Nine members enjoyed a New Year walk of 4.5km. Led by Donald, we followed a circular route from Gargrave along the towpath of the Leeds - Liverpool canal and returned across fields along a section of the Pennine Way. Predictions from Donald of good weather, wet grass and mud were all upheld. Blue sky and sunshine accompanied us all day. The pace was slow, ideally suitable to admire the reflections in the canal and to appreciate the beauty of nature as a new year begins.After the razz ma tazz of a modern Christmas the peace and quiet were more than welcome.
Our annual mystery trip is often very popular but there were a few empty seats on the minibus for this year's trip. The destination had remained a well kept secret and John's speculation about the possibility of Shibden Park was soon ruled out as we headed out of Bradford along Canal Road to pick up Sue at Tesco; a late arrangement due to problems with train delays.
These two sites are visited regularly, at this time of year, by the Mid-Yorks Fungus Group in order to see the display of waxcaps and other grassland specialities such as corals, spindles, clubs and earthtongues. Alas; as with our earlier venture this month to the Mirfield site, this too met with disappointment, as apart from one Golden Waxcap & a couple of emerging Meadow Waxcaps at the very start of the day, that was that!
Upon arrival at St Chad’s we were met by Mike Willison, a church representative, who kindly directed us to the nearby toilet facilities at the Community Centre. He also provided interesting leaflets entitled ‘Geological Trail’ and ‘A walk around St Chad’s Churchyard’. Our group of six was joined by Sue, Eric and Margaret who got there using their own steam. A Red Kite flew low overhead. Shortly after that Sue spotted a Red Admiral sunning itself on the southern wall of the church. That not surprisingly was the only butterfly to be seen.
This is the first time we have visited this site, which is an annual favourite of the Mid-Yorks Fungus Group, of which I am a member.
The main attraction is the wonderful assemblage of waxcap and other grassland fungi including the striking Ballerinas. Alas, due to the recent cold snap and relative dry conditions during October the lawns were bereft! Nothing on them at all apart from Honey Fungus (mostly gone over and turning to black mush) and a few tiny orange Galerinas.
The community was founded in Oxford in 1892 and came to Mirfield 6 years later. It is based on Anglican and Benedictine traditions and there is a daily Gregorian chant in the imposing church. The monks, who are permanent residents, are all men. During our walk around the grounds we were shown the graveyard with its unusual triangular wooden headstones.
We started our visit to Leighton Moss RSPB reserve at the shore hides, with the first stop being the Eric Morecambe hide. Within minutes we were watching a Kingfisher in flight, perching and fishing.
There was a large flock of Redshank in clusters across the water, and their sudden take to the air alerted us to the arrival of a Peregrine. It took several attempts but it managed to grab one from the circling flock and taking it to ground to pluck and eat.
Rather more serenely, on the opposite shore we identified two Red Breasted Merganser in eclipse plumage and in one view could compare Little Egret, Great Egret and a Grey Heron.
Although there were recent reports of hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits it seems like a sudden rise in water levels had dispersed them and our sighting was restricted to a singleton disguised in a group of Redshank.
Six years since the group last paid a visit, we set off to the Yorkshire Arboretum at Castle Howard on a fine but blustery day with one or two spare seats in the minibus.
The Arboretum is managed in partnership with Kew and is relatively new, less than 40 years old, but nevertheless contains a splendid collection of 6000 trees from all parts of the world, many of which were resplendent in their autumn tints.
There are two mapped trails through the arboretum and we set off as a group to follow the longer one. Very soon the debate over the difference between Quercus robur and Quercus petraea (English and sessile oak) carried on from where we left off in 2012 and as not everyone wished to participate in the discussion the group started to split up and remained so for the rest of the day, members wandering around to find trees of their own particular interest or simply to enjoy a walk in fine early autumn weather. As each tree has a label with its scientific as well as English name most trees can be eventually identified when the label is located. (N.B. Searching for the labels would be a great way to occupy children!).
Without any of our specialist mycologists being present we didn’t specifically look for fungi but did encounter quite a few different species without being to identify some of them. Birdlife was not too plentiful but Donald did record 17 species including three buzzards and the warmth of the afternoon brought out five species of butterfly – speckled wood, red admiral, small copper, comma and a white as well as a common dater dragonfly. Although Alice was not recording with her usual voracity she nevertheless noted water mint, jointed rush and bogbean at the Sata pond and 18 other plant species in flower in the more open areas while Gillian and Margaret reported seeing Autumn crocus.
An enjoyable day was rounded off by some members enjoying an alfresco drink at the cafe and many were tempted by the variety of Spring-flowering bulbs on sale at the visitors’ centre.
Many thanks to Alice and Sally for leading the day and to Kevin who did the bulk of the driving.
Our Bees trip today was to a familiar haunt for our group- North Cave Wetlands. The weather was unpromising when we departed from the Unitarian church in Bradford, dull with some drizzle however it brightened up on our arrival and our day ended in sunshine. We were aware of the ever present breezes on the reserve but they did not cause any problems more especially for our journey home. Birds, butterflies, dragonflies, hedgerows with berries and late flowering plants were our menu for the day as we did a walk along the perimeter path of the reserve. The visit was between seasons and definitely had an autumn twist. Birds are variously on their migration path.
Birds- the main subject of interest were the Kestrels. Our group spent some considerable time observing them in flight, hovering above potential prey and then swiftly descending for the catch, their brilliant auburn-brown backs shinning in the sunlight. The lakes were noticeably lacking in water as a result of drought conditions of summer. There was a presence of Greylag Geese in good numbers, also ducks including Teal, Gadwall, Tufted duck, Pintail, Pochard and Wigeon. Great and Little Grebe were seen as well as Heron, Cormorant, Little Egret, Mute Swan and it's Australian relative the Black Swan. However waders were seen in limited numbers including Snipe, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing and Ruff.
Butterflies - a variety of butterflies were seen including Speckled Wood,(dancing along the rides), Small White, Comma, Small Copper, Red Admiral and Wall.
Dragonflies- were seen busy patrolling the perimeter paths and around the dragonfly ponds. They included Migrant Hawker and Common Darter dragonflies.
Hedgerows and flowers- the hedgerows were fully laden with berries of Dogwood, Hawthorn, Buckthorn and Rowan. No doubt they will be stripped as winter descends. However the Blackberries were seen to have suffered from the drought. They were not as round or delicious as the ones at Arnside. Of the 70 flowers recorded by Alice 75% were in flower the rest in fruit. Notable plants were Common Fleabane, Viper's-bugloss, Mignonette also the pinks- Stork's-bill, Field Bindweed, Common Centaury and Mallow( seen in single numbers). The undoubted highlight of the day ( apart from Barbara's trousers seen at ground level) was the Grass Snake spotted by Sally swimming along the margin of the Main Lake from the overlooking hide. John has confirmed it's identity.
This field visit was attended by 10 people and for several it was their first visit to this popular reserve. Thanks go to our drivers Sue and Kevin and also to Alice and Margaret for planning our day. So sad to say "good bye " to summer. Margaret
This week participants made their own way to our meeting point at Esholt for our planned exploration of Jerrison and Spring Woods.
Alice and Maddy led us on our walk through the ancient woodland which is managed jointly by Natural England, Yorkshire Water and the Forestry Commission.There is a variety of habitats; where dense shade is created by the growth of beech and conifers there is little undergrowth but more undergrowth is seen in the mixed woodland wher some felling has taken place. Alice noted tall, old narrow oaks suggesting previous competiton for light. We were struck by the beautiful array of subtle colours on display in the trunks of the trees as well as the foliage. This will no doubt become more splendid as autumn's inexorable march continues.
The walk took us on a roughly oval route with an offshoot path down to the stream where we had lunch. Our botanists recorded 48 species of plant in flower/fruit including Narrow-leaved Ragwort, Red Campion, and Knotgrass and good crops of Holly, Rowan and Hawthorn Fruits. Unfortunately Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed are evident.
The weather was kind to us. Although we felt the chill of autumn especially in the cover of the wood, we did experience some warmth in the more open areas later in the day. This produced the sighting of one dragonfly; a Common Darter and three butterfly species; Green-veined White, Speckled Wood and pristine Red Admiral, probably newly emerged.
There were few birds. Jays and Nuthatch were heard and a Treecreeper made an appearance whilst we were having lunch.
Most surprising was the number of fungi on show including Clustered Bonnet, Horsehair Parachute, Blusher, Chicken of The Woods, Red Cracking Bolete, Peppery Bolete, Common Stump Brittlestem, Honey Fungus and Beech Woodwart. The highlight of the day was also the largest seen; Dyers Mazegill seen growing from the root of a conifer. As its name suggests it has been used for dying yarn in shades of yellow, orange or brown.
The woods are well used by cyclists, horse riders and walkers. We passed a number of dog walkers, many of them with several dogs. Towards the end of our walk we counted 5 parked vans owned by dog walking businesses!! Most of our group finished the day at the Woolpack in Esholt village to use the facilities and buy refreshmnets mostly in the form of hot drinks.
This was a very enjoyable day and I think even our walk leaders were surpised at the number of interesting things we saw. Many thanks to Maddy and Alice. See the photos here.
In contrast to our last outing to Arnside our Bees expedition today was nearer to home, namely a walk along the Leeds Liverpool canal from Armley Mills to the centre of Leeds. The aims of the walk were to appreciate; the green corridor of plants and wildlife that runs into the centre of Leeds along the canal; some of the industrial heritage of Leeds; also the developments for flood alleviation in one of the fast developing cities of the "Northern Powerhouse". I think the group of 12 found it to be an interesting and enjoyable day out which took place in warm and fine weather conditions.
Our walk started in the garden of Armley Mills with its interesting garden plants, trees and succulents. Many of the plants have been used as natural dyes. As Chris, a staff member at the Mills explained to us later in the day, the dye works was located some distance from the Mill (was this because urine was used as a fixative or mordant?).
We observed a range of water plants as well as plants growing on canal sides. Some particularly attractive water plants included Arrowhead with it's characteristically arrow shaped leaves, the yellow Fringed Water-lily and White Water-lily with its circular large floating leaves. These plants need fresh nutrient rich waters in slow moving streams/canals. Other notable water plants were Branched bur-reed, Broad-leaved Pond weed, Perfoliate Pond weed, Flowering-rush and Common Duckweed. Adorning the sides of the canal and locks were Skullcap, Gypsywort, Maidenhair Spleenwort, Michaelmas Daisy, Hemlock Water-dropwort, Meadowsweet, Bittersweet and Water Mint. Other plants found in drier areas were Red Bartsia, Buddleia, Common Fleabane, Bilbao Fleabane, Melilot, Common Toadflax, Yellow-cress, Red Valerian, Giant Hogweed, and Mugwort. 120 plants were recorded by Joan and Alice.
Butterflies seen included all the whites, Speckled Wood and Comma. The insect life on the surface of the canal was of interest as well as the numerous small fish that could be spotted in the clear canal water. Bird life was somewhat limited to 12 recorded species including Mallard, Moorhen ( a youngster), Great Tit and a flock of Long-tailed Tits. A pair of Swans was seen at the conclusion of the walk near the centre of Leeds and a female Goosander from the bridge spanning the River Aire on our return to Armley Mills where we enjoyed a celebratory cake in honour of Joan's birthday. All agreed that it had been an enlightening day out and thanks go to all those who assisted including Stuart and Vera. And finally just a word of warning for those who may wish to attempt this otherwise tranquil walk, BE AWARE of those joggers and cyclists out for their practice rides and jogs!
My hope for today was that we would be basking in sunshine, hanging out on the promenade, ice creams in hand. Whilst there is no reason not to eat ice cream in the drizzle and cool breeze, it does feel less essential.
Our timing to explore the coastline in and around the village was dictated by the tide. High tide was due to be a higher than average; conditions suitable for a bore, the tidal phenomenon when the leading edge of the tide forms a wave as it comes into the bay against the flow of the current. There were two warning sirens, about twenty minutes apart but we were still unsure what to expect, or if indeed it had been and gone without us noticing. It was the noise of rushing water that alerted me to its arrival (I was looking through the scope at that moment). It can be between several centimetres and a metre in height, today I guess it was about 10cm. Probably the most spectacular element of the event was the speed and volume of water which followed it. As the bore passed us, so the mist lifted and we had views of cloud covered mountains in the Lake District.
Ospreys from nearby Foulshaw Moss can be seen fishing in the bay and we were lucky enough to have two sightings of them patrolling the skies. But the bird that attracted the most attention was a black duck, later ID'd as a young eider, which was continually spinning in circles on the edge of a wave.
From Arnside we crossed the railway and followed the embankment towards Sandside. This was a good place to look at the birds; little egret, lapwing, curlew and other waders. In the trees we had a great view of a treecreeper just above our heads. The first butterflies of the day, two green-veined whites, were on the thistles.
Due to the high tide the last bit of footpath was impassable, so we were ferried by minibus to the pub car park in Sandside. Here exploration of the salt marsh vegetation was limited by the water level, but we watched swallows and house martins feeding amongst the sea aster. Of the 105 plants recorded in fruit or flower, notable species include sea plantain, parsley water-dropwort, curled dock (spp littoreus), sea mayweed, sea lavender, sea milkwort, sea wormwood and fool’s-watercress.
We finished our outing with a walk through an old railway cutting with ferns on the walls along with a little clump of colour in the form of scabious and harebell. We saw what might be eared willow, or a hybrid, but we need to do a bit more research. A quick stop at the pub so we could use the facilities, then a smooth drive home, back to the sunny skies of West Yorkshire. Thanks to Stuart for sharing the driving.
Photos in the gallery here