoyment of this early spring day. Later in the day as some folks warmed up in the Game Cock pub a few of the others did a short walk and Annual meadow grass, Rue leafed saxifrage and walls thick with lichen were noted.

In the meantime, Julia back at the minibus, in her usual calm and efficient manner had organised the transport of the disabled vehicle back to Bradford and taxis for her grateful passengers.

And so after a shaky start it was "all's well that ends well" and thanks to our leaders John and Lorna and special thanks to Julia we did have a really lovely day. More photos here.

Marilyn Barber.

 

WFV, Breary Marsh, 6th February 2018

Witch HazelWitch HazelOn a bitterly cold morning 7 of us arrived at the Golden Acre car park to meet up with Donald, Margaret and Steve. Snow was gently falling as we set off for Breary Marsh giving an ethereal feel to our surroundings. Crossing the bridge we passed a couple of hazel trees resplendent with catkins. Closer inspection revealed a number of female flowers also showing. Through the woodland our bird sightings included of course a robin whilst a wren was seen flitting through the hedgerow. A great spotted woodpecker was heard drumming and was quickly spotted by Alice high in the tree tops. Birch polypore were much in evidence and a red kite was seen flying overhead. As we approached Paul's Pond 2 roe deer were noted running through the fields in the distance. Mute swans were seen on the pond and great and blue tits could be heard in adjacent woodland. On a previous visit Margaret had seen flocks of linnet in the fields leading away from the pond but none were in evidence today.

Our party then returned to the minibus to lunch in the relative warmth leaving Donald and Margaret to progress ahead to the Adel dam hide. On joining up later, we were rewarded with plenty of activity amongst the bird population. Chaffinches showed well looking handsome in their breeding plumage. Also seen were nuthatch, bullfinch, jays, long tailed, great, blue and coal tits. A late appearance by a male and female mandarin duck added to our enjoyment.

Overall the day produced a total bird count of 28. Julia did see and photograph a treecreeper and along with Maddy also saw a charm of goldfinches. Lots of liverwort was seen lining the stream and various moss species were also noted as well as 5 plants in flower, Mention should also be made of a witch hazel in the park which looked magnificent in full flower. A most enjoyable day with plenty to see. Many thanks to Julia for driving. See photos here.

Sally Tetlow

WFV, Paris, 23/1/2018

Peacock ButterflyPeacock ButterflyThe weather was fine and sunny and we were treated to a host of good bird sightings.  See photos here.

 

 

Culture And NatureCulture And NatureLast Wednesday we flew over to Paris.  Lucky us.

We saw lots of French people, some birds and some other assorted wildlife. See photos here

View From The Hide At Adel DamView From The Hide At Adel Dam 

 

Lady's Slipper: Lady's slipperLady's Slipper: Lady's slipperP.S. this is a false blog, that was set up as part of the training session, and is being left live for the moment so people can practice!!

And just to be clear - no one missed out on a secret trip to Paris...

 See photos here.

New Year Social 2018

Today's New Year Social took a different form from the usual. We started with a lovely buffet meal followed by John's tantalising quiz. Julia presented the review of 2017 showing us images of the birds, flowers, reptiles and plants we had seen over the course of the year. Finally Alice led a discusssion on proposals for the summer programme for 2018 which will be taken forward in our next planning meeting. A successful and relaxing afternoon enjoyed by 15 members of the group. Margaret

WFV, New Year's Walk Foulridge, 9th Jan 2018

Along The TowpathAlong The TowpathAfter a festive season plagued by ill-health for many, exercise and fresh air were appealing. The mini-bus was more reluctant but was coaxed into compliance by Stuart and Julia and we set off on a still and murky morning for Lancashire. Ten members enjoyed the walk along the Leeds/ Liverpool Canal towpath between Foulbridge and Salterforth. Although cold it was dry and the footpath metalled instead of the muddy track some were expecting.

Being January wildlife was mostly quiescent yet even so stately tree silhouettes and tree reflections dominated the scene. While remnants of autumn remained on some ash and hawthorn twigs the new season's buds were swelling and early flowers, male, were seen on hazel. After much searching four other species with flowers were seen; the most surprising was one perfect example of Sticky Mouse-ear (normal flowering 4-10). Three fern species were recorded with Hart's Tongue in largest number. This had also colonised the inside walls of a disused lime kiln. The lime had been needed for mortar in the building of the Foulridge tunnel where liverworts flourished at the entrance. Mosses clothed the fieldside walls and in the spaces lichen were well represented. For some members the anastomosis of branches on an ash tree was a new sight. Velvet Shank, a common winter fungus, was seen and Coral spot.

On arrival we were greeted by mallard, mute swans and a pied wagtail. A heron was seen. Nine other birds were recorded although very few of any type. No visitors at the picnic table where five hardy souls ate lunch suggested that the birds too were feeling the cold. The other five chose the warmth of the pub and hot drinks as sustenance. For B.E.E.S this was a new venue. With a cafe at one end and a pub at the other it was ideally suited to our needs in January. Thanks to John for the suggestion and for leading. A return visit at a later date was proposed. Thanks to Stuart we crossed and returned over the county boundary safely. This must be a good omen for the coming year! See photo here.

Alice.

WFV 28th November "Mystery" trip, Lotherton Hall and parkland

LichenLichenOur outing today contained lots of surprises and mystery! The venue was Lotherton Hall and parkland, home to the Gascoigne family and now owned by Leeds City Council. The council has made a considerable effort in transforming the Hall and gardens into a Christmas attraction for families.

Our group of 16 started with a walk to the deer viewing hide and adjacent bird viewing area. There were good views of a Red deer stag and his harem from our path however the deer viewing hide was a disappointment as was the bird viewing area (not any nuts and seed in the feeders). We continued our perimeter walk along a green lane with mixed, laid hedgerows in both sides. Julia and her friends were able to identify a variety of small birds including robin, chaffinch, bullfinch, greenfinch, coal and blue tits. The party crossed an orchard of 100 trees. This was where Maddy started foraging for windfalls. The group had split by this time (what a surprise!). A small group visited the Wildlife Area and Bird Garden, the Humbolt penguins having been recently introduced as a top attraction. Julia's group amused themselves on the 12 Days Woodland Walk.

  In the afternoon some of us choose to visit the House which was decorated with Christmas trees, cards and Christmas fare. There was a very personal touch to the decorations. Julia's group choose to spend time in the arboretum and gardens sprucing up their winter tree identification skills. Lady Gascoigne was a supporter of the plant hunters and the garden contains several exotic species. All in all this was a relaxed and entertaining day out enjoyed by the group in fairly pleasant weather conditions. 4 species were seen in flower by Alice also 2 ferns. 2 fungi species were identified by John.

 The majority of the group proceeded to St Aidans with thoughts of seeing a short eared owl. Sadly they were disappointed and retreated to the visitor centre after a 35 minute search due to the cold weather conditions. They were seen there 5 weeks ago and are likely to return.

 Thanks to Julia for driving and hopefully some pics also Marilyn and John for their help. Link to gallery

Margaret