Sun 8th May. What's happening at Wharncliffe? A leisurely stroll around parts of the nature reserve with trustees, pointing out items of interest and areas of current management. There will be time for a Q and A session with trustees about future management plans. Meet at the R Don bridge on Station Road, Deepcar S36 2SQ, at 11.00, scheduled to finish at 15.00. Please bring refreshments. For more info contact 07515106966.
Saturday 7th August - Bash the Bracken. We have seen quite a rapid expansion of bracken in the South Enclosure, during lockdown and probably starting before that. As a result it was decided that the only practical solution was to spray it. In order to cover such a large area we were told that it was necessary to hand cut lanes through the bracken to allow access by the contractor, with a group of dedicated volunteers spending the afternoon creating these routes.
Sunday 12th September - Wonderful Wharncliffe. Twelve members of the public joined several WHT 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.
Sunday 19th September - Wonderful Wharncliffe. Four members of the public joined several WHT 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.
Saturday 10th October. Bash the Bracken. Events during 2020 were heavily affected by coronavirus restrictions however on this date a group mainly comprising trustees and regular volunteers cleared an area of bracken from the western enclosure before setting up new gengards to prevent grazing and seeding the area with an acid grassland mix. The intention is to encourage the creation of wood pasture in this area.
Saturday 22nd February. Bash the birch! The Sheffield University Conservation Volunteers (SUCV) and regular Wharncliffe Heathland Trust Volunteers and Trustees undertook birch cutting on a windy Wharncliffe Heath. A large section along the top of the crags was cleared, to maintain the open heather heath habitat for the benefit of heathland loving wildlife such as Nightjars, Tree pipits, Viviparous lizards and Green tiger beetles. Many thanks to all those present for a very aerobic, social, and useful day.
Sunday 27th October. Fungi in a beech grove. Three WHT trustees were joined by members of the Sorby Natural History Society and unaffiliated members of the public on a beautiful sunny autumn day. Recording started in a beech-dominated woodland area of the reserve, where several interesting species were found, including charcoal burner, sulphur knight, deceiver and wood blewit. Birch bracket fungus was in abundance on birch trees, and several white were also found close to the reserve's footpaths. The combined knowledge of the experts, in particular Ziggy Senkans and Chris Kelly, increased the interest of the walk for everyone. Many thanks to all those present for a very satisfying morning's activity. When the full list of identified fungi has been compiled, we will be able to determine how many new species we can add to the nature reserve's species list.
Sunday 15th September. Bash the birch on Wharncliffe Heath. Our livestock do a great job of keeping the trees down on the heath, but occasionally require some assistance. Five of us, including 2 trustees, lopped the birch regrowth along the crag top path. But as always, there is still a lot to do! Many thanks to all for a good aerobic workout on difficult terrain.
Thursday 13th June. A pair of nightjar seen and heard on the heath. I think they have avoided us for 2 of the last 23 years. It's always nice to have them back
Sunday 19th May. The Wharncliffe Dawn Chorus. Two members of the public and a trustee joined Andrew Hill for an early morning walk around Wharncliffe Heath. The weather conditions were calm and mild, which was ideal for hearing birdsong. The usual resident species, such a song thrush were heard on the way up to the reserve, as were several summer migrants, such as willow warbler, blackcap and garden warbler. A tree pipit and several linnet were singing on the heath, but unfortunately some of the other usual species such cuckoo or redstart were not heard or seen. The highlight of the walk was hearing several male pied flycatchers, which appear to be having a good year on reserve. Observing the birds was notably tricky, but shortly before the end of the walk, a male was seen prospecting a nest box. Many thanks to all who came along.
Friday 17th May. Family bat events. This bat and newt night, organised by the South Yorks Bat Group, was a great success. The night started with a bat walk, with 12 attendees getting some great views of foraging bats on the way up to the Dam Pond, where they met with 15 members of the Bat Group who were catching bats at locations across the reserve. The bat walk attendees got some great close up views of common pipistrelle and Natterer’s bats being released, as well as the chance to see the traps and bat processing up close. During the evening’s trapping a total of 14 bats of at least four species were recorded, with a fifth species likely to be confirmed by DNA analysis. The group also recorded a whopping 162 palmate newts from the Dam Pond.
Saturday 23rd March. Birch bash with the Sheffield University Conservation Volunteers. 29 volunteers were present, including 25 SUCV members, so the job was done very quickly and efficiently. Handsaws and loppers were used to tackle the birch regrowth in the SW corner of the Northern enclosure. It is an area not favoured by the livestock which is easy to understand when one experiences the rocks and ankle grabbing holes that are there, but no injuries resulted. We were very lucky with the weather, and it was a very enjoyable and productive day. A big Thankyou! to all those involved.
Saturday 10th November. Let's find some Fungi! With Michael (Ziggy) Senkans. Eleven (a mixture of Sorby NHS members, Wharncliffe Heath trustees and other members of the public) joined Ziggy for a relaxed search for fungi in the woods around the heath and also on the heath itself. Although getting near the end of prime mushroom season, there was lots to be found, with everyone contributing. Ziggy, with help from others that were present, was able to identify most of the specimens in the field with explanation of the distinguishing features, ranging from smell, to taste (care!) and appearance. Thanks to all who turned up for adding to the pleasure of the day. The records will be placed in the appropriate Sheffield & Barnsley record centres as well as in the WH list (available on this website).
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. Discovering Lichens. 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. Bat Walk. 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 Sunday afternoon.
Monday 11th June. Nightjar 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. Nightjar. 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 effort.
Wednesday 7th May. What’s Happening on Wharncliffe. 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.
Saturday 19th November. Inspection 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 Noctule bats, 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 contained six 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.
Saturday 30th 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. Bracken Bash. 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. Nightjar. 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 those present!
Saturday 5th 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. Birch Bash!
Three 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. Bracken Bash!
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!
Five 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. Bracken Bash!
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. What's happening at Wharncliffe?
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 instructive afternoon.
Sunday 22nd March. Raze the Rhododendron!
Seven, 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 Valley Project.
Sunday 8th March. Bash the Birch at Wharncliffe Heath.
Four 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. Bracken Bash. 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.
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 enthusiasm!
Sunday 14th 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 involved.
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. Wood-pasture recreation. 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.
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!
Wednesday 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 enjoyable evening.
Thursday 6th June. Moth trapping and identification. A moth 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.
Saturday 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.
Saturday 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.
Sunday 7th 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 programme.
Sunday 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. Management Event 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 future.
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 Jim 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 heath, too.
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 historical diversity.
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 sunshine.
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 involved.
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. Joint event with The Steel Valley Project.
Wednesday 12th October. Small Mammal Survey at Wharncliffe Heath. Local 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 wheeling overhead. This was a joint event with The Steel Valley Project.
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 participants.
Saturday 26th March. A second day of working with the Don District Explorer Scouts, with help from the Steel Valley Project 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 great enthusiasm.
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 helped.
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 Sheffield.
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 archaeological interest.
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. Joint 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! 11 volunteers 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. Joint event with Steel Valley Project http://www.thesteelvalleyproject.info/
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. Joint 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 involved. Joint event with Sheffield Wildlife Trust..
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 start.
Sunday 10th May. The Geology of Wharncliffe. 21 people 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 Winter.
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 entertainment. Joint 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) Pipistrelle.
Sunday 2nd November. Work party. 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. Work party. 8 participants 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. Work party. 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. Work party. 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. Work party. 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 particular pleasure.
Sunday 30th March. Work party. 4 hardy souls spent the day making some glades in the new enclosure below the crags. Joint event with Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
Sunday 2nd March. Birch bash with Sheffield Wildlife Trust. 11 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 Valley Project. 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 Valley Project. 7 volunteers continued the work in the Southern Enclosure and did fixed-point photography.
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 waters.
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 24th March. "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 surrounding vegetation.