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RAMBLINGS 2013

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December 2013

Spurn

Christmas is over, I’m full and bloated and not thinking of starting a slimming regime for 2014. And for the moment the winds have died down. The reserve did have quite a bit of wind damage. Nature did its own tree felling and glade making, this showing how it is important to do habitat management on the reserve. One thing that has come out of the storms, it has shown how many dead trees we have on site. This is natural, with the volume of trees planted on the reserve there would be losses. Here we can then create new habitats, as well as re-planting trees. It is a win win situation.

Talking about extreme winds I visited Spurn point the other day and Spurn has been flattened, see picture above. I had gone there to search for an Ivory gull, this bird is normally found in the arctic and is often shown feeding on dead whales with Polar Bears wandering about it. Unfortunately there were no dead whales or Polar Bears, though a chap was putting out dead fish for it to feed on. The bird was at Patrington Haven, just south of Spurn. It was nice to see Spurn from a different angle. The bird I must say was a sheer delight and is nicely t(i)ucked away on my Yorkshire list, a bird I thought I would never see in Yorkshire. The last Ivory gull I saw was in Suffolk, in 1999 with my mother, whom I persuaded to come with me (she had a car I didn’t!). I only need to see a Franklins gull and I will be a happy bunny. The other rare gulls I have seen in Yorkshire are Bonaparte’s gull and Ross’s gull, both cracking birds.

I think I may be getting back into the birding habit, with two new birds for Yorkshire in one month, a Serin and Ivory gull. Well worth a celebration pint or two, or more.

There, got that out of my system. It has been a cracking year on the reserve, and the aches I have for being fifty have got no sympathy, which is great, long may they continue. I would like to say a big thank you to the friends group for the support, to Denso Marston, particularly Bev, for the support she has given me, and the volunteers, who have worked through all the mud, blood and sunshine throughout the year.

I would also like to thank Emma and Nancy for getting all the funding through 2013 and let’s hope for even more next year. And finally to the Spider Club for keeping the club going, it has been ace.

2014 is just moments away, what am I going to do next year, one thing I won’t do (don’t laugh!) I won’t be working seven days a week. I want to concentrate on my writing and drawing and I also want to do some dashing about for rare budgies (hopefully!) We shall see.

And also putting on the Lycra and get to Haworth to see the Tour de France, talking for France

I will never forget.

Memorial

Steve Warrillow
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden

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November 2013

cake

Again another visit to Oxford. This time it was for the 30th Anniversary of the British Dragonfly Society. Initially Emma was going down with me so we had booked two nights at the YHA. (Un) fortunately Emma had popped in to the Yorkshire Clinic the week previously for her hip op. Which went very well and she is doing rather splendid she has gone from walking with a Zimmer frame to now walking around the estate using her sticks. She does some rather groovy exercises, when you see her ask her to do a wiggle! I’m very proud of how she is coping and by Christmas she will be up out and about. At the moment she loves day time television tee hee!

Talking of Christmas, for as long as I can remember, I have doing a rather silly Xmas test to my myself. I have tried to get to Christmas day without hearing Slade. I did once get to Christmas day without hearing it! The last couple of years I have been surprising as most places were playing mainly the old 50’s Christmas songs. Which are quite pleasant when heard a week or two before the day? Listening to them for a month or two can be quite tiresome. Anyway back to this year I didn’t even get into December I got, got on the 28th November in one of the many cheap shops in Bradford. Gutted is not the word. What people thought when I walked into the shop and saw a bearded bloke with his shopping, stopping dead and saying loudly ‘oh bugger’ or something like that and turning on his heel and walking out muttering to himself one can only guess! Well at least the pressure is off for this year. I was thinking of making it the last time. Who knows for next year?

It has been a very busy month down on the reserve. A lot of the time was spent at dawn looking to the skies counting wood pigeons, this is a pastime we all do, I am sure you do it all the time. However there is a serious side to it all these pigeons were all migrants from Europe. I’m still tallying up the numbers but we were over 14 thousand birds. A lot of pigeons, a lot of pies.

November as been brilliant for clouds and sunsets and it has set me off scribbling again. I have just joined the Saltaire writers group. It is different to my Poetry group as they give you tasks to do and that has got the old grey matter working again. The atmospheric conditions have been making me scribble. I have had a dry patch for awhile. I now am having a go at short story writing. Which I have avoided for a long time but its great fun. I am at moment working on a new Jazzman story.

Last weekend I did a spot of twitching, my first for quite a long time, I dashed off to Flamborough to see if I could catch up with a Serin a rare visitor to Yorkshire and a life bird for me. I got it within 8 minutes of arriving on site. It was in amongst chaffinches, brambling and reed buntings. I had a wander down to the lighthouse and my, there was a very strong northerly wind blowing. Luckily I was wrapped up well having just come from the reserve where I had vismiged that morning. Whilst walking on the coastal path I wrote the following poem.

23rd November 2013: Serin

A fistful of clenched kestrel fell out of the sky. Gravity pulled it
Before it disappeared down into the gulley, open mouthed and starving
Beneath, the sea, rolled back and forth, grinding pebbles to sand.

I had just parked the car, mud, still wet from standing in the cold field
Full of dead, rotting, harvest crop that had failed to make the grade
Goldfinches, their golden bling wings, flashed before our glasses,
As we searched through looking for the more prized quarry.

On the headland, the stiff northerly wind, began to play havoc
With my knuckles, cold sent the blood retreating towards my heart.
I raised my glasses, and hoped.

Below a kittiwake lumbered against the wind, with bored teenage wings
It flapped despondently, heading north
Two female eiders, brown, bobbing in a sea sick sea, they rolled
In the flow, wrapped in eider down, they were very contented.
Razorbills, bullet angry, fired as rockets, north and south
Dodging the buoys, that bounced upon the waves, neither collided
I stood, back solid to the lighthouse wall, escaping the north wind
Whose fingers searched me out.

I had forgotten my gloves, my fingers turning death grey,
Then blue, I no longer felt my knuckles, my glasses began to shake
The sea below smiled then sang for me to join it

But I was more than happy, I’d caught my quarry
A bird, lost from the continent, now captured by my pen
Ticked, signed and sealed forever, my captive, upon my snail paced growing list

A red throated diver whistled south at an alarming rate
Gulls below, ducked their heads, as on the horizon
Clouds sharpened their knives, then headed towards land
All the way, staring me dead in the eye.

A great black backed gull, a lion of the waves, cut
Through white surf, looking to fill its belly
The sea only agitated not yet mad. And the gull
Scraped its belly upon the snapping waves.

The wind, pressed at my back, cold, unsteady upon my feet
I leant into its jaws, then walked with a jolt along the headland
The cliff, straight down and as sharp as a blade, tried its best to tempt me
The wind cut with scythes across the waves sending splatters of white foam, burst into the air.
I struggled, zipped my coat, and tucked my beard into my face
As I came, face to face, a cormorant, its mankey grin and blackened deadened eye
Stared disgust at me as it passed me by, we were never to be friends.

My feet now pressed hard upon the grasses, flattened by my weight and the winds
I thought I heard them yell, as I walked on, heading back to the stillness of the car
I looked down and a head of me following, new mountains of fresh dug mole hills
Dodging in all directions, careful though, not to fall over the edge.

I wonder what December will bring, probably more Slade and if we believe the papers a month’s worth of snow, wait a minute, aren’t we in winter, isn’t that meant to happen?

Finally some really great news, Ben our volunteer at the Spider club recently did a charity run and raised £230 which he presented to the spider club. Well done that man. The money will go towards new equipment for the group.

Steve Warrillow
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden

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October 2013

Artefacts Horseshoe

It seems an age since I was away at the Somme. The small number of artefacts has lain in a box waiting to be given some dignity. This weekend it happened. I finally set the pieces in foam and put them into my Great Granddad’s First World War First Aid box. They now have meaning. There is just one more job to do and that is to fit some green cloth. Cutting out the foam and placing each piece in was a strange feeling, each item had a story and now they are coming up to their 100th year I also felt their fragility, one of the spent shells snapped when I placed it into the foam. Luckily it didn’t disintegrate. The only thing I couldn’t fit in was the horse shoe, I may try and find a way of putting that into the lid of the box, but not really sure how to do that.

Autumn is now upon us, girl flu fast catching up with me and the weather is wet and warm, misty and warm or a right northerly wind blasting through to the nether regions. I love autumn; the Redwings are back with good numbers counted so far this October. The berries on the trees are stunning and taste great!

It’s also now that the writing bug returns. I seem to write in autumn and winter, it must be the ‘shorter days and darker nights’ thing. I’ve written a few bits and bobs; a couple may be at the end of this. And I’ve also started drawing. I got this thing about cats and the moon on a night time setting!

One bit of great news, Emma is about to turn bionic. She has the date for the old hip replacement. I’m glad it has come through, because I was thinking of having it as one of the work party jobs!. We have enough hammers, chisels and selotape to have got her sorted. It’s going to be a great relief for her. I don’t know the cat is going to cope, as Treacle likes to perch herself on Emma’s knee. It may be a while before she can do that. It looks like the Marshall Clan will be appearing to help out (there are millions of them!) which will be good because they will keep Emma on the straight and narrow. Me, I’m just going to hide!

I and the friends and spiders all wish Emma a speedy recovery, big hugs all round.

Treacle

Treacle ready for the Marshall invasion

Right; less of the sloppy stuff. Back to business! Autumn is back, so it is time for hedging, coppicing. I can’t wait. I spent the other day sharpening my bits and got to thinking, old tools, what we do with them; there is a garden centre near us which has all old tools hung on the walls. One in particular item really upset me. On the wall, with screws drilled through the blade, is an absolutely stonking bill hook, pinned up like an old trout, hung there, never to used again. It had become a museum piece, a decoration, when it should be out in the fields cutting hedges, bringing new life and new growth the following year. I nearly wept. I did tell them it shouldn’t be there. What other bits of working kit have they got, in fact how many of the old tools are out there gathering dust, turning into rust buckets and more importantly why aren’t they being found, used, getting people trained in hedging, coppicing, scything?

Scything Strimming

Talking of scything, this year’s wildflower cutting has been done by both scythe and strimmer. I wanted to try the scythe. We have had it for quite some time, I had looked at it, to be honest, I was a little scared of it. However this autumn I took it out, gave it a sharpen and tried it, after a few mis-starts it got the hang of it, but what a joy it was to use. I tried an experiment on the area around Julie’s bench. The strimmer did well, but did have lots of entanglements with the nettles, where the scythe cut through and did leave a more acceptable cut. Next year the nettles will be cut twice. I did remember to keep my feet apart! It also will keep me fit, more importantly the scythe is cheaper, no petrol to buy. And it’s amazing what you can hear around you when scything.

And while we are on about fitness, I’m now cycling to the reserve – the car decided to fail its MOT, so I let it go to the great car heaven via the scrappers at Keighley. Its great getting back on the bike, I used to bike everywhere. It feels so good to overtake all the parked traffic going into Bradford and it’s also great to see my feet again. Though there are no plans for lycra! 50 year olds in Lycra should be banned. Well until their bellies go, at least. Hopefully by the end of winter my feet will get bigger!

Time for poetry, here are two I penned recently:

Fire

Lain on a layer grey with ash
wood burnt lay
Jiggered
Flames tidy themselves wrapping
Around towers
Of yesterdays papers and cat food boxes
Yellow, red spitting atoms
Of ash
Up an ever hungry chimney

Before the visit

The river unfolded, revealing the mouth of a trout
That gasped for midges, as the sun began to sneak behind the hedge
River rings spread in rapid succession, stretching as wide as the river
And a football sat, at the side of the river beneath the tree whose branch
That bobbed above it. Somebody kicked it, somebody lost it
Now it sat, alone, UN –kicked no more goals to score.

Gnats, that should be dead by now, pumped their tails upon the Indian summer
Blackbirds, ponder should they have more kids
And the trout nibbles at fresh air, sometimes chewing on a lumpy gnat
Nobody saw the kingfisher fly by, we heard it, but missed it
And the gnats continued to rise and fall, rise and fall.

As the sun begins to set rays of light slither down the sides
Of the green weed, that folds and unfolds in the rivers current
Turning like rope, hiding the pike, whose eyes stare at you
Not that you would notice of course.

And the five gallon drum, that has laid there a week or more
Beached with its toxic contents, that nobody can capture
How long will it be before it drowns the river?
Over it, at the same time as last night, a shadow of heavy wings
Drudge by, with a back of the throat cough
Its legs drag below it, not rising to its undercarriage
And I do hope the kids will see the deer tonight.

Steve Warrillow
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden

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September 2013

Puppet Festival Puppet Puppet

Skipton Puppet Festival

What a lovely way to finish September, a quick nip down to the Skipton Puppet Festival; I only got to know about it a couple of weeks earlier. I decided to nip over on the last afternoon, most of the acts had done, but the few that were left were outstanding. I have had a love for puppets and cartoons from a very early age. I think we were privileged to have been growing up with the likes of the Clangers, Magic Roundabout, Rhubarb and Custard, the Moomins , the Flowerpot Men and all the other wonderful programmes that entertained us. They, I believe, helped us to keep our imagination; they helped us to keep being children. Who doesn’t feel goose bumps with the themes to Camblewick Green or Thunderbirds. Unfortunately I think those ages have past and we have lost our will to be imaginative, too much technology. Why am I being grumpy? This computer is slow to start, won’t attach files pictures to emails and its always configurating; configurating what!! Is there someone sat out there, in ether land, thinking “Well all seems to be going well on his computer, he’s got most of the ramblings done, and let’s ruin his day lets configurate!” AAAArghh!

Thankfully before this configuration, we got to go and visit Talmine, the most wonderful places on this planet. Due to one thing and another, I could only go for half the week, Emma zoomed up on British rail a few days earlier. So I had to drive. Wednesday morning 6.30 I set off, 11 hours later, a pint was waiting for me at Talmine. It was a wonderful drive, I took it steady, stopped now and again and even the car took me to the Dalwhinny distillery which surprised me. And what a very nice place it was.

It was such a wonderful feeling to get there, the main feeling was that I can drive it from home. So, if at any moment, I could just jump in the car and drive there. And it’s dead easy to drive, no complicated routes and no configurations to put up with.

Distillery

Dalwhinny Distillery, to which the car kindly took me

Talmine Bench Talmine

Talmine

The next morning I went and sat on ‘my’ bench looking out over the Atlantic, everything just melted away and I wrote 10 poems within half an hour. It has been hard to write this last year, so the surge was amazing. I sat, then had to leave, rapidly, the sun rose, as did the moist conditions, perfect, for the Scottish midge, they are only small but has fangs six feet long! And it’s only the females that bite. Typical! So there I was 10 poems down and a trillion advancing midges, my pen was dry, my beard started moving side to side and a thousand piercing spears plunged into my skin. What should I do, jump into the Atlantic? No, it looked cold and no cos., only one midge had a feed, but it was enough. Off I toddled down the track to the bay which was peaceful and midge free! No dolphins this time, but a dead juvenile Minke Whale which was only small, about 10 to 15ft long. Unfortunately its head had been badly damaged by a boat apparently, which was a shame. Got some nice pics. though.

There was a momentary pause in typing, the computer froze. Why, oh why does it do that? Anyway got nice pics of the whale, then wandered up back to cottage. Almost forgot to mention, just before the midge attack, I had a good view of a fly over Golden Eagle. Had it down to about 30ft. Fantastic.

We went to various spots; I took some good cloud pics, as they were so intersting. Aren’t holidays great? You don’t need to go abroad. It has been interesting, since I went to visit the Somme and had that rest a short while ago, I have been taking more notice of the memorials that we have here. There were a lot up where we were, one mentioned Ypres. I have wondered about our memorials, the names on them, are they the men whose bodies managed to be retrieved back to the UK or are they or some of them still out in France or Belgium.

Even though we were at Talmine such a short time (or I was) it did seem longer. I am looking forward to going back there very, very soon.

Whilst we were up there I was hoping that there may have been some rare birds, blown in by the rough weather. Just before I got there was either brill. (if you’re a birder) or naff (if you are a human being), apparently there were waves crashing about all over the place (ace – bring it on!) but alas no rarities. A rarity did arrive there as we got home! Typical!

I am looking forward to October and wonder how many Redwings we will get through this year.

Clouds Clouds Clouds

On returning we heard the news that Andrew’s mum had sadly passed away. I met her down on the reserve, she was a wonderful lady and I would like to pass my sincere sympathy to Andrew and family and also to remind him we are here for him always.

Steve Warrillow
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden

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August 2013

Bell Inn

At least somebody was celebrating Yorkshire Day

August 2nd, an earlier ramblings than usual, the day after Yorkshire Day. What a funny old day it was. There were only two flags out during my shorter than normal tour around Yorkshire (only 112 miles this year) one flag on my car the other on The Bell Inn. Most people I talked to were either totally indifferent or didn’t know or care. This is a shame, Yorkshire Day is a positive day, a day to feel good about being a Yorkshire man or woman. Yorkshire is a wonderful place to live, some of it isn’t too good, I’m not mentioning where, but you will have your own opinions of where they are.

I started at the reserve, I put on the moth trap for Yorkshire Day and promptly caught two new moths for site an Antler and a Dark bordered twin spotted carpet; the latter was a new moth for me.

Antler

Antler, a new moth for the reserve, caught on Yorkshire day.

Maybe I have got it all wrong, we Yorkshire folk don’t do fuss, if we do celebrate it would be done in a small way, like at the Countryside museum at Hawes where they had a small selection of cakes to try. And anyway we celebrate Yorkshire day 365 days a year and even if you aren’t from Yorkshire you can still appreciate what a great bunch we are.

Bull River

It was good to go off and explore Yorkshire’s green and pleasant land. The scenery is next to none and there was a reminder of what’s to come.

Buckden

One thing I came across, which I haven’t seen for a long time, was a fence with small corpses tied to it. On closer inspection they were moles. The mole catcher had been out; the last one I saw like this had crows hung from it. Our moles on the reserve are safe.

Field Cows in Road Cow

Traffic flow problem at Hawes(left), Here’s looking at you kid! (right)

Nearly there (left), Sorry love you gotta get out and walk (right)

Semerwater

I have a small painting at home of Semerwater, so while I was out exploring little nooks and crannies of Yorkshire, I decided to visit Semerwater and what a busy place it is; there were loads of kids in canoes and lots of noise! I had a drive past and found a dead stoat which was in good condition, it is now at the reserve minus head, something nicked it!

On the way back I found a cracking pub on the side of the road from Semerwater (see below) it looks ragged from the outside, inside it was a dream; open fire and lots of stuffed beasties hanging from the wall. A group of Australians came in and asked about the history of the place, the landlord told them the life history of the pub, it was family run business; it looked like it had a lively past. Looking forward to going back.

Helicopter

On the way to Hawes there was some serious management work being done on the moorland using helicopters, it was bringing in gravel for the paths. That is what I call heavy duty management, wonder if we could do that on the reserve! Heavy horses for pulling the felled trees, that would be great!

Steve Warrillow
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden

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July 2013

bird

It has been warm, very warm; summer has arrived at last and what a month it has been. The tour de France has just finished, it has been as brilliant as ever. Who’ll win next year, will it be another Brit, we will see, let’s hope a Yorkshire lad does it! I’ve got my spot chosen, Haworth up on the tops, I’ll be sat with drink sarnies and bins, just in case if the odd Short Eared Owl floats by. I’m counting off the days.

Talking of France, some of you may have known, I nipped over the water to visit France and Belgium. What a humbling experience it was. It did make me look at everything, it is almost a cliché to say such things, but once you are stood there and you see the waste, it brings it all home to you and what makes it even more astounding is that these guys wanted to go. Would they have gone if they had known, we will never know.

This was the first trip I had done with a coach tour; it’s an interesting experience. Almost immediately, when everyone was sat, bums on seats, the little groups started forming. After chatting with some of the group it was amazing to hear how many countries some of these people had visited with Shearings. Some of the group were quite cliquey and one thing from the outset was you can do anything with them but you do not mess with the meal times! Later in the holiday some members of the group had met up with the Bruges holiday lot and apparently they had been having 4 course meals instead of our 3 and it included Belgium chocolate. This is how wars start!

Dover

My first view of the white cliffs of Dover!

We had an itinerary for the tour which included a tour guide, who was excellent. Once he joined us the itinerary was practically thrown out of the window. He asked the group if anyone had anyone they needed to find, several members of the group did. We visited all the sites and found them all, this did mean missing out on a couple of things but it made this trip real instead of a bunch of people going round and looking at things of interest.

The first memorial site we visited was Essex farm. To see up close the rows of grave stones is hard to describe without saying the usual things, pity, pain and anger, an anger towards the ones in charge who sent them there. Later we went to the In Flanders museum, there I bought a poetry book of a Scottish soldier who wrote and died in the conflict. It was the introduction to the book which grabbed me, it said when reading or watching the old movie reels and visiting the graves do not look at it with modern eyes, look at it with their eyes. They wanted to go. After reading that I looked at the sites from their viewpoint and I understood why they went and how they were misled.

Essex Farm

Essex farm

In Essex farm there is a memorial to the Yorkshire regiments, there is the grave of the youngest to die, he was 14 years old, many lied about their age, the oldest to die was 64 years. There were rows and groups of gravestones that were flush up together, these represented men who died together as friends. One site we saw later had a huge double row of stones together, I wondered whether these men all fell together in the same line. Most of the casualties of the Great War were killed by shell fire and not gunfire. At Passendale the British fired over 6 million shells, there are still over 250kg of bullets found per week found throughout all the battle sites. And we were the first to use gas, the British used 5 different kinds of gas, this was before the Germans invented mustard gas. In the In Flanders museum was what I thought was the most unsettling things I saw throughout the tour, a German gas mask.

gas mask museum

The German gas mask (left) In Flanders museum (right)

One thing that surprised me was, once reading that text about the Scottish poet, everything fitted into place. I found myself looking at the graves between taking photos (I took 1393 pictures by the end of the tour); to some I may have looked like a snap happy tourist. It’s not till now, when I am back home, can I really appreciate the things I saw. When you see it for the first time, the enormity of it all just doesn’t sink in, it’s not about seeing lots of graves, it’s about seeing the huge loss of life and to see how small the areas were where these men died.

One of the most amazing sites I saw was the Canadian memorial at Vimy ridge; words cannot describe it, it is huge! From the memorial you can look down across the battle site and try to imagine what went on and how most of the sites were flat, the soldiers had no chance. The area around the Canadian Memorial is fenced off with electric fences because it is too dangerous to enter. There are still live shells in there.

memorial memorial memorial memorial memorial

Canadian Memorial Vimy Ridge

Whilst I was on holiday, did I think of the reserve, silly question really? One bird which I did want to see/hear on the tour which has only ever been recorded over the reserve once was the Skylark. It is said that once the shells stopped firing Skylarks were heard. I heard and saw Skylarks on two sites the main one was The Somme. Now back, on the reserve things were hotting up for my return because when I got back, moth trapping started in earnest and several new species were caught plus all the usual chaps including Poplar hawkmoth.

poplar hawkmoth buff archers green archers

Poplar Hawkmoth (left), Buff Archers (centre), Green archers (new for site) (right)

There was also a nice surprise when preparing a pond dipping session for a group, when I put in the large container to fill with water I pulled out a pike! It was about 4 inches long. When I saw it I thought of Ted Hughes.

pike

With the weather becoming as hot has it has become, we did have fatalities on the reserve, unfortunately we found two dead Common Shrew. I think this may be because shrews have to eat their own body weight and with the ground being hard they haven’t been able to catch worms.

shrew

A demised Common Shrew

The biggest surprise on returning though was finding a Grasshopper warbler singing; unfortunately we only heard it and didn’t see it. Interestingly a few days ago a Gropper was seen up on Baildon Moor.

When I saw the Skylark at the Somme, it got me thinking, throughout the entire tour, there was very little bird life. The intensive farming, especially in France was staggering; we did pass a large banner in a farmer’s field that basically translated “yes to farming no to conservation”. It was quite worrying to have so little birdlife around, granted we were on a coach most of the time, but throughout the whole tour I only saw two raptors a Kestrel sp and a Buzzard sp.

The one place that I wanted to visit was the Somme; my great granddad was there, he was one of the few that did return. He had quite a lively time out there; he was one of the horse drawn artillery that pulled the guns to the front line. At one point he did get lost and he and his comrades found themselves at an abandoned chateaux where they stayed for a while, apparently there was food wine, so the war wasn’t that bad for them I suppose. They did finally get re united with their regiment. That was one thing that did come up during the tour, how it had been difficult for relatives to find their loved ones. It was that each division didn’t fight in just one area, there were lots of different battles going on. Within the battles that were already happening the troops were switching trench to trench and I imagine, with all that was going on, soldiers would regularly get lost or would split from their regiments.

When we did get to the Somme, it was hard to imagine what it was like, looking at the rolling fields, and trying to get an image of thousands of men walking through mud, barbed wire, shells and bullets so they could get a ‘strategic dot’ on a map drawn up by generals sat in comfort miles away from the slaughter. A good few years ago I came across a First World War song which made total sense. Whilst I was at the Somme I hummed the tuned silently in my head. Though we saw what was the carnage I did think there must have been so much humour there, humour is one of the best ways to get through a difficult situation and I think we could all agree it was a somewhat difficult situation. This is the song.

Hanging on the old barbed wire

If you want to find the general

I know where he is

I know where he is

I know where he is

If you want to find the general

I know where he is

He's pinning another medal on his chest

I saw him, I saw him

Pinning another medal on his chest

Pinning another medal on his chest

If you want to find the colonel

I know where he is

I know where he is

I know where he is

If you want to find the colonel

I know where he is

He's sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody gut

I saw him, I saw him

Sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody gut

If you want to find the sergeant

 I know where he is

I know where he is

I know where he is

If you want to find the sergeant

I know where he is

He's drinking all the company rum

 I saw him, I saw him

Drinking all the company rum

Drinking all the company rum

If you want to find the private

I know where he is

I know where he is

I know where he is

If you want to find the private

 I know where he is

He's hanging on the old barbed wire

I saw him, I saw him

Hanging on the old barbed wire

Hanging on the old barbed wire

There were so many sites we drove past which I wanted to stop and explore, one site in particular was a site over a small hill where there were ten men buried. They were killed where they stood. They got orders to go over the top to attack a German position. The captain of the group told the general, who gave the order, that they couldn’t move because there was German machine guns aimed at them, the orders came back saying that that wasn’t true as their intelligence said the Germans had been killed and so had to proceed with the attack. All the men were buried in a circle as they had fallen. Each memorial has a cross called the Cross of Sacrifice.

The German graves are different; they are either black crosses or plaques laid on the floor as the Germans regard it as places of mourning. Mennen where we were staying has 50 thousand dead German soldiers buried there.

Looking over the Somme, I thought of my granddad and wondered what did they really think of what was happening to them and their situation. I wish I could have met him.

Somme memorial

The Somme Memorial

I did manage to get some bullets from the Somme, plus a horse shoe; they have a very strange smell to them. It is staggering to think they are still finding shells and bullets now and also soldiers. At the battle of Passendale in 1915 the French were still burying the dead in 1920. I wonder what the farmers think when they find remnants of that war.

Tyne Cot memorial where two South African soldiers recently found were to be buried

The only really nerve rattling moment on the tour was going through customs at Calais. I had a small bag of (spent!) bullets in my bag and the two coaches in front of us had been pulled over and searched. The heartbeat was to say rattling!

And I did get to see the White Cliffs of Dover! The one thing with this tour is that I want to go back the only two places I have wanted to go back to one we do every year is Scotland the other Texas. When I go back to Belgium and France I will learn the language. I didn’t do too badly, I think they took pity on me, especially in Belgium they spoke Flemish Belgium, I had no chance!

The tour around the First World Sites was more than a holiday, it made me think about everything and when I returned to the reserve I now look at it in a different way, I can’t explain it. I would like to thank the Friends group for their kind gift and family who gave me gifts towards this adventure.

And to Emma who gave me a somewhat special holiday present.

I’m now at the grand old age of fifty and it is true what they say, you do start forgetting things!

Cliffs

The white cliffs of Dover do exist!

Poppies seen through a spy hole from a Yorkshire Trench

Between the lines

I didn’t see it coming
I don’t know who fired at
I didn’t count the bullets
That cut me off at the knee
I should have taken more notice
But it was the skylark
Above my head
Singing pretty he was
Till the Hun cut me down dead

2nd July 2013

memorial

And most are known only to god

Steve Warrillow
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden

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June 2013

bench

Before I get to my usual waffling, I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who came to help, visit, our 21st Celebration Day event. It was a huge success. With over 150 turning out. At the end of the day everyone told me how busy they had been. Bev Sagar did a cracking job opening the Education Centre. Thank you Bev. The weather kept good for us and it was really good to have everything in the education centre compound. We were lucky to receive a donation of tables from Northcliffe Nurseries. This helped enormously by saving us having to borrow tables from Denso. Not as much carrying! I personally think it was one of our best yet. It certainly made up for the disappointment of cancelling last year’s event.

Ah, the inventiveness of the young. What truly little gems we can breed. The other weekend I received a phone call from one of my regulars he was wandering the reserve when he chanced upon some youngsters who had decided in their wisdom to build a boat, apparently carrying on the age old tradition of Shipley boat building. They however may be in need of some training, where are those apprenticeships when you need them? As I said they need some fairly extensive training see photo.

On hearing of this brave new venture, a few choice words came to mind. But me being the mild mannered person I am, I let those thoughts just drift down river. Grrr. The day after this mammoth event I popped onto the reserve and was amazed at what I say, what stars! Give those guys a medal, granted it would have sunk quicker than the Titanic but at least they had a go. And the weight of the thing was enormous, now the shrinking violet as I am struggled to move it on my own, after some huffing and puffing and words that would embarrass my mother I got it shifted to the side of the fire engine track, where it will stay in dry dock. Well until the next work party at least. One thing about the episode they didn’t damage anything they took everything from the log piles etc. it was a completely green re-cycled boat construction.

moth

How’s this for a moth, see above picture, it is there, look carefully, and see it? It is a Pale Prominent, I love the moth’s name, Pale Prominent. It is pale but not very prominent! The mothing is coming on nicely now, with just over ten new species recorded for the reserve this year, and the mothing season hasn’t started properly yet, so who knows what we will get.

I am now but days away from my little adventure to the Somme. Nerves are kicking in. I’ve never been abroad on my own before. I have bought everything that I don’t need and less of what I do need. It is a weird feeling I keep thinking of the boys (which the majority were) and the men who went out there nearly 100 years ago. How would they have felt, excited, I’m excited, scared, I’m scared, I will however, unlike so many of them, come back. I will be keeping a diary of the adventure as it happens; I am only there for 4 days not 4 years. I wonder what it will feel like to stand at the Somme and look over the fields and hear Skylarks. The place my great granddad may have passed on his horse, he was one of the guys who pulled the cannons to the front line.

I received a brochure for more tours of the First World War battle sites. There are lots of them, let us hope that they will continue after the 100th anniversary next year. One tour which was of interest was visits to the places where the ‘cowards’ were shot. Men who suffered from Post traumatic stress, hopefully next year the powers that be will do the honourable thing and pardon them. It would be about time.

Though I will be visiting these battlefields, I will be birding; I hope to get a few species such as Bee-eater, Crested Larks, Storks perhaps and a few butterflies. The one thing that does concern me about this trip I am stopping in 4 star hotels, I’ve never been that posh. I’ll have to take more than one change of clothing. I wonder how their beer will be.

chicks

The nest count has gone well with up to 60 chicks counted including those here, this brood of Great Tit were looking ready for the off. I think it may have been a good breeding season this year. We may have had another first for the reserve it looks like we may have had a pair of Reed Bunting nesting on site which is very, very pleasing.

I will now head off to pack, shoes, shirts, pants, socks, Bukowski, notepad, pens and other things that I will no doubt will forget.

Do I need a passport!

Steve Warrillow
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden

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May 2013

long tailed tits

Summer is here at last, well for a couple of days. 5 Long Tailed Tit juveniles, picture above, flew in at the end of the day, settled down on the reserve and all promptly fell asleep, it was 5,30 p.m.; it’s a hard life for some!

Just checked the pager, Aberdeenshire 14 Killer Whales! Ahhh! We were up in Scotland last week if only we had been there this weekend. Life is full of ‘if only’s’, apparently.

We got to see ‘Lady’ at Loch of the Lowes; she was sitting on 4 eggs which was amazing, as she is the oldest Osprey in the country. Apparently, just before she arrived back, a younger female took over the nest; I think the male didn’t mind a younger model and all that. Anyway there was hell on when Lady returned she gave the younger female short shrift and evicted her from the nest. That’s what I like, a feisty lady! It is amazing how she has gone on so long but she still perseveres; and long may she do so.

We stopped at Marlene and Danny’s in Blairgowrie. It wasn’t to be the usual dash round, getting everything in, but was a welcome break. It will get busy when I get back.

We visited the small town of Dunkeld; we have passed through it on many occasions but never stopped there. We decided to give it a visit, it’s a nice place. Its main attraction is the church and the surrounding forest that was planted a couple of hundred or so years ago, mainly with American trees. One, which I instantly fell in love with, was a Western Hemlock, it was so gorgeous I wanted to bring it home to meet my mother!

Douglas firs

The area around Dunkeld is made up of huge trees.

We visited an area called the Hermitage (see picture above) which is made up of mainly Douglas firs with one being UK’s tallest tree, standing at a pretty impressive 214ft tall. The area leading up to the Hermitage is stunning with all those huge trees. It was hard to try and imagine how they look in their native homeland. We walked through the forest and came to a folly.

Waterfall

This overlooked a very impressive waterfall. At the side of this building there were men building a shower. We looked twice then thrice again, a shower in the woods, complete with glass cubicle, shower rose and a pipe dug into the path to get rid of any excess water. There were several gentlemen building this thing. We just had to ask what was happening. There was to be a photo shoot the following morning concerning a naked Scotsman. Emma and Marlene smiled. Now If it had been a nubile young lady, that would be a different matter. However they told us we had to be there by 7.30 a.m. The next morning we rolled out of bed at 9.30 a.m.. Oh well. I and Emma went back a couple of days later and when we got to the folly there was a large cover hanging from the trees with amplifiers underneath. The naked Scotsman was gone and all signs of shower units! Meanwhile we walked up to a hermits cave.

cave

It was an interesting cave. As we approached it there was only Emma and me there. We both entered the cave, which was man made. We both took pictures of the inside and both our cameras froze. It took several attempts to get a picture, finally we were successful.

cave

We walked back down through the forest. When we got to the folly there were men in kilts running around and people with cameras. We just had to ask. A young girl with a camera, bigger than her, told us it was a wedding. Now I don’t do weddings, I like the naff food and the cheesy music. I do know someone who has been to so many weddings she has rice marks on here face. But this really grabbed me. Apparently the bride was to walk through the forest to the alter, where she and her intended were to get married. This sounded ace. She was due at 3 p.m. it was 2 p.m. so we sat on a bench and waited. Emma bless her, humoured me on this one, like she does on most things. All I wanted to see was the bride walk through the forest, nothing more, nothing less. We waited, then it started to rain not big drops, ordinary sized drops, not the Scottish type drops.

We waited with drips of rain on us, a car passed with the groom; I thought “Fair do’s, nice to see the bride has to walk”. Then the girl with the camera came rushing up, the bride was already there. I must have fallen asleep cos there was no way she could have passed us. She did, she passed in another car, I missed that, typical. I did feel a bit glum. We walked back to the car, in the car park there was a mobile café thingy. I went and to get a cup of tea, it was still raining, the drops heading to the more Scottish sized drops. I told the couple who I was getting the tea from about the wedding, they told me “Oh yes, it happens most weekends”, what a bummer. That killed it. But it was nice whilst it happened.

Earlier, when we were walking around the Dunkeld forest, I was looking at the trees; most of them were within the region of 60 to 130 feet high. Big trees! As we walked round I thought of the reserve and our trees, will they ever reach that high? Some will. We do have some which are probably in the region of 60ft high. We will have to thin out some areas to allow these trees to grow to their full potential. Doing this will allow glade areas to develop and wildflowers to thrive. And there is nothing better than putting your arm around a huge tree which is wider that you could ever dream of stretching. I love big trees. We need a Western Hemlock. Sigh.

Before we left Dunkeld, we went into the church, it was a largish place. Very nice inside it had a few artefacts in there. A little tour leaflet pointed out bits and bobs to look out for. One in particular was a stone knight; below it was the body of the Wolf of Badenoch. He was the notorious Alexander Stewart, Earl of Badenoch, son of King Robert II. This gentleman was a lively character to say the least; he upset the king, the church, which excommunicated him. This somewhat peeved him, so, to get revenge, he promptly went and burn down several local villages. Now what the villagers thought of this is not recorded. They don’t make folk like that anymore. What a star!

Though it was short holiday, it was a good one, it’s always a treat to go and visit Marlene and Danny. I have also had to write up some “tripadvisor” reports. Talking of tripadvisor.co.uk, which is an online website, if anyone would like to write a review for one, get a friend to come down and have a scribble. Trip advisor is really good fun and can be very useful. One of my volunteers has written reports on her travels abroad. I also found out Marlene has done loads. Check it out.

Have you ever gone somewhere and passed a sign post pointing to somewhere interesting? We have, every time we have passed a sign to St Serf’s Church and the Dupplin Cross, and said we must go there. We all do it, don’t we? This time, we paid them a visit and wow what a place. I’m not a religious person but I love old small churches, the less glamour they have the better.

We drove up to St Serf’s Church, parked up and in we went. We were greeted by a very nice gentleman called Gary who told us the history of the church and did it extremely well. He took us to the Dupplin Cross and it is jaw dropping, it is one of the best examples of a Pictish cross. We did all the usual tourist things. Emma filled in the visitor’s book. Whilst she was doing that, Gary told me about other bits to visit which were mainly Roman stuff. Me, I’m a little of the Monty python about the Romans, as in “What did they ever do for us?”. I’m more of a Boadicea man myself. Then he told me, just outside the village there was a witch’s memorial. Now that sounded interesting. When Emma returned, I told her about Romans and the witch. Her eyes lit up. So off we went and just a short drive out of the village, there it was.

cross cross

It had, like the Hermitage, a strange feeling to it. It felt sad. She was probably just a herbalist. There were a couple of horse shoes with ribbons on the stones. Thankfully it has not been used as a shrine. She deserved more respect. It was a very moving experience.

We continued on our journey. On the way down we popped into Gretna Green (Emma had not been there). No, we didn’t get wed! But we did leave quickly, another story for another day.

Summer has seemed to have arrived; we have got some butterflies recorded, in fact 7 species in one day, and a handful of Large Red damselflies, which was good.

I nipped over to Rodley nature reserve to see how they were getting on. Like us, they have had a poor start with the insects. But most birds are breeding; an Oystercatcher has raised a single chick, which looked to be doing well. Whilst there, I spoke to the warden concerning a Pike that I had found on the river last month which had been eaten. It does look like it was an Otter kill.

pike

With the mention of Pike, the other day we had Holybrooke Primary school down and one of the children caught a fish whilst pond dipping; it was a Pike! It is at the moment in the fish tank in the education centre.

Steve Warrillow
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden

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April 2013

Hasn’t the year flown, it’s now May and bird migration has now begun. I’ve done well, I’ve missed my first big mega bird for the year, a female Rock Thrush, which turned up at Spurn. The day it appeared I was at the dentist so took day off and after visiting there I went and cut mothers grass and did gardening duties in Gomersal. When I got home I checked my pager and Argh! Rock Thrush; not only did they have a Rock Thrush but also a Caspian Tern and Hoopoe, two out of the three were new species for me. Stay calm and weep that I did.

Now the pager is stuck to me like glue. Traditionally May can and does bring up some good birds, this year I am hoping to get some new birds. I did get off to see the Kumliens Gull at Barmston and also the Black Brant at Spurn. It is nice to have a twitch now and again. Hopefully this year I will have a lot of twitches.

Treacle or cat has been very busy this year. There is a large population of wood mice in the fields around us and being the kind and thoughtful cat she is, she likes to bring special presents home, most of the time its either a dead full or part mouse, but occasionally she brings one home that is still functioning. The other day she brought one in put it down and it sprang up at her, the surprised look she gave it was a picture.

Cat

Treacle traumatised after mouse attack

We will be off up to Scotland in a couple of weeks and it will be great to see Marlene and Danny. We will be stopping in Blairgowrie, just for a few days, there won’t be any dashing all over the place. We will be going to see Lady who has returned to the Loch of the Lowes. It will be interesting to see if she breeds this year. I was hoping to see an Osprey over the reserve this month, but alas none so far this year. I wonder if the trees have come out into bloom and leaf up there, as everything is late this year, or it appears that way.

Recently I found the delights of Amazon. I’m now skint! I bought an interesting book off there called “101 Uses for Stinging Nettles”. I have always wanted to do a walk on the reserve about nettles. They are an interesting plant and they have well over 101 uses, such as a hair restorer; it recommended that one should comb ones hair with nettle juice. This was made by steeping equal quantities of nettle leaves and chopped unions in alcohol for a few days. I suppose if you got bored of brushing it in your hair you could eat it!

Other uses for nettles tickled me somewhat, it can be used as a Bull stimulus apparently. English farmers wives used to beat the prize bull with nettles, I presume around the never regions, it says in the book this is not recommended for readers of a timid or nervous disposition.

Budgie improver, feed your budgie with wilted nettles to improve their condition – first you must pour boiling water over the leaves to neutralise the sting in the leaf. The budgie will then be all fit and healthy and when it escapes, it will a nice snack for any passing Sparrowhawk!

And finally pet food. You can feed dried nettle leaves to rabbits. Some will be fussy and not take it, but others will go to rabbit even and a pal for life.

May 1st is “be nice to nettles day”, so go out and look at nettles and kbe amazed at what insects use them – Peacock butterfly lay their eggs on them. Then to show how much you like nettles run your fingers through their leaves; get to know them be at one with them. Then cut off the leaves make nettle tea, strip them of leaves make string, boil up their leaves and make dye and then go out and find your favourite bull…..

To find out more about nettles go to www.nettles.org.uk

Roe Deer

Nothing to do with nettles but nice pic. of two male Roe deer the male in the foreground has got velvet on his antlers.

Steve Warrillow
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden

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March 2013

Grumpy

Not just me is grumpy

Just come down with girl flu (you get more sympathy with this).

It has been a busy one this month. Now that we have got the birthday stuff out the way, it’s now time to sort the rest of the year out. However, it was really nice to see that people do care and I thank everyone for their thoughts and other bits.

Can’t believe it snow everywhere, luckily Vera has got off to Australia hope she has a great time and also comes back with a bird list of hundreds : ). To finish off the month we went down to Oxford for a long weekend, just as it started to snow, down in Oxford there was very little snow so it raised a smile when Emma’s mobile kept beeping and flashing up images of home and God’s own county blanketed in deep snow.

It was so good to get back to Oxford I’m not a real city person but I love Oxford. I cannot put my finger on why I love the place but when I get there I feel totally relaxed and humbled by the place. It could be that I feel I shouldn’t be there. Oxford is for all the clever people and some oik from up north has the cheek to go down there and put his ore in. I just don’t know. The city to me seems to welcome me and I feel I belong there.

It was the first time Emma has done Oxford, how she must have felt on the first day there, she had driven from home to the ‘guest house’ then be dragged through oxford to the Natural History Museum. Which is the real reason why I love Oxford the Natural History Museum is heaven. Though when we got there was a sign up saying it was closed until 2014 due to roof work being done. They are taking down, cleaning and putting up the original glass roof tiles. When I say the closed sign I must admit my heart more than sank. I was gutted. Luckily I saw people coming out of the museum as the Pitts museum was open. I did somewhat hurry across with Emma in tow. The main section of the museum is closed but the ground floor outside exhibits are still open. I did apparently a sort of high pitched squeal and a little one man dance when I saw one of the dinosaurs. I do remember saying “that goodness, they are still there!” or words to that effect.

It all goes back to when I worked there for just 3 days as a volunteer for the British Dragonfly Society to move species of dragonflies and butterflies from old display cabinets to new ones bought by the British Dragonfly Society. I don’t know what it did but it did something to me. Probably fulfilled an ambition to prove to myself I am a naturalist and will always be one. We came up with some cracking ideas for exhibits for the classroom watch this space.

Dinosaur

A ready wrapped up dinosaur what more could a chap want more in life.

We also visited various spots including the Bodleian library which had an amazing exhibit of Persian poetry written in the 15th Century it was illustrated with hand drawn pictures using gold leaf.

Emma was in Morse head mode, which we did see some of the places where Morse was filmed (I’m a big fan of Morse too). We did sample a couple of beers – we being the royal we!

Sign

With it being the end of term time at Oxford meant very few students, we did encounter some very drunk students, it is interesting to watch students from the higher (richer) end of our society on how they acted. There was lots of rising of glasses and every time one spoke he stood up then sat and the next stood up. Very, very entertaining, I then bumped into an Oxford Don. By heck he didn’t half give me a snarl. This surprised me as when I went many years ago. I found the Dons to be very polite. Different generation I guess.

We then went back to our ‘guest house’ this place was situated about ten minutes walking time out of Oxford. Perfectly situated. There is also an excellent bus service in Oxford. The place where we stayed was a gem. As some of you may know I am a fan of Charles Bukowski the American poet who wrote about his life as a drunk and all round hell raiser. He would have loved our hotel. Luckily we didn’t see the reviews about it. If you want to read my review of the place look on the Trip advisor website for the Nanford Guest house Oxford and read some of the other reviews it is brilliant. I have come away with so much writing material. Let’s just say it has a reputation. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Wether we ever go back is another thing.

As we only had just a full day in Oxford we had to try and see as much as we could. We did get quite a few places seen. We returned to the Natural History Museum to visit the Pitts Museum. We did talk to one of the students there and she came from Heckmondwike a mile and half from Gomersal from where I grew up. That really made my day lass from Hecky working in the Natural History Museum in Oxford.

The Pitts Museum was one place I really wanted to show Emma as she being a bit of a hippy and likes all the cultural sides of things, I thought she would love it. I wasn’t disappointed we spend 3 hours in there. She was well impressed with the Totem Pole which they had to cut off the beak of the eagle which is at the bottom of the pole because it wouldn’t fit on the train it was being transported in. There is so much to look at it is unreal. The thing that really struck me was all the things ‘collected’ from all around the world all these cultures that were studied and were now in a museum. It reminded me of how we are in this country. How we have allowed ourselves to lose our identity and culture. I felt so much and quite jealous that all these cultures did and some still do have their own culture. It all came quite apparent when we looked at exhibition that was new to the museum concerning the Blackfoot Indians. They had lost their culture due to drink, modern culture and were about to lose their whole identity. They are now working with the younger members of the Blackfoot tribe and they have taken the original designs of the clothes and are teaching the younger ones to make their own clothes using the original designs. That really gladdened my heart. When I saw the exhibit it reminded me of an old Heavy rock band from the USA called Blackfoot the drummer from the band was from the Blackfoot tribe. They used the Blackfoot tribe emblems on their t-shirts. They were a mighty fine band too-check them out.

Museum

The pitts museum

Steve Warrillow
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden

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February 2013

Crocus, daffodils all bursting into flower, hawthorns tasting of bread and butter. Spring it looks like it may be finally on its way. Days getting longer and I’m getting older. The big 50 apparently this year, normally birthdays have not meant a great deal to me, but in the last few days it has become a bit of an issue, I have almost got there, just a week and a bit to go. It is quite scary, I will be able to go on Saga holidays, get the free parker pen for life insurance and I am showing a little grey, also getting grumpy.

What will my fiftieth year bring for me, the aching knees, new glasses and hopefully some time off (that unlikely). I was going to do a birding year list. It’s been ages since I have done a year list. Zooming all over the place to see as many birds in a year as I can, I was all geared up for it then realised stuff to do on and off the reserve. This year I might however take a look at my overall life list and see if I could make it to 400 species. At the moment I am in the region of 370-80 so only 20 or so to get. That is gettable only if the right birds come along and at the right time. Why 400? In the old days before pagers etc the magic number for seeing birds in the UK was 400, now it’s nearer 500 species. It can be done but it costs a lot of money and a lot of time. You have to make the decision, do you want it to be the overall British life list, or in my case Yorkshire life list, my Yorkshire life list is about 330 not all that bad, considering the lack of twitching that I have done over the last few years. However the Reserve has given me two Yorkshire lifers, Osprey and Black crowned night heron (to give its full name). The Black bellied dipper wasn’t a Yorkshire lifer, as I had one in Scarborough a few years ago. Well why bother I hear you ask.

It’s down to a gut thing, a feeling of being able to see something you have never seen, and in most cases other people will not see. The biggest of twitches only have 3-4 thousand people, depending on the rarity value. That out of a population of 70 million-ish is nothing really. But it has a greater value; it is the indescribable feeling of having seen it. There are lots of birds out there, over 10 thousand species worldwide. The British list stands around 600, which is small compared with most countries, but the wide variety of rare birds that turn up in the UK is astounding, we are perfectly situated as an island because we can get birds from America, Europe, Asia, and Russia. All birders have their dream birds; some do get to see them, some do not, and are left to dream about them. One bird I had on my dream list was the Corncrake, once very common throughout the UK, now you have to travel to Scotland to get any real chance of seeing one. We went to the Hebrides and saw not one but two birds, the feeling of seeing my first Corncrake was a very personal one. I was calm when I was watching it. But my body was shaking. I had climbed Mount Everest!

Not so very long ago I was lucky enough to see the Scandinavian version of our Long tailed tit, this bird has a pure white head and is cute has hell. Not a major rarity, but a damn good bird to see. It doesn’t have to be a rare bird to get the juices flowing. At the moment down on the reserve, I haven’t seen the Kingfisher yet and it is worrying me. I know deep down it will return very soon, but I miss seeing the shocking blue flash flying down the river.

So what birds would I really want to see…the Albatross, any species would do, the most frequent one to seen off the UK shoreline is the Black browed Albatross? Though a few years ago a Yellow nosed albatross was found on a reservoir in Derbyshire!

The real jewel in the crown would be a nice Siberian Ruby throat; ah these are what dreams are made of.

Steve Warrillow
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden

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January 2013

Snow

Wow! The snow has arrived and it has been an absolute joy to feel that knuckle crunching sound of fresh snow beneath my feet. I love snow. I know it can cause problems especially for wildlife but it is great to get out there to look for tracks and signs. I had some cracking ones up at Northcliffe Nursary one of our resident Carrion crows had tried to hop its way through the snow but kept sinking up to its chin so it had to flap its way out. It left some cracking imprints on the snow.

It has been bad in some areas where they had an inch of snow, an inch, my, my, that is deep! How do the Canadians, Danes and Norwegians cope.

It was nice to get up the other morning and see at least a foot of snow at least it was something like it had felt that it had snowed and I didn’t have to feel embarrassed when going to work seeing all the stranded cars that had snow an inch up their tyres. Oh the Danes and Norwegians must really love this time of year. Let’s have a giggle at the Brits whoo! how much snow?

This year I will approach that half century. It’s been hard but I’m getting there. I saw in the paper the other day the snow of 1963. I had a difficult birth apparently I sledged out! There were pictures of the snow which had steam trains with ploughs on the front of them – that was jaw dropping. One question why can’t we do that now I guess they don’t build trains that would be able to with stand the few inches of the snow that we get.

The reserve has looked stunning whilst we had the snow, I say had, I looked out the window this morning and it’s all gone- who’s nicked it? From snow to rain – well it has been a while and I feared we may have gone into drought mode. And the other major rarity the Sun. wow. It looked amazing I felt like the Victorians did when they first discovered electricity.

I’m going on holiday on my own this year. No she hasn’t thrown me out (yet). For my 50th Emma has paid for me to go on holiday somewhere, I looked at birding holidays, working holidays- only joking!, nothing really took my fancy mainly due to cost. Then I thought how about a train holiday. Many moons ago when I was free single and fancy free and with a lot of time on my hands ( a long time ago). I booked on a Shearings holiday to visit the Hebrides I had it all paid for. Then I got a letter saying that it had been cancelled because I was the only one who had booked on it! Gutted was not the word.I did almost get back in touch and say to them I would share the driving. However they told me they had a journey through Scotland by train holiday. Stupidly I turned it down I didn’t fancy it – I can be dumb sometimes.

There I was trying to suss out a holiday and not getting anywhere when there was a loud thud by the door, over Christmas I had sent for all the Shearings catalogues and had forgotten about them. Once the dust had settled. I had forgotten how many I had sent for on the internet it asked me did I want all of them. Me being me said yes how many trees do we kill every year just for holiday catalogues! I haven’t read a holiday brochure that is the correct name apparently for years. My don’t they just suck you in and then spit out the bones when they have done with you.

There are pretty pictures of sunny beaches. Outside the entire north sea is depositing its un wanted water, wind is howling with cats and dogs flying past the window with the odd little old lady strapped to an umbrella and the brochure shows you sun sea and what- ever may cross your mind and you find yourself ticking off holidays that would take several generations to pay off.

So there I was looking through the brochures I had narrowed it down to a few holidays when I turned a page and saw visit the First World War battle sites. That stopped me dead. Forget the sun sea and what may have crossed my mind. A chance to visit the Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele.

My Great, great granddad was at the Somme he was one of the horse drawn infantry men who pulled the cannons to the trenches. I have got his first aid box which as far as we can tell was at the Somme so I will take it back there.

I want to stand at the Somme and look out at those fields and listen for Skylarks and then just think that in the first day something like 20 thousand men were mown down due to the stupidity of the generals who then gave themselves medals and those that came home with post- traumatic stress and other disorders were called cowards.

Hopefully next year this parliament – it doesn’t matter which party is in power- will give an amnesty to all the fallen men who were shot for cowardice and the ones who came home and had to live with what they saw for the rest of their lives.

My great – great granddad he survived the war I don’t know what horrors he had seen and how it had affected him but I guess somewhere down the line it would have.

So in July I will be off to Europe, which will be a first for me because I have never been to Europe. Now what do I do with euros!

Outside the rain and wind has blown the snow away there will be more as there is February and March to go yet!

I will come visit you watch and stare

I will come and visit you, watch and stare,
You who lived with rats and the mud
The gas and the bullets, the faces of the dead
Who rose as angels only to be shot down
By the ones who played for glory, trained you for death
now we reach a celebration for what you did
I for one will not be part of that
I will sit quiet and read and try to understand
What they did to you and try not to forget.

Steve Warrillow
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden

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