Trip reports

Dawn Chorus Walk

Male chaffinch singing on branch
'Looking for hibernating newts' (Paul Barrett)

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Five hardy souls met Steve Warrillow, the Warden of Denso Marston Nature Reserve, at 4.30am on a Spring Bank Holiday Sunday for a Dawn Chorus walk. The reserve is now beginning to recover from the devastation caused by the Boxing Day flooding after a huge amount of work by Bradford Council along the river bank, funding from the firm of Denso Marston and volunteers.

Blackbirds were already establishing their territory as we walked down the path to the reserve gate and the explosive song of the wren was also identified. Song thrushes are doing well on the reserve and their repetitive song could be heard as they sang from the tree tops alongside the River Aire. The distinctive calls of a pheasant and wood pigeons were also heard.

There is a profusion of wild garlic, already in flower, as well as the beautiful cowslips and primroses on the woodland floor, and a few native bluebells are just beginning to open.

Steve told us that several species of birds are already nesting, despite the atrocious, cold weather of the previous week. Making our way back through the woodland, we heard the first calls of a chiff chaff and song of the great tit. As we continued towards the feeding station, a bright red sky could be seen in the distance. A nuthatch was seen looking for insects on a tree trunk, although we didn't hear its beautiful song. One lone moth was found in the moth trap, although the moth species list is steadily growing.

Reeds which grew formerly in the smaller of the ponds are slow to show signs of recovery, but fish have been seen where there were none previously! Moorhens were nesting again on the larger pond, but sadly have already 'lost' eggs due to a wild mink raiding their nest. A few minutes later a distressed moorhen flew from its nest and we sighted a large, dark brown mink swimming across the pond. The mink, which has colonised Britain as a result of escapes from fur-farms, is thought to be a major factor in the decline of the water vole.

A new educational classroom has very recently been situated on higher ground, where it is hoped that it will be safe from any future flooding on the reserve. It has already been in use by groups of children, who had obviously had great fun dissecting owl pellets, with the remains of small skulls and bones found in the pellets, left for visitors to see.

As the literature about the reserve says, 'With unrestricted access, the reserve offers people the chance to enjoy it at any time'. It is well worth the effort...even on a cold May 1st at 4.30am!! Our grateful thanks go to the Warden for leading us on our final walk this season.