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!

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