Wharfedale Wildlife Weekly (24th June): Blue Skies, Sun & Chicks

Female Red Grouse on Moor

Sunshine brings out the Chicks on Burley Moor...

OK so Burley Moor might not be the best place to hang out if you are looking for a date but if you're looking to spot some cute birds of the feathered variety I can thoroughly recommend it! There are currently a number of birds on the moor acting very protectively including lapwings, curlews and skylarks. This leads me to think that if there isn't already, there will soon be some pretty cool fledglings hopping about the moor! Recently I have had sporadic encounters with various red grouse chicks. These experiences tend to be more by accident than design. To me, they remain invisible until they're nearly underfoot! I was lucky enough to spot a single chick last week, as I knelt down to get a better camera angle three siblings, who had apparently been just centimetres away, made a break for it! It was a startling but very cool encounter. I was delighted to observe the arrival of bats feeding nearby our house last week. I noticed them through a window as we were heading for bed-ford-shire but couldn't resist grabbing my camera and trying to get a couple of photos. Still so much wildlife going on around Burley in Wharfedale so get out there! Also, it's Otley Walking Fest this week and there are some great walks planned. Here's some photo highlights from the week:

The Birds…

Red Kites in flight in the Brecon Beacons A large predatory shadow glides over us. A wave of excitement washes over me as we look up to see a sky full of red kites and I struggle to keep a 'cool' demeanor or just break into a childish run, as we head up to the bird hides. Our weekend in the Brecon Beacons (so far), hadn't quite delivered everything I hoped for. An area of famed outstanding beauty, with legendary walks and mind blowing scenery; all of is pretty irrelevant when blanketed in cloud and visibility is reduced to less than ten metres! As we approached the Red Kite Feeding Centre it seemed our perseverance over the weekend had been rewarded. It appeared we had found the only patch of blue sky in Wales! In fact, as we had arrived early we had time to test this theory out and believe it or not much more than a mile away from the Kite Centre we found ourselves shrouded in the white fluffy stuff again! Feeding begins at 2pm daily. We found ourselves a spot in the hide and waited an agonising ten minutes for the spectacle to begin! I don't use the word 'spectacle' lightly, what occurred was mesmerising and mind-blowingly awesome! Hundreds of huge raptors gracefully and effortlessly swooping down just metres in front of us. This was a genuinely unique and thrilling experience, and I left with a feeling not too dissimilar to when I swam with wild dolphins in New Zealand! But you don't have to travel to the otherside of the world for this experience, this is in the UK and very accessible; which is just as well because we have unfinished business the Brecon Beacons!

Saltholme… a Home for Cool Owls

Saltholme rspb wetland centre Hot Cappuccino, warm cheese scone and some chocolate fingers. If only every walk could start that way! The RSPB Saltholme cafe is something to behold; with its vast Robocop visor-esque windows that allow people to sit down in the warm, eat, drink, watch nature and photograph all at the same time... I'm pretty sure this is my Dad's idea of heaven! However as a photographer, the cafe feels a little like two big blokes standing either side of you at a urinal... Intimidating lenses every direction you turn! Having plucked up enough courage to get my camera out of my bag (not in the sense of the previous euphemistic metaphor) and remove myself from the cosy warmth of the cafe, I joined Caroline and her family who had somehow got ahead of me. I say somehow, getting distracted and falling behind isn't an uncommon trait. Saltholme is a great place to take a walk. Obviously there's visitors who take their sport seriously, but everyone is friendly and it seems very good for families. We went for a short stroll really, rather than a walk. The conflicting landscapes where the industrial North meet the resilience of nature is humbling to witness and stirs up a range of responses. There really is a super abundance of wildlife. We were lucky enough to see a short eared owl on several occasions as we walked around the wetlands, which for me at least was pretty exciting! I really loved my visit Saltholme Wetland Centre, I think it's a fantastic introduction to wildlife walking and would recommend it to anyone. I'm certainly going back, but maybe with a bigger lens!