Friday, 25 November 2011

Christmas Event, Bracken Hall - Sunday 4th December 1:30 pm

Despite the rain and cold conditions we had a great time at our Christmas event, although it was a tight squeeze in the classroom at Bracken Hall!

Our birdsong workshop went down really well. We learnt about the calls and songs of: Blue tit, Long-tailed Tit, Robin, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Wren, and Nuthatch. Why not brush up on your birdsong skills? Click on the name of a bird above to learn more about the bird and listen to its song again.

To help us remember these calls we learned some handy hints:
  • Robin sings the “can’t-be-bothered song”!
  • Long-tailed Tit, makes a sound like a bird being squished!
  • Blackbird has a very flutey call similar to Mistle Thrush, but these can be separated by the Mistle Thrush's 'football rattle' call.
  • Wren sounds like a wind up toy going a bit crazy with its very fast song.
  • Nuthatch makes a fast dui-dui-dui call.
We were able to get a really good look at some specimens of these fantastic birds, We also had a fantastic real otter specimen in the classroom! Find out more about otters by clicking on this link. Here you can learn about the different species of Otter, find out what you can do to help them, and play some fun games!

After our learning our birdsongs we made some pom pom robins. All the Airedale Otters did really well and had some great results to take home. We then tucked into some lovely food while Andy kept wrapping away at the emergency pom poms! 

Merry Christmas!

Thanks to everyone who came and made it such fun event. 

The Airedale Otters leaders would like to thank all our members and parents for their continued attendance this year. We hope to see you all again at our next event in January 2012: a nest box building workshop as part of an exciting conservation project we have planned to encourage Pied Flycatchers to nest in a local private woodland. We will be putting the nest boxes up in February. We will also be making bird feeders at the next event for you to take home in anticipation of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on 28-29th January 2012. More details, including the venue and date, coming soon.

Have a fantastic Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Otter Walk from Hirst Wood - Sunday 30th October 1.30pm

Thank you to everyone who came on the Otter Walk on Sunday 30th October. The weather was good and we were lucky enough to have our Otter expert Don with us to tell us about the local Otters.

We knew we probably wouldn’t see an Otter – they are mostly nocturnal – but we hope you still found the walk interesting and learned a little more about Otters. It was very interesting to see the Otter Holt that has been built alongside the river to provide shelter for the Otters.

 Otter holt by the River Aire - an Otter hotel!

We will visit the river again some time next year to have another go at finding signs of Otters. Now that you have all had a look at an Otter spraint, you’ll know what to look for, and might even be lucky enough to find one yourself if you and your family happen to walk down by the river. The area along the bottom of Myrtle Park in Bingley and up into Harden Beck is easy enough to access and several spraints have been found on boulders there in the past. If you do find any, it would be great if you could let us know.

We asked Airedale Otters members to think of a name for our own Otter, whose face appears on our group’s badge. Don the Otter expert agreed to pick the best name. He said he found it really difficult because there were so many brilliant suggestions but in the end he chose... Ollie.

Ollie the Otter!

As well as the Otter holts, we saw and learned about some really interesting things on Sunday. We learned how holly trees have more prickly leaves nearer the ground – to stop deer and other animals eating them; and less prickly ones near the top – to allow birds to get to the berries.

Holly leaf on a lower branch - prickly!

Holly leaves on a higher branch - not so prickly!

Don showed us some bat boxes that had been put in the trees to provide shelter for Pipistrelle bats. These are the UK’s smallest and most common bat. It’s also possible to find other bats in the area such as Noctules, and Daubenton’s bat, which likes feed over water.

Don showed us his bat detector, which is a super-sensitive microphone that can pick up the sounds of bats calling as they fly around. You can read more about these bats, and even listen to their calls, by clicking here. We will try to organise a bat walk next year so we can listen to them at dusk.

Later in the walk, we stopped at the weir by Hirst Mill where we saw quite a few brown trout attempting to leap up the weir. We also saw a Grey Heron, a Grey Wagtail and some of us were lucky enough to see a beautiful Kingfisher fly up the river. This stretch of the river, from the weir to the aqueduct, is especially good if you want to see Kingfishers.

Thanks again to everyone who came on the walk - see you next time!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Fungi Foray at St Ives Estate, Bingley - Saturday 1st October

We had brilliant Fungi Foray event at St Ives Estate, Bingley, on Saturday 1st October. We found so many mushrooms and learned so much about them. And the weather was really hot and sunny!

We invited fungi expert Bob Taylor along to help us find and identify as many mushrooms as possible – and he didn’t let us down! Firstly, Bob told us loads of interesting facts about fungi, their fruiting bodies (the bits we can see above ground), the bits underground (the mycelium, that can extend for several miles!), their spores, the things they eat, and much more.

Bob hoped to find a "top ten of mushrooms" - we didn’t find them all but we did find plenty, including some before we even set off.  Here are just some of the highlights:

Common Puffball

Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur Tuft (underside)

Fly Agaric

Brown Birch Bracket

Brown Birch Bracket (underside)

Birch Brown Bolete

Red-cracked Bolete

And it didn’t stop there! We also found: Jelly Ear; Honey Fungus; Coconut-scented Milk Cap; Brown Beech Bolete; Earth Fan; Blusher; Fairies Bonnets; Common Yellow Russula; Blackening Russula; and Shaggy Pholiota.

Phew! Well done everyone on their hard work finding all those fungi.

Important info
As we all know, some mushrooms are poisonous if eaten, so it is important that you handle them carefully.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Stockbridge Nature Reserve, Riddlesden - Saturday 10th September 2011

Long-tailed Tit at Stockbridge Nature Reserve (photo: Andrew Kisby)

We had a wonderful afternoon in the muggy weather at Stockbridge Nature Reserve – thanks to all the Airedale Otters who came.

Firstly, we had quick lesson on how to get the best from our binoculars. After a few minutes of binocular practice we headed off to explore the reserve.

Shaun Radcliffe of Bradford Ornithological Group taught us all about the various foods available for birds to eat over the winter. Members of Bradford Ornithological Group have planted many bird-friendly trees at the reserve over the years, and it was amazing to see what can be achieved with a little bit of hard work.

We walked around and opened up four nest boxes to see which animals had been using them. We had great fun pulling apart the nest materials to discover what they were made from and to find clues to which birds had been nesting there - blue tits and great tits!

Blue Tit at Stockbridge Nature Reserve (photo: Andrew Kisby)

We also found some intruders in our nest boxes, including a fantastic abandoned wasps nest! We all looked on in awe as we investigated further by taking the nest apart. It was so light - it was hard to believe such small insects could make such a beautiful nest. By the time we had finished all the Otters had a piece of wasps nest to take home for their wildlife collections!

Wasp Nest at Stockbridge Nature Reserve (photo: Andrew Kisby)

Wasp Nest at Stockbridge Nature Reserve (photo: Andrew Kisby)

Unfortunately, two of the nests contained chicks that hadn't managed to survive. It was fascinating to see the bones of the birds, but we were all a little sad that some of the chicks had perished. Bur Shaun told us that there had been many successful great tit and blue tit broods at the reserve this year.

Our other nest box intruders were hundreds of earwigs in one nest box! The Otters loved these wriggling insects! We clear out the nest boxes every year to ensure the nest boxes are clean and free of insects (like the earwigs!). This gives next years chicks the best possible chance of survival.

Why not build your own nest box and see if you can help the birds out next year? For more information, click here.

After a very exciting time exploring the reserve we returned to the hide for a bit more bird watching. We saw some lovely birds including Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Dunnock and the star of the show, a Sparrowhawk! The Sparrowhawk swooped down right before our eyes and tried to catch a distracted bird at the feeders - a really exciting sight! Did you know some of our birds of prey are under threat? Check out this link to see how you can help them.

We also found some fungi around the reserve, which was a great build up for our next event, a Fungi Foray! This takes place on Saturday 1st October with our fun guy Bob, the fungi expert! Keep an eye on the Airedale Otters blog for more details.

Fly Agaric at Stockbridge Nature Reserve (photo: Andrew Kisby)

Special thanks to Shaun for for showing us around the reserve. Thank you all for coming along and making it such an enjoyable event, we can’t wait for the next one!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Denso Marston Nature Reserve, Baildon - Saturday 2nd July 2011

 Peacock Butterfly at Denso Marston Nature Reserve (photo: Paul Marfell)

We had a fantastic day at Denso Marston Nature Reserve. We found loads of really interesting wildlife – and the weather was brilliant too! Thanks to all the Otters who joined in with the pond dipping, bug hunting and wild flower finding.

I think special thanks must go to the YWT Bingley Watch group, who arranged the event, and to the warden of Denso-Marston Nature Reserve, Steve Warrillow.

Our highlights were the young newts we found in the pond, the dragonfly cases on the reed stems, the lovely Ringlet butterfly, and finding over 50 plants on the reserve! Let us know your highlights by posting a comment below.

Directions to Denso Marston Nature Reserve
Enter from the footpath on Otley Road (the road that leads up to Hollins Hill) across the road from the white wooden St James’ Church. There is a layby opposite the footpath for parking.
Please see the map below.

Click here for more details on how to reach the reserve on foot or by public transport.

Although appropriate gates are provided to allow wheelchair access into the reserve, the rough river path and gradual riverbank erosion can present problems.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Countdown to launch!

The plans for the launch of Airedale Otters are well under way! The launch event takes place at Bracken Hall Countryside Centre on Sunday 19th June 2011 from 1pm until 4pm, and is FREE!

The event includes a range of outdoor and indoor activities for any kids interested in wildlife. You can arrive at any time during the event and join in the activities, or you can stay for the whole session - it's up to you. If you prefer, you can just pop in to meet us and chat about the group.

Bracken Hall is in a great location near Shipley Glen, and on the day we will use the area to go pootering (collecting mini-beasts using a pooter, so we can study them in detail); identify bird foodstuffs (working out which birds eat which food); and have a Bird Race (seeing as many bird species as possible in a set time - it's great fun!).  Inside, we'll use the centre's facilities to make otter masks, play games, learn about the wildlife in the Bradford area, and much more.

Robin (photo: Paul Marfell) - Hopefully, we will see one of these during the Bird Race

Curlew (photo: Paul Marfell) - If we're lucky, we might one of these fabulous birds in the Bird Race too

Kids can join the Airedale Otters for FREE at the event, and the group is open to children aged six and upwards. The Airedale Otters leaders will be on hand to discuss the group, our plans, and the full programme of events for the rest of the year (including trips to local nature reserves, a fungi walk, and talks from local wildlife experts).

For more information on the group, email

Bracken Hall Countryside Centre is located at: Glen Road, Baildon, Shipley, BD17 5EA
To contact the centre, telephone: 01274 584140 or email:

See you on Sunday!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Calling all Wildlife Explorers!

RSPB members in the Bradford area are setting up a new Wildlife Explorers group for young people in the Bradford and Airedale area! The group is called the Airedale Otters and is for any young person aged six and upwards interested in wildlife.

The group will give young people a range of activities to take part in, broadly on a monthly basis, to enable them to experience and develop an interest in all aspects of nature, including birds, mammals, amphibians, insects, plants, trees… the whole range of wildlife. They will also, among other things, discover why the amazing Otter can once again be listed among the animals that inhabit the waterways in this area.

We’re having a launch event on Sunday 19th June 2011 from 1pm until 4pm at the Bracken Hall Countryside Centre, Glen Road, Baildon, Shipley, BD17 5EA.

Bradford Council are generously supporting this event by providing their excellent facilities and services of an experienced Museum Officer at Bracken Hall so that young people can come along and, in a safe environment, enjoy learning many interesting facts about local wildlife. Future events are being planned so that, approximately monthly, young people will be able to attend visits to local nature reserves, take part in wildlife and bird walks, study different types of habitat and many other fun activities.

The RSPB Youth Group Leaders who will run these events are all, of course, CRB checked. After the initial free launch event, a small charge will be made for most events, but these will be set at rates that do no more than cover costs.

If you would like to know more about the group, what is planned or how you could get involved in it, please come and visit us on Sunday 19th June at Bracken Hall Countryside Centre between 1pm and 4pm, or post a comment below.

Please click here for directions to Bracken Hall Countryside Centre.