It's April, it's Cold and it's too early. There is just one thought that stops me hitting the snooze button on the alarm. Dipper Fledglings. The key to getting out of bed early is pretty much the same as tackling a swim in the Atlantic; you have to jump in (or out) head first!
I drop out of bed, grab the nearest set of clothes (luckily they’re my own!) and step out. Without a millilitre of caffeine it feels a gargantuan effort. The river is shaded from the early morning sun and it’s cold but the sound of the river is soothing and the spears of light illuminating distant rocks promise warmth. Hopeful, I lie flat on the chilled, serrated and uncomprimising stoney floor.
“What am I doing here?!” A thought so hard felt that I’m not sure if I heard it in my head or from my lips. The light isn’t right, the stones beneath me are starting to bruise my skin and I’m convinced there’s a wildlife bonanza occurring just past that bend in the river. Yet, there are Dippers over here. Over there, just beyond the reach of my lens. It's a question that has been asked since we grew legs... "Wait? Or try and move closer?"
I try and shake out the aches in my bones and settle down. "Ten minutes and if nothing happens, I'll try and move closer". The three or four Dippers start rock hopping in my direction, I try not to breathe. To my wonder two fledglings land nearby and are promptly fed by a caring parent.
It could of been three minutes or three hours that passed as I photographed these slate grey hovering balls of fluff and they're attentive parents...
I'm on the bed playing a Sudoku app when I hear it. It’s early evening and it’s that delicate moment when the kids have just closed their eyes and I'm praying they make it to deep sleep without interruption. It's reassuringly quiet. That’s when I hear it. A high pitched shrill that pierces my soul and triples my heart rate. I leap off the bed and run up into the loft as fast as I can. Out of the loft window I lean as far as I dare. They're still here. The Swifts. The Swifts are here. Continue reading Up On The Roof
As the "Beast from the East" flew in, two Woodcocks flew out. Whether it was the army of tobogganists storming the hill by Catton Wood, or the fierce Siberian winds, it was another first for me and a great start to my walk out.
It was a wild walk that took me up onto the moor and into waist deep snowdrifts, with winds so strong I could sit on the air!
As I left the village via Sun Lane and headed toward Audley Clevedon I picked up a tail. A male Kestrel appeared to be trailing me, it would jet past me and find a perch some hundred metres away. This happened on several occasions before I lost him at the summit of the Burley moor.
In the week that followed, Red Kites started pick up there presence overhead, often catching my eye as they glided and arced over the studio skylight.
When the Cornmill Pond wasn't frozen more often than not you'd catch a fleeting glimpse of a Kingfisher. This one is a shy Kingfisher, that dives downstream of the pond and out of sight after just a minute; though it does feel like each of our meetings lasts a little longer.
A friend told me there'd been another Otter sighting at Burley weir, unfathomably at lunchtime on a Saturday!
On my recent visits to the weir I saw a Dipper dipping on a snow covered branch (no camera!), two Cormorants (at the same time), a male & female Goosander and on the opposite bank, in the snow I just caught sight of a Hare, before it turn tailed and disappeared into the white.
My last sighting of note came after failed attempt to catch the last post. As I headed back package still in hand I looked up and saw a white Heron, almost certainly a Great Egret and not a common site. A fitting ending to a week centred around the white stuff.
It was the last couple of hours I had free before I had to head to London, and I knew exactly where I spending them. This was the last chance I'd get this year to photograph the toads gathering and mating up on Ilkley Moor.
I had already made two previous trips but the conditions were poor. I was hoping that this time it might be third time lucky and the conditions might just be right... for the next couple of hours at least. As I dreamed of the award winning photos awaiting me up on Ilkley Moor, I jumped in the car and turned the key in the ignition... Nothing. I tried turning the key again... and again... and again. The car was not going to start and I did not have enough time to walk.