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.