River Aire, Bingley - 2nd April 2017 (photo: Chris Chandler)
Starting from the cobbled courtyard by Ireland Bridge (across the road from the Brown Cow pub), we walked upstream beside the river Aire. We then headed through farmland and stables, before doubling back and climbing high up through the woods to eventually join Alter Lane and return to our meeting place.
An early treat was a Dipper on the weir by Ireland Bridge, before we heard the squeaky call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying overhead.
All along the path we could hear singing Wrens and Robins, which carried on throughout an early rain shower. Beautiful Summer Snowflake was in flower along the river bank too.
Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum), Bingley
2nd April 2017 (photo: Chris Chandler)
We found a mass of tadpoles in a ditch by the path, all bunched up at the end. The tadpoles were probably grateful of the rain.
Tadpoles, Bingley - 2nd April 2017 (photo: Chris Chandler)
Over on the river we stopped to watch some delightful Grey Wagtails as they looked for insect food on the detritus of the river, and flew from across the river with their bouncing flight style. On a large rock close by the shore, we noticed some animal scat - it was an Otter spraint (poo)! Otters scent-mark their territory with spraint in much the same way as other mammals like cats and foxes do. This might warn other otters that there is a resident on that stretch, either to attract a potential mate, or warn off competition. It may also serve as a “calling card” for otters moving through an area to advertise their presence.
The spraint is thought to inform otters about age, sex, health and diet of the marking animal. It is black, 3 to 10 cm long, and flecked with bones and scales from the otter’s lunch!
Otter spraint, Bingley - 2nd April 2017
Further along the river were a group of Goosanders and Mallards, with the males of both species looking resplendent in their breeding plumage.
We reached some stables, which had Pied Wagtails feeding on the rooftops, and we soon found some deer tracks. We compared them to our handy guide to mammal track, and were confident the hoof prints belonged to the of the local Fallow Deer population.
Fallow Deer tracks, Bingley - 2nd April 2017
And just a little further on we found some deer poo! Again, our guide book came in handy, with the poo we found matching the picture and description perfectly.
Deer poo, Bingley - 2nd April 2017
By now the weather had improved and we moved beyond the stables to the edge of some woodland.
No more rain!
At this point one eagle-eyed Airedale Otter noticed a Common Buzzard overhead! Before long we noticed another, and then another! One appeared to be performing a display: swooping from a great height down into the woods while making it's cat-like peea-ay call! Awesome!
Common Buzzard, Bingley - 2nd April 2017
We also found evidence of a Badger feeding site and toilet!
Believe it or not, this is a Badger toilet!
As the sun came out, we headed up through the woods, hearing more bird song (including singing Goldcrests) and finding more signs of Spring, like this Lesser Celandine.
Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna), Bingley
2nd April 2017 (photo: Chris Chandler)
Les, one of the group leaders, came across empty egg on the ground in the wood. It looked like it had hatched in the nest and been discarded by the parents. It could have come a nest this year, or possibly last year. After a long discussion, we decided it was likely to be a Common Buzzard egg.
Common Buzzard egg, Bingley - 2nd April 2017
Another treat was seeing a Sparrowhawk display over the woods! Two Sparrowhawks were flying low over the treetops, when one suddenly few in a fast stoop into the trees. The other bird flew round and around above the other bird, before flying down fast into the trees itself. Wow, not something you see everyday!
Sparrowhawk egg, Bingley - 2nd April 2017
One last challenge was to cross the muddy field to Alter Lane, and we were accompanied during the walk down into Bingley by the strong and tasty aroma of Wild Garlic on the path side.
A really delightful walk. Thank you to everyone who came and made it such an enjoyable morning.