Saturday 3rd November.
Bash the Bracken with the UoS
Conservation Volunteers. Two
trustees were joined by 7 volunteers, 6 of whom were from the
University of Sheffield Conservation Volunteers. Two areas of
bracken in the southern enclosure were attacked and cleared, to enlarge
the areas where bracken has been removed to allow the development of
wood pasture. Both our livestock and wildlife will benefit from this
process, as a monoculture of tall bracken is replaced by a mosaic of
bracken with clear areas of herb-rich pasture for livestock, birds,
insects and reptiles.
Sunday 28th October.
Bash the Bracken!
One trustee and two volunteers cut and cleared the bracken from an area
in the western enclosure. This is part of our attempt to improve some of
the areas below Wharncliffe Crags, for wildlife and livestock. Thanks to
those involved for hard work and company. Hopefully trampling and
spreading of seed-rich hay in this area will further reduce the vigour
of the bracken, to allow wood pasture to develop.
Saturday 13th October.
Steve Price from Sorby Natural History
Society was joined by three Sorby members, one of whom was a trustee of
WHT, on a very blustery day. Various woodland a heathland habitats and
microniches were searched by eye and magnifying glass, which I am
sure will result in a healthy species list. Of particular interest were
areas of open bare dry ground as well as tree bark and rocks around
isolated trees. A very big thank you to Steve and others present for
their sometimes painstaking efforts (especially on the knees) on such a
windy day. Joint event with Sorby Natural History Society.
Saturday 6th October.
Bat Box check.
Twelve South Yorkshire Bat Group
members and two trustees carried out a check of the reserve's bat boxes
and looked in a couple of other places known to support roosting bats.
We were lucky enough to find 34 bats in total, species including
Daubenton’s, soprano pipistrelle, noctule and Natterer’s. A particular
highlight included finding a soprano pipistrelle mating roost with three
female bats guarded by one feisty male. We were also pleased to see that
four of the new boxes put up to replace failing units in 2017 were
already occupied. Before leaving we replaced two other old boxes and
installed a new cluster of five bat boxes on the heath. We can’t wait to
see what the 2019 checks bring.
Saturday 6th October.
In the evening 3 trustees were joined by an
amazing 37 attendees of all ages and sizes, for a walk through the woods
with bat detectors at the ready! Rob started us off with a short
description of the distinguishing features of bats and their lifestyles.
Unfortunately, due to the change to much cooler weather, bats on the
wing were not as abundant as the humans! Only one common pipistrelle was
picked up on detectors between the two bridges on the path up to the
reserve from Deepcar. However, 2 bats in torpor were found and seen by
the multitude; a Noctule visible inside a bat box, and a Daubenton's
between cracks in stonework. Despite the paucity of bat activity, this was a
very pleasant and educational way to spend a Saturday evening, and when
we finished the pubs were still open!
Sunday 30th September.
Birch Bash on Wharncliffe Heath.
Two stalwart volunteers joined a
trustee and picked up bow saws and loppers to tackle the birch regrowth
in the northern enclosure. A swathe was cut through the birch but quite
a lot remains. We will be back there shortly! A big "thankyou" to Steve
and Elizabeth for the company and hard work.
Sunday 16th September.
Sheffield Walking Festival:
Wonderful Wharncliffe Heath. 11
members of the public joined 2 trustees for this stroll around the heath
and its environs. Many subjects were discussed with interest; the
geology, archaeology, industrial history and current conservation
management plans being at the forefront. A very enjoyable way to spend a
Monday 11th June.
churring and frog-calling on Wharncliffe Heath, from 22.00.
Sunday 27th May.
A Dawn Chorus walk.
Unfortunately only one member of the public
and a trustee joined Andrew Hill for this annual early morning sojourn
in perfect weather. Due to the late spring and the very early arrival of
midsummer weather we were interested to see how the breeding birds were
doing. All the usual common residents and summer visitors were seen or
heard, perhaps the most notable being Green and Greater Spotted
Woodpecker, Bullfinch, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Tree Pipit, Linnet and
Pied and Spotted Flycatcher. A Buzzard also surprised us at it came
silently and swiftly hunting through the trees. Unfortunately, Cuckoo
and Wood Warbler, which had been heard earlier in the spring, were not
located in this instance. Many thanks for Andrew for taking the time and
sharing his undoubted expertise.
Friday 18th May.
Batty about Newts.
12, including 5 trustees and
representatives from S Yorks bat group assembled on a perfect evening,
with bat detectors, torches and sampling nets at the ready. We were
treated to some great views of Noctule Bats, low down over the dam pond,
followed by good displays from Common Pipistrelles. Rob Bell, from SYBG,
explained the work of the bat group, in particular what was going on at
WHLNR with the erection of bat boxes and monitoring their use. When it
was finally almost completely dark, out came the torches and sampling
nets, to take a closer look at palmate adult and larval newts, dragonfly
larvae and other aquatic denizens. Throughout the evening we were also
entertained by frequently roding Woodcock and the calls of a nearby
Tawny Owl. A very interesting evening, thanks to all.
Sunday 13th May.
What's happening at Wharncliffe?
Four trustees were joined by 6 members
of the public on a stroll around the heath and the surrounding woodland,
observing the effects of current management practices and discussing
plans for the future on a lovely spring day. Items discussed included
scrub control on the heath, wood pasture regeneration, the bird box and
bat box projects, as well as the archaeology and geology of the site.
The bluebells were at their best and some nice birds were seen and
heard, including a male pied flycatcher inspecting one of the nest
boxes. Many thanks to those who took the time and effort to join us and
make it such an interesting day.
Sunday 3rd December.
Wood Pasture regeneration: Bracken brash
clear-up. As part of our project
to improve the quality of our wood pasture areas, for both wildlife and
livestock, 3 trustees were joined by 2 volunteers to cut and clear
bracken brash in the southern enclosure. We were lucky with the weather
and were joined at one point by a pair of displaying sparrowhawks and a
kestrel overhead. For the next few months the cattle will be encouraged
to go to this area to eat seed-rich hay and scatter the seed for us as
well as trample the new bracken growth. We have evidence that this
management is improving the habitat for some bird species and reptiles,
and is likely to be doing the same for many species of invertebrates. I
think everyone enjoyed the fresh air, exercise and jovial company.
Saturday 25th November.
Bash the birch with Sheffield
University Conservation Volunteers.
Sixteen SUCV members, WHT volunteers and
trustees tackled the terrain and birch regrowth in the northern
enclosure on a mostly sunny day, with snow in the Peak District gleaming
in the distance. It was very tough going but everyone put in a good
shift and a great deal was achieved. We then went for a stroll to
investigate the wood pasture areas and say hello to the livestock, who
were very pleased to receive some hay on such a cold day. At times Raven
and Buzzard were overhead, and 3 woodcock were also flushed, showing
that even at this time of year the heath is used by some valuable
species. A big thank you to all those involved, particularly the
University Volunteers for their hard work and enthusiasm. We hope to see
them again soon.
Saturday 11th November.
Fungus walk with Ziggy Senkans.
(Joint event with Sorby NHS).
Ziggy was joined by two trustees and 15 members of the public or Sorby
members ranging in age from 14 to 96, on a sunny and mild day. We walked
up to the heath before starting our searching, and it soon became
evident that, due to the lateness of the event or the sharp frosts
during the previous week, pickings would be slim. Ziggy will provide the
full list once he has verified it, but we did find some species
associated with birch heathland, such as Deceiver, Birch polypore, Birch
brittlegill, Candlesnuff, Grisette and Birch knight. Thanks to all those
who participated for an enjoyable day, and particularly to Ziggy for his
enthusiasm and knowledge.
Sunday 1st October.
Bash the birch on Wharncliffe Heath.
Three trustees were joined by two members of the public on a damp but
mild day. We tackled the birch regrowth in the northern enclosure where
the going is particularly tough due to the rough terrain and thick
covering of mature heather. Our livestock do not favour this part of the
reserve and so the birch can "get away" unless we lend them a hand in
controlling it. The hard work was rewarded by clear signs of progress as
well as fresh air, exercise and great views, all for free. Many thanks
to those who attended and put in the hard graft!
Sunday 17th September.
Wonderful Wharncliffe Heath.
This was our contribution to the
Sheffield Walking Festival, when 13 members of the public joined 3
trustees for a pleasant walk around the reserve during which time
various geological, archaeological and ecological aspects of the reserve
were discussed, in addition to descriptions of how the reserve is
managed for wildlife. We were very lucky with the weather, having to
endure just one light shower on our way back to Deepcar. A big "thank
you" to all those who participated, for a very enjoyable and interesting
day (see Images).
Wednesday 31st May.
Pair, male churring
and wing clapping from 21:40. It's always good to see/hear them on their
return to this traditional haunt. Also Woodcock and Tawny Owl present.
Sunday 28th May.
Dawn Chorus walk.
Andrew Hill was joined by 8 visitors and another trustee for an early
morning walk around Wharncliffe Heath. On the way up to the reserve,
most of the commoner woodland birds were heard, along with summer
visitors including Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Willow Warbler. At Plank
Gate, the brief song of the Spotted Flycatcher was audible, and the bird
was briefly seen in the treetops by a lucky few. A couple of Pied
Flycatchers were singing in the woodland around the heath, and on the
heath the song and display flight of the Tree Pipit was enjoyed by all.
On the way back down to the starting point, Andrew picked up the sound
of Greater Spotted Woodpecker chicks in a dead tree trunk, adding
another nest to the database. Thanks to everyone who made the effort to
join us for such an early start, which I think was well worth the
Wednesday 7th May. What’s Happening on
This annual tour, which aims to provide an introduction to and a
discussion of our activities, was attended by 4 trustees and 4 members
of the public. The fine weather and the interest and enthusiasm of the
members of the public who came along made up for the relatively small
numbers. The format of the tour followed the traditional pattern;
ascending from the Don bridge on Station Road and discussing the various
features of the landscape and its past use. On arriving at the enclosed
area above the crags, some of the management activities were described.
The work of our grazing animals, (who obligingly showed themselves to
the party), was clear to be seen, and the newly installed exclosure
areas and their purpose was discussed. As usual, the newborn Shetland
lambs were a star attraction. The significant programme of installing
species-specific nesting boxes in suitable locations was also
highlighted. Thanks to all those who came along for a very pleasant and
interesting few hours.
Saturday 8th April. Geology of
Wharncliffe. Peter Kennett and his colleagues Duncan, Peter and
Rick, from the Sheffield Area Geology Trust (SAGT), joined us to provide
an introduction to the geology of the Site of Special Scientific
Interest around the Nature Reserve and Wharncliffe Crags. The event was
well supported, the party numbering 24 in total. The warm and sunny
conditions were ideal for the tour of the area. We started with an
introduction to geological time. Then, under the impressive rock face
across the River Don from the Lowood Club, simple equipment, (glass
jars, sand and water) was used to demonstrate the formation mechanisms
of the sedimentary rocks around us. We soon had new understanding of how
water flow conditions could be read from the nature of the bedding
patterns and what could be gleaned from tiny ripples and holes. Moving
on and up towards the Reserve, discussion ranged from the sources of
building stone for the railway bridges to the sightings of brimstone
butterflies and green tiger beetle. The harder stone of the Crags and
the relicts of quern stone manufacture on the dip slope led to a lively
discussion of millstones, milling and the landscape-industry
relationships in our area. Stepping back into time, Peter used the view
west from the crag top to outline the large-scale changes in water and
ice movement which create landscapes. The return descent took us again
into quarrying, refractories and modern industrial times. The breadth of
topics presented ranged from the origins of earth itself to the roles of
the small burrowing creatures that left their traces in our sandstones.
All information was clearly and enthusiastically presented by Peter and
his team, and received by the audience. Geology, wildlife and weather
all combined to make this an outstanding event.
Sunday 26th March.
Wood pasture bracken bash with the
Sheffield University Conservation Volunteers.
On a beautiful sunny early spring day 13
participants including 7 members of the University of Sheffield
Conservation Volunteers slashed and raked bracken brash on part of
Wharncliffe Heath to expose the mineral soil beneath, as the first stage
of improving a new area of wood pasture. We will now encourage the
livestock into this area with hay and salt licks. With time the bracken
will be replaced with areas of new acid grassland and heather. At the
same time, some of the team erected small exclosures in an area that has
already been returned to acid grassland, to allow some of the developing
vegetation to flower and produce seed for what we hope will be a
developing seed bank. Thanks to all those present on what was a very
enjoyable day in a beautiful corner of Sheffield.
Sunday 12th March.
Bash the Birch on Wharncliffe Heath.
Four trustees and 2 volunteers tackled the
birch regrowth in the northern enclosure on a beautiful spring day.
Loppers and bow saws were kept busy, even though we were surprised at
the good job that the livestock have been doing there. Nibbled birch and
animal tracks now criss-cross the enclosure. Good views of Brown Hare,
a hunting male Sparrowhawk, a quartering female Kestrel
and a couple of Woodcock added to the "good life" feeling. Thanks
to all those who took part on a very enjoyable day.
of bat boxes in woodland on the reserve. Six members of the
South Yorkshire Bat Group and one trustee of the WHT inspected almost 50
bat boxes located in the woodland of the Wharncliffe Heath Local Nature
Reserve. On the way up to the reserve, a single
Natterer’s bat was found in a crack of an old railway bridge. In
the woodland, seven boxes were found to contain three species of bat.
Five boxes contained seven
with the max count of three together in a wooden box near the dam pond,
the other four boxes containing single bats. One wooden box
Natterer’s bats. A woodcrete box contained four
Common Pipistrelle bats.
Sunday 13th November.
Bash the birch with the Sheffield
University Conservation Volunteers.
We were fortunate to be able to host the
Sheffield Uni Volunteers for a day of birch bashing followed by a brief
tour of the reserve. Nine students joined us, to add to two other
volunteers and a trustee. On a very fine November day we tackled the
northern boulder slope of the heath. The terrain there is very tough,
with rocks, boulders and gaps hidden by bracken, heather and slippery
moss, but the job was completed with good humour. Six Buzzards were
overhead for quite some time, probably watching with some amusement the
awkward and slow progress being made by the wingless bipeds below. During
a walk around the reserve it was discovered that 2 rams had escaped
their enclosure in search of the neighbouring ewes, so the day ended
with an unscheduled shepherding exercise! Thanks to all for making the
day so successful.
October. Fungi Walk.
15 of us joined Chris Kelly for a very
rewarding few hours in the woods and heath at Wharncliffe. A great deal
of interest was shown by everyone, meaning that "progress" was painfully
slow but very productive, as new specimens were discovered and
discussed. I think everyone agreed that the event could be longer, due
to the great diversity of heath and woodland species. Thanks to all
those attending, and in particular to Chris for substituting so well for
Ziggy who was ill on the day.
Sunday 18th September. Sheffield Walking
Festival Walk 27: Wonderful Wharncliffe Heath. This was part of the
inaugural Sheffield Walking Festival. It was very well attended by the
public and trustees, on a beautiful sunny late summer's day. The
figure-of eight walk over the heath and surrounding woodland took in
examples of the geology of the site, and evidence of man's use of the
area over the last 6,000 years, for hunting, quernstone manufacture,
coal, ganister and charcoal production, and the Victorian tourist
industry. The current management of the site for wildlife, with
livestock and human volunteers, was a keen topic of conservation.
Although a quiet time of year, Raven, Buzzard and Greater Spotted
Woodpecker were seen and heard, as well as 3 species of hawker dragonfly
over the ponds. A big Thank you! to all those who attended and made the
day so interesting and enjoyable.
Sunday 21st August.
Two trustees and 3 other volunteers
began the job of tackling the bracken beneath the crags. We hope to
encourage the development of areas of wood pasture here, by bracken
clearance followed by livestock activity. After a few hours of hard
slashing and raking, piles of cut bracken and bare earth replaced the
previously continuous swathe of tall bracken. It was hard going on a
humid day but marks the start of another project on the heath. Special
thanks go to Elizabeth, Steve and Martin.
Friday 15th July.
Batty about Newts and Nightjars.
A group of 22 of all ages, including 5
trustees, met for this evening event. It was really 3 events in one.
First we went onto the heath and enjoyed good views of roding Woodcock
and listened to the churring of a male Nightjar. We then found our way
back to the dam pond where torches were switched off and bat detectors
turned on. Common and Soprano Pipistrelles and Daubenton's bats could be heard around
the trees and over the water. Then the torches were turned on in order
to find and catch some of the denizens of the pond. Unfortunately the
unwanted denizens, a shoal of introduced goldfish, appear to have
decimated the native Palmate Newt and dragonfly larvae populations.
However examples of both were still found and examined before being
carefully returned to the water. Thanks to all those who stayed up until
midnight for a fascinating time on a very pleasant evening.
Tuesday 7th June.
Our flagship bird is here for the summer.
Seen at the northern end of the western enclosure, with churring at
21.52. The male followed by a female then flew to the woodland boundary
at the base of the boulder slope. Very shortly after, churring was heard
coming from a point to the south. PS. Subsequent visits confirmed the
presence of one male and at least one female.
Sunday 22nd May.
Dawn Chorus walk.
Andrew Hill was joined by 10 visitors and a trustee on a beautiful May
morning. The stroll through the woods and onto the heath was leisurely,
with many stops to look and listen. Most of the expected woodland birds
were heard, and some seen, and all were identified by Andrew. The star
attractions were probably our now regular Pied Flycatchers, which use
the nest boxes on the edge of the heath, and a Cuckoo which was heard on
numerous occasions, sometimes quite close. The Tree Pipits and Linnets
on the heath also performed well for us. After 4 hours it was 8.30am and
most people were ready for breakfast, possibly followed by a nap! Thanks
to all those who made the effort to join us. We were well rewarded by
the weather and most of all, by the birdsong.
Sunday 15th May.
What's Happening at Wharncliffe?
Five trustees greeted 10 members of the local community for a walk
around the nature reserve and discussion sabout its management. The
trustees were pleased to learn from local residents that the origin of
some of the ponds in the woods above Deepcar was as a water supply for
the ex-Lowood brickworks. The importance of wood pasture (once a
common landscape feature but now quite rare) for many species of
wildlife was discussed, and the influence of nest boxes on the numbers
of nesting Pied Flycatchers was demonstrated. Perhaps the most important
point that came through the walk and the discussions was the
effectiveness of extensive livestock grazing for the maintenance of
healthy and diverse heathland habitats. Thanks to all those who took
part, on a very enjoyable day in fine spring weather.
Saturday 2nd April.
Geology of Wharncliffe.
We were very fortunate to attract Peter
Kennett and five other geologists, as well as 3 lay members of the
community, to join one trustee for this event. The first port of call
was the cliff outcrop opposite the Lowood Club on the bank of the R Don.
Clearly visible in the sandstone, formed on a freshwater delta, were
infilled vertical burrows which had been made by bivalves over 300
million years ago as they kept heading upwards through the rapidly
accumulating sand deposits. Also visible here and on Wharncliffe Crags
were many examples of cross-bedding, where underwater dunes had formed a
distinctive shape dependent on the direction of flow of the water. These
features, and even the positioning in the rock of a cast of a piece of
tree debris, allowed interpretation of what Wharncliffe was like in
Carboniferous times, when the deltaic nature of the area had allowed
such large sandstone accumulations over a relatively (geologically)
short period of time, interspersed with more stagnant water conditions,
when various coal seams had been laid down. The ancient soil beneath the
coal seams formed ganister, which was extensively worked for refractory
materials. The final visit was to a large tree-covered quarry near the
old main railway line. The massive and homogenous nature of the
sandstone in the quarry suggested that it must have been highly valued
as dressed building stone. A big "thank you" to all those present for a
fascinating and thought-provoking few hours.
Sunday 20th March.
Bash the birch!
Once again we were lucky with the weather, as 5 trustees were joined by
4 members of the public to tackle birch regrowth in the S enclosure and
along the crag top. We soon finished the S enclosure and then worked our
way back north along the top of the crags. The two climbers, a dry
stonewaller and a University undergraduate managed the tricky terrain
with few problems. In fact getting round the site proved to be the
hardest bit of the job, as the number of birch saplings is definitely
decreasing over time, thanks largely to the work put in by our
livestock. A March Brown Hare, a couple of lizards, with buzzards and
curlews overhead added greatly to the spring atmosphere. Thanks to all
March. A look back at the past.
Three trustees introduced visitors from
the Hunter Archaeological Society to features on and around the
Wharncliffe Heath Nature Reserve. After a short diversion to the bank
of the Don to inspect the cliff face topped by a Mesolithic site, the
party ascended to the crags. Indicators of past industrial activities
such as ganister mining were noted. There was a lively discussion as to
the possible origins of some of the smaller dams and leats as
landscaping features. A reminder of the popularity of the area for
tourists in Victorian times came from the graffiti carved in rocks
beside the path along the crag top and the names given to the various
rock features. The site is most famous as a source of quern stones for
grinding cereals, produced over many centuries. Using the results from
recent surveys it was possible to locate traces of production, such as
rejected part-formed discs and chipping sites. Also noted were features
such as trackways and a stone circle.
Saturday 13th February.
Bracken Bash with University of
Sheffield Conservation Volunteers.
A grand total of 21 participants, including
15 Sheffield University students, tackled the dense bracken beds on the
southern edge of the northern enclosure, cutting and raking the dead
bracken brash into piles. Over the next few weeks hay will be
distributed in this area, and the cattle will be weakening the bracken
rhizomes with their trampling. This should allow grasses and heather to
develop in this area of regenerating wood pasture. A big thank you to
all involved, particularly the students for joining us in this venture.
Saturday 24th October.
Birch Bash with the
University Conservation Volunteers! Three trustees were joined by 13
volunteers including 9 University of Sheffield Conservation Volunteers
on a very unpromising morning. By the time we reached the Southern
Enclosure it was raining hard enough to ensure that the heather and
bracken would be soaked, meaning that we would be too. Not at all put
off, everyone set to work with loppers on the birch saplings that the
livestock had failed to clear. A good 2 hours' work was done before
lunch, after which some were starting to get cold as well as wet, so we
downed tools and went for a walk around the reserve. The students were
particularly interested in the use of livestock to control tree regrowth
and the way they are helping to conserve the heath and create wood
pasture. A big thank you to all those hardy souls who turned up, and
hopefully enjoyed themselves despite the inclement weather!
Sunday 13th September.
trustees and two volunteers attacked the birch regrowth on the South
enclosure with loppers on a beautiful September day. There is still some
left to do, but a great deal was achieved in a very aerobic and
enjoyable way. Small Copper, Painted Lady, a late singing Chiff Chaff, a
Green Woodpecker and a Brown Hare were seen or heard even at this slow
time of the year.
Sunday 26th July.
The day dawned with a doubtful
forecast, but four hardy volunteers turned up for a bracken bash in the
South enclosure. The aim was to continue the earlier clearance in the
area close to the main entrance gate, on the left of the path leading to
the crag top. The quartet set about expanding the area opened up by
previous bashes, which, combined with trampling by the stock, have
resulted in encouraging signs of new heather growth. With raindrops
cooling the coffee at lunchtime there was some excuse for a short
afternoon shift, but every little helps.
Friday 24th July.
Batty about Newts!
trustees were joined by 15 local residents for this annual event. We
were very lucky with the weather as rain had been falling until the
start of the event, but we ended up with a lovely still mild evening,
perfect for flying insects, mammals and crepuscular birds. We walked up
on to the heath and enjoyed the view while waiting to hear the churring
of the ghostly Nightjar. We were not disappointed, as churring started
about 21.40 and continued for quite a while, along with some
wing-clapping displays by the male bird. A female bird was also seen by
some of the participants. We then made our way back to the pond, in
almost complete darkness. Torches were turned on, and large numbers of
Palmate Newts and their larvae were caught and examined. Unfortunately
the goldfish in the pond appear to have greatly reduced the number of
dragonfly larvae, though a few large specimens were found. Bat detectors
revealed the presence of at least three species of bat over the pond and
in the surrounding woodland - Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle
and Daubenton's. All-in-all a very enjoyable and productive evening.
Many thanks to all those involved.
Sunday 19th July.
We are attempting to reduce bracken
cover and replace it with a grassy heathery sward wherever possible. To
this end 4 trustees were joined by 4 volunteers for a day of bracken
cutting and raking, after we had satisfied ourselves that there were no
bracken spores or nesting birds in the area we wished to work, in the
western enclosure below Wharncliffe Crags. Four small connected sunny
glades were cleared, and hay from a local flower-rich meadow was thinly
scattered over the glades. We hope to now attract cattle into the area
with the use of salt licks. Their trampling will damage the bracken
rhizomes and allow the new vegetation to get established. This is a slow
process, but on a site where mechanical machinery cannot work, and where
we wish to reduce the use of herbicide to an absolute minimum, cattle
and patience are our best weapons! Thanks to all those who participated
and enjoyed a day of free aerobic exercise.
Sunday 10th May.
On a pretty reasonable early May
afternoon 3 trustees were joined by 3 members of the public for a
leisurely stroll around Wharncliffe Heath to discuss management
practices and to examine the results of management. The first point of
call was the Southern Enclosure to meet our main management tools -
livestock. Over the last few years we have been trying to reduce the
vigour of bracken growing at the base of the dip slope. The livestock
have been encouraged to congregate in this area by hay and salt licks.
Cattle in particular should damage the bracken rhizomes by their
trampling. In addition we have cut the dead bracken and cleared it from
various areas to allow seeds in the seed bank and originating from the
hay to germinate and flourish. It's early days but the green haze over
the land was a clear sign of seed germination, and closer inspection
revealed several species of grass. Heather plants were in short supply,
but time will tell whether this area develops into wood-pasture or
heather-dominated heath. A stroll over the rest of the heath revealed
signs of grazing of birch and oak. We visited the wooded bog in the
Western enclosure, which is intersected by the fence line. Here the
effect of grazing was immediately apparent, with sphagnum dominating the
grazed part of the bog, thistles and brambles populating the ungrazed
area. We also discussed the links with past industrial times, from
Bronze age quern stones to signs of charcoal manufacture such as
multi-stemmed (previously coppiced) trees and charcoal-making platforms.
During the short visit we were entertained by the song of Willow
Warblers and Tree Pipits, and by the antics of numerous Green Tiger
Beetles. Thanks to all those present for a very enjoyable and
Sunday 22nd March.
Raze the Rhododendron!
including 3 volunteers, tackled a Rhododendron ponticum thicket
in the western enclosure below Wharncliffe Crags. It was considered too
risky to burn the cut material on such a warm day (honestly!!) in an
area full of dry dead bracken fronds. Fortunately the fence line was
quite near so the offending material was placed over the fence, safely
away from any grazing livestock. Apart from the lively conversation the
day was improved by a view of a Peregrine briefly overhead. Thanks to
all those who took part. Joint event with Steel
Sunday 8th March. Bash
the Birch at Wharncliffe Heath.
trustees were joined by the same number of volunteers for a day of
cutting birch scrub on the heath. Even over very rough terrain on the
boundary between the northern and southern enclosures, we managed to
cover about 2 ha. The Shetland cattle and sheep were very inquisitive
but well-behaved, especially at lunch time! Perhaps the wildlife
highlight of the day was 5 Common Buzzards overhead at the same time,
using the updrafts created by Wharncliffe Crags. Thanks to all who took
part and I hope everyone enjoyed the day as much as I did.
Saturday 13th December.
An 8-strong band worked in the Southern enclosure, between the path and
the pond, to clear dead bracken and brash. Then Shetland cattle were
introduced to the site. The purpose of this activity is to allow cattle
access to areas where the seed bank is exposed, to trample the bracken
rhizomes and to distribute seed from flower-rich hay around the area. We
know from prior experience that this helps to break up the thick sward
of bracken into a mosaic where bracken beds are interspersed with areas
of regenerating heather and grass heath. This type of habitat is great
for invertebrates and insect-eating animals such as viviparous lizard
and many bird species. Thanks to everyone for the hard work on a
beautiful crisp December day, further helped by the call of a Raven and
the sighting of Redwing feeding on Holly berries.
Sunday 19th October.
Fungus hunt with Ziggy Senkans.
15 members of the public joined Ziggy and 4 Trustees on this largely
sunny but blustery morning. There was some concern that the fungal
"bloom" that had occurred in September may lead to short rations for us,
but in the end we matched last year's total of about 40 species I hope everyone enjoyed the day.
2) Blushing Bracket
3) Honey Fungus
4) Milking Bonnet
6) Jelly Ear
7) Sulphur Knight
8) Lilac Bonnet Mycena pura
9) Wood Woolyfoot
10) Blackening Brittlegill
11) Mazegill sp
12) Fibre cap sp
13) Orange naval cap
14) Blackening Russula
15) Scurfy Twiglet
16) Brown Role-rim
17) Poison Pie
18) Common Earthball
19) Birch Polypore
20) White Saddle
21) Oak bug milkcap
23) Birch Brittlegill
24) Tawny Grissett
25) Fly Agaric
26) Brown Cup
28) Brown Birch Bolete
29) Birch Knight
31) Russula sp
32) Russet toughshank
33) Mycena sp (1)
34) Mycena sp (2) (on bracken)
35) Lactarius subdulcis
36) Ugly Milkcap
37) The Blusher
38) Eyelash Fungus
39) Birch Milkcap
40) Bleeding Mycena
Friday 25th July.
Batty about Newts!
14 Attendees walked up on to the heath in the evening, where everyone
was treated to the sound of a male churring Nightjar, and some saw the
bird churring from the top of a small tree. We then retraced our steps
to the dam pond. First the bat detectors came out and revealed the
presence of Common and Soprano Pipistrelles. Last of all, the pond
dipping gear and torches were used to find and net some "demons of the
deep". Large numbers of Palmate Newts were located, and a few netted, in
order to demonstrate the webbed rear feet and thread-like end to the
tail of the males. Unfortunately it seems that the introduced Goldfish
have seriously reduced the number of dragonfly larvae in the pond.
Thanks to all those who participated, particularly the younger and very
enthusiastic members of the party!
Thursday 5th June.
Nightjar churring 10pm.
Single male churring and calling in the N
and S enclosures of Wharncliffe Heath, above the crags.
Sunday 25th May.
Dawn Chorus walk.
7 of us joined Andrew Hill on a morning that did not look too hopeful.
Fortunately the torrential rain eased sufficiently to allow bird song to
be heard, and it turned into a very worthwhile morning. Amazingly 4
Spotted Flycatchers were heard on the way from Deepcar to the reserve
boundary, with another inside the boundary. Andrew had ample opportunity
to point out distinctive features of the songs of many common woodland
species. On the edge to the heath a Redstart was heard, with Tree Pipits
and Linnets showing well on the heath itself. Throughout, we were
accompanied by the sound of one, then two, Cuckoos calling. Andrew,
alert as ever, discovered a Nuthatch nesting hole in a birch tree, with
fledged young just leaving home! As we were about to complete the walk a
Hobby flew over. Thanks to all those who participated on a morning when
many would have stayed in bed, and a particular Thank You to Andrew for
his time, enthusiasm and knowledge.
Sunday 18th May.
What's happening at Wharncliffe?
Three trustees and 6 members of the
public took a gentle stroll around Wharncliffe Heath, assessing the
effects of management on the site and enjoying the wildlife. The very
positive effect of cattle grazing and trampling was seen and discussed.
Where a thick and uninterrupted bed of bracken used to be, the bracken
is now much reduced and has been replaced by a green haze as grass and
herb seeds from cattle droppings and hay have begun to germinate.
Management of livestock also involves the provision of water, and the
positive impact of the pond in the southern enclosure on diversity was
also noted. On a very warm day the invertebrates of the heath were
active. Day-flying moths, tiger beetles, shield bugs etc were all
observed and photographed. The frequent calling of a Cuckoo completed
the heathland experience, just a few miles from the centre of Sheffield.
Thanks to all who participated for interesting discussions and lots of
April. Bat box survey.
Members of Wharncliffe Heathlands Trust and the South Yorkshire Bat
Group (SYBG) inspected around 50 bat boxes in the woods around
Wharncliffe Heath. One of the wood boxes contained five Brown
Long-eared bats. Our records over the years have been highly
variable. Last year just one Noctule bat was found and
in 2012 at least six
Natterer’s bats were found in one box, at least 21
Natterer’s bats in another, and a third box contained at least 13 Brown Long-eared bats.
Common and Soprano Pipistrelles have also been recoded in
the past using these boxes. It is likely that, despite only temporary
occupation, the boxes are extremely valuable to a number of different
species of bat and will help to maintain their local populations.
Sunday 30th March.
Rhodo Cut'n Burn. Last weekend
we were working through hail showers. This time 7 participants completed
the job in hazy warm sunshine, with a singing Chiffchaff for company. We
all went home a bit sweaty and smelling of kippers, but with the
knowledge that it was a good job done. Thanks to all those
Sunday 23rd March.
Rhodo Cut'n Burn. 11 trustees
and other volunteers tackled a large Rhododendron ponticum below
Wharncliffe Crags. Due to the soggy nature of just about everything,
aided and abetted by hail showers, the job did not get finished but we
hope to do this next weekend. Thanks to everyone who turned up,
particularly those who finally managed to get the fire going!
Sunday 2nd March.
14 members of the Sheffield
University Conservation Volunteers made the total number up to a
very good 18, who cut and raked bracken to reclaim wood-pasture habitats
below Wharncliffe Crags. A good 2-hours' work was done before the
weather turned for the worse, at which point we all took a walk around
the reserve. Many thanks to all those who took part. We hope the
livestock will now take over the continuing wood-pasture management on
this piece of land.
Sunday 3rd November.
Birch Bash. On a day of
sun and blustery showers, 13 of us, including 8 from the University
of Sheffield Conservation Volunteers, tackled the birch regrowth on
a particularly rocky and awkward part of the Western enclosure. A great
job was done with a large area (3-4 Ha?) being cleared. Thanks to all
who participated. We look forward to the UoS volunteers (and Mark)
joining us again the the future.
Sunday 27th October. Fungus Hunt led by Ziggy
Senkans. 17 members of the
public joined Ziggy and 4 trustees on a mild but very windy day. We
spent time looking for fungi in the woods surrounding Wharncliffe Heath
as well as combing the heath itself. Some very beautiful fungi were
found, as well as some unusual ones. The complete list is attached
below. Also noted was the profusion of lichens on the heath,
demonstrating recovery from the days of smoke stacks and acid rain. Many
thanks to all those who came along and participated.
Species identified by C. Kelly & M. Senkans
Compiled by M. Senkans
Red cap skin
sized, with birch
capped with an umbo. Under birch
Chalciporus piperatus #
Scleroderma citrinum #
Thelephora terrestris #
Auricularia auricular - judae
Found on Wharncliffe Heath (SK2997 / SK295979)
Found on both the Heath and in the woodland (SK2998 /
Sunday 29th September.
Bat box inspection. A
total of six people attended this event led by members of Wharncliffe
Heathlands Trust and the South Yorkshire Bat Group. Some fifty boxes
were inspected but in contrast to the fantastic results obtained from
the inspection last October only one bat was found. This was thought to
be a young female noctule bat (see Images),
a species that has not been recorded from the boxes on the reserve for
some years. About a dozen other boxes contained evidence of use by
bats, from the presence of droppings, although some of these were quite
old. At least one contained several hundred droppings and was
discovered to be one of the boxes that contained a roost of Natterer’s
bat during the inspection of October 2012.
Sunday 22nd September 11am.
Habitat regeneration event. Nine trustees and volunteers cleared
bracken helping to create new heath and wood-pasture habitat under
Wharncliffe Crags. Standing deadwood habitats were also created by
ring-barking a few of the birch trees. A joint event between Wharncliffe
Heathlands Trust and the Steel Valley Project. A very enjoyable day in
good company with good weather, doing something useful for the
environment. Thanks to all who contributed!
24th July. Batty about Newts! Two trustees were joined by 7
members of the public for this crepuscular event on a lovely warm and
windless evening. A short walk on to Wharncliffe Heath was rewarded with
the churring of a male Nightjar at 21.40 for at least 15 minutes. We
then headed down into the darkness of the wood to the dam pond. Bat
detectors revealed a good number of bats over the pond and in the
surrounding woodland. The bats seemed to know about "broadband" as they
could be picked up from 30 to 50kHz. Most seemed to be Common
Pipistrelle but there may have been a few Daubenton's over the water.
Then on went the torches to reveal literally hundreds of Palmate Newt
adults and larvae in the pond. The walk back down to Deepcar was
highlighted with great views of a Common Pipistrelle hanging from the
roof of the tunnel, apparently totally unworried by the torch light and
interest it generated. Thanks to everyone for a very entertaining and
Thursday 6th June.
Moth trapping and identification.
trap was set up the previous evening by Richard Harris and Julie
Westfold from Sheffield City Council’s Ecology Unit, and this morning
four of us went back to see what it had attracted. We found 26 specimens
of Brown Silver Line, and were very pleased to see such large numbers of
this moth whose larvae feed on bracken. In addition there were 5 Lesser
Swallow Prominent, 2 Pebble Prominent and a single specimen of
Water Carpet. In the process we were treated to a "flyover" by a calling
male Cuckoo, and a female Greater Spotted Woodpecker collecting and
flying off with food. All-in-all a satisfying morning in delightful
weather. Thanks especially to Richard for his time and ID skills.
Sunday 26th May.
Hear the Dawn Chorus!
Five people joined Andrew Hill for an early
walk around Wharncliffe Heath and surrounding woodland. Once again we
were very lucky with the weather, being greeted by a stunning dawn and
just a gentle breeze. Highlights of the day were great views of Tree
Pipit, Redstart and Crossbill, fleeting glimpses of Spotted Flycatcher
and the distant calling of a male Cuckoo. Most of the "usual suspects"
were also present, allowing Andrew to point out distinguishing features
of many calls and songs. In all, 36 species were identified during a
very pleasant stroll which came to an end just in time for breakfast.
25th May. Nightjar heard churring on Wharncliffe Heath
between 9.30 and 9.40pm. It is always nice to know they are back and
hopefully will be with us for a few months.
11th May 10am. What's Happening at Wharncliffe? 5 trustees
and 5 members of the public met for a walk through Wharncliffe Heath
Nature Reserve, to assess the "state of play" regarding the management
of the reserve. Most of the time was spent in the large Western
enclosure, where glade creation had taken place in 2010. These areas had
been created around some splendid old coppiced oaks, to let in more
light, partly so that a wood-pasture or heathland ground flora could
develop. The first positive signs of this happening were seen. In areas
not covered by bracken litter young heather, wavy hair-grass and heath
bedstraw were found. We hope these glades will become important for many
unusual insects as well as birds such as Pied Flycatcher and Redstart.
On moving up to the current heath above the crags, management to
maintain this type of habitat was discussed,. A group of 9
Crossbills were a delight as they sat in a nearby birch tree for a
conveniently long time. Thanks to all those who turned up and
contributed to discussions that will guide future management.
April 11am. Bash the Birch on Wharncliffe Heath. On a very
pleasant day 5 trustees and 2 volunteers completed clearing the
remaining birch scrub from the Southern enclosure, which brings the
Winter management programme to a close (see Images). Now we await the arrival of the
migrant birds and increased activity from all aspects of the natural
world. One migrant, a Chiff-Chaff, was seen and heard singing. In
addition the obligatory 2 Woodcock were flushed from the heath where the
Linnets had returned and were singing. There were also "flyovers" by
Meadow Pipit, Yellowhammer, Siskins and 3 Crossbills. A big Thank you!
to all the volunteers who helped us complete the Winter management
17th March 11am. Bash the Birch on Wharncliffe Heath. 4
trustees and 1 other volunteer did a sterling job knocking back the
birch regrowth in the Southern enclosure. A flushed Woodcock and a flock
of 22 Waxwings added extra interest on a cold but dry day. Thanks to all
those who turned out.
Sunday 25th November.
Management Event at
Wharncliffe Heath. Bash the Birch!
Following a night of continuous heavy
rain, 5 trustees slipped, splashed and waded up the path from Deepcar to
the heath. Fortunately the clouds were soon blown away and then the wind
dropped to produce another lovely autumn day. The whole of the southern
enclosure to the North of the dissecting path was cleared of scrub. A
Woodcock was flushed, and a single Crossbill was heard overhead. A few
sheep kept a wary eye on our activities.
Sunday 18th November.
with University of Sheffield Conservation Volunteers.
7 UoS volunteers joined some of the
trustees on a glorious sunny morning, to tackle the birch scrub
developing in the Northern enclosure. After much pleasant but aerobic
work the job was finished and everyone gingerly found their way back to
the path over the slippery boulders. Some of the sheep came to keep us
company and to feed on the newly cut birch, and a Woodcock was flushed
from the heather. A hearty Thank you! to all the students who turned up.
Now that you know where the reserve is, we hope you will revisit in the
Saturday 13th October.
Inspection of bat boxes in woodland
on the reserve. Members of the public joined with members of South
Yorks Bat Group and WHT to inspect a total of 53 bat boxes located in
the woodland of the Wharnciffe Heath Local Nature Reserve. On the way
up to the reserve a single Daubenton’s bat was found in a crack
of an old railway bridge. In the woodland three boxes were found to
contain two species of bats. One wooden box contained at least six
Natterer’s bats. A second box located nearby contained at least 21
Natterer’s bats. A third box contained at least 13 Brown Long-eared bats. Representative bats were moved temporarily for
inspection and data collection (see Images).
In the evening 9 people reconvened
for a walk at dusk to record bat activity.
The weather was quite cool, but Natterer's were heard leaving the boxes,
with a couple of bat sorties detected over
the nearby pond. Thanks to all those participating, especially
Flanagan and Anna McGrath, with Rob Bell and Jonathan Moore
from SYBG. Probably the most
successful bat day we have had!
Sunday 9th September.
Bash the Birch!
On a glorious late Summer's day, 7
volunteers and trustees tackled the birch regrowth in the Northern
enclosure. With loppers and bow saws hard at work, a sizeable area was
cleared on a part of the heath not normally visited by any other than
our livestock. They had been busy, with many saplings showing signs of
extensive grazing. The mixture of green bracken and purple heather was a
pleasure to behold, with the odd lizard seen darting for cover. I hope
everyone had a great time. There is no doubt that a combination of the
hot weather, rough terrain and hard work was quite tiring, so a big
thank you to all participants.
Tuesday 24th July.
Batty about Newts.
An amazing 39 people turned up in the
evening for this event. We were all extremely lucky with the
weather, it being one of very few warm and balmy evenings this Summer.
And the wildlife obliged, too! Nightjar, newts, bats (Daubenton's and
Common Pipistrelle at least), dragonfly larvae and even young Tawny Owls
all made an appearance and were either seen or heard by the assembled
throng. All-in-all a very successful evening, so a big thank you to all
those who turned out and helped to make it so memorable.
Tuesday 29th May.
Nightjar back at
Wharncliffe Heath. Male Nightjar
churring, wing-clapping with the odd (very odd!) frog call from 21.50.
Still going strong at 22.20. Woodcock continuously roding over the
Sunday 27th May.
Dawn Chorus Walk.
Nine people gathered on Station Road
Deepcar at the unearthly hour of 4.30am. But what a perfect morning!
Clear skies and only a slight breeze left everyone feeling optimistic.
And eyes were shortly opened by the sight of a Tawny Owl, followed by
Blue Tits feeding chicks in a hole in a nearby tree. But after that the
ears became much more important as the leafy canopy prevented most good
views. It was soon apparent that it is a very good year for Blackcap in
the woods and Willow Warbler on the heath. Most of the expected woodland
and heathland birds were heard in the woods and seen and heard on the
heath, most notably Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Linnet, Curlew and
even a distant Cuckoo. Many thanks go to Andrew Hill for his expert
leadership, bird id skills and descriptions of the birds and their
natural history. It was all well worth the early start!
Saturday 12th May.
What's Happening at
Wharncliffe? 8 participants took
the opportunity for a stroll around Wharncliffe Heath nature reserve and
a discussion on how the reserve is being managed and the plans for the
future. This included visiting the heathland, the surrounding woodland,
and new areas of birch felling and grazing aimed at increasing habitat
for scarce birds such as Nightjar, Tree Pipit, Redstart and Pied
Flycatcher as well as reptiles and many other species. The reasons why
Wharncliffe Crags is a geological SSSI and for the designation as a
Schedule 1 Ancient Monument were also discussed. I think everyone agreed
that we are very lucky to have an area of such rich environmental and
Sunday 8th April. Bash the Birch on Wharncliffe
Heath. Continuing last weekend's good work, cutting back some
of the birch saplings on the heath to allow the smaller plants such as
heather to flourish and provide habitat for all those heath-loving
insects, reptiles and birds. 5 participants helped to cut back the birch
regrowth on the heath, ready for the birds and the livestock to return.
We have left some to do in the autumn but the site is looking good and
we await the return of Tree Pipits, Linnets and Nightjar. Willow
Warblers had just returned and could be heard singing on the heathland
fringe. Many thanks to all those who have participated in the work
events over the past winter season.
Sunday 1st April. Bash the Birch on Wharncliffe
Heath. Although our livestock do a great job at munching
through young trees, occasionally they need a bit of help. 4
participants cut birch regrowth while one of the trustees increased the
width of the fire breaks with a strimmer. We were treated to great views
of raptors displaying on the up-currents generated by the spring
Sunday 25th March.
Raze the Rhodo at Wharncliffe Heath. A
second chance to help control Rhododendron ponticum which is
spreading on the reserve to the detriment of native species. Once again
we were very lucky with the weather, and 6 participants worked up a
sweat lopping and sawing to the sound of Chiffchaffs singing in the wood
and a visit from the first lamb of the year. Thanks to everyone
Sunday 11th March. Raze the Rhodo at Wharncliffe
Heath. An absolutely gorgeous day more like June than March,
enjoyed by 10 participants who cut and hacked their way through some
tough bushes. The cut material was burnt so as not to be hazardous to
the sheep, which provided an opportunity to bake and consume some spuds
at the end of the day. 6 soaring Common Buzzards and a Peregrine
fly-past added to the day. A very big "thank-you" to all those involved.
Sunday 13th November.
Action at Agden Bog. Agden Bog is a
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve which needs grazing by livestock to
enhance its value as a home to small and sensitive bog plants such as
Round-leaved Sundew and Heath Spotted Orchid. We have previously agreed
with YWT to help them with the management of this site. The day was
foggy and damp, as 9 people in total started to clear the proposed fence
line of tree and scrub cover. The work was virtually completed by the
end of the day, thanks to a great deal of hard but satisfying work, and
the presence of a chain-saw. A couple of breaks from the sawing and
lopping allowed us to see Common Buzzard and a flock of Siskin, and hear
Crossbills through the fog. Some lucky individuals also flushed a
Woodcock and watched as it pretended to have a broken leg and wing
before proving that this was not the case by flying off. Thanks to all
those who took part, and particularly to the staff of YWT for overseeing
the event and operating the chain-saw.
Sunday 23rd October.
Fungal Foray at Wharncliffe Heath. On a
beautiful autumnal Sunday morning, 17 people turned up at Wharncliffe
Woods to meet local mycologist Ziggy Senkans. We barely got into the
woods before the first fungus was spotted growing on birch,
Piptoporus betulinus, Birch Polypore or Razor Strap. This is one of
the most common polypores. It is not edible but “Ötzi”
the 5,300 year old ice-man mummy was found to be carrying this species
which he may have valued for its antibiotic properties, but as its name
suggests, may have been used for sharpening blades. The biggest fruiting
body found was that of the Penny Bun (Boletus edulis) which is
very good to eat. The smallest found was that of the Lemon Disco (Bisporella
citrina). The fruiting bodies are just 0.5 – 3mm across and bright
yellow, but not edible. A good time was had by all. A full list of
species from the morning will be on the website in due course. Joint
event with Sorby Natural History Society.
Sunday 16th October.
Raze the Rhodo!
Rhododendron ponticum may have pretty pink flowers but
it is a beast and an alien. It smothers other plants and prevents
regeneration for a while even after it has been removed. A group of 9
met on a beautiful warm and sunny autumn day. A large patch of Rhodo
under the crags was tackled with loppers and saws, and the cut material
was burnt on site, as it is toxic to livestock. A lot of hard work
resulted in major clearance, but there is still much more for us to
tackle in the future. The regrowth from the cut stumps will be sprayed
with herbicide next year. 3 soaring Buzzards were over the crags as we
walked back down at the end of the day. Thanks to all who came along and
worked so hard.
event with The Steel Valley Project.
Wednesday 12th October.
Small Mammal Survey at Wharncliffe Heath.
mammal expert Derek Whiteley helped us set 23 humane Longworth and
Sherman traps the previous evening, all stocked with bedding and food.
The following morning 8 participants including Derek
convened to see what had been caught overnight.
The result was just one male Wood Mouse, caught in the Barnsley corner
of surrounding woodland. Derek showed us how to safely retrieve the
animal from the trap, and how to sex and weigh it before returning it to
the wild. Joint event with Sorby Natural History Society.
Sunday 2nd October.
Bash the Birch on Wharncliffe Heath.
This event was planned as a Rhododendron bash but that requires that we
burn the cuttings. Due to the unusally dry and warm spell we decided it
would be safer to cut some more birch instead. Seven participants
continued the good start made on 18th September. Much hard work and good
companionship ensued, highlighted by views of Goshawk, Sparrowhawk and
Buzzard cavorting over the nearby Height. Thanks to all those who took
part on a very warm and humid day.
Sunday 18th September.
Bash the Birch on Wharncliffe Heath.
Four volunteers worked hard to clear almost a hectare of birch scrub in
the southern enclosure. Our livestock do a great job of keeping the
heath open but do need a bit of help from time to time. Other than the
fresh air and exercise the high spot was 4 Common Buzzards circling and
This was a joint event with The Steel
Friday 15th July.
Batty about Newts. 7
participants braved the drizzle and were rewarded by the sound of a male
Nightjar on the heath, churring and flight-calling. A female Nightjar
was also briefly seen. Back at the pond in the fading light a small
grass snake was swimming, on the lookout for newts and hopefully
goldfish. A loud splash alerted us to a large toad, disturbed by us and
heading back into the pond for safety. Once the dusk had almost faded
the torches came out and the bat detectors were turned on. Many Palmate
Newts and their larvae were seen beneath the surface. In particular the
number of "newtpoles" was outstanding and suggested that it had been a
good breeding year. On the down side, very few large dragonfly larvae
were spotted. This could be the result of many dragonflies emerging
early this year, or might suggest predation by the now resident
population of goldfish. Common Pipistrelles were the only species of bat
to be identified, flying in the tree canopy above the pond. The trustees
present certainly enjoyed the evening, and hope that members of the
public did too.
Saturday 18th June.
What's happening at Wharncliffe? This
evening visit entailed a walk around areas of the nature reserve that
have recently seen changes, with both trustees and members of the public
forming a group of 10 people. The new glades below the crags were
visited, which were created to allow the old pollarded oaks more space
and light and to provide new habitat for birds and insects. One of the
trustees located a nearby charcoal-burning platform, thereby creating a
link between the old coppiced oaks and the traditional smelting
industries of the region. The group then moved on to the top of
Wharncliffe Crags to see the effect of grazing in the area, where a
mosaic of open areas and heather-dominated vegetation is creating the
type of habitat required for many insects as well as birds and reptiles.
Some of the group then stayed on until dusk and were finally rewarded by
the sounds of a churring Nightjar among the many Woodcock flyovers. A
big thank you to all those who took part.
Monday 30th May. Good views of a
male Nightjar on Wharncliffe Heath
21.25-22.00. Churring, wing-clapping and flight calls were seen and
heard. At one point the bird was hassled by a
Tawny Owl. Was the Nightjar nearly on the menu? At least 3
roding Woodcock were also seen
overhead (AH, DJB).
Saturday 28th May.
Dawn Chorus walk in Wharncliffe Heath LNR. Nine early risers
saw a breezy and cloudy dawn. It was well worth the effort, with 27 bird
species being seen or heard. These included 5 red-listed species of
conservation concern (Song Thrush, Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Linnet and
Spotted Flycatcher), and 3 on the amber list (Willow Warbler, Curlew and
Redstart). Together with the red-listed Nightjar and amber-listed
Woodcock, which are known from survey work to breed on the reserve, this
illustrates how important a local nature reserve can be at helping to
preserve bird populations. Andrew Hill did a great job explaining the
differences between songs and calls of difficult species, and explaining
aspects of their behaviour and habitat requirements. A big Thank you! to
all those who came along, including the 2 hardy and patient junior
Saturday 26th March. A second day of
working with the
Don District Explorer Scouts, with help from the Steel Valley
joined by trustees and members of the public. We were
once again lucky with the weather, which made the tasks of cutting back
Rhododendron ponticum and birch much more pleasant. A big thank you to those
involved, especially the younger members of the group who demonstrated
Saturday 12th March.
Conservation Event with the
Don District Explorer Scouts. We were
lucky with the weather when members of the public joined the Explorers
and some trustees for a little constructive destruction, with support
from the Steel Valley Project. The day was a
success, with the entire southern enclosure being cleared of birch
scrub. The weather was kind, and overflying Curlew and Lapwing reminded
us that spring was just round the corner. A very big thank you to those
involved, especially the Explorers who worked really hard and appeared
to be having a good time.
Sunday 24th October. Fruitful Fungal Foray.
The 30+ strong party, young and old, enjoyed good weather, an
abundance of fungi, autumn colours and the knowledge of local expert
Ziggy Senkans, ably assisted by other fungus enthusiasts. The tour took
in the woodland, crag edge and the heath, with Ziggy explaining the
factors governing fungus distributions. Each new patch inspected brought
requests for identifications and, where appropriate, cooking tips.
Whether novice or expert, naturalist or gourmet, everyone found
something of interest and, where identifications were uncertain, there
were lively debates. To cap an excellent event, Ziggy is compiling the
current fungus species list for the reserve and this will be posted on
the website when finished.
Sunday 17th October. Conservation Event.
On a beautiful, golden autumnal day, 13 volunteers (including 9 from
Sheffield University Conservation Volunteers) met to work on cutting
birch. Many small birch and some of the larger ones were removed
from above the crags in the western enclosure. Andrew Hill advised
leaving some of the bigger trees as they had been identified during the
common bird census as song posts for tree pipits. Thank you to all who
Wednesday 6th October. Small Mammal Survey.
This was a joint event with Sorby Natural History Society, led by
Derek Whiteley. The previous night 25 Longworth and Sherman traps had
been set on the heath/woodland edge at Wharncliffe Heath LNR. 7
participants then convened to see what had been caught overnight, the
answer being 2 Wood Mice and 1 Common Shrew. The shrew was unfortunately
dead (despite there being a stock of dried mealworms still uneaten in
the trap). Derek then demonstrated how to safely remove the mice from
the traps, and how to sex and weigh them, before returning them safely
to their territories. One of the Wood Mice was a mature male, the other
a pregnant female, and both were in good condition.
Sunday 19th September. Management event at
Agden Bog. On a day of showers and a stiff breeze 8
participants helped drag cut birch off this Yorkshire Wildlife
Trust-managed nature reserve, inevitably up hill to a nearby firesite.
Fresh air, good company and conversation, and the proximity of a very
hot fire made it an enjoyable as well as worthwhile experience. A
previously overshadowed area of the mire was cleared, providing
potential habitat for Sphagnum, Sundews and Cranberry to colonise. A
flock of Siskins stayed near us for most of the day, 2 Buzzards were
seen and heard as well as frogs and toads at this most beautiful part of
Sunday 12th September. What's happening at
Wharncliffe? 6 participants
enjoyed a leisurely walk around Wharncliffe Heath LNR in the company of
3 of the Trust's trustees. Kay Dulieu described a short recent history
of how and why the site became a Local Nature Reserve managed in
partnership between the Trust and the owners, the Forestry Commission.
Kay and Dave Buttle showed examples of the beneficial impact of low
density grazing on heather and bracken stands, and visited an area
recently cleared of birch to allow the development of some very old
coppiced oaks. The two ponds were also visited as were some sites of
Friday 23rd July. Batty about Newts.
17 participants, including a good number of the next generation of
naturalists, took part in this evening event at Wharncliffe Heath LNR.
While waiting for the sun to set we took a stroll onto the heath and
enjoyed the view over Stocksbridge to the Pennines beyond, and briefly
discussed some aspects of site management including the use of livestock
to stem the growth of scrubby birch and oak, and to create a mosaic of
different heathland habitats. Unfortunately the Nightjar(s) didn't show
although they had been present earlier in the year, so we returned to
the pond with torches, nets, trays and bat detectors at the ready. Many
Palmate Newts, both adult and larval, were temporarily captured and
allowed good views in the trays and torchlight. The number of dragonfly
larvae caught was disappointingly low. Hopefully this is not linked to
the hungry Goldfish that were spotted in the pond! A total of 4 species
of bat were detected; Common and Soprano Pipistrelles and Daubentons
over the pond and in the woodland, and a single Noctule hunting over the
heath. Altogether a wonderful evening enhanced by the exuberant
enthusiasm of the younger attendees.
Saturday 5th June.
Invertebrates of Wharncliffe Heath and Woods.
Jim Flanagan led a group of
six through the woods surrounding Wharncliffe Heath and across the Heath
itself on a very warm day. It is remarkable what diversity is revealed
by a simple sweep of a net through the grass or a quick beat of a few
oak boughs. However neither of these techniques was required to reveal
Green Tiger Beetles which were very active on the paths along the crags
and across the Heath. The open sandy areas along the paths were
punctured with the symmetrical burrows made by species of solitary wasps
and bees which require such warm sunny open areas to breed and develop.
A large furry caterpillar on the heath turned out to be the distinctive
larva of the heather-feeding Oak Eggar Moth, as distinctive as a larva
as it is as an adult. A welcome sight was the Brown Silver-line -
a moth that feeds on Bracken! Along the crags was found the very
striking Wasp Longhorn Beetle, which was a new addition to the reserve
species list. Other species were also found new to the reserve so
many thanks to Jim for leading this very pleasant and educational
Thurs 27th May. Nightjar
briefly churring and wing-clapping near the crags on Wharncliffe
Heath LNR just before 22.00. A probable second bird (female?) also
present. A few Woodcock roding too.
Sunday 23rd May. Dawn Chorus Walk.
10 early risers
convened at 4.30am for this Sheffield
Environment Week event expertly led by Andrew Hill. We were very lucky
(again!) with the weather. It was an absolutely glorious sunny and warm
spring morning and the birds were in full song in the woodland around
Wharncliffe Heath. Perhaps the highlights were 3 Spotted Flycatchers
which gave very clear renditions of their song which is usually so
easily missed. Two others that can be missed, Treecreeper and Goldcrest,
were also vociferous and allowed us to pick out the differences between
their songs. On the heath we were treated to the song and displays of a
number of Tree Pipits. Interactions between the individuals suggested
that they had not yet fully defined their territories. Many thanks to
all those attending, and particularly to Andrew for leading the event.
Sunday 7th March. Beat the Rhodo! 19
participants turned out for this, the last of our "conservation days" of
the winter. We were blessed with a glorious day of wall-to-wall.sunshine
and no wind, and a number of invasive Rhododendron ponticum
bushes were cut and burnt.
The job was done in time to allow a look at the new glades being
created around some old coppiced oaks below the crags.
event with Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
Sunday 7th February. Conservation Day at Agden Bog.
It was a real pleasure (and a challenge) to work on this
lovely hillside mire. 18 participants cut, dragged and burned trees and
saplings on the reserve. The trampling as well as the removal of shade
and nutrient-promoting vegetation should have helped to break up the
tussocks and allow more space for Sphagnum, Sundews and all the
other tiny bog specialists to grow. Hopefully later this year this Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
reserve will be fenced and extensively grazed to keep the sward more
open. A big Thank You to all those who turned up and worked so hard.
Sunday 24th January. Beat the Birch!
worked all day in the Northern Enclosure of Wharncliffe Heath and did a
magnificent job. The weather was thankfully quiet, as was the wildlife
apart from 5 flushed Woodcock and a possible sighting of a Weasel. A big
thank you to all those involved.
event with Steel Valley Project
Sunday 15th November. Work Party.
8 participants including 3 "juniors" helped with further clearance of
birch scrub and regrowth in the Northern Enclosure (see Wharncliffe
Heath LNR), often under the watchful eye of a flock of Shetland and
Hebridean sheep!. Once again we were blessed with a fine sunny day.
Thanks to all those who took part.
event with Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
Sunday 18th October. Work Party.
20 participants including 13 University of Sheffield Conservation
Volunteers cut birch saplings in the Northern enclosure, including
one of the areas used for monitoring the impact of grazing on
vegetation. In the afternoon we undertook a "walk-through" the Western
enclosure in order to confirm that there were no grazing animals left in
there. I think all would agree that the terrain made this much easier to
say than to do! Three areas surrounding some old coppiced oaks in the
woodland below the crags were also marked up for birch clearance to
allow the oaks more space and light. All-in-all a very productive day,
and once again we were lucky with the weather! Thanks go to all those
Joint event with Sheffield
Saturday 10th October. Small Mammal Survey.
21 participants including 13 University Conservation Volunteers watched
as 10 traps were opened in the wood and rides with no success. However 3
of 8 traps set on the heath revealed 2 Wood Mice and a Bank Vole. Derek
Whiteley then demonstrated the art of holding, weighing, ageing and
sexing the animals before others also had a go. The animals were then
quickly released. The immature male Wood Mouse weighed in at 16g, and
the immature female at 20g. The male Bank Vole turned out to be a mature
adult weighing 24g. All appeared to be in good condition (see Images). The beautiful
weather and regular fly-pasts by at least 2 Ravens added to a very
enjoyable way to start the weekend. All thanks go to Derek Whiteley from
Sorby NH Society for expert guidance.
Sunday 20th September. Work Party.
12 volunteers turned up to cut birch in the Northern
enclosure on a lovely warm day. The Heath looked beautiful in the
sunshine with the bracken and the birch just starting to turn golden.
Most of the birch was fairly small and was tackled with loppers. A
buzzard was seen flying overhead and a number of interesting fungi were
spotted. Thank you to those involved. Joint
event with Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
Friday 24th July. Batty about Newts.
32 torch-bearers took part in this introduction to some of the wildlife
that lives in and over the dam pond and on the heath. Woodcock and
Nightjar finally showed well and provided entertainment until the
glorious sunset had faded and light was sufficiently low to allow the
use of torches, dipping nets and bat detectors
at the pond. Palmate newts were seen by everyone and caught (and
returned) by some of the young enthusiasts, though the number of
dragonfly larvae was disappointingly low (good news for the newts!).
Common Pipistrelles were heard and seen in the tree canopy over the
pond, but we had to wait until our return to the R. Don to hear
Daubenton's. A single Soprano Pipistrelle was heard in the woodland near
the pond. Joint
event with Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
Sunday 12th July.
Bat Box Monitoring. Licensed bat expert Sarah Proctor and 3
volunteers investigated the bat boxes in the woodland at Wharncliffe
Heath nature reserve. Many boxes were found with evidence of previous
bat occupation, as well as bird's nests and the odd wasp's nest. 2 bats
were found, which turned out to be a Common Pipistrelle and a Soprano
Pipistrelle (see Images), both males. Differences in appearance of these closely
related species were noted before the bats were carefully returned to
their respective boxes.
Friday 29th May. Male and female
Nightjar showing very well on Wharncliffe Heath. Frog calls,
wing clapping and churring by the male. Both seen in flight together
between 21.57 and 22.15
Sunday 24th May. Dawn Chorus Walk
led by Jim Clarke and Andrew Hill. Joint
event with Sheffield Wildlife Trust. The 13 that were present
were treated to the start of a beautiful early summer's day. We really
could not have been luckier! Jim and Andrew proceeded to point out the
different instruments in the dawn orchestra. The thrushes (4 of them)
and Robins were easy, the pigeons familiar to everyone and the Wrens
incessant. We were treated to less obvious players, identified for us.
No fewer than 5 Spotted Flycatcher were heard, and the increasingly
scarce Wood Warbler. The call of the Garden Warbler sounded like a Grey
Squirrel and was the best way to distinguish it from Blackcap. Local
heathland favourites Linnet, Tree Pipit host and Cuckoo parasite were
seen and heard. Altogether a glorious morning and well worth the early
Sunday 10th May. The Geology of Wharncliffe.
gathered at Station Rd, Deepcar for a walk onto the Crags to discover
more about the geology of the area from Ken Dorning. The geology was
literally laid bare by huge excavations at a development site close to
Station Road. The beds of sandstones, shales and, best of all, a coal
seam were clearly visible. On top of the Crags, we were able to look
with new eyes at the familiar ripples and ruckles of the rocks, as the
evidence of events that took place on a sand-bank on a river delta one
day about three hundred million years ago. We also discovered that the
oldest feature in the landscape is not the crags, nor even the valley
below. Astonishingly, it is possible that the River Don has been
flowing down a valley in the same position as the present one, but a
full mile higher, since the Cretaceous period. It has been gradually
wearing its way through all those layers of sandstone, shale and coal.
Thanks to Ken we were amazed again at the story in the rocks around us.
Organised as part of Sheffield Environment Weeks.
Sunday 22nd March. Work Party. Six
volunteers cleared almost a hectare of developing birch scrub and some
small Rhododenron ponticum bushes on this, the last work party
this Spring and a joint event with Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
Thank you to all involved in the monitoring and management events this
Sunday 15th March. Work Party.
Four volunteers cut rhododendron and cleared about 0.5ha of maturing
birch scrub on a wonderful spring day. Ravens, kestrels and crossbills
overhead and a Woodcock flushed, all of which added to the
event with Steel Valley Project.
Sunday 22nd February. Work Party.
Only two participants enjoyed the early spring weather while tackling
Rhododendron ponticum and birch scrub. Spring was definitely in the air
and the birch sap was starting to rise.
Sunday 16th November.
Bat box monitoring.
Led by 2 bat licence holders, 5
participants monitored the 50 or so bat boxes scattered through the wood
on the eastern fringe of Wharncliffe Heath. Many of the wooden boxes
were found to be deteriorating and will need replacement. Just 2 bats
were found, a Long-eared (see Images) and a (probably Common)
Sunday 2nd November.
On a cold, misty and rainy morning, 4
hardy souls met on site to cut birch for the final work day of the year.
Work continued until 3.00pm when the weather became worse. A
photographic record was taken to show the 'before' and 'after' - an
incentive to keep turning up for work days even with such small numbers
of participants! A large flock of redpoll was seen and this has been
added to the Sheffield Biological Records Centre for the site. Joint
event with Stocksbridge Valley Project
Saturday 18th October.
continued birch scrub clearance in the Northern enclosure and also
undertook the annual vegetation monitoring programme. Joint event with Steel Valley Project.
Great weather again.
Sunday 5th October.
25 participants, many
from the University of Sheffield Conservation Volunteers, helped clear a
large area of scrub in the Northern enclosure. Once again we were very
lucky with the weather. Joint event with Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
Sunday 21st September.
A group of 7 participants continued
the clearance of the northern boulder slope. The day was very warm and
sunny and the work quite hard but satisfying as the landscape gradually
changed. Later in the day we attempted to round up the 2 remaining sheep
in the western enclosure but without success. Why pay for gym subs when
all this fresh air and exercise is free?
Sunday 7th September.
A group of 7 volunteers meet up on
Wharncliffe heath to clear birch from the northern boulder slope on the
heath. This is an extremely difficult area to work due to the large
boulders and crevasses many of which are hidden by heather or bracken,
so everyone had to take great care. Some quite substantial trees were
cleared particularly along the path near the electricity pylon. In
addition a temporary repair was made to the fencing which had been
damaged. The weather was warm and sunny for most of the day and work was
only brought to an end at 3.30pm by a massive thunder storm. Thanks to
all those who participated and to Sheffield Wildlife Trust for providing
tea and biscuits throughout the day!
Wednesday 23rd July.
Batty about newts.
27 participants heard Nightjar and Woodcock on the heath, Palmate Newt
adults and tadpoles and hawker dragonfly larvae in the pond, and saw
Common Pipistrelles and the occasional Daubenton's bats. We were very
lucky with the weather!
Sunday 25th May.
Dawn chorus walk
around the reserve with
Jim Clarke. 8 early risers were present for what proved to be a very
enjoyable amble. All the common woodland birds were seen or heard other
than Garden Warbler and Nuthatch. Among the listed species found to be
probably breeding on the reserve were Wood Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher,
Bullfinch and Linnet. Finding 3 Wood Warbler territories (one on the
reserve and the other two just the wrong side of the Plank Gate) was a
Sunday 30th March.
4 hardy souls spent the
day making some glades in the new enclosure below the crags. Joint event with Sheffield
Sunday 2nd March.
Birch bash with
Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
volunteers finished birch clearance in the southern enclosure. It is now
ready for the sheep, cattle and birds to arrive!
Sunday 2nd December.
Birch bash with Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
15 volunteers continued the clearance of birch regrowth in the southern
enclosure and helped the stockman round up some of the sheep for
transportation to winter pastures.
Sunday 4th November.
Birch bash with Steel
6 volunteers carried on the job of clearing the birch regrowth in the
southern enclosure and cleared brash from the newly cut firebreak.
Sunday 28th October.
Find fungi at Wharncliffe. Joint event with
Sheffield Wildlife Trust, led by Michael Senkans.
The event attracted 20 participants who between them found and
identified 46 species of fungi.
Sunday 7th October.
Birch bash with Steel
7 volunteers continued the work in the Southern Enclosure and did
Sunday 2nd September.
Birch bash with Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
7 hardy souls tackled the
birch scrub in the Southern Enclosure.
Wednesday 25th July.
An evening visit to Wharncliffe Heath LNR. 27 attendees discussed the
management of the site and heard Nightjar churring before listening to
55kHz Pipistrelle and Daubenton's Bats hunting over the dam pond, and
watching the numerous Palmate Newts and dragonfly larvae within its
Monday 4th June.
Very probably 2 male Nightjar active from 21.55 until 22.15 at least. Churring, frog calls, and wing-clapping suggested presence of female(s).
Saturday March 24th
"Rhodo bash" at Wharncliffe Heath,
with Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
10 volunteers helped to contain this alien invader
(Rhododendron ponticum) which is poisonous to livestock and chokes