Monday, 25 February 2013

23/24th February 2013, and the wind came mainly from the North!

Cold, grey and uninviting are probably good words to describe the weather at the moment. Fervent wishes for blue skies were unfulfilled but pessimistic as I felt I set out from Kildwick for an exploration of my home valley.

The first section by the canal was thankfully less muddy...but devoid of wildlife of any description, many times I walk by the river Aire I see nothing too, but I persist just in case!

A pair of goosanders were sailing back and forth on this occasion, not the greatest photograph but I was getting a little disconsolate!


Searching trees and hedgerows carefully through the binoculars I found little, well insulated as I was in two windproof fleece layers the wind was cutting through as the sharpness it finds when it blows from the North was more than evident!

Tracking through the fields I made my way back to the canal, maybe another perusal would bring some results. Still no wildlife, but I did meet another wildlife fan and we chatted for a good while, thanks Damian the company and craic was excellent!!

A shot taken towards Crosshills adequately shows the conditions of the day..


I decided to try my luck on the other side of Silsden, a brisk walk would at least generate some welcome warmth, the supplies of coffee in my flask were diminishing faster than I planned.
Along the way I found two canada geese which seemed unsure which direction they really wanted to go:-)


Passing through the village I set off down the lane that leads eastwards, success!!! I almost leapt into the air with glee, well perhaps not but it was worth removing the lens cap for a long distance shot of some goldfinches high in a tree.

Yes, exactly...bright grey sky does not make for great pix:-/

Focusing on a moorhen I thought I had a rare shot of one clutching a canalside branch, the luck of the day it lost its balance and my focus just as I pressed the shutter release.
 
 
One of the sounds of an approaching spring, apart from boinnggg boinnggg! is the melodic warbling and singing of song thrushes...
 

Sparrows are fairly plentiful around here, but even they seemed reluctant to pose for the camera today, persistence has its rewards though and eventually I found a willing model.
 
My efforts in finding things to see paid off in fine style soon after this as a glimpse of colour from a bird in flight alerted my senses, binoculars raised and re-focusing as it flew I recognised the beautiful colouring of a green woodpecker. No chance at all of a photograph, even in good conditions it was too far away. I noted where it had landed and realised that to get anywhere near would involve three muddy fields, time was getting on and my trousers were so far clean...no contest, nearly time for a pint!
 
Just enough time for a near darkness swan shot as what little light there had been ebbed away...
 
 
The pint, or two, were welcome and at least the pub was warm after a very cold day.
 
 
On Sunday the weather promised a few bright spells, we packed some hot drinks and food to sustain us for half a day and in the late morning we headed over to Wharfedale.
 
 
Another example of my increasing knowledge occurred as we passed through the small village of Draughton, an unusual bird shape and posture compared to the size in a roadside tree caused a hasty but rear view mirror checked braking manouvre...
 
Not a great shot by any means but a record of the sparrow sized lesser spotted woodpecker..
 

 
We had planned a walk on Barden Moor, and it was on there that we set out...
 
The light was good to begin with and a long distance shot of a kestel hovering turned out quite well..
 

 
This was a bonus really as we were here with the main intention of seeing red grouse, some find them difficult to get near. After a lifetime on the moors I know how to approach to get near enough for good photographs, even in very low light I was delighted with this one..
 




 
The camouflage is amazingly effective, beautiful and characterful birds that I will continue to encourage away from the moors prior to the inglorious twelfth of August!
 
As we neared the top of the moor the light went completely, the wind strenghtened and we were enveloped in a really heavy sleet shower. The experience gained from walking on fells and mountains dictated that we headed back, not dangerous but there were no benefits to be gained from carrying on.
 
 
Perversity in the weather means that when you make a sensible decision the weather will add a suitable reward, like the flippin sun make a rare appearance as we descended!!
 



 
We decided to enjoy the food we had brought and let the weather decide what the heck it was up to!
 
 
Post lunch we drove down to the valley bottom and secured a parking place (free, let me know if you require map refs to avoid the exorbitant fee on the estate here!)
 
Wandering down the riverbank with the sun shining seemed such a contrast to the desolation of the moor. An oystercatcher photographed from long distance even looked good...
 


 
 
 
After the song thrush photograph of Saturday we were delighted to get a really good look at what we both thought was a mistle thrush, but it took a look in a reference book to confirm it.
 

This is a great example of their worm hunting, listen....stalk...pounce!!
And this slightly grey colouring on the back shows the distinction from the much browner song thrush.
 
There was little to be seen in the woods, apart from people, not what we were there to see! So, homewards and another good if cold weekend to reflect upon.................
 



Monday, 18 February 2013

16/17/18th February 2013

Fine weather, blue skies, the combination of the two makes us all eager to get out and enjoy ourselves and so a busy three days ensued!

My first outing started on Saturday morning, a cool breeze but a lovely day to watch out for wildlife. The state of the canal towpath is still not good, we need several more dry days before this will improve..

The chaffinches were chirruping loudly from the nearby hedges..


A large group of what I think are stock doves were feeding greedily in field..


Looking westwards up the valley the mist was taking a while to disperse, sometimes though it adds a little atmosphere to a landscape.

More happy and insistent birdsong from the bushes took my ears and eyes towards this lovely blue tit...

The kingfishers I had so much success and enjoyment with last year will have temporarily moved to the river while the canal was frozen solid, I just hoped that they have come back. A couple of miles or so into my walk I spotted the familiar blue in a shrub, not close but at least I got a shot.


A fellow walker disturbed the kingfisher and it took off, I watched carefully as it flew in my direction. I thought my luck was really in as it landed nearby, but...it then spent the next half an hour either totally or partially concealed in foliage. It is no good losing patience all one can do is wait, so I did and eventually I managed a couple of reasonable photographs.

I try to avoid unnecessary disturbance to the creatures I photograph and I decided to leave the little beauty in peace. Wandering back to where I had parked the car I heard another blue tit singing joyously..

I don't know if mallards have reflective moods:-)

The mists had lifted as I looked back on my morning walk route...

A lovely moorhen concluded my pictures for the morning and I headed home for some dinner before deciding where to head in the afternoon.


Mrs Wildlife decided to join me after lunch and I was just loading the gear into the car when I heard the "mewling" of buzzards! Occasionally sightings near home do occur but when I looked there was six in the sky!! A quick grab of the camera and some hasty shots but I did not manage to get the whole group into one photograph.



Excitement over we set out to the east of Silsden where a lovely tree lined lane takes you towards the edge of Keighley. As we reached Low Holden Farm we somewhat strangely had seen very little but then a robin appeared..
Then we spotted a lovely treecreeper..


To be honest there wasn't a lot else to see, some greylag geese were hungrily feeding in a nearby field and keeping watch at the same time..

I was reminded of the old rule of "feet off the table" as we passed by this sheep..

Almost back at the car another delightful robin posed sweetly:-)

Two good walks and some decent sightings, a good day now what would Sunday promise...well the forecast was excellent and after completing a few jobs at home we set off for Malham to check on the peregrine falcons.

Malham on any day is busy, on a fine sunny Sunday parking is difficult if you have a dislike of paying hard earned money for the privilege! Experience has disclosed some road side parking places on the way up to the Tarn which gives a levellish approach to the top of the Cove.

There are plenty of building materials to hand around here but whoever built this wall has my complete admiration and respect..

Taking care on the glass like surface of the steps we descended to the bottom and spent some time inspecting the skies for signs of the peregrines, it didn't take long as both male and female appeared separately but close together in time. There was no interaction between the two but the fact they are appearing suggests they will soon be pairing up and preparing to raise another brood of chicks.


We had climbed the steps for these shots, while views through the binocs are good from the bottom it is just too far for my camera. The problem up on the rim of the Cove was the stiff and buffeting breeze which made photography on full zoom quite a challenge! Another challenge is trying to get relatively people free photographs, well I nearly managed:-)

On our way home we called in a new site recommended by a friend...I prefer Skipton Lagoons to Waste Water Treatment Plant! Barn Owls have been seen here, we were not that lucky but it does look like a place to return to.


Blue tits seem to have been a big feature this weekend....


Rather unusually for me I managed to disturb a grey heron on here before I got a photograph:-(


Another beautiful day..

Monday saw a misty start and I utilised my time to get all the footwear from the weekend clean, I had a plan for later as the skies cleared.

An old mate is part of a local raptor watch and I occasionally join them for a short while. There are not many photographic opportunites, most of the sightings are through powerful telescopes or at least binoculars, the group who meet are extremely friendly and knowledgeable and I am keen to further my memory bank of this special group of birds.

So in the early afternoon I met up with them and spent a really enjoyable few hours....with a sighting list of kestrel, sparrowhawk, peregrine falcon, buzzard  and a treasured hen harrier how could it be any other? Learning how to differentiate between sizes, shapes, colours and flight patterns is not always easy but if it enhances the enjoyment of a day out it is worth it.

A splendid robin landed on a nearby gate post..

One of the kestrels we saw landed near enough for a resonable shot..

A really good day, maybe I will get chance to utilise my increasing knowledge in the months ahead.

After a hearty meal back at home I was retrieving my gear from the car when the moon demanded attention..

Sunday, 10 February 2013

9th February 2013, Fieldwork for the future

One of my aims or ambitions when I started doing this blog was to enlarge my knowledge of the wildlife that can be seen around the valley, to further my knowledge I decided to spend a day not deliberately looking for wildlife but observing one of the places where many species will pass through.

On a walk through deep and untrodden snow a couple of weeks ago we passed through some farmland very near the edge of the moors, with hedges, old trees and a stream running through a deep sided little gorge there could be much to see.

The weather was far from perfect, grey skies and sleet falling do not make for a perfect day for sitting still for a long time!

Making my way up the fields close to home I was encouraged by a few sightings of birds in the trees, first a female chaffinch..

I saw a pair of greenfinches but could not get near enough for decent photographs in the low light but walking onwards I saw some redwings and a careful approach allowed me to get a reasonable profile shot of one of them..

Flocks of goldfinches were feeding well on remnants of seeds in the treetops, trying to get the camera to focus on what I wanted just eluded me though!!

I spent an hour in a wood on my way to the moor, a glimpse of a sparrowhawk gliding through the lower branches was the highlight but somewhere to visit again.

Momentarily the skies brightened as I reached the top of the hills, spirits raised? Nah I knew it wouldn't last:-))


Sitting on the leeward side of a wall for a while I took several lengthy looks through my binoculars, trying to search for likely owl roosts or nests, maybe a fox passing through. My imagination can run riot while I sit quietly and just watch the day unfold...all good information stored away for better days even on an uneventful day like this.

Another mile or so later I loitered awhile by this old disused barn, a pair of blue tits kept me entertained and also kept out of range of the camera!!

My love of silly captions leads to taking a photo with the words already in my head...

Nothing compares, two ewes......sorry!!!

I decided to check the canal for wildlife in the late afternoon, it looked like the magpies were doing the same thing..

Sightings were not great as I wandered to the west of Silsden, a small group of long tailed tits entertained me with their busy antics though and one stayed still long enough to disclose how they got their name..

Some of the ducks around here can be very interesting cross breeds, this one definitely has muscovy roots but also an interesting hairdo!!

As the already dull light faded I did capture a moorhen shot as it foraged for food in the field margins..
Although the dull skies were a nuisance for wildlife photography, the lack of wind allowed me to get a lovely reflection of the hills and canal boats.

Sometimes when the weather conspires against you it is good to set out with little ambition, saves on disappointment and any good sightings are then treasured:-)

This male blackbird nearly completed my sightings for the day..........


But a robin always deserves attention, and focus:-((

The quest for better sightings and photographs continues.........

This week will see the blog pass 10,000 views, hard to imagine when I started this just over a year ago! Heartfelt thanks to you all, very much appreciated and it makes the effort worthwhile.

p.s. Don't forget if you do feel like adding a comment I have to OK it first so it may not appear immediately! It would be nice if comments could appear immediately, unfortunately the less good side of the internet world makes this unpalatable:-(