Wednesday, 8 December 2010

An apple a day

I pass by this apple tree on the way to work, and have wondered whether I'll catch sight of any birds tucking into the remaining fruit as I go by. A couple of days ago I spotted this Blackbird enjoying a healthy breakfast, and this morning it appeared again, joined by a companion. A handy source of energy at a time when food supplies are limited.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Beckett Park winterscapes

A view of Beckett Park taken on my way into work this week. As the sun rises it filters through this copse of deciduous trees, primarily beech, but with some oak, elder and ash. The trunks and near bare branches appear silhouetted against the sunlight with long shadows cast on the snow covered ground.

Although I have to admit to being a bit fed up of the snow now, all the trudging, slipping and sliding, and the severe effects of weather extremes on the local wildlife, I can't say I tire of how it transforms the landscape into a winter wonderland.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Adel Dam Nature Reserve

On Sunday afternoon we jumped on the bus to Goldenacre Park, how cold it was or rather how cold I was, words cannot convey. Discomfort aside we headed for Adel Dam, a local Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve. The Marsh Hide feeders were busy with smaller woodland birds including of a pair of Bullfinch, Nuthatch, Robin, Blue Tits, Long Tail Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, along with a sorry looking Magpie, Blackbird, a pair of Moor Hen, and 6 Squirrels, though sadly no sign of the Great Spotted Woodpecker today.

From the second hide, overlooking Adel Dam, only the far reaches of the dam remained unfrozen, kept clear by the current of the inflowing Adel Beck. An assortment of footprints were visible across the frozen surface.

From the left, flying low, heading directly for the unfrozen patch of water zipped the electric blue of a Kingfisher, our first ever sighting of the bird here at Adel Dam. This pic is taken at a distance, but its plumage colouration is unmistakable, it perched here for a few minutes before heading off, hopefully with better luck elsewhere, according to the RSPB website they're particularly vulnerable to hard winters. 

As the Kingfisher made its exit, on the far bank we could just make out the profile of a Roe Deer, well camouflaged amongst the snow and bare branches.


Having endured enough of the cold temperatures made worse by sitting still in the hide for a few minutes, we followed the woodland trail back through the reserve and found this fungi.  I'm guessing its Pleurotus sp. Buff coloured, convex cap, the gills are cream coloured and decurrent, growing in abundant clumps on a deciduous stump. Any help with the ID would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Kirkstall Abbey & the banks of the River Aire

On Saturday afternoon we wandered down to Kirkstall Abbey stopping off at the Abbey House Museum Cafe for a mid-walk lunch which was delicious as ever. The park was uncharacteristically empty, covered with a layer of snow that had fallen in the early hours of Saturday morning.  Following the curved path down towards the river a pair of Pied Wagtail bobbed around thawed patches of ground and 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker flew overhead.

On the River Aire were 6 Goosander, familiar winter visitors to this stretch of the river, a group of 4 upstream and a pair further downstream that eventually joined the main bunch. Whilst gazing along the river, a Kingfisher zipped upstream a metre or so from the near bank.

Suddenly the two Great Spotted Woodpecker re-appeared, noisily chasing each other from tree to tree.

The cold started to kick in so we headed back towards the Abbey, in the branches of a Sycamore a mixed group of small birds were feeding, comprising Blue Tit, Long Tail Tit, Dunnock, Chaffinch and the first time I've seen a Wren in such a group.

A Nuthatch flew into view and landed at the base of this trunk making its way upwards in a spiral motion.

As we were about to leave the park we spotted movement in a Yew tree  situated at the boundary wall next to the gate. We counted approximately 8 birds, a mixed bunch of Thrush and Blackbirds were feeding on the berries, we managed a few pics and quickly left them in peace to continue feeding on the berries, no doubt a welcome source of food in these wintery conditions.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Fairburn Ings Sunday stroll

At Fairburn Ings, the majority of leaves have now fallen and the birches take their turn to provide pointillist splashes of colour, less saturated than those of beech and maple that glowed brightly earlier in the month.  

As the surrounding vegetation dies back, the more sombre tones serve to enhance the papery white birch trunks and their dark, thin lateral branches that still retain the small serrated yellow leaves. 

There was plenty of bird activity, at one point over forty Goldfinch flew into view and alighted in the treetops (left and centre), a minute or so later a similar number of Redwing circled the area, coming to rest in the uppermost branches of the tree to the right.

Another pleasing sighting were 4 Brambling feeding on the topmost branches of a Birch, although sadly I only managed this record shot. Plenty more sightings included a male and female Bullfinch, a Fieldfare, Kingfisher, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Long Tail Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Moor Hen, and two Red Kites near Garforth.  

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Otley Chevin

This weekend we ventured out to Otley Chevin Forest Park to experience the fresh air and autumn woodland views. Parking in East Chevin Quarry Car Park we walked in the direction of the White House & within a few minutes encountered these colourful vistas of the crags, the old quarried areas of Millstone Grit of the Upper Carboniferous age, seen through the golden autumn foliage of broadleaf trees. In the foreground the golden leaves of Birch and Beech, the rusty shades of bracken, and rich greens of grasses and ferns.

Stunning views, provided by a colourful combination of the underlying geological features and the surrounding vegetation tinged with an autumnal glow .   

The Friends of Chevin Forest maintain a very good website, and the West Yorkshire Geology Trust (pdf) have more information about the geology of the area.

Another spectacular view, across the valley overlooking Otley town centre and the surrounding Wharfedale countryside.

Towards the end of our walk, on joining Miller Lane we heard birdsong in a treetop overhead and could just make out the silhouette of a small bird, moving on a few steps for a better view it turned out to be a Goldcrest, whoop whoop, a first for me & a lovely conclusion to the walk.

Having worked up an apetite, we headed up the road to the Cheerful Chilli, a nearby cafe and restaurant, and what a treat! I opted for the Chocolate Nemesis a chocolate extravaganza whose texture was half choc brownie and half choc torte. Needless to say I defeated my nemesis, selflessly saving just enough room to tuck into half of Andreas sandwich, packed with Stilton and Apple and Pears, oh my!  Possibly the best post walk grub we've ever encountered, which might just mean that we'll become a little more familiar with Otley Chevin in the months ahead.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve 2

On our recent visit to Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve, Guelder Rose shrubs(Viburnum opulus) provided an abundance of ruby red fruits worthy of a pic or two.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Monday, 25 October 2010

Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve

On Sunday afternoon we visited Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, it's YWT's closest reserve to Leeds City Centre. Clear sky and afternoon light illuminated the golden canopies and shrubby layers. The backdrop of still green foliage not yet transformed by the processes of leaf senescence served to emphasise the richer autumn foliage. 

The reserve is located on the site of a former power station which opened in 1930 and demolished in the mid 80's, the Leodis database features images of the land's previous use. 

Bird sightings included Jay, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Magpie, Long Tail Tit, Wren, Robin, Wood Pigeon.

The 25.5 acre site is situated between the River Aire (pictured here) and the Leeds Liverpool canal is a valuable resource in the green corridor of habitats along the Aire valley.

There'll be more pics from our visit to Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve in my follow up post.

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