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WFV, The Lines Way and Ledsham Bank, 12th August 2014

On "The Lines" RouteOn "The Lines" RouteToday we commenced our exploration of the ten South East Leeds sites owned by Leeds Council which are now managed in partnership with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT). The minibus left Bradford very promptly with ten members who were prepared for the heavy showers which were forecast for the day on our linear walk along the Lines Way, a four mile track along an old railway line which passes close by to the previously visited nature reserve of Townclose Hills.

We collected Stuart & Gillian who had left their car at the end of the walk at Allerton Bywater and proceeded to the starting point at Garforth where we had been very kindly offered a parking spot by Millrace Nurseries. SparrowhawkSparrowhawkWe made good BEES time in ever-improving weather which soon had everyone taking off their outer layers and we lunched whilst watching an air display put on by swallows, house martins and probably the last swifts that we will see on a BEES trip this year before the star of the show - a male sparrowhawk - did a fly past and came to rest in a nearby tree, allowing Sue to record the event on her camera. There was plenty of botanical interest and Joan and Alice recorded a total of 166 plants, most of which were in flower. John noted 11 species of butterfly, including brimstone, painted lady and small copper whilst a few dragonflies and damselflies put in an appearance to add to the variety of the day. Common DarterCommon Darter

On reaching the end of the walk after lunch, Stuart conveyed Robert back to the start to collect the minibus so that we could proceed to our second site of the day, Ledsham Bank, a YWT reserve on the Magnesian limestone on the outskirts of Ledsham village. The main attractions of the site at this time of the year are autumn gentian and autumn ladies tresses and we were lucky to see both species as well as many other interesting plants such as rock rose, agrimony, betony, greater knapweed and viper’s bugloss. Another speciality of the site, dyer’s greenweed was present but had gone to seed. John showed us where the real star of the site – pasque flower - can be viewed and we made a note to organise a trip next year to try and see this rarity.Autumn Ladies TressesAutumn Ladies Tresses

Birds were more abundant than on recent BEES trips and we recorded 24 including buzzard, whitethroat, red-legged partridge and willow warbler. We had only experienced a couple of very light showers during the day but as we concluded our visit the skies grew darker and heavier rain threatened as we boarded the minibus and headed off to the Chequers Inn at Ledsham for a comfort stop with refreshments before heading back to Bradford having had a very full day.

Thanks to Joan and Alice who had undertaken a very detailed recce of the area (which included negotiating parking spots) and who gave us a thoroughly enjoyable day out.

WFV, Lincolnshire Sites, 5th August 2014

Humber BridgeHumber BridgeThis outing was organised by Margaret who had wisely arranged for the group to be led around the site by Angela and Stuart Buckle, who are local botanists, with an extensive knowledge of the local flora. It was largely a repeat of a walk they took us on last year with glorious views of the Humber Bridge and he wide estuary. Several colourful barges and boats, bearing exotic names, were seen plying their trade.

Peppered Moth CaterpillarPeppered Moth CaterpillarI always seem to begin my blog by saying how wonderful the weather was;and guess what? It was, although at times perhaps too warm. Few birds were seen as this is not the ideal time of year to spot them though we did see Coots, Lapwings, House Martins, Pied Wagtails and Goldfinches. Joan and Alice logged 148 flowering plants that included: Sea Aster, Blue-water Speedwell, Lesser Water Parsnip, Blue Cyclamen, Field Madder, Red Bartsia, Borage and Spear-leaved Orache. We were treated to the sight of many dragon/damselflies;Common blue damsels, Brown and Common Hawkers, Ruddy and Common Darters. One freshly emerged Common Hawker perched in a hawthorn tree at a height where we were able to see it up close and take photographs. A green geometer caterpillar was photo'd and after much research eventually ID'd as a peppered Moth. A Mother of Pearl moth was also seen.

Wall BrownWall BrownButterflies abounded. We saw a total of 14 species, the star of the day being a solitary Wall Brown, now extinct in much of the south and Midlands and fast disappearing from its traditional Yorkshire haunts. No-one can satisfactorily explain why as its food plant has not diminished. I had not seen one for several years as they seem to have gone form Baildon Bank and Tong Park, my local sites.

The wildlife garden by the reserve entrance proved a delight in our final 15 minutes as alongside the numerous Peacocks we spotted a Red Admiral, then a Brimstone and at the very end a Painted Lady put in an appearance. Our young visitor Eden (Robert's granddaughter) seemed to have enjoyed her trip out with us oldies, despite a grass cut and an insect bite. She particularly loved seeing the damselfly and Peacock that were potted for her to view up close. Many thanks to our driver of the day Sue. John Gavaghan

WFV, Burnby Hall & Pocklington Canal, 29th July 2014

By The PondBy The Pond

The two sites we visited today were of equal interest but in different ways. In the morning we explored the grounds of Burnby Hall Gardens, in the afternoon we completed a linear walk along the Pocklington Canal. The gardens held the national collection of Water Lilies and in the summer sunshine they were at their best- white, pink and red.Water LiliesWater Lilies The group took a leisurely stroll around the gardens visiting the Victorian gardens, Rock garden, Stumpery and Arboretum. We enjoyed lunch by the side of the lake.

In the afternoon led by Peter we walked along the Pocklington Canal, constructed between 1815-18, enjoying the flowers and grasses, butterflies, dragonflies, fish and bird life. The flowers and grasses seen (total recorded 60) included Arrowhead, Greater Willowherb, Marsh Woundwort, Yellow Water Lily, Sneezewort, Bindweed, Water Forget-me -not, Unbranched Bur-reed, Common Reed, Reed Canary Grass, Reed Sweet Grass. We were hoping for sightings of Red Eyed Damselfly but none were seen.Pocklington canal From The BridgePocklington canal From The Bridge However Banded Demoiselles were seen in flight also a Brown Hawker Dragonfly was photographed in breezy conditions. Butterflies seen during the day were Peacock, Red Admiral, Holly Blue, Meadow Brown and Green Veined White. Mallard and Moorhen made their appearances from time to time and a Kestrel was seen by Gillian flying overhead. Robert the fisherman brought our attention to Perch and Roach swimming under the bridge, Stuart spotted a Vole by the side of the path. The sunshine we enjoyed in the morning was replaced with cloudy conditions as the day progressed. Our group of 14 returned to the Unitarian Church stimulated and well satisfied following a good day out.

Margaret

WFV, Fountains Abbey, 22nd July 2014

The Ruins And BridgeThe Ruins And BridgeIt was a glorious day for our trip to Fountains Abbey, probably too hot for some. It was good to see Akram again and to have Glenford on his first trip out with us. Whilst the keen botanists set about their floral mission, the rest of the group were free to roam at will. Some strayed further than others with the high level path affording wide angle views over the abbey ruins. It was on this path that a common stinkhorn was spotted. A bolete was also noted today. Our bird recorders were absent but today was not really a trip with birds in mind. However, the Studley Royal grounds was where most birds were seen - lots of geese (greylag and canada), and black headed gulls. BoleteBoleteGrey wagtail was also recorded and a juvenile pheasant whose atypical plumage caused some initial confusion. Black tailed skimmer, common darter, common blue and blue tailed damselfy were present. The high temperatures had brought out plenty of butterflies including small tortoiseshell, peacock, green-veined white and large white. The cafe was a welcome oasis and refuge form the sun before we headed back to Bradford. Thanks to Joan and Alice for leading today's trip. Joan recorded a total of 155 plants.

Sue

CommaComma What the botanists did. Our main aim on this glorious summer day was to examine the flora of three unique botanical areas- the walls of the Abbey, the flora of the riverbank of the River Skell and the meadow in front of the Banqueting Hall. A good number started this venture however we gradually lost members as the day progressed, the heat of the day playing its part. There is an unusual plant community growing in the cracks and crevasses of the Abbey walls which have been contructed from locally quarried gritstone. One of the first species that caught our attention was the aptly named Pellitory-of-the-Wall. Other species included Harebell, Golden Rod, Hop Trefoil, Field Scabious, Knapweed, Ivy Leaved Toadflax, Marjaram and Wallflower. The ferns included Maidenhair Spleenwort, Wall Rue and Harts Tongue Fern. Our search for a speciality of the Abbey, Proliferous Pink ended in partial success. MarjoramMarjoramThe dried up leaves of the flower were identified hanging from a wall. The other speciality Fine Leaved Sandwort was seen but not in good condition.There were an abundance of attractive plants on the banks of the River Skell including Mimulus, Knapweed, the Willowherbs and the Umbilifers. The final destination - the meadow - was reached by one of our group - Margaret, it was just too good to miss! It proved to be a carpet of deep red with Betony and Knapweed growing in profusion together with Eyebright and Lady's Bedstraw. A hunt was made for orchid species. There were good numbers of Twayblade however Common Spotted Orchid was not seen. A wealth of flowers was seen on the day of which a few have received a mention.

Margaret

WFV, Waitby Greenriggs, 15th July 2014

Waitby GreenriggsWaitby GreenriggsToday’s extended day out was to the Cumbria Wildlife Trust reserve of Waitby Greenriggs, near Kirby Stephen, not far from the previously-visited reserve of Smardale Gill – in fact both sites share the same abandoned railway line. The group had to be on its best behaviour today as we were co-led by our boss, Julia, who also acted as co-driver for the day. We were blessed with a fine sunny day and despite being delayed in traffic at Kirkby Lonsdale had a pleasant drive to the site where we lunched upon arrival.

Marsh HelleborineMarsh HelleborineThe wealth of plant life meant that the pace of the walk was BEES snail but we were rewarded with particularly beautiful stands of betony and marsh helleborine as well as common and marsh fragrant orchids in profusion, including white versions of the common. In total over 130 plants in flower were recorded by Joan and Alice which included twayblade, rest-harrow, field gentian, black bog-rush and saw-wort. Despite the sunny conditions, butterflies were not very numerous and we recorded only six species. Likewise, bird numbers were not great but we were entertained by two circling buzzards for some time and as the (relatively) faster walkers waited for the botanists to catch up at the end of the walk we enjoyed watching a spotted flycatcher teaching its young how to catch flies whilst a redstart flew past as willow warblers flitted amongst the trees. The final total of 17 bird species also included tree pipit. Small SkipperSmall Skipper As the group gathered to prepare for our departure we were lucky enough to spot a red squirrel running through the branches of nearby trees. This made a fine ending to a very enjoyable walk.

We had planned to visit another nearby site, but time was running short and so we headed back towards home taking the scenic route via Kirkby Stephen, Hawes, Ribblehead and Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Skipton in glorious sunshine. In Skipton, in a repetition of the year’s previous extended day out, we headed to Bizzies for a fish and chip treat before wending our way back to Bradford.

We had enjoyed a lovely outing and were grateful to Julia and John for the planning and leadership of the day.

Stuart

WFV, Sprotbrough Flash, 8th July 2014

Bee OrchidBee OrchidI was hoping to make this week's blog sweet and simple. How could anyone be expected to comment on 180 floral species, 25 bird species, 13 insects and two reptiles! The group was somewhat bleary eyed when we arrived at Sprotbrough Flash YWT Nature Reserve which we had previously visited in April 2013. We had been watching the thrills of the Tour de France, World Cup football and Wimbledon. By pure coincidence we met a cyclist from Hastings on the river path who had visited Skipton and Blubberhouses to view the Tour. He was somewhat lost and was happy to accept our guidance on the direction home. I suppose in birding terms he was somewhat off course and could be considered a rare migrant. Peacock CaterpillarPeacock Caterpillar Our tour began in the grassland area on the summit of a steep hill. Could this be called the Côte de Sprotbrough? There was plenty to get our teeth into - spectacular orchids- Pyramidal, Bee, Twayblade and Common Spotted. Also lots of attractive flowers - Perforate St John's Wort, Agrimony, Musk Mallow, Hop Trefoil, Wild Carrot, Centaury, Common Gromwell, Wormwood and Black Bryony. Female Ruddy DarterFemale Ruddy DarterThe butterflies Ringlet, Meadow Brown and both Small and Large Skipper were seen in flight. A shout "a snake!" was uttered by Maddy. We all scurried over to take a look . A fleeting glimpse was seen of what was thought to be a Grass Snake but later identified as a Slow Worm (Sue later did see a Grass Snake). As we progressed there followed a cry "when are we having lunch?", however we completed a short detour to a pond before settling down for some sustenance. The pond had gradually been overcome by reeds and rushes however we were able to identify both Large and Small Skipper also Azure and Blue Damselfies an well as Ruddy Darter and Brown Hawker Dragonflies. Musk MallowMusk MallowThe afternoon was a stroll through the extensive ancient woodland - at its floral best in the spring - however we had a sighting of a magnificent stand of Giant Bellflower growing by the path. As we descended towards the River Don there was a short stop to examine the arable weeds of the edge of a field of broad beans; plants such as Scarlet Pimpernel and Poppy were seen. We returned via the riverside path which is always good for flora and spring migrants. On this occasion we saw Soapwort, White Bryony and a Red Admiral Butterfly. As promised we completed our day out with a drink at the Boat Inn before returning to the minibus prior to a downpour of rain. Ten of us enjoyed a good day out in South Yorkshire.

Margaret

WFV, Brae Pasture & Ribblehead Quarry, 1st July 2014

Northern Brown ArgusNorthern Brown Argus

A party of 11 led by Donald headed off to this limestone hillside about 2 miles north of Horton-in-Ribblesdale, where we stopped for a toilet break. Unlike the rained-off Wimbledon of the day before we again had a warm, dry day and plenty of sunshine.

This lovely weather brought out the butterflies/moths in good numbers; lots of Common Blues, Chimney Sweepers, Grass moths galore, also Small Heath, Northern Brown Argus, Meadow Brown and a single Dark Green Fritillary. Several Tree Pipits were seen singing.

Frog OrchidFrog OrchidThe main objective, however, was to see the special plants which included Alpine Bistort (only known from 4 sites in VC64), Limestone Bedstraw, Lesser Meadow Rue, Heath Fragrant Orchid and Common Spotted Orchid. It did seem that we were going to be unlucky with our main target; Frog Orchid. We had been on site about 2 hours and despite lots of searching I couldn’t find any. Fortunately; Amanda was with us this trip and she wasn’t going to be denied and towards the end of our stay the cry went up; FROG ORCHID! Several examples were found near to the path, up on the ridge, closest to the gate where we had entered. Well done Amanda. Also to Joan who found the one in best condition and was able to identify Limestone Bedstraw.

Ribblehead Quarry, afternoon of the 1st July After Brae we then travelled to this disused quarry. Water AvensWater AvensMenacing dark clouds arrived during our visit but luckily we were spared.

Amanda discovered a huge colony of Common Twayblades on a flat hill immediately to the right of the gate. Other orchids present were; Common Spotted and Northern Marsh and numerous hybrids, presumably Common Spotted/Marsh. Margaret found the small colony of Marsh Helleborine though these were not yet in flower. A total of 100 plants were recorded at both of these sites.

Right at the death I came across a Latticed Heath moth and managed to take its picture. A few spots of rain hit the front of the mini-bus as we set off back. Our driver was Robert.

John Gavaghan

WFV Sefton Coast 24th June 2014

Wot! No CamelsWot! No CamelsThe stars of today's show were definitely Pat and her friend Philip Smith. Pat kept us on the move, fired us with enthusiasm for the plants and treated us with a lovely "cuppa" in her delightful home at the conclusion of the day. Philip kept us informed, pointing out the rare and special species of this section of the Sefton coast which is certainly something special and on this occasion we explored two areas. In the morning we covered a small section of the Birkdale plant community in the vicinity of Pontin's holiday camp. In the afternoon we went south to explore the Formby Dune system and the Devil's Hole, a crater-like blowout. We were slightly delayed in meeting up with Pat and Val (Margaret's friend). From the start we delighted in seeing a glorious display of flowers en route to our toilet stop. We were surrounded by Early Marsh Orchids and Marsh Helleborines in profusion.Early Marsh OrchidEarly Marsh Orchid Pyramidal Orchids were seen throughout the day in considerable numbers also in their white form albuflora. The flora included Evening Primrose, Hemlock Water Dropwort, Common Centaury, Round-Leaved Wintergreen, Yellow-wort, Twayblade, Catsear, Rest Harrow, Eyebright and Lesser Water- Plantain (a national rarity). Lyme-Grass and Marram Grass, the sand dune fixers, were seen. Continuing across a recently mowed grass area we encountered Haresfoot Clover, Storksbill and Stonecrop. Into the dunes we identified Ploughman's Spikenard, Fleabane, Houndstongue, Portland Spurge and Sea Buckthorn. Following lunch we returned to the minibus in order to meet up with Philip and encountered a female duck with a family of ten chicks needing to cross the road to return to the lake. Our party ensured that she and her family were returned safe and sound. Leading The DucklingsLeading The DucklingsFor the afternoon we were under the guidance of Philip Smith who escorted us through sections of the dune system from the fixed dunes, mobile and embryo dunes to the strand line. Of especial interest were the dune slacks. At the beginning of our walk we encountered Smooth Tare, Black Poplar ( a native but rare species), Asparagus ( previously grown as a crop), Polypody, Silvery Hair-Grass, Knotted Clover, Birdsfoot and Hop Trefoil. Moving into the dune system there was Dewberry, Thyme-Leaved Sandwort, Knotted Pearlwort, Wild Parsnip, Yellow Bartsia, Fairy Flax, Grey Club Rush, Wild Carrot and Lady's Bedstraw. On the strand line we saw Prickly Saltwort (a red data plant), Sea Holly, Frosted Orache, Guernsey Fleabane, Grass-leaved Orache, Sea Milkwort, Sea Spurge and Sea Rocket. We made our way back to the minibus via Devils Hole, a crater like blowout which had a unique feature that its western side was enclosed. This is a vast area of dune slack which floods in winter. Floral species have increased over a ten year period from 16 to 116 species recorded in 2014. We saw Marsh Helleborine, Bog Pimpernel, Grass of Parnassus mainly in bud,Bee OrchidBee Orchid Brookweed, Creeping Willow and other willows and hybrids, Seaside Centaury as well as the hybrid Seaside and Common Centaury. The bird count was disappointingly low numbering 16. The most common sighting was of Meadow Pipit. 6 butterfly species were seen including Dark Green Fritilleries feeding on Thistle on the strand line. Several interesting beetles were present including a large Ground Beetle with asymmetric mandibles and Northern Dune Tiger Beetle. However this was definitely a flower day. It was with great regret that the curtain had to fall on a grand day out. Just one or two additional points - the weather was fine and not too hot. Unfortunately John had missed out on a superb day. He was at home watching England draw with Costa Rica in the World Cup. Better luck next time!

Margaret

WFV, Wharfedale, 17th June 2014

Melancholy ThistleMelancholy Thistle Today's visit took us from Buckden, up the foothills of the Pike, across the river to Cray and then a return route via Cray Gill, Hubberholme and back to Buckden along the river.

Yet again we had some minibus troubles at the start of the day so arrival at Buckden was slightly later than planned. We had a lunch date at the farm at Cray so Joan decided to only make a mental note of the plants to speed up our progress up Buckden Rake. Once at home her list amounted to 168 species, 129 of which were in flower.This not only indicates the floral pleasures of the day but Joan's mental agility to recall so many!

Some of the most numerous species we saw included Common Rock Rose, Pignut and Yellow Rattle. In the farmyard at Cray there was a wet flush with a lovely display of Northern Marsh Orchid and Ragged Robin, and descending the gill we saw our first Common Spotted Orchids of the day. The most inconspicuous species we recorded was Marsh Arrowgrass, and we were pleased to see the beautiful Melancholy Thistle opening on the river side  as we neared the end of the walk.

Young RedstartYoung RedstartThe most numerous birds were probably Chaffinch and the Pied and Grey wagtails. We saw fledging Redstart on the Rake, and caught a glimpse of a Pied Flycatcher near Hubberholme. Other species included Greater Spotted Woodpecker in the Buckden car park, Willow Warbler and Blackcap, and plenty of Swallows and House Martins.

We had a couple of scheduled stops on route. First a glimpse at the dry stone wall that the BEES Friday volunteers have been repairing over several weekend residentials (we didn't have time to examine them closely, but you can look at the photos in the Buckden residential galleries).

Bees Wall With Farm In The DistanceBees Wall With Farm In The DistanceThen, once safely over the stepping stones, we had our lunch in the farmyard at Cray, listening to Chris Akrigg who has been the tenant farmer here for over 30 years. His priorities for farming are 1) environment 2) sheep 3) cattle. 80% of the farm is governed by a Higher Level Stewardship agreement with Natural England, a bespoke management plan for this farm.

Of note are the good numbers of breeding Redshank, Lapwing and Oystercatchers. This time of year sounds the worst for the sheep, with risks of disease. Chris explained that the low grazing density results in higher numbers of triplet lambs. We met some of them that been hand reared. Most of the sheep are Swaledales but they do have a few Blue Faced Leicesters. These produce a lovely knitting wool, but I realise now why it is expensive; Chris explained that once born their only ambition is to die! These sheep are valley dwellers rather suited to being left on the moor tops. 

Look at the photos from today here

Julia

WFV, Brockholes, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, 10th June

Visitor VillageVisitor VillageA number of people had dropped out of this week's trip so we were rather depleted in number's for our trip to Brockholes. It was lovely to have Annie leading us especially as we will miss her when she soon moves home and can no longer come on our outings. Our outward journey to Brockholes was a sunny one but with much cloud gathering and a poor forecast it was only a matter of time before the rain fell. Several people went on a walk down by the river, led by Common Blue ButterflyCommon Blue Annie, whilst others did their own thing exploring the walking trails and hides on the reserve.37 birds were seen including avocet, redshank, ringed plover, buzzard and kestrel. Several young birds were seen including a blackcap. Our botany recorders were absent today so there was no formal flower count but botanical highlights included ragged robin and southern marsh orchids. Several butterflies were seen including common blue and large skipper. A four spotted chaser, numerous common blue damselflies and a solitary red damselfly were noted. Martin was tipped off about a group of stoats and he was very privileged to see six of them frolicking on a path. The rain held off until 30-40 minutes before our departure - when it came it was very heavy and thundery but we had enjoyed a lovely day at this special reserve.

Sue