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Take a walk on the wild side with Linda Jenkinson

June 17th, 2013 · No Comments · Community News

This is a guest post from Linda Jenkinson of startbirding.co.uk

If you’re interested in wildlife, and you live in Leeds, you’ll already know that you don’t have to travel far too far to watch a multitude of species. If you live in the Leeds 16 and Leeds 18 area then many of these can be found right on your doorstep. You just need to know where to look.

Leeds is the second greenest city in Europe, second only to Vienna, with 65% of the city being greenbelt land. Our city council manages 4000 hectares of green space in and around Leeds, including public rights of way; such as the Leeds Country Way. Other conservation organisations also manage sections of our city for wildlife.

The most notable bird that can be found within the LS16 and LS18 boundaries is the red kite. This elegant bird of prey was introduced onto the Harewood estate in 1999 and birds have now dispersed to most parts of Leeds and beyond. Apart from being able to see red kites regularly from your garden, you will also get good views from Golden Acre Park, Breary Marsh, Paul’s Pond and surrounding farmland. Here you will also find many woodland and wetland species, including tufted duck, treecreeper, nuthatch, kingfisher and little grebe. In the spring, look out for curlew, lapwing, house martin, swallow and swift around the farmland. The adjoining grounds of Cookridge Hall also provides excellent habitat for birds such as green woodpecker, yellowhammer and, in the winter, fieldfare, redwing, siskin and redpoll.

A little known gem of a reserve belonging to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust can be found at the end of Golden Acre lake. This is Adel Dam Nature Reserve. Here you’ll find Mandarin duck, teal, great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, treecreeper and, if you’re quiet, you may even stumble across a roe deer taking a stroll along one of the paths ahead of you.

Female great spotted woodpecker at Adel Dam Nature ReserveFemale great spotted woodpecker at Adel Dam Nature Reserve – photo: Linda Jenkinson

From the east side of Golden Acre Park, you can follow the 7 mile long Meanwood Valley Trail which will take you to the centre of Leeds. Along the way you can explore Adel Wood and Scotland Wood to look for lesser spotted woodpecker. Grey wagtail and kingfisher can be seen throughout the year on the becks and streams and, in the winter, you may even find a dipper feeding.

Travel north-east from Golden Acre to Eccup reservoir; a haven for wildfowl in the winter. Look out for pink-footed geese, wigeon and goosander. Great crested grebe can be seen on the reservoir all year round and, in the spring, you may find all three species of wagtail on the water’s edge or adjoining farmland. This is a fabulous place to watch for red kite and buzzards and a walk around the farmland will also give you good views of tree sparrow, yellowhammer, bullfinch, sparrowhawk, little owl and lapwing. Passage migrants such as wheatear and common sandpiper can also be found.

Other important areas for wildlife in or near these postcodes are sections of the River Aire and the Leeds Liverpool Canal; Rawdon Billing; Ireland Wood, Clayton wood and the wonderful Hawksworth Wood and Little Hawksworth Wood.

On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays you can visit Rodley Nature Reserve. Many species of water birds can be seen on the lagoons, especially in winter. Kingfishers, bullfinches, little owls and sparrowhawks are regularly seen, and the reserve often hosts some scarce passage migrants such as whinchat and garganey. The recent addition of the fish pass is providing good habitat for passing otters and we watch with anticipation for swifts to colonise the new swift tower. The fantastic dragonfly ponds and butterfly meadows alone are worth a visit and you can take a much needed break at the reserve café.

If you love wildlife, but you’re not sure what you’re looking at, then why not join me on one of my birdwatching walks. My classes run throughout the year and are aimed at adults who want to learn in a friendly, supportive environment. Complete beginners are welcome and binoculars can be provided. You’ll have the opportunity to visit many of the sites mentioned above and learn to identify each species.  You can also learn some bird songs and calls.  Visit www.startbirding.co.uk for more information or email linda.startbirding@gmail.com


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