Monday, 28 December 2009

St Mary's Island

I'm up in the North East visiting my parents for a few days & this morning we popped out to St Mary's Island where the weather was crisp, the sky clear & the tide was steadily approaching the causeway. Down by the water's edge Turnstone, Sanderlings, Dunlin, Knot, Rock Pipit, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Cormorant & Golden Plover.

Here's a few pics of Turnstone, Rock Pipit & Redshank.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Kirkstall Christmas sightings

'On Christmas Day in the morning', well more like early afternoon we wandered down along a stretch of the Kirkstall Valley along the Goitside walk that starts near Morrisons. 'And what was in those ships all three?' No ships today, but as we stood overlooking the goit that runs underneath Bridge Road metres away from the busy crossroad with the A65 we spotted a Kingfisher heading towards us, underneath the bridge & off downstream. Its the first Kingfisher we've seen in Kirkstall & it was fantastic to see it so near to home.

Then we headed downstream, from the bridge at Redcote Lane we spotted 5 overwintering Goosander, two pairs and one single male. Perhaps two of these birds were the pair we saw a couple of weeks ago upstream near the Abbey. Although not a great shot of the bird (bottom left) I do like a context shot now & again so here you get to see Kirkstall/Burley in the background (well it is Christmas). A Grey Heron flew overhead whilst we watched the Goosander.

Between Redcote Bridge & the canal 6 Redwing settled in the treetops, slightly too far away for a decent pic.

Throughout the walk Jay x 1, Blue Tit x 10, Great Tit x 7, Long Tailed Tit x 6 Blackbird x 9, Chaffinch x 3, Magpie x 10, Robin x 6, Moor Hen x 7, Mallard x 12 & squirrels scampered across the frozen canal.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Beckett Park

Well the snow's still lying in Kirkstall & Headingley. Walking through Beckett Park at lunchtime I noticed a solitary Lapwing fly over the Park & land briefly. Blackbird x 6, Robin x 4, Greenfinch x 3, Chaffinch x 2, Pied Wagtail x 1, Goldfinch x 3.

Winter wonderland

Fallen leaves on snow, Beckett Park, Headingley.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Kirkstall sightings

This weekend's wintery weather meant we stayed close to home. Near the railway underpass an obliging Robin kindly paused for a pic.

Not a great pic, but this Grey Wagtail, an unusual Kirkstall visitor, searched for insects along the outer wall of St Stephens churchyard.

By the footpath behind Queenswood Drive this apple tree still bears fruit, welcome winter gifts for local birds.

On the edge of Beckett Park woodland we paused for a minute to hear a familiar tap tap tap of the Great Spotted Woodpecker in the treetops. A passerby mentioned that the woodpecker regularly visits the feeders in her nearby garden, I wondered whether its the same bird I spotted back in February.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Headingley fungi finds

Earlier this week we moved offices, having previously worked in the city centre, we're now based up at our green and pleasant Headingley campus. I hope to make the most of my new daytime surroundings & take the opportunity to get out and about on a lunchtime. During this afternoon's short walk to the canteen to grab a coffee I noticed a few fungi growing in the borders. Thanks to Michael Flowers for helping to identify these as Glistening Ink Caps.

A few flakes of snow are visible on the gills of this already upturned cap & stem fungi, a further flurry fell just after I returned to the office much to our excitement.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Rodley Nature Reserve

At Rodley Nature Reserve on Saturday afternoon we were tipped off to keep our eyes peeled for Snipe on the waters edge on Duck Marsh. Close inspection revealed 5 Snipe well camouflaged against the surrounding vegetation, a first sighting of the bird for us at Rodley & certainly the nearest sighting to home.

The next pic shows how well hidden the birds are against the winter vegetation.

A male Reed Bunting darting over Tim's Field to settle on a bare branch.

A female Chaffinch kindly perched on a willow screen.

A Kestrel patrolled the reserve throughout the duration of our visit, Grey Heron and Cormorants flew overhead. On the way to the Manager's Garden we popped into the visitors centre for a warming cuppa and a slice of tea loaf, yum. Refuelled and onwards to the Manager's Garden where a pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker paid a brief visit to the delight of all present. On the feeders male and female Reed Bunting, Great Tit, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit all fed happily until the arrival of an incredibly noisy Magpie scared them all away.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Kirkstall sightings

A wander to nearby Kirkstall Abbey on a clear but chilly Sunday afternoon revealed some interesting finds. On the steep grassy bank opposite the Abbey we noticed a few fungi near the tree line. I had a few attempts to photograph them with the Abbey in the background, the direct sunlight meant they're pretty overexposed but I'm not too bothered, it was worth a try.

The same fungi from the opposite view, I'm guessing that the cold weather has caused it to collapse & split .
A couple of other cap & stem species growing in a group, these were pink/purple colour with glossy caps.In the grounds of Kirkstall Abbey, a tree stump is host to a collection of smaller fungi, possibly Turkeytail & Orange Peel Fungus, the Abbey is visible in the background.
Behind us, only a couple of metres away the River Aire looked fit to burst.
Whilst walking alongside the fast flowing river we were suprised to spot a couple of Goosander battling against the current & they soon took off towards the canal a short distance away.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Fairbun Ings Kingfisher

Andrea enjoyed the Kingfisher Safari at Fairburn Ings recently, here's her account of the trip.

With the weather fine but windy, Graham our volunteer guide made it clear there were no guarantees that the bird would put in an appearance. It was far too windy for them at the Pickup Hide so we moved onto the Kingfisher Screen. No sign of Kingfishers initially although we did watch a tiny Dabchick catch a huge fish which to our amazement it swallowed in one gulp. Sure enough after 15 minutes there was a flash of blue & orange downstream & a male Kingfisher settled on a branch a fair distance away where it stayed for 10 minutes. We left him to it & we searched elsewhere on the reserve. Our wanderings were rewarded by the sight of a huge Hare being chased by a Weasel, luckily for the Hare our party ended up between the two sending the Weasel in the opposite direction.

In the lakeside hide we waited patiently & then returned to the Kingfisher Screen where one of the volunteers was setting up a new perch much closer to the screen. He had a friend with him with a lens the size of a small car hoping for a good view. The commotion meant it would clearly be some time before the bird returned and so we ended our tour.

I left Fairburn to get some lunch but was tempted back as it was the first dry day we'd enjoyed for ages. I returned to the Kingfisher Screen to find the volunteer and his friend still in place. They pointed out a Kingfisher in the trees to the right of the stream, even further away than our first sighting. They reported that the bird had sat there for some time & showed no interest in the new perch. Eventually they gave up and moved on. Five minutes passed I glanced away from the screen for a couple of seconds and when I looked back the Kingfisher had gone. I was disappointed until I spotted a flash of blue and to my amazement the next place it settled was the very perch at which the volunteer had waited for 2 hours! It settled at various points on the river for the next few minutes and eventually flew overhead to fish further downstream. I reported my sighting to the visitor centre and the other volunteers all had a laugh at their friends expense although I'm sure he will have an opportunity for better views more often than I so I didn't feel too guilty.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Goldenacre Park fungi foray

This weekend's trip to Goldenacre Park, Leeds presented a bounty of fantastic looking fungi. What a great way to get back into the swing of things. As a novice fungi explorer, this is the first time Ive noticed the autumn fungi boom & its great to see such a diverse range of forms, colour & texture. All of these species were found in a relatively small area within mixed woodland near Arthington Road Car Park, the wooded area runs parallel to the road & is certainly worth a visit. I'm keen to post them today & will try to identify them over the next few days.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Allotment sightings

During Sunday’s trip to the allotment I heard a tell-tale screech & turned suddenly to catch a glimpse of a Kestrel flying directly overhead & out of sight. It reappeared a few minutes later with a second Kestrel & the pair soared high above the far allotments on the opposite side of the path. The pair continued to fly in & out of view, occasionally mobbed by Crows. Then one of the birds descended to a height above the tallest poplar, hovering repeatedly whilst scanning for prey before heading Westwards. Perhaps one of these was the bird that Andrea spotted a few months ago in a hedgerow near the entrance of the allotment having enjoyed a more successful hunting outcome.

An inquisitive Robin settled within a spades distance whilst Andrea weeded the vegetable bed. It eagerly hopped down from its perch amongst the gooseberries to collect worms from recently turned soil. It’s a regular autumn visitor & this year I’ll try to get some pics. The hedgerow running one side of the plot is well established & consists of Hawthorn, Poplar, Field Maple, Climbing Rose & some pretty ferocious brambles. It provides food & shelter for a number of visitors, today a squirrel scurried acrobatically from branch to branch, feathered inhabitants included Blue Tits, Long Tailed Tits, Goldfinch, Blackbird & Wood Pigeon.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Beckett Park woodland

We stayed close to home this weekend and went on a wander through Beckett Park woodland. Under the beech & oak canopies wood pigeon and squirrels busied themselves. Stepping into the woodland our first spot was this Treecreeper.

Not such a good pic but its characteristic outline is more apparent here.

Other bird sightings included a pair of Jays on the edges of the woodland, and in the wooded area just behind Queenswood Drive we caught the side profile of the Great Spotted Woodpecker on its favourite tree trunk, no pics of either birds though.
Plenty more fungi at this time of year. On this fallen deciduous trunk was an abundance of what I think is Honey Fungus, Armillaria medea. Growing in clusters & individually.

Here's one found lying on the ground nearby, you can see the fruitbodies are joined together at the base.
Wavy mature caps & well spaced gills.

Another illustration of the joined fruitbodies.

A second cluster growing at the top of the trunk.
A third cluster growing under the trunk.

Elsewhere in the woods, I found these small black fungi. I wonder whether this is Urnula craterium before it opens, it has a black coal-like exterior & was growing at the base of this dead deciduous tree.

Common Earthball, Scleroderma citrinum growing amongst deciduous leaf litter.

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