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Otter Family Aug 19

A big thank you to Dave Varney for sharing these photos with us.  We have what appears to be a family group, a mother and 2 youngsters though it’s difficult to see any size difference between them?  There is however a sad ending, these photos were taken on Aug 20th 2019, a few weeks later ( see earlier post) an otter was run over a killed on the road nearby. It’s highly likely it was one of the youngsters here.

Family of otters Aug 19
Family of otters Aug 19
Otter eating a fish
Otter eating a fish
single otter
single otter

November Workgroup – Wildflower planting in the Wet

A big thank you to Brian, Frank, Ian, Isobel, Jonny, Katie, Lucy, Mick, Peter, Rachel and Tom for completing the fenced enclosures and planting out over 150 plants in the expanded mini meadow, sunny bank and riverside path despite the cold and mud, at least it didn’t rain! Additional thanks to Diane and Katie for helping us grow the plants in our back gardens and to Steve Peel for advising on species and locations.  You can see some of them here, see if you can guess what they are?

Plants grown from seed



Wildlife highlights included Little egret around the beck on the opposite bank,  a large flock  of long-tailed tits, a flyover of 8 fieldfare and 2 teal flying upriver


Busy Busy June with 3 organised walks.. and our first bee orchid for 14yrs!

We have had a good number of visitors attending, on the 16th June I hosted the Burley walking group, timed to coincide with peak orchid time.

Steve Peel hosted another 30 for the Bradford Countryside walk on 12th June and we had about 12 for the WNS walk on 11 June despite the threat of rain which never really materialised.  Thanks to Ian, Frank, Adam and Brian who attend the work group on the 8th.  Ian and Adam did a great job mending the old bench. Talk to Brad Ornith  Group on 4th.

Has been great to share the results of everyone’s hard work with them all these visitors!

Wildlife highlights included a kingfisher on the lagoon – right on cue for the Nats walk with most people seeing it and our first Bee orchid for c15yrs! Its right by the path – have put some canes next to it so you will easily spot it. It was funny because I had just said to everyone that one of the delights of the reserve was the “occasionals” ie those things that seem to appear and then disappear. I stopped to point out where the musk mallow used to be and John said to me have you stopped here for the bee orchid?  .. what bee orchid I asked .. there it was right at my feet.

The southern marsh/common spotted orchids whilst well down on the last 4yrs are at their peak now – estimate c150 plus some large areas of ragged robin.

In the mini meadow, the yellow rattle is thriving particularly where we have fenced it off.  I have also spotted  a couple of flowers that I didn’t recognise that I will try and ID  have a small patch of stonecrop again something we haven’t seen for a few years.  No sign (yet) of any broad-leaved helleborine – and  on the anglers pond I spotted a few shoots of marsh fern coming through – it’s a relief as I thought we had lost it (We will need to take out some tree branches in the winter as think they are been shaded out)

The anglers have also created floating islands (largely for benefit of fish fry) and covering areas of yellow water lily in attempt to control it (Google earth was updated last year and you will see how extensive it still is)

Birding highlights – goosander and young (last bank holiday) c12 house martins visiting nest holes (today), blackcaps and chiffchaff/willow warbler feeding young (today) regular kingfisher sightings, lots of young blue/great/long tails and wrens, young moorhen on lagoon.

Butterflies – very quiet due to weather and the spring floods? – 1 speckled wood, orange tips and today a painted lady feeding on cow parsley at the east end of the reserve- (which made me think we should sow some seeds on the main site)

Cinnabar moth, banded demoiselle and plenty of damsels





April update -false alarm for a kingfisher nest but surprise visit by barn owl

We made further good progress on the willow hide screen but still have a fair bit to do to make it effective, once complete we can cut some viewing slots. Rachel and Isobel planted up some wood anemones and Ian and his friend Mike (joined us for the first time from friends of Ilkley Moor) moved the rest of the woodbark

The previous Monday I met up with Mark Surgue and his wife who donated money for the bench to WNS/Open Country. They really enjoyed been shown around and he remarked that his granddad would have loved the spot. By coincidence, Brian was also down there. We were hopeful of seeing nesting kingfishers – Jeff Davitt had seen a pair at a hole 20yds upstream from the old bench. With a pair of binoculars, you can see droppings from the male where it perched on the bank adjacent to the hole. We had no luck so maybe its had a change of heart but there were 10 or so sand martins, treecreeper, mandarins (nesting locally?) and a barn owl over the anglers pond ( Denton Hall bird?)  – a first record I know of in past 10+yrs


A Memorable Day -Open Country and WNS Joint Work Group

A big thank you to Ian, Brian, Mick, Katie and Diane from the WNS BRGP  workgroup who joined me, Chris and his team from Open Country on Sat 22 March. With 19 of us in total, it was our biggest session ever!  Everything went to plan starting with the delivery of a ton of gravel for the paths,  a large delivery of the wood bark from the council and of course the new bench. It was a massive effort to barrow the gravel the 600m to the muddy part of the path, We were able to get the bark tipped by the old road gate – a little closer but not much.

The bench is in a great location looking across the river and it will be really appreciated by visitors especially those who struggle to walk far especially as its surrounded by wood bark and approached by a much-improved path.

We also took the opportunity to construct our willow bird hide screen.  The verticals of the screen are the living stems of a willow which toppled over about 5yrs ago. We postcreted an additional ash support and ran horizontal wires across the width and then wove in willow whips – which we will add to in the coming weeks.  The result will be a dual purpose screen which will allow you to observe the river (and a good spot for otter)  or from the other side into a small area of woodland which is popular with scrub warblers.

On a birding theme, Chris put up the last of our bird boxes next to the bench.. without falling out of the tree! We were treated with views of kingfisher, little egret, buzzards, kites and the call of our first returning chiff-chaffs.  In preparation for a possible 7.30 am delivery of gravel I was able to get great views of a pair of bullfinches and 3 redwing.

We were joined for the day by a journalist from Dalesman writing a piece on Open Country who really spent a lot of time getting to know the group.

Lastly, the day wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the generous donation of a local man who asked for a bench to be dedicated to his grandfather who sadly passed away a few months ago.  Am sure he like many others will really appreciate this special bench in this very special place, happy memories for us all!


Find Open Country at www.opencountry.orgOpen Country Team and New Bench March 19New Living Bird Hide Screen March 19


Fortune Favoured The Brave – March Work Group

A great turn out for the work group yesterday despite the weather! After sitting out heavy rains in our cars for 30mins, it was worth the wait, a glorious morning unfolded with bright sunshine. It was quiet on the wildlife front- Diane found a toad when planting some more alder buckthorn and I had good views of a treecreeper in the new glades but with the river in flood and strong winds it was bound to be quiet.  The ransoms are now 4 inches tall following the very warm Feb and even the balsam is shooting! We continued to make good progress clearing hawthorn and tried some round up on the stumps for the first time.  We tidied up the brash and now have some tidy woodpile habitats (see pic) . More bramble and path verge clearance, making scrapes in the North Lawn

Glade creation and log pile habitat
Glade creation and log pile habitat
New permissive path signs for walkers coming from Manor Row
New permissive path signs for walkers coming from Manor Row

and planting of odd ash/hawthorn/holly/buckthorn.  We also put up new “permissive path” signs at the informal entrance at the Manor Row end (see pic) Thanks to everyone for their hard work and those that took wildflower seeds to plant up at home. Steve

Spring is here!

A  small rearranged workgroup on saturday 16 Feb (after last weeks cancellation due to storm Erik) had a good turnout with a warm sunny morning . 2 new volunteers joined us and we got a fair bit done.  5 reconditioned nest boxes put up – there were a lot of very active blue tits and great tits, seemingly just waiting !  We continued to cut hawthorn taking them down to ground level and then bringing leaf litter in from the woodlands to improve the bio-diversity of what have been largely barren areas, we relocated some turf from the south lawn to the edge of the glades again will be interesting to see if that helps spread species,   We also experimented with planting  some willow whips to the left of the bench to see if we can establish a living screen to help view otter and kingfisher without disturbing them.   We enjoyed frequent sightings of kingfisher (pair) good numbers of curlew flying up from the fields opposite and with the river low a little egret was on the river behind a gravel sand bar.  No oystercatcher yet . Altogether a very enjoyable morning thanks to everyone for their efforts!   Steve

Welcome return visit from Burley Walking Festival 25 August

We welcomed 25 walkers from the Burley Walking Festival on Saturday. Organised by David Asher the group joined us at the informal entrance at the Burley end and spent an hour on the reserve.  With sunshine we had the best weather of the bank holiday bringing out a good number of speckled wood and brown hawkers, whilst the kingfishers didn’t make an appearance we did have good views of post-breeding curlews in the field opposite. Thanks to Steve Peel who have an impromptu talk to the group on the mini-meadow and grasslands.

Earlier in the day, Mick Brear had good sightings of male and female kingfishers by the bench, we also had 4 brown hawkers, a pair of little egret flying up river and great views of a brimstone feeding on knapweed.   Its been a bumper summer for blackberries which are now just passing their best


Thanks Again to the Harrogate Open Country Team!

Thanks again to the Harrogate Open Country Team!

A big thank you to the Open Country team whose Friday work group visited us for the second time this year. Their March visit was on one of the coldest days of the year with a windchill making it feel more like -6C.  Their visit on 3rd August proved very eventful weatherwise as well, it started off hot and very muggy, then after lunch and cakes by the river ( it was one of the groups birthdays ), we had torrential rain/thunderstorm. The riverside trees provide shelter for about 15mins before the heavens opened. We retired to the mini bus to wait for the rain to stop.. and which point another cake appeared! We then went back for another 1hr –a determined lot, these guys.  We managed to clear a lot of bramble from the orchid meadow. Thanks to Steve Peel for popping down and Diane for helping out (sorry you missed the beetroot cake)



Open Country Aug 18