Welcome to the Warden's Ramblings page where you can find out about his activities and thoughts related to the nature reserve and wildlife in general in his informal monthly review.
As I watch there is a far flurry of snow falling, birds are flocking to the bird feeder, blue tit, great tit, goldfinch and a couple of greenfinch. My new place of work, I have a new nature reserve to look after. The garden, the garden can be one of the best places for wildlife if it’s treated in the right way.
At present I no longer able to go to the reserve, I’m now self- isolated – no I haven’t got that virus. I’m missing the place already; it’s nearly been a week since lock down, though from what I hear people are still visiting the reserve. It has taken a few days to get my head around it all. Now is the perfect opportunity to get things done, maybe a lie-in, fatal, I’ve had a couple of lie ins and now need to get up and out. I’ve had four walls screaming at me. Then I found all old the garden records I’ve been recording for nearly ten years one or two years have been missed but a good number haven’t. I have spent two days writing up all the records I could find and then a add up to date 53 species of bird have been seen in and around the garden. Three species I have added as they were in the field behind us, Barn Owl, cuckoo and grasshopper warbler all three I might add were seen/heard from the garden so it does count and who wouldn’t want them on their garden list there were two other birds that I really wanted but couldn’t see or hear them from the garden but did dash over for them a hawfinch and nightjar; one day you have to live in hope.
The one positive thing with this situation we find ourselves in is that we can watch wildlife in the garden, why bother with social media when you have it all there. It is amazing what people are finding in their gardens; one garden had firecrest, pretty soon there may be wrynecks turning up or even hoopoes who knows but the main excitement is the common or not as common as they should be birds, we have a couple of greenfinch, and two pairs of house sparrow, in amongst the titmice it is nice to see goldfinch. A few years ago we had nesting coal tit, at present a pair have been visiting the feeders.
And it’s not just birds, I dug out my old moth trap and after several years of it being redundant it’s firing on all cylinders a few bits and bobs have been caught over the last week. In the past I caught small elephant hawk moth and we did have a hummingbird hawkmoth the other year.
We have a selection of small ponds in the garden; I checked one of our kitchen pots sinks which measures two feet square I pulled out twenty one palmate newts! Not bad considering they have been just left to get on with it. Which could make the reserve interesting if over the next few weeks there is total lockdown and hopefully people will abide by it the wildlife on the reserve will happily carry on. The last time this happened was when we had the foot and mouth outbreak over ten years ago. I was able to check the reserve periodically to check on the gates which ironically where torn down so people could walk through. It beggared belief then and it still does now. At the time at Bolton Abbey the breeding population of redstarts there rose by 100% due to the lack of access.
I wonder if our water rail is still down on the reserve and will this year be the year that it stays all being well I will be back down there in the very near future to see it and continue the recording of the wildlife. And what will happen to the garden, I will then have two reserves to look after and boy what a cracking year it will be. And will be very very busy hold one to your hats!
There will be ramblings in April so watch this space. Stay safe and take care.
Sunday, Grimsby and there I was stood at the side of a roundabout with a reasonable numbers of birders and we were looking for a bird. A thrush a rather special thrush from Asia the bird in question was a first winter male Black throated thrush about the same size of a fieldfare a very handsome chap and there he was in my bins. There is another black throated thrush in the country the other is a male in a zoo down south but there is a hefty price to pay to get in to see it just of note that bird is a wild one. The Grimsby bird is better as it’s free.
Monday, Eagland Hill near Pilling in Lancashire stood waiting freezing cold looking for a heron. I know your thoughts why did he go to Lancashire for a heron when we get them on the reserve this heron was a Purple heron and an absolute devil to see. I have only seen two one took 7 hours to see and the other 6 hours you have to be patient for this species. Going on just over two hours and no sign things didn’t look well for this particular bird as a tractor drove straight past where it had been hanging out. Fingers numbing and belly aching for food I wimped out and left the scene.
I got home at 1.25pm the pager went off the purple heron showed at 1.21pm. Humph! No worries I’ll get it another time. Over the last two days I had travelled around three hundred and fifty miles for a show and a no show.
Tuesday had a lie in today is the day of the AGM for the friends group so it will be a long day. I decided to go in later than normal.
I went to feed the birds three and half hours late. Some birds had flown off probably in disgust but the hard core hung around and got the lion’s share of the food. Though it was quiet I still had twenty one species of bird in just over half an hour including a nice flock of redwing and this got me thinking; over the years people have commented that there is hardly any wildlife to be seen and on occasion things have been written being dismissive about the reserve it can be a little disheartening. How many people come down and actually listen and look; really look and stroll the reserve rather than rush through. This isn’t a problem for those that stroll then stop and listen and find all the bits that normally are two shy to be seen. It is nice to see things that most people either ignore or just don’t see.
January this year ended with forty six species of bird here on the reserve including a cracking water rail. A buzzard kept flying over which is always nice to see. I for one will be out every day looking and listening and let’s see what I will find.
When are we going to get snow and frost what a disappointing winter we have had so far, this week I have had Song, Mistle thrush and Blackbird in full song. The robins have been singing all winter and the other day I had Dunnock in song. Daffodils are making their presence known not seen any snowdrops yet. Spring is not but six weeks away. It’s getting darker later now which is a good sign I normally am enthused by winter but this time I’m bored with it.
It has been a frustrating one on the birding front especially for two birds in particular Waxwing of which two are settled or appear so at the ITV studios and Radio Aire studios in Leeds I’ve been over and missed them they have been in short supply this winter. There have been plenty of berries everywhere so I guess they have the pick of the bunch(s). Hopefully I will catch up with them.
The other bird is a Caspian gull where a couple or even more have been turning up at Redcar Tarn near Keighley both birds are immature birds and are difficult to identify as are all gulls in immature plumage. Gulls go through several plumage changes from going from juvenile to adult unlike other birds which are juvenile then turn into adults. All simple job done. Iif there was ever a reason for birds to come with identity labels gulls definitely justify it. Redcar tarn is a good spot to look at gulls as the birds sit in front of you and you don’t even have to get out of the car this is good especially if a chilly northerly is blowing.
Back on the reserve most mornings I have been welcomed by calling Tawny owls, I would love to find a roost so we or should I say I would collect their pellets. I love dissecting owl pellets. There is plenty of food for them I have seen Bank vole and wood mice in last few weeks and a rat at the education centre which would make a lovely meal for a pair of Tawnies especially as its only a month from Valentine’s Day. What more could a lady Tawny want than a nicely caught brown rat though I wouldn’t know what they would have for pudding.
It’s just coming up to 8am and it is still dark and rain is pattering nicely on the education centre it takes me back all those years when the only shelter I had was the trees and very big leaves to hide under. I love this cabin.
It looks like it could be a busy one this year already I’ve had schools getting in touch to visit which is nice to have a winter visit, as groups can miss out on seeing exciting things down here like Rose deer strutting their stuff and flocks of goldfinches and siskins feeding from Alder to Alder. And if lucky you could see the kingfisher. When it snows it is really good down here with mammal tracks with Deer, and small mammals and also dog tracks a fun thing to do with the dog tracks is try and identify the species of pooch.
I almost forgot, Happy New Year to everyone and let’s hope it’s going to be a good one and we are now on the count down to the 30th Anniversary of the reserve. The cake is already booked.
Breaking news just found snowdrops in flower spring is about to be here!!
5.25am, car defrosted and sat waiting for Jon to do bird ringing at Bingley North Bog.
The radio kept me company as always I was too early; to my delight I was joined by the shipping forecast it started at the top end with the Shetlands; cyclonic, rain imminent, Good then on it went to the Solway; violent force 10 then turning force 11 and it worked round the country Humber had force 9 and then Fastnet violent force 11, I felt safe. Though it was a little icy outdoors there were no gales. Jon arrived and off we went.
We set up the nets in pitch darkness and the chilled air numbed our fingers once up we returned to the car and welcomed a cup of tea – the stable diet of any ringer that and buns biscuits.
There were no gales just numb fingers and the net froze it did look very pretty and looked like spiders webs. Perfect for the birds to see alas we caught no birds but did count ten snipe our target bird. Though we didn’t catch anything but it still felt good to be out.
After picking up my car I travelled onto the reserve leaving fine weather behind me and arriving into mist and grottiness. Still bitterly cold so a good day to do some tree work warm work to get the blood flowing and it did just the trick.
A few days on and it was the last day before Christmas I went and did my usual rounds and had a nice flock of 14 bullfinch with 10 males and 4 females we are a good site fort them I don’t know what we are doing but they like it and as far as I am concerned I’m happy for them to come and also the added bonus was most weren’t rung. So hopefully we will ring some more.
It was nice to finish for Christmas, it’s good to have a break, ok granted that I did go in every other day over Christmas to keep a check on things which brought its own special moment on Boxing day I met a young family on the reserve who had just spotted the deer, three to be exact they were thrilled to bits and especially when I told them this is what they did after Christmas day. I stopped short of asking them to say which deer they were, Rudolf wasn’t there he had passed through earlier.
It was a nice way to finish Christmas, it was nice to have smiles all round. Tomorrow is the 31st December I’ll be down to see what I can find for the last day of the year then will be back on the 1st the start of another years recording I wonder what we will get.
And before I go Happy New Year for 2020
Cold was not the word it was Remembrance Sunday and I was stood in Buck fields yet again, there was a huge movement of over four thousand wood pigeon and the day of the Remembrance the sky was blue and so were my fingers which were layered beneath 3 pairs of gloves and opposite there were two Roe deer quietly are feeding. Everything was very quiet and peaceful.
Talking of peacefulness we had a sound of silence walk where we walked the reserve and observed and listened the big joke was could I stay quiet, guess what? I did all the way through much to every bodies amazement except mine; they forget I do it every day when I go checking the bird feeders, ok I may mumble to myself but doesn’t everybody.
I perturbed our cat the other day, it wasn’t planned but apparently when I appeared on BCB radio Emma was at home the cat had joined her for an afternoon snooze; the cat not Emma. I did the interview with Alan and Tina on their Afternoon Shift which is a lovely programme to appear on. Anyway un-be known to me I was chatting away quite happily but at home there was a very confused cat. Treacle heard me talking but I wasn’t there. She heard me talking from out of a box – the radio in the corner of the room. She sniffed it and continued to be puzzled. I finished the interview came home entered the house and the cat saw me and looked puzzled I stroked her she didn’t quite believe I was there how could I be there when earlier I was in the box in the corner of the room? It took her a while to believe I was there and that was with her sat on my lap!
I just looked at the calendar it’s almost a month of Christmas; as some of you probably already know that I try to get to Christmas day without hearing Slades Merry Christmas Everybody; well the 2019 campaign is well and truly over the other day when in Bradford before going to an interview at BCB radio I walked past a shop and bang it hit me Slade in full flow and it was the 21st November not even into December. I was gutted. Maybe next year I will make it the whole through.
8am roughly a thousand redwings through, October and the Vismig has really kicked in, wood pigeons passing over, meadow pipits and all at the same time. I watched with my binoculars, pen in hand and pad in hand, counting and recording several species at once, I realised then men can multitask. It is no mean feat to do that all at the same time luckily for me it wasn’t an all-out fly through of birds this was a reasonable amount through. Probably within the region of 4 thousand. Now other places do record tens of thousands in a morning.
We are more let’s saying sedate due to the obstructions in the flight sight. The buildings on Buck lane and the trees next to where I stand in fact really it is really going against me as I’m on the ground in reality I need height a big 6foot tower with a hut on top with windows all round, a comfy chair, heater and tea and biscuits and most importantly a lift up to it – I don’t do ladders – heights anything over three foot send for the fire brigade.
It is nearly the end of October I have stood here every morning for just short of a month and counted birds, lots of birds mainly wood pigeons, now I could amaze you all with some very interesting facts about wood pigeons but seen as I have lately been making people scream and run to the hills every time I mention wood pigeons I won’t mention wood pigeons but will mention for those that may possibly would maybe slightly or maybe interested in the life of wood pigeons they should go and get a copy of The Wood pigeon by RE K Murton it is part of the New Naturalists books it dated from the sixties but well worth a read. It is believe me. I’ve just finished it this week.
The next one I’m thinking about is a book on blackbirds, but before that it will be Witchcraft and secret societies of rural England now is that a change of scenery. One thing I did find out about the wood pigeon. On the reserve there are a lot of Guelder rose berries nothing eats them apparently Wood pigeons love them and did you know the Wood pigeon is the only bird that can pick out individual rape seed seed that is why there is so many. Enough said.
Talking of berries have you noticed there is a hell of a lot of hawthorn berries this year this will be very good for the thrushes I had the other day blackbird, song thrush and redwing munching quite happily on a hawthorn over from the reserve. The bush was stripped in a matter of days. Thrushes are on of my favourite birds and seeing Redwings and also if lucky enough Fieldfare feeding on berries it fare makes me go weak at the knees. I love this time of year. Better get out there more wood pigeon coming over – did I mention a fascinating fact about wood pigeon it involves….
It was Sunday morning my last Vismig for a week, no more counting wood pigeons I needn’t have worried Marlene, Emma’s sister had pulled up trumps yet again she is a dab hand at finding all the best holiday spots. And good birding spots too. She is on the quiet a secret twitcher ask her about the Harequin duck and the Ring necked duck on a tiny pond at a local golf course.
This time we were based in Kinbeachie on the Black isle it is an area surround by farmland and the week we came they were harvesting the hay so there were tractors everywhere the cottage where we were staying was surrounded by mature conifers and beech trees and a small plantation of broad leaved trees.
The biggest surprise however was there was a roost of Tree sparrows in the garden. I needed to relax this holiday so every morning at 6.30 I perched myself on their patio and watched two bushes erupt into life with up to 90 Tree sparrows. They were a grumpy bunch on a morning they started twittering about 6.40am then they would shut up then out they flew into the surrounding fields.
As the days went on all I could think about were the sparrows much to the amusement to everyone concerned. During vismigging time I obsess about wood pigeons here it was sparrows I do not need much to keep me amused; however on the day before we left the Peregrine that flew over the garden was a major surprise. Even more of a surprise for the bird it caught.
While I was there I indulged in a pair of slippers, just ordinary slippers nothing flash but they were comfy and warm which went down well at 6am in the morning whilst sat out under a prevailing westerly wind. I had for brief moments crows torpedo over the garden unfortunately no hooded crows they were further down the other valley. No matter where you go especially in Scotland the memories of the First world War are always apparent even at the cottage the surrounding fields were originally made for the returning soldiers from the Western front the farms were there to help the soldiers get them back on their feet again. There were 50 plots and up from the main road you can see all the plots.
And the wood pigeons surprisingly there were very few. And today my first day back from holiday my Vismig wood pigeons counted in at just 100 bring them on.
It’s now a few weeks past August, so here is a late ramblings many apologies for that. The idea originally was to write it at Spurn on an evening after a good days bird ringing that idea very quickly blew away with the sea breeze. The first day up and out at 6am then finished at 11pm. Intense is not the word. For part of the course I did feel way out of my depth then I took a deep breath and got on with it.
It was so good to be back at Spurn I don’t get there as often as I would like but when I do get there I savour every moment. Especially when I get to do what I have always dreamt of doing and that is to ring at Spurn and I did it. A good number of birds were rung too from Common tern to Dunlin, pied flycatcher to Tree sparrows. Tree sparrows are the master of escape they crawl up your arm when you try and take them out of the bag. And I swear to god they giggle when they do it!
One thing I had forgotten about Spurn was how dark it gets. We were all sat on the beach up near the narrows waiting for common terns come in to roost and the sky was black except for millions of stars we could see the milky way it was magical and with a terns calling as they came to roost and then ringing one. Brilliant.
During the time at Spurn I did get time to do a little twitching a Icterine warbler flew in next to the field where the day before we were ringing for Whinchats.
It certainly was a major experience and one I hope to repeat again in the next few years.
I was just finishing the June monthly report, just putting the final touches to the wildlife section in particular ladybirds. This year we have paid particular interest to ladybirds this survey has been on the jobs to do list for more years than I care to think. This year I shifted it up several pages and wow, 11 species found in the first week most of which were native and 1 alien this being the Harlequin which apparently has been quite happily munching its way through aphids and our native ladybirds.
So it was nice to see so many other species of ladybirds on the reserve. And one thing to remember ladybirds are not easy to identify some of the species have many different colour patterns so while I was typing out the list of which the harlequins were winning hands down with the June sightings in the background I heard on the radio about gentleman called Eugene Schieffelin who in 1890 decided to release 40 starlings in central park New York. Eugene was a member of the American Acclimatization Society whose principals were to introduce plants and animals to create comfort and familiarity in the new nation of America. The starlings bred now their population is around 200 million! And the main reason for him to introduce these birds was a cunning plan he had to introduce all the bird species in Shakespeare plays which apparently there is quite a few. Just of note the starling is only mentioned in one Shakespeare play that being Henry IV part 1.
I then looked at my ladybird list. The harlequin is causing mischief where ever it goes. The Harlequin ladybird is not the only introduction, there are many species if you read the excellent Alien plants of Yorkshire by the late Geoffrey Wilmore the amount of plants species just in Yorkshire is astounding also in the Field guide to Invasive plants and animals in Britain by Olaf Booy, Max wade and Helen Roy states that there are more than 1,400 non-native species established in Britain most do not survive. There are also lots of tree species which have been brought in for a very long time.
There are 16 established non- native mammals in Britain most of which do not cause any bother. Some were introduced for food rabbit, clothing mink and deer for hunting. There are surprising creatures like Raccoon, skunk, Porcupine then you go onto amphibians, birds and the list is endless.
Meanwhile our Harlequins are happy munching and making baby harlequins and our ladybirds? We will keep on recording and watch and wait.
And why were starlings in Shakespeare Henry IV part 1. Hopspur is in rebellion against the king and is thinking of ways to torment him. In act 1 scene 11 he fantasizes about teaching a starling to say Mortimer – one of the kings enemies: quote: ‘Nay, I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but Mortimer, and give it to him to keep his anger still in motion.’
Starlings in their favour are cracking birds get the sun on them and the colours are astounding. And as I write this a seven spot ladybird as just wandered over the keyboard and I am sure it gave me a wink.
A week has now passed the Celebration Day neatly tucked under the belt. It was a successful one again. However the highlight of the week was yesterday whilst doing the daily dragonfly survey a female Banded Demoiselle was seen eating an Azure blue damselfly this is normal practice amongst the dragonfly fraternity. The amazing thing about this was how casually the Banded munched away at the Azure blue.it was like watching a cow chewing cud. And while all this was going on the sun was shining and it was getting warmer it was nice to have sun it has become a tad boring having rain most days.
After several months of no mammal sightings under the habitat boards, yesterday myself and Susan one of my volunteers continued the monthly habitat board survey and we found several nests two of which was Bank vole and Common shrew, the week previous I had a Beaver group down and they were looking under the boards one lucky group had a family of shrews. And there were no screams.
This morning the day after the summer solstice I wandered onto the reserve the sun up bright and cheery as were a couple of regulars jogging through. I emptied the moth trap, there were a few Poplar hawkmoths and blow me down another hawkmoth grey in colour like the Poplar hawkmoth this moth however had eyes on its wings an eyed hawkmoth the 3rd record for the reserve. A solstice moth!
That raised a smile and a good feeling for the rest of the day.
4.30am the Blackbird had been singing for about half an hour he was loud. Went out into the garden and there he was on the chimney pot singing his heart out. In the woods opposite more joined him was it a chorus of joy or was it the other birds shouting ‘shut up we’re trying to get some sleep’. It was raining. Was this Yorkshire shedding a tear knowing we were leaving to go to Scotland only for a week? But it was enough for the heavens to out pour its sorrow.
Normally we set off later but today we were setting of at five am. This meant we would be on holiday by lunchtime. The birds sang to us as we left their song faded into the morning as we headed north. Just before we left I heard a distant cuckoo.
The sunrise was glorious; the three peaks were bathed in sheens of sunlight that stretched shadows from the sheep feeding in the fields. It has always been a tradition to stop at a particular favourite service station for breakfast. Timing is the essence. We got there excited to the breakfast we were about to have, then we saw it was CLOSED. Our hearts and stomachs fell to the floor. There was a small sandwich type shop in there so 2 teas and 2 bacon butties and fifteen quid lighter we went on our way.
It was a pleasant drive up, do you remember going on holiday and to break up the travel did you spot cars, Lorries, buses all their different colours. Well as passenger. I always bird the trip this time however
Alongside the birding I decided after seeing 4 badgers dead at the side of the motorway in within 200 yards that I would count road kill. It can be quite challenging re-guarding the condition of the poor unfortunate soul laid there at the side of the road. So there I was scribbling away, a rabbit here, a buzzard there oh wow a vole on it went. I will not go through the total number of spotting if you want to know more ask me when you see me down on the reserve. Just of interest there are two books from America called flattened fauna – field guides to road kill I kid you not look on Amazon and you can get them for under a fiver! Now there is a serious side to all this. Honestly there is when was the last time you went for a drive in summer and come back with a wide variety of squished insects on your windscreen? I would like to add that the roads we went on weren’t full to the brim with flattened creatures 99 per cent were squashed free roads. It was mainly the motorway and dual carriage way. I know I said ask me if you want to know more but I did have 8 species of mammal and 6 species of bird ask me if you want to know which ones. It did get me thinking could I do an id guide for road kill for the UK. It would be useful especially if looking for certain species for example there has been 2 otters found as road kill up from the reserve near Baildon railway station. This was a couple of years ago. Why were otters up there? If these animals hadn’t been found would we have ever known that they had been there? It raises some very interesting questions.
As we travelled on we came to a distillery as a scientific study that we have been doing for tens or so now we have found ourselves studying the whiskeys in the distilleries that we have come across. Apparently as part of this serious scientific study I have found that sampling the produce helps with a deeper understanding of these whiskies. That morning it was 10am whiskey for breakfast... out of interest this was the only distillery we visited this time.
And this was only Friday we still had another six days to go. The study goes on.
Two mornings in a row now, whilst driving past Glovershaw farm Baildon I have had a Barn owl fly a long side of the car. This morning was different today nobody was driving behind me so I slowed down and drove along with the owl just me and the owl. The sun just rising the golf was course covered in frost and the odd meadow pipit flitted from one side of the road to the other. Minus four it was when I arrived at the reserve. I checked the moth trap it was empty except for remnants of moth wings our resident wren has found the trap. It will look like I will have to move the trap. Ah.
Outside the education centre there are two Blackcaps singing hoping to grab a girlfriend and on the pond a Canada goose is sat on eggs her chap is now chasing the mallards around the pond when they get too close to her. It looks like it will get lively when the eggs hatch which will be in another fifteen to twenty days. That will be just about the time when I go on my holidays.
There still no Hirundines through the reserve yet I was hoping for the odd sand martin I will keep searching the sky which has proved profitable as the other day I came out of the education centre looked up and a curlew passed over this being only the third record for the reserve.
The feeders this morning have been very busy, titmice flying back and forth, blackbird’s chaking and being annoyed with everybody. Over the last few weeks I have been observing a Mistle Thrush nest unfortunately the other day I went and the nest was deserted this was probably either predation or the cold nights it has been below freezing over the last week. It is a shame as the same pair raised a full brood last year hopefully they will try again this year.
Spring has arrived kids groups are now descending to the reserve. It’s always manic at the beginning g of the season but as always it’s a real treat and somewhat tiring. The first water scorpions have been found and nobody has fallen in yet. That will come no doubt in the future. And let’s see how we get on with the young goslings hatch.
Yesterday I was thinking how to round this month’s ramblings, and was thinking of spring I was walking at Fairburn Ings after seeing hopefully not a dodgy duck by the name of Bufflehead (it’s a North American species.) When suddenly in front of me spring arrived with a male cuckoo landing on the fence about twenty foot of me. It flew then called. Spring had arrived.
I could write pages about a very likeable chap Keith (bowsaw) May who was one of my early volunteers sadly passed away every this year but knowing Keith he liked things to be plain and simple so I’ll keep it that way. Where ever you are now let’s hope there is a bowsaw and plenty of wood to cut. And it was a real pleasure knowing you. Cheers mate.
And I raised a glass of cider to Joe Grundy from the Archers the show will never be the same.
I was asked the other day how was it going down on the reserve I replied it was doing well; it has been a good start to the year lots of positive comments and so far just over 700 visitors to the reserve to the start to march. I jokingly said to one of the volunteers, there had been so many positive comments it just can’t last.
How true that was, the other day we had a visitor who has been a tad critical should we say over the years.. The said person came down frowned.. This did raise the hackles a bit. It reminded me of what happened years ago with deliberate pulling up of trees, cutting trees, verbal abuse and the rest. Such is life. As I write the warden is still here. It was hard at times but as time goes on the skin grows thicker and also the support grows stronger and I look at what has been done. The volunteers who over the years have put in such sterling work of which I’m proud of them and proud of the work they do and continue to do.
We have progressed well over the years especially over the last four years since the flood. The workshops, walks and the number of groups visiting the reserve. Last week I booked in schools, Beavers and cubs. The season hasn’t even started yet but it feels that it is going to be a very busy one.
And how have you coped with the early summer, and what a summer we have had there were bees and wasps the moths are arriving granted some have been feeding the robin rather well. However, we have only had a couple of butterflies so far this year. The titmice have been checking out the boxes. And there is a very well fed Grey Heron who has been eating all our frogs so it will be interesting to see how we do with the frog spawn this year.
We have now come to the end of the winter management work everything that was to be done has been done and the reserve is looking good this year we will be doing a lot of monitoring. The Wednesday gang will be looking at the plants we have down on the reserve. The Friday gang will be monitoring just about everything and the wildlife will do what it does very well bringing excitement to the reserve weather it is frogs and toads laying spawn in the ponds chiffchaffs singing bringing a hint of spring.
What will I be doing, I’ll be doing what I do and how about the complainers.
I will just smile, yes just smile.
Soon I will be walking some Alpacas that will be a tale for another day. Ask me how it went and I’ll tell you.
Oh the frogs laid lots of spawn and now we have been invaded by toads.
The early spring shift started this morning with Song thrushes in song, Dunnock and wrens joining as backup vocals. It is nearly the end of February and it is in double figures in temperature. The sun has been shinning for the last few days lifting the spirits. I put the moth trap on as it was up to 10 degrees overnight and caught nothing! The night before it was minus 3 and I caught a moth! I cannot fathom it at all but it is exciting trying to guess if any moths have been caught and also all the birds starting courting. Yesterday it was Valentine’s Day the start of the National Nest Box week to celebrate this we checked and cleaned the boxes for the forth coming breeding station birds have already started checking the boxes. The only bird which so far has been seen with nest material was a magpie.
Birds are on the move yesterday 25 Whooper swans were found at Chelker Reservoir so I will be looking up to the skies hoping for whoopers or pink footed geese.
I have a problem. A potential annoying problem there is a bird in Manchester it is a new bird for me, a Blyth’s Reed Warbler this bird normally winters in India but has turned up in Manchester and it has been there over winter. Some may say could this be global warming as this bird shouldn’t be here myself I think its internal sat nav when pair shaped when leaving Finland it was flying should then it said turn right at the next junction, crossed the sea with the help of some winds then ended up in Manchester where it said you have now reached your destination. Sat navs are like that never trust them. Mine I like to go to a place where I know how to get there then deliberately go the wrong way just to wind her up. But she always comes back calmly with at the next junction make a U turn for 2 miles then turns right. She never gets phased. Now the Blyth’s just to make it problematic it says its elusive that means I may have to stand by a bramble patch and stare at it until it shows or not shows as has been the case recently. We birders/twitchers/nutters are a patient bunch you would be surprised how quickly 5 hours will pass when looking at a bush.
And to cap it all it’s a brown job not that attractive as say a bee-eater but I need this bird for my life list I know what will happen I will go wait God knows how many hours get it be very pleased have several beers to celebrate then go to reserve do my rounds and bang! There will be a Blyth’s I would be very pleased as it would be in God’s own country.
Till then let’s suffer the M62!
Sunday 17th February up and had breakfast next stop the M62. An hour later just before getting to Hope Carr Lane NR Leigh a funny noise occurred beneath the bonnet. Got there just. I left the car to weep and I joined a small throng of birders and bang there it was my first ever Blyth’s Reed Warbler, chuffed is not the word.
Then the phone call and a man came with a tow truck and towed home. Tomorrow I will be broke but happy to have a Blyth’s.
Let’s start on an up note. Happy New Year to everyone! That’s all done; let’s let the smile hang the right way down. I have such an aching jaw this Christmas all that smiling and being polite to people who only see once a year.
It’s all done and gone and how was it. It was good and it was good to see folks not seen for ages. The decorations are now down in the education centre now there are only the wildlife things to look at the birds are feeding like mad. Jon and I did some bird ringing over the Christmas period we caught 13 birds one of which was a three year old Great Tit – a flood baby.
The other day had a trip to Leighton Moss Nature Reserve. I went to meet Kev the warden at Leighton Moss he has kindly agreed to take me on as a trainee bird ringer everything went well. I then went to explore the reserve at the moment there is 6 bitterns alas I didn’t see any but had cracking views of a Jack snipe feeding doing its bobbing and singer sewing machine head banging. Motorhead would be proud!
After a couple of hours I decided that there should be a visit to a hallowed shrine the Eric Morecombe Hide on Morecombe bay as well as being a genius he was also a birder. On arriving at the hide there is a shadow cut o0ut on the hide of Eric doing his famous bring me sun-shire dance. On entering the hide the first bird I saw was a Little Egret. Nice bird. Then something crossed my mind did Eric ever see a little egret on the bay as it would have been a very rare bird in those days.
I reckon if he had seen one he would have sung out loud and did a little dance then probably would have written a comic sketch about it. It had been a beautiful day the sun shone and it was wonderful to see black tailed godwits feeding with redshanks and various parties of ducks of various species. I like godwits
Waders can be a devil to identify especially when we get them in winter plumage. We rarely get them in summer plum. I remember years ago when visiting Texas I was dreading seeing waders over there due to us only getting them in autumn or winter I needn’t have worried we went in spring and they were all in glorious breeding plumages. A sheer delight. I decide to leave early as my sat nav has a mind of her own. She took me a very pretty route to Leighton Moss and I was excited to find out which was she was going to take me back. And she did I went all over the place. As I was leaving starlings were beginning to gather there has been some pretty amazing gatherings this winter by all accounts.
Later after my lovely sat nav had taken around most of Lancashire I entered God’s own country and in the distance I saw the three peaks in the distance smiled and thought to myself
Bring me sunshine…
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Woke to rain, a miserable start to the day, just had one job to do, I set myself a target, Sundays can be bad for me I need to be active. Sort the wood shed out. Moving wood from one shelf to the next is totally satisfying the smell of drying and dried wood is a joy.
I had bags of uncut wood, emptied and staked ready for cutting. Out came the splitting axe and wood flying all over the place. Thwack, thwack, heaven. I have two ways of relaxing birds and wood chopping and chain sawing ok three ways to relax the last two are related.
I cut and stacked the wood in the rain, which had been steady and had soaked me through in a mischievous way, it was light rain, you know the kind it’s there not wet enough for a rain coat and too wet to not have a jacket. Either way you get wet.
I was glad it was raining because it meant that the pond on the reserve was starting to fill up. As it grew towards tea time, I decided on Christmas wrapping, it needed to be done, the pile was there and it needed to be hit and no prisoners would be taken. And it is December, sorry but to me Christmas is in December not July, August or September.
I began wrapping a crate of ale for Chris, one of the forklift drivers at Denso, Chris for ages has been providing the reserve with wood, pallets and boarding’ The Wednesday gang for one, or one of the we4dnesday gang wouldn’t have had so much fun building everything from storage huts to nest boxes and finally fencing posts. An average pallet has 8 pieces of wood on it that can make up to 40 posts which when priced up cost a pound each, the last batch there was 26 pallets this saves money and also recycles wood.
I was just putting the last piece if selotape on Chris’s present when the room light flickered, the flashed then darkness. All I could see was a pair of eyes looking at me Treacle our cat stared at me then let out a low meow it a way that they do when it, means its dark and what are you going to do about it.
Outside the estate plunged into darkness a car siren went off. Even the owls in the wood were confused. The alarm went off there was then silence. No mobiles, no TV nothing even the cat stayed quiet. The only light was the flames on the fire.
We laid on the settee for about half an hour. Watching the flames dance up towards the chimney, the flames were yellow and the cat sat on my chest just purred. Outside no noise then all of a sudden the lights flicked on the cat jumped of me and meowed for food and that very special moment was gone. The moment was silence perfect silence.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
I woke up late, dashed out and was hit by a frosty November morning. I scrapped ice off the windscreen. I drove through to the reserve, passing poppies on lamp posts and the sun was just rising. There was mist in the valley. It was still cold. Today was the day the end of the war to end all wars. I drove down through Baildon, a crow was eating something dead, my thoughts went to the western front, over the last four years I have been over to Flanders 3 times and one thing that has always troubled me was. Where was the wildlife on the western front I was told by a tour guide that there wasn’t any. This didn’t ring true for me there was rats for one thing because there was a plentiful food supply. It definitely puzzled me. This last visit I did bird all the sites. A good while ago I had gone wandering in a book shop downtown. And there I found a book called Where the poppies grow it was about the wildlife on the western front. I bought it and then left it by the bed.
Last week I picked it up and blow me down! I had been right there was wildlife on the western front. On the first day of the Somme kestrels where seen hunting the killing fields and when there was a lull in the fighting Skylarks were seen rising up in the sky.
It was still chilly at the reserve, and it had started to rain. I walked the reserve and a male Mandarin duck was still on the pond. It also visited the feeding station which was a new species for the feeding station taking the species list for the pond feeding station to 41 species.
The final preps were done to the memorial in the education centre. I hoped nobody would try to damage it as has happened throughout 2018. I have started preparing the 2019 commerations.
I was joined by Dave and James from security we paid our respects. I had to leave as I was going to Glasgow. As I entered Bingley the church bells were ringing it was good to see both young and old wearing poppies.
We drove up to Glasgow one thing that was a real impact was all the villages that lost so many out of their communities
As we entered Glasgow the sun was setting and there was only one thing to be said on this armistice day
At the setting down of the sun we will remember them
Lest we forget
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
It wasn’t a good start to the day. Today of all days, a Blue tit yesterday had got caught in the wall of the education centre It flapped around a lot I took out the air vent around where it was. It continued to flap. This morning when I came in the bird was sat on the book shelf at the messy end of the education centre. When it saw me it flew back and forth up the cabin I opened the windows and door but to avail. I managed to catch the bird then as I held it, it died it just closed its eyes and went. I couldn’t believe it. That made it a manure start to the day I have had birds die on me in the past but this one was most gutting.
Today is the day of Danny Copeland’s funeral. He was a really a special pal and mentor. Yes we had our rows and fall outs as all good mates do. I couldn’t make it to day as there is a workshop tomorrow. I vis-migged this morning yesterday it was frosty and it was the first time this autumn where at several points I said shiver me timbers but in a less polite way.
It was cold on the old fingers who turned blue I did have a good number of birds through, or so I thought 510 woodies, However the boys at Oxenhope had over ten thousand! But we did have some Pinkies through which was nice as I lead a vismig workshop yesterday only 1 person turned out. It can be so disheartening but it was a good session.
The day before I had recorded 34 species of bird and just over 1 thousand 5 hundred birds not bad as we are in a not very good area for vismiging we are in the valley not on top so we miss a lot of birds but we still get a good number through and it gives a good idea of what is passing.
This morning it was cold again, today I put on thicker gloves so didn’t curse as much. I thought there would be plenty birds through but only managed just under 7 hundred birds. The recording time I do each day is 1 hour after sunrise. Then I check during the day as I am working.
Though I couldn’t make the funeral I made a fly and wore one of Danny’s flies as he was a keen fly fisherman, I did go out a couple of times with him and he taught me art of fly tying. The fly I made last night using Danny’s flies was one called serendipity this was a word he used a lot.
Today I guess I will have a wee dram of whiskey. I won’t mourn but will be glad I had the honour knowing the man.
Oh I hope more wood pigeons and other stuff will come through tomorrow.
Thanks Danny and my thoughts are with Marlene and the rest of the family I am glad Marlene and Danny and Abbey the dog did get chance to visit the reserve.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
It is the first few days into autumn, the trees are still green it won’t be long before they begin to turn. Reds, yellows then they fall.it is quiet. I found myself on the field by Buck lane. It’s been a year since I last stood here binoculars in hand and staring and hoping for the first dots in the sky to pass by vismig has begun.
Numerous wood pigeons begin the session flying north I gave it half an hour. Nothing much through. Soon it will get busy.
Leaving the field I am greeted by a broken fence by the gate into the reserve and up by the stone seat spray paint, over the last week or two trees have been cut and graffiti sprayed on trees. It looks like this little oasis of a reserve has met the modern world. We have had vandalism in the past but this year it seems bad. I sigh and bubble inside a little. It is easy to get angry and why not. All the hard work put into this reserve in those micro seconds makes you feel what is the point?
The thing what grinds the most is damage to trees, they can’t fight back and also the war memorial being desecrated that can really fowl up your day. This is quite a challenge but you have to be ahead of the ones who try to spoil things.
A chiffchaff calls up in the trees, a migrant now heading home hopefully we will see it again next year. A few more pigeons fly north the odd one south followed by a single swallow. And I suddenly get verbal abuse from a Blue tit at the feeding station waiting for breakfast. I know my place.
Today it is just an ordinary day , people walking their dogs, going to work, just having a leisurely walk stopping to chat about the local goings on. In the background birds pass through without being seen. Somebody spots the kingfisher and points excitedly. I return to the education centre put out food to keep the titmice happy and I check the moth trap not as many as last week its turned a little cooler. We cannot complain we have had a cracking season it’s going to be a big wildlife report this year. And the birds they have bred well.
And the fence is still broken, the graffiti causes offence to man and beast and trees nurse their wounds.
And what do we do.
We get nails to mend the fence, Grafisol graffiti remover to get rid of the graffiti, paint to paint out the graffiti on the dipping platform and saws to mend the wounds on the trees. And we walk the reserve, enjoy the trees the plants the company and the sheer splendidness of this wonderful little reserve.
And I look up and a swallow waves me goodbye calls and I swear, it said ‘see you next year chuck.’
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
We have had rain at last ! Everything has cooled down. I am looking forward to getting a good nights sleep and getting back to my normal loveable self instead of being a grump. The hot weather has had its moments. Last month I recorded 83 species of moth and 15 species of butterfly it is years since we have had that many.
And the weather is changing, you know why, school holidays. When for six weeks or so the little loves run around and vent their energy on anyone and everything around them and also make lots of noise. We have just had our second school holiday event which should have been pond dipping.
For the first time in many years we have had to cancel due to the pond edge being bone dry. I had to think of a new activity and whilst watching the starship Enterprise save us from all sorts of nasties I happen to glance out of the room window and above was a bloody great head floating across the sky. You could see the hairdo, eyes big nose mouth and chin. I kid you not it was huge and all sculptured out of one single cloud and blink it was gone. I had got my theme clouds.
Everything was prepped. Tables out pens, paper, glue, scissors. And then rain drop, a big dollop of a raindrop. Followed by many more of them. 10 mins before everybody was due. The clouds did felt better for relieving themselves I felt better for getting soaked. Then a hint of sun peeked from behind the clouds. The first visitors arrived. I told them of the plan. Them seemed pleased as did the next 3 groups and off they went to collect things to make a cloud picture.
All was silent so I worked on a new feather display I was working on. Then I heard voices. They were back. I told them to make cloud pictures, they grabbed paper pens the lot. Within ten minutes the first picture was done. I hurt my jaw as it hit the floor. The pictures were amazing. I’ve sent a selection to the friends group. It was so nice to see kids using their imagination. When they are allowed to do it. They can do it and have fun. A couple of the pictures were left. I tidied everything up.
The clouds floated by quite happily and kept their rain to themselves. And the sun kept out of the way in the background and the wind chuckled its way through the Aspens. I smiled to myself. Looked up and thanked the clouds.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Its nearly mid- July, I’m laid on settee sweat pouring from my body, outside Emma is watering the plants in the garden as she sprays water over the plants moths are raise. Nearby the Barn owl will be feeding her chicks. I lay here, bathed in sweat wishing for a fan above me.
Thought’s spin, I worry about the reserve there has been no rain for at least a month. Everything is so dry. The pond is low the area where we do the dipping is less than 2 inch deep. Luckily it is near the end of the nesting season.
I look out of the bed room window for the barn owl. They’ve just harvested today, grass for winter, winter seems so far away. I long for the cold weather. It will be here sooner than we think. There are no clouds and the moors have been set alight. Thankfully quickly brought under control.
I look to the ceiling still no fan, It was too hot to watch the cricket this afternoon I like to at least watch it once a season. While watching the game its great to see swallows fly at ground level between the play. Meanwhile on the reserve butterflies breed aplenty. Dragons are struggling to raise. And the thrushes are on their possibly third brood. I lay sweating.
The sun dropped, I opened the window a cool breeze flowed through. I think of the mole that Denso security rescued. Put in a bucket with paper towels and a tub of water. It drank the water and buried itself in the towels. Our volunteers took a look. Everyone was amazed to see such a secretive creative creature out in the open. Myself it made me want to read the wonderful Wind in the willows. I did think of making a boat for it. I laid there, it was too hot, Emma watered the garden with a Lesser Black backed gull quartering the fields, no barn owl. And where were the deer who usually feed round the edges of the field.
Moths were flying and on the reserve bats are feeding. Over the last couple of weeks we have had beavers and a youth club down pond dipping.it has been amazing at the amount of creatures that have been caught. Large diving beetles, water scorpions. Outside it is dark and still too hot.. Thankfully, the fire brigade have managed to stop the moor fire up from us. How it started nobody knows- yet. Let’s hope for rain.
It is another couple of days before I am back on the reserve, I do hope for cooler weather so I can cut the grass, also for rain to dampen the grass so the risk of fire will be reduced. This is the first time in many a year when I have had to consider this.
On a positive note shortly the River Aire trust will be making a start on the river bank cleaning of rubbish a long time coming but it is here
It is still hot, I dream of the fan above me. I fall into a summer sleep above I dream of helicopters and the I hear a calm cigar smelling voice ‘I love the smell of …
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Just about there, I thought, just back off holiday and straight into it. The Celebration day was just around the corner I had my list, ticked everything off. knowing I would have forgotten something. Everything was sorted. Felt so tired, excited and ready for it. One good thing about the Celebration day it’s a good excuse to tidy stuff up. Isn’t it surprising how much junk you accumulate over time.
Monday arrived then in a flash it was Friday. no sleep and it was Saturday! The day of the Celebration Day. Everybody turned out. The gazebos went up in a flash, I remember the days when we had those that had to be put together piece by piece. Now you just click your fingers and up they jump, gazebos not volunteers. Everybody worked so hard it was a delight to see. Two hours to go, 1 hour to go this is the worst bit will any body turn up. 1pm and it all begun. There was a slow steady start. The atmosphere relaxed. Even I was relaxed!
Then suddenly, people arrived, from afew to loads. And everybody was busy Jon was busy catching birds and ringing them with good crowds, Emma manning the spider club got people to say what they thought of the reserve by writing on speech bubbles. And the season wheel which harry and myself built went down well. And the buns had arrived. Life was complete.
There were the first sightings of people with buns and cakes. And the ukuleles started playing. The ducks that were to be hooked were hooked and gnomes were knocked about being shown no mercy. And the sun peeled back the clouds and shone nicely on the crowds. The pond was dipped and dragons were seen. And ice creams were eaten. And more buns appeared.
And people were walking around with smiley faces. Very nice to see in these gloomy times. And I walked and talked. And was very relaxed. And people had their faces painted and amazing things were made out of balloons. Then in a flash 3 hours gone and it was all over. The crowds floated off and all the kit put away. And then there was nobody.
The next morning I went to the reserve, I had forgotten to take down a banner. I did that in moments. Then I walked the reserve and all I could hear was bird song. Amazing really considering that the previous afternoon 300 people came, looked, talked,played, ate buns and left with a smile on their face. Now a week on. I still have a smile on my face only 51 weeks to go and it’s the next one. I have already started planning it in my head.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
I was sat in the conservatory, Monday morning with rain rumbling on the roof. This morning there was no walk to my favourite seat that looks out to the sea. It was too wet . I did it yesterday it was so good to be back. It has been about 4 years since we last visited Talmine way up in the highlands of Scotland. This is one of the many wonderful places that we have had the pleasure to share with Emma’s sister Marlene and her husband Danny. We have gone all over the place in.
It always amuses me when people say ‘oh your off to Scotland again’. Too right. There is so much to see and do and there are midges to play with. It really is such a wonderful place; it really is.
On our first day there were 4 Great Northern divers on the sea; an absolute joy to see.This Monday morning there was just one Great Northern diver sat on the sea completely un perturbed by the weather. A fulmar glided past the cottage whilst a male cuckoo shouted and caused mayhem with the local pipits.
Now I will have to concede defeat concerning the modern phone. The camera on the phone has won me over though I will never be its slave., it’s the whats app. It has proved to be very useful. Whilst out walking yesterday I saw an interesting plant. Now normally we have commented that we need a pocket Harry ( our rather brill botanist) and usually I’ll take a picture and bring it back for Harry to Id all I have to do now is take a picture of the mystery out of focus plant and whats app Harry.
And out of the blue the genious replies with an identification. I also have a pocket John (moths) john is very usefull for micros these are the tiny ones which are so difficult to ID. And then there is my new pocket friend Jon our bird ringer. Most of you will know, I bring back dead things from holiday so Jon will be very useful when I find a dead bird with a ring on it.
I now can bring back the ring maybe with the bird still attached.And Jon can tell me where it came from. So far this holiday I have got beaver chippings, feathers from a song thrush and cones nibbled by red squirrel. I found a well decomposed Guillemot its head fell off when I picked it up. And there was just a wing left it was in immaculate condition. Unfortunately there were no legs so no rings. That was such a pity. Freezer bags are brilliant because it keeps them from smelling. Which can be a right nusiance. Especially as it has been a really hot one.
It is always nice when I get back to cook breakfast and share my findings with Emma. This holiday has been really hot and I wondered how the reserve is getting on as we had seeded several areas. We will have lost some plants and I have worried that the nest boxes are ok. Hopefully the chicks will have fledged.
Oh, I forgot to mention yes I did wash my hands before breakfast.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Had a bit of a shock the other day I received a text from a local Brownie troop asking if they could come and do some pond dipping. No problem with that checked the diary booked them all sorted. Then I read the rest of the text it said the leader is 50 this year. I thought blimey or words to that effect. We celebrated the leaders 40th on the reserve the group has been coming 10 years in fact more. I felt old. I got to thinking about the rest of the groups and how many have been visiting us on a regular basis over the last twenty odd years and how many individuals have come to do everything from pond dipping to boggart hunting. My head began to hurt. We must be doing something right. And long may it continue.
Spring is slowly appearing everyone is saying its late; in fact its normal. Isn’t it amazing how we get used to the unusual. Its 12th April and still no swallows or other hirundines. We got chiffchaffs back and Blackcaps. I was listening to the wireless the other day, there was a environmental programme which had an article about chiffchaff, incidently as I write this a chiffchaff is singing outside. The programme talked about over wintering chiffchaffs. Which got me thinking. We have never had wintering chiffchaff on the reserve and this led me to think about all the records we have for the reserve and particularly the first and last dates for everything that comes and goes every year the main one for us is the arrival of chiffchaff between 15th and 17th March and this year bang on cue.
I haven’t seen a butterfly down here so far, have you seen any? I had one elsewhere. Monday just gone I had probably the best birding experience I have ever had. I woke early and thought have a lie till 7.30 at least. I rose looked out of the window thick fog. That put birding on the back burner. I then realised I was turning into a fair weather birder. It didn’t matter if I didn’t see anything I could listen. Next problem where. After a moment, I couldn’t check my pager because it has now ceased to exist. The company that supplies the pager services has stopped doing it. Well done guys just at the start of the spring migration., it was gutting to get up and all I had was the time and my alarm on my pager. I did feel at a loss that day I have had a pager for over twenty years we have been everywhere we got loads of rare birds and missed even more. Thankfully a new pager will be coming at the end of the month meanwhile I have the rarities on my new hi tech phone but keep forgetting to look. I am a pager man. It may be old fashioned but if it ain’t broke why mend it.
Where was I, yes, I thought where could I go Swillington Ings Leeds. They have Bittern and Black necked grebe there. So through the fog I headed off in a general direction. The traffic wasn’t bad, schools off. I got to Swillington faster than I thought. Parked up and walked into the mist. On entering the main area of the reserve I was welcomed or more to the point knocked off my feet by a low deep bass boom just three booms. A bittern. The sedges if I could see them I guess would have quivered. In the background Black headed gulls argued and complained about the day to each other. An amongst the racket a quiet sliding of the scales a willow warbler sang from a nearby bush. As I walked I listened for other birds Reed Bunting then another boom, boom, boom another bittern I scanned the mist and picked up in a small bush 2 Bearded tits or Bearded Reedlings. Magic. The gulls got louder as I walked and another Bittern. By now through the mist there was a hole made by the thing we haven’t seen for a while, the sun. As I walked the mist chorus got louder and besides me two Black necked grebes swan past at a distance of less than 10 feet. And the best bit there was nobody about. I continued walking and as the mist rose I headed back to the car. As people started to walk their dogs. I am so glad I went out into the mist. On the way back however it was nice to see where I was going. Soon I’m going to go over for dawn. Well I will if the car passes its MOT.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
It was to be a long ten minute walk, we were visiting Titchwell in Norfolk, the reason a first winter Snowy owl. It had been seen the day before at Titchwell as with a lot of rare birds they have a habit of flying off especially when I go and true to form this young lady did the same. It was however nice to be back in Norfolk. I wasn’t too disappointed that the bird had gone actually I was gutted! No Snowy owl but Marsh Harrier, cracking views of Bearded tit. Then I put my hand in my pocket and glanced at my pager SNOWY OWL SNETTISHAM. I shouted to everyone who could hear and beyond the Snowy is at Snettisham and then the weird thing several birders went into dash gotta get it mode and then some went oh really. Oh really it’s a Snowy owl and it’s just down the road. Get your butt down there.
We set off, then arrived at Snettisham and then the long walk we were told its only 10 – 15mins walk I told Emma it’s only the length of the reserve. Yeah right half hour or so later walking Emma had told to me go - I didn’t need telling twice. We both got the bird and what a stunner. And for a while we were tired but fitter.
Later I was thinking about the bird and thought what started me doing this. Back in the early 1990’s I was sat in the Black Bull in Liversedge reading a birdwatching magazine when a chap called John made conversation about birds. We got talking then we were joined by a chap called Will. And both these guys introduced me to the chaotic and wonderful world of twitching and looking for rare birds. And for several years we went all over the country looking for rare birds some of which I had never heard of example Oriental Pratincole, Booted warbler, Red eyed vireo. Both John and Will showed me some amazing birds and we also had some amazing misses like missing 7 Ortolan Buntings in a day starting up in County Durham and finishing at Spurn! Myself and my wife at the time Sue also went to Bulgaria with John and Will. The other thing we shared was the love for good beer. It was always great to be out birding then finish with a pint or two.
Will was also into photography he taught me how to use a camera, in the early days I used slide. Slide is good because you have to get things right. If you didn’t it was expensive, receiving a box of slides that were blank was very disheartening. Will also had an interest in insects and one weekend he asked if I wanted a weekend of Dragons, birds and beer what more could he ask! He introduced me to dragonflies and at the time I was just starting work on the reserve and while I recorded birds I learnt my bugs as well.
Occasionally Will worked pen and ink drawings I have a picture of a Booted Warbler of his from the east coast. We had some great times. It was such a shock when John rang to tell me Will had become ill. He has now gone. But will never be forgotten.
And his connection to the reserve you may ask. Will designed the original motif for the reserve. Which is on my Denso Marston NR tops. I wear it with pride. Cheers Will.
I have done it. I have gone modern no longer am I caveman. I have got a smart phone. Does that make me smart and posh? A couple of good mates of mine told me I should get into the 21st Century it would change my life. What by buying a mobile phone? I think not. I now have to sort out whatsapp (just had to look on my phone to find out what is called), apps etc. I know how to text just need to find out how to send pics
Oh, I can phone and receive calls.
When I got the phone I told the very nice and pleasant man in the phone shop, they have shops just for phones well I never. Anyway I said to the chap I want to take photos, he said to me in a very knowledgable tone had I heard of Lieca. I was ten steps ahead here. My binoculars are Lieca; for that moment I was superior a king of the galaxy. And to be fair it is a good camera only thing I got to do is to take my finger off the button when I take a picture as it takes a million pictures before I take my finger off.
I know five year olds have this all sussed. I’m a lot older than them and it’s great to get confused. With this phone I must remember not to apply a p a 14lb sledgehammer or a size 9 chainsaw boot on it apparently it doesn’t do the phone much good… watch this space.
I am looking forward to photographing the moths caught on the reserve and sending by email, whatsapp, whatsup or even by post to my mate who is moth expert. I am hoping to get up to the magic 300 species in next few years. I will not be photographing cute kittens and what I had for lunch.
And another thing the phone is huge compared with my old 4.99 special. If I am felling a tree I would be able to use this phone as a wedge it is that big. The one thing that as baffled me the most is the reaction by some people who have got excited by the phone. Sorry it is a phone I have no desire to take it home to meet my mother. I must be out of touch with the rest of humanity. Thank goodness.
Just thought of another use for the phone it can be a seat cover when I sit on a cold wall or something like the only problem who would I ring ?
Phones are baffling things, the other day car broke down – clutch went. Guess what I had no phone due to the damn thing not being connected to anything. Everything worked out did manage to get to the garage. I did wonder how did we manage before mobile phones. Guess what we did. I refuse to become a slave to a blessed phone.
Bring back my cave.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Saturday morning, today it’s the Denso Marston friends voluntary work party. It’s dark, wet and miserable! Drove through sleet not a great start to the day alas when I arrived at the reserve spring was in the air, Song thrushes were singing as were robins.
Now anybody walking by the cabin would have had a nice surprise, well sort of, especially if they were birders as they would had heard the muffled calls from Ptarmigan, Red and Black grouse . None of these birds actually have been recorded or even dreamt about on the reserve. The reason for listening to grouse and other birds is that I have got sick of listening to the radio. I have listened to Radio 4 for donkey’s years but these days the news is all doom and gloom. Listen to bird song it brings a smile to everyone’s face. I am working through a new bird calls and songs CD it is especially pleasing listening to it on the car radio when you pull up at traffic lights and the car opposite is thumping with some drum and bass ‘tune’ which makes your fillings rattle, the answer to this ‘noise’ turn up you CD of bird song and look across at their faces when they hear a booming Bittern. It is priceless.
Just had a Crested tit calling now that would be a mega! As it only appears in Scotland.
As some of you may know, we visit Scotland a lot and particularly the islands, one place that I have a particular fondness for is Eriskay and Barra where one of my most favourite of movies was filmed; Whiskey Galore. Recently there has been an ‘re make’ of the film I for one don’t like remakes especially if the original is a classic, why mend it if it isn’t broke is my motto.
Several days ago I bought the new version, I have now watched it and it is a nice movie but it is all filmed on the mainland you can tell it’s not an island. Islands have a feel. It just hasn’t that feel.
It is strange considering that we all live on an island. Living on an island is unique and is special; especially the Scottish islands. For those that don’t know the story the film was based on a true event, Compton Mackenzie wrote a fictional story about a ship that goes aground off Barra (little Toddy) and its cargo is 50 thousand crates of whiskey. This all happened during the Second World War and due to rationing the island had out of whiskey. So with this ship coming to a grinding halt next to their little island the islanders take it upon themselves to liberate the whiskey. It is a wonderful movie to watch. Watch them both and don’t forget have a wee dram to accompany the film purely for authenticity.
It was lovely to be on Barra and having a cup of tea in one of the tea rooms used in the original movie and all the talk was about the new film and how it was filmed on the mainland. With all what’s going on in the world listening to that conversation made you feel good to be alive.
The weather has now improved. The first of the working gang has arrived. The first tea of the day drunk and chat about what we are going to do. We go and collect the tools and we crack on while in the back of my mind a little island still hangs on and tonight. I think I will have a wee dram.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
It is 9.15pm on what sounds like a very wet evening, I know it’s raining because there is a constant but relaxing rhythm playing on my shed roof. I know If, I pull back the curtains I would see it and feel it and if I opened the bedroom window I would probably hear a hoot of an Tawny owl.
This evening I had a phone call from an old birding mate of mine telling that a good mate of ours, Will, had become gravely ill. This came as a shock as it always does. I hope everything works out for him. As we talked as with all birders the conversation worked its way to birding. During the chatter I mentioned that I had seen the American Redstart on Barra last autumn. John questioned my parentage! We both laughed. He asked if I had reached (my ) magic 400 species I told him yes I had I am now on 406. It was John that got me interested in looking for rare birds and Susan my ex-wife John and Will had some cracking days out and we saw some amazing birds some I hadn’t even heard of like Oriental Pratincole we also went to Bulgaria with Will and John and also Texas with John. Good memories. John and will are two of the lucky ones who have seen over 500 species of birds in this country dream time for me. Whilst we were talking John asked ‘what happened to your ramblings ? ‘ I told him things had just got too busy.
later, I listened to the rain outside. Read a splendid chapter called Murder in the afternoon by Francis Brody a detective novel set around Guisley. Whilst I was reading I thought about Will and I thought about what John had said about the ramblings. One or two other people had said that they had missed my ramblings. Some where glade to be rid of it too!
I thought and thought, listened to the rain still dancing on my shed roof and also thought beggar I had put moth trap on tonight at the reserve no moths I guess in the morning. I thought about the ramblings and started typing, I now think it is due time that the ramblings should return.
Next question what would I write about, in the past the ramblings went everywhere. A few weeks ago I did what everybody does and googled my name. I typed in Stephen Warrillow and pressed search and came up with a Warrillow site! There were photos of what appeared to be members of the Warrillow clan, I was amazed at how many of us there were I thought we were a rare breed! while looking through the pictures there was a picture of a poppy seen from a trench I clicked on it and low and behold there was a transcript of my ramblings. It was the one that I wrote when I first went to the Western Front. The picture was from the Yorkshire trench. There were also pictures from the Somme. This year I will be returning to the Somme to commemorate the end of the First World War.
Then I thought where were the rest of my ramblings, were they out in the internet galactic ether floating around for the rest of eternity! It had just turned 9.30pm, the rain had stopped, time for a nip of whiskey from the island of Islay then it was time to think what I could include in my new ramblings. Should it be all about the reserve, or should it be about everything or could it possibly be about 2018 the year I started birding again. Time for bed and think those thoughts.
8.05 Friday morning, down on the reserve and it is light spring on its way 4mm of rain had fallen over night according to our rain gauge. And I had caught a moth! A Pale brindled beauty. I Fed the birds, Looked at this page my Ramblings had finally arrived
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
What an exhausting year this has been. I needed to relax and how better than to spend the day with 59 children scavenger hunting. Believe me it works. Thackley School came down and had a rare old time. A good old scavenger hunt helps blow the old cobwebs away! Earlier that morning I was joined by Andrew to lay the reef on our memorial for the Somme. Pretty soon I will be going back there. Going there makes you stand back and think about everything. A good antidote to all what is going on.
The other day I read a book ‘24 Hours on the Somme’ the personal memoir of a 20 year old infantry officer who led his troops ‘over the top’ on the 1st July 1916. There were two things that struck me this lad was only 20 years old what responsibility to lay upon shoulders so young. Could our youngsters today have done the same thing?
And the other thing that crossed my mind was, on the day he and his troops went over the top and into no man’s land he commented that he was startled. By a Hare. That stopped me dead in my tracks how was there a hare on the Somme. He said the ‘startled creature ran out with eyes bulging with fear.’ The thing that came to me in all that chaos the one thing that startled him was a hare. What other wildlife was on the Somme that day? One can only wonder and did they survive.
We have just two years left of commemoration for the First World War I have been thinking how can we mark the next two years? And how do we do the end of the war. Will it be celebration? I think not.
Our memorial to the Somme will stay up until November.
And how did the children get on? A very exciting and very tiring day but worth it all round. Talking of rounds mines a pint.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
The wall I’m sat on is getting a tad cold. I’m waiting for a group of Brownies, I’m heading towards and probably just over 80 + groups for the year. The sun is now heading towards another nights slumber or if you live down under just waking up. I noticed up the path blackberries are now very plump and ready for a crumble. That reminds me I’m baking for the next Spiders; Blackberry and apple crumble devine.
Doesn’t it feel good when a job finally comes to an end. The education compound is pretty near damned well finished the Wednesday gang have hammered, sawn, probably cursed at times. Definatly pondered measured, hammered and sawn again but have done a cracking job and now its start of the autumn/winter reserve management jobs. Trees to be tidying, hedges to be laid footpaths to be found beneath the falling yellow and red leaves and bird food to be put out and the skies to be watched. The first redwings have passed through no fieldfares as yet but at the moment the winds are all to pot. Too many southerlies we want northerlies lots of chilly weather! Guess I’m in the minority of one here. The advantage however of the cold weather is the roaring log fire spitting flames up the chimney and a smallish glass of a well known whiskey from the isle of Jura to warm the cockles!
It has been a a quieter migration this year with not as many birds passing. The coast has still been very good with several new birds to my list and a new life bird a Siberian Stonechat now taking my British list to 398 (still need to triple check my numbers) I missed one of my bogey birds twice in two days a juvenile Pallid Harrier. I will be patient. I will get it one day – would be nice to have it as my 400th now that would definately would be a alarge double of a Juranian whiskey.
It’s going to be a very busy winter this year so it’s time to sharpen up the old bill hook and it’s time to get cutting, laying, coppicing ready for when spring comes.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Oh well it didn’t last long did it? My ramblings are well, back. It sort of dawned on me the other day. I’ve actually enjoyed rambling. So what have I been up to, since we last shared a page or two? Work mainly. It has been very busy down here. The summer school holidays were very busy. Plenty turned out, the first one; pond dipping had 80 very enthusiastic visitors both young and old. It was made particularly interesting considering we have only 30 nets. Not panicking on the outside. I had plan B, C and D lined up. Painting and drawing. It never ceases to amaze me how youngsters still love to paint and draw. Forget computers. First give the youngest ones paint and loads of paper and enough room to make as much mess as possible. Bingo! The older ones who have to be cool draw using pens etc. the first 5 minutes if the pond dipping session was mayhem but myself and Anna (Volunteer) coped extremely well. I didn’t lock myself away and pretend it wasn’t happening. Nets were handed out and so were drawing sets and it all fell into place just like the last piece you put into a jigsaw. Bliss.
Between dashing around managing the reserve, with groups, classes I have sneaked in the odd birding/twitching foray. And it has been brill. I have seen several species which I haven’t seen for years and most of them have been in Gods own country. Happy bunny I have been. I had a quick count of my life list the other day and I’m just a few ticks off my magic 400 species. I also sorted out Scotland.
My Scottish list which stands at 180 species not bad, though I do say so myself. There are a couple birds I need to catch up with north of the border, Jay and kingfisher which are proving quite troublesome.
So where have I been? I promise to keep this down to five volumes. I caught up with a splendid pair of Montague’s Harriers at Blacktoft Sands RSPB this apparently this has been the second year that they have bred in that area around the reserve. I managed to see both the male and female. The female was a new plumage for me. Whilst I was at the reserve my pager prompted me to nipped over to a park in the middle of hull and where I saw my second Red rumped swallow which had disappeared earlier in the morning only to be re-found by me as I walked onto site. Which was very polite of the bird it left me with a very pleasant feeling that. Chuffed I was indeed.
A trip to North Cave NR proved fruitful with a cracking Temminck’s stint and Green sandpiper. Though not at all rare but I had cracking views of a Sedge warbler in full belt, it was singing so loudly the reed it was on vibrated!
At some point I will have a count up how many birds I have seen in 2015. Homes been good with a Cuckoo out of the back garden and over the last couple of weeks a Barn owl has been hunting in the back field though worryingly it has been hunting a lot during the day. I hope it will be alright.
Diverging from birding (big sigh from everyone)we went for a meal other day it was ok but it was the pudding that caused a stir I had jam roly poly a bog, standard favourite no fuss, no nonsense then can you imagine my utter confusion, when it arrived on a wooden plate and the custard was in a bottle.
Confused, I was. Call me old fashioned but I really prefer plates, dishes. Believe me I do. Traumatised I was. What next rice pudding with a straw.
Bring back plates! The natural way to eat!
It’s been a year of old memories. As you know I don’t do memories that well. This one however was lovely. The Clangers are back! I must admit I was a little nervous about the first episode would it be all computer generated like everything else. No! The Clangers were real (real in a matter speaking) all knitted and looking pretty damned good. No matter what rubbish is going in the world or what is thrown at you, an episode of the clangers makes you feel the world is good. The world is good.
And also getting a juvenile Black Stork at Spurn makes you feel good too. I got one of a family of Storks that had bred in France and had decided to pop over to Spurn and Aberdeen. I did Spurn. Granted it only just stand there, for a while. Then to my relief it moved its head and wings – proving it wasn’t stuffed.
I have seen various other bits and bobs through the summer. But now I’m back onto the vismiging on the reserve. The highlight so far wasn’t a bird but a Muntjac deer over the river. My first in Yorkshire. It’s great to back doing vismiging the art of spotting tiny dots in the sky and turning them into birds will I beat the 15,000 wood pigeons from a couple years back. Time will only tell.
It’s good to be rambling again.
See you next time.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
It seems an age since ramblings last found its way onto a page or two. So what has been happening? I’ve been on a twitch or two starting on the 1st January normally I get the car or now my van and I toodle off searching for birds to get my none existent bird year list on its way. Now imagine 31st January already 3 months ago – have you noticed the years passing too, way too fast, I wish it would slow down and relax, mellow out pull a beer and be calm.
‘Where you off to tomorrow?’
‘Think I’ll start at the reserve then I think I just might go to Spurn’
‘Sounds good’ she said
‘Yep’ I replied.
Then I looked at the Pager the Holy Grail finder. And my did it do it. I’m not too far away from my 400th species as explained in past Ramblings. I am desperately trying to get back into birding and it is slowly coming back. I digress which is unusual for me. The pager bleeped more like screamed at me, if it was put on vibrate mode it would have exploded. Yes it has a vibrate mode. I won’t divulge past events concerning said pager. But we did like putting it on the table in the pub and get very much a childlike chap thing watching the pagers vibrate and charge off in different directions across the table bouncing off pints of beer. Ah the bliss of a simpler life.
Why did the pager try desperately to grab my attention? Has I have said on numerous occasions I am near my 400th species. I have been looking at my list and certain birds I do need to get. Like Short toed lark had it in Bulgaria but not here. My bogey bird Pallid Harrier chased one up in Northumberland and dipped. White billed Diver ahhhh! Just one I cannot connect with.
Bogey and dipped what is all that about you ask. Bogey bird nothing to do with runny noses it means a bird you just can’t connect with sometimes it never happens but sometimes it can arrive years later and dip simply means missed the damned thing. In a recent edition of Birdwatching magazine they talked about different kind of lists there are loads but one was interesting a dip list stuff you don’t get. Many moons ago we went on a mega twitch day there had been a good fall of migrants on the east coast we set off very early and had a cracking dipping day we missed 5 Ortalan buntings, a white stork and black kite which flew over a site where we missed the bird by 5 minutes. You learn to grin and bear it. Back to the pager, it was screaming and whistling at me I picked it and nearly dropped it. There are some birds that are simply just dream birds some you KNOW you will never see. This was one of those birds a Little Bustard on the east coast. Slap me silly.
‘A change of plans’ I said almost calmly. ‘The East coast beckons’
Do you remember as a child the night before Christmas you could never sleep well I was just the same. Tingly was not the word. It was a dreamless night. And a very long one. Then I woke up. Kit ready and off I went. On arriving on site there was cars everywhere I walked up through the village and up to where the bird hopefully was. There were birders everywhere. I hate the walk/run to a life bird. The nervous tension, the excitement the thought of it flying away just before you get there the local Sparrowhawk taking it out. Over enthusiastic photographer or birder chasing it off.
I got there I joined the great line of birders. Any signs of hangovers looked very distant. There was a field of Kale. a big field of kale and there the bird was sat there a brisk wind blowing over its head. There were only scope views you wouldn’t have found it with just binoculars.
It was very contenting day. I did then go to Spurn where I got a Black Brant.
A Harlequin Duck turned up just north of Aberdeen. It was ten years since I had seen a pair of female harlequins. I hadn’t seen a male. So a cunning plan was plotted we went to see Marlene and Danny which is always a delight. We also needed a break and I needed to try out my new van. It was decided to go straight after the Feed the Birds event. It was a reasonably pleasant run Emma found out where all the drafts come in around the cabin. She wrapped herself up in coats and kept perhaps reasonably warm! We got there eventually and had a good sleep the next day we were going in my van when suddenly it was decided we would go up in Marlene and Danny’s car luxury. We set off to Aberdeen I ticked off birds as we went. Marlene and Emma caught up with each other. We got to the country park where the bird was and no sign. A dip. Not good. Don’t like dipping. Luckily a couple of birders came and said it had moved further down river so off we went and it was a struggle at times and a few frowns from me as is expected. We found the part of the river where the Harlequin was thought to be. AND nothing OH DEAR or words to that effect. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw a birder who saw me and waved us across and there he was. The harlequin bobbing up and down in the flowing river. And what a cracker he was. Suddenly he came down to about 6 foot from us. The Gods were good to us that day. We left a chap from Barnsley sat on a rock photographing the bird. I took a picture of him taking a picture of the bird. Content was not the word. Rather chuffed more like.
The nice thing about the Harlequin was when it turned up the bird was a first winter male so it was in winter plumage when we saw him he was changing into a rather splendid adult male if it sticks till April it would be a absolutely stunning bird to see.
I went back to the reserve very chuffed. And promptly found our first female Mandarin duck and at the end of the month a male House Sparrow in the factory grounds if the rest of the year goes like this then it will prove to be rather splendid. Watch this space.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden