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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

BRGP Welcomes New Visitors

A busy weekend , Sat 16 June  we were at Ben Rhydding Fete, where we promoted the reserve to the local community, alongside the great work of WNS, hedgehog records and woolly bear caterpillars! Am sure we will get a few more visitors especially as its peak orchid time, and may be a few more volunteers ?  Thanks to Debbie, Dave, Catherine, Phil and Karen.

Sunday 17 June, we welcomed a visit by 24 walkers from  Burley Walking Group organised by David Asher . We timed the walk to coincide with peak orchid time and they didn’t disappoint. Around 10 or so of the walkers hadn’t visited the site before so it was great to introduce some new people.Whilst there was no kingfisher, there weer 10 or sand martins and a female goosander and 3 young on the river gravels. There were good numbers of damsels, a couple of speckled woods and a dingy? skipper

End of May brings a White Pheasant

This female pheasant was spotted on the reserve on the 31 May, its a white bird – not albino ( as can be seen but its normal coloured iris). These birds are believed to be “genetic throwbacks” – although some folk believe they are “marker” birds used by gamekeepers to locate flocks. The bird was covering 2 chicks before I inadvertently disturbed  it.  My initial view was that it had done well to survive to breed, but then again given its size  its only likely to be predated by a fox!


!white pheasant 31_05_18 s

Bird Sightings 24 March

A brief afternoon visit produced a good variety of birds including 3 goosander and a pair of oystercatcher on the fence posts on the opposite bank. With a singing chiffchaff and the lambs bleeting  in the field opposite it definitely felt like spring. On the reserve the primroses on the bank were coming into flower and kingcup  in the ditch were just coming into bud.

New Spring Arrivals 20 April

Sand martins now number over 50, the best we have had for many years.  The blackcaps and chiff chaffs have now been joined by willow warblers. With the river being so low the gravels and muddy banks have attracted a pair of redshank and a pair of common sandpiper. A female sparrowhawk was around I assume targeting the blue, great and long tailed tits and dunnocks ,, since we don’t have any sparrows!  A young duckling was calling from the top of the bank between  the river and pond, hopefully it was located by its mother before being spotted by the sparrowhawk.   Steve