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Wildlife Field Visit, Stainforth Force, 18th Oct 2016

Salmon leapSalmon leapThe mini-bus was full after various pickups along the Aire Valley. We were heading for our destination (a few miles north of Settle) in order to watch the salmon leaping up the force on their annual spawning migration.

Alas;all members of the group, bar Julia, who was our leader and driver for the day failed to spot any. The recent rainfall had made the force far too powerful. Watching the tremendous volumes of water hurtling down the falls was certainly mesmeric. Conditions were far from benign, as we were subject to almost incessant rain during the day. Several of the party, myself included, headed off early to the 'Knight's Cafe' which is sited within the nearby caravan park. This was where the mini-bus was parked as the village car-park was effectively out of bounds due to necessary repairs being carried out on the bridge.  Their excellent coffee was just the job on a chilly, wet day.

The six of us then returned to the force to rejoin the rest of the group who had been braving the elements. Most had already departed for Langcliffe Weir, obviously wanting to move to stay warm! The 1.5 miles to the weir were fairly treacherous as the path was very muddy and consequently hazardous due to the slippery grass and very wet limestone. Luckily no one took a serious tumble. We eventually caught up with them sheltering under some tall trees.

We searched again for the salmon at the metal bridge at Langcliffe but without success.  Joan and Alice had managed to record a total of 35 plants in flower plus 5 ferns. Needless to say no insects were spotted.  Birds were in short supply, though Sue did manage to see a solitary Dipper.  

Julia had driven the bus to meet us all at the weir. From there we then went off to our next destination; Giggleswick Chapel. This is a magnificent building (within the curtillage of the famous school) that was constructed in 1897 thanks to the efforts of a very wealthy philanthropist W Morrison. It was a pleasure to sit in the warm chapel after our wet and chilly excursion of the morning and early afternoon. The lady archivist who greeted us and made us feel most welcome gave an excellent talk on the history of the chapel and pointed out its numerous architectural features. The high domed ceiling, intricately carved woodwork and stained glass windows were especially impressive.Stained Glass Window, Giggleswick School ChapelStained Glass Window, Giggleswick School Chapel

The copper dome which for many decades had been green, is currently not so; following recent essential repair work to stop leakages. We will have to wait for nature to take its course before verdigris causes it to change colour back to its familiar green.

Whilst no fungi were seen on our walk several were spotted on the lawn outside the chapel; Shaggy Scalycap (at the foot of a rowan), Birch Knight (Tricholoma fulvum) nearby and close to a group of birch trees. Also a number of very slimy whitish fungi not yet ID'd. These have now been ID'd as Poisonpie (Hebeloma crustuliniforme)

A most interesting day. I am sure I would never have thought of visiting the marvellous chapel myself so many thanks to the leaders for including this on the outing.

See the photos here. 

John Gavaghan

WFV, Morecambe and Hest Bank, 4th Oct 2016

MorecambeMorecambe

A full minibus headed north to meet with Stuart and Gillian in Morecambe.  The day was beautifully sunny on arrival and continued to remain so for the duration of our visit.  We started our saunter along the promenade to good views of numerous gulls including a common tern spotted by Maddy and were pleased to see large flocks of oystercatchers and redshank feeding on the mudflats.  A few curlew were also noted and we were delighted to see a couple of turnstone searching for food at the end of a slipway.  Eider, both male and female, were seen out at sea along with red breasted mergansers.  There were sightings of pied wagtail feeding amongst the rocks whilst out at sea we watched a shag successfully catching its lunch!  Great crested grebe were also seen in the bay and a common tern was spotted by Maddy.

Our picnic lunch was eaten in the warm autumn sunshine before we continued on to Happy Mount Park where we boarded the minibus to head to our next destination of Hest Bank.  Here a cafe stop afforded some the opportunity for refreshment whilst a few of us continued birding.  We were rewarded with the sight of godwit (black tailed it was decided after much discussion), amongst the flocks of oystercatchers and redshank and with the aid of Stuart's scope were able to identify lapwing, dunlin, shelduck, knot and greenshank as well.  

The botanists recorded 59 species in flower including gallant soldier, sticky groundsel, annual wall rocket, lesser swine-cress and a late flowering sea campion.  There was also sea radish at Hest Bank and 3 ferns were noted between boulders. Red Admiral butterflies were about all day and we also noted an occasional white.

 

An excellent day in all.  Thanks go to Julia and Sue for their co-driving and to Stuart for leading as well as for the use of his scope which was invaluable in our identification efforts.

See the photos here. 

Sally Tetlow 

WFV Denaby Ings YWT reserve S Yorks 20th Sept 2016

Water ChickweedWater ChickweedDenaby Ings ( the first visit for most of the group) did not disappoint for the variety of habitats and species. The weather was warm, calm and autumnal. The trees and shrubs were laden with fruit.

Our day consisted of a meander around the perimeter of the Ings, an extensive lake created as a result of mining subsidence. It has an important role in flood control of the Dearne valley, overflow water entering the wetland when the gates of the sluice are raised. The group spent some considerable time viewing the birds that had gathered on the lake from the two hides. As well as good numbers of Black headed gulls and Mallard there were Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, a lone Egret, several Grey Heron and a group of Cormorants sitting sentinel like in the trees. We enjoyed seeing the Great crested grebe with young also a Mute swan with cygnets. A Buzzard circled overhead and a Kestrel was seen. The total number of birds seen was 22. A number of Migrant hawker dragonflies were seen and also a white butterfly in the area of grassland.

A total of 61 species were recorded by Alice (our botanist), 35 in flower, 22 in fruit in addition 3 ferns. In the area between the sluice and the River Derwent several interesting plants had recently colonised including Celery leaved buttercup, Water chickweed, Spear leaved orache, Broad leaved plantain and Redshank. Soapwort and Marsh yellow-cress were seen. Notable plants of the woodland and grassland were Sanicle, Black bryony, Guelder rose, Gypsywort, St John's wort, Harebell and Devil's bit scabious. A stand of Ploughman's spikenard was seen by myself on the road side shortly after leaving the reserve.

Three of us completed an additional short walk along the Trans Pennine Way, a cycle path that follows the River Dearne and leads to the Earth Centre and Sprotbrough Flash. The path edges were botanically rich and would be worth including in a summer visit.

The day was rounded off with a blackberry picking session, the blackberries would nicely combine with the apples Julia had kindly brought for the group. We were back in Bradford in good time having enjoyed a satisfying and leisurely day out with a blackberry and apple crumble to look foward to. Thanks go to Julia for driving and for those apples.

See the photos here. 

Margaret

 

Wildlife Field Visit, Towneley Hall and Park, Burnley, 6th Sept 2016

Amethyst DeceiverAmethyst DeceiverAfter several pickups along the Aire Valley a full mini-bus was navigated by our driver Robert through the roads of Colne and Burnley towards Towneley Hall which lies 1.5 miles south east of the town centre. This was the group's first ever visit to this site. Like many similar industrial towns there are lots of awful modern buildings punctuated by some splendid Victorian affairs notably the two main churches.

The forecast assured us of a fine warm day. Though this wasn't inaccurate the temperature never reached the levels expected of it. Perhaps this is why we were denied the sight of many butterflies and dragonflies or is it because they have fared badly this summer?

On arrival the group made its way up to the Deer Pond, described as a Local Nature Reserve. Alas this turned out to be something of a disappointment as we saw no dragonflies or interesting waterside plants, though we did spot a heron in flight. After that we headed towards the 400 year old hall by which time many of the group were feeling like lunch was the main priority! So it was the various members decided to go their separate ways.

I along with Joan, Alice, Maddie and Vera did half the 1.8 mile 'historic woodland walk' before lunch(Walk no. 3 on the information leaflet), after which Maddie and Vera chose to go into the hall. The 5 of us took lunch on the benches outside the hall and facing the gorgeous formal garden. This is where I saw my only butterflies of the day; two Red Admirals and a few Small Whites; no Peacocks, Small Torts, Commas or Speckled Woods?  Apart from ducks there was nothing else to see in the Duck Pond!

A total of 100 plants in flower that incl grasses were recorded together with 9 species of fern. Several species of fungi were spotted alongside the woodland paths, mainly on fallen tree trunks, Deer Shield, Sulphur Tuft, Ganodermas, Turkeytail, Honey Fungus, The Blusher, Amethyst Deceiver, Dead Moll's Fingers and Lumpy Bracket. We were also delighted to see Burnley's oldest tree, a 400 year old oak.  Alice got a nice picture of it after a bit of scrambling through the undergrowth to get the best view.

The rest of the group either went on riverside walks or visited the hall; although our principal photographer Sue spent the day on her own hunting down photo opportunities and couldn't resist taking another picture of her favourite bird, the robin! Meanwhile Robert had retired to the mini-bus to catch up on some much needed sleep.

LapwingsLapwingsThe best birds were seen by the riverside walkers; Lapwings & Grey Wagtail. Those members who visited the hall and its museum all said how much they had enjoyed it. I can vouch for the quality of the cakes in the Stables cafe which is where half the group spent the last half hour of the day.

The well disciplined group all returned back to the bus by the agreed time of 15:30 and thankfully no one had got themselves lost!

Many thanks to Joan for organising and leading this trip and to our driver Robert who had loyally turned up despite having endured a sleepless evening due to a domestic emergency.

See the photos here. 

John Gavaghan 

WFV, Ledsham Bank and Fairburn Ings RSPB Reserve, 23rd August 2016

Autumn Ladies TressesAutumn Ladies Tresses

Everything was set fair for a good day out at Ledsham Bank and Fairburn Ings but when Sue & Rob arrived to prepare the minibus they found that it had been broken in to and so departure was delayed to allow the police to collect their evidence.  Thank goodness for mobile phones as people at the two collection points could be kept advised of events.  Some lateral thinking by the group waiting to be collected at the Unitarians produced an alternative plan of travelling by car as volunteer drivers with a sufficient number of seats were available and so it was that the group eventually departed about 45 minutes late in three cars.

Our first stop was at Ledsham Bank where we were hoping to see the rare member of the orchid family, autumn lady’s tresses.  A trawl through the banks eventually revealed the object of our search after Joan had correctly identified the most likely habitat.  Other interesting plants seen at this stop were autumn gentian and rock rose which, surprisingly, was the first time this plant has been recorded in flower on a Bees trip this year.  There was not much aerial activity although buzzards circled high above and kestrels and sparrowhawks patrolled the lower air space.

A 10-minute journey then took us to our second site, Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve where we had our lunch.  It was good to see that the beautiful summer’s day had attracted lots of enthusiastic families to various organised events and the area round the visitor centre was buzzing with activity. Whilst we lunched, Brenda thought she heard a whinchat and we were impressed when its presence was confirmed when we checked on the day’s sightings in the centre’s diary.  

Different options offered themselves for our post-prandial perambulation.  Robert, Linda and Eden decided to go pond dipping, Gillian’s new hip wasn’t able to take her much further than the close environs of the visitor centre, Sally decided to do some birding on the original lagoons while the rest ventured along the relatively new riverside path towards Lin Dyke.  Dragonflies darted and butterflies flitted whilst we strolled slowly along the path and identified such plants as great burnet and golden melilot in a total of 67 plants in flower or fruit to add to the 65 species that we recorded at Ledsham Bank.

We reconvened at the visitor centre in mid afternoon to drive the mile or so to the day’s third destination – the Lin Dyke hide of the RSPB reserve but by this time the heat was telling and one car load decided that they would bail out at this point and return home so we were down to six people by the time we arrived for the short walk to the hide where we spent a pleasant half hour watching water birds and although most ducks were in eclipse there was sufficient activity to maintain our interest with  greenshank being the highlight of this stop.  Buttonweed grew in abundance in front of the hide and Alice also recorded marsh woundwort, water pepper and  skullcap at this stop.

The total flower count for the day was 135, bird species 45, butterflies 7, with the highlight being small copper and in John’s absence we didn’t distinguish between the various dragonflies.

So a contented group returned eventually to Bradford having enjoyed a hot summer’s day's outing.  The drivers who volunteered their cars were Joan (to Moorend), Sue, Stuart and Robert to whom the rest of the group were most grateful.

Stuart 

 

Check out the gallery photos here.

P.S. We overlooked last week to record the fact that we now have over 3000 photos on the WFV gallery - 99% of them attributed to our star photographer, Sue. Well done, Sue, you have added another dimension to our blogs with your excellent photography work.

WFV Otley Chevin 16th August 2016

Painted Lady UnderwingPainted Lady UnderwingTwelve of us gathered at the Surprise View car park on Otley Chevin on a glorious sunny but cool summer morning The plan for the day was to meander through the two meadows which had been especially seeded with wild flowers - food plants for butterflies. However we would also cover the other varied habitats of the Chevin-  heather moorland, woodland and ponds. Great Britain was now in second place on the Rio medal table.

The group marvelled at the panorama in front of them when they climbed onto Surprise View. The purples of the Heather in full flower and  Rose Bay willowherb shone in the sunlight. Springfield Meadow was somewhat disappointing for butterflies. A suggestion was made that the wild flower mix consisting in the main of Clover, Yellow rattle, and Eyebright was not all that suitable for butterflies. A Meadow Brown was spotted and a Painted Lady in pristine condition was seen settling on Field Scabious. Following our spot of Common Spotted orchids in seed we proceeded down a track recommended by Marilyn which was more productive. Three Commas and a Red Admiral were seen near a stand of Globe Thistle. A Green Veined White, Tortoiseshell, and Speckled Wood were observed further down the track. The group returned to a lunch spot by ascending a path of flag stones across the heather moorland. Lunch was enjoyed in sunshine with views. Sue even sneaked a "Magna"from the ice cream van that had arrived.  

Our afternoon sortie was in the direction of York Gate Quarry. However a small group including both leaders took the wrong path and had a steep ascent through Bilberry to join the rest of the party. On the edge of the wood there was an interesting find - Common Hemp Nettle. As we descended to the pond were heard the whistle of Long Tailed Tits, later seen. Two small birds "Willow chaff"were seen at the bottom of the reeds, so named by John as he was uncertain of their identification as either Willow Warbler or Chiff Chaff. In the pond we saw Bur-reed, Yellow Flag, Greater Spearwort and Water Mint. Wandering back through the meadow a pair of Skippers were seen dancing in the long grass. We enjoyed a "special" meadow by the car park while awaiting the arrival of the minibus. The meadow contained an abundance of spikes of Southern Marsh Orchid in seed also Yellow Loosestrife. We had been able to tick 11 species of butterfly but what was significant was the low numbers. Where have all the butterflies gone? Flower species numbered 107. Additional notable birds were Red Kite and Buzzard.

Our day was nicely rounded off by a visit to the Little Granary at Caring for Life for celebratory tea and cake. So off to resuming our viewing of the Olympics and more British medals.

See the photos here. 

Margaret

   

 

WFV, Shipley Glen & Trench Meadows, 9th August, 2016

BetonyBetonyThe sudden local heavy showers of the day never reached Trench Meadows so we did not get the drenching of the past two visits to the area. There were two other differences from the norm today.

We made our own way to the assembly point at the school carpark on Coach Road. Some nostalgic comments were heard as, led by Vera, we walked up the path adjacent to the Glen Tramway and on to the moor. Unfortunately Bracken Hall Centre was closed but we wandered around the garden noting more plants in fruit than in flower. The centre's noticeboard was very informative about local wildlife events; perhaps BEES should be represented here. Retracing our steps our second difference was morning coffee at the cafe, rather than afternoon tea, before heading through the woodland to the meadow. Here Donald joined us making our total twelve.

Antler MothAntler MothListed as unimproved neutral grassland the meadow supports numerous plant species and rightly deserves its SSSI rating. The sloping terrain provides drier upper regions and lower wetter places. Seventy seven species were recorded in flower. Devilsbit Scabious was in abundance on the lower area, not quite fully open but none-the-less giving the meadow a blue tinge while Lesser Spearwort provided a yellow carpet in places. In the most boggy area we saw Meadowsweet, Marsh Willowherb, Brooklime, Water Mint and Water Cress. Elsewhere Betony, Marsh Ragwort, Tormentil and Trailing Tormentil, a large stand of Wild Angelica and a big patch of Harebells provided colour while a single spike of Marsh Arrow-grass added to the joys of the botanists today. Plenty of grasses,admittedly going over, some sedges and rushes and a single fern,Marsh Horsetail, added to our list. Truly we are lucky to have such a nationally rare habitat so close at hand. A short detour by some into the woodland confirmed that Common Cow-wheat is still present. The return along the riverbank revealed Arrowhead almost in flower and late flowering Celery Leaved Buttercup which had eluded us so far this year.

Birds were in short supply. A skein of Canada Geese flew overhead, a Goldfinch was heard and Robert -again- saw the electric blue flash of a Kingfisher.

Six butterflies favoured us including a co-operative Painted Lady who posed for all to photograph. Two well named Antler Moths were the most interesting of their kind.

A sit down and chat in well maintained Robert's Park ended the day mid afternoon. Thanks to Vera for arranging and leading our visit.

See the photos here. 

Alice

WFV, Southerscales, 26th July, 2016

Frog OrchidFrog OrchidRobert's car broke down on the way to the Unitarian church, leaving 13 participants on this week's trip and we were definitely unlucky with the weather. In complete contrast to last week, the hottest day of the year, this surely felt like it was one of the wettest. Shortly after getting out of the minibus, the heavens opened and we sought shelter like sheep by huddling close to the wall of the Old Hall Inn. We spotted a tray of freshly baked flapjack cooling by the open kitchen window but we remained strong in the face of temptation.

Ingleborough was shrouded in cloud as we ventured uphill to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve, Southerscales; an area of limestone pavement, limestone grassland and blanket bog. We didn't have constant rain, but when it fell it was heavy and prolonged and in exposed areas it was also very windy. The long grass also caused us to get very wet from the feet up. I must replace my hole-ridden walking boots!

The only bird of note today was a Wheatear. 

The botanists were delighted to find Frog Orchids that probably exceeded triple figures and many of them were in pristine condition. The wet limestone pavement was treacherous and only the intrepid ventured onto it and Julia was rewarded with a Spleenwort. Other botanical highlights at Southerscales included Small Scabious, Fragrant Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid and Twayblade. We skirted the edge of the limestone pavement and followed the path back down to the Old Hall Inn where we took shelter and enjoyed some refreshment. I'm surprised the staff didn't put newspaper down for some of us especially one individual who was not only wet and muddy but had also suffered a beetroot juice leakage from their rucksack! 

Having warmed up and filled up we then headed to Ribblehead Quarry. There we found a Marsh Orchid (unspecified), Marsh Helleborine and Twayblade. Melancholy Thistle was sighted with the assistance of binoculars. Across the two sites, 118 plants were seen including 11 ferns. A few butterflies were seen including Common Blue and Meadow Brown. 

Thanks to Julia for driving and to Joan for leading. 

See the photos here. 

Sue

WFV, Foulshaw Moss, 19 July 2016

Black DarterBlack DarterToday was a lesson that you should be careful what you wish for. Margaret had experienced the full force of wet and windy weather when she had visited recently for the reccy, and as a result sightings were limited.  I had really hoped for good weather so we could linger and admire the bog, and so the insects and lizards would be showing themselves. It turned out to be the hottest day of the year (without resorting to research, I would guess it was the hottest day we have experienced for years). 

So, a day of little shade, and not really any breeze either. We had lunch as soon as we arrived, accompanied by the Morecambe Bay Tick Talk. Awareness of ticks is essential but shouldn’t put us off (read more here). There is a pond near the car park and this was our first stop. Here we saw the first of many Azure Damselflies and Black Darters, and also a single Emerald Damselfly. There was Marsh Cinqefoil in seed alongside the path, and Alder Buckthorn in berry. Marilyn opted to make the most of a bench in the shade and was rewarded with a snake (identified as an adder) swimming leisurely across the pond. The rest of us made our way to our rendez-vous with Simon, the reserve warden. 

As we set off on our circular walk of the reserve, boardwalk all the way, Simon explained about the habitats at Foulshaw Moss, and pointed out some of the key species.  It is an internationally rare lowland raised peatbog; the only water source is the rain – it is raised above the river levels. Since Cumbria Wildlife Trust bought the site in 1989 they have worked to remove the Forestry Commission conifer plantations and have blocked drainage in order to restore water levels. 

Bog Myrtle was abundant, as was Cross-leaved Heath and Heather. Simon found some Bog Rosemary, now in seed. There was plenty of delicate clumps of White Beak-sedge, as well as Bottle Sedge in the deeper water. We made our way to a raised platform for our first attempt to see the Ospreys. With the help of the scopes we could pick out one bird on the nest and one in a neighbouring tree that has been used throughout the season as a perching place. We learnt that one of the two chicks had been flying since last week, and that today the second chick had been in the air. We had good views of one of them circling around the nest area. We stopped at a second viewing point for further Osprey views. There were Sundew flowers just opening in this area and we watched more Black Darters. It was notable during the day that they seemed to perch with their abdomen upright, a technique used on hot days to reduce the body area exposed to the sun. 

Other wildlife also took evasive action and hid from the sun. It was too hot for the lizards to be basking! The birds were quiet and not many butterflies, though at our second site, Meathop Moss, we had three sightings of Large Heath. We also saw Bog Asphodel here, and Bilberry and Common Hemp-nettle. 

Our third stop was an essential and undisputed refreshment break at The Derby Arms. Some of us had a brief, but very pleasing, visit to Latterbarrow. The abundance of flowers was lovely including masses of betony (including a white one), a few harebells and lots more, and perhaps a glimpse of high flying Silver-washed Fritillary.  Another quick drink before the drive to Settle for fish and chips and home at a reasonable hour. Thanks a lot to Simon for his informative guidance. 

See the photos here. 

Julia

 

WFV, Cromwell Bottom, Calderdale, 12 July, 2016

Common Blue DamselflyCommon Blue DamselflyThere was an eventful start to our day at Cromwell Bottom Nature Reserve.  Alice was unfortunately taken ill at the Unitarian Church pick-up point and was kindly taken to see her doctor by Donald.  Much to our relief a subsequent phone call to Sue informed us that she had been checked over and rest advised.  A late start therefore ensued as we were welcomed to the reserve by our host for the day, Robin Dalton, of Calderdale Council.  We were pleased to have a new member, Brenda, joining us for the first time and also delighted to hear that a keen botanist, Steve, would be with us for the morning.

Our first foray was round Tag Loop, a beautiful wild flower meadow.  As the day was calm and reasonably mild, we had excellent views of a range of butterflies including speckled wood, ringlet, meadow brown, both small and large skipper, small tortoiseshell and a newly emerged gatekeeper.  John pointed out shaded broad bar and straw dot moths to add to our list for the day and we were also introduced to alder tongue fungus by Steve - a new find I think for us all.  It was especially pleasing to see sweet briar and grass vetchling on our way round. Our morning was completed with finds of broad-leaved helleborine and round-leaved wintergreen thanks to Steve and his extensive knowledge of the site.

After a picnic lunch at the centre, we were privileged to be taken round the North Loop, an area not usually open to the public, where Robin explained site management plans for the future.  Following this we stopped off at Tag Loop ponds where common and creeping water plantain were seen as well as marsh marigold and mimulus.  Damselflies, both azure and blue, were seen as well as dragonflies although identification of these was not definitive.  On our return to the centre, we were then treated to an excellent view of a nuthatch searching for insects in a dead tree stump.

A thoroughly enjoyable day was had by all, for which we thank particularly Robin and Steve for showing us round, John for his organising and Sue for driving and so ably supporting Alice, along with Donald's help.  A total of 18 birds were seen in all and flowers too numerous to mention!

See the photos here. 

Sally Tetlow