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WFV, Austwick Hall, 20th Feb 2018

In The WoodIn The WoodAfter an uneventful journey through the beautiful dales countryside the full mini bus of 15 Bees enthusiasts arrived in the Village of Austwick. Then complications struck, the bus stopped and refused to start again. As we were only a short distance from our destination of Austwick Hall our trusty driver, Julia, suggested we walk through the village leaving her to use her phone to summon some kind of help.

The day was warm and sunny, the village houses and gardens pretty and we soon arrived at Austwick Hall where we were welcomed by our hosts who ushered us into a lovely drawing room  and offered us tea, coffee and delicious home baked cakes and scones, as we enjoyed our refreshments the owners of the Hall gave us some information as to the best way to walk up through the wood behind the Hall to see the Snowdrops and any other plants, fungi and trees of interest.

Refreshed we meandered  steadily up through the wood enjoying  the dappled sunlight which in places lit up drifts of snowdrops nestled in mossy hollows giving our party the feeling that, yes, Spring really was at last coming to chilly Yorkshire.

At intervals throughout the wood sculptures had been placed to give extra interest, one of the figures gave rise to much discussion, was it a dog? a lion?, no  according to our garden map it was a baboon.

Some other plants of interest, apart from the snowdrops, noticed by Alice and Joan were Dog’s Mercury and wild Arum pushing through the cold ground, a growth of puffballs on a tree and among the many unusual trees were some Redwoods. Also a song thrush was heard singing its enjoyment of this early spring day. Later in the day as some folks warmed up in the Game Cock pub a few of the others did a short walk and Annual meadow grass, Rue leafed saxifrage and walls thick with lichen were noted.

In the meantime, Julia back at the minibus, in her usual calm and efficient manner had organised the transport of the disabled vehicle back to Bradford and taxis for her grateful passengers.

And so after a shaky start it was "all's well that ends well" and thanks to our leaders John and Lorna and special thanks to Julia we did have a really lovely day. More photos here.

Marilyn Barber.


WFV, Breary Marsh, 6th February 2018

Witch HazelWitch HazelOn a bitterly cold morning 7 of us arrived at the Golden Acre car park to meet up with Donald, Margaret and Steve. Snow was gently falling as we set off for Breary Marsh giving an ethereal feel to our surroundings. Crossing the bridge we passed a couple of hazel trees resplendent with catkins. Closer inspection revealed a number of female flowers also showing. Through the woodland our bird sightings included of course a robin whilst a wren was seen flitting through the hedgerow. A great spotted woodpecker was heard drumming and was quickly spotted by Alice high in the tree tops. Birch polypore were much in evidence and a red kite was seen flying overhead. As we approached Paul's Pond 2 roe deer were noted running through the fields in the distance. Mute swans were seen on the pond and great and blue tits could be heard in adjacent woodland. On a previous visit Margaret had seen flocks of linnet in the fields leading away from the pond but none were in evidence today.

Our party then returned to the minibus to lunch in the relative warmth leaving Donald and Margaret to progress ahead to the Adel dam hide. On joining up later, we were rewarded with plenty of activity amongst the bird population. Chaffinches showed well looking handsome in their breeding plumage. Also seen were nuthatch, bullfinch, jays, long tailed, great, blue and coal tits. A late appearance by a male and female mandarin duck added to our enjoyment.

Overall the day produced a total bird count of 28. Julia did see and photograph a treecreeper and along with Maddy also saw a charm of goldfinches. Lots of liverwort was seen lining the stream and various moss species were also noted as well as 5 plants in flower, Mention should also be made of a witch hazel in the park which looked magnificent in full flower. A most enjoyable day with plenty to see. Many thanks to Julia for driving. See photos here.

Sally Tetlow

WFV, Paris, 23/1/2018

Peacock ButterflyPeacock ButterflyThe weather was fine and sunny and we were treated to a host of good bird sightings.  See photos here.



Culture And NatureCulture And NatureLast Wednesday we flew over to Paris.  Lucky us.

We saw lots of French people, some birds and some other assorted wildlife. See photos here

View From The Hide At Adel DamView From The Hide At Adel Dam 


Lady's Slipper: Lady's slipperLady's Slipper: Lady's slipperP.S. this is a false blog, that was set up as part of the training session, and is being left live for the moment so people can practice!!

And just to be clear - no one missed out on a secret trip to Paris...

 See photos here.

New Year Social 2018

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

WFV, New Year's Walk Foulridge, 9th Jan 2018

Along The TowpathAlong The TowpathAfter 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.


WFV 28th November "Mystery" trip, Lotherton Hall and parkland

LichenLichenOur 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


WFV Rodley Nature Reserve 14th Nov 2017

Sorbus speciesSorbus speciesWhy 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.


WFV, Haw Park Wood, 31st Oct 2017

Clavulinopsis sp.Clavulinopsis sp.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!!

John Gavaghan   

WFV, Devonshire Park & Cliffe Castle, 17 October 2017

Silver LimeSilver Lime

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.

Sally Tetlow

WFV, Blacktoft Sands, 3rd October 2017

Shaggy InkcapShaggy Inkcap

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.