Monday, 26 March 2012

A sunny Monday in the valley 26th March 2012

Another grand day for my early finish and I headed off down the valley towards Keighley, the lane was full of small birds in full song, many unfortunately hidden from my sight.

I didn't have long to wait though before a lovely robin offered a couple of unusual poses for shots:-)

Moorhens are not the easiest bird to get good photographs of, for me anyway, their jerky movements and willingness to hide make good shots rare so I was pleased with this one.

I walked on with the sunlight masked now by the tall trees of Low Wood, the noise of a woodpecker drummed out but I could not spot it today, a small blur of brown  across my vision led me to a wren though, singing loudly from a branch.

I visited the site of the long tailed tit nest but kept well away as flitted in and out, my efforts at long distance shots were spectacularly unsuccessful!

Better luck with a butterfly though as a small tortoiseshell settled for long enough for me to remember to change the settings.

The fieldfares will be heading off soon, I'm surprised they are still here but there was quite a large group feeding in a field as I headed homwards.

Reaching Lower Holden Farm I decided to stay  on the canalbank for my return, the lane I use would now be in shade and photography would be difficult in the low light.

A couple of photographs of the calmness of the water in the warm sunlight and our surrounding woodland and hills.

As I have mentioned before I am always tuned into to any unusual movements or sounds, a disturbance in the canal that seemed to be taking place under water caught my eye. The water swirled to and fro in small but powerful eddies and up popped a strongly swimming frog!

Pausing occasionally it continued its way last seen heading for Liverpool!!!

A lovely swan headed my way, I had been checking some usual nest sites but they seem to be unused this year.

Nearly back in town and there was a group of ducks on the far bank, I usually have poor returns on my action shots but just as I focused on one of the males he leapt into the water creating a nice displacement effect, a happy accident!

Another good walk on a Monday afternoon and the fine weather is set to continue, good news for any outdoor enthusiast.

Saturday 24th March 2012, Stainburn Forest & Swinsty Reservoir

The fog was slow to clear here in Yorkshire, it was almost lunch time when we set off. The Washburn valley is somewhere we intend to explore further and it was to here that we headed, first for a forest walk then a circuit of a picturesque reservoir.

Stainburn Forest seems popular with cyclists judging by the wheel marks in the still damp paths and tracks, birdsong was plentiful and we had glimpses of many of the tit and finch families. Reaching a clearing we had a short break and were rewarded by a good sighting and photograph of a tree pipit.

Resuming our walk we were now on the perimeter of the woodland, curlew and lapwing were calling from the adjacent fields, the sun was shining...perfect!

A roe deer bolted from the trees, visible for just a couple of seconds and no chance of a photograph...apart from a hoof print.

Time to move on now, we will visit the forest again.

Swinsty Reservoir along with its neighbours Fewston and Thruscross are easy walks on mainly good paths, parking is provided free by Yorkshire Water and they can be a little busy due to their proximity to the conurbations of Harrogate and Leeds.

We parked up at Swinsty and our first sighting awaited us, the motionless hunched figure in the shallows...a heron? No, an angler!!

The waters were peaceful and calm and the walk was steady, plenty of people out enjoying the sunshine.

We listened to the melodious tunes from the birds, again opportunities for photographs were scarce until we spotted a little bird perched in a treetop. A chiffchaff, beautiful song and a beautiful little bird too.

Enjoying a coffee from our thermos when we got back to the car, we had a colourful chaffinch to visit us, he was busy picking up the scraps and crumbs that others had left.

A visit to the waters edge yielded photo's of a canada goose and a muscovy duck to complete a lovely day out.

This is a great area for outdoor stuff, give it a try if you are in the area.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Saturday 17th March 2012, a short wander in the valley.

I was rather busy on Saturday, a vegetable plot to prepare and potatoes to plant takes more than a few minutes and I ended up with just a couple of hours for a walk.

The sun was out though and I wandered eastwards out of Silsden to check the long tailed tit nest I discovered last week. The lanes are well lined with bushes and the birdsong was loud and very pleasant even if I could not see many of the singers!

A lovely chaffinch was the first successful shot of the day, lots of these around.

The rabbits that proliferate in the valley have been busy judging by the number of young ones about, this one was just visible through a fence.

The grey wagtails are back in numbers now, as are the tiny insects on which they feed, there seemed to a permanent cloud of pesky midges around me!

Moorhens seem to spend as much time out of the water as in it, they feed well in the fields and sometimes it is easy to neglect their splendid colours

I located the long tailed tit nest easily enough and found a place to sit and watch them flying back and forth with nest materials, some were gathered close to the nest others brought from further away judging by the gaps between their visits.

Time to head back to town now, the light was fading and we were going to some friends for a meal. Time was not too short for to stop and get a nice close up of a young swan feeding by the edge of the canal. Next week I aim to find at least one swan nesting site, Spring has arrived!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

13th March 2012. Wandering through Airedale.

No haste to set off today, skies full of monochrome white cloud do not fill me with enthusiasm but the forecast is for a windless dry day so with the rucksack packed and camera charged I was ready to go.

I set off towards Kildwick before heading down through fields to the canal, the hedges in the fields were full of sparrows chirping merrily away. Hidden in the dense foliage they stubbornly refused to appear in the clear until one eventually made its way to the top.

In decline in many parts of the country they continue to thrive around here. Many of the old hedgerows remain and these are their favourite habitat.

To be honest there was not an awful lot to see near the canal, a rare experience. More fields lead to the river Aire and on my way through I spotted a curlew, moving carefully through some reeds to get closer I disturbed a lovely snipe, recognisable and noisy it flew swiftly out of sight and caused the curlew to scarper too! A pair of goosanders took flight before I even got the lens cap off...this was not good and I was almost relieved to reach the bridge and divert to a quiet lane that leads down the valley.

The sound of a dunnock singing loudly drew my attention, the shrubs it was hiding behind almost blocked my photograph.

Most advice for wildlife photography points the snapper towards getting level with the subject, a better depth of field can be achieved this way. I tested a new theory today by catching a robin from directly underneath:-)

At least there were a few things to photograph now and I decided to have a short break at this point, time for elevenses apparently!!!

Sipping my coffee I spotted two long tailed tits carrying nest material, they disappeared from sight near where I was sat, investigation through the binoculars revealed a nest site which I will revisit regularly. No photographs today, they were never still long enough for a decent shot and I would not go closer for fear of disturbing them.

A wren sang nearby and even posed for a little while too.

Suitably refreshed I resumed my walk, aiming now for Low Wood nature reserve. I knew that in the poor light decent photographs would be unlikely but it is a splendid place, and so it proved. Goldcrests, tits, finches, wrens and robins were all evident as I strode through the woodland, there were also woodpeckers drumming and I tried to work out just where they were, difficult as the noise tends to echo in the trees.

I found a patch where the light was a little better and decided to have my lunch, sitting under a tree munching away movement in the treetops caught my eye....greater spotted woodpecker, I managed one shot before it moved on.

The day was working out better than I had earlier thought, even better as I re-packed my gear ready to set off again. A harsh screechy call nearby, a jay and for once visible. I left my rucksack under the tree and crawled to a better position, a little too much light from the sky spoils the pic but I'm fairly pleased with it.

Turning westwards back towards home I was watching the long tailed tits flitting to and fro again when two roe deer charged past, just too quick for me but I nearly got them!

Curlews were in the fields along this stretch just outside Silsden, using the lane wall as cover I managed to get reasonably close to them.

I've pretty much missed out on the fieldfares and redwings this winter, some years I have managed to get fairly near them. A few distant fieldfares have been photographed but no redwings, now not long before they leave I finally see some....just as the light begins to fade. Not the best shot by any means but beggars cannot be choosers.

Another day of learning, my fieldcraft is improving all the time, I hope my photography is too. A friend advised patience, persistence and luck are the three key elements in wildlife photography, the first two are down to individual character and several famous sportsmen claim the harder they practice the luckier they get...that may well be right!

I have changed the photo display size to a larger one in response to a comment on the blog, hope you like it.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Monday 12th march 2012, Lazing on a sunny afternoon, and the owl chronicles!

There was a clear dividing line in the weather today around these parts, at work at Gisburn, Lancashire, it was grey dull and cold. Crossing the boundary into Yorkshire after my 2.30pm finish the light brightened and skies were blue, enough said!

A riverbank stroll at Bolton Abbey beckoned before heading up to the moors to further my knowledge of the short eared owls which hunt up there. A sleeveless fleece was sufficient extra clothing for the Wharfeside wander, a pleasant enough day but there is no real warmth in the sunlight just yet.

My normal kingfisher watching point has proved fruitless recently, some shrub clearance work has taken place there and may have disturbed them, I think some legwork may be needed to find a new location.

A pair of nuthatches flew from near me to a tree about 40 yards away, one of them stayed in visibility for a while.

Oystercatchers are surprisingly common around here, the fields being as comfortable a feeding ground for them as the shores they also inhabit.

I was on the lookout for grey wagtails which are now returning after wintering in warmer climes, I love their fluttering flight and soft colouring. After checking the places where I can normally find them and finding nothing I took the aquaduct bridge and crossed to the other side, part way across the bridge I heard a curlew in flight and for once managed a decent shot.

This lovely dipper was diving regularly in what was obviously a good feeding place.
A small stream enters the river a short distance away, there isn't really a path by it but I often wander up there just to see these lovely small falls, with afternoon sun through the trees and a slow shutter speed it looks as there are sparklers in the water.

A check of my watch disclosed it was time to turn around now and get up to the moor, just in the worst of light, as often happens, my hoped for grey wagtail appeared. A fair amount of post processing has gone into the finished photograph.

Birds feeding nervously are usually worthy of attention, nervous usually means unusual to me and here almost straight into the sun were some fieldfares.

A lifetime of walking on the moors has given me an instinct for the amount of clothing needed to keep warm, nowadays spending more time motionless and watching it bears dividends to err on the comfortable side. So suitably insulated I set off to my owl watching perch, these superb birds will spot you and avoid you if you are less than almost invisible! Clad now in camouflage and dark clothing I have a spot under a dark gritstone wall where I should be reasonably masked. A half hour of darkening skies later I had seen nothing, regular sweeps with the binoculars revealed the expected grouse and sheep, then checking again on an irregular coloured stone its head swivelled!!! Having suffered the indignity of stalking an owl shaped stone in the Lake District I could only chuckle at the reverse in fortunes. A long way away and only shot as it obviously saw me and flew away.

Ah well at least I learnt a bit more, and all bird shaped things should be checked...just in case:-))

Sunday, 11 March 2012

11th March 2012, Shipley Glen.

Another lovely sun filled day here in West Yorkshire and after some gardening duties to prepare for the coming year we had a short walk this afternoon.

Shipley is further down Airedale, beyond Keighley and Bingley and it joins almost seamlessly to Saltaire and Bradford as the river flows on its eastward journey. Shipley Glen has a rich history, a tramway operates to lift the weary traveller from the valley floor, opened in 1895 and subject to technological and beaurocratic changes through the years, more details can be found at:-

A fairgound operated for many years too, after a long week in the textile mills for which the area is famous there must have been much relaxation in kicking off the clogs and packing a picnic to be shared here. A deep woodlined gorge with a clear tinkling stream in the bottom and paths in every direction is hard to beat.

As is often the case in woodland we heard far more birds than we saw but no matter, this is a new place for us and it takes time to get to know different locations. Eventually our eyes and ears began to synchronise, a nuthatch interacting with another and singing quite loudly was spotted and stayed obligingly still for a while.

Wandering on through the woods the distinctive song of a robin was to be heard, not in the most convenient spot for a photograph and I was quite pleased with the result.

A sparrowhawk flew swiftly across our path, hardly a surprise as the woods were full of small songbirds!

If you walk in woodland and are not a bird enthusiast you may occasionally spot movement on a tree trunk only to find when you look more closely that there was nothing there...that is likely to be a treecreeper. In the first shot here it can be seen fairly clearly, in the second one I thought I had missed it until I examined the photograph more closely on the computer.

Heading back to the car we decided to come here again, perhaps when it is a bit less busy as its proximity to the urban conurbations made Sunday afternoon very popular. A lovely thrush perched in a tree near our parking spot was a fine end to the photographs for the day...and after a long walk yesterday and gardening today the walk was just about right...short!