Sunday, 24 June 2012

23rd June 2012. The balance of nature

The dreadful weather of the last few weeks continued culminating in downpours on Friday which deposited a months worth of rain, about 4" or 100mm, in one day. Being quite close to the source of the river Aire means that the level of the water is affected quickly around here, I drove the short distance to Kildwick to see just how bad things were.

Pretty close to bursting the banks and I was grateful for the elevated path I was on, further downstream there was evidence of what I suspected may have happened, sadly the water level had risen above the sand martin nests. Adult birds were flying forlornly, the chicks were not mature enough to fly to safety and the whole colony would have perished.

Part of understanding nature and wildlife is having a grasp and appreciation of the balance of beauty and sadness it can bring, as hard as I tried I could feel nothing but a gut wrenching despair at the way these beautiful little birds had flown thousands of miles and done most of the hard work entailed in raising their new family only for this to happen.

It took me a while to find the enthusiasm to set out in the afternoon, the skies looked untrustworthy and there was a cold wind funnelling down the valley. Waterproofs were packed and use was expected!

Given the sodden state of the fields I stuck to the hard surface of the quiet lane that leads down the valley towards Keighley. The recent weather had obviously interrupted the effort to get this field mown as portrayed by the single mown strip.

I was leant on the gate leading into the field listening to the call of a curlew, the sound grew louder and said bird presented itself for a rare close up!

Further on I got a good view of the flooded fields, somewhere amongst this is the river.

This small and unidentified butterfly entertained me for a while as I followed its fluttering flight through long and wet grass, I emerged looking distinctly incontinent....waterproof trousers still in the rucksack!!

I entered Low Wood Nature Reserve more in hope than expectation, as reported recently the heavy foliage makes spotting difficult. The wet weather has done nothing to spoil the flowers, foxgloves proliferate in here.

Great spotted woodpeckers are seen regularly on bird feeders for some lucky people and that provides the best opportunity for photographs unless you are really fortunate. Today I was pleasantly surprised when a pair flew into close view as I scanned round with the binoculars. A couple of shots, one with a robin in the background, and a more distant view of the pair.

Wandering quietly on through the woods I spotted a young blackbird, a young male part way through the transition of its feathers from its juvenile brown to the black of a mature bird.

The raucous call of jays is unmistakeable, ears alerted I headed towards the commotion. Tracking carefully and as silently as I could I saw movement in the trees ahead, aware that they are very shy normally and hard to watch at close quarters I moved really slowly until I had a good view. A family with a couple of youngsters pleading for food, squawking loudly and moving around on a large branch.

The sorrow of the mornings sight will never leave me but to be privileged enough to witness the success of other birds certainly helps restore the balance in my mind.

Wandering back to Silsden I found this group of mallards, a female and three youngsters basking in the brief sunshine.

I was now hopeful of a completely rain free walk, hah silly me!! The skies darkened and a look up the valley confirmed it was time for a hasty addition of a waterproof covering, the rain blasted down for about fifteen minutes, the wind howled and I was heading straight into it! My face felt as if I was being pebble dashed for a while, it eased thankfully and I reached the outskirts of town as the sun came out again. Deciding to remove the waterproofs before I reached the pub I leant against a wall for a little support, reaching for the waistband of the trousers I glanced up to see a horrified lady who obviously thought there was a flasher at large!!! I don't know who was more relieved when the fabric of my trousers was revealed:-)) At least she had the grace and humour to smile "I really thought you were going to...." "I know, sorry" I offered and smiled back, lesson learned. Time for a well earned couple of pints now.


  1. Some fantastic shots here Dave, what a good day bet you were pleased :o) Great pic of the curlew & the woodpecker & the jays & the foxgloves ..... in fact they are all great ;o)

  2. Really sad to hear about the sand martins problems. A real tragedy for the colony.

    A bit happier once we saw the other wildlife coping with the weather.

    Thanks for the pictures.

  3. Hi, your small and unidentified butterfly is actually a Silver-ground Carpet moth.