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!

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