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Showing posts from November, 2014

Allerthorpe Common and the Salt Lick

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This morning was unexpectedly bright and clear, so I went down to Allerthorpe Common to carry out a recce for our volunteer work day next Sunday. Now that the leaves have fallen from the birch seedlings, they’re less noticeable and the reserve actually looks rather good! The mature birch trees look beautiful in the winter sunshine – I can almost forgive them for all the seedlings.

The reserve in winter
The main pond
Gorse is always in flower somewhere
I’ve been experimenting with a salt lick in a remote corner of the woods. The idea was that it would attract roe deer and give me a better chance of photographing them properly. For the last few weeks, I’ve had a camera trap watching over it. I’d hoped the deer might come to it at a predictable time of day. The lick has successfully attracted the deer, but their time keeping is totally erratic. Badgers have been interested, though they prefer their peanuts unsalted. Grey squirrels have been around it constantly, but they’re only after acorns…

Damp Work Days

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After hard frosts at the start of the week, we’ve had a few days of typical dank November weather. On Wednesday, I joined a large group of volunteers at Wheldrake Ings, where we removed willow trees beside the main track. The idea is to keep the area open and reduce the incursion of woodland into the meadows. We got a good bonfire going to burn the brash and left a few log piles for invertebrates. The recent heavy rain is now filling the floodplain and winter wildfowl are appearing in increasing numbers.

Removing willows down a muddy track...
...leaving just a few log piles
Winter wildfowl are appearing in the floodplain On Thursday, I was at North Cliffe Wood, where we cut and raked up the reeds growing on an area of the heathland. The plan here is to increase diversity of the plant life and encourage the heather in particular. Most of the trees have lost their leaves by now and the woodland is eerily silent.

Raking the rush A red bramble provides a splash of colour in the wood
Common Earth…

Clearing North Newbald Beck

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The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve of North Newbald Becksies is fed by several clear chalk springs. The wild flowers here in the summer are spectacular. Today I’ve been working with a volunteer group to clear the main beck which runs from the reserve down through the village of North Newbald. On the upper stretches, overhanging tree branches needed cutting back and brambles were covering the stream. Through the village, much of it was choked with watercress and some areas were full of willowherb, which we dragged out with a crome (or long draw fork).

The beck across the village green, before…
…and after clearing
The water soon runs clear again
Once the vegetation has been cleared, the water flows more quickly and that helps to keep it clear. We left the cleared material on the bank, so that any trapped wildlife has a chance to return to the water. It will be collected up in a few days.

I’ve seen water voles on the reserve in previous years, but was surprised to see two today, right in th…

Studley Royal Deer Park

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I’ve had a day out at Studley Royal deer park, at Fountains Abbey near Ripon. The deer aren’t really ‘wildlife’ as they are as near to domesticated as deer can be. They’re still interesting to watch though, particularly at this time of year. There are about 350 deer in the park – red, fallow and sika – but most of the time they are so well spread out that it’s hard to believe there are so many.

Red deer stag Two red deer stags lock antlers Monarch of the park
The red deer are quite distinctive, but I found the fallow and sika were easily confused. Both species can be spotted or plain coloured and there is considerable variation in their colouring. The autumn rut is largely over now, with dominant stags guarding their harems of hinds and small groups of unsuccessful stags hanging around together. Some of the younger stags were engaging in sparring sessions, still establishing their positions in the group hierarchy.

Sika stag

Grey Seals at Donna Nook

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At this time of year I usually make a trip over the border into Lincolnshire, to visit the grey seals at Donna Nook. The females come ashore to give birth, starting in October and continuing into January. November seems to be the peak month. The pups are only fed by their mothers for about three weeks, after which the mothers abandon them, mate again and return to the sea. The pups will have trebled their birth weight by then. They’ll stay on the beach alone for a further two or three weeks, while they shed their white downy coats and then head for the sea to find food for themselves.

Hundreds of seals come to Donna Nook in the breeding season
A sleeping seal is the essence of relaxation
Another seal having a snooze The pup’s fur dries and fluffs up within hours of birth
The white coat is shed before it goes to sea

Fungus Season

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I’ve had walks around Allerthorpe Common and North Cliffe Wood over the last few days looking for fungi. At this time of year an amazing variety appear and they differ from one year to the next. Identification is difficult as there are over 15000 species in the UK. Some are edible, but others with names like Destroying Angel, Death Cap, Poisonpie and Funeral Bell are best avoided! The relatively warm and dry autumn has produced few of the spectacular clusters that I usually see, but there are some fine individual specimens.

The Sickener?


Parasol - grows up to 30cm in diameter
North Cliffe Wood in autumn