Weekend photography

by Simon Knight

The weekend of May 21st and 22nd was pretty special for me in the reserve.

It started early on the Saturday morning with a hunt for water voles, which involved picking a location, sitting still and not making any noise. It sounds simple enough, but I usually end up with pins and needles in my feet, which then involves moving. And what I have learned about water voles is that if you remain still, they carry on with their lives and probably don’t even realise that you are there. But if you move, it will spook them. Even if you haven’t spotted one that’s tucked away in the greenery, it will see you if you move and the first you will know about it, is hearing a ‘plop’ as it retreats to the water and then one of its many burrows for safety. I had a two hour session before the park run started, where I saw an adult water vole, but wasn’t able to get a picture. I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t get a picture, it was rewarding enough just to see one.

Green nettle weevil (Phyllobius pomaceus) and drinker moth caterpillar (Euthrix potatoria)

I was back in the afternoon with a friend who wanted some photography tuition and we went on a short macro safari. On a warm day in the reserve during late spring and summer there are no end of subjects to point a macro lens at and we were soon clicking away. My friend spotted a green nettle weevil, which didn’t stay still for too long, but we were both able to get a couple of pictures of this very cool little insect, which was a new species for the reserve. We also saw a couple of drinker moth caterpillars, with one being quite obliging whilst we photographed it.  

I had another session on Sunday evening looking for water voles. I had a few sightings, but was only able to get one picture as the other opportunities would have required me moving considerably, which I obviously wanted to avoid. After about an hour of listening and watching intently for signs of voles, I heard a ‘plop’ that was quieter than that which I had become accustomed to with the voles. I looked in the direction the plop had come from just as a tiny flash of dark grey and white scurried up the bank. For about a minute I watched in amazement as a very cute water shrew (Neomys fodiens) repeatedly darted into the water and then back up the bank to disappear into the greenery. This little mammal turned out to be another new species for the reserve. That was two in one weekend!

Water vole (Arvicola amphibius) and water shrew (Neomys fodiens)

Fun fact: The water shrew is unusual in mammals, possessing venomous saliva which it uses to paralyse its prey.

I find it remarkable that we are still discovering new species in the park. It really does prove that it deserves its Nature Reserve status. Given the wildlife we have in the reserve – the fact that it’s home to a variety of nesting birds, species of flower that often only in occur in protected wild flower meadows and of course, mammals and reptiles that are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 – I believe that we really do need to make every effort to prioritise the protection of the habitat so that its wildlife is given the best possible chance to flourish.

Header image: water vole by Simon Knight

8 thoughts on “

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  1. Thank you so much for all the hard work you put in to capture these shots – although it’s obvious you really love doing it too!

    1. Simon’s enthusiasm for the reserve’s wildlife, big and small, shows in his writing and is really contagious. The water shrew is a great find – a new mammal species in the reserve is a real rarity.

  2. Thank you all for the lovely comments, it means a great deal. If any of you ever see me around with the camera, feel free to introduce yourselves, I always enjoy meeting people who appreciate wildlife.

  3. Hi Simon like your report on your events in the park I’m very excited to see new species starting to use the pond I was surprised to read that at the park is also registered as a nature reserve especially with the amount of dogs I see in the park that are not on Leeds and also swimming in the pond I think the park should now make the fields either side of the pond a dog free zone to protect the protected species that are now living there I don’t know what your thoughts on this would be

    1. Hi John.

      You raise a valid point and I think that the Nature Reserve is big enough for there to a balance in how the fields get used with regards to dogs both on and off the lead and maybe an area that was a dog free zone, as you have mentioned.

  4. Absolutely fantastic to have two more species added to the list and great pictures Simon! The nature reserve is such a special place.

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