After more than twenty years of hard work by volunteers the Skelton Grange site is now home to lots of wildlife; what was once a patch of mown grass near a power station is now a vibrant mix of meadows, ponds, woodland and hedgerows. Although we are in an industrial part of the city, full of substations and sewage works, the centre is also surrounded by lots of green space, with scrubland linking into countryside and the River Aire serving as a natural green corridor running along the bottom of the site. All of this means that Skelton is becoming a good place to sit and watch wildlife.
Lots of our wildlife sightings are accidental, and come about during our everyday work; a yawning fox sunbathing in the drive, an electric blue kingfisher sparkling across the river, or even an inquisative pheasant puzzling at his reflection in the front door of the building.
We also carry out some more formal wildlife surveys, to try to find out more about what animals we share the site with, and to also guide our ongoing management of the site. At the moment we’re carrying out our annual amphibian surveys where we survey the ponds during the breeding season for frogs, toads and newts. Surveys are done by torchlight after dark and its a great way for people to be able to get involved in the centre’s work. Results are used for our own work but also shared with Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Ecology to help provide information on wildife within the wider region.
The final amphibian survey of the year is on Wednesday the 7th of May, starting at 8:30 pm and finishing about 10 or 10:30. No experience is needed and a session on identification skills is carried out at the start – but bring a good torch if you’ve got one! We can also give any volunteers a lift back into Leeds at the end as its a late finish!
This year spring seems to have come a bit early; April’s survey, which was meant to catch the toad breeding season resulted in no toads at all – but lots of newts and a fair few frogs! We also have the opportunity this year to carry out a baseline survey on our brand new pond – which has only been in place for a couple of months, and where planting and construction work is still ongoing. This should enable us to monitor the rate of change and see how long it takes for new species to colonise this newly created habitat and make it their home!