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.
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
This was Bees second visit to Healey Dell and the first for many of our group of 11. It is a local nature reserve situated in the Rochdale area and managed by the warden Richard. He gave us an insightful illustrated talk on the industrial heritage of the Dell followed by a walking tour. This oak/beech woodland is situated on the steep sided gorge created by the River Spodden with its waterfalls and pools. The industrial heritage, of which evidence remains, is linked to the woollen industry and quarrying in the area. The flagstones produced in the Dell were used to pave Trafalgar Square. There was a munitions factory here in WW2.
Our extensive walk involved in part following the disused track of the Lancashire Yorkshire railway, Rochdale-Bacup section. As well as the spectacular natural and man made features, the reserve had much to offer of wildlife interest. We enjoyed the flora of the woodland edge and glades, wildflower meadows as well as pond and heathland habitats. A total of 128 flowering plants, 121 in flower or fruit were recorded by our botanical specialists. The woodland gave us Broad-leaved Helleborine, Wood Avens and its more robust hybrid, Enchanter's Nightshade and Dusky Cranesbill, all surrounded by an extensive cover of Blackberry. The ferns (10 in total) including Harts Tongue, Hard, Lady and Male looked down on us from the rock crevasses while the majestic Royal fern grew on the old railway platform.The wildflower meadows including the railway sidings held Knapweed, Giant and Nettle-leaved Bellflower, Purple Loosestrife, Tutsan, Musk Mallow, Betony, Field Scabious, Marsh Woundwort and Square-stalked St John's wort. In the surrounding area we saw Golden-rod and Teasel. In the pond area Water Mint and Flag Iris were growing. Whereas on the heathland surrounding our lunch spot were Heather, Bilberry, Hemp Agrimony and Tormentil. Some of the flowers had burnt edges, many had gone to seed but there were good numbers still in a good condition despite the prolonged drought conditions.
Of the Lepidoptera we saw Green-veined Whites in good numbers, also Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, and Small Copper (also Straw Dot moth). Southern and Brown Hawker dragonflys were seen as well as numerous Common Blue damselflies above the pond. Birds heard or seen included Nuthatch, Dipper, Mallard, Moorhen and a Heron flew overhead. Fungi: Chicken of the Woods and various bracket fungi were seen. Richard touched on aspects of management including methods of treating Himalayan Balsam. He demonstrated the effects of ash die back disease on young ash trees. There is also considerable dead wood in the woodland which needs to be managed for the safety of walkers and for wild life. The 2015 winter floods which brought down an arched bridge necessitated considerable work in the reconstruction of footpaths.
This enjoyable day out was conducted in pleasant weather conditions - none of the high temperatures we had experienced over the last few months. We rounded off our day with tea and cake at the Healey Dell tea rooms. We were especially grateful to Richard and Lisa (the tea room lady) for their generosity. Also thanks to Stuart for navigating those horrendous potholes and to Alice for making the arrangements for our visit.
Our visit today took us to Warton Crag, a site which hosts a variety of habitats: limestone grassland, woodland and limestone pavement and is a nationally important site for butterflies and moths. Peregrine falcons also nest regularly in the main quarry. A trouble-free journey, saw us arrive at our site before midday and as our party left the car park we were delighted to see 3 Migrant hawkers flying above our heads. As we followed the path up the hillside, the effects of the extremely dry and hot weather we have experienced over the past few weeks, were immediately apparent. The ground was dry and cracked in places, vegetation scorched and some trees were holding leaves that were completely dead. Knapweed was the predominant plant in flower amidst this parched terrain.
Lunch was taken at the butterfly bank, where we saw several brimstone, both male and female, feeding. The weather conditions continued to be perfect for butterflies and throughout the rest of the day we also saw small, large and green-veined white, meadow brown, ringlet, speckled wood, dark green fritillary, small skipper, wall brown, holly blue, common blue and painted lady. John spotted hummingbird hawkmoth and also enabled the group to have a closer look at both Pyrausta cingulata and Pyrausta ostrinalis.
Further up the path Gillian spotted a common lizard basking on a rock but this quickly vanished into the undergrowth. From this point we were able to appreciate the glorious sweep of Morecambe Bay with Blackpool Tower being seen in the distance. It truly is a splendid panorama which never fails to impress. Joan recorded 80 species in flower or fruit as well as 6 ferns. It was pleasing to see goldenrod and ploughman's spikenard but mention must also be made of the carline thistle which looked particularly attractive in the sunshine. Bird sightings were a little thin on the ground but some of the party were delighted to catch sight of a peregrine falcon and a buzzard was also noted flying over the bay. A wonderful day, rounded off by a visit to the local hostelry for much appreciated liquid refreshment.
Thanks to Stuart for his careful driving and to Julia for her ever proficient leadership. I feel I should also mention a comment Joan made towards the end of our visit which summed up the current state of this site "I'm fed up of looking at dead things!". I am sure we all wish it a speedy recovery!
We were so impressed with this reserve last time we visited that we ‘vowed to return next year’ according to the blog of the day. Well, eight years later we did return and were equally impressed!
The fine warm weather of recent weeks continued as we left Bradford with a full minibus but increasingly it clouded over as we journeyed North up the A1 to Catterick Garrison so that when we arrived there was a much fresher feel to the weather which was fine for humans but not so attractive to the smaller flying beings.
Having surrendered a driving licence for a pass at the guardhouse we were allowed into the reserve to be welcomed by head warden, Steve, who gave us a very interesting introductory talk and an even more interesting guide to the ringing centre which is one of the foremost in the country. This, together with the extensive visitor centre, is built to very high standards and both are most impressive. Part of the criteria for funding for the reserve (they have two permanent staff and many volunteers) is that they should provide education facilities and they welcome over 100 schools each year.
Steve then walked us round part of the reserve before leaving us to pursue our own activities after lunch. Many of our members availed themselves of the tea/coffee making facilities on site and marvelled at the quality of the toilets.
We then split up into different groups to explore the 100 acres or so of the reserve which comprises grassland, wetland, scrub and heath and therefore a rich diversity of species. Alice recorded 135 species of plant, 130 of which were in flower of fruit, and 5 ferns. The highlights were: betony (in profusion in places), opening common fleabane, water plantain and both greater and lesser spearwort. Top of the rarity list of ferns was the uncommon pillwort which failed to excite all but the most dedicated of botanists due to it’s looking just like lawn grass!
The coolish weather kept the numbers of butterflies down – we recorded seven species and there were not too many birds about either although the coming and going of the Army’s Chinook helicopters did put up a snipe at one point and this, together with siskin provided the ornithological highlights. Sue’s intuitive lens located both emerald and azure dragonflies, unseen by most of the group and we also logged five day-flying moths together with lots of grass moths. Purchases were made from the well-stocked shop including honey from bees whose active hive could be viewed from the centre.
An uneventful trip back to Bradford completed another very interesting outing. Thanks to Alice for organising the day most successfully. See the photos here.
On arrival in Formby eleven members were warmly welcomed by Patricia Lockwood who again put her house at our disposal. Lunch in the garden soon followed. After Philip Smith's arrival we travelled to Crosby Coastal Park.This site occupies the southernmost area of the Sefton Coast. Philip and Patricia led us through the calcareous sand dunes their knowledge shortening the distance from one plant of interest to the next.
Due to the drought plant identification sometimes was a case of not, "What is it?" rather "What was it?". However, with our experts to help, we recorded a hundred species but with fewer in flower and more in the fruiting stage than would normally be expected at this time of year.
Crosby Coastal Park is renowned for its population of Evening Primrose. We concentrated hard as Philip showed us the diagnostic features of six types. Three were hybrids including the Triple Hybrid Evening Primrose, a rarity identified only as recently as 2016. (For anyone wanting details of the hybrid crosses a sheet is available.)Sea Holly was prolific on the dunes not only producing a spectacular display but also supporting a huge colony of Common Broomrape. Patricia had counted over a thousand spikes of the parasite this year. Although its flowers had been a casualty of the heatwave, a few remaining florets showed the structure well. Another early dune coloniser, Sea Spurge, was plentiful. We were fortunate to see excellent specimens of the national, (and international), highlight - the Isle of Man Cabbage. My 'Star of the day', a less colourful but equally splendid plant, was the Dune Wormwood. Discovered here in 2004, it is nationally rare and rare too in our identification books!
Other plants of interest were a deep purple Lucerne, White Melilot, Sea Radish and Hoary Mustard. The dried panicles of Sand and Sea Couch Grass were examined as was the even drier Rush Leaved Fescue. Finally the diminutive Sea Sandwort looking as fresh as ever with shiny green leaves in this hostile environment surely deserves a mention. Non-native species some most probably originating from local gardens added to the list.
We were so privileged to have Philip as our guide.
There was other wildlife present! Seven butterfly species were seen: Common Blue, Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Painted Lady. Moths were represented by Silver Y and a large number of Six Spot Burnets flying, mating and in pupal form. Beetles and Grasshoppers put in an appearance.
Not surprisingly few birds were on the wing. Among the seven species mentioned were Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Reed Bunting.
To end the record, mention must be made of the Smut around today. Did you see it on the dune grasses?
This was our hottest and driest visit yet to the Formby Coast. On return to Patricia's house the tea refreshed us and the cakes sustained us for the journey home. We arrived in Bradford shortly before 8pm.
Thanks to Joan for organising the day, to Sue and Julia for coping admirably with the busy motorway traffic and to the cake makers for their tasty offerings. Again we are indebted to Philip and Patricia for all their input into a wonderful day. See the photos here.