Saturday, 29 December 2012

28th December 2012, Whatever the weather I need a walk!

In common with most of the United Kingdom we currently sit underneath a weather system of consistent and persistent low pressure, dull and wet and thoroughly depressing for those of us prefer to spend our non working hours outdoors.

With the bulk of the seasonal celebrations out of the way and some wonderful times enjoyed, a dry day and the chance to get some exercise rather than more food and drink under the belt would be great, the weather forecast said wet, but hey I have waterproofs so I went out anyway!

The canalbank is a mess, wet slimy mud and the conditions are not great for photographs either but the local mallards are always willing models..

Wandering carefully I covered a few miles, two sights of kingfishers in flight raised the spirits unfortunately on this occasion I had no opportunity for pictures though.

Near Silsden I did see the ring necked parakeet which seems to have made this area its home..

Light but persistent rain fell, I walked slowly and carefully back and forth seeking wildlife, rushing in these conditions would be folly!!

I did find a flock of fieldfares, a close perusal of one photograph suggests there may have been a redwing or two amongst them...

Goosanders seem to be favouring the canal at the moment, maybe the swollen rivers are not much yielding much in the way of food, this lovely female was my last photograph of the day...

After my Christmas Eve calamity and the ensuing back trouble I had at least walked free of discomfort, the exercise was welcome and the fresh air was enjoyed. The waterproofs continue to be worthy of their nametag and the footwear will be clean...eventually!

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Monday, 24 December 2012

The festive season!

Many thanks to all who have looked at my blog over the last year...the festive season is upon us, our area is drenched in near continual rain and walks are difficult and need careful planning.

On Saturday 22nd December I drew a very rare blank, the rain was bucketing down and I settled down to a new project, no words just my photographs and some relaxing music now uploaded to Youtube.......

On Sunday we went over to Ogden Reservoir near Halifax for an exploratory wander, it was freezing cold but thankfully dry, we saw little wildlife but it looks a great place for a walk on a better day..

Returning to the car the sun made a rare and brief appearance..

On Christmas Eve I took a journey over to Lancashire to meet a good friend from my hillwalking days, if you like your humour dry, I do obviously!, give his website a perusal. Richard Ratcliffe, hills, trains and cafes are all examined and rated, 50+ summits of Pendle Hill with spectacular sunsets when conditions allow..

We had planned a walk around some of the reservoirs to be found up on the wild moors near Calderdale, the prevailing conditions were not good but we are made of stern stuff.

Waterproofs on from the beginning we set off past Gorple Lower Reservoir..

Reaching Gorple Upper reservoir we decided on a near pathless route around the edge, the map disclosed a path at the far side which would lead us over some high ground and on in the general direction we were aiming for..

The unsightly blob on the picture, just to the right of the waterproof map reader discloses the state of the weather!

Just after this the photographer had a slip, a damned clumsy slip and one with consequences...crossing a small stream I slipped, then stumbled, then fell backwards into said small but deep stream! The waterproofs saved me from the indignity of looking distinctly incontinent but the freezing cold moorland water breached my socks completely, we had little choice but to curtail the walk.

The shortest route back to our vehicles was taken, thankfully I always pack a towel in my rucksac, dry shoes felt welcome, a pint and a continuation of our chat was enjoyed in a local hostelry, we will try again on a better day!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

15th December, Surreal moments by the canal!

On a day where the forecast was not too great I decided on another canalside walk, grey skies and some showers were likely so I was waterproofed up from the start. The bridge by Cononley lane end provides a decent reflection on a calm day..

The towpath was a bit muddy, sightings were few and spirits were sagging as I reached Kildwick, the annual gurning competition for the ducks made me chuckle though!

What followed was frustration at the lack of visible wildlife and then just one of those occasions that make you chuckle out loud, a local running club were holding their annual race on the canalbank, a nuisance for me when I am looking for things, but they were in fancy dress!! Having a couple of angels jog past was funny, the two nuns made it better and when Batman and Robin dashed past I had the theme music from Only Fools and Horses stuck in my head!! Quality!!

The racers ran on and I trudged on, a rainbow lifted the spirits..

Eventually I found a pair of goosanders, tricky to get near usually but for once they proved quite accomodating:-)

A few more miles of sightless trudging ensued, not my best day for wildlife but somehow I was still smiling!!

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Sunday, 9 December 2012

8/9th December 2012, Waxwings and wet legs

Reports of waxwings in the valley had sent us on a faulty mission last Sunday, I got the location wrong and we didn't see much of anything!!

Determined to put that right I did more research and realised that at one point we had been been within 100 yards of the correct place, whoops. Having only ever seen one of these beautiful winter visitors from Siberia and Scandinavia I was keen to see more and even more keen for Mrs Wildlife who had never seen them.

They feed on berries and fruit, on these allotments there is a tree full of rotting apples, unfortunately this is private property and I had to rely on long zoom shots, nevertheless the sights were enjoyed through the binoculars as well:-)

A brilliant half hour and one that was really enjoyed, the sun was in a difficult position and with only one viewpoint the photography was testing.

My plan involved getting dropped at a high point of Rombald's Moor and walking back to Silsden, up above the 300m asl contours there was a little snow on the ground as I set off on my walk.

Looking over Ilkley Moor there looked like heavier snowfall up Wharfedale on Buckden Pike and Great Whernside...

Wandering up here is great, fairly deserted, in a friends terminology "The greetings count is zero" and I can concentrate on what I may find, red grouse were on my mind and mainly on the horizon as I heard their chuckling calls without a decent opportunity of a photograph.

The clearance of many trees up here always makes me think I should see birds of prey, except I rarely do! Movement on the very periphery of my vision alerted me this time though, lens cap off, default panic stations with the will do!! And a beautiful red kite flew right overhead then turned and checked me out, just a special moment.......

I don't know if I appeared to be unpalatable or not but the kite flew swiftly into the distance and I trekked onwards.

These trees up on the moor have a hard life, they get battered by horrendous winds and they bend sometimes in a way that reminds me of old peoples spines, bent by age but surviving.

I crossed the moorland boundary wall soon after this, I know a route across some farmland and with the frozen state of the paths it seemed a good decision, it can be wet and boggy up here, good decision not..........

Wandering over some recently slurried ground I felt the icy top begin to give way, move quickly is the advice, I did and my leg plunged about half way up into just about the foulest smelling liquid I have ever known! Trying to get that leg out I got my other leg in too, oh joy! Maybe that is not what I said!! Anyway, safely but smelling not quite of roses I made my way to a welcome beck. Boots and all I washed my legs off, the fetid stuff had permeated up my waterproof trousers and into my socks. Wet feet and trousers are not too comfortable but as they dried a little in the weak sunshine and cool breeze I spotted something to take my mind from my discomfort, a great spotted woodpecker settled on a nearby tree and I moved ever so carefully to get a shot.

Dropping down into the valley with my squishy feet seemed a good move, zooming over Cross Hills it looked a bit claggy over Pendle Hill.

I saw little of interest on my way back to Silsden, passing Howden Park the sun came out briefly though.

I must have passed the aroma test at my local as no derogatory phrases were to be heard as I enjoyed a couple of pints post smelly walk!!

We returned to the waxwing site on Sunday when the light was a little better.......

A little festive shopping trip was then endured, ho ho ho, not too painful really:-) On our way home we had  short walk by the canal, no kingfishers but a beautiful redwing with a goldfinch as a bonus:-)
Another seasonal visitor from Scandinavia and a personal favourite, ah well no smelly legs today!!

Monday, 3 December 2012

1st December 2012, A bit of a mixed day!

I planned an afternoon on Barden Moor, great sightings up there last year of short eared owls and a decent weather forecast for the day encouraged me on a spotting mission. I haven't heard of any local sightings yet this year and someone has to get out and find them!

With a couple of hours to spare in the morning I headed over to Kildwick to check on the kingfishers I have been watching recently, with large patches of the canal frozen over it left only a handful of thawed pools for possible sightings.

Plenty of blackbirds were to be seen.....

There are a good number of newly arrived fieldfares in the valley, they are very skittish when they first arrive from Scandinavia but as they become more used to their surroundings it is possible to get a little closer.

I would never say I could guarantee kingfisher sightings, wildlife watching isn't like that, but to have the regular views I have enjoyed over the past few weeks has been a real pleasure, once again I was not disappointed. This time the strong breeze provided some lovely shots...........

I small group of long tailed tits flitted around in the trees, barely ever still they are a tough subject to photograph and I only managed one decent shot.

On my way back to the car I spotted a kestrel, its back was turned and I really wanted a look at its face, a whistle did the trick and it turned to face the culprit!

Back home I warmed up with some coffee and refilled my flask, and added a couple of thermal layers to my clothes for the afternoon.

A beautiful late autumn day for sure but 400 metres asl on an exposed moor is not to be trifled with!

The site we visited quite a lot last winter is in a wonderful location with wide and stunning views, I settled myself on the leeward/sheltered side of a convenient wall and waited............and waited...and saw absolutely no birds of any kind for three hours!!

This is the view from my watching spot...

Rationing my coffee carefully I did keep reasonably warm, occasionally I wandered off to the edge of the moor to take in some of the views..

Simon's Seat..

Lower Barden reservoir and Burnsall Fell..

Pendle Hill in the distance and Eastby Crag..

Nab End and Addingham Moorside..

Each time I took off a glove to take a photograph my fingers turned blue very quickly and took some time to become functional again, my coffee was gone and I had nearly an hour until my lift was due.

Knowing which route Mrs Widlife would be using was an advantage, I decided to pack in my cold and lonely vigil and walk towards Skipton from where she would be driving. The views as the sun gradually set were superb..

Eastby Crag in the last bright colours of the day..

And wandering on down to Embsay...

I cannot say I have ever ridden off into the sunset but at least it felt as if I was walking off into it!!