A Kingfishers Tale

There is a kingfisher nesting site along this section of the river Wharfe. The lightning blue flashes of this beautiful bird can often be spotted heading up and down the river bank anywhere between the bridge at Linton and the footbridge crossing on the Collingham to Wetherby footpath.

Each year the nest gets washed away by the winter floods, and each year the birds return to rebuild their home in the bank. I often wonder if they ever think of moving home to a safer place, or maybe they just like the fresh start each year.

Unfortunately our wildlife photography skills leave something to be desired, so if anyone has been able to capture sightings of these birds we would love to feature them.

Along with the kingfisher’s nest, the yearly floods erode large sections of the bank, undercutting and taking close to 1m at a time. It’s a constant reminder that although the river and it’s water is a great source of life, it’s also an incredibly destructive force. This ‘Ying and Yang’, the good and the bad, the light and the dark is a theme found throughout nature and the universe. 

Working with animals and nature is a constant reminder of this balance. The joys of birth, new lambs, baby chicks, budding leaves, the opening of flowers all slowly give way to dealing with the inevitable demise from old age, the sacrifice of one life to provide sustenance for another or through the destruction from nature itself.

When Harry met … Carrie?

Welcome our newest member of the flock. Harry the Herdwick! He’s only 7 months old so is still quite young as a ram, but we’re hoping he’ll do his job with our ewes this year. As he gets older his chocolate coloured fleece will fade to a majestic grey, hopefully complemented by some stylish horns.

The ewes pictured here (Carrie, Annie and Fannie) with the black heads are part Herdwick themselves, owing to their thick legs and sturdy hooves. Crossing with a Suffolk breed gives the distinctive black faces. It will be interesting come April to see what genetics our lambs take on.

Suffolk’s being a meat breed are known for having large lambs with big heads. During lambing in previous years this meant hand delivering those that got stuck. Herdwicks on the other hand living out in the fells of the Lake District are supposed to give birth by themselves quite easily.

Fingers crossed for the beginning of April 🤞🐑

Wetherby Whalers Explorer Scouts

We would just like to say a massive thank you to this amazing team of young people who came to help restore the riverside footpath to its former glory. Shown on maps since at least the 1850’s this footpath linked St Oswalds church at Collingham to Wetherby. Heavy flooding in recent years however, meant the old footpath had become blocked and littered with fallen branches, downed fences and had generally just fallen into a state of disrepair. The explorer scouts came to the rescue and dedicated an evening of their time clearing the overgrown bushes and marking out the old walkway. This now means locals and visitors of the area can access the old walking route and view much more wildlife along the riverbanks. Some species you can see along this section of the river include otters, kingfishers, little egret, heron, goshawks, buzzards, red kites, sparrowhawks and kestrels. If anyone has any wildlife images along this section of the river they would like to share we would love to hear from you.

Coronation … chickens?

What a wonderful afteroon! It was great to hear Collingham band play and see the Glebe field come alive during the coronation weekend. Free cake! Bell ringing! Flower arranging and face painting! What’s not to love! Naturally our chicks and lambs had to come along and join in the picnic festivities.

September 2022

Welcome back! We hope everyone has had an amazing summer! I think we can all tell the seasons are starting to change, the darker mornings, the cool breeze and the damp drizzle. Summer might be over but I think nature tries to ease us gently into the autumn months with the bounty of fruits. What better way to start the term than an apple and blackberry crumble with heaps of custard!

May 2022

Tomorrow marks the start of June and I’ve just realised we havent had a single blog post yet this year! So here we are. We have the broody chickens patiently sitting on their eggs, we’ve already had a couple of chicks hatch but there are a good number of eggs left in their nests.

Our students also got their first hands on experience shearing sheep and bottle feeding lambs!

Looking back at 2021

What an amazing year we’ve had here at The Ark.

Last January we set ourselves the challenge of blogging our way through the year. Well we (mostly) made it and now we get to look back on all the fantastic things we got up to!

It doesn’t end here though! We have plenty of exciting new projects and hopefully a couple of new animals on the horizon. We cant wait to see what 2022 brings and we look forward to seeing you all in the new year!

New Term, New Friends.

I hope everyone has enjoyed their summer break! I think by the lack of posts you can tell we have been taking some time off too!

It’s only fitting then that we start with some very special news!

We were overwhelmed by one of our children, Mason, who first attended The Ark with Fieldhead Carr Primary school and then went on to join our holiday clubs over the summer.

Mason had been secretly fund raising for The Ark by setting himself some difficult personal challenges and by overcoming these he has managed to raise an incredible £200!!

This means so much to us as we are self funding, so for one of our children to do this for us is just amazing and we are ever so grateful!

We thought that it would be only fair that Mason had a say in what we spent the money on, and after chatting we agreed to buy some goats to add to our family!

So it is with great pleasure, I introduce our 3 new nanny goats, Doris, Cynthia, and Alberta.

In a future post, we’ll talk a little bit more about their breed and our plan for them here at The Ark.

But for now, a great big Thank You to Mason!

All cooped up

Our quails are growing well and are a nice size now. They almost have all their adult face feathers and will be ready to go outside shortly. We’ve been slowly weaning them off their heat lamps over the last week or so.

Zoe is almost at the age where she should be laying eggs, so we’re keeping our eye out for our first home grown quail egg.

We do have a few chicken eggs in the incubator that are due for hatching any day now too, so we do need to get the quails outside and make room in our brooder for the new arrivals.

We’ve been scribbling down plans for the new quail pen our students are going to help build.

Quails don’t need a lot of space, they naturally live in the brush and undergrowth so they like a nice shady spot and things to hide under. When quails get startled they tend to jump straight up in the air, if the pen is too high, the force they hit the roof with can cause some serious injuries. So we’re going to keep it fairly low to prevent this from happening.

Unlike chickens they can’t free range out on the paddocks. They don’t have that instinct to come back to the coop on a night. So we need to make sure it’s a nice safe and comfortable space where they can live all year round.

We lost our first flock of chickens to a hungry fox last year, since then we have had a small electric fence surrounding their pen that we turn on at night. It seems to do a good job of keeping the predators out, but it also means our sheep can’t get in to graze and keep the area tidy.

We do usually rotate the pen so the chickens have fresh grass to scratch in on a morning before we let them out. But with us having a few broody hens lately we’ve not wanted to disturb them. This has meant the grass has become fairly wild, and today’s job was to move the pen and let the sheep at the juicy grass. The ground under the pen will also have time to recover now too.

Hopefully next week we will have some new baby chicks to show. Until then, take care!