Sunday, 17 April 2016

Spring Migration at St Ives, Bingley - Sunday 10th April 2016

We had a very enjoyable event at St Ives, Bingley, on Sunday 10th April. The focus was on migrating birds, specifically birds that visit the UK to breed during the summer and spend winter in warmer climates further south.

Many of these migrating birds are part of a group of small, insect-eating birds called warblers. These birds can look very similar to one another, but fortunately they all have distinctive songs  - of course, that's why they're called warblers!

We had fun identifying two almost identical warblers: Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Willow Warblers sing a lovely descending song, whereas Chiffchaffs (like Cuckoos) sing their name: chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff.

 Chiffchaff - St Ives, Bingley 10th April 2016 (photo: Chris Chandler)

As we walked we heard a Curlew high overhead - a very evocative sound. These wading birds breed on the moors and upland pasture just by St Ives. Curlews also migrate, but generally only go as far as our beaches and coastal mud flats in winter.

We also noticed a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by crows, then a Buzzard appeared overhead, then we saw two Sparrowhawks mobbing two Buzzards! Birds of prey (or raptors as they are often called) like these warm and sunny days in early spring, where they can catch the thermals and display over their territories.

Taking the path round Coppice Pond, we watched a territorial Mute Swan shooing away a Canada Goose, and heard the loud calls of the resident Nuthatches. Some of us were lucky enough to catch sight of a Perch in the pond.

We spotted this crazy Carrion Crow, which kept flying in from near Coppice Pond, carrying what at first looked like a carrot in its bill. On closer inspection, we saw it was carrying three cheesy wotsits! It then burried them in the hourse padock and flew off ...only to return with another beak-full 30 seconds later, and bury those too!

 Carrion Crow - St Ives, Bingley 10th April 2016 (photos: Chris Chandler)

We finished the walk at St Ives visitor centre and saw our first Swallows of the year - always a nice feeling to know summer is well and truly on it's way.

Thanks to everyone who came to the event and made it so enjoyable.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Otter and Spring Wildlife Walk, Bingley - Sunday 13th March 2016

We had a really enjoyable Spring walk along the River Aire on Sunday 13th March, looking for evidence of Otters and signs of Spring.

River Aire - Bingley 13th March 2016

Just like our last Otter walk in Bingley, the weather was lovely - warm and sunny and very Springlike. We were seeing signs of Spring all around as we assembled at Bingley Market Cross. Several large White-tailed Bumblebees were busily foraging among the crocuses by the car park.

White-tailed Bumblebee - Bingley 13th March 2016

We followed the river downstream towards Myrtle Park, checking for signs of Otters. Otters leave "spraints" – what we would call poo – on prominent rocks along the river, to mark out their territory. Unfortunately, there were very few exposed rocks left after the recent flooding, and what there was had been recently washed clean.

Early in walk we found lots of prints in the sand and mud on the river bank; but apart for dog prints, most of 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.

  American Mink tracks - Bingley 13th March 2016

We did find some possible Otter tracks, among the many dog tracks, but they weren't totally conclusive. But, that's nature for you, and it shows how being a wildlife explorer involves finding clues using skill, judgement and experience to interpret them - it's not always straightforward!

  Possible Otter tracks - Bingley 13th March 2016

The trees were full of birdsong - a clear sign the breeding season has started. In the distance we could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker hammering on a tree. 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 - Bingley 13th March 2016

On the water were a pair of beautiful Goosander - fantastic "saw-billed" ducks with a striking plumage. A pair of Canada Goose were swimming in the sunshine near to Throstle Nest.

  Canada Goose - Bingley 13th March 2016

By the end of the walk it was a bright and warm Spring day - a lovely end to a really enjoyable event. Thank you to everyone who joined in.