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
After 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.
Our 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
Why do I enjoy a visit to Rodley Nature Reserve in late autumn? Several reasons - the varied colours of the trees, grasses, berries and lichens, the birds that are attracted to the reserve as a comfortable winter home, the welcome from the reserve's officers and the conviviality engendered on our visits. All these ingredients were present on our visit today. We began with tea/coffee and a mince pie in the Visitors Centre. Peter Murphy gave us an overview of developments on the reserve over the last two years which included the construction of two new steel hides with wheelchair access, the removal of old reed growth to create a younger reed bed more attractive to birds (not without considerable trauma), the development of Poplar fields as area of future woodland, an additional hide overlooking the Managers garden and considerable remedial work completed by volunteers following the flooding in 2015.
The work completed by volunteers on the reserve was impressive with Julia and her band lending a hand from time to time. However there is considerable concern with regard to the proposals contained in the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme which if they are accepted would mean that flood water could cover much of the reserve coming as far as the Visitor Centre. Much of the work and amenities of the reserve which is both an environmental and community resource would be put in jeopardy. We enjoyed a tour of the reserve in the morning accompanied by Peter and Barbara.
The bird life of the lagoons included Gadwall( increasing numbers), Tufted Duck( not doing so well), Wigeon, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Mallard ,Snipe, Coot and Moor "Water " Hen. Black headed Gulls were seen in good numbers with a scattering of Common Gulls. Numerous Herons were seen during the course of the day as well as Little Egret. Peter and Barbara reported sightings of four Water Rail from the Reed bed hide early morning. It was our afternoon task to track them down however we were unsuccessful. Numerous woodland birds were seen during our visit including a friendly Robin, Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tits, Bullfinch , Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Jay and Wren. A flock of Linnets were admired circling over Tom's Field. Grey partridge were observed by the roadside on arrival at the Visitor Centre. There were a good number of both Grey lag and Canada Geese grazing in the fields. Alice recorded 27 plants in flower including White Heliotrope and Crown Vetch.
There were nine participants on today's trip arranged by Margaret with Marilyn backing up in the café. Our thanks go to Peter and Barbara Murphy for an enjoyable visit in pleasant and mild weather conditions.
We last visited this woodland, which lies adjacent to Angler's Country Park (4 miles SE of Wakefield), six years ago. The variety and quantity of fungi we discovered that day had left such an impression on Maddie she was most keen for the group to return again. During the planning process we picked a date closest to our 2011 visit that we believed maximised our chances of seeing the greatest numbers of fungi.
The weather was fine all day, cloudy but not cold, occasional periods of sunshine and a gentle breeze. We decided on a circular walk following the red trail. It soon became apparent that the volumes of fungi were way below our expectations. Whether this was due to the season starting earlier than normal (early August) or other factors who knows? The most notable absentees were the Fly Agarics; with only one washed out specimen being found. There was a very large one but that was made of wood! By the end of the day however the group still amassed a total of at least 20 species which was pleasing;
The most striking find was a Red-cracking Bolete in excellent condition though both Joan and I made a troop of Red-leg Toughshanks our favourite as we had never seen this species before. Other finds were:
Sulphur Tuft, Turkeytail, Candlesnuff, Butter Cap, Birch Polypore, Amethyst Deceiver, Hare'sfoot Inkcap, Common Rustgill, Ganoderma sp, Common Puffball, Hairy Curtain Crust, Melanoleuca sp, Cortinarius sp, Clitocybe sp, Yellow Fan/club sp
Not many birds to be seen though Stuart did come across a Woodcock! Several mixed flocks were encountered but they were always high up in the conifers and the poor light made identification very difficult. Grey Wagtails, Jays and Robins were spotted and a few of us were treated to good sightings of a small rodent, most likely a Wood Mouse. Unsurprisingly no one saw any butterflies, moths or dragonflies. Our botanists recorded 30 flowering plants but no rarities.
Lunch for Stuart, Sue, Maddie and myself was taken in an open glade on fungi bedecked seats hewn from fallen logs. Robert, who had forgotten to bring his flask elected to head back to the cafe for his 'snap'! Strangely the remainder of the group chose to have theirs in a gloomy section of the wood less than 100 yards away? and were uncomfortably seated on actual logs or even on the damp grass!
Thanks go to the joint drivers Stuart and Julia. It was heartening to have Robert back with the group after his operation and all clear and as a bonus he treated us all to sight of his 3 operational scars! A good job they were on his chest and not elsewhere!!
A bright, dry day saw our minibus of 6 arrive at the gate of Devonshire Park to meet with Joan, Janet and Philip. We had kindly been supplied with leaflets by Kate Toch of Friends of Devonshire Park. These gave an overview of key tree species within the park and their location. This was BEES first visit to this park which was opened in 1888, the 9 acre site having been gifted to the then Keighley Town Council by the 7th Duke of Devonshire.
Our walk commenced at the magnificent ornate gates off Vernon Court where the beauty of this arboretum started to unfold. Identification, both from our leaflets, and from members' general knowledge, was soon commenced. Of particular note were the magnificent silver limes looking simply stunning in the autumn sunshine. Weeping and fern-leaved beech were also a picture and the dainty leaves of the ginko and field maple added another dimension to the leaf litter strewn around the park. Alice spotted a large patch of dog lichen beneath the beech as well as noting other lichens as we made our way round. Sadly the horse-chestnuts have been infected by a bacterial disease called crown gall, which has left them with large knobbly outgrowths on their trunks. Note was taken of a magnificent London plane occupying a prominent corner spot and then we came to the oaks - Hungarian, red and scarlet. The leaf litter beneath these trees was jewel like and several of us couldn't help but collect a few samples. They were irresistible! Some trees however had us scratching our heads to identify and a little more detective work needs to be undertaken before we can put a name to them. However a truly splendid park showing itself off in all its autumn glory - a spectacle to gladden the heart of us all.
Lunch now beckoned and we adjourned to the conservatory of Cliffe Castle to consume our sandwiches following which we decided to walk round the grounds of the castle to see how the renovation work was progressing. Funding had been sought and approved by the Heritage Lottery to upgrade the grounds and work was now nearing completion, the grand opening being planned for December of this year. Whilst much was still fenced off, it was still possible to get a feel for what should be a welcome transformation for this beautiful setting.
Donald recorded a bird count of 93 but it was decided that the stuffed birds in the Natural History Museum did not count and so we settled for a rather lowly 6, the highlight being 2 mistle thrushes seen near a large yew tree. Alice recorded 11 plants in flower and various lichens. Fungi were also noted - boletes in particular but others yet to be identified. Squirrels seemed to be everywhere busy foraging in the autumn sunshine. An extremely enjoyable day's visit with thanks to Stuart for driving and his support as co-leader.
With the variable Autumn weather we have been experiencing, it not only seemed lucky that we enjoyed a splendidly sunny day, but essential that we make the most of days like this.
Blackfoot Sands is on the southern bank of the Ouse where it meets the Trent and becomes the Humber Estuary. There are a number of hides looking over a range of wetland and our first stop was the Xerox hide. Roosting Teal were probably the most numerous bird. There were a number of Shoveler feeding but the highlight was a small flock of Spotted Redshank. Subtly paler than the Common Redshank, they have a distinct eye stripe and the bill is robust and changing from red to black towards the tip. They were clearly displaying how they upend to feed in deeper water than Common Redhank.
From the Marshland hide several Snipe were seen on the islands, there were wigeon in eclipse plumage and there was a distant flitting of Bearded Tits in the reeds at the far side of the water. These would not have been identified without other people in the hide pointing them out, and were really just a reminder that they are about rather than a proper view.
In the Ousefleet hide there was further conversation with another visitor, who turned out to work with John’s cousin, and was generous with his knowledge of this and other reserves. John found a micro moth he hadn’t encountered before, Agnopterix alstromeriana. Meanwhile a tractor was cutting the marsh in front of the hide, in preparation for high tides next week. Reducing the vegetation will allow the marsh to flood, diverting it from farmland and villages. Kestrels and Buzzards were attracted to disturbance.
Singleton hide provided our most sightings. Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, a juvenile Ruff and more Teal and Shoveler. There was a large flock of Lapwing. It was when these took to the air that we were alerted to a quartering Marsh Harrier, soon to be followed by a Peregrine.
On our return to the car park the Tree Sparrows were chattering away at the bird feeders. We had a distant look at the wildflower meadow that contained, amongst other things, Knapweed, Mayweed, Mallow and Yarrow. Birds were really the order of the day, but we did note Chicory and Common Hogweed in flower and the dried flower stalks of Marsh Sowthistle (identified via a text from Alice, unfortunately unable to be with us today). The bees were enjoying some late flowering Teasel. Quite a number of Migrant Hawker and Common Darter dragonflies were seen, mostly on the move, and Red Admiral, Comma and Green-veined White butterflies entertained.
As we left the reserve we saw a handful of Curlew feeding in the stubble fields, and another sighting of a Peregrine.
We were pleased to have Martin with us today.
When we last visited this site in Aug 2015 we encountered horrible weather. It rained heavily most of the day and the group spent most of their time in the Visitor Centre, which it has to be said is rather splendid, but still! This time we all hoped for a better outcome and we were not disappointed: blue sky, a gentle breeze and pleasantly warm all day.
We arrived at 11:00 and shortly after begun our circuit of this 110-acre country park by following the blue trail signs eastwards along the banks of the estuary. Black-tailed Godwits, B H Gulls, Redshank & Curlews were soon spotted on the vast expanse of mud. I also saw what looked like a Vapourer Moth on the estuary wall but it just as quickly vanished from site. That was to be the only moth seen all day? Butterflies were however plentiful, with numerous sightings of Small Whites, Speckled Woods, Red Admirals, Peacocks and the occasional Comma. Before we took a right turn that was to lead us into the central part of the site we were joined by Angela and Stuart who we have met up with on previous excursions into Lincolnshire.
It was soon lunch time and we had our picnics somewhere in the vicinity of the Big Pond. It would have been nice to actually see the pond but as with most of the site's wetland areas the height of the vegetation got in the way. Many of the 'good quality' benches around the site are now only facing birch trees, brambles, tall nettles etc. If nothing is done to remedy this issue it won't be long before all the internal ponds are totally obscured from view! Numerous dragonflies were seen throughout the day, some at close quarters mating or oviposting but 2 species only! Migrant Hawker and Common Darter.
The total bird count was 26 and included Marsh Harrier and Chiff Chaff. A pair of short-billed greyish waders which displayed white wing bars when they flew off had us all foxed. I now wonder if they could have been juvenile Grey Plovers on migration. The time of year and habitat would be right? Alice and Joan recorded 105 plants the most notable of which were Bristly Ox-tongue, Large Rock Stonecrop, Sea Buckthorn, Spindle and Guelder Rose. Plenty of berries for the birds this winter!
Oddly not a single fungus was found. I wondered if this might be down to the site being reclaimed industrial land. Large chemical works had previously occupied the site and although it has been admirably landscaped the soil may still be toxic or just not suited to the growth of fungi because the trees are too young;not enough dead wood?
Most of the group naturally ended the day with a cuppa in the VC. Some of us even had cake!
The journey back took longer as we met school traffic in Barton and commuter traffic on the M62 and M606. Well done to Stuart our driver and to Alice for leading (albeit usually from the rear! but that is botanists for you).
See the photos here.
The weather forecast was not good for our first visit to St Aidan’s RSPB reserve since the re-opening of the visitor centre earlier this year and it ran true to form on our journey there. St Aidan’s was created quite recently on the site of what was once Britain’s deepest open cast mine which ceased operations in 2002 and the car park is dominated by a huge open cast mining machine and the first bird of the day, a little owl, was spotted on the machine.
The attendance was low, the minibus conveying only nine people to the site and after collecting maps from the visitor centre we split into two groups, one botanising and the other mainly birding. Rain continued as we made our way round the reserve which is quite exposed and offers nothing in the way of shelter but the botanists were able to lunch back at the visitor centre whilst the birders made for the sanctuary of the Swillington Ings Bird Group’s hide where they were pleased to accept freely-provided shelter for their lunch stop, although by then the rain had all but stopped.
Fortunately the one birder in the hide had located an osprey in a far away tree and we all got good sightings of the bird which eventually flew and provided a great spectacle. This was the highlight of a bird total of 34 for the day which included linnet, little egret, good sightings of kestrels which had successfully nested on the mining machine, and to the astonishment of Donald and Sally, several swifts – in September!
The botanists recorded 90 plants in flower or fruit with the highlights being trifid bur marigold, water-plantain, celery-leaved buttercup and creeping yellowcress.
As the rain cleared and the temperature rose, various insects took to the wing which attracted swallows, sand martins and to the amazement of Sally and Donald, several swifts! The insects included six species of butterfly and three dragonflies
The visitor centre provided a meeting point for a snack before we left having had a rewarding day in spite of the morning’s rain.
Thanks to today’s leaders and drivers.
See the phptos here.
A group of six departed the Unitarian Church, much less than usually attend. Unfortunately Eric, Margaret and Robert (plus his wife and grand-daughter) had previously cancelled. We headed towards Bramhope via Greengates where we collected Vera. Marilyn and Donald travelled using their own transport. Toilet facilities were alongside the cafe in the park.
This site began life in 1932 as an amusement park but by 1938 visitor numbers had significantly dwindled and the venture failed leaving the site derelict until it was transformed decades later into what it is today; a country park with a variety of woodland and lakeside paths. It also has some notable botanical collections; a remnant of the small gauge railway that circled the large lake and a popular cafe. Breary Marsh Nature Reserve and Adel Dam are both adjacent.
Our perimeter walk began in a slow vein, even for us, as we were finding fungi every few yards. The mycological season appears to have begun several weeks earlier this year no doubt due to a combination of successively warm and wet days throughout August. We recorded a total of 16 species (and we are not mycologists!) and no doubt there was much more we missed or failed to identify: Fly Agaric, Amanita rubescens (The Blusher) was the commonest species, Amanita crocea (Orange Grisette) the most attractive, Macrolepiota procera (Parasol) the largest species, Ganodermas, Birch Polypore, Coprinus micaceus (Glistening Inkcap), Sulphur Tuft (lots of this), Marasmius rotula (Little Wheel) the tiniest of the day, Boletus badius (Bay Bolete), Peppery Bolete, Lactarius glyciosmus (Coconut Milkcap), Oyster Mushroom, Fuligo septica (Flower's of Tan) - several patches of this attractive? slimemould', Willow Brackets (outside the Marsh Hide) and a Collybia, possibly erythropus.
The weather was the warm side of mild, a gentle breeze and slightly humid. Strangely we encountered no day-flying moths, dragon or damselflies. Butterflies were around but in low numbers; a Red Admiral, a couple of Speckled Woods, two Peacocks and several whites incl. Large and Green-veined.
Our lunch was taken on the high ground after we had passed through the large car-park on the opposite side of the park and where we had seen a mixed flock of small birds in the conifers (Goldcrest, Coal Tits etc). We the proceeded towards Adel Dam, Marsh Bird Hide where we saw Nuthatch and a couple of GS Woodpeckers. Sadly the Mandarin ducks did not put in an appearance.
Alice and Joan recorded 116 plants in flower or fruit the most interesting of which were Wild Angelica, Bristly Ox-tongue, Monkeyflower, Gypsywort, Purple Loosestrife (at the Marsh Hide), Hornbeam and Greengage.
We arrived back at the start just after 2pm. Those of us who frequent cafes were treated to free drinks and cakes of our choice by Joan who was celebrating a milestone birthday. Yes, there were some who declined the offer!
We left the site on time at 3pm. Thanks to Stuart for picking up the bus and for doing the driving. It was nice to see Trevor, one of the volunteers, coming out with us for the first time.
See the photos here.