Saturday, 31 December 2011

31st December 2011 Wharfe and Aire

Grey skies and low light continue to dominate, that all pervading light rain that looks not much and drenches in seconds hangs like a cloak around my local valleys.

The weather forecast very rarely puts me off going for a wander, the world of nature does not stop for bad weather, it might make photography testing and the paths may be muddy and testing but any walk is better than none.

Time to reflect as the waters of the Wharfe gush past me at Bolton Abbey, I walked here on the day I was made redundant, it is a special place. Very little wildlife to see today as the clinging wet drove the birds into the recesses and a diversion off path shows what is normally a trickling stream to be a raging torrent.

Resuming my walk I spent more than a few minutes watching coal tits, great tits and nuthatches feeding by an old log, just so beautiful to watch and in the awful light and the shelter of trees so impossible to photograph successfully!

Heading back to my car I did spot a feeding goldfinch, photo not great but here it is:-

Time for home and a brew. An old Yorkshire saying - better to be a pessimist it saves being disappointed - despite that I set off out again and saw not a lot!

I always have time for swans and I firmly believe that the knowledge you gain of them, and just perhaps them of you, allows you to get a little closer in the magical time of Spring.

Back in Silsden I find the starling still by the same chimney pot, I don't know if it is fascinated by the accoustics but it certainly likes it here!

The wonderful world of wildlife has much to teach us all as the cycle of our year reaches its conclusion, the fragility of life and the beauty it has to offer mirrors our own struggles, losses and successes but in a simple way. Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

27th December 2011

With the ladies of the family away on a shopping trip to Leeds I was left to my own devices today, dull skies and nothing much of interest on the television either. And then...the sun appeared, brightness makes everything look so much better, a mile or so of tarmac treading is not too bad and the reward was an excellent view back over Nab End, the Western edge of Ilkley Moor.

To be honest at this point I thought a good landscape shot might be all I got today but a little later some mallards were posing nicely-

Moorhens are always evident around here, not the easiest bird to photograph especially in poor light as they rarely remain still.

Having the binoculars close to hand, or should that be eyes? I spotted a kingfisher as I got near Silsden, just a hint of blue and a swift low flight and no chance of a photograph but I know where to watch for it in future.

A few blue tits were feeding on the far bank, a wren and robin appeared almost at my side turning the camera towards the had the usual effect and they disappeared well before I had the chance to focus.

Almost back in town I heard the strange noise of a starling,

Bad light and not a great pic, but hearing the noisy starling chirping down the chimney made me smile.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

The weather forecast yesterday promised a chance of frost, that chance quickly disappeared as a front of low pressure clung to our district. Unseasonally warm it may be but that also means damp and gloomy, a reasonable amount of light is needed for photography, more so when wildlife is the target.

My walk today was a local favourite and even when considered just as a walk without the wildlife prospects it rates highly.

Farnhill Moor is a splendid place to wander and it was there that I headed for first, a green woodpecker glimpsed recently was not in evidence despite a lengthy search and there seemed to little be little else around. A brief sighting of a treecreeper raised my hopes, a heavy shower shortly afterwards redressed the balance and I was grateful for the shelter of a boundary wall.

If birds were rated for their feistiness wrens must be near the top of the list, a fearful amount of noise can be generated from such a tiny body. Their colouring can vary quite a lot, this strident one was among the more lightly coloured ones but how well the pose demonstrates its manner!

The light was awful at this point and as I descended from the moor towards Bradley I took several dreadful shots of a distant kestrel. Great tits are usually seen in trees or bushes feeding on seeds, seeing a small group of them feeding on the ground was an opportunity not to be missed especially as the sun briefly appeared!

By the Leeds Liverpool canal for a while now, and the sunshine continues.

I spent a good while in a copse of trees near the canalbank, birdsong was tuneful, plentiful and the singers invisible!

Wandering on a grey squirrel posed nicely on the far bank.

Goosanders are a favourite of mine, watching them dive and trying to guess where they will surface is entertaining. The plumage is distinctive and the female is particularly striking.

By now the sunshine had retreated and the previous dullness returned with a vengeance, coupled with that a strong wind developed. Slow camera speed and a buffeting wind, hmmm not perfect methinks!!

This lovely swan flew past me, the sound of the wingbeats alerted me to its presence, the gusty nature of the wind shows in its feathers.

Back in Silsden I usually use the local beck to clean the worst of the mud from my boots before I head for a pint, as I tried not to fall in the water in full view of passing locals the raucous call of a crow rang out, almost like laughter.

Nearly time to put the camera and binoculars away for the day now but just as I passed close to the town's park some sweet chirping alerted me, a group of long tailed tits were feeding in a pathside shrub, it was nearly dark now and the photograph turned out better than I thought.

After a couple of beers it was time for home, a wash and change of clothes and then one of the few benefits of age.......Christmas Eve and the look of joy on our grand-daughters faces as they prepare for what we call the Santa Sleep, just brilliant and tomorrow will be a great day:-)

Many thanks to all who read my utterings, your messages and comments are much valued.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Saturday 17th December 2011 the sun came out!

There are various formulas for calculating the optimum settings for good SLR photographs, depending on available light, distance of shot and depth of field, clothing to wear to get the shots at this time of year is up to the wearer! Experience and gear collected fellwalking in all sorts of weather means I am not short of warm stuff and it was appreciated today, the drive to Barden Bridge was uneventful enough until the last half mile when I involuntarily did a 90 degree turn, fortunately no contact with anything solid.

Setting off on my wander with ice studs on the walking shoes I turned back for a look at the view. The studs are great for grip but not for stealth, watching loads of small birds fly away as I clip clopped towards them was probably equally as annoying as falling on my backside, the studs are marginally better for the dignity though:-)
There may be better places for an early morning walk, but not many.
Mandarin ducks winter around here, a pair were spotted on the far bank.
I tend to muse as I walk, pie are squared can be represented in symbols for those who like circular puzzles, square or round pies are good!

Herons are wonderful creatures to watch, study them closely and you may be lucky enough to see them strike for a catch. More often you see them like statues studying the water like this.

This dipper, sorry for the poor quality, was singing its heart out. If you have never heard one, and it is rare, normally the sound of the water overpowers the song, it is truly stunning, a joyous tune with occasional coarse notes that I can only think help carry the song above the crashing water.

Almost back to the car and I have a crisis, a lovely robin appears and the auto focus on the camera will not behave! A play with the settings and I switch to manual, not good for someone who enjoys a good Friday night out!
Time for home and a warm up then down to the canal, with the sun out and no wind it can be a stunning place.
Long tailed tits were aplenty on the next stretch, a half decent pic was the best I managed, they don't stay still for long but knowing where they are likely to be seen means better chances to come:-)

The light started to deteriorate badly at this point as I entered a stretch of the canal with lots of tree cover, just the place to encounter a pair of photo friendly goosanders!

Scraping the mud from my trail shoes at this point I was passed by a fellow walker heading the other way, "crap innit mate" he uttered as he wandered on without waiting for the courtesy of a reply. No actually it wasn't, just an accumulation of mud and the view was good too, Nab End our local high point.

Time to think about beer now, the first pint is never ever the best, that's a thirst quencher and the second one is perfection normally.

Just about to put the camera away a sparrow appears, once common now sadly all too rare for lots of people, the rascal of the hedgerows!

And now as Homer Simpson said...."I've tried religion after religion...and yet all along there was beer" bless:-)))

Have a great Christmas and New Year everyone.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Saturday 10th December 2011. Wharfedale and Airedale.

The weather forecast looked good, a cold clear night with some frost promised firm ground which after the mud of the last few weeks would be very welcome.

An early start saw me parked up at Barden Bridge near Bolton Abbey, free parking for a few cars but get there early! The recent rain has fed from the hills into the river Wharfe and high water levels mean less visible perching places for dippers, I did see a pair in flight as they searched for feeding spots.

The binoculars came in very handy as I spotted movement in some shrubs on the far bank, a weasel appeared and went busily about its prey search and then swiftly disappeared. Great tits and blue tits were feeding on dry seed heads throughout the woods as I walked.

A couple of nuthatches were unsuccessfully photographed along the way, try as I might I just could not get close enough for a good shot. The promised bright skies were disappearing as a couple of sleety showers came over and temperatures dropped, cold hands even with gloves on don't make for good close ups of wildlife but a lovely plump robin stayed still long enough for me.

Heading back to the car some goldfinches were spotted, after some patient and cautious movement I managed to get close enough for a photograph, beautiful colours make this a favourite for many, me included.

Time to head back to Silsden now and after a warming and reviving coffee at home I set out along the Leeds Liverpool canal towpath for another exploration, any thoughts of walking by the river Aire were discarded as I viewed the flooded fields!

Oak trees are a particular favourite of the treecreeper, the rough bark offers plenty of nooks and crannies that it can use its curved beak in to find the insects on which it feeds. Quite a rare sight as the camouflage of its feathering make it hard to spot and I counted myself lucky to get a good view of this one.
Goosanders and mallards flew past as I waited around to try and get another look at the treecreeper and a robin joined me for a while.

Patience was rewarded again when the treecreeper re-appeared and I was able to get a little closer.

The early frost had now thawed and it was a muddy trudge back towards Silsden, I was just thinking what a good variety of wildlife I had seen when a small blur of blue movement caught my eye!
A kingfisher flew past me and settled near some allotments, moving carefully I tried to get close enough in now murky light to get a photograph. First attempt not good, I was spotted and away it flew fortunately in the same direction I was heading, taking even more care I tried again.

Fantastic! I have never seen one so close to home and this just capped a super day of wildlife sights.

Time for a welcome pint or two:-))

If you are in the area..... Walker friendly and dog friendly and I can recommend it.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Saturday 3rd December 2011 West of Silsden

I started my wander today with less than high hopes of good wildlife sightings, strong winds and squally showers do not normally offer good rewards!

Beginning at Farnhill Moor a couple of miles from home I made my way up the eastern edge of the moor and was immediately rewarded with a good sighting through the binoculars, a green woodpecker flitted fom tree to tree out of range for my camera but wonderful to watch. Little else was to be seen and after sheltering in the lee of a wall while a heavy shower passed I descended a steep path to a road which borders the unfortunately private Farnhill Wood. There is no bar though on peeping over the boundary wall and I spotted a pair of buzzards gliding silently through the trees, a place to return to!

Suddenly a young roe deer clattered out of the pathside undergrowth and bounded up the slope to the moor, pausing briefly on the way it turned and looked straight at me.

I contined along the road before gaining access to the canal towpath, I walked along a stretch that offers views into the wood and again saw the buzzards.

Grey squirrels were very active scurrying to and fro and occasionally stopping which allowed me the chance I was hoping for.

Many canalside trees and bushes are berry bearing which attracts many birds, seasonal sightings of fieldfares and redwings and a very occasional waxwing can be seen along here on a good day. No sign of any of them today though and I had to content myself with a decent shot of a feasting blackbird.

Heading east now back towards Silsden the skies darkened threateningly but it remained dry as I passed through the village of Kildwick, mallards are always plentiful along here and occasionally they take to the walltops.

I diverted to the bank of the river Aire for a while, recent rain meant surging water and a distinct lack of wildlife along there so I made my way through a very muddy field back to the canal.

A few spots of rain became heavier and I found a reasonable place to shelter, my flask of coffee was very welcome at this point as the chill wind started to bite.
A robin perched on a nearby fence and cheered me up as it sang its tuneful song despite the dreary skies, dunnock and wren also appeared briefly but out of camera shot and I also glimpsed a jay.

I love dogs but I am irritated when they are not under proper control, an aggressive Jack Russell about 100 yards away from its owners had to be fended off until they could be bothered to hurry up and get the dratted thing on a lead, they collected a few words of advice about what constitutes close control.

There seemed little chance of an improvement in the weather, rather the opposite as the rain became very heavy and I decided it was time to head home and get warmed up.

Goosanders are occasional visitors to the canal, a female was sighted but timid as they are it took flight before I could focus the camera. Slighly better luck with a male goosander as I neared Silsden although in very poor light concluded the pix from the day.

Was it worth taking a chance on the weather and venturing out? Of course it was, each time I venture out on this my local patch I learn a little more about the things I am likely to see, I can observe their habitats and behaviour and each bit of knowledge will make subsequent walks even better. 

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Bradley canal walk 27th November 2011

Sunday afternoon saw us park up at Low Bradley, below High Bradley, the two combine to make up Bradleys Both on modern signposts, all very logical except I don't know where one stops and the others starts.
A wander by the canal here is a delight on such a bright and breezy day, a narrow hardcored path means relatively clean boots. Our stretch by Silsden has no such luxury and over-use by sponsored walks and cycle events have wrecked the turf paths, quagmires and slippery slopes threaten to send the unwary walker either canalwards or sliding towards prickly bushes!

A small group of long tailed tits were observed flitting from tree to tree at a speed which taxed my focusing ability.

Wandering on we saw a pair of colourful jays, not the most popular bird because of a reputation for nest robbing they are nevertheless a splendid sight.

A buzzard hovered high in the sky as we reached our turn around point by Kildwick Wood at one stage I thought it would close enough for a pic, on this occasion unfortunately not.

Mallards on the path are usually accomodating though.

Wandering back to the lower of the Bradleys the sun disappeared and it became quite cool in the late afternoon, a few grey squirrels were to be seen on the edge of the woodland, my experience with my SLR is short and photographs on long zoom in dim light were pretty poor!

Swans are the most elegant birds on the canal and a fine view of this pair completed our walk for today.

Only a short walk but hey, any exercise and wildlife watching is better than none!

Saturday 26th November 2011

Starting at Kildwick, a neighbouring village of Silsden, I walked to my chosen base for my wildlife observations. Grey skies and a brisk wind with some surprisingly strong gusts offered little chance of decent photographs today but sometimes you just want to be outdoors and take a chance.

A family of mute swans were close to the canal bridge that I had selected, not always the easiest bird to get close to and they can be quite intimidating if they decide to assert themselves. I find that moving slowly and carefully they can be very approachable. Their cygnets are gradually losing the ugly duckling feathers and gaining the pristine white of their parents, I was treated to some lovely close views for a while.
A flask of hot coffee came in very handy to keep me warm, despite being clad in winter fellwalking gear being sat motionless does very little to keep one warm! Blackbirds, magpies, black headed gulls, robin, wren, long tailed and great tits were all observed through the binoculars as I waited and hoped for more spectacular sightings.

Impatience got the better of me after a while and I headed eastwards to Silsden, turning off the canal towpath in favour of a quiet lane I watched fieldfares for a good while, any attempts at getting near enough for a good shot with the camera was met by a hasty re-location for the birds, at one point much to my non-amusement I managed to disturb the fieldfares and a greater spotted woodpecker! Note to self....improve your fieldcraft!!!

I wandered as far as Riddlesden before the increasingly heavy rain and consequently decreasing chance of sightings and photos urged me to head homewards, a dunnock obligingly posed on the way back.

More swans on the way back completed my tour for the day, one cygnet seemed as tired of the drab weather as me.

Wet binoculars, fed up of cleaning and drying the camera lens I reached Silsden and did what I do after a local walk, a few pints of good beer and then home.

Friday, 25 November 2011

My blog - the first one!

Having lived in Airedale all my life I have seen such huge changes, small villages extended beyond the capability of the services they can provide for one, and a dual carriageway from Keighley to Crosshills another.

Throughout all this changes have occurred in the wildlife to be seen in and around the valley, kingfishers and dippers once relatively common are now prized sightings. And yet there is still a wide variety of furred and feathered creatures to be seen, in my area from Riddlesden to Skipton in one day I have seen roe deer, stoat, greater spotted woodpecker, buzzard, kestrel and many more creatures.

With a camera at hand at all times I will try to capture some of the natural beauty this valley I call home has to offer.