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Friday 4th December 2009, Brackenhill Urban Landscape Area

We worked on a line of hawthorn hedge at the outer limit of the landscape area, continuing on from where a previous visit had started laying the hedge. Traditionally this type of hedge laying is used to create a dense barrier to keep animal stock in its fields. A side benefit of creating such a structure is that it creates an ideal habitat for wildlife, and this was the reason for our work here.

Nick demonstrated the technique required to cut a "pleacher", a sort of hinge cut out (using a billhook) from the bottom of the plant enabling it to be bent over and staked. Before having a go ourselves, we cleared all of the small branches from each plant, up to about 5 feet high, which would allow the plant to be bent over without snagging, and we removed dead leaves and twigs from the ground around each "trunk" so that we could get to the plant where we needed to make the cut. Access was quite awkward, with the hedge being found at the bottom of a slope and fenced in, so I found some of the cutting quite difficult. It was, however, very satisfying and I think I started to get the technique after a couple of hours. I could still spend days (if not weeks) trying to get it spot on though!

A small group used some of the trees on the site to make stakes for the hedge, but I think that most of us had a good go at making the pleachers. We managed to lay a surprising length of hedge, and it will be great to see how the plants will look in a year or so. There's still at least a couple more days before the rest of the hedge is done.

After all of the sawing and cutting of hawthorn in a tight space at the bottom of a slope I got home with slightly bruised knuckles and scratched hands, as if I'd been in a bare knuckle fight. All in a day's work!

Friday 27th November, Rodley Nature Reserve

We were tasked with coppicing a relatively small but overgrown area of willow at the Rodley Nature Reserve. After a period of clearing bracken and nettles to expose the ground, we worked methodically to fell the short trees and process the timber for future charcoal production. The tree stumps that remained were further cut to elminiate the risk of rainwater collecting and rotting the tree, thus helping to ensure future regrowth in this sustainable crop. The coppicing also encourages growth of plants and wildlife that would otherwise be absent.
It was great to be able to learn the new skills involved in tree felling, and continuing this fairly ancient process of woodland management, albeit on a small scale. 

Potteric Carr, YWT reserve, 10th November, 2009

BitternBitternStuart and Joan led today's trip to Potteric Carr nature reserve, attended by 17 participants. On arrival, maps of the site were obtained from the visitor centre and distributed amongst the group. Two general camps were then formed - the Birdwatchers and the Fungal Foragers. What a choice! I fell in with the Birdwatchers, eager to see a bittern. The birdwatchers headed to the hides overlooking Decoy Marsh, where we saw teal and shovelers, and we were then afforded good views of two snipe foraging on the edge of an island. We continued on, passing a reedbed, where we heard the distinctive call of a Cetti's warbler. Three of us waited patiently for a sighting of this elusive little bird, but to no avail, and we headed on towards the visitor centre. Our leader had told us it was impossible to get lost here, but we managed the impossible quite easily, and took several wrong turnings. Anyway, it was worth it as we sighted a redwing and we saw some unusual fungi along the way.Arrival at the visitor centre heralded lunch - some had hot food in the cafe, with Shepherds pie being a firm favourite. Others had packed lunches in the hide, where we observed several birds on and around the feeders including reed bunting and jay. After lunch we proceeded to the Piper Marsh hide. We didn't have to wait very long, before a bittern emerged from the reeds on the edge of the island, stalking through the reeds but sometimes coming right out into the open, enabling us to get really good views. This was the highlight of our birding day, which saw us record 43 species.

The Fungal Foragers had intended to explore a certain part of the reserve which was thought to be particularly good for fungi, but they never arrived there as there was so much to see alongside all the paths. Right outside the visitor centre, a destroying angel was seen. Then there were the alien-like earth stars and the golden spindles, and so it continued.... Particular highlights were the panther cap, amanita pantherina and the caterpillar fungus, cordyceps militaris, which parasitises insects.32 flowering plants and ferns were recorded. 

It was a cold and dull day, but it had stayed dry and both the Bird Watchers and the Fungal Foragers returned home with smiles on their faces, even though we had only explored a fraction of this wonderful nature reserve. 



WFV Hardcastle Crags 27.10.09

Spot Fungus?Spot Fungus?Pennine mist greeted the 15 members of our group today when we arrived at Hardcastle Crags to enjoy a mild autumnal fungi foray in millstone grit country.  The mist evaporated as the day progressed and we had fine cloudy weather for our visit.  The identification of the variety of fungi and ferns distracted us to the extent that it took two hours to meander the 1.5 miles to Gibson Mill, the National Trust's flagship sustainable property, where we enjoyed our lunch and a look round the mill.  An almost equally slow return to the minibus completed our day during which we recorded 35 species of fungi, 11 ferns and not a great number of birds.  Number 1 in the fungi hit parade was Grisette (Amarita vaginata) which was followed in second place for most of the day by Jelly Babies (Leotica lubrica) but this species was relegated to number 3 late in the day by White Saddle (Helvella crispa) - a first sighting for Joan, in itself a remarkable occurrance!  The diversity of habitat - oak/beech/pine - was matched by the diversity in the knowledge of the members of our group as the experts discussed the finer points of identification whilst the novices tried to get to grips with the difference between the various species of fern. It wasn't a good day for the birders, but we did manage to record nuthatch, goldcrest, dipper and redwing in our total during another enjoyable day which was very ably led by Joan, Veronica and Eric. 


Wildlife Photography competition

I came across information about a wildlife photography exhibition on the Natural England website. Follow the link below to see where the winning photographs are being exhibited and  - more importantly - how to find out about next year's competition!

WFV, Waters Edge Country Park, Barton-onHumber, 13/10/09

RobinRobin14 of us participated in today's trip, led by Joan, to the Waters Edge Country Park, situated to the north of Barton-on-Humber on the edge of the Humber estuary. On arrival we headed for the futuristic looking, eco-friendly visitor centre where the toilets are flushed using rainwater. We picked up leaflets with maps of various walks around this extensive country park with various wetland habitats. Most of us set out to follow the wetland and woodland trails. The path started on the banks of the Humber with spectacular views of the Humber Bridge. The sun was shining and there was barely a breeze. We saw occasional redshanks, then a few more. As we ventured further we saw more and more waders - blacktailed godwit, dunlin, turnstones and ringed plovers. A solitary heron stood on the waters edge.We were fortunate to have John and Carol with us. Without them we would have struggled to identify the numerous waders. We stopped for lunch on the banks of the Humber beside a rusted shell of a boat lodged in the mudflats. To the right of us were numerous lapwing. Following lunch we continued on our way, but the map was proving useless. It was so basic with no landmarks that we couldn't navigate the trail. Even though we couldn't find the route, we still had an enjoyable walk. The paths took us alongside little lakes and ponds. We saw an occasional butterfly and dragonfly. Over 50 bird species were recorded including ruddy duck, shoveller, bullfinch, siskin, willow tit and coal tit. A greater spotted woodpecker was seen on a peanut feeder, and a whooper swan was seen in flight. We recorded 44 plants in flower, including creeping thistle, purple toadflax and bristly ox-tongue.That seems quite amazing for the middle of October! Before heading back for home, most of us got a hot drink in the cafe. Whilst sat outside looking over the pond, we saw a kestrel fly low overhead. This was a gorgeous day out in a beautiful place, much of it still unexplored. Maybe we need to come back sometime......


WFV, Adel Dam & Golden Acre Park, 29.09.09

Veronica Entrances Her AudienceVeronica Entrances Her AudienceIn the absence of Joan, nursing a sick husband (and we all wish Barrie a speedy recovery), Annie assumed full responsibility for today's trip back to Leeds and she was able to use her local knowledge of the site for our benefit.  17 members and one guest from Portugal, Rachel, who is doing a 10 month voluntary placement with BEES, enjoyed a varied day out in cloudy but dry weather with autumn tints adding to our enjoyment of this quite extensive area.

There was some early discussion regarding whether we were looking at a swamp cypress (taxodium distichum) or a dawn redwood (metasequoia glyptostoboides). The discussion was instigated by Amanda who likes the sound of the latin name for the redwood but wasn't really necessary as we found a label on the tree confirming that it was indeed a swamp cypress - Donald 1 Amanda 0!

Veronica then led part of the group on a fungi foray and indentified 25 species for us which included dead man's fingers, artist's fungus, horse's hoof fungus, beefsteak fungus and blushing bracket.  Alice did a flower list which contained the surprising number of 46 plants in flower.  We didn't see a great variety of birds, but we did record great spotted woodpecker, heron, nuthatch, jay, long-taied tit and red kite along with the resident water birds on the lake and ponds. Back in the environs of the cafe we were delighted to see red admiral, comma and painted lady(?) butterflies.  Some members made the additional trip to nearby Breary Marsh but did not record anything out of the ordinary.

Another very pleasant BEES outing which once again visited a local site and thus maintained our very small carbon footprint!





WFV, Roundhay Park, Leeds, 15/9/09

Blushing Bracket FungusBlushing Bracket FungusToday's trip took us to the far flung destination of Roundhay Park, Leeds. Several participants came in their own cars and met up with the minibus for this outing organised by Margaret and Joan. It was lovely to see Margaret on her first BEES day out for several months. Having been pointed in the direction of the visitor centre where we could get maps of the park, and purchase information about various trails, we were left to explore the park as we wished. A group of us chose to follow the ecology trail. The route commenced by skirting the smaller upper lake, and continued on woodland paths passing through the ravine and the castle ruins. Our initial frequent reference to the ecology trail leaflet tailed off and the walk became more of a fungal foray. We found numerous delightful specimens including deer cap, king alfreds cakes, fairys bonnets, dryads saddle, birch polypor, turkey tail, oyster mushrooms and hairy bracket, but the most striking fungi were the blushing brackets. Several branches were strewn on the woodland floor, and the brackets were laid on top of these branches like plates on a table. (See the gallery.) The beefsteak fungus was also quite impressive. The path continued around the large Waterloo lake, where we saw coots, canada geese, tufted duck, great crested grebe and black headed gulls. There was no formal recording of plants or birds. Four species of butterfly were sighted. We stopped for lunch near the waterside cafe. Early cloud was increasingly giving way to sunshine, but there was a definite autumnal feel to the day, and we felt its chill, so we called in to the cafe for a hot drink.  After lunch the group became more dispersed, but most of us ventured down to the monet, alhambra and canal gardens. Unfortunately the fountains in the alhambra garden were out of action due to maintenance. Although late in the season, the gardens were still very colourful and there was much to enjoy. Although this park is very familiar, it was still a joy to visit it, and after the minibus departed I took another stroll around both lakes and was rewarded with cracking views of a nuthatch. Even local, familiar places can yield fresh treasures.


Friday 28th August, Baildon Moor

This was my second visit to Baildon Moor with BEES, and what a difference in the weather. Last time I suffered terribly from acute hay fever in the hot, dry and dusty conditions. Today was nearly the polar opposite, which may have deterred a few but was welcomed by me!

Anyway, it was more of the usual work for this site, clearing dead bracken and piling it up, along with cutting down new growth, all with the aim of increasing the biodiversity on the moor.

In the afternoon I tried my hand at using the scythe. After some tutoring from Nick and a couple of hours practice I think that I had started to get the measure of it; it's not as easy as it looks at first glance. It was great to be learning a new skill.

This job is never ending, with the group replacing the traditional means of moorland management (i.e. agricultual practices which are no longer carried out). The volunteers' work over the years is certainly having a positive effect, however, and the difference between the managed and the unmanaged areas is striking.

WFV, Wycoller Country Park, 1/9/09

Bee on Water MintBee on Water MintToday's trip to Wycoller country park started on the outskirts of Colne, and was led by Joan. The weather forecast was not good, and we were prepared for rain. 13 walkers set off towards Wycoller passing ponds and streams and crossing fields, enjoying the extensive views of the lovely Lancashire countryside. It was blustery, but dry throughout the morning. We stopped for lunch in the pretty village of Wycoller. Unfortunately the village tea room was closed, so we sat and ate our packed lunches near the quaint little packhorse and clapper bridges, and the ruins of Wycoller Hall. We then spent a short time looking around the aisled barn, before continuing our walk. Unfortunately, the promised rain made its appearance. A light shower fell as we perused the willow creations in Wycoller, including an impressive sculpture of a horse and rider. We continued our walk along the road, with showers becoming more heavy and prolonged and accompanied by an occasional clap of thunder. Turning off the road, we continued our route across fields and through the hamlet of Winewall. A bull was grazing in one of the fields. He watched us closely, but fortunatley he didn't react badly to us, and we all breathed a sigh of relief as we safely negotiated his territory.

Approximately 125 plants were recorded including bogbean in flower, and sizeable areas of mimulus and water mint in flower. Stone walls were covered in lichens of numerous colours, including a foliose lichen.  

There were few birding highlights but we did see 4 snipe fly up from a pond as we passed by and disturbed them and we also watched a large flock of goldfinches feeding on thistle-down. 

We arrived back at the minibus having enjoyed another wet, but enjoyable walk.