Sunday, 29 April 2012

Malham 28th April 2012

Sometimes the Yorkshire Dales village of Malham can be so swamped by visitors that it spoils the enjoyment of the wonderful limestone scenery. Get there fairly early or choose a less than perfect day is my general rule! The Cove has been home to a pair of nesting peregrine falcons for a few years now, a good success rate with raising their young encourages the birds back each Spring and we hoped for some good sightings today.

We found a parking space in the village, a notice asks for a £1 donation towards keeping the village tidy and maintaining the lovely flowers that line the verges, very inexpensive in these times!

We walked up through the lane towards the Cove, the forecast today was for bright spells and occasional showers and we endured one of the latter as we strolled! It soon passed though and the sun came out as we joined the main path that climbs gently, a blackbird provided my first wildlife shot with my new camera.

The view to the magnificent landscape of Malham Cove opens up as a little height is first gained and then gradually lost.

One of the things people often don't realise when they put food out for birds is that they would much rather feast on a juicy bug or worm, amply demonstrated here by a lovely robin!

The lovely clear water of Malham Beck flows alongside the path, grey and pied wagtails are plentiful along here.

The RSPB have an observation point set up for the peregrines, friendly and knowledgable staff are in attendance and will help with sighting and identifying any birds in the area. Viewing scopes are set up and trained on both the nest site and any regular roost spots.
We were soon in luck as the male appeared and put on a spectacular flight display before returning to the ledge near the nest. Chance for me to test the zoom on my new Canon SX40, still a huge distance away and this is a mix of optical, digital zoom plus cropping.

Mrs Wildlife spotted something moving around in a field near the observation point, binocular examination disclosed a bird but not the identity, time for a closer look! We tracked carefully and slowly towards a bush the bird had disappeared into, getting close and peeping over a wall which was handy cover we were greeted by a little owl looking back at us!

What a wonderful sight and watched the bird for a while before returning to the peregrine viewpoint, another flight ensued from the male before he settled in a tree on the eastern side of the Cove.

We shared our owl sighting with others, part of the joy of seeing splendid creatures like these is in sharing the knowledge. A rather cool wind had developed and we had exhausted our supply of coffee so we decided to return to the car where further stocks were awaiting. Another short trip to the owl site before we left though.

A great morning had been enjoyed, they say never look back but a peep back at the Cove was justified I think!

A wheatear was bracing itself against the now blustery wind as we neared the road back to the village.

Another example of the preferred food for birds, a thrush with a beakful of juicy worms, yummy!

A great start for my new camera, a little more sunshine would have been appreciated but with some great wildlife sightings it was a morning to remember:-))

Sunday, 22 April 2012

21st April 2012, Two walks and I missed the rain!

A weather forecast for thundery showers and sunny spells, close inspection of the local forecast disclosed that early morning should be dry so I packed up my gear and headed for Barden, North Yorkshire and a relatively short drive from Silsden. My preferred parking place by the river Wharfe offered no spaces even at this early hour so I had to divert a little further away. A short road walk took me down to the river though and I passed the ruins of Barden Priory along the way.

 Despite a chorus of birdsong there seemed to a distinct lack of willing models as all I got was glimpses of fleeing birds, not good! Eventually a male chaffinch offered himself for a photograph.
I left the woodland path and made my way through a very boggy area to where the songs seemed loudest, what I managed to photograph there were two birds not famed for their song but two real woodland specialists, a wren and a treecreeper:-)

Sightings of spotted flycatcher and blackcap made this diversion very worthwhile and I passed a very pleasant half hour in my little woodland glade. Resuming my riverbank stroll I saw a nuthatch gathering nest material, several attempts at photographs were unfortunately all so bad I ain't showing them!!!

I know of a regular dipper nesting site and approaching carefully allowed me the opportunity to watch this lovely bird gathering some grasses and moss to line the nest.
 My return up the river yielded a decent shot of a male goosander, plenty of these on the Wharfe but they don't seem to like being photographed and usually flee before I even get focused!

Heading back towards the road and my car I passed through a field and two birds I would not normally expect to see there, a pied wagtail and a meadow pipit.

Back on the tarmac and the road climbs steeply away from the river, trees that are rooted down below line the road and the tree tops are almost at eye level. Beautiful song emanated from the trees and I managed my first, though not brilliant, shot of a willow warbler. I hope to improve on this one!
Heading for home I was congratulating myself on my judgement of the weather conditions, no rain so far and no need to wear the waterproofs I had absently mindedly left at home!!! My route led me through the village of Embsay, just outside the village there is a small pond and I usually stop and have a look to see if there are any birds about. As I halted the car a really heavy downpour began, hail and rain battered the car for about ten minutes before it was safe to leave the vehicle for a look at the pond. I was in luck, a flash of bright orange caught my eye...except for the legs and bill the superbly camouflaged redshank.

There was also a couple of shelducks on the water, photographed here with a coot as a bonus.

A really good morning walk and I was eager to get home and check my photographs, as it turned out the weather allowed me plenty of time for that. We had about three hours of really heavy showers and I began to think that was it for the day but in mid afternoon the skies cleared again and I went for another wander, this time near home.

How things can change! I could not get anywhere near birds, everything flew before I even had the lens cap removed!!! No matter the sun was out and I just enjoyed the scenery, lambs are plentiful in the fields and caught this one doing a stretch.
  One reasonable shot of a goldfinch on some telegraph wires completed my wildlife pix for the day.

Two walks completed and I had managed to beat the weather, some good photographs collected along the way so all in all a decent day and I reflected on my fortune as I headed up Silsden towards my reward of a pint or two! Last shot of the day taken across the flower beds in the town, showing the Nail Sculpture which commemorates the towns contribution to the clog making industry, in the background the Punch Bowl Inn where I would be found soon!

Monday, 16 April 2012

14th April 2012, Wandering home from Skipton.

We had some shopping to do in Skipton which lies further up the Aire valley, I decided to recover from the stresses of the High Street by walking back to Silsden. Various options are on offer, part of the way by the river, the towpath of the Leeds Liverpool canal or a route over the moors. Given that grey cold weather was the order of the day I decided on the canalbank, it is mostly sheltered and it would give me chance to check out some swan nesting sites.

I joined the towpath by Skipton Bus Station, here is a view back from the bridge.

The open countryside is soon in view and I was joined by a lovely male swan, I think he expected to be fed but I don't believe human food is good for swans so he received no reward for his poses!

I was now passing a large hotel just outside the town and this duck seemed to think the Sky dish had a microphone in it as it quacked away merrily:-)

The male swan was still keeping me company and I soon found out why, a nest right behind the hotel and it seems a strange and vulnerable site. I didn't linger long, the male made it clear that getting too close would be unwise but I did get a decent shot of the female sitting elegantly on the nest.

Across the canal a mallard was taking her new family for a walk through the fields, a delightful sight!

Just outside the village of Bradley some tulips have been planted by the towpath, flower photography is not my favourite but I could not resist this lovely colour.

The wind finally dropped a little and there was even a hint of sunshine as I passed through the outskirts of Bradley and headed towards Kildwick. The canal water became a little more tranquil and a couple more swan shots demonstrate that perfectly.

I took a break for some food and drink in a sheltered spot by one of the many canal bridges and enjoyed a very pleasant conversation with the occupants of a barge which had stopped to open the bridge. A couple from way down south who enjoy a holiday here every year, impeccable taste!
A lovely robin sang cheerfully as I enjoyed the welcome sunshine.

The grey heron just has to be one of my favourites, their antics can have me laughing out loud and I find if you are slow and careful in your approach they will allow you to get quite close.

You can tell if you get too close...this happens:-))

I haven't had much luck with sightings by the river lately but I decided to give it a try, the paths are drying up and I had pretty much seen all I expected on the canal. The path between the two has an old wall and hedge on one side, snuggled up next to the hedge was this old warrior who I named "Scarface" for obvious reasons!!

Another blank stretch by the river ensued and I headed back through the field to the canal, blossom is now starting show nicely, Blackthorn I think as it is too early for Hawthorn.

I did find another swan nest near Silsden, not a great site for photographs but it looks a better site for swans which is more important.

The male swam around looking aloof, wonderful birds!

Time to think of a pint or two now after my walk and I made my way up through Silsden pausing along the way to wonder just what ends squirrels will go to to get food!

Thanks again for all the positive feedback on the blog, I enjoy the walking, photography and composition that goes into it, it is great to know it is enjoyed by others too:-))

Saturday, 7 April 2012

6th April 2012, Halton Heights to Addingham

It is refreshing sometimes to set off for a walk with no fixed route in mind, today fell into that category and after being dropped off near the top of Barden Moor I wandered merrily without a plan, and how well it worked out!

This look over Wharfedale and the summit of Simons Seat sums up the weather, dull and grey skies with occasional drizzle, sometimes this can lead to dark moods today I was determined to enjoy whatever I did and saw.
The meadow pipits are back on the moors now, beautiful little birds and sometimes they stay still long enough for me to get a photograph.
It would be a strange and unusual moorland walk if I came away with no photographs of red grouse, I don't know what I was doing wrong today but all I seemed to do was cause them to take off in noisy flight! Trekking north across the moor I eventually found a willing model.

The reservoirs of Lower Barden and Upper Barden have a smaller companion, near the northern edge of the moor this small and relatively unvisited sheet of water sometimes has more wildlife on it than its larger neighbours, today I found these canada geese.

I chose to leave the moor and head towards the hamlet of Drebley, a short road walk from here would lead me towards Barden Bridge and the riverbank, modern footwear has made tarmac trekking so much more comfortable than it used to be and I really don't mind a few road miles.

The track off the moor allowed me this splendid rural view towards Appletreewick.

I was soon by the river and starting to get hungry, time for a break and I wandered into the trees off path as it was busy here, Bank Holidays bring flocks of visitors here...more of that later! Anyway I found a lovely place to sit and have a break, birds were chirping and singing all around me, idyllic!

As I sat quietly the birds became more comfortable with my presence and I was able to get decent shots of redpoll and brambling, seasonal and welcome visitors here.

Time to push on now and I set about weaving my way through the masses on the riverbank, it is great to see families out enjoying the open air and lovely scenery near Bolton Abbey but not all at once!
Not much chance of seeing kingfishers with all these people about but I did see grey wagtail and dipper as I headed down river.

Once past the hotspot of the pavilion buildings the human traffic eased as did my mood, my own company is not always cheerful but I am used to it!

This grey heron had also found a spot away from the crowds, not sure what it was hunting in the long grass but it was certainly concentrating.

The estate here charges £6.00(ish) to park a car, a look back through the trees shows they are having a lucrative day!

The river is famed for the quality of the angling to be enjoyed, especially on this stretch towards Bolton Bridge and some mighty fish are landed by the fly fishermen on here. I don't know what type of fish inhabit the tree tops but this chap was certainly cursing his luck with this cast!

I had to decide what to do now, time was not an issue but I needed to get nearer to home and the bus service out here is pretty sketchy. The Dales Way route to Addingham would serve my purpose, buses from there to Silsden are fairly regular and the path through fields is pleasant.

The view up to Beamsley Beacon or Howber Hill shows the gathering gloom as it starts to drizzle. Pretty soon I was in Addingham and heading for the nearest bus stop passing this unusually named lane along the way.

If they have something to ease my tired legs I'll give it a try! A bus arrived a few minutes later and I was transported homewards, well pubwards actually...but I had walked a long way!!