Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve

We wandered down the road to Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve at the weekend. The reserve stands on the former site of Kirkstall Power Station and is flanked by the train track on the left and the River Aire to the right & covers 9.7 hectares. The gated entrance is on Redcote Lane, over the bridge, past the leisure centre, on the right. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust manage the reserve.

To the right of the path the embankment is colonised by grasses, teasels, brambles, alder, birch and elder. After a few minutes walk, the track branches off the the right leading to an open meadow area surrounded by mixed scrub & patches of deciduous trees. Unburdened by formal signage its one to explore. To the right flows the River Aire edged with mature trees, ahead we found ponds & reedbeds where a flock of small birds (Blue Tits, Great Tits, Bullfinch) sat in the canopy above.

This male Bullfinch fed on the ruby red berries of what I think is a mature Guelder Rose, Viburnum opulus.

During our visit we counted 32 Speckled Woods, the largest number Ive seen locally in one area. Ive mentioned before that the Speckled Wood is a Kirkstall regular, favouring the dappled shade of tree lined pathways and woodland borders. Walking a circular route, we stopped counting when we rejoined the path leading back to the entrance, otherwise our tally would be nearer 40.

The only other butterflies we spotted were 2 Large Whites.

I submitted my recordings to the Terry Whitaker Butterfly Conservation Vice County Recorder. He informed me "The speckled wood was not present in the West Leeds area until about 15 years ago! its now present throughout lowland West Yorkshire".

I also sent my sighting through to Yorkshire Butterflies for their Recent Sightings page which is a handy way of finding out whats where in the world of Yorkshire Butterflies. Ive decided I must make more effort to email my sightings to them.

A dash of colour suggests the approach of autumn.

Sculptural spiny teasels, the abundance of teasels on the reserve will no doubt provide sustenance for finches throughout autumn and winter.

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