Springtime in Calderdale!
Spring was well and truly here in West Yorkshire when we went to Cromwell Bottom near Brighouse to take a look at all the latest signs with two people who know about these things! Join us now on our very own Springwatch...
Spring colours on show @ Cromwell Bottom
Cromwell Bottom's an ideal place to go to watch spring in action because there are so many different things to see! Last year, the BBC West Yorkshire webteam came down here and managed to grab some fabulous sightings of a very rare butterfly, frogs, leafhoppers, flowers and loads more - so we're wondering just what we'll get to see in 2007 to prove that spring really has sprung...
Joining us on our walk around the part of Cromwell Bottom known as Tag Loop is Paul Talbot, chairman of the Friends of Cromwell Bottom, and Andrew Cockroft, from the Halifax Birdwatchers' Conservation Committee. What they don't know about the natural world isn't worth knowing! Tag Loop is actually, would you believe, a reclaimed landfill site. Not so very long ago this whole area was just one big tip, but now things are very different, thanks in no small part to its guiding light Melvin Foxton. He gets a lot of namechecks from Paul during our walk and it's clear that Melvin's the real mastermind behind the revival of the Tag Loop. After all, to take it from a tip to a haven for nature is no mean feat in just a few years!
Insects show spring's here at Tag Loop
It's a cool and misty day, but Paul and Andrew are immediately on the lookout for things to point out to us to prove that spring really is here. In fact, says Paul, the signs are all around us: "There are more insects flying, that's one thing. That means the air temperature must be up. And, if you look around you'll see things like dandelion and colt's foot open. They won't open until there's a certain amount of sunshine each day and the air reaches a certain temperature. Then you can see various bits of new growth on the vegetation around here. So, although it's early spring things are moving and it tends to accelerate now as daylight hours extend. Things will move quicker and quicker and quicker from now on. We've reached the tipping point!"
It's not only sights but sounds that show spring is here at Tag Loop. Andrew says that all the birdsong we can hear - and there's plenty of it! - is a crystal clear sign that winter's over: "What we're hearing is all the local feeding birds. You can hear robins and songthrushes now. There's a chiff-chaff and that's a summer visitor from Africa. They've already arrived, they've been here for a few weeks. We're just waiting for the big push when all the other species come in. As far as the local species are concerned, we've just seen some mallard eggs this morning - they'd been taken by a grey squirrel. It's a cruel world! The local birds are setting up their territories and will actually be nestbuilding now...What the birds we can hear are doing is singing on their territory. They're letting the females know that this is their area and they're singing to attract a mate."
Our guides: Paul and Andrew!
This time last year it seemed like winter was still well and truly with us! It had been a long, cold slog and by April 2006 it wasn't over. But, this year it seems things are a bit more 'normal', thankfully, meaning that nature hasn't got quite so far to catch up. Paul says 2007's looking good so far: "Things are further advanced. We've had a lot more sunshine and we've had that very mild winter. In terms of accelerating spring, though, the mild winter doesn't seem to have sped things up much. It's not been exceptionally warm weather so it's not made much of a difference. Last year at this time we'd had very few temperatures above freezing and we'd seen very little sunshine. Plus it wasn't just a case of a cold spring: the cold went right on until June! What animals need is for it to be consistent. They're geared genetically to breed at certain times."
And breeding is exactly what's already been going on elsewhere at Tag Loop, with signs in one of the ponds there that a little spring warmth has worked its magic. It's difficult to see, but there is some frog spawn - or at least what looks like frog spawn. Paul explains that it is, in fact, what the newly-born tadpoles have left behind: "The first tadpoles will probably be moving about in there already. They'll all be dispersed around the bottom now. There'll be a few frogs in here and it's a good little pond for newts." But it's not only frogs who like the Tag Loop ponds at this time of year. Paul points at some plants sticking out of the water which look like they've burst: "You can see the old seed heads on the bullrush - all the down coming out of them. A small moth lives in there and their larvae are in there now and feeding away. You can also see that the flag iris is just starting to come up. That's a dark green plant which will soon have big yellow flowers on it in a few weeks' time." So even now we can see that an explosion of colour is just around the corner at Cromwell Bottom!
Old frogspawn above? Tadpoles below!
Now, moths might not be your thing but if they are then Tag Loop in early spring is the place to be, according to Andrew and Paul. Andrew says: "There are already a few moths about: Hebrew Characters and Common Quakers. They're the early-emerging moths. They all fly about at night." And the mixture of night time and springtime is a potent one, says Paul: "A lot of the moths that are out not at night - the Quakers, the orthosia species - will be feeding on the sallow blossoms. The scent given off by those is overpowering on an evening. It really is strong, even now. One of the classic ways to come mothing at this time of year is to go 'sallowing'. You come down with a torch and you find these sallow blossoms absolutely covered with thousands of moths feeding!"
As we continue our Springwatch walk around Tag Loop, Paul and Andrew both agree that this time of year is increasingly throwing up a few surprises which they believe could be down to global warming. Andrew says that the wren, for instance, is a sign that things are changing: "Wrens are a massive indicator of global warming. A few years ago you wouldn't find wrens down here in this sort of habitat. The cold winters we used to get used to kill them all off and keep the population very small. Now you can find wrens from here right to the top of the moors...the winters just don't kill them off now." And Paul agrees: "It's definitely warmer now than it used to be in winter when I was a nipper. You notice the difference, that more things are surviving now. If it was something we couldn't do anything about then I wouldn't be too concerned because it'd be part of the natural cycle. But if this is something caused by man, and it appears to be, then it's a more worrying trend because it's something that won't be reversed unless we do something about it. That's the worrying thing..."
Bullrush: Showing signs of spring
Global warming worries aside, it's clear by the end of our walk around Tag Loop at Cromwell Bottom that Spring 2007 is firmly establishing itself and it looks like it's going to be a good one! From moths and perfumed sallow blossoms to chiff-chaffs and frogspawn, things are on the move in Calderdale and across West Yorkshire. Our bit of Springwatch advice? Get out there and enjoy it - but don't forget to take an umbrella, just in case!
With thanks to Paul Talbot and Andrew Cockroft. If you want to find out more about Springwatch, take a look at bbc.co.uk/springwatch or click on the link on the top right of this page! Go on, you know you want to...
last updated: 18/03/2008 at 11:48
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