Sunday, 26 April 2015

Wildlife Walk at St Ives, Bingley - Sunday 26th April 2015

We had a lovely wildlife walk around St Ives, Bingley, for our April event. We had everything we could ask for: bright sunshine, some nice wildlife moments and a really good turnout!

We met at 10:30 at the courtyard beside the St Ives visitor centre, as the newly-returned Swallows swooped over our heads. The stables at St Ives are a great place watch these fantastic birds nesting throughout the spring and summer.

Our route took us first up past the golf course, where the Swallows were zooming low over the grass in search of low-flying insects and a male Common Pheasant strutted his stuff. Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers - migrant birds fresh in from Africa - were singing in the trees. These two species look almost identical to one another, and the best way to tell them apart is by their song. Willow Warblers do a lovely, happy, descending song; while Chiffchaffs repeatedly sing their name, "chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff".

You can find out more about these and all the other British birds on the RSPB website:

We came to a field where a Little Owl is often seen on the wall, but it surprised us by being sat in a tree for once! It was quite far away so it wasn't easy to see - and they're called Little Owls because they are quite little!

Little Owl, St Ives, Bingley - Sunday 26th April, 2015

We moved on to the old barns, where we often see and hear Pippistrelle bats on our bat walks. This time we spotted a different kind of mammal: a Grey Squirrel, snoozing on a window ledge!

Grey Squirrel, St Ives, Bingley - Sunday 26th April, 2015

Around the top of the estate by Altar Lane some of us were very lucky to see a pair of Treecreepers building a nest! These small mouse-like birds often nest is little crevices in trees and under strips of bark. The birds were gathering grass, small twigs and moss to line their nest in gap in a tree trunk, occasionally making their very high-pitched calls. Meanwhile, the rest of the group were treated to two Blue Tits using an old tennis ball for nesting material!

We made our way past the heath and Lady Blantyre's Rock, near to where we have done Fungi Forays before, and down to Coppice Pond, passing more Chiffchaffs and Treecreepers on the way.

Mallards, Canada Geese, Coots and Moorhens were squabbling on the pond when we arrived. We rounded off the event with a quick look at the bird hide.

 Looking for the Little Owl, St Ives, Bingley - Sunday 26th April, 2015

Thank you to everyone who joined us a great walk in some fine weather! 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Spring Wildlife Walk, Bingley - Sunday 22nd March 2015

We had a lovely walk along the River Aire on the morning of Sunday 22nd March, looking for evidence of Otters and signs of Spring.

Airedale Otters on the bridge over Harden Beck

The weather was perfect - warm and sunny and very Springlike. We met at Bingley Market Cross and followed the river downstream to Myrtle Park.

We soon spotted a pair of Grey Wagtails bobbing along the river. These relatives of the more familiar black-and-white Pied Wagtail are only partially grey. Their most obvious plumage colour is the bright yellow of their breasts.

It wasn't long before we found our first Otter spraint! Otters leave “spraints” – what we would call poo – on prominent rocks along the river, to mark out their territory.

Cameron, Airedale Otters leader, collects the Otter spraint

The first Otter spraint we found

The trees were full of birdsong - a clear sign the breeding season has started. We could smell the delicious Wild Garlic growing on the river bank, and further on we found Lesser Celandine - one of the first plants to flower in Spring.

Lesser Celandine, Myrtle Park, Bingley

In the sand and mud on the river bank we looked for animal tracks, hoping to see Otter prints. We found some prints; but these appeared to be from an American Mink. The Mink is smaller than the Otter, and the prints are therefore smaller. Like the Otter, American Mink breeds along the River Aire; but, unlike the Otter, which developed naturally on the UK, the wild Mink population exists because of escapes from Mink farms.

Minks tracks by the River Aire

We headed up into the woods, getting a great view over the park towards Bingley, and spotting a Goosander pair on the river.

Looking out over the river

We ended our walk with a visit to Harden Beck, before heading back along the river. Back in Bingley, we heard a Chiffchaff singing - it's a easy song to remember, because like the Cuckoo, it sings its name: "Chiffchaff, chiffchaff, chiffchaff"!

Thank you to everyone who joined us on the walk. See you next time!