Monday, 27 August 2012

26th August, Leighton Moss RSPB reserve

We had decided on a later start than normal for a trip over near Carnforth to the splendid RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss, two reasons...we wanted to stay a bit later than we had before, it can be a tiring day and we usually are ready for home in late afternoon, secondly it was due to rain in the morning!

It was raining when we arrived but the forecast said sunshine later so we firmly crossed our fingers and set off to explore, the dampness is well shown by the droplets on these reed grasses.

Bird sightings were not too exciting at this point but a couple of red deer appeared, one with very funny ears!

The rain eased a little, but it was still unfortunately grey as we saw a marsh harrier appear and settle in a bush, camera speed not good enough to get a sharp shot. Leaving the hide we heard a noisy little bird in the reeds, a couple of brief sightings ensued and a passing RSPB warden confirmed it was a cetti's warbler, very rare!

If I started posting about birds and pole dancing readers could be a little alarmed to say the least, but this was in a purer sense than is usually referred to:-))

We had a break for some lunch and then set out for the lower hide, we have some tremendous and memorable sightings from there and it never disappoints.

On the way down there are some small ponds lined with reeds and foliage, ideal for butterflies and dragon and quick succession we saw a speckled wood butterfly, a black lined skimmer and a ruddy darter.

We had barely settled in our seats in the lower hide when a call of "Osprey" went up, heads turned binoculars and cameras were trained as the bird came closer, this numpty was still in macro mode so the pix were not as I good as I hoped for..but the sight of this magnificent bird hovering over the water, then diving and catching a fish before flying away with its catch was awe inspiring.

We watched as it soared higher and higher before making its way over the distant woods.

After correcting my camera settings I did manage a decent action shot of a swan during a take off, complete with droplets of water.

Fortune or fate decreed that we would call in the public hide on our way back to the centre, on the way across the causeway this beatiful patch of tranquility caught my attention.

There are always plenty of coots to be seen from the public hide.

Mrs Wildlife is a redoubtable spotter, often seeing things before me, on this occasion she beat about twenty seasoned birders in spotting a kingfisher arrive on a distant post!! We watched through binocs and scope as the little fella fished happily, chuckles abounded as he held a small fish in his beak and proceeded to bash it about before swallowing it. A range of about 70 yards is way too far for a good clear shot of a small bird even with a powerful zoom, this is the best one I got.

A couple of greenshanks on the island completed my photographs for the day, the drive home was thankfully uneventful, what a brilliant and unforgettable day!!

25th August, a wet moorland and canal walk

The intention today was a walk across Kildwick Moor and then to circle round to Silsden Moor via some quiet country lanes, the tarmac would at least provide a decent walking surface...things didn't work out how I had planned...

The heather on Kildwick Moor is colouring nicely as I make my way up the eastern side, rain was forecast and the waterproofs were on but it was still dry at this point. The berries on the rowan trees are developing well..

A few spots of rain began to fall as I reached the large cairn, the tower is just visible in the background.

The few spots were succeeded by thunder and lightning and a proper deluge, any thoughts of heading to higher ground were swiftly replaced by thoughts of where I could find shelter!

I took this path down through the woods to reach the road, the canal towpath would provide a quick if muddy return to Silsden.

This swallow looked about as forlorn as I felt at this point!

Another reason for heading for the canal was a convenient bridge which served well as a shelter while the worst of the weather passed by.

Eventually the torrential rain subsided to a steady flow and I decided to move onwards, I was dry enough in my waterproofs bu it really is no fun to walk when it is absolutely bucketing down! Even the ducks seemed fed up with it......

Passing through the village of Kildwick I noticed this sleek rowing craft, more of this in a while:-)

Photography became a little less troublesome as the rain eventually stopped, after a few minutes of drying and cleaning the camera lens I saw this lovely moorhen.

I took a break by one of the traditional swing bridges, after a couple of minutes I heard the sound of oars swishing through the water, the rowers attempted to flatten their bodies in the craft to enable them to glide under the bridge...
I definitely heard an "Ouch" and something about "rowlocks"...I think! Fortunately the support team on bikes were able to instruct them and extrication was achieved..
They were all in good humour though and with a laugh one of them said "Only 20 miles to go, we will have sore heads by the time we reach Shipley!"

I was in better humour too as I resumed my wander, this small white butterfly was very obliging.

Almost back in town I spotted this rabbit feeding happily..

And so my soggy wander came to and end, I reached Silsden and the rain started again..

Monday, 20 August 2012

18th August, RSPB Fairburn Ings

We decided to have a change today, a new wildlife place for us and it was a close call between the RSPB reserve at Old Moor, Dearne Valley or Fairburn Ings. The latter won on the spin of a coin so Old Moor will be top of the list next time.

So here we are within sight of Ferrybridge Power Station with the cooling towers ushering their fumes skywards, not the typical idea of a wildlife haven but....this place is well worth a visit if you are in the area. We are not at the best time of year for birdwatching with many species heading coastwards in preparation for their migratory journeys, and yet we still had a magical day!

Our first visit was to a hide near the visitor centre, and my first photograph...a heron of course!

The bushes around the hide were strewn with feeders and in quick succession we saw some lovely tree sparrows with their chestnut heads and then a great spotted woodpecker.

I'm not sure whether this is a bee, hornet or wasp! Whatever it is it allowed me near enough to get a decent macro shot..

The path that led around the main lake was also close to the river Aire, much further downstream than my usual walks though! The whole area was alive with damsels and dragonflies, a large dose of patience is required to photograph these in close up, a skill I am fortunately learning.

A black lined skimmer...

A common darter...

And a brown hawker..

Wandering back to the visitors centre we passed a newly mown crop field edge, I spotted some movement around the margin of the field, red legged partridge a bonus!

We then spent over an hour at a special habitat created for kingfishers, of course we saw nothing! It is never that easy nor should it be and we will return and spend much longer next time we are over this way.

Another trip out to the hide near the centre did not offer much apart from this young grey squirrel taking the opportunity to pinch some of the food put out for the birds.

A scorching hot day and we were tired and thirsty after a few hours in the heat, thank goodness for the flasks we always pack and a reviving cuppa before we set off for home!

Monday, 13 August 2012

12th August, Canal and moor, cuckoo delight!!

A bit of a late start for our walk today as domestic duties took priority, our garden hedges were in serious need of a trim. Dunnocks nesting and producing two broods has meant leaving the hedges very strictly alone, any disturbance can mean parents flying away and then neglecting the nest afterwards.

One of the real delights of my concentration on wildlife has been an in increasing knowledge of what I am likely to see in particular areas of my local walks, today that paid off big time. We made our way to Low Wood first, really gloomy light made photography nigh on impossible and we had to content ourselves with some nice sightings through our binoculars, wren, robin and wood warbler were all in evidence.

The light by the canal was a little better in the open air and less tree cover. Moorhens, Gallinula Chloropus, are common and all too often ignored by many. This one had chicks, probably a second brood, one was pleading for food..the other tucked into the warmth of a parents wing popped its head out for a look at the world outside!

We then took a short drive up to the moor above Keighley, I have walked up here a lot and earlier this year the call of the cuckoo rang loud and on one memorable occasion I tracked one for a long time eventually getting a decent photograph:-

As we wandered along the faint path a bird flew across our sight line, from near the wall as I was I could not see where it had gone, Mrs Wildlife on a slightly wider line whispered that it had settled on the wall. Binocs raised I moved wider to take a look, one brief glance suggested a hawk of easy mistake to make with a cuckoo, cuculus canorus. A couple of photographs, which would have been more than acceptable, were taken but better was to follow. The cuckoo flew off and we celebrated our good fortune and wandered on a short distance to where a huge pile of rocks marks a crossroads for many of the paths up here.

We sat on the rocks scanning round for any more birds, truth to be told...there wasn't much! A couple of hikers passed and asked if we had seen much. "Juvenile cuckoo" I said, the looks on their faces were ones of "Yeah right..."

We took a different path back to the car, that was fortunate. Only a short distance away from where we had been sat but this would have been out of sight we found the cuckoo again, this time we saw it before it saw us and the wind was in our face, always helpful! Time to go into stalking mode again, taking photographs when I could to ensure I had some shots I eventually found cover behind a large rock. A juvenile cuckoo and posing nicely too!

My best shots yet of this hard to photograph bird, maybe next year I can get even better ones:-))

I hope readers enjoy my wildlife explorations, I try to get different things and I am really enjoying the memory bank of knowledge I am building up. I don't always give exact locations, if you want to know where these places are get in touch and I will pass on the information privately.

The other thing I try to do is post regularly, things lose relevance when they are posted several months after the event took place, well I think so anyway.

If you have any ideas as to how the blog could be improved, or if you have just enjoyed it leave a comment, feedback is good...and it is free!!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

11th August, Halton Heights to Addingham

I fancied a longish walk for today, the forecast was good and I wanted the chance to wander up on the moors before the grouse shooting season begins. Halton Height lies at the south eastern corner of Barden Moor and it was here I was dropped off and my walk began, the skies were a bit grey and leaden in the morning and a coolish breeze blew across the moor.

Lower Barden reservoir lay beneath me as I made my way on the bridleway.

The heather is beginning to purple quite nicely and soon its beautiful colours will adorn large sections of moorland.

The bridleway made for quick progress and I strode on purposefully, soon reaching the upper reservoir.

A few meadow pipits fluttered about and several grouse had taken flight as I passed, as I now diverted to a much smaller path I slowed my pace a little. Moving gently allows one to approach quite close to the grouse, timid as they are they seem calmed by a careful approach.

I passed by Saddle Ridge Wham, what a name! and Folly Top before descending towards Burnsall, a kestrel appeared briefly.

Reaching the riverbank I began to walk at a brisk pace again, it was getting hot but I felt fit and wanted to test myself. Not taking my usual studied approach I didn't notice much wildlife by the Wharfe, this herring gull appeared as I took a short rest to refuel.

The sand martin colony north of Barden Bridge was busy with juveniles hanging out of the nest entrances as their parents made numerous journeys back and forth.

The area around the Cavendish Pavilion was thronging with visitors even worse down by the Priory ruins, some joker had got half way across the stepping stones and then frozen!!!

For me now it was a case of one foot in front of the other, repeatedly, and at a good speed, my target bus would not wait and another half an hour would pass before another arrived. This field of baled hay caught my eye though!

I made the bus with ten minutes to spare, phew! Just over 14 miles is a good walk and I was in high spirits as the bus trundled towards Silsden:-))