Thursday, 12 March 2015

Warmth returns as Spring approaches

One of the delights as we begin to see the back end of winter is the opportunity to cast off a layer or two of the waterproofs and fleeces necessary in the colder months. Also the wildlife becomes more visible as birds begin the rituals of display and pairing up ready for breeding.

Maybe the biggest bonus for outdoor activities is the drying out and firming up of paths that have become quagmires during a wet winter such as the one just drawing to a close!

I have returned to the otter site a couple of times with no sightings but plenty of patience and many visits will be necessary to ascertain whether the family have a holt in the area. The youngsters may well be encouraged to leave by the female as she will be on the look out for a breeding partner, by their size they look well equipped to make a life of their own.

There are plenty of other things to see at the location, mistle thrushes feed in the fields.

Dunnocks appear on and by the walls...

Plenty of kestrels in the area too.

The fieldfares have not begun their return migration yet...

In the nearby woods the nuthatches are calling loudly and are easily visible...

A big problem with people scattering food for the birds is the attraction of rodents, mice and voles have been seen regularly but recent sightings of rats are not too welcome...

That hole is in the middle of the path!

Many birds are now in fine plumage, great tit..

...and blue tit

Wandering quietly through the woods I spotted a wren...

...and slightly larger, a roe deer just feet away from me

A pair of oystercatchers were by a small flooded area...

On the moor edges a lapwing

A lovely couple of visits in warm (ish) sunshine...

After the splendid kingfisher sightings of my previous report we just had to return to Rodley before too long.

At first most of the birds seemed to be in the distance and whilst there was some good variety it was at a range where photography was not too worthwhile.

I spotted a kingfisher fly into the edge of a reedbed, amongst many efforts to get a clear shot as the reeds swayed to and fro in a gusty breeze I managed this one...

It seemed none to happy with the fishing prospects on this pond and soon flew out of sight!

We made our way in the general direction of its flight and settled in another hide, this was worthwhile if for nothing else for this lovely clear sight of a little grebe.

Patience was rewarded soon after as the kingfisher flew in quite close and treated us to a lovely display of its fishing skills, and its ability to properly stun its catch by giving it a few brisk whacks on the perch it was using...

During the day we had been joined by a couple we knew via the internet and wildlife photography and we offered to lead them to our red kite site in the afternoon. Heading back to our respective cars for lunch we saw linnets in a tree, bad direction for light unfortunately!

Deborah and Eric spotted a bee on the path, fearful of it being trodden on in its lazy state we moved it safely away. A friend of Deborah's later kindly identified it as a tree bumblebee..

Making our way the short distance to the afternoon site it did cross my mind that the red kites had better be visible!

No need to worry as we approached the parking spots the kites were already gliding just above the car roof and we were treated to some spectacular displays, buzzards joined in the fun too, great stuff!

Red kite


Red kites

and another buzzard, happy days!

A photographer friend is currently visiting Haweswater regularly in an effort to get some photographs of the elusive golden eagle that is resident there and I made plans to join him one day.

We did get a brief sighting near the top of Rough Crag which leads up to High Street, by a process of elimination of what it could not be due to size compared with a walker who trod that path soon after, wing shape and posture, and adding in our collective experience we are pretty certain it was the eagle.

Chatting to a gentleman who joined us, he was last year's warden at the watchpoint, we were given some fairly specific details of the perches the bird likes to use so future visits may pay dividends.

The sun shone for most of the day and happy memories of hours spent climbing the various fells around the valley flooded back.

Riggindale, the home of the eagle...

Red deer on the horizon

and Haweswater

Many thanks to all who view the blog, please do not forget that if you do comment it will not appear immediately, they come to me for moderation first.  Happy Spring everyone.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Great sightings as Spring approaches

There is an old saying...the harder you work, the luckier you get. I believe quite firmly in that, and a reward that has been earned by hard work or miles walked seems so much more worthwhile than a fortuitous one.

I can go months without getting good kingfisher sightings, even in areas noted for their presence they sometimes become quite secretive and difficult to find. This time of the year with little or no foliage on trees and bushes is one of the best to try to see them.

Rodley Nature Reserve near Leeds is a good place to see them, hides are located near the ponds the kingfishers are likely to use and some lovely perches have been placed so that watchers and photographers can see them clearly.

On previous visits we have had several sightings but no real close ones, a couple of weeks ago we had a real treat and an extended and detailed view.

I spotted one in a distant tree and we watched it carefully hoping it would fly in nearer the hide, maybe the finger crossing worked as this little female flew into some reeds not too far away.

The female has a red or orange underside to its bill, we watched as she moved to a small pond right in front of us.

The prey, probably minnow or stickleback can be clearly seen. To stun the fish prior to eating it is whacked several times on the perch before being devoured with a head back stance.

Several fish were captured and eaten as we sat quietly, frightened to break the magic spell!

Just before we left the male, dark coloured bill, arrived too, super day.

A short walk by the Leeds Liverpool canal near Gargrave brought us a few good sightings, as birds begin to move territories as the weather changes it is hard to predict what you may see.

A group of oystercatchers flew past...

Curlews are beginning to arrive back after their winter stay by the coasts...

Large flocks of fieldfares can be seen for a while yet before they return to Scandinavia, Iceland or Siberia.

Reed buntings are delightful little birds, many don't change territories but adapt their food sources according to what is available, dead seeds and wild flower heads seem to be favourites in winter, this female stayed close to us for quite a while.

We had a distant view of a great spotted woodpecker...

and a buzzard flew not too far away from us...

A lovely if muddy short walk.

I had a mission planned to spend some time with the dippers in Wharfedale, they are very vocal at this time of the year and I love to watch them "dipping" and emerging with their favourite caddis flies.

Finding a good spot on the riverbank I settled in for a patient vigil, knowledge from previous visits is vital because you can learn where they are likely to be and let them fly in to where you are rather than trying to approach when you see them and thereby causing disturbance.

It was not too long before I had a dipper just a few yards away...

It was soon after this when "the harder I work, the luckier I get" kicked in. I visit this river at least once every two weeks and have occasionally found otter spraints and heard rumours of sightings but nothing definite enough to expect to see any.

I was talking to a couple of fellow wildlife lovers when I spotted movement in the water, too much disturbance for any of the birds around here made my instinct levels rise. Watching through the binoculars I watched in amazement as a female otter with three youngsters hunted and played in the water, occasionally leaving the water on the far bank.

We enjoyed a lovely few minutes with them as they moved upstream before they dived and disappeared.

Living in this area all of my life I was just overwhelmed to know that these beautiful animals are around locally, nationally numbers are well on the increase due to the hard work of people who have had to be steadfast and determined in their aims.

For me, I just feel fortunate that I see such beautiful creatures as kingfishers and otters. If I were to divide the hours spent or miles walked by the successful days I would not like to think how low the percentage would be, but like mountaineers who wish to see inversions or brocken spectres you can increase your chances with a little knowledge and a lot of hard work!

Many thanks to all who read, don't forget that if you do comment they come to me first for moderation.