Welcome to the Warden's Ramblings 2012 archive page.
Here are links to other pages.
The first heavy frost of the winter as arrived, This was my first frost with new car and it struggled to start. What joy!
Down on the reserve it was absolutely glorious, blue sky, the only noise was from the church calling in its flocks, the occasional click and chirp from the birds nipping in and out from the bird feeding station. And the dripping of melting ice from the trees.
It was interesting sitting there writing the ramblings for this month though it was the middle of November there was a distinct December feel to the air. And as I sat in the classroom compound watching Blue, Great and coal tits come back and forth a cheeky looking Grey squirrel stood dead still thinking that it could not be seen. For a vermin species you can’t but admire them. He hid himself behind a tree then nipped out into the open nibbling at seeds scattered on the floor. Some of these seedsds were scattered by the birds but mostly by me. If you are feeding birds always remember to throw some seed on the ground for such birds as dunnocks.
The action had really started when three bullfinches arrived on the feeding tables they fed amongst the coal tit and great tits. The new bird table is due any time soon so once that is in then bird activity will increase tenfold. There are several hanging feeders so that will suite the titmice. So far we have been lucky with no rats seen.
With the leaves now starting to drop, birds have easier to see and also the deer have been seen on several occasions so hopefully from now until Christmas they won’t have any problems.
With all the activity of the birds I had forgotten to drink my cup of tea which had turned stone cold so much for a warming drink to start the day. It would have been nice to have had a small nip of Jura in it : ))
Its black eye never giving
For the food to be brought
Its black eye never giving
It’s been a very fraught year and very tiring one. Sometimes very frustrating but also a very joyous one for example the Forest schools events through the summer holidays and all the group visits on reflection the positives did out do the negatives and I would like to thank everyone for all of your support through the good and the few bad times this year. It is nice to know that there are friends out there. I am now going to sort through the year’s records and get them put together for next year’s AGM.
I am looking forward to 2013 when peace and tranquillity comes bad to the reserve (He hopes!)
I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Emma brought me a couple of beers this evening, one in particular was quite apt for this month’s ramblings it is called Cocker hoop, very apt indeed as I have just finished the ramblings for December! I guess it has saved me a job next month. I was well ahead of myself tonight as I’ve also done the January ramblings for The Hub.
The other day I thought I had better get some pictures of the reserve for use in The Hub magazine and also these ramblings so off I trotted around the reserve and within an hour and half I had taken 180 pictures! Isn’t digital wonderful (I can see a few eye brows lifting at this moment- slide is still better). The lighting on the reserve was wonderful it was a frosty start. I was later onto the reserve than I originally intended but no worries I did get some reasonable pictures.
As I write this I was expecting to get to the reserve this Thursday to see the footpaths closed and all quiet and lovely. Maybe not, Andrew contacted me and asked if I had seen the newspaper it looks like Braid the group protesting against next door had a demo and stopped the bulldozers from going into the fields so I will nip over in the morning and see what the score is.
I am hoping the work will be done by the next walk, if it isn’t I think we will be meeting at the entrance of Denso Marston and we will walk down to the reserve. We shall see.
Things are going ok with the classroom area we have measured up for the access to the toilets and classroom so hopefully very soon we will be putting them in. Then there will be painting, lots of painting so if you are handy with a brush come on down.
My office is up and running and by ‘eck it is wonderful to sit in a chair and have my dinner on a desk and also be able to write up the risk assessments etc in comfort and to have all the wildlife info laid out at hand. We are still taking bits of kit over to the classroom and office as we are slowly working through the old container. There is quite a bit of stuff in there including nesting field mice.
Talking of mice at home we have had a mouse eat a entire brandy soaked Christmas caked plus steroids, anti depressant and hormone tablets – we have a alcoholic, drug crazed mouse with an attitude for full story ask Emma!
There does seem to be a lot of field mice about this winter. I even have had some making nests in my chainsaw willies, brave things.
The feeding station is starting to work well, check out the picture in next month’s ramblings. One disappointment though this winter so far there has been no sign of the water rail. I am hoping that it will return over the winter period.
I did have a strange one a few days ago I was on the reserve and I could hear geese, lots of them honking away quite happily they flew over the reserve and no sign they must have been up in the clouds either that or I was.
I cannot believe that we are nearly at the year’s end; I’ve just finished the winter tree Identification walk and are preparing for the last walk of the year in December. The Xmas preserve. I am going to bake something what it will be God only knows. We will see. I’m looking forward to that walk and also the visit to a well known public house on the Junction of Otley road and Baildon road I think a well deserved pint will be had by all.
I have now come to the end of the November ramblings; I cannot get over doing 2 ramblings in one night. The next one will be in January 2013. Not that far away.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Now the classroom is now safely settled upon the reserve, I can now play catch up with the management of the reserve, fortunately most people are letting me just get on with the work, whilst other are complaining that work is not being done.
This is a bit of an annoyance as you can imagine. I am a lone worker, granted I do have volunteers, the majority of the work is done by myself and I think at the moment things are doing all right thank you very much!
The feeding station is now up and running, there will be a couple of tweaks to be done i.e. the new feeder and the hedge planting around the path which leads to the classroom compound. This area has now been completely fenced off which I am pleased about. The bio disc as been uncovered and will soon be fenced off.
The hedge around the feeding station has been cut also the damaged bench has been removed – the complainers didn’t get their own way in the end as the bench legs had completely rotted so is now un-useable. The other bench which was removed from where Julies memorial bench is now situated will be put in the compound opposite the feeding station.
It seems ages since we were on holiday, this time we went to guess where! Scotland we went with Marlene and Danny again this time to Stranrear what a very intriguing area this is, mainly cattle country, it looks very much like Yorkshire but with water nearly all the way around it.
one thing that will always stick in my mind, how easy it is to lose your sense of direction. This area is the most southerly point of Scotland. And I truly believe, what they have done to confuse the English is to put as many country lanes into a tiny area with also lots of place name signs pointing to the same place but in all directions.
We passed a row of houses several times in the few days we were there and I am convinced if we had stopped and asked for directions the residents would have said. “ sorry lad, we did tried to do what you are trying to do and ended up in this same place every time that and we thought beggar it would be easier to build a house and live here, and we still haven’t find the way out after several generations!”
It’s a lovely place, and always a treat to stay with Danny and Marlene, and this holiday I managed to take my chainsaw with us! If you want to know why just ask me when you see me next.
Even when I’m on holiday I am always on the look out to find ideas on how to improve the reserve or things to add to it, I did see one or two things which did get the old grey matter going, watch this space.
Unusually this time I didn’t write any poetry on this trip. Though I am now just putting together a collection of poetry which I am hoping to publish in the near future. The new collection will be called Lamb and all of it was written in Scotland. I must admit this last few months not much has been written. Hopefully with autumn now upon us, which is my favourite time of year and most productive (why can’t we have autumn all year round!), I will put pen to paper.
I am still selling Waiting for the swallows with now over half been sold. With that “C” time of year coming what could be better than buying your loved ones their own personal copy ( I could sign it too!) at only £4.00 with £2.00 going towards the friends of Denso Marston Nature Reserve you would also be doing your charitable bit for the big C month!
With all the work now getting back on track, I have had a couple of hours a week break to fill in, sleep not included. I have to Emma’s joy and relief begun to cook a long time coming I hear her say, many moons ago I used to cook, and then it fell to the wayside, which is a pity because us chaps can cook when we get our acts together.
Well last weekend I took out a full Sunday afternoon to bake and cook see the pics. It was great fun, I know, I know I can hear all you mums and co huffing and puffing at some bloke saying it’s great to cook, and it’s not a chore as most mums and co will testify.
There is nothing better than getting a good cook book and covering it and the rest of the clothes, kitchen, Cat and anything else that wanders by in flour, sugar and honey, honeys the best when it falls on the floor, the foot prints get everywhere, sticky but smelling gorgeous! And the most amazing thing about me cooking that day – (I will cook more than one day –girls) was that I hardly swore!
Anyway back to the cook book, As most blokes are when they find a new venture they buy books, magazines all the kit the whole works then they find they don’t like it another small fortune spent, this is done to keep the economy running smoothly, well over the years I have done it with cook books,
My favourite cookbook is what my grandma used the Be-Ro cookbook, it is now in its 41st edition the book has been keeping households in superb cooking since 1923. I have for quite awhile wanted to cook. I looked on eBay for the be-Ro book my grandma used. I found it. But then thought I want my own copy.
When we were on holiday we went to Wigtown where they have a huge book festival there. Whilst having a look in the many book shops there – how many book shops can such a small place have I wonder? I found a copy of the 41st edition of the Be-Ro cookbook. Promptly bought it (and also a 25th Anniversary Archers book) for just under 4 quid. It is a lot more colourful than the original but still keeping its old style. It now stays by my bed and is night-time reading it has been covered in flour and the such.
I am hoping to perfect my cooking for the Xmas preserve so watch this space. A short while ago keeping on the baking theme I was talking to Blanche about the Be-Ro book and she mentioned the Stork cookbook I have tried tracking it down and most copied of the Stork cookbooks are costing over twenty pounds. The Be-Ro you can still get it for under a fiver. If anyone comes across a cheap stork cook book let me know.
Just for interest the toad in the hole was made with wild boar sausages!
We have just done our now annual Vismig – visible migration walk down on the reserve, I was down for the crack of dawn, this time of year it’s quite good cos it usually means half past seven onwards, don’t forget at the end of this month the clocks fall back.
On the day of the Vismig I was down before daylight and the sky was quite clear, I waited hoping for Redwings the first of the autumn thrushes to appear, a few had been coming through the days previous, none.
Wood pigeons instead came through by 10am there had been over five hundred pass through, not that many really I have had more in the past but it had gone from just over 60 to over 500 in just two days. A good number of blackbirds had also come through the reserve. On the walk we recorded 30 species of birds and 581 in total not bad for just under two hours.
It has been a good autumn elsewhere for birds this year with lots good rarities about. However over the last few weeks Yellow browed warblers have been found in amongst long tailed tit flocks. So it is worth just checking if you come across a stripy warbler give me a call.
As I write this we are apparently are in for an Indian summer (does that mean monsoons!)it’s going to get warmer for a short while this hopefully will mean late sightings of flying insects. We have still got speckled wood butterfly and Southern hawker dragonfly on the reserve. There are also good numbers of caddis flies over the river.
The leaves on the trees are just about starting to fall, and I managed to get the last cut of the season done, even though the ground is still sodden I managed to get through ok. I will be turning the dragonfly upside down or the right way up depending on how you look at it. It has been in its present position for a few years now and I think it is time to move it. This might be interesting for the wildflowers in this area as some of the area that as been cut short will be allowed to grow. What will come up who knows and now when you come to the dragonfly you will see the wings first. Hopefully that will encourage people to walk around it and not through it.
There as been some discussion about the number of nettles on the site, there is a lot and in some areas I have controlled the plant. I am planning hopefully next season to reduce more of the nettles in certain areas, along paths for example. There has been a lot of nettles left a long side the new hedge-laying from last winter this had been left to protect the hedge from vandalism, the hedge had been pulled apart and lengths had been deliberately cut as to damage the hedge and also some plants had been pulled out. The damage to the hedge has been occurring all through this season.
It is this kind of misinformed actions that has got me starting on work for the website on the a new section called habitats and this will explain what I do on the reserve. It would have been nice if these persons (who are known) just to ask. Nice verbal communication is always a good thing.
Hopefully next year, there will be no disruption to the management of the reserve like there has been this year. And I thank everyone for being patient. The reserve will (and is) look super and a pleasure to visit and especially next year we are 21 years old.
Thanks to Sue for the Vismig misty pictures
The river fallen, from how it had been
A few days earlier
Clouds in the sky looking
Stretched torn and bloodied
As the sun
Cuts into the horizon
It feels remarkably warm
Considering a breath of mist had begun
Raising from the river
And a robin sings, slowly its near Christmas song
And over the last few days
Redwings had passed through
But not this morning
Only wood pigeons, one then two
The tens then hundreds
How many will there be before the end of autumn
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Summer has finally arrived, on the first week of autumn! It has been glorious down on the reserve with lots of dragonflies and butterflies zooming around everywhere without a care in the world. One species that has been quite evident is the Southern Hawker, we have had up to four and a pair was seen in cop (mating) and a female was seen laying eggs in the pond. The Southern hawker female has a habit of laying her eggs above water. This does seem strange, but it seems to work for them. Do they know instinctively that the water level of the pool they lay will increase in height or are they just going on chance? The other day I had a nice surprise I found a Migrant hawker dragonfly up near the spider club area this was a nice find as this is quite a rare dragonfly for the reserve.
Sometimes it’s hard to smile on the reserve, what with elements of the visiting community trying their damndest to undermine the work and also having personal comments which does seem very unfair but it now goes with the job I guess and I have to live with it. But I did get a chance to smile, in fact a eureka moment.
I had been putting off the checking of the nest boxes, due to the very poor weather we have had this year and I wasn’t looking forward to finding lots of dead chicks. I decided enough was enough it was time to get on. I had to look and get the final results for the nesting season. I worked my way through the boxes a lot are now getting quite old and a bit past it, we will in the near future be taking down the boxes and replacing them with new boxes. Anyway back to the tale, I found to my huge delight and relief the boxes were empty, the chicks had flown. In the end I only had 1 box with dead chicks in, 1 with 1 egg (this is the norm) and one box with a small abandoned wasp nest box in it. In total for this year we have had 130 fledged chicks. Now that was worth a pint in celebration!
Whilst doing the nest box work I happened to bump into Derek Parkinson who some of you will know from him being on the committee a few years back, Derek is a butterfly expert and also is into parasitic wasps and other insects that lay eggs into the brains of other poor unfortunate insects, which is all brill stuff! Derek was particularly interested in the contents of the nest boxes, most of which were woodlice and leopard slugs! In amongst the nest material certain moths and also parasitic beasties live in there. So very shortly I will be emptying the contents of the nest boxes into bags and sealing them and then in spring hopefully there will be things of interest that will emerge, this could be an interesting study of seeing what things live inside nest boxes. And who knows what we will find. Exciting stuff.
I love this time of year the days are getting shorter and the morning shadows are getting longer, the clouds look great and also the bird numbers will start increasing, with the long tailed tit flocks now charging through the reserve with other titmice and warblers in amongst, the other morning I had a Pied wagtail in with them which did look bizarre and very much out of place.
Now as I ramble, the platforms are in and the classroom and loo will be delivered very very shortly, it will be a relief when it gets here. I am looking forward to the end of the year when most if not all the work will be completed. The fence line which was going to be moved will be moved now, in fact by the time this ramblings go out the fence line will be well underway. There has been a lot disruption on the reserve this year, and I thank the visitors who have understood why this is going on and I am very pleased with their support and it will be worth it when it is all complete. Some of the work I was going to do this winter will be put back till later. Most of the work will be around the bird feeding area and new classroom, there will be some hedge laying done, the hedges that were laid last winter are doing well despite the continuing damage that has been done to a small part of the hedge, but we will prevail, the hedge will win in the end. I was looking at one of the original hedges that were laid the growth this year has been amazing, it will be interesting to see what birds have nested in there.
For those of you that have bought the Waiting for the swallow’s book, I am now down to my last 15 copies, it is selling steady. I have done some scribbling over the last few days. I am hoping to do more over the next few weeks, by the time this comes out myself and Emma will be up in the Dumfries area only for a few days this time, but a well deserved holiday with Marlene and Danny who are two amazing people who without them we wouldn’t have been able to visit and stay at some of the most wonderful countryside as well as the birding and erm some pretty good distilleries.
Just as I wind up this month’s ramblings yesterday I took a slow walk around the reserve, it seems a very long time since I did that, I took time out to record and photograph bits and bobs around the reserve. It was nice to reclaim the reserve. One of the things I was particularly interested in was the berries on the reserve. There are a lot of Hawthorn berries, not many sloes and fewer guilder rose berries (which I must admit I personally think birds don’t eat them, have you ever tried eating some they are disgusting). I think the bird feeding areas will be very busy this year. The berries will disappear pretty quickly over the next month when the first of the winter thrushes arrive.
To end a poem
I wish I was a woodlouse
I wish I was a woodlouse
All crusty and legs and antennae
Spending all my days
Munching on dead logs
You never see a woodlouse
Depressed or looking grim
They always look so happy
They never get annoyed
They just chomp their way
Through all that dead wood
Doing all of us a favour
Oh, where would we be without
The glorious woodlouse!
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
What a month it has been, the ground works for the classroom are nearly finished with the footings just about in. We are looking at early September for the buildings to come. I must admit I cannot wait for the things to arrive; it’s been a long hard slog. There have been fun and games on the way with the majority of people who come or help on the reserve, supporting the work that is being done. A huge thank you must be said to Emma for getting the funding for this project, without her we wouldn’t have got so far and the same applies to Bev at Denso Marston for without her help and support we definitely wouldn’t achieved this success.
Ground work nearing completion
Biodisc prior to installation
Biodisc in place
While all this work has been going on, how as the wildlife been faring you may ask; well it hasn’t done too badly. I am still waiting to check the nest boxes to see what has fledged or what hasn’t. This year I have really been dragging my feet with this task, what with the classroom work and groups etc. It has been a really busy time. But the main reason I’m not looking forward to seeing what is in the boxes, is that this year it will be a bad one for the nesting birds. We have seen few young birds, in particular Blue and Great tits. I will have just to grin and bear it and have a look. Before we went on holiday in May, we did record 140 eggs in the boxes. So we shall have to wait and see.
At last we are now seeing some dragonflies and butterflies, what with all this wet weather, it has knocked them back somewhat. Just the other day a Red Admiral flew past me and two Southern hawker dragonflies were engaged in a tussle, with a Brown hawker in the background watching on.
As I write Ospreys are on the move, so hopefully, we will see a bird or two passing over as they head, off back to Africa. Talking of moving birds, Chiffchaffs in the last week have been passing through and some just lingering and pottering about.
The “Waiting for the Swallow’s” book is selling steadily; I have sold just over half of the copies. I have promoted it on BCB radio and also in The Hub magazine. As for actual writing, I have been down next to nothing, but now with autumn fast approaching I hope the trusty pen will start scribbling again.
To finish this month’s ramblings I would like to say a fond farewell to Zoe, one of my longest serving volunteers, she is now heading to pastures new, having a secured a job with English Nature, she will be going to Truro. I’m sure she won’t enjoy all that sunshine, surfing and good Cornish ale! I hope it all works out, she will be sorely missed.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
The river Aire swollen with all that extra precipitation
Rain, rain, rain, summers here at last!? What a long month June has been. Unfortunately, for the first time in twenty years we had to cancel the Celebration Day which was very, very frustrating, though the weather wasn’t as bad as it has been in the later weeks of the month. A lot of hard work does appear to have been wasted but we just dust ourselves down and carry on. We are hoping to re-arrange the event for later in the year.
As some of you may know the first part of the extension works within the factory has now begun. We have been given a somewhat large amount of logs and wood chippings, all of which have been put to good use around the reserve. Already some of the wood piles have attracted numerous toads and newts. It has also attracted some negative comments. People have been down- right rude to me, which has been annoying and a little draining. Luckily this warden has begun to grow a very thick skin. It does however beggar the question what gives people the right to be downright rude, especially in Yorkshire. Yorkshire folk are known for their forth right views but are always courteous with it; that is what makes Yorkshire folks the best. These discourteous people down on the reserve should be very ashamed of how they behave. It doesn’t take much to have manners. We shall see how things pan out over the next few months.
As you can imagine things have been very busy on the reserve over the last few weeks, with logs and chippings being shifted everywhere. A huge ‘thank you’ to all the volunteers that have helped me with this, but there’s more to come!
We have had a couple of firsts for the reserve this year, a pair of Jays reared two young and as I type, a pair of Collared Doves are on their nest, though, with all this bad weather, who knows how they have got on.
The ‘mothing’ has just about started with a handful caught including our first Poplar Hawkmoth for the year and a Beautiful Golden Y.
Things were looking good and then it rained! It will be sunny in July because the clouds will have run out of water, so hopefully the moth trapping will get better!
There was a report of a Grass Snake seen up by the stone seat, I must admit I was a little sceptical then I was shown the video footage of it! It was a Romanian Grass Snake; this species of grass snake is common around our area of the reserve.
The Spider Club have been busy, this month building a jubilee hedge, thanks to funding obtained by our wonderful funding Officer Emma. “How does she do it?” I often ask myself!
The Club members did a cracking job planting it up the hedge, as the photos show. They also found newts and toads.
It has been a long month this month. But for me the highlight was; “Waiting for the Swallows” which is now finally out. It costs four pounds with two pounds going to the Friends of Denso Marston Nature Reserve. And it’s a damned good read, even if I say so myself. If you would like to own this unique masterpiece you can contact me on 07919525913.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
It is nice to see a lull in the rain for at least a few days but what do we get- northerly winds and heavy frost due. Where has the summer gone!? Though the weather has been somewhat poor over the last few weeks, birds are busy nesting on the reserve. I did a first check of the nest boxes at the end of April and two nests had fledged. Several others were still at the egg stage, so it looks like some birds may have delayed their breeding and not taken advantage of the earlier warm weather. The clutch size is smaller with an average of 7 eggs. It is always a delight to see the eggs and chicks. The boxes will be checked just before I go on holiday on the 19th May.
Unfortunately I missed my first ever birth of a foal. On the day of Harry Allenby’s first wildflower walk I had set off to meet the group visitors and missed by at least 2 minutes the birth of a stunning white foal.
It had been at least 10 years since I last saw a birth; this was at Ynys-hir RSPB nature reserve in Wales. We encountered a ewe about to give birth and stayed and watched! A healthy lamb appeared within minutes. This compared to my first ever birth way back in 1979 when I worked on a farm. One morning when I arrived to work I went to the lambing shed. There were a couple of sheep in the pens waiting to give birth, everything looked ok. The sheep looked fine until one of the ewes turned around and I saw legs sticking out of her back end. In a state of panic, I ran to the boss’s bungalow and got him out of bed shouting that there was a pair of legs sticking out the back end of the ewe. The boss ran out. We had to use ropes to get the lamb out. It was a difficult birth for the ewe but the lamb appeared, it was huge, nearly the same height as the ewe. The lamb was swung around to get it to breathe. I held my breath; I was shaking like a leaf. This was the first time I had seen anything like this. As a teenager this was very surreal but illuminating and very humbling especially when the lamb coughed and breathed its first breath. Then on unsteady legs it stood up. I nearly wept. So to see the foal stand on unsteady legs brought it all back to me. What a wonderful sight.
We are continuing our ladybird survey. So far it has been encouraging with seven spot ladybirds in reasonable numbers and the number of Harlequins in single figures. Last year there was lots of Harlequins, this species has now been recorded over much of the UK. This species has spread since its initial first sightings in the southern areas of the UK in the early part of 2002-3. We have probably recorded about 5 or 6 species of ladybirds over the last twenty years. This year we are hopefully going to find out which species are on the reserve. One ladybird I particularly want to find is the Water ladybird; this was last seen on the reeds of the large pool. The Spider Club will also be involved in finding ladybirds, youngsters are much better at finding the ladybugs than us older persons! Hopefully we will get a good summer to find them.
The first Swallows have now started to pass over the reserve in reasonable numbers and the first House Martin was seen with a sprinkling of Swifts cruising over the reserve. The only hirundine not to arrive so far this year are Sand Martins. We are still waiting for the first Whitethroats to come through.
We had our first Brownie troop down on the reserve the other night. The 8th Baildon Brownies came to pond dip. As ever, they were a lively bunch, we caught various bugs, the biggest surprise was me catching my second ever pike with my pond net! The first was a good number of years ago with a school group. I have to add the Pike was only 2 inches long. It is amazing to look at a pike fry; it is perfect in every way and always reminds me of the Ted Hughes poem Pike ….’Pike 3 inches long killer from the egg’.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Just as I thought it had stopped raining, down came the hailstones. We had finished with the Spider Club, it had been a good session, and the group had been out and collected things for display on the Celebration Day. The weather had held out. We had even caught a moth in the trap, the first for days! However, once everyone had gone, whilst I was walking through the reserve, the sky became black and then the first missiles started to fall, then a few more, then torrential. Hailstones are pretty good to watch but don’t half hurt on bare arms while you are doing it. I had taken off my sweatshirt, a foolish thing to do at this time of the year.
With all the rain that had fallen so far this month, I was a little concerned about the nesting birds, but they seem to be faring reasonably well. Butterflies on the other hand are faring badly with only one Orange Tip seen so far this year and there are no dragonflies. Not far to May then things will pick up (hopefully).
It’s amazing though, when it rains, you can smell the flowers, such as garlic on the riverbank. The leaves seem to give off an aura and just burst into life. When the sun does get a look in, the insects buzz into action; on the ground there are the shufflings of Wolf Spiders as they run around eating everything. I love spring.
With only a month and a bit to go before the Celebration Day, plans have already kicked in; groups have been nominated to attend the day. There will be plenty of tidying up over the coming weeks, a lot of grumblings, smiles and tears and a smattering of laughter no doubt leading up to the 16th June. It is always a very tense time for me, because I always want it to be a success, which it has been. It’s always a relief to get the day under way, then the locking of the cabins at the end of the day.
Hopefully this year there will be plenty of sun. We are working on several surveys, one of ladybirds has already begun, Last year we were inundated with Harlequin Ladybirds but so far this year there have been just a handful, they breed at a rapid rate of knots, so we shall see. We are also looking to survey the small pool. The Spider Club will be monitoring their patch on the reserve.
And finally, the poetry book is coming on dandy; it has nearly had its first draft corrections done and so will be sent back in the very near future.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
It is always nice to meet up with someone who is practically on the same wavelength as yourself. The other day, whilst down on the reserve, I came upon a gentleman who had come to the reserve looking for the Black Bellied Dipper. We both discussed the dipper and he told me how he goes up the Dales to look at the dippers in the hope of finding a Black Bellied one for himself. Alas, he told me that he had found some which looked very similar to Black Bellied, but were in-fact our own Dippers. He posed me an interesting question “What would I do if the Black Bellied stayed put and didn’t return to the country of origin?” I hadn’t thought of that. What would I have done if the bird had stayed, would that have made it a Common Dipper, or if it stayed and bred with one of our Dippers would that then be a hybrid? I did at that moment feel a headache coming on! This question fortunately would not have to be answered as the bird has now gone.
We also discussed the common birds we have on site and how were they faring in breeding terms; he told me of his birding patch and how he has been doing the breeding bird survey for over forty years. He said how concerned he was with the re-introduction of Red Kites into the area; for he had seen the Kites take Lapwing chicks where he was recording. This was an issue I had never thought of, it always poses the question should we introduce or re-introduce species to an area, especially if that species was never there in the first place. What effects would it have on the local fauna?
We talked for quite a while and then he said he was going to have a look for the Dipper. I saw him later and unfortunately he had had no success. It was a sheer delight to talk to this gentleman he was one of the birdwatchers of the old league. These guys learned their craft the hard way, no pagers, high tech equipment, just good old honest field craft, getting out there, looking and taking notes, listening, watching, learning and living.
For those who are eagerly waiting for the new poetry book it is at the printers as we speak, the first draft should be with me very shortly.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Now some birds have the wow factor, like a peregrine dive bombing pigeons, or a kingfisher zooming downriver flashing his bright blue overcoat. Then you get birds that are, well, just plain ordinary like say the coot, or the drab Dunnock (who has an interesting sex life! I’ll tell you all about it one day over a pint down in the Junction!)
Then you get a bird with the cute factor that can make and did make a Harden birder go weak at the knees and legs go all a wobbly! And saw with a very very girly awwwwwww! The bird was a northern long tailed tit, the Scandinavian version of our long tailed tit. See below and go awwww
This bird was down at Luddenden Dean near Halifax, don’t you just want to put it your pocket and take it home had just sit and stroke it while eating chocolates and watching Poirot with a beer! That may be a little extreme but imagine it. Then three hardened birders all weather beaten by years of birding and beer stood under a tree and this things just pops out from behind a holly bush and like magic all three birders in perfect harmony all sing like angels with a god awful cat cringing awww! Who then dashed to the Cat in ‘th Well pub for a splendid pint. The cat in the well apparently is nothing to do with a cat, cat was the name of the landlady of the pub who shall we say put it about a bit and ended up well, in the well! After that I nipped over to the reserve and what were the first birds I saw, long tailed tits! But alas none with white heads!
It’s been a right old busy month on the reserve this month down on the reserve, with over fifty species seen so far this month, the highlights being a Peregrine and Common buzzard paying a quick visit. I’ve spent most evenings looking to the heavens this month at dusk counting gulls and getting a stiff neck! With over a thousand BHG’s or Black headed gulls seen most nights it’s been very exciting, especially if you’re into BHG’s, the most interesting bird however has been Pied wagtails who have just before it gets too dark to see anything, identifiable come powering over the reserve, I think they must be roosting in Emmerdale, I mean Esholt. There has been up 90 birds seen coming over us. I would love to know where they are roosting. One evening I will have to go and try and find the roost.
The hedgelaying on the reserve will shortly come to an end for this winter, with only a couple of weeks to go then it’s spring. There is a bit left to do but that will be done next year, the present hedges will be redone in about 3 years’ time. I have finally levelled the Dino prints and they are looking splendid. I am really looking forward to seeing what will be coming up in the coming months.
2012 is going to be a busy year for wildlife, the Spider club which has just celebrated its 1st birthday – will be undertaking surveys from newts to birds. Just thinking aloud here, the spiders celebrated their 1st birthday this month, isn’t that a splendid number 1 it’s such a momentous number because it’s the start of all the other numbers and it means you have loads more to come 5, 10, 20 a hundred years wow that’s thinking big, calm down son I hear you say. I have and I will.
It’s just snowed this afternoon, a little disappointing on the amount that fell, but at least we got some. Will there be more I dare say there probably will.
I have just finished my latest book of poetry which I will be releasing for the celebration day in June
Here’s a poem from it which I hope will wet your appetite.
See you next month
Nibbling at the spring grass, whose shoots
Spring stretching towards the sky
Sheaths of sunlight, bath its back
Shadows cast themselves over the field.
Trees stand silhouetted, skeletal at the back
Of the field, the Roe, with ears flicking
In Morse-code or animal makiton
scatters the marauding gnats.
The river covered in wrinkles
Caresses the river bank.
Gently lapping and licking the hanging balsam
That quivers above the gentle flowing water.
Spittle’s of diamonds sparkle
Through the rays of sunshine
That catches shadows on the bare branches
whose cathedral opens at dawn.
And Elm buds shrivelled like fingers
Arrange themselves, ready to burst
Then through a screech and laughter
A hooligan gang of magpies beat their way
Through the wood, as flowers burst
Into the chewing mouth of the Roe.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
It’s strange really, for a person who isn’t a lover of dogs, I seem to have lot a of dog mates some of which are just really sound guys ‘n’ girls and some of which I miss terribly when they have gone. One in particular Josh, Blanches dog, he used to know when I was on site and he would run down to the reserve, no matter where I was or what I was doing he’d find me. Over the years I have known lots of dogs on the reserve some great some not so great. Then came another dog that was just like Josh. Martin and Tracy who own the kennels next to the reserve had an Alsatian called Ben, like Josh he would like to come and see what I was up to. He was a boisterous dog, all legs and very mischievous, Martin would nearly pull his hair out at Ben’s antics! Sadly Ben has left us. Like Josh I miss him terribly. They say you should never get close to animals, thankfully that cannot be done.
Like Josh I feel very privileged to have known both dogs.
It’s been an interesting month concerning birds with nearly 50 species seen so far this month. The kingfisher has shown well throughout the month, unfortunately the water rail has yet to show. Hopefully before spring it will re-appear. However, the main excitement for the month so far is the evening pass over of Pied wagtails, with the high total so far of 65 birds; they appear to be flying over the reserve and probably roosting somewhere like Esholt. Pied wagtails can roost in large numbers usually in single trees. This can involve several hundred birds. So over the past fortnight I have been counting these birds mostly appearing as small dots with a tail just before dusk! And while doing this I am also counting the roost of Jackdaws and gulls, highest count so far for jackdaw 510 and 1721 for Black headed gulls! This will continue until end of February. At the moment it is important to look through the gulls for a species of white wing gull called an Iceland Gull. This is a regular species that comes from Greenland! At the moment on the Hebrides there has been over 60 plus seen. This bird is a regular winter visitor to the UK but not normally in such large numbers. There have also been arctic Fulmars seen on the east coast. When watching these roosts it is also interesting to see what other birds come through this time last year we had Waxwings flying over the reserve. It has been nice to see a flock of long tailed tits coming into roost to the same bush each night and a single blue tit that roosts in a lamp post.
It’s also been a busy month working on the reserve, the hedgelaying has been doing well, we have hedged around the woodland area by the large pool, there have been a lot of very positive comments about the hedges, and some people have asked what is the purpose of the hedges. This is really nice. When told people have been amazed how something that looks like the trees have been felled will actually grow in spring. I am particularly excited with a couple areas when they grow they will be excellent for nesting birds.
I wonder what new things we will find on the reserve in 2012. There will be plenty of surveying this year particularly by the Spider club who are 1 this month. We still have a full complement of spiders, the group is amazing. We had our first birthday party the other day. We celebrated by making fat balls! They then built their own bird feeding station; they will be putting out food throughout the year. Though we have had a problem over the last few months, the spiders planted a willow tunnel, person or persons unknown have found it in their wisdom to keep pull half the trees out on a regular basis. Why they have been doing this God knows. But while they pull them out we will replant them. This is a minor problem and will go away. I am looking forward to working with the spiders in 2012. Thanks to Emma, Chris, Andrew and Andrew and also the parents and grandparents of the spiders without them this would not have worked. We have also been joined by Ben who is working on doing his silver for the Duke of Edinburgh award, his first volunteering was with the spider club and he did really well. Ben will be with us for about six months.
Hopefully I will have some poetry for the ramblings for next time. I am working on having a booklet of poetry published for the celebration day.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden