Much of the valley is beswamped in mud. It did top up the frog pond, which was looking a bit parched after last summer, but makes walking less enjoyable. Thus we have been tackling some of the worst bits.
It’s an early spring so far: Wild Garlic is up and there are various other plants in unseasonal leaf or flower.
Kestrels have bred in the valley in each of the last few years. Although one year they were unceremoniously turfed out half way through by Tawny Owls. Mortality amongst young birds is very high with only about 30% making it through to the next summer. This bird, beautifully captured by Ros is an adult male: probably from last year’s pair. It seems that males are more likely to remain on territory during the winter whilst females more often find another site fairly locally and then return in the spring.
There must be a pretty good vole population in the roughs of the golf course.
Meanwhile, Steve and I fixed the bridge at the top of Spring Wood in the beautiful winter sunshine.
After a little pause for contemplation it’s been a busy week for environmental activity chez FoGBV and an opportunity to put together a picture of what we want to do and how to achieve it.
Firstly, I think we have established that none of us really relish the prospect of lots of admin or formality. Let me know if you do -there’s a place here for you!! But, happily, we have the reassuring presence of the Aire Rivers Trust to help us. They are a well-organised charity with a wealth of experience and a network of co-workers whose aims are well aligned with ours in many respects (albeit focussed on the waterways).
Sitting in on the meeting of the Friends of Bradford Becks (affiliates of the Aire Rivers Trust) this week we were very impressed with their effectiveness in improving the watery environment across the other side of the Aire from our patch. Much to be learned from them.
On Thursday we convened our own little assembly in Baildon with ten pioneering attendees weighing in. We are very grateful to Nick Milsom from Aire Rivers for being there. Outcomes in brief summary:
We are currently resolved to remain a humble contact list and group of spontaneous conspirators rather than a more formal membership association with written constitution etc.
We can seek to collaborate with bigger organisations where necessary: including those listed above and also, importantly, Baildon Town Council and Bradford Countryside Service.
We will produce a digitised map of the valley accessible to all of us which can be annotated by us with points of interest, projects on the go and things needing attention.
We will produce an information board for a central site at Tong Park dam (with permission of the owners) focusing on the wildlife, human history of the valley, access points and giving contact details for ourselves to promote interest and generate new particpants. Plus smaller notices at main access points (Low Springs, Ladderbanks Lane, Hawksworth Lane footpath, Lonk House Lane). We perhaps need a little logo too.
Recording of fauna and flora in the area will be an ongoing project over the years.
We will continue with ongoing projects: bird and bat boxes, litter collection and bins, footpath maintenance, pollution monitoring, wildlife recording and friendly overtures to the various landowners with a view to opening up new avenues of environmental enhancement where mutually advantageous.
Onwards and upwards! As ever, any feedback more than welcome.
There has been concern that the ‘step’ down in the bed of the Gill Beck at the top of the underpass below the main Otley Road might be a barrier to movement of fish. Effectively this is like a small weir. Trouble is that rectifying it would likely be a substantial project.
Having just seen this video (second clip in tweet below), I’m encouraged that maybe they can make it up anyway.
Well, it’s been a complete bonanza of Hazelnuts this autumn. In addition to the native Hazel there are also lots of planted Cobnut trees around the Hollins Hill golf course which will now be about 20 years old.
Until this year I had never seen a brown Hazel or Cobnut on a tree in the valley. But something has happened: this autumn they are everywhere. Last year was quite good. This year has been a bonanza.
Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s the maturing of the trees.
The more intriguing possibility is that something has happened to reduce Grey Squirrel numbers. There are still plenty of them obviously…..on every camera trap I’ve set! But perhaps they’re not so completely ubiquitous.
If populations of Pine Martens can mysteriously appear in the New Forest and Cornwall; miles from anywhere they were supposed to be….
But there’s always a silver lining. In this case a lot of mushrooms in the valley. Like the trees, although the land use has changed some of the fungal organisms must have been soldiering on underground regardless.
There are numerous planted trees around the golf courses in the valley: mostly Hazel, Birch, Rowan and Ash. Along the crumbling remnants of the ancient stone walls which crisscross the landscape between the fairways are an older generation of native trees.
Similarly, Wych Elm doesn’t stand out like the big Oak, Ash and Beech but, when you start looking at each tree in turn along the walls you find there are plenty of medium -sized individuals.
In an echo of the global day of environmental demonstrations, we spent the day in the valley rigging up bird and bat boxes. The weather was idyllic, nobody fell out of any trees and Keith’s dance-floor injury didn’t hold him back.
The bird boxes all have hole sizes to suit Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers: both of which have bred in Spring Wood in the past and continue to do so within a few miles.
There are still Swallows and House Martins hawking around the cows at Hawkstone today but they look restless. The last Swifts left on 31st of last month.
Last summer, being hot, was an absolute belter for Chicken of the Woods. I added several infected trees to my long term ‘watch list’. 2019 has been more normal; this beauty erupted within the last week.
This year has, however, been great for fairy-ring champs. It’s always a good year for something!
This magnificent tree stands above the upper reservoir on the south side of the Beck.
Native Black Poplar is a rare tree in the UK. There are probably fewer than 7000 individuals and only about 600 of these are female.
Yorkshire is at the northern edge of its range: there appear to be only a handful in the county.
The situation is clouded by the existence of hybrids (which are much commoner). However, these generally lack the downswept branch form and have rounder leaves. We will have to wait until spring to sort out whether this individual is male or female.