Sunday, 28 February 2010

Kirkstall Abbey squabble

Down by the riverbank at Kirkstall Abbey three Mistle Thrush were engaged in a lively tussle around a weather damaged Willow. Well... two birds got stuck in whilst the third assumed the role of onlooker throughout & I presume two males were fighting over the female. The squabble went on for a couple of minutes until they were disturbed by oncoming walkers oblivious to the noisy duel overhead.

I have to admit that I had to ask my Dad for help in making sure these were Mistle Thrush & not Song Thrush. Here you can see the white underwings of a Mistle Thrush as opposed to the Song Thrush that has orange buff underwings.

The commotion seemed to attract the attention of other birds in the neighbourhood & quickly on the scene was a nosy Magpie, Long Tailed Tits, Chafinch, Wren, Robin and a Treecreeper.


On returning to the spot 20 minutes later one bird remained, I wonder which one of the three it was.

By the Abbey a couple of Mute Swan flew directly overhead, heading NW providing a great view of the underside of the bird in flight.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Beech leaves

The Beech (Fagus sylvatica) leaves in Beckett Park woodland are becoming more translucent as the time approaches for new leaves to appear. These ones caught my eye again this afternoon. The term for these persistent leaves is marcescence which is "the retention of dead plant organs that normally are shed. It is most obvious in deciduous trees that retain leaves through the winter. " The reason for the retention of the leaves is that Beech (and Oak) doesn't form a complete cork-like abscission layer which seperates the tree from its old leaves.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Kirkstall stroll

A couple of inches of snow fell during the early hours of Sunday morning here in Leeds. Its starting to clear today, so thankfully it won't be around for quite as long as the last lot. On Sunday afternoon, after restocking the bird feeders and clearing snow from the hill outside the house we strolled over to the allotment.

Here the blue-green leaves of daffodils and yellow-green leaves of overwintering onions poked through the snow.

Although the Redwing failed to put in an appearance on the allotment, there were planty of Goldfinch chattering noisily in the back hedgerow. Continuing on we noticed potential Redwing silhouettes in the trees on the patch behind Queenswood Drive. Sure enough the Redwing were gathered, 5 perched in nearby branches and 15-ish joined them from the ground, and another flock of 20 were in the treetops about 100metres away, I wonder how much longer they'll stick around in this area? Also spotted, Nuthatch, Robin, Wren, Mistle Thrush, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Blackbird, oh and a female Kestrel flying South.
Here's one of the Redwing, just to confirm the sighting.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Blacktoft Sands RSPB

On Saturday afternoon we headed out to Blacktoft Sands RSPB, Goole, to join their Roost Watch event. Our group, lead by Pat, an RSPB volunteer, settled ourselves in Ousefleet Hide and during our stay were lucky enough to see 10 Marsh Harriers, 2 Barn Owls hunting, a female Merlin that appeared just in the nick of time and although we didn't see it ourselves a Hen Harrier was spotted briefly.

The Barn Owls were my favourite sightings.

One of the fantastic views from the hide. On the pond, although not all featured here, Coots, Wigeon, Shelduck and Teal. If it hadn't of been for the bone chilling cold I could have sat there for hours...

Blacktoft Sands has the largest tidal reedbed in England, formed where the Ouse and Trent meet to form the Humber estuary. This was our second visit, our first being last September and once again we enjoyed fantastic sightings of the Marsh Harrier.

The reedbeds create such a beautiful landscape whether the view is framed by hedgerows or the more distant patchwork of farmland.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Redwing, Headingley Station Allotments

At lunchtime I wandered back down across Beckett Park to see if there was any sign of the 30 or so Redwing I'd seen on my way to work. The weather was still overcast with a little drizzle. Taking a detour around by the allotments I spotted a few in the trees at the back of the plots. Luckily I had my key to hand & popped into the allotments to get a closer look. To my surprise I flushed about 40 from the plots & they retreated to the safety of the treetops a little distance away. Added to the 15 or so that were already perched in the branches they must have totalled about 55 Redwing, great to see such a number so close to home.

You can just about make out the orange-red flank patch on the bird in flight on the left.

Redwing & Mistle Thrush on Queenswood Rugby Pitch

On the way into work, on the Queenswood rugby pitch there was a mixed flock of approximately 30 Redwing & Mistle Thrush. Overcast with fog & light drizzle meant that the light was poor & I struggled to get any pics of the flock on the grass. I identified a couple of Mistle Thrush at the near posts but the majority in the middle and far end of the field appeared rounder & more compact. Occasionally they'd fly up into the trees bordering the pitch & allotments where I was able to get a better view & identify them as Redwing, Ive included a few pics just to confirm my sightings.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Beckett Park woodland

On the way into work a solitary Song Thrush sang by the railway track near Headingley Station. A couple of Mistle Thrush fed a stone's throw away on the rugby pitch. In the wooded area behind Queenswood Drive shops, Blackbird, Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Robin, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Relatively quiet today at the edge of Becket Park woodland, raindrops and remnants of beech leaves added interest to the woodland drizzle.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Queenswood Drive geese

Here it is, possibly the worst photo I've ever taken, but it was quite a sight. Nearing the shops on Queenswood Drive I heard a familar sound over the drone of rush hour traffic, looking skyward to catch sight of an estimated 250 geese heading West. After fumbling for my camera only to find the memory card full (doh!) I managed a truly awful shot of the second flock of geese approximately half the size of the first flock. By the way Ive had to mess with the colour a little in order to reveal the geese.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Beckett Park woodland

Here's the second of my Photoshop adventures in Beckett Park woodland. I'm liking the vivid green spikiness of the moss and tiny sculptural forms of the lichen in the foreground.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Beckett Park woodland

Here's a quick experiment in Photoshop made up of pics Ive taken this week during my lunchtime wanders of Beckett Park woodland, featuring lichens, foliage and treescapes.

Today's luncthime meander through Beckett Park woodland started off a relatively quiet affair given the abundance of birds sighted earlier in the week. A little further into the woodland I heard and eventually sighted a Bullfinch perched on the highest branches and calling out to another. Also spotted Long Tailed Tit x 4, Blackbird x 2, Robin x 1, Wren x 5. Magpie x 5 but the overcast afternoon meant that the only pic I could salvage was this Long Tailed Tit.

So I turned my attention to nature closer to hand, tiny fungi on a lichen covered branch.

Afternoon shadows on a tree trunk.

A cluster of Jelly Ear fungi on a tree trunk, not quite as healthy as some of the other examples Ive seen recently.
Possibly the best discovery of the day is that its only 100 steps from the side entrance of my building to the edge of the woodland, whoop whoop!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Kirkstall and Beckett Park Woodland

On the way to work this morning I took a few minutes out for a detour. Delighted to see 2 separate Nuthatch, one in the treetops on the margins of Beckett Park and one in the woodland. This one was spotted busily flying from nook and crevice, possibly storing food in these places which is common Nuthatch behaviour.

Here it is just inside the crevice of the tree.

Yet another shot of Teasels in the abandoned allotments, I can't resist.

Winter stems.

Today's walk to work list: Nuthatch 2, Robin 2, Blackbird 1, Jackdaw 4, Redwing 1, Goldfinch 3, Blue Tit 3, Long Tail Tit 2, Wood Pigeon 2, Magpie 5, Wren 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Beckett Park wander

Today's discoveries from a lunchtime wander of Beckett Park and the woodland margins. On this Silver Birch, a fine collection of Birch polypore.

Tiny cap and stem fungi with caps the size of a ten pence piece poking out of a carpet lush green moss growing at the base of a Beech tree a few paces away from the entrance to our building.
Early afternoon shadows underneath a well established Beech tree.

Today's walk list: Robin x 1, Blackbird x 1, Jackdaw x 6, Magpie x 6, Blue Tit x 2, Great Tit x 1, Starling x 1, Goldfinch x 1, Wren x 1, Crow x 3, Jays x 2 scratting through the leaf litter underneath the Beech pictured above and last but not least a Grey Wagtail that flew past me on Vicarage Terrace (I know!)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Kirkstall Abbey

After reading about the emerging snowdrops in Pam's garden I spotted my first flowering crocus of the year on the bank overlooking Kirkstall Abbey.

Near the entrance to the walled garden there are a number of deciduous trees, predominantly Horse Chestnut and a couple of Prunus species. Five of the Chestnuts look in poor shape with extensive deep fissures in the bark. On closer inspection there were abundant clusters of Velvet Shank, Flammulina velutipes. Stimulated to fruit in cold frosty weather it has a smooth sticky orange brown cap, domed & inrolled margin, the stem black & velvet like at the base & creamy orange gills that are clear in this shot.

Here's the host tree & there's another in a similar state to the right. Part of this tree had already been removed by the groundsteam presumably due to its weakened structure.

I have to admit that its pretty eye catching on an overcast and drizzle bound day.

On the trunk of the same tree this less attractive slime mould.
A nearby Prunus was dotted with a different species of fungi, Jelly Ear Auricula auricularia-judae. Elder is its more familiar host and its the first time Ive seen growing on another tree species.

If the hills have eyes then the trees most definitely have ears.

I'll be interested to see how the rest of the surrounding trees fare. For the past few years Ive enjoyed photographing the autumn foliage of these Horse Chestnuts & they've become a familiar sight. Nothing much else around the Abbey today other than Jackdaw's & pigeons roosting on the Abbey, a couple of pairs of Mallards on the River Aire & a charm of chattering Goldfinch on Morris Lane.

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