Monday, 17 July 2017

Wykeham and the Derwent

I drove to Wykeham forest today for a chance to see the regular Honey Buzzards there. I was relieved when I saw the raptor viewpoint sign as I thought I had got lost. I arrived around 8:30 am and there were already several birdwatchers on site with large telescopes, but little else. No raptors or many other birds about other than a few gulls soaring on the thermals. I decided to walk down the river Derwent to try and see a Dipper, which would be my first of the year. I walked down the hill by the steep Moor Lane, with the path dotted with cracked snail shells left behind by Song Thrushes. A Chiffchaff sung, groups of young Robins and Chaffinches fed on the path. At the bottom of the hill I crossed Troutdale beck and joined the road. By the bridge I walked down onto a footpath and sat on a wooden step on the fence overlooking the river. The place looked like the perfect dipper spot, rocky bottom, rapidly flowing water. The shrill calls of two disturbed Kingfishers distracted me for a while. After they had disappeared I realised that there was actually a Dipper just in front of me. It behaved like it hadn't spotted me, dipping its head under the water every few seconds, facing the current, lifting leaves like a blackbird to fetch little critters underneath, stopping to preen a little. I spent about 20 minutes watching it and taking videos and photos until it carried along downstream.
 I followed the narrow path downstream too. A large dragonfly, dark with paler marks, probably a Golden-Ringed dragonfly, flew along the middle of the river. I didn't see it settle unfortunately, as it was my first.
It was time to head back up the hill. I spent another hour on the viewpoint. Some birders had seen a pair of distant honeybuzzards, but other than buzzards, there was nothing else to report.
Raptor Viewpoint sign.
Panoramic across the Raptor Viewpoint. 
The dipper had a metal ring.

View of the stretch of the Derwent where I saw the Dipper and the Kingfishers. 
Watching underwater. 

Swallowing something. 
A short clip of the dipper feeding.

Another stretch of the river. 
Nice gate, but no cranes about. 
The snail hunter. Song Thrush. 
Small Skipper. 
Speckled Wood.

Monday, 12 June 2017

River Hull. Stage 12. The straightened Hull, New Cut to Emmotland

An overcast, windy day, with brief sunny spells, I headed to Hempholme for a new stage of the river. As I crossed Bethell's bridge, the first road bridge since Hull Bridge, it started raining. The clouds moved fast and I waited the shower in the parking lot in the car. Today's circuit involved going down river from Bethel Bridge, turning right on Scurf Dike to join the old course of the river Hull and back up from Hempholme Lock. This section of the river Hull is under Driffields Navigation and was straightened in the early 1800s between Hempholme Lock and Bethell's Bridge, bypassing in 1km the meandering old course of the river Hull. As I looked over a small ditch of transparent water by Scurf Dike, a Kingfisher darted away as a blue lightning strike. Scurf Dike is directly connected to the river, and a small brick footbridge of a single arch crosses it. It's got abundant emergent vegetation and water plants. There are woods at both sides of the dike. A Garden Warbler sung from a bush at the other side of the dike. Large carp could be seen swimming through the water. A brief sunny spell brought a few insects out.
 The old course of the river is now an overgrown deep and narrow creek carrying a trickle of water, and the public footpath around the southern section of it appears to have been only trodden by roe deer in recent times. I managed to avoid the nettles and trundled on, briefly stopping to watch a Buzzard being mobbed by a Carrion Crow. I was relieved to finally get to the wooden footbridge over Beverley and Barmston Drain just north of Tophill Low nature reserve.
 I joined the start of the stage at the lock and weir and crossed to the other side of the river to hace a closer look. Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins and Swifts flew over the river. It didn't take long to walk the mowed footpath by the New Cut and then to Emmotland. In Emmotland Junction the river joins Frodingham Beck and there is a metal footbridge over it, and the footpath continues along Frodingham Beck. I must inadvertently flushed a female Goosander from the river, which was a nice surprise. She flew up in a circle and then south. The next stretch of river up to Corpslanding does not have a public right of access. I crossed the footbridge and continued for a little while alongside Frodingham Beck on an overgrown path and then returned to Bethell's bridge for a spot of lunch. 

Part of the New Cut, the straight navigable section of the river Hull, looking south from Bethell's Bridge just after a shower. 
Mute Swans by the bridge.
Tree Sparrow chirping. They are quite numerous around Bethell's bridge.

Boat Moorings with Bethell's bridge on the background.

The beautiful Scurf Dike.
Footbridge over Scurf Dike.

Singing willow Warbler. 
Mayfly by Scurf Dike. 
Two Roe Deer resting on a grassy ride. 
Scurf Dike. 
Old course of the River Hull near Bethell's bridge.
Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillars. 
Azure Damselfly. 
Sedge Warbler by the old course of the River Hull.
The wooden footbridge over Beverley and Barmston Drain.

Hempholme Lock. 
Weir from the East bank.
A group of Mute Swans fed on the clear water of the river upstream of Bethell's bridge. 
Emmotland Junction and Footbridge.
Looking down onto the river Hull upstream from Emmotland. The plant is Potamogeton crispus I believe.
Looking upstream from Emmotland Junction. The River Hull on the left.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

River Hull. Stage 11. Baswick Landing to Hempholme Lock

After a couple of days of heavy rain the river was the highest level I've seen, but the water was still quite clear. Clumps of vegetation rafted downstream. I joined the west bank of the river by the Beverley and Barmston drain, opposite High Baswick and walked upstream. This section of the path is by the Yorkshire Water Treatment works and Tophill Low Nature reserve, but there is no access to the reserve from the river bank, something that would increase disturbance to these sensitive bird breeding wetlands. In this stage the river is quite wide in places and there are some areas of flooded willow carr. Shortly after reaching the bank I surprised a couple of fox cubs, who scuttled away after giving me a curious look. A little further a young buck Roe Deer was dozing on the bank and took a long way to react to my presence. When it noticed me it jumped and bounded along the bank for a long while.
 It wasn't long before I reached the junction with Mickley Dike, which brings water to the river from the Beverley and Barmston drain, pumped up at Hempholme pump station nearby. The Beverley and Barmston drain was a key development to drain the low lying terrain of the west side of the river floodplain.
 The stage finished at Hempholme (or Struncheon Hill) Lock, by the side of a low weir, where it is possible to cross to the other side of the river over a foot bridge.
 This stage is just less than 5 km long. After the quick walk up the river I spent the rest of the day at Tophill Low Nature Reserve, but I've written that in a separate blog post.
The path by Beverley and Barmston Drain as it joins the river bank. 

Fox cub. 
Roe Deer buck.  
River Hull, looking north. 
Some Willow and Glyceria fen/carr. 
The river is joined by Mickley Dike, a lovely spot with plenty of emergent vegetation, pools and willows. 
One of many Swifts flying low over the trees today. 
Approaching Hempholme Lock. A pair of Tufted ducks on the river. 
A view of the straightened river upstream from the lock. This is part of Driffield Navigation.
This is the first weir in the river. At this point the river stops being tidal. 
A male Swallow near the lock.

For more details of each stage click on the Walking the River Hull tab above.