Monday, 29 March 2010

Toad in the Wold

A windy day made Mrs Wolds-End and I decide to have a walk down a dale in the Yorkshire Wolds. Leaving the chilly wind blowing over the high ground we descended towards an area of woodland that gave us a few minutes enjoying a calmer day with the sun shining between the rows of trees. On leaving the wood we were disappointed to find that the steep sides of the dale gave little shelter and in fact channeled wind down until it hit another steep slope and doubled back towards us. There was little bird life to be heard and I was sad to see a fair number of empty shotgun cartridges and a few piles of pigeon feathers!

Turning into another dale we saw two Brown hares running up the slope.

Moving down we came across a pond and on investigating surface movement and croaking sounds we saw Common toads in "amorous" groups.

At one side of the pond away from the toads there was evidence that frogs had performed their ritual earlier as there was a large quantity of frog spawn. This small area of water, full of duck and pond weed, seems to be a wildlife haven.

After walking up one of the steep slopes we turned around retracing our steps and sought the shelter of woodland to enjoy the contents of a flask. 

A Kestrel flew over but stayed too high and far away for a good photograph. 

Time then to climb out of the dale on to the top of the Wolds and journey home.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Winter's End

The garden is coming alive. We are enjoying frost free mornings that seemed so far off, not too long ago, when I was scraping ice from the car windows. The birds are singing and the first Tête à Tête are flowering (these must be at least three weeks later than previous years). There is a fine display of crocus on the village green and my spirits were lifted on driving into a neighbouring village and seeing a line of the previously mentioned miniature daffodils with larger ones making rapid progress towards flowering. The calendar says spring is about to start and nature is making it happen.

A sunny morning with the threat of poorer weather in the afternoon encouraged me to take a trip to Skipwith Common, an area of ancient heathland that is now being managed to ensure its survival.

Leaving the car park I was encouraged by the sight of a Kestrel in the distance and two Greylag geese who flew from one pond to another. There were however only a few Greylag and Canada geese to be seen together with a few Mallard and Black-headed gulls.

Further on a bird flew across the path and landed on a tree trunk. It was a Treecreeper.

A short distance on I saw a lone Long-tailed tit. It managed to always keep a branch between my camera and itself before flying off - to join others I presume.

A pair of Mallards in a swampy area near the path kept an eye on me as I walked by. 

As well as open heathland there are wooded areas. Birch trees are present some of which provide the ideal conditions for fungi.

The bright yellow of Gorse flowers adds some colour at this time of year.

Part of the common was used as an airfield in the Second World War and evidence of this is all around. 
There is a circular walk around what used to be the bomb dump and tucked away in one corner is this bomb shelter. Nearby there was activity in the form of Great and Long Tailed tits and Chaffinch. 

I watched these for a while then headed to the old runway. Walking to the edge of the woodland and looking over the farmland I saw a Red Kite flying towards me. It kept high in the air and I only managed a distant photo before it flew on. The sky by this time had clouded over. 

Walking on the path skirting the woodland I saw a Treecreeper and managed to get a photo of it through a gap in the branches. It carried on up the tree checking the cracks in the bark for insects.

A little further on a Wren sat for a while on a branch in clear view but too distant for a good photo. Still I always like to see these birds. 

Looking over the open heath I saw two Buzzards circling in the distance.

There were a few butterflies or day moths that I could see at tree height but failed to identify. If anyone has visited Skipwith Common recently I would be delighted to know what they were. They were quite small and I did catch a glimpse or orange/red as one flew a little lower but my internet/book research has failed to find an answer.

On walking back to the car I could feel the oncoming rain in the air. I heard a woodpecker and owl but my hunger told me  it was time to go home for a very late lunch. Anyway I always think it better to leave a place with a reason to return and those calling birds were it.

Arriving home the first raindrops started to fall. In a day or so this rainfall could be officially called what it felt like - a spring shower.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Sleeping Goosanders and battling Coots

I went in search of Goosanders at the Coppice Pond on the St. Ives Estate near Bingley. My mission was a partial success but I arrived just in time to see two pairs having their afternoon sleep on the island. Too distant to get a decent photograph with the 300mm lens I had with me.

The Black-headed gulls that spend winters on the pond have started to develop their summer plumage.

The main group of Canada geese have also returned. Last year their breeding attempts failed - human interference in the form of egg oiling was suspected. I hope this does not happen this year as the goslings are always a great attraction for visitors to the pond. There is a good population of Canada geese on the Coppice pond in the summer. I think this is due to the island being cleared of rhododendrons which now makes it ideal for breeding geese.

A visit to the hide overlooking the bird feeding area resulted in sightings of Blue and Great tits, Robins and Nuthatch.


What a fabulous looking bird the Nuthatch is.

Attempts to keep the Grey squirrels away from the feeders have not worked and there are usually quite a few having a feast.

Returning to the pond there was a quite noisy battle between two Coots another then came to the rescue of the one that had been forced underwater by the aggressor and they all went their separate ways.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Sorry we were out?

At last the grip of winter seems to be giving way to spring. The frost and light covering of snow that night-time brought soon disappeared as the sun climbed into a cloudless blue sky. The regular garden visitors were very active this morning with the Starlings arriving to take first pickings at the bird table. Tree and House Sparrows, Blue and Great tits together with Chaffinches waited for their turn.

A day for a walk in the countryside, I thought but I had to wait in for my new mac memory to arrive by Special Delivery. Sadly it didn't arrive before the 1pm deadline that I had paid for and after a long phone call with a voicemail system that eventually led to a human voice, no time could be promised. Not wanting to waste this excellent weather Mrs Wolds-End and I set off for one of our local walking/wildlife watching spots.

Wildlife was rather absent during the early part of the walk - perhaps disturbed by the dog walkers who had proceeded us. Still it was a wonderful day and there were a few Lapwing in the fields, filling the air with their calls and the bright blue of a Kingfisher speeding past. On recent visits there had been lots of Fieldfare but this time only a few were seen in the trees. A dog walker stopped and scanned the fields with his binoculars and a Great tit called out it's warning call.

It was still quite light as we set off back and a brief glimpse of white on the far side of a field put me on a look out for a Barn owl. Just as I was giving up hope one appeared and we spent a while watching it in the distance until it disappeared over a hedge. My attention was drawn to some activity elsewhere and the Barn owl suddenly appeared a few yards away. I managed only one photo before trees obscured our view but we waited and it returned. I got a few more photos in what was now early evening light.

On arriving home there was one of those Royal Mail "Sorry, you were out" cards waiting for us. Were we sorry we had been out?  No way!