Tuesday, 30 March 2021

 The March edition of .....
.....the Lockdown Blog

There has been quite a number of environmentally related tasks undertaken by various NCVs during the last month so, without any further ado, let's have a look at what's been going on.

Well - it wouldn't be a lockdown blog without a rubbish photograph from Anita, would it? By rubbish I am talking litter - not photographic quality. A first prize in the photo competition showed just how good Anita's skills are in that quarter! 

One can only hope that this bag was not hung there on purpose.
Let's give the local residents the benefit of the doubt and blame the wind.
Thanks to Anita for removing it.

The annual maintenance of the sand martin wall up at Gouthwaite needed to be undertaken before the nesting season got underway. Tony and Ros E. spent a wet morning cutting down the vegetation along the top and at the base. We don't want the young sand martin chicks getting pounced on by a sneaky stoat while they are feeding on the tip of the wall, do we?

Here is the sand martin wall at the start of play.

Here's Tony in action with his trusty slasher.

And here's the finished job - all the trimmings 
raked off and piled by the wall.

On the same soggy day a small number of NCVs helped out a friend of Ken's who is in the process of planting 5000 trees (mainly oak, alder and willow) at Little Studley, alongside the River Ure, near Ripon. With the end of the tree planting season almost upon us, time was of the essence. 

The start of the day.

And they're off!

Husband and wife team Ros K. and Nick took great
 pains to ensure that the tubes were perpendicular.

Julia, the tube mule, trudged back and forth 
supplying everyone with tree guards.

By 3pm the weather stopped play but much had been achieved. Ros K. thinks 300 trees were planted. Both Ken and Dave estimate 550-600. 

However many they planted Ken looked very
 pleased and gave everyone the thumbs up!

The same group returned to continue the job the following week, on a much sunnier day. Could the provision of pies and cake on day one be partly the reason for them embracing this task?

They carried on along the riverside, leaving a forest in their wake.

Unable to help themselves, this group also agreed to help out with another of Ken's friends - also on a two day tree planting mission. This time it was at a newly established camp site near the beautiful Eavestone lake, hidden away between Ripon and Pateley Bridge. Medals all round tree planters!

Three garden developments have been undertaken during March.

Liz sent in an update on progress with the construction of her greenhouse. As you can see - it is coming on a treat (?) and is almost ready for planting out her 2021 seedlings. Or should that read 2022? Apparently they have discovered that a piece critical to its construction is missing......

February                                    March

Ros E. was trying to do something to help wildlife on the top patio in her garden.
These are the patio edges before the arrival of some planters
 and plants - devoid of any food for foraging pollinators.

And these are the same areas at the end of the job.
Come on bees. These  plants will soon be flowering!
Actually - a third trough has now been added, next to trough 
number 1 but is still awaiting the arrival of plants.

Anita and her husband have removed a bank of laurel bushes and replaced them with some bee friendly alternatives.
Apparently this bank is a lot steeper than it looks in the picture.
It will certainly look better once it is covered in flowers.

Anita has also been working hard at Bramhope scout hut, removing the scrub that was encroaching on the playing area. Judge for yourselves the difference her and her assistant have made.....

...and after. Amazing.
Pats on the back for both of you!

Paul, too, has been doing his bit in Hackfall Wood. He has cleared some gullies and paths and created a brash pile. He reports that it is looking dry and spring like at the moment.

This fallen tree just had to go.

That's one nice neat brash pile Paul!

During March the NCVs have been taking part in 2 Zoom training sessions - the first about Moorland Management, given by Tracy and Mick Johnson of the Nidderdale Moorland Group

This session was very interesting and heartening to listen to. The amount of conservation work that the Nidderdale gamekeepers do to protect and encourage wildlife on the moors is commendable. 

The following week was the first of two on pond management from Ann Carter of the Freshwater Habitats Trust. It covered a number of topics including:

  • The state of the country's freshwater habitats. This part of the session contained some disappointing data regarding the state of the country's fresh water habitats. Apparently it is ponds that are the cleanest freshwater habitats.
  • Pond surveying - quite a few of us are now very keen to get out with some testing kits!
  • Pond Management Risk Assessment - here we learned about the need to take a 'precautionary approach' rather than going in with loppers and dredgers willy nilly. The most unlikely looking ponds are often the ones that should be left, as they are as they can contain rare species.
Everyone is looking forward to Ann's second training session.

Our honorary NCV, Harry, had his 7th birthday recently and was given a very surprising, but completely environmentally related, present - a wormery!! Not many children would relish the prospect of opening one of those on their birthday but Harry did. He was also given 250 worms to put into it. If you look closely you can see some wiggling their way through the layers.
Cooey wormies. Say "Cheese!"
On second thoughts - say "Happy Belated Birthday Harry!"

Liz, Ros E., Ros K., Brenda and Anita have been carrying out a Springwatch of their own (who needs the BBC?) On the 16th March four of them spotted frogspawn in four different locations. Three of these are pictured below. Can you spot the site that was problematic for any overweight tadpoles that may hatch out?

Site 1 - a pond in Summerbridge.

Site 2 - a pond in Wetherby.

Site 3 - a pond in Glasshouses..

Yes - you got it - site 2.

Anita reported:
"I'm in the kitchen watching frogs coming from all directions. They have been silly enough to lay their eggs on top of the duck netting over the pond. I managed to move the first lot of spawn into the water, it's very slippery and tough. 
They don't seem to be the most sensible of creatures. They still spawn on my neighbour's lawn where she used to have a pond. It was filled in 3 years ago!!

Perhaps it's just Wetherby frogs that are this careless with their progeny?.

The following day Anita sent an update. There were 26 frogs busy spawning in her pond (outside the netting this time). Click HERE for live action spawning!
Her neighbour had also delivered another load of spawn that had been deposited on her lawn. 
Anita's pond is fast approaching frogspawn saturation
 point and turning into a gelatinous mass.

Andy's pond is also teaming with frogs and spawn and other creatures....

Synchronised swimming.

Can you spot the duck sitting on her nest?

 And finally - are any of the blog readers interested in fossils?
If so perhaps you could help the AONB office respond to the following query they were sent:

"Hello... I'm hoping someone can tell me a little bit about some fossils I found in a landslide in my local forest in Dacre Banks please. Here is a photograph:"

Could this be a trilobite?
If anyone has any idea about the kind of creature that this fossil used to be then please send in a comment below!

We are hoping to be back to normal volunteering from 20th April so normal blog service should resume at that time. In the meantime - have a lovely Easter weekend!

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Another month of lockdown blogs: 28-02-2021

Just where did February go???

It's hard to believe that yet another month has gone by. How can time pass so quickly during a lockdown? By keeping busy of course!!

First off the blocks with environmental related news this month was bag lady, Anita - here's  evidence of her good deed and her comment:

Another fun day of foraging! Todays prize, 
apart from the usual bottles, cans and dog poo bags, 
is a hanging basket and baseball cap. 🙄

Anita also found this eyesore by the wayside near her home - the bin near the local pub.

A candidate for the Guinness Book of Records
 for the fullest bin 2021?

Obviously walkers buying take away drinks didn't want to take their litter home when there was a receptacle close to hand, even if it wasn't being emptied. Eco warrior Anita was so incensed by the sight that she contacted the pub and within 24 hours the bin had been removed and the mess cleared up. Result! Well done Anita.

Ros K. found a much more welcome sight on her walk (20/02) - a host of golden daffodils near her home in Knaresborough. 

Spring is really starting to spring!!

Will  has been busy watching birds in his garden. He was pleased to see a Tawny Owl round the house a number of times, four Blackcaps in the garden and a Redpoll and a Siskin on the bird feeders. This was a particularly impressive count considering he lives within just a stone's throw of one of the busiest roundabouts in Harrogate. Obviously feeding the birds is paying off.

Once the snow cleared, Tony was able to get down into his woodland and found that some essential work was needed on the gullies that the NCVs put in a few years ago. Out came the spade.....

...and out came the mud and stones that had
 been washed in by the flooding stream.

As well as that Tony started work on the annual tree tube weeding job in his new plantation that the NCVs helped to plant. He reports:

I started work on the tree guards today giving priority to the thorn trees down the edge of the field. Every one has survived, which is excellent, despite the stony ground and the big sycamore nearby. Only another 550 more to check!

Now, we all love wildlife and moles are endearing little creatures - but not when they run riot under your property. This is just what they have done in Tony's top field. A trap was set and found to have been sprung overnight, without catching a mole.  It had a mole hill built all around it. Tony thinks that Moley must have gone below the trap and tidied up the area around it, pushing the earth to the top. Clever animal!

Moley 1 : Tony 0
Up the Moles!!

Liz took advantage of a snowfall to take her home schooling classroom outdoors. Young Harry was taken on a walk in Hackfall woods (PE) to do some nature study. He was taught how to recognise deer tracks and they tracked them through the woodland and found them down by Fountains pond!

Eyes peeled now - here are 
their unmistakable hoof prints.

Let's see if we can find them.....

LIZ: ...and there they are!
HARRY: Where?
LIZ: Over there. Can't you see them? 
HARRY: They are very well camouflaged. I think that 
you could do with that special wildlife camera that 
was awarded to Tony in the photo competition......

Ros K. was also practising her animal print ID skills and came across this puzzling phenomenon down in the Nidd Gorge. There were deer prints in various places but they only ever appeared as single prints!! Now why would that be? 

A deer on a pogo stick? Hop-a-long deer? 
A walker with a pole shaped like a deer print?

Whilst Liz and Harry were in Hackfall they came across another species, this one hard at work...
...namely -  the great crested NCV Paul, using his daily exercise 
allocation to sort out a badly blocked drain.

Paul has sent in the photograph of an ice age mammoth that he saw in in Hackfall in mid February, during that very cold spell. It was grazing on the undergrowth just below the Weeping Rock. 

Clearly there are no blockages in the culvert 
leading to this particular water feature!!

Talking of Hackfall, you may like to have a listen to a Woodland Trust podcast that includes a short piece about the woods. The two people being interviewed are none other than our very own David Mason and a previous AONB volunteer co-ordinator, Paul Mosley (who now works for the Woodland Trust).

Ros E. has been busy recording veteran trees in the Summerbridge area on the Woodland Trust Ancient Tree Inventory. It's surprising that there are any left to record, given all the ones she has entered so far, but they still keep catching her eye. These two, in particular, were surprising, given where they were growing.

Not much soil to root in here.

She has also started logging all the seasonal signs she spots for the Woodland Trust's 'Nature's Calendar'.  This citizen science project will help keep track of climate change. You have to be careful you don't miss something important. Things are changing very fast at the moment.

These hazel catkins weren't ready to record on this walk.....

...but just a few days later they were. Any longer and
 it would have been too late!

Liz has made a start on an environmental project in her garden. A new greenhouse is being established ready for the upcoming veg planting season. Hope she knows how all the bits fit together. Make sure you read the instructions Liz. Don't just go by instinct!

Feb 19th - 
Right - job's nearly done. Time for a cuppa?

As well as working at home on the greenhouse, Liz has also been busy in the NCV barn - as you can see below....

Saw storage galore. Liz has done the job all by herself! 
Well done that woman. We are all impressed by your carpentry skills. 
Amazing what you can do with a broomstick!

And talking about environmentally related carpentry projects.....

Dave has been building a very sturdy, new compost bin 
to replace the rotting one that has now been consigned 
to room 101. No wonder he looks so pleased with himself!

NCV Osian, a council worker in his day job, reported just how extreme things have become during this pandemic. With the snow and disruption at the start of the month, not only was he redeployed to snow shifting duties to help keep the roads clear, but apparently there was simply no more funding left to provide workers with appropriate PPE. The council had obviously been inspired in their planning by the picture of the snow angel in the recent NCV photo competition.

Osian - we feel your pain!

OMG Osian - this is a blatant case of cruelty to the workers.
You must get the unions involved. 


Don't worry - he sent no further pics!!

Peter Brambleby (the owner of Fishpond Wood in Bewerley) has now got his website up and running. You may want to take a look at various sections of the site - as well as some lovely photographs you will see mention of the NCVs in the 'Woodland Management Plan' area.

Fishpond Wood (Whitewoods) site

 According to the site, the goldfish that Graham spotted in the lake (see the January blog entry) has been there for 10 years and is a foot long golden carp called Horace! I wonder why we haven't noticed him before, given all the time we have spent clearing rhododendrons by the side of the lake?

If you have finished doing all your jigsaw puzzles and tidied all your cupboards then here's a link that some of you may like to follow for some indoor entertainment. It was sent in by Liz and gives access to a number of interesting, free video 'courses'.

And a couple of final gems.....

NCV Tony, the winner of the special 'Blue Cup' award in the recent NCV photography competition, has been out and about deploying the camera he won for that kingfisher pic, photographing the local birdies. As you can see from the example below, his pictures are much improved by this new piece of kit (although he has said that he may have to consider buying a donkey to help carry it around)

This little long tailed tit looks as if it has brushed 
out its plumage specially for its portrait.

Tony was just too overwhelmed to give a thank you speech from the stage on the night of the BLOOM ceremony. However - he has now composed one to share via this blog entry. Typically, being Tony, he has decided to use his poetic talents.

So - Tony - can you come to the podium to end this blog entry please? I did dust it off in readiness....

I must apologise for the delay in offering my thanks to all those who voted for me in the BLOOM NCV Photography Competition. Following the award I was so delighted that the celebrations left my brain and hands a little shaky for a few days. But this morning, after strong coffee and several prairie oysters, I was full of shame. A little belatedly, I offer my thank you speech from the podium.

I stand here at the podium

Expecting your opprobrium

For I deserve much odium

In winning that blue mug


I point the camera – it clicks

Each second it takes many pics

It’s such a clever box of tricks -

A mystery to me!


For every hundred pics it takes

Some 99 are bad mistakes

I’m spending hours on many dates

Deleting nearly all.


To win the prize is quite absurd

I really should have come in third

But thanks for voting for my bird

I owe you all a pint!

With much gratitude.