Monday, 25 March 2013

Sunday 24th March 2103, My first walk in Spring this year!

In common with most areas of the United Kingdom we have been experiencing some rather bleak and cold weather recently as my reports show. A rather dreadful Saturday was endured, snow fell steadily all day and we had shopping to collect for elderly relatives, much spinning of wheels and spraying of snow saw us out of our estate and the supermarket was duly visited and said goods distributed.

I could see little point in going for a walk, visibility was dire and temperatures were freezing so a venture to the pub was as much activity as I could muster!

Sunday was a little brighter and at least the snow had stopped, in early afternoon I set forth clad in full winter mountaineering gear, Yaktrax fitted to my boots to avoid any slips I fairly sped over the tops towards our neighbouring village of Kildwick, that may have been due to a fierce north easterly wind at my back!

The lambing season has been in full flow, these hardy youngsters were not letting their mum out of sight..

The snowfall has not been heavy as this shot over Cross Hills shows...

Any birds brave enough to take to the skies up here were soon whisked away into the distance by the wind, the forecast later viewed said that gusts had been up to 60mph!! I dropped down through fields to the canal and carried on westwards for a while..

I thought the mallards may be my only subject for the day!

The moorhens are tenacious though and constantly forage around the waters edge..

This pair of mallards seemed distinctly unsure whether to take to the water or not, they must be impervious to cold as they eventually went in:-)

Jackdaws are a lovely subject with their bright eyes..

I turned for home at this stage and faced the almighty wrath and force of the wind, goodness me it was tough even at valley level, I am quite a strong walker but it was a battle to make progress.

Another lamb shot near Kildwick as this youngster searched for some food..

The next photograph was a very unexpected one as some blue sky appeared!

A sight of a wren on the far bank alerted me to a photographic opportunity if I was patient, I huddled into a waterside shrub for some shelter and waited and watched, a couple of photographs were my reward..

Not great shots but to be honest I was grateful for anything!

The strength of the wind meant constantly changing skies, looking west over Gib Hill there was a real mixture..

The constant but fine snow of the previous day had been blown into drifts, this was the collection on  a steep bank by the canal..

A greylag goose appeared to be sleeping, a closer look discloses a state of alertness though:-)

A long distance zoom on a lapwing added to my meagre collection for the day..

And then as I battled on for last half mile or so a cute robin appeared on the towpath, I almost raised a smile...If my face had not been frozen into a grim but determined expression!!

Any reflections today would be made in the pub afterwards, no chance on here as the winds blasts across the water.

It was with some relief that I reached the boatyard at Silsden, the last couple of hundred yards within the shelter of the streets were somewhat easier. I did pause by the canal for this photograph of a male mute swan though...

And then after my "couple" of pints I wandered home, and a reminder in our garden that however tough the weather is nature always finds a wayof this tulip noses its way through the snowfall...

Monday, 18 March 2013

16/17th March 2013, Yet another cold weekend!

Another drab and wet start to the weekend as Saturday morning saw my mood drift from downcast to even worse! Having the company of our four year old grand-daughter Jaime was a welcome distraction as I tried to work out what I could hope to see on my passout afternoon, Peppa Pig and grey skies soon made way for a lunchtime weather forecast of a blue sky afternoon.

I wandered on the tarmac to Kildwick, not the best of walks as it can be very busy with a lot of traffic but with a little care it is quite safe. The skies were clearing as I walked, the busy and melodic songs of various birds which stubbornly remained invisible accompanied me, along with the various hums of exhaust emissions and the occasional booming of heavy bass tracks from the boy and girl racer cars!

Descending towards the canal I paused for a while by a lovely old graveyard, some  wasteground by its perimeter looked a good wildlife habitat if I was patient and lucky!

Dunnocks, often called hedge sparrows for reasons I don't know because they are a separate family, are common, they usually feed on the ground and their fluttering wings are a real delight. This one was comfortable with being near to me and allowed some lovely photographs...

Attempts at photographing a very noisy and busy wren were not successful and I moved on to the canal towpath. Goodness what a muddy mess but the decision was made, after a late start I didn't have too much daylight to play with and onwards I strode/slipped/slithered/swore!!!

Watching the various mallards as I walked I came across one which looked distressed, as it shifted from foot to foot with its eyes firmly shut the reason for its distress was relieved audibly, and yes ducks do trump!

Finding more orthodox wildlife shots was once again a trial, the cold winds seem to be keeping the birds sheltered in the undergrowth, their songs are loud and undiminished though.

A not very good great tit shot..

Sometimes close ups are not necessary, a little scale shows the robin pronouncing a territorial claim...

Patience does pay, a lesson I still need lessons in sometimes!! A lovely blue tit paused for long enough for me to get a decent shot...

The birds that have wintered here will be heading away soon, the gorgeous waxwings and redwings I have been fortunate to photograph, and the always welcome fieldfare...

Goosanders seem to be thriving around here, for once I managed to get a pair close together before the inevitable happened....

The skies dulled again as I neared Silsden and my post walk few beers, luckily swans are gorgeous in any light:-)

The calm waters by the boatyard provided the last shot of the day...

I'm not sure reading a soothing bedtime story to a four year old is a good idea, it certainly had a soporiphic effect on one of us! Anyway Sunday morning seemed to arrive fairly quickly and we headed over to Wharfedale, good for playgrounds and wildlife, a good mix for the day!

Some gravel ponds yielded a decent great crested grebe shot, first time here and I need to get know the layout better..

We moved on to Ilkley, sandpits and swings and all that! I took a few minutes by the river Wharfe and got some good examples of black headed gulls in transient plumage, when the change is complete they are a lovely chocolate colour..not black!

After a suitable amount of play we had a short walk by the river, a lovely grey wagtail appeared...

We wandered on and saw three mallards, the gents allowing the lady a social drink:-))

We didn't expect to see a lot of birds in the piercing north easterly wind but dippers are tough and this river is famed for them. No chance of a close up as this one stayed mid river but it shows the habitat nicely....

And it was time for home, one little lady was pleased to see her Mum and Dad after their weekend birthday break:-) And then the early evening and my first stint at the barn owl site, a friend maintains a daily presence here and has provided feeders to help little birds like long tailed tits survive, they struggle badly in cold winters and numbers plummet without places like this.

The barn owls appear most nights, evidently some evenings they fly from the far end of the barn which is about 400 yards away and disappear, others they fly right over where I was stood and even land quite close, not today though and after two hours although well insulated I was getting cold, darkness was approaching and I had to make my way through some dangerous ground to get to a road to await my lift home. Time to be safe and come back another day..............

And just after our tea tonight a barn owl flew right across the front garden..........fate, or just a really good omen:-))

Monday, 11 March 2013

9/10/11 March 2013. Local walks and freezing weather!

Saturday was a day that welcomed indecision, or a decision to stay in, or a decision to go the inn! It was grey miserable and wet, but the blogger is made of fairly stern stuff and ventured out despite the gloomy weather. Chances of wildlife sightings were negligible as I contoured the lower slopes of Farnhill Moor, at this stage the rain was only intermittent and I was waterproofed up which also acted as windproofing against a north easterly wind that was whipping through.

How robins stay so cheerful I don't know...maybe just the time of year but this little beauty was in full song as I passed...

A little further on and the much softer, almost feeble, call of a dunnock caught my attention..

As the walk progressed rain began to fall, not too heavy but in the cold wind it did little to produce enthusiasm. I took shelter  for a while under some trees, a lovely goldfinch flew into view..

The snowdrops are in full flower now and this bunch provided probably my best photograph on the day..

Resuming my wander I reached the canal towpath, the rain began to get heavier and I decided enough was enough. Just time for a shot of this female pheasant before the camera was stowed away and I strode purposefully, or desperately, or downheartedly, in the direction of home for a while before taking refuge in the pub for a while!

There were no high hopes for the weather on Sunday, after a few domestic chores and a couple of Mothering Sunday visits we checked the local forecast which disclosed bright sunshine in the afternoon, cold winds as well but the sun would be a welcome sight.

We drove over to Bolton Abbey for a river and woodland walk, the first few hundred yards straight into a blasting north easterly saw no photographs taken, hands even with gloves on were firmly stuffed into pockets!

Entering the sheltering woodland it warmed up enough for a shot up through the tall scots pines...

I love watching goosanders, rarely easy to photograph as their inbuilt fear of people makes them wary but they are delightfully busy. Watching them dive and trying to predict where they will surface is enjoyable, here I got two shots the first a conventional one, the second showing the female looking down in the water before diving..

The dippers are very active on the river now, this one didn't seem too eager to live up to its name, to be honest I don't blame it!

Sitting quietly in one of the shelters we had a few visitors..

This chaffinch joined us for a view down Wharfedale:-)

A cheerful robin refused to be ignored..

Blue, coal and great tit respectively..

Looking down from the elevated path I captured some of the power of the surging Wharfe as it squeezes through the Strid.

It was getting pretty cold again as we walked back in the direction of the car park, frozen digits responded just too slowly to adjust the camera settings for a flight shot as a buzzard appeared overhead..

Not my best but just about recognisible..

The walk was a bonus on a weekend when we didn't really expect to see any sunshine.

Monday was another day of a never ending winter, snow flurries and bright sunshine in equal measures, thankfully though the snow was very light. I drove over to Bolton Abbey again to take advantage of the free midweek parking on the estate, only a few weeks now and charges will apply!

Setting off further down river than the day before I soon found a willing model, a black headed gull in breeding plumage, lovely birds..

Just after this one of the "squalls" occurred...

It didn't last long though and soon the valley was bathed in bright sunshine again. I was on the lookout for dippers but the comical sight of a lovely eyed jackdaw doing a penguin impersonation just had to be photographed..

I didn't manage any dipper close ups but this shot does show the colours well, if you only see them briefly or in flight you don't see the lovely shades of brown.

I drove up to the edge of the moors for another short walk, the skies were just wonderful as I set out.

Crystal clear views and bright sunshine, a crisp dry path, what could go wrong? Well no wildlife to see and about twenty minutes later another flurry of snow and a sharp decrease in temperature saw me turn round and head back to the car!

A warming cup of coffee or two from my thermos cheered me up and I drove back near Silsden for a short walk by the canal. A lovely song thrush appeared fairly quickly...

And to cap off a bit of a bonus weekend, lapwings are back in good numbers in the fields..

A lot more time spent outdoors than I could have hoped for in these three days, maybe next weekend things will have warmed up a little...I may have a date with some barn owls!!