The reserve warden Steve Warrillow welcomed us and showed us the delights of this hidden gem, which is tucked away behind a factory beside the River Aire. Just like last year, the weather and wildlife combined to great effect.
Reserve warden Steve opens the moth traps
Steve had earlier opened his moth trap and saved some of the best moths for us to see. There were some lovely species, with equally lovely names: Mother of Pearl, Smokey Wainscot, Buff Arches, and a beautiful Burnished Brass which glinted like polished gold in the sunshine.
Buff Arches Moth
Next we toured the reserve seeing many insects on the wing, such as the huge Brown Hawker dragonfly - easily recognised by its brown wings.
A Grey Squirrel hid in a tree and waited for us to pass
In the woodland, Steve has placed several wooden boards to create spaces for mammals and amphibians. The Airedale Otters had great fun lifting up these boards, with a surprise under almost every one. On several occasions we found evidence of Wood Mouse and Short-tail Field Vole. We could tell which species had been feeding there from the bite marks on the wild cherry stones we found. We saw several Wood Mice, mostly running away as we opened the boards, though one did stay around long enough to have his photo taken!
Wood Mouse nest
Wild Cherry stones eaten by Short-tailed Field Voles
Under the boards we also found Smooth Newts, young Common Toads, a Common Frog, and a Leopard Slug.
Last but not least was the pond dipping. The Otters found an amazing number of species, and Steve was on hand to help us identify them. Many of the Otters proved themselves to be very knowledgeable about the pond life too. We found several young Smooth Newts, Greater and Lesser Water-boatmen, Hog Louse, Blood Worm, Flatworm, Water Mite, Pond Skater, Phantom Midge, Freshwater Mussel and Shrimp, Ram's-horn Snail, and a Whirligig Beetle (which obviously made Steve's day!).